Monday, 1 March 2010

Mara Galeazzi, 'Dancing for the Children'

Dancing For The Children

Sadlers Wells, London
February 28th 2010

Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares rehearsing Act 111 Swan Lake
Photography throughout :  GILLESPIE

Mara Galeazzi is a determined lady. Actually, it should be Dame Mara, as she was awarded the Cavaliere Del Lavoro medal (a Knighthood) in her native Italy last year. Her focused vision brings together no less than FIVE World Premieres tonight, danced and choreographed by many of her Royal Ballet colleagues and raising money for her charity, Dancing For The Children. And did they dance !

Mara Galeazzi and Gary Avis rehearsing Lieder

Galeazzi opened the show on her own, in a piece entitled Track 12, by Kristen McNally. Showing her extraordinary dramatic ability, eyes busy with memories, Galeazzi poured feeling into every step, even when she is required to draw on her pale all-in-one costume with coloured crayons in what looked like stylised pain. McNally favours speech mixed with her music; Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela overlaid with 30 Seconds to Mars.

Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares danced the Act 111 Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, which is familiar, and yet strangely not, tonight. Nunez has exquisite arms and uses them to full effect, literally dripping every languorous note and making dreamily fluid shapes. I thought this already adagio pas de deux was danced even more slowly, which only served to show Nunez’ steely control through every twist and turn, and as one audience member described to me, Nunez is “perfection personified.” Soares conveyed the story clearly; not easy when the sets and the core (see what I did there) of the ballet – the swans - are missing.

Ella Kenion and Ed Watson rehearsing Saving My Love

Galeazzi wanted to have some fun with this evening, and so Saving My Love, choreographed by Vanessa Fenton, saw actress Ella Kenion & Edward Watson dancing a well timed tango-lite, embellishing the steps with laughter.

The central Pas de Deux from Wayne McGregor’s Limen contrasts darkness and light. Sarah Lamb is dancing her finest pieces at the moment, and wonderfully paired with Eric Underwood they barely separate throughout this intricate pas de deux. Lamb’s flexibility is evident here, but Underwood controls this so that she is never over-contorted, and together they are both graceful and elegant.

Gary Avis in rehearsal
The Balcony Scene from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet could be considered standard fare for a Gala, but not with Galeazzi as Juliet. Again her dramatic qualities reach the back of the theatre and beyond; she can do this because the steps are second nature to her and her technical abilities are never questioned.

Mara Galeazzi and Ed Watson in Romeo and Juliet

The Ballet Boyz were due to perform but Michael Nunn is unwell, and so their new project, aptly called TALENT, exclusively previewed ALPHA, which has its official premiere on Thursday. 8 dancers wearing baggy beige trousers rolled, twisted and eventually jumped in very innovative patterns, such as throwing one of the dancers around a group, garnering a lively response from the audience.

After the interval, Galeazzi and the magnetic Gary Avis danced to Alistair Marriott’s choreography in Lieder, with music by Brahms. The piece was in two halves; the second was incredibly beautiful, Galeazzi flowing with emotion. Avis is watchable even when he's not moving and adds drama and depth to every nuance.

More of Galeazzi’s humour was in evidence with Four Poofs and a Piano (curiously without the piano), who said that they have “taken liberties because we can” with a Bollywood interpretation, another of which has recently been seen, also in a fund-raiser - BBC’s Let’s Dance for Comic Relief. As one audience member, Margaret, described to me, they “blew in and blew out.”

TALENT, rehearsing ALPHA

Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera have often danced together at Covent Garden, but here they have a new piece choreographed by Liam Scarlett. Dressed in purple (you might remember the costumes from last year’s Gala in aid of Ashanti Development), the colour sits well on them if not the cut. Fantasie Imprompt is exactly that – a lovely piece, danced very well. It's interesting to see whether this works (it does), as these two will also be dancing (with others) in Scarlett’s new piece, and his first for the Covent Garden main stage, in May. On this showing, why wouldn’t you book ?

One of the reasons for buying tickets to a Gala is for the chance to see dancers away from their natural habitat. When it works, it’s magic. But sometimes you get even more. Steven McRae is a talented classical dancer but that’s not all he can do, and this evening he choreographed for himself – a tap dancing, slightly rascally spirited piece to Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman. Called Something Different, he tapped his way at a ferocious lick around the stage and found the time to include some of the virtuoso spins and turns for which he is so well known. The audience roared.

Mara Galeazzi and Gary Avis rehearsing Lieder

Sergei Polunin, a Prix de Lausanne winner in 2006, has been one to watch for a while, and the Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire perfectly demonstrates why. He has a long, lean physique with beautiful feet and with his incredible power he brings an unusual length to his jumps. He needs to work a little bit on his head, but he was fantastic. Yuhui Choe has enormous potential too, and together they make a dazzling pair in what is a very pretty role for the ballerina. Choe had a darling, dazzling blue tutu which twinkled every time she moved.

In a deliberate move by Galeazzi, O Magnum Mysterium, sung by Ensemble WC2E, closed the show in a sombre and moving, almost spiritual way. Galeazzi and her fellow dancers joined them on stage, with Galeazzi taking the unusual step of speaking, to thank the audience and to say how much this means to her. The good news is that with your help, enough money has been raised for a group of dancers to go to Africa next summer, where they will continue the work and financial assistance that was so appreciated in 2007.

Mara Galeazzi and Gary Avis rehearsing Lieder

After the show I talked to Mara and she told me that she had spent every spare minute, at lunchtimes and after shows, in the studio, preparing for this Gala which means so much to her. All the ideas for the show were hers, and she told me that she was inspired by Monica Mason (Director of The Royal Ballet), who said “try something new”. Mara hopes that this will become an annual event, and would very much like another full house.

You can see Mara dancing at the Royal Opera House tomorrow night, Tuesday and Thursday in Infra (part of the triple bill reviewed here). If you have been inspired to see more of Mara’s Juliet, she will be dancing the role on Saturday evening with Ed Watson.

If you would like to learn more about Mara's charity, please have a look at her new website, where she has a beautiful opening sequence, and it's where you can also make a donation if you would like to.


  1. A wonderful dancer, and more importantly, a truly inspiring and giving person!!! Thank you for the review, giving us who cannot travel to the uk a glimpse of the gala! Now wondering how else we can be involved in the charity work...

  2. Saritachan - thank you so much for your kind comment. I asked Mara this very question and her response was that people could support her charity by attending these galas. But as you have posed the question as it applies to you, I will ask again.

  3. saritachan - please visit and hit the donate tab. Your contributions will be very much appreciated.

  4. Dear Elise,

    So glad to receive your reply, and thank you so much for your effort to follow up even more. I will definitely visit the website.

    Pls continue this blog, I have learnt a lot and have received much delight from this blog!

    Yours sincerely

  5. Wonderful post. My daughter shall be dancing in the Steffi Nossen school of dance gala the end of the month and there are several perfomances dedicated to organizations that may never have the opportunity to see dance. I am working on a series of items for the gala auction. Love for you to contribute if you can!

  6. I seldom know what you are talking about but I do try to read. What knowledge you have. I have put her web site in my favorites and will go over to see how I can help her out. Whenever I read these I always think they live a totally different world then I do. It must be wonderful.
    I am not sure if I asked you this but were you a dancer?

  7. Mara Galeazzi sounds like an incredible person. Wonderful post.


  8. Mara sounds like an amazing, inspiring person. And beautiful pictures. Great post!

  9. Thank you for posting the rehearsal photos - I love the more informal air and the crazy mixture of costumes and scruffy practice clothes (Gary Avis' Superman Trunks are great!)... & wasn't it a terrific gala?

  10. Always a pleasure to drop by for a visit, to see the gorgous photos, read the interesting stories of ballet, and let myself drift off into that world of gracefulness and wonder! thanks for all your comments and visits, Elise, means alot when I see your name there! Debby

  11. pve design - love to help if I can - what sort of things are you looking for ?

    Just Breathe - well, it's lovely of you to persevere ! Perhaps I need to make things clearer or explain things in a different way ? What would help you to understand the subject better ? And no, I'm not a dancer !

    Inspiration in Italy - thank you! Yes, Mara is a force to be reckoned with and thoroughly charming with it.

    Audrey Allure - thank you !

    Imogen Dent - hello Imogen, thank you for commenting. Yes, it was a great Gala, perhaps because it was inventive and went along at a fair old pace. I'm not sure anyone likes the stuffy old Gala's where there is a massive pause between pieces and loads of speaking - not for a dance event anyway. The ROH team were backstage and you can see just how slick their operation is, with or without the Opera House advantages. Of course, Sadlers Wells is a great theatre with great staff too. Loving the idea of 'Superman trunks', I hadn't thought of it that way ! What did you enjoy about the Gala ?

    The Pink Birdhouse - thank you !

  12. Imogen has left a new comment on your post "Mara Galeazzi, 'Dancing for the Children'":

    I just logged on to you y chance to see if you had reviewed any Royal ballet performances lately and was reminded of this. Don't know if you'll read this comment after so loong, but; I agree that the very smooth (apart from the the computer glitches) running made everything clip along at a good luck; very professional looking organisationally-speaking. As I recall it was a fantastic gala with not a duff item, and it's hard to single out particular pieces, but the three that remain strongest in my memory are the "Romeo and Juliet" extract - the very slight tweaks needed to fit the change of setting made me look at it afresh, and somehow it never gets stale anyway, while Mara and Ed Watson were both on top form and so full of sensitivity to the drama; secondly the amazing New Ballet Boyz; and lastly the "Lieder" duet, which was simple and beautiful, and quietly, deeply moving. & Steven McRae's hoofing was a lovely cherry on the cake... (I wonder if Mr McRae has ever been described as a lovely cherry before...).

  13. thank you very much for your comment Imogen. I can assure you that I read and appreciate every one of them - however old (except those which are unpublishable !)

  14. wow great post and great advice. I tend to only read the blogs that I find interesting .
    Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.


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