Pros: Vincent – a Stranger to Himself is an intriguing study of Vincent Van Gogh’s life and loves.
Cons: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik didn’t portray a coherent message.
Duology was my first trip to the ballet, so I was little anxious about how far I’d be able to engage. Happily, Duology was entirely accessible to the untrained viewer. Both dances were captivating and there was a mixture of serious, funny, technical and free choreography. At the end of the show, Chantry Dance Company conducted a short question and answer session with the audience. The company told us about their creative process; the physical challenges of dancing, and a little about the technicalities of contemporary ballet. I now know that traditional ballet is comprised of a codified set of steps, whereas contemporary ballet incorporates more free flowing choreography. If you’ve never been to the ballet before Duology is a great introduction.
The opening act was set to and named after Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and performed by Rea Piper, Paul Chantry and David Beer. The three experienced dancers gave a captivating performance. The chorography flowed from traditional ballet steps, to clumsy unorthodox moves, and to quirky actions which evoked giggles from the audience.
The performance took place in a room that was entirely empty apart from a sofa centre stage, which was artfully embedded in the performance. The dance was peppered with elegant lifts, requiring a level of strength and skill I can only admire. Visually Eine Kleine Nachtmusik was a treat.
Though, the themes of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik were confused: at times the dance conjured images of loneliness; at other times we saw dreams; and the piece also seemed to communicate the experiences of three people involved in a love triangle. The choreography and the music didn’t quite hang together to present a coherent narrative.
By contrast the strength of the second act, Vincent – a Stranger to Himself, lay in its thoughtful exploration of the mind and heart of an artistic genius. This dance combined the Greek theatrical tradition with contemporary ballet to create a dark, troubling and unstable atmosphere. The distinctions between madness and genius, and love and despair were blurred.
This dance involved a larger cast. Paul Chantry and Rea Piper took centre stage as Vincent and his Art. David Beer performed the Crow, representing the dark side of Vincent’s mind. Two apprentices and an ensemble of associate dancers represented the depths of the painter’s mind, at times circulating like demons. The various parts supported one another to create a pleasing and coherent performance.
The set design was highly effective. A see-through perspex board created a barrier between Van Gogh and his passions, while blackened canvasses ominously decorated a series of easels. At the end of the dance, when Van Gogh came to rest, the dark boards atop the easels were turned around, revealing the artist’s famous paintings – the legacy of his turbulent mind.
Vincent – a Stranger to Himself was a well-constructed and intriguing piece of dance that brought together a talented cast. Not only was the performance impressive and enjoyable, but it highlighted Chantry Dance Company’s social value. Chantry provides educational programmes for apprentice dancers, and is situated in the East Midlands to provide those who live outside London an opportunity to pursue ballet. As an East Mids gal, I especially admire Chantry’s Midlands mission.
Duology was a great introduction to contemporary ballet for this first-timer, and Chantry is an interesting dance company contributing some really valuable outreach work. I’d recommend checking them out.