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Wolves Are People Too – Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Gorgeous acoustics resonate around the Parabola Arts Centre early on a Sunday morning, as dynamic band Hansu – Tori and Birmingham Royal Ballet bring come together to bring ballet to the Festival for the first time.

Pianist David Austin Grey lead his band through the set as he, along with an alto sax, tenor sax/flutist, drummer and singer, guided the 4 dancers in their storytelling. The piece was inspired by the Japanese film Wolf Children the show follows the paths of two half-wolf, half-human children as they become adults.


The bands spangly and twinkly music was a solid backdrop for the dancers to interpret but also stood strong when left alone on stage without the dancers. They performed 5 excerpts from their full length ballet which signposted the key events in the story, telling the tale clearly. The first introduced you to the characters of the wolf/human family. The second featured a solo from the mother of the family dancing with the coat of her husband which arms wrapped around her. Next showed the children in school in a minimalism scene as they sat on chairs facing upstage. The fourth was a beautiful duet as girl meets boy and ends the story as it should, happily ever after.

Poignant lyrics such as “children running wild”, “scars will heal and pain gets washed away” and “this is more than girl meets boy” illustrated the story further. Teamed with Matthew Bourne style choreography from Kit Holder, the performance was clear and accessible, make the story obvious for those more accustomed with jazz than ballet.

Maybe I am biased as a ballet lover but I found myself tuning out altogether from the music and being entirely distracted by the dancing in the foreground. Laura Day was, as always,  particularly impressive in both her solo and duet.


Nevertheless, Hansu – Tori grew stronger throughout their set, with a solo from the tenor sax stealing the show. Velvety vocals and free flowing melodies was a gentle and warming way to start a lazy Sunday in the sun. The bands vibrant sound fused seamlessly with the movement, creating a joy for both the eyes and the ears.

To read our full coverage of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival head to this link to find the PDF of our magazine.

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