Welcome back to Ballet Under The Stars


Ballet Under The Stars once again enthralled three nights of sell-out audiences with a world class evening of ballet and dance in the quiet walled garden of Hatch House, transformed by the Covent Garden Dance Company – Fanny Charles reports

Ballet Under The Stars Stanislav Olshansky and Julia Moskalenko perform Dancing Pergolesi
Stanislav Olshansky and Julia Moskalenko perform Dancing Pergolesi
All Images: Alice Pennefather

THREE years ago everything seemed settled – even Brexit was something we were going to have to live with. Then along came COVID and the pandemic and lockdowns and our lives changed dramatically … and then Putin invaded Ukraine and our government proved to be quite impressive on the international stage … but at home – not so much! Death, disaster, chaos – so many things changed beyond recognition.
What a difference three years makes. And how good to welcome back an event that has been part of the local arts scene for more than ten years.

Ukrainian chemistry
The return of Ballet Under The Stars felt wonderful, with its glamorous setting in the walled garden of Sir Henry and Lady Rumbold’s Hatch House near Tisbury, beautiful dance and delicious food. But even this perfect garden haven of art and fine dining has been touched by these massive, catastrophic events.
Two of this year’s dancers came from Ukraine, a poignant and powerful reminder of the rich culture of their suffering country. Julia Moskalenko and Stanislav Olshanskyi, principals of the Ukraine National Ballet, 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 during the ongoing brutal Russian invasion.

At Ballet Under The Stars, Fabian ReimAir and Fernanda Oliveira dance Three Preludes
Fabian ReimAir and Fernanda Oliveira dance Three Preludes

But it wasn’t just a sympathy vote – these are world-class dancers who brought a taste of the music and culture of their country, particularly in their first piece, the Act 1 pas de deux, from Forest Song, with music by Mykhailo Skorulkskyi and choreography by Vakhtang Vronskyi.
This achingly beautiful work allowed 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 Stabat Mater. Given the deep religious faith of so many Ukrainian people, this felt a particularly powerful interpretation of the tragic music.

At Ballet Under The Stars, Xander Parish and Anastasia Demidova in The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux Act III
Xander Parish and Anastasia Demidova in The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux Act III

A night of stars
The line-up of dancers included the always enchanting Ksenia Ovsyanick, this time partnered by Timothy Dutson. They 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 connection between women and the cello and this work is both an interesting and 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 classic dance positions).
New to the Ballet Under The Stars 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 and contemporary Triade (choreography Benjamin Millepied, music Nico Muhly).

 Ballet Under The Stars and Ksenia Ovsyanick and Timothy Dutson dance Voices pas de deux
Ksenia Ovsyanick and Timothy Dutson dance Voices pas de deux

Compulsion and repulsion
With the long gap since the 2019 Ballet Under The Stars 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 the piece 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 real crowd-pleasers, bringing gasps and cheers from the audience. The pair brought the evening to an elegant close with the Grand Pas Classique (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.

For Ballet Under The Stars in 2023, see Hatch House, or please contact 01749 813313 or events@coventgardendance.com


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