Formed 40 years ago by professional dancer, June Ranger, the Ranger School of Dance boasts some 300 pupils of all ages now performing full-length classical ballets, reviews, presentations and full scale productions. Many go on to further education and to pursue careers in dance and professional theatre, and two current pupils who are featured in the school’s latest showcase production of La Grande Fete, James Lovell and Joshua Stukes are Royal Ballet School Associates. Both are currently appearing at the Royal Opera House; in Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland respectively. Another - Connor McCrory - is undergoing professional training at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.
Characteristic of all Ranger Productions showcase performances, the stage, filled with talented performers with ages ranging from 4 to 84, plays to capacity audiences at Swanage’s Mowlem Theatre. All participants gain invaluable experience, performing in a professional live theatre environment.
La Grande Fete is an evening of two distinct halves, the first act celebrating a festival day. The exquisite music of Mozart, Minkus and Bayar is used to accompany the precision classical ballet steps of the hugely talented cast, under the tight and imaginative choreography of June Ranger. The surprise delight of this sequence being the appearance of two of surely Ms Ranger’s tiniest performers, no more than four years old, in a charming pas de deux, which cannot fail to wow the audience.
Act two provides a more contemporary mixture of music and dance styles, opening with the breath-taking ‘Sing Sing Sing’ routine, and including a fabulous 70s retro ‘Now and Then’ celebration, an impressive tribute to Les Miserables - ably showing off the vocal talents of the chorus – and the stunning ‘Roxanne’ re-created from the original Moulin Rouge interpretation of the hit rock song by The Police. In a hot and sensual performance, Caroline McCrory’s choreography is expertly realised, and the electricity conjured between the extra-ordinary principal dancers is tangible.
At times, the faultless and precise movements are masked a little by the sheer number of bodies on stage, and the comic interludes in the second half, although nicely conceived; act as an interruption and breaks the momentum, but these are small criticisms indeed. Aided by the sharp and atmospheric lighting, designed by Thomas Curtis, and the simple, yet adaptable and eye catching set, designed by Peter Cooper, as a showcase for local talent, La Grande Fete is a winner, and cries out to be taken to a wider audience. With this slick and professional show, Ranger Productions should take to the road and promote the very best that Swanage has to offer.