Difficult-to-please Clement Crisp gives a four-star crit for the English National Ballet’s dance show “Strictly Gershwin”:
For this show is jolly, welcoming, coasting along on tunes that everyone knows, and it is done with a fine sense of theatre, which has ever been Deane’s forte. In this revival, it is even more slick and brassy than at its first outing in 2008. The company’s dancing is polished, resourceful. All the troupe’s principals are brightly on hand, and former guests – Tamara Rojo, Guillaume Côté, Friedemann Vogel – are splendidly returned.
The Arts Desk’s Judith Flanders disagrees vehemently:
I can’t remember ever enjoying any theatrical experience less. The Albert Hall is not in any case a place for dance – dance in the round is a contradiction in terms, it simply means everyone has a bad seat. But at Strictly Gershwin I swiftly realised not being able to see was no bad thing. Derek Deane is not so much a choreographer (see his Swan Lake in the round if you don’t believe me) as a marshaller. He pushes groups here, he pushes them there, and everyone valiantly pretends it’s dancing. But his steps are risible, there is no aesthetic motivation at all – old-fashioned ballroom sequins seem to have him fatally in thrall.
Judith Mackrell for the The Guardian was in agreement about Deane’s choreography:
Derek Deane is an astute director of stage effects and clever at pastiche – witness his lush, Romeo and Juliet-ish duet to the Man I Love, or his sequins- and-tutu setting of Rhapsody in Blue. But the choreography lacks sustained invention, especially for the corps de ballet, and you rarely feel the heartbeat of a genuine love affair with Gershwin’s music.
Even Tamara Rojo, as guest ballerina, struggles to shine in the material she is given. The one truly “old-fashioned” moment is delivered in the Summertime duet, where Daria Klimentova and Friedemann Vogel dance full tilt in a headrush of intoxicating, but unforced, passion
Sarah Frater in The Stage was another who had problems with the venue and Deane’s contribution:
Deane made the piece back in 2008 in the wake of the success of his in the round Swan Lake, and – excepting a little tinkering – it is the same, with the same strengths and same flaws. The latter include Strictly Gershwin being too long, and it often feeling under-populated. There are, in fact, a large number of dancers in the show, but the Royal Albert Hall is such a vast venue, you need literally dozens to make it look occupied.
The guest artists Guillaume Côté, Tamara Rojo, Friedemann Vogel and ENB principal Daria Klimentová all came out well:
Côté is a cheerful hero, moving easily from jazzy hoofing to yearning. Rojo’s heroine flits lightly through in her demure pink frock. She’s even more fun as a vamp in the dream sequence, reaching out with undulating, sensuous arms. The supporting Parisians, meanwhile, daftly wave onions and ride bikes. Deane stages Rhapsody in Blue as a tutu ballet, with Rojo on sumptuous form.
The incredible duo of Daria Klimentová and Friedemann Vogel dance everyone else off the stage with their scintillating pas de deux to Summertime.
But let’s finish with a smiling Mr Crisp in The Financial Times:
The public was ecstatic. Carping nit-picker that I may supposedly be, I salute the show’s dashing presentation and its verve as an applause machine. Bravo!
American in Paris with Tamara Rojo and Guillaume Cote, by Patrick Baldwin
Rhapsody in Blue, by Michael Garner
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.