Ann Maguire Gala: Leeds Grand Theatre

I’m interrupting my string of Edinburgh Fringe catch up posts – there’s more of those to come – to write a wee post about last night’s trip to the theatre. (Yes, I went to the theatre on a Sunday. Bonkers.)

I made the journey to the beautiful Grand Theatre in Leeds to see a star-studded line up perform in a fundraising gala for the Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund. This fund was set up by Royal Ballet dancer Emma Maguire in memory of her mother, Ann, who was tragically murdered in the school where she taught in 2014. Whilst I bought my ticket because I couldn’t miss the chance to see live ballet outside of London, it was good to know that my money was going to such a worthy cause.

The programme – curated by Emma Maguire – was largely made up of pas de deux, performed by principals and soloists from the Royal Ballet. These came from Concerto – Kenneth MacMillan in unusually serene mode, partnered with beautiful Shostakovitch; Within the Golden Hour, a playful tango to pizzicato strings choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and executed with panache by Alexander Campbell and Beatriz Stix-Brunell; and Voices of Spring, a joyful piece by Ashton so perfectly crafted to suit Strauss’ waltz it makes you grin.

Leeds-based Northern Ballet make an appearance, performing an extract from their critically acclaimed 1984 – the passionate, athletic and lift-driven duet between the lead characters. Will Tuckett’s tongue in cheek Quizas brings a bit of Latin heat to proceedings, with sassy, salsa-ing turns from Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera.

It isn’t all duets though. Edward Watson puts in an exquisite performance to “Clair de Lune,” and we see Max Cookward, a Rambert student who has benefited from the Ann Maguire fund. But it’s Steven McRae who brings the house down with his incredible tap routine Czardas, his blisteringly fast feet sparring with Vasko Vassilev’s violin. I could have watched it over and over again.

While the programme was dominated by contemporary and comparatively recent works, there was a smattering of the classics: in the first half, there’s the White Swan pas de deux, danced by Fumi Kaneko and Nicol Edmonds (lovely, but not quite right without the lines of swan maidens in the background). The night concludes with a showstopping rendition of an entire pas de deux from Le Corsaire from Akane Takada and Benjamin Ella, whose jumps, turns and fouettés elicit audible gasps.

All in all, it was a brilliant programme and a special treat to see so many Royal Ballet dancers in one evening, out of their natural habitat and in such a gorgeous, intimate theatre.


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