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Nature through dance

Rhythmic Earth, Sir Temi Zammit Hall

Rhythmic Earth - what an ideal name for Olivia Dow's school show this year. The discipline with which the students danced this year was no different to previous years: with a high standard of control and confidence. Never hesistating, even the youngest of the children took the stage by storm, giving their audience a repertoire of everything to do with earth and rhythm.

The first act took us through a venture of medleys with the eldest to the youngest student forming part of the dance that provided a rhythmic vision of what wind, water, darkness, lightning, nature and earth in general would look like if it were a dancer. Through classical ballet taught to them the Russian legat way and hip-hop moves specially choreographed by a guest teacher from Russia, the ballet students interpreted their vision of the planet we live on.

The choreographies were in no way simple and the costumes neither. In fact, props and costumes played a key role in the overall effect plus the pressure of the dancer was increased as one had to carry out complicated moves wearing headdresses and masks most of the times.

Wind and Water were danced in turquoise and white dresses with tutu variations according to age group and each having their own "special effect" to dance by. They made use of sheets and wore headscarves and flowing costumes and managed to keep the performance looking clean, despite having to deal with a large number of dancers on stage and lots of props. Only at one point in the "water" part did the stage look a bit overcrowded, which is still an achievement for a three-hour show.

Ms Dow and her choregraphers, senior students Martina Zammit and Jessica Farrugia, made good use of the V-shaped stage allotted to them at Sir Temi Zammit Hall by having the students enter on and off stage in groups and dancing in circles in many instances.

All solo parts were performed exquisitely and Seamus Vella Aloisio and Martina Zammit formed a stunning couple on stage. Later on, at the end of the show, we discovered that Martina was dancing with the support of an ankle brace after an unfortunate accident in which she tore her Achilles tendon. At no moment could one have guessed that she had a recent injury as she performed brilliantly from beginning to end.

Two performances of note in Act One were the dance in which the senior girls kept themselves connected by holding a rope and dancing around it, never succumbing to the risk of tripping in it and the Nature and Earth performance. In the latter, the children danced as bees and other earthly creatures who joined in a full on feast rhythm. The synchronisation was impressive and so was the technique. This energetic truly technical and acrobatic dance ended up in a curtain call which served to leave the audience wanting more at the end of part one. It was fast, upbeat and just excellent.

In Act Two, which opened with a sea of students dressed in gold, the duet between Martina and Seamus was particularly expressive. The same can be said of the duet choreographed by Jessica Farrugia featuring two pierrots. The dances were fashioned to express emotions of love, anger happiness and sadness. Then came the show of Snow, Ice and Fire, where the group of older dancers excelled and the youngest astonished us with their discipline. There was one choreography which was very technical and quite a risky challenge as the girls seemed to be suffering slightly to perform such movements to perfection. Otherwise, the tempo kicked off again in the Ice and Fire dance where stunning costumes in fiery orange and icy blue, in different variations, were worn by the students who mingled together with ease and opposition like fire and ice.

This array of skill was merit not only of the disciplined training these students recieve at the Olivia Dow School of Russian Ballet, but also of the love and family atmosphere one can easily perceive; the mothers who pitch in with costumes and props and Ms Olivia's show of appreciation to her students at the end of it all. Finally, Marianna Dogum was this year presented with the John Baldacchino Memorial scholarship after passing her soloist examination with honours. The first-ever soloist examination for the Olivia Dow School of Russian Ballet was held this year. It consisted of a non-stop two-hour dancing en-pointe, with only a brief pause for the preparations into the classical and demi- character solo dance number. Marianna and Sarah Lanzon, both 17 years old, passed the soloist examination.
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