Mara Galeazzi brought seven wonderful dancers with her to Milan's Teatro Carcano for a three-day celebration of familiar and unknown pieces, in fact, there was a world premiere in the programme by Tim Podesta.
Now I have to come clean and say that while I arrived at the theatre to see the performance, I ended up staying on stage to take photos, so this is not a true review.
I have known Mara for several years and her generosity and warmth in life come through in her dancing. She danced four pieces: three with The Royal Ballet's partner-of-choice, the elegant and unfailing Gary Avis, and a solo. As you probably know, she hung up her pointe shoes two years ago when she retired from The Royal Ballet, wanting to join her husband in Oman to become a full-time Mum to baby Maia. That hasn't stopped her popping in and out of retirement to participate in galas, as well as a couple of pieces for her old company. For someone who dances only every now and then, she's certainly in good shape and in these pieces, with no long tutus to hide under, she was exposed in every way, and rose to the challenge with her customary expertise. Her solo piece, Wayne McGregor's Ossein, showed her angular and ugly… but only for five minutes!
It was my privilege to see Dresden's Elena Vostrotina and Raphael Coumes Marquet dancing for the first time. She has a quite remarkable and unique physique, extremely flexible but also communicative, not just showy 200-degree legs.
Two other discoveries were the Danish Ballet's Alexandra Lo Sardo and Jon Axel Fransson who passed from a stylishly perfect – as you would expect – La Syphide, to a hilarious extract from Alexander Ekman's Cacti. It was wittily acted and the comedy was perfectly timed. They are also two beautiful people to view on stage which never goes amiss.
Last, and certainly not least, were Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga from the Dutch Ballet. They too had two contrasting pieces, with Christopher Wheeldon's Duet in the first part of the programme, and the Black Swan pas de deux in the second.
I saw Tsygankova dance the entire ballet in Rome last year, when I wrote, “her assurance and technical wizardry is remarkable.” Tsygankova is a ‘ballerina': perfectly proportioned, with a dazzling technique and a somewhat aloof Russian bearing, which is captivating. Varga is a true prince with his noble lines and beautifully chiselled profile. They make a perfect couple.
This was a very different gala from the one at La Scala (which unfortunately clashed with it on the first two evenings), and for that, valuable in a totally different way.
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.