COUNTRY house opera is a long-established feature of the British summer – but when Matt Brady brought his new Covent Garden Dance Company to a walled garden in south west Wiltshire six years ago he was doing something completely new.
He was not only giving dance lovers in this rural area a chance to see world-class ballet in a beautiful outdoor setting, but also providing an opportunity for young choreographers to create work to be danced by stars of leading dance companies.
Now it feels as established as Glyndebourne, Grange Park or our local Iford Festival (in another beautiful garden, a few miles north near Bath) – and fans book year after year for Covent Garden Dance Company at Hatch House near Tisbury.
This year everything conspired to create the most memorable event yet . The weather was glorious, the garden was looking its absolute best, we were greeted with champagne and the archly enchanting Black Swans before taking our seats in the elegant marquee for a delicious three-course meal, served between the three-part programme of ballet and contemporary dance.
Matt, the talented son of actor Terence Brady and novelist Charlotte Bingham, who live near Bruton, founded Covent Garden Dance Company in 2006, to stage dance theatre in interesting and unusual locations, celebrating the finest works of the classical repertoire and supporting young choreographers by commissioning new works through the Dicky Buckle Choreographic Fund (named after the late, great dance critic).
His great achievement over these six years has been not only to bring leading international dancers to a picturesque corner of Wiltshire but also to enable local dance lovers to see excellent and unusual classical and contemporary dance and new work.
This year there were two new works: Alta Stare was created by Tim Podesta, working with the star dancers, Italian ballerina, former principal and now guest principal of the Royal Ballet, Mara Galeazzi and Peter Chursin (who flew over from New York to dance at Hatch); and Touching Distance by Vitali Safronkine, danced by Camille Auble, Lydia Caruso and Anthony Ramiandrisoa, all members of Ballet Basel. Mara Galeazzi also danced the exquisite Ossein by Wayne McGregor.
Works from the classical ballet included the grand pas de deux from Act III of Don Quixote, performed spectacularly by Silvia Selvini and the brilliant young Icelandic dancer, Jon Axel Fransson, who also danced the witty and athletic Jockey Dance From Siberia To Moscow, with Ulrik Birkkjaer, a principal with the Royal Danish Theatre.
There was a dazzling piece called Stetl, choreographed by Richard Wherlock to poignant klezmer music, and danced with fiery passion by Camille Auble and Anthony Ramiandrisoa.
Carlos Acosta showed his dramatic style in the sultry Memoria, by his fellow Cuban, Miguel Altunaga, and his dazzling sexiness and humour in Les Bourgeois, danced to a wicked Jacques Brel song and choreographed by Ben van Cauwenbergh, artistic director of Theater In Essen.
The food was prepared and served by Norma Farrelly Catering of Wilton and included carpaccio of beef, a lamb tagine, and pannacotta with poached pears, with well-chosen fine wines by Simonsig of Stellenberg, one of the sponsors of dance at Hatch House. Together they provided the perfect compliment to the entertaining and varied dance programme.
Pictured: Carlos Acosta, and one of the Black Swans, five talented young dancers from leading dance schools, who weaved seductively and mysteriously around the arriving guests in the garden and again around the tables during the evening.