Monday, January 25, 2016

Mr Wonderful.... RIP Jonathan Ollivier

Last week saw us making the trip to Sadler's Wells with the promise of seeing scenes from Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE, THE CAR MAN, PLAY WITHOUT WORDS, MR WONDERFUL and SLEEPING BEAUTY as well as routines from Michael Clark, Northern Ballet and Motown: The Musical.  Sounds great no?  But sadly all these were appearing to pay tribute to the dancer Jonathan Ollivier who was killed last year as he drove his motorbike to the same theatre to star in the last performance of THE CAR MAN.

It was remarkable that an evening that had all the possibilities of being maudlin actually felt the reverse: it had the feel of a real celebration of a life lived.  Ollivier obviously made an indelible mark on the dancers and companies he worked with and that was reflected in the performances given.

The evening was compered by Matthew Bourne with a winning charm as well as putting each excerpt into context and how they fitted in Ollivier's life.  The show started with Bourne's own routine to Peggy Lee's MR WONDERFUL which featured Sam Archer, James Leece, Christopher Marney, Dominic North, Simon Williams and Richard Winsor who had all danced with Ollivier at some point. 

The quality of the performances was constantly high and all received great ovations.  The Rambert School (where Ollivier trained) performed two ethnic-themed pieces and Michael Clark appeared with his company in his dance COME, BEEN AND GONE which was all the more thrilling as it is danced to Bowie's "The Jean Genie".

Northern Ballet's artistic director David Nixon appeared on film to talk about his memories of Ollivier's time with his company and introduced a pas de deux from WUTHERING HEIGHTS as Jonathan had originated the role of Heathcliff.  Northern Ballet also performed their celebration of the male dancer called SAPPHIRE.  There were also one-off pieces from the Michael Bourne young dancer programme Re:Bourne, ex-Bourne dancer Drew McOnie's company, STRICTLY COME DANCING's Karen & Kevin Clinton and the MOTOWN: THE MUSICAL company gave us their recreation of The Temptation's MY GIRL as choreographer Warren Adams was a friend of Ollivier.

A real high point was the solo dance by Marcelo Gomes with violinist Charles Yang based on a solo by (and titled) PAGANINI.  Gomes was trained by Jonathan Ollivier in the role of The Swan for Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE and danced the role of 'Luca' in repertory with him last year.  Gomes had flown in from New York to dance this piece in honour to his friend.  Gomes personified the music played by Yang to perfection and both almost stopped the show.

The show ended on a particular high with an extended sequence from Bourne's SWAN LAKE with Gomes dancing The Swan and Dominic North as The Prince.  At the end the dancers all sat along the edge of the stage as a screen rolled down and they watched with us an excerpt from Channel 4's MATTHEW BOURNE'S CHRISTMAS of Ollivier dancing the same pas de deux.  At the end, everyone was on their feet applauding, both cast and audience.

A moving night, my only regret is that it had to happen at all.

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