Ballet in Small Spaces: The North Wall and touring

2:16pm Wednesday 8th June 2011

By David Bellan

The North Wall’s spacious gallery was featuring the work of four artists inspired by watching dance. A fifth exhibit was the work of Claude Harrison, who died last year. His series of commedia dell’arte figures, painted with a Renaissance meticulousness, and set in English landscapes, had a spooky fascination.

Among them was a 1950s portrait of the Graham-Jones family. It includes the young Sebastian, who, many years later, came up with the idea for the ballet Commedia. His family’s charity, The Exbuberant Trust, which sponsors Oxfordshire artists, funded this venture by choreographer Susie Crow.

Crow has made a delightful piece, full of quirky movement and lyrical passages, in which the six characters pose, strut, leap and flirt, in costumes based on those in Harrison’s paintings. Particularly striking is David Horn’s bounding, naughty Harlequin. Giving the work both its impetus and its atmosphere is Robin Holloway’s Serenade in C, alternately jaunty and melancholic. It’s performed on stage by The Exuberant Players, and makes a perfect accompaniment to these dances.

Preceding Commedia came Inside Out, danced to 24 Preludes for Piano by Alan Bush, impressively played by Peter Jacobs. The dancers themselves have contributed to this long series of linked episodes. It begins and ends as a ballet class under the direction of Patrick Wood, but breaks free from the classroom into various combinations of dancers, from solos to trios for the three girls or the three men. There are hints of relationships here and there, and, in the main, there is an underlying seriousness to the piece, in which Crow has evoked excellent performances from her dancers.

Commedia, preceded by an introduction to music and ballet by Susie Crow, under the title Harlequin Dances can be seen again at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury on June 25.

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