Ballet Central

As a teenager American movie musicals were as much of interest to me as ballet. So, when I had to decide the theme for my Master’s Degree in Choreography, I considered how I could incorporate the two art forms.

I soon realised that many of the classic musicals of the 40s and 50s contained segments where the singing stops and dance takes over. Many of these sequences did not necessarily advance the story, but provided a reprise of the narrative thus far and were always accompanied by an exciting montage of instrumental highlights from the show.

I researched the dream ballets from Oklahoma, On the Town and An American in Paris, but it was Carousel that had most impact on me with its compelling melodies and unconventional narrative. So I set out to understand it from the inside.

In 2013, whilst in New York performing, I discovered the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Here within I found precious footage of the original Carousel choreography by Agnes de Mille taken at a stage rehearsal in 1945 at Broadway’s Majestic Theater, where the piece premiered. The recording led me to later stage versions, particularly the 1956 recording with New York City Ballet star Jacques d’Amboise in the lead dancing role. On a whim I contacted Jacques who to my delight attended my performance the following week and told me about his role in the piece, the fantastic history of de Mille and the impact Carousel had made on the American stage.

Countless productions of Carousel have been staged providing endless inspiration, but the two that had the greatest impact on me were the original motion picture and the 1992 National Theatre production. This version contained the last ever choreography created by Kenneth MacMillan before sadly passing away six weeks prior to the opening of the show. As a teenager I saw this production live when it transferred to the Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End.

In revisiting Carousel for this year’s tour I looked at current trends around the themes of young love and in particular the circus and fairground elements of the story. I have taken inspiration from films such as The Greatest Showman (after Barnum) and the recent revival of the 1972 musical Pippin by Stephen Schwartz, which echoes the world of the funfair where Louise discovers herself in a place outsiders are welcomed.

Choreographer – Christopher Marney

Christopher is in his third year in post as Artistic Director of Ballet Central, having studied as a dancer under the direction of Christopher Gable, and completed his Master’s Degree in Choreography at Central. As a dancer Chris has worked for Balletboyz, Gothenburg Ballet, Ballet Biarritz, Bern Ballet, Michael Clark Company, Ivan Putrov’s Men in Motion&Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures where he has danced many principal roles. The Critics Circle National Dance Awards nominated him for Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance two years running as well as being included in Dance Europe’s Outstanding Male Dancer 2013 list. As a choreographer he has created works for Ballet Black, Images of Dance, English National Ballet’s Emerging dancer competition, Regensburg Opera House and the Edinburgh festival. In London’s West-End Chris has choreographed McQueen The Play, Tell Me on a Sunday, Hotel Follies and was the Associate Choreographer for Matthew Bourne's New Adventures. He was named associate artist of the UK Foundation for Dance in 2009 and is a patron of the Chelmsford Ballet.

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