By Fanny Charles

IT is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Matt Brady brought his Covent Garden Dance Company to a marquee in the 17th century Dutch walled garden at Hatch House, near Tisbury.

For a decade, that courageous debut brought the best in classical and contemporary dance to the peaceful corner of Wiltshire, delighting audiences with its unique recipe of internationally-acclaimed dancers, top choreography and gourmet food and drink.

As part of his aims with Ballet Under The Stars, Matt, son of novelist Charlotte Bingham and actor and writer Terence Brady, set up the Dicky Buckle Fund, in memory of the great dance critic Richard Buckle, The fund supports young choreographers, often the dancers who come to Hatch, to create new work.

This year, the “Glyndebourne of ballet”, as it is known, had sell-out audiences for three evenings, with special guests and favourite dancers in works that ranged from staples of the classical ballet to thrilling new pieces.

The pairing of Hatch favourite Mara Galeazzi with the splendid Italian dancer Gabriele Corrado was a revelation, never more so than in Wayne McGregor’s powerful and emotional ‘Qualia’, danced to the insistent and demanding music of the electronic sound artist Scanner. It was also a delight to see this brilliant pairing showing all their emotional and technical skill in the famous Balcony scene from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, with the MacMillan choreography.

Ksenia Ovsyanick, with her regular partner Zdenek Konvalina, opened the evening’s dance programme with ‘Summertime’, in a soupy arrangement by Percy Faith. It was not to my taste – I want that sexually-charged, South Carolina steamy heat! Ovsyanick’s ‘The Lightness of Being’,  danced to music by Philip Glass, was far more appealing, sophisticated and engaging. Their third piece was a witty play on Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 in G Major with Konvalina in wig and 18th century costume, wielding a bow and “playing” Ovsyanick as if she was an exceptionally acrobatic cello.

Hatch regulars Vitali Safronkine and Iker Murillo danced as a pair and in a trio with Maria Munoz Sabater, demonstrating the maturing of Safronkine’s choreography in Summa, La Silhouette and Reminiscence.

Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae brought the house down with his own ‘Something Different’, danced initially to the rhythm of his tapping feet and then to music by Benny Goodman – a dazzling demonstration of the seductive excitement of great tap dancing

The elegant Lauren Cuthbertson, principal of the Royal Ballet, when dancing with Nicol Edmonds, showed why her technically-exquisite dancing is so admired in ‘Concerto’, choreographed by MacMillan to music by Shostakovich. Her classical style perfection was even more evident in the ‘White Adagio’ from Swan Lake. Perhaps only something so subtle and poignant could have followed the explosive charisma of McRae’s tap dancing routine.

Special guest Xander Parish, the only British dancer in Russia’s famous Mariinsky Ballet, dancing with his Mariinsky colleague Maria Khoreva, delighted lovers of mainstream repertoire with the Pas de Deux from ‘La Bayadere’ and the more contemporary ‘Close Up’, danced to a Schubert piano impromptu. He concluded the evening with ‘101’, a witty and demanding showcase in which the dancer performs the 101 dance positions, first in sequence and then in an accelerating and random order. It was a terrific finalé to a memorable evening.

Pictured: Mara Galeazzi and Gabriele Corrado rehearsing the Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet; photograph by Alice Pennefather.

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