REVIEWS 

 
Cockpit Theatre
London
September the 2nd to the 11th
2021

Ten minutes into the show, I write down my 5-star rating. An hour and forty minutes later, my intuition is proved correct. Kevan Allen’s choreography and direction is, to me, faultless. Throughout the entirety of the show there is a BEAUTIFUL blend of dance languages. Allen has created something beyond ballet; a graceful fusion with the bones of ballet but wrapped in the flesh of dance, with a capital ‘D’. Begging, borrowing and stealing from all aspects of movement, Allen has birthed something breath-taking.

 

Not to mention that it is gorgeously performed. Every performer in the show moves with a grace and ease that should be impossible. They are a superhuman force combining the most challenging of physical feats with alluring smiles and palpable personal connection.   

This show is also a perfect example of harmonious convergence in performance and scenography: the costumes are intricate; the set quaint; the music, a textured and complex auditory journey. The creative team deserve a bow of their own.

There is not one single chance I understand the whole show, but I don’t care. And that is the pinnacle of art. I go into the show with no previous knowledge at all of the story of Coppelia, but I follow the narrative being delivered to me with relative ease. Not being a purveyor of professional dance, I am not fluent in the language they speak; but at no point do I feel alienated or unwelcome. Good dance is good storytelling and Coppelia is told beautifully. Allen proves, with no difficulty whatsoever, that performance can evolve with the times without sacrificing or forgoing tradition.  

 

A YOUNGER THEATRE – Tricia Wey 

A brave man, Kevan Allen, to put his money where his mouth is…..into a project that seems to have been bubbling in his mind for a long time….and I hope it pays off for him. It deserves to, a four-star production that could be more with extra room to manoeuvre. It gets a standing ovation – and this is not press night but its sixth – and clapping in time with the music. It’s a dance gig – please can we all join in?

His remix of Coppelia is huge fun, with foot-tapping music from electronic dance whizz Rickard Berg (nineteenth century Delibes is in there somewhere, like a distant memory, in this exciting mash-up) that plays like a film score; a young cast of thirteen, some ballet trained, some musical theatre; fabulous costumes from Wendy Olver; and Justin Williams performs wonders on the Cockpit tiny stage with his set design aided by Mike Robertson’s lighting. 

Street, contemporary, a touch of classical, waltzes, dance /musical theatre, Coppelia covers them all, but its the shoulder – shrugging, a bit of popping, and group formation dance that is the most head-bopping infectious. The beat is great.   I hope this is just the beginning of its journey. Surely the West End calls. 

 

BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE  - Vera Liber  

Visually stunning like a surrealist sculpture garden, Choreographer and Director Kevan Allen masterfully builds more than one intriguing and heavily textured world. Wendy Olver’s costume design is show-stealing. Dr Coppelius and his creation, occupy a steam-punk sphere that teems with fanciful characters. It’s a world of leather and brass in which we see the subconscious made phantasmagorical with the arrival of creatures and characters bedecked and transformed by feathers, plague-doctor-masks-cum-crow beaks, Benin bronze visages and dada-esque tropes.

 

In the other world, of satin and velvet, we experience classical ballet and the wedding cake confection of the more typical comedy of manners of the popular Delibes composition. Justin Williams’ set design also crucially serves the contrast whilst cleverly and functionally being part of this production’s movement and geometry that both immerse and arrest the audience. There is something throat-grabbingly immediate and visceral about this tableau; with a startling quality like Luis Buñuel directing a Lovecraft script rather than the pretty candy- box impressionism through which fairy stories are so often refracted.

 

This ambitious and intriguing production of Coppelia delivers handsomely and is very much worth checking out.

 

LONDON THEATRE 1 – Mary Beer 

The autumn dance season, one that has major world premieres wherever you look, got off to a fine start at the intimate Cockpit theatre with Kevan Allen’s Coppelia, the first production for his new KVN Dance Company. He promised a deeper, slightly darker look at what is usually a pretty lightweight ballet. He does not disappoint in what is a fine production full of energy and quite brilliant designs.  

 

Driven entirely by the dance, the story rattles along at a fair pace. Not a step or a second is wasted. Allen’s combination of ballet, contemporary and hip-hop comes together easily as dances and scenes flow effortlessly into one another. 

It’s a brave choreographer who launches his company with a new version of such a popular full-length work. Kevan Allen pulls it off in what is a super piece that delights enormously. As things stand, the only opportunity to catch this Coppelia is during the present Cockpit Theatre season. I hope it gets the chance to be seen more widely. It’s fine cast and creative team, certainly deserve it.  

 

SEEING DANCE - David Mead

The Choreography is where it’s all happening. I loved the spectrum of dance genres mixing ballet with street, hip-hop, contemporary and commercial. The large troupe of 13 dancers were all brilliant, each bringing to life their individual characterisations. All skilled in the demands of Kevan who’s choreography really came to life in the full ensemble numbers, individual groups that come together to flow into unison choreography and then back out again. Dance Numbers that require many different but simultaneous choreographic elements that then become cohesive. Some very clever and wonderful stuff. 

 

THEATRE REVIEWS - Richard Lambert   

Kevan Allen comes from a varied dance background, from commercial and musical theatre to contemporary and street, which is reflected in his energetic and distinctive choreography, but it’s the sheer profusion of ideas that help make his new version of the popular classic so engrossing. The production brims with well thought-through characters, all of who are excellently taken by the entire cast. ……I adore Coppelia, and admit to approaching this production with trepidation, but Kevan Allen, in this clever reimagining, remains true to the ballets spirit whilst creating something new and appealing. 

 

DANCING TIMES  –  Jonathan Gray

True to the marketing, we get a real splicing of dance styles and musical cut-ups; hip-hop features as much as ballet but there’s still plenty of room for contemporary too. It all chugs along nicely, the differing physical styles fit alongside each other harmoniously and Delibes music is transformed into a beats-laden, bass-throbbing piece of electronica that frequently re-peats, distorts and grinds to a halt to interesting effect. It all works, I think, because the various musical and choreographic styles accompany different characters and situations. 

 

DANCE EUROPE  – Gerard Davis 

Kevan Allen’s choreography is a seamless combination of dancing styles: Pure classical ballet blends with commercial dancing, a touch of hip hop and, of course, lots of robotic dancing for Dr. Coppelius’s dolls in an extended scene set in his workshop. Surprisingly, it works very well. 

KVN’s thirteen strong company come from a variety of training backgrounds, and if their technical level varies, what you can’t fault is their commitment and contagious enthusiasm, something we’re surely prepared to pay money to see. 

 

CULTURE WHISPER – Teresa Guerreiro

IIn 1934, Adrian Stokes wrote about the relationship between action and music in ballet: “The action does not interpret the music, nor the music the action. They would appear to belong to different atmospheres. Yet they cannot be held apart, since the picture they compose is unforgettable.” This is very much the impression of the opening night of KVN Dance Company’s Coppelia at The Cockpit Theatre. Here the ‘different atmospheres’ include the costumes, sets and lighting, each on their individual layers of experience, that combine with the cast to create a high-octane performance that is in turn heightened by the proximity of the audience to the action. 

 

Taking the traditional ballet’s narrative structure as a starting point, choreographer/director Kevan Allen and composer Rickard Berg have produced a masterful mash up of dance styles, sounds and popular Delibes tunes with turntable-inspired rhythms and beats that transform the action into the immediate present. Wendy Olver’s costumes, too, displace the characters from classical ballet to a sophisticated enclave of extrovert bohemians, in contrast to Justin Williams’ modular set retaining the sylvan character of the original. Throughout KVN Dance Company’s production of Coppelia these similarities to and divergences from the traditional ballet endlessly encourage and subvert our expectations. 

 

WRITING ABOUT DANCE  –  Nicholas Minns