Saturday, April 30, 2011

Basildon Ballet Company
Brentwood Theatre

In an ambitious first venture on the Brentwood Theatre stage, Michelle's Brown's inclusive Basildon Ballet Company presented a full-length narrative piece based on the Wizard of Oz.

Her choreography was simple but strong, giving all of her dancers a chance to showcase their skills. I wonder, though, about the wisdom of focusing on the classical ballet – not the most forgiving of genres – when the subject matter might lend itself to something more modern. And many of the sequences were a little long, tiring the dancers and exhausting the ideas.

The demanding role of Dorothy was taken by Colleen Palmer, who brought poise and energy to the part; the other principals included Vicki Glover's Glinda [she also danced Aunt Em], Stacey Barham's Wicked Witch, and the colourful trio of Nisha Vyas's Lion [who had the most characterful choreography], Chloe Hookins' dapper Tinlady and Victoria McAllister's lively Scarecrow. Her costume was wonderful - I also liked Dorothy's frock: gingham over ballet frills, and ruby slippers of course.

The younger dancers were given plenty to do – three pas de deux for the Munchkins. But while they were focused and confident with their dances, their stage discipline was less good when they were simply required to sit and watch.

The music, arranged by Marcus Brown, was a mix of gems from the classical repertoire, Arlen's tunes, plus some wittily eclectic choices: Elton John, Keep Young and Beautiful, Anyone Who Had A Heart for the Tin Man, and for the Scarecrow, Neil Richardson's Approaching Menace, better known as the Mastermind Theme !

No credits for any of the composers in the programme, unfortunately. More significantly, there was nothing about the background to this obviously keen young company, which seems to aim to bring classical ballet to all – although there were no male dancers this time out. This unambitiously assumes that the entire audience will be made up of family and friends ...

My colleague Mary Redman was at the opening night ...

Eight years ago Michelle Brown, a Basildon dance school proprietor and choreographer for this show, was inspired by a television documentary programme showing a ballet company consisting of people of all ages, all abilities, all experiences or none.
A year ago she set up Basildon Ballet Company and this year the results were shown to the public at Brentwood Theatre. In reality, due to lack of knowledge of how to publicise a show and how to compose a programme, the audience consisted almost entirely of friends and relations. It also meant that those of us unfamiliar with the company were at a loss to understand its background without asking for clarification.
But, all power to their feet and the entire company's bravery.
To an experienced dance eye, yes there were some absolute beginners involved who had never appeared on stage before and I really at times wondered what on earth was going on. After a talk with Michelle all became clear.
I agree with every thing Michael Gray has written particularly as to the length of the ballet and the complicated story that had developed. The young Munchkins were a particularly lively bunch but a far more firm directorial touch was needed to put an end to the dreadfully long gaps between scenes and to train dancers to keep their attention on the action. You can't simply do your bit then switch off your character and simply observe what's happening.
Costumes must have cost a fortune and had a certain Basildon style to them, even Dorothy's pointe shoes were glamorous in red glitter.
I'd love to see this group again next year when they've all had an opportunity to research things further by going to see as many other groups as possible such as Chelmsford Ballet Company (still going strong since the 1940s).
In the mean time, keep up the good work and practice all you can.

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