THERE are few more delightful ways to spend an evening than enjoying glorious ballet and dance, with a delicious dinner, under an open-sided marquee, in a beautiful walled garden.
OK, the stars weren’t much in evidence on Sunday evening for the last of the three performances of Ballet Under The Stars, but we had stars on stage, good company and some of the most spectacular dancing we have seen in many years of enjoying this “Glyndebourne of dance.”
The warm welcome for the return of ballet at Hatch was evident from the moment we drove into the gardens around Sir Henry and Lady Rumbold’s historic Hatch House near Tisbury. For so many arts organisations, particularly those small ones like the Covent Garden Dance Company, the pandemic was a traumatic and financially damaging period. This was the first time since the tenth anniversary celebrations in 2019 that dance lovers were able to gather at Hatch, and anticipation was high – not only with the certainty of great dancing and an elegant and delicious meal, but particularly because the line-up of dancers included two from Ukraine.
Julia Moskalenko and Stanislav Olshanskyi are beautiful, graceful and athletic dancers with a palpable chemistry which brought an added intensity of emotion to their two performances. Of course, our emotional response was deepened by sympathy for two gifted young people who are, on the one hand, free to practise their art, but, on the other, inevitably tormented by fears and worries about their country, their families, friends and fellow artists in the ongoing brutal Russian invasion.
But it wasn’t just a sympathy vote – these two principals of the Ukraine National Ballet are world-class dancers who brought a taste of the music and culture of their country, particularly in their first piece, the Act I pas de deux from Forest Song, with music by Mykhailo Skorulkskyi and choreography by Vakhtang Vronskyi. This was an achingly beautiful work, allowing the dancers to display both their physical and dance skills and their emotional connection.
Their second piece, Dancing Pergolesi (choreography by Radu Poklitaru) was similarly technically excellent, with a strong response to the Italian baroque composer’s tragic music. Given the deep religious faith of so many Ukrainian people, this felt a particularly powerful interpretation.
The line-up of dancers included some returning favourites. The always enchanting Ksenia Ovsyanick, this time partnered by Timothy Dutson, interpreted David Dawson’s Voices pas de deux, set to music by Max Richter, and returned in the third dance section with an astonishing and provocative piece, Multiplicity/Forms of Silence and Emptiness. Choreographed by Nacho Duato, this has Dutson playing the “cello” – Ovsyanick – to the accompaniment of Bach’s Cello Suite No 1 in G Major. There is a strong association of women and the cello and this dance work is both an interesting and a subversive interpretation of a masterpiece.
Also back, to huge acclaim was Xander Parish, delighting in The Sleeping Beauty Act III pas de deux with Anastasia Demidova, and then revisiting his 2019 showstopper, the technically dazzling and witty 101 (a kaleidoscope of the classic dance positions).
New to the Hatch audience were the young Paris Opera Ballet dancers, Hortense Pajtler and Nathan Bisson. They opened the evening with Flower Festival in Genzano, a technically demanding pas de deux choreographed by August Bournonville (music by Paulli), evoking the charm of a Fragonard painting. Their second piece was the exciting, contemporary Triade (choreography Benjamin Millepied, music Nico Muhly).
With the long gap since the 2019 Ballet at Hatch, there was an inevitable break in fund-raising for the Dicky Buckle Fund, supporting talented young choreographers and dance education. This year there was only one new work commissioned by the fund – Opposites Attract by Fabian ReimAir, who also composed the music and danced it with Fernanda Oliveira. This was a muscular, visceral exploration of attraction, compulsion and repulsion as the two dancers pushed the physical boundaries of expression in dance. Their second piece was Three Preludes, choreographed by Ben Stevenson to music by Rachmaninov.
The final duo were Royal Ballet principals, the exquisite Japanese dancer Fumi Kaneko and the powerful and athletic Russian, Vadim Muntagirov – his jumps and leaps in the pas de deux from Le Corsaire were genuine crowd-pleasers, bringing gasps and cheers from the audience. The pair brought the evening to an elegant close with the Grand Pas Classic (choreography Victor Gsovsky, music Auber) – technically brilliant, if lacking the emotional bite of some of the earlier pieces.
It was wonderful to have ballet back at Hatch – a triumph for artistic director Matt Brady and his team, and a glorious evening for the capacity audiences over the three nights.
Pictured: Julia Moskalenko and Stanislav Olshanskyi in Dancing Pergolesi; Fabian ReimAir and Fernanda Oliveira dance Three Preludes; Ksenia Ovsyanick and Timothy Dutson dance Voices pas de deux. Photographs by Alice Pennefather.