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Five Reasons To See … Hotel Follies

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There’s precious little dance in London in August, so three cheers for dancer-choreographer Christopher Marney who’s created a small-scale dance-review at the Arts Theatre. Hotel Follies tells the tale of down-at-heel performers washed up in an equally down-at-heel hotel. It's set in the 1940s, and mixes music, dance and song with the undimmed ambitions of the hotel residents. Here are five reasons to go…

1. It stars Doreen Wells, aka the Marchionesses of Londonderry, and one-time Royal Ballet dancer
Given her many loyal fans who'll be queuing for tickets, getting Wells to perform is a huge coup for Marney. He’s much too young to remember Wells’ appearance at the last minute at the Spoleto Festival in the 1960s when Margot Fonteyn was injured off and she danced with Rudolf Nureyev. However, it’s part of dance lore, as is Wells’ second life in musical entertainment, where she worked with Harry Secombe, Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa in a BBC Christmas Extravaganza, plus appeared in On your Toes, 42nd Street, and the 1985 Royal Variety Show. In Hotel Follies Wells plays an older dancer with more than a few tales to tell. Joining her are dancers from Rambert, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, including “Tamara Rioja”, and Northern Ballet Theatre.

2. It’s the work of up-and-coming Christopher Marney
There are lots of good omens for the young Marney. He trained at the Central School of Ballet and worked with Matthew Bourne in his all-male swan version of Swan Lake. Marney has also danced with the Ballet Boyz, Michael Clark and Will Tuckett, plus he's created some small-scale choreography at the Bridewell Theatre, Gothenburg Ballet and Ballet Central. Now comes Hotel Follies, his first evening-length piece, with able dancers, nice costumes and live musicians. It also has a strong idea, which shows Marney understands the importance of theme and story-telling. It’s early days of course, but all bodes well for the 30-year-old.

3. It includes live music and good costumes
Both are rare in small-scale dance, where tiny budgets make pre-recorded music and modest costumes all but inevitable. Marney admits he’s been lucky with funding, but it also shows he has a good eye, and good ear, and appreciates that it's better to do something small and well than big and scrimp.

4. It features excerpts and re-interpretations of famous dance scenes
This will please dance fans who like old favorites as well as discovering new ones. On offer are an interpretation of Moira Shearer’s solo from the Powell-Pressburger classic The Red Shoes, a pas de six of macho bravura set to La Bayadère, plus a little seen work from Matthew Bourne. This alone makes Hotel Follies worth seeing, although Marney’s new choreography also sounds good fun.

5. It’s the only thing on
This isn’t intended as faint praise, but an accurate description of how the London dance scene hibernates in August – The Royal Ballet is away, Sadler’s Wells and the Southbank have long-runners you’ll already have seen, and it’s two months until Dance Umbrella. Happily, Hotel Follies looks strong, so it shouldn’t waste your time.

Hotel Follies, 26-30 August, Arts Theatre, 0845 017 5584


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