If October was a feast of the flesh, with Belfast Restaurant Week and my two-week food marathon at home, November is shaping out to be an indulgence of the senses – with not one, not even two, but FOUR ballet performances.
It started with Grupo Corpo, a Brazilian ballet company that performed Parabelo and Sem Mim at the Grand Opera House as part of the Belfast Festival at Queens. While I’ve always had great admiration for ballet-trained dancers who can isolate their body parts to perform contemporary pieces with the grace and beautiful lines of ballet, the sheer fluidity of Grupo Corpo’s movements that melded perfectly with the rhythm of the music took that awe to a whole new level.
As if the dancers’ movements weren’t fascinating enough, the music of Sem Mim – based on seven ancient songs of love and longing – was haunting and enthralling, drawing the audience in and making them feel joy, heartache and sorrow. While the YouTube clips of Parabelo were what drew me to watch Grupo Corpo, I wasn’t quite as taken with it as I was with Sem Mim. If Sem Mim was elegiac and elegant, Parabelo was raw and frank in its movements.
A week after Grupo Corpo – last Saturday – I was back at the Grand Opera House for Northern Ballet’s telling of Cinderella. I’d never seen the Northern Ballet but have heard good things from a ballet classmate who describes them as being excellent at telling a story as they hail from a ballet theatre background.
And boy was she right. Not only were they adroit at narrating – the Northern Ballet were absolutely stunning. Both the young and older Cinderellas were dazzling; Hannah Bateman as the stepmother was so good she was hateful and fearsome; the step sisters were a silly, comical duo; and the chemistry between Cinderella and her prince was touchingly tender.
Moreover, the gorgeous sets sealed the audience’s captivation, and the scene changes were so clever that they seamlessly brought the audience from Cinderella’s dark, dingy kitchen to the bright lights of the circus to the enchanting “ice-skating”. rink. My favourite scene was that with the “huskies” – which “sat” on their haunches and “panted” just like dogs while waiting to be hooked up to Cinderella’s sled which they actually pulled off the stage! With the beautiful, elaborate costumes that conveyed the feel of Imperial Russia, Cinderella felt like an early Christmas ballet that had so much magic you’re left eagerly anticipating the arrival of Christmas.
And for me, Christmas has in fact come early – hot on the heels of those two excellent performances come two eagerly anticipated ones. A fortuitously well-timed work trip to London means that I’m going to catch Sir Frederick Ashton’s mixed programme comprising Scenes de ballet, Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncon, Symphonic Variations and A Month in the Country. Soon after that, I will be watching another mixed programme with Ceremony of Innocence, Aeternum and Liam Scarlett’s The Age of Anxiety. The draw for me is really Scarlett’s ballet – I’ve seen rehearsals of two of his ballets, including Age, and both were fascinating and have since then left me really wanting to watch his work live.
So – as you can imagine, I can’t wait to be back at the Royal Opera House after my first (and only!) visit 8 years ago!! Watch this space for updates!!