Val Bourne's farewell gala was held on 5 November, with fireworks lighting the foyers before and after. Inside Sadler's Wells, the performances tended to be less flashy, and much warmer. This was a well-planned gala programme: affectionate, nostalgic, brisk.
For 28 years, Dance Umbrella has been Bourne's party. She founded the festival of contemporary dance, and stepped down as director this year. Most of British modern dance owes a debt to Dance Umbrella, and many overseas companies have been sheltered by Bourne's festival. There were plenty of them here, from Mark Morris to Michael Clark.
The evening was hosted by Richard Move in the character of Martha Graham. Move's Martha is the grandest of drag acts, speaking and dancing variations on authentic Graham, in ever more spectacular gowns. His Martha makes a splendidly tart hostess; introducing the great and the good of dance, she sweetly takes credit for half their achievements while dripping sugared scorn on post-Graham post-modernists.
Love, You Have Won, an early Morris duet, was part of his Umbrella debut in 1984. David Leventhal and Bradon McDonald, whose white tunics make them look like renaissance choirboys, dance a Vivaldi cantata. The resilient bounce of the steps comes straight out of Vivaldi's score. There are irresistible contradictions: Morris's musicality is both strict and comic, while the dancers' sober innocence is terribly funny. An adorable performance.
There were other cheerful memories. Twenty years on, the original cast returned for a revival of Stand By Your Man, made by a then teenage Aletta Collins. The piece is light and still funny. Michael Clark's Merce's Nurse, billed as a new work, is really an edited highlight from his current show - but it looks better here, without all the clutter. More recent works were less fun. Kim Brandstrup's Afsked (2003), now looks conventional; Charles Linehan's New Quartet lacked focus.
This gala reminded us of the range of Bourne's work. Seosamh O'Neachtain danced traditional Irish numbers with brilliant rhythm, and Richard Alston's company fizzed through extracts from Gypsy Mixture. Then Martha and Morris brought on Bourne, sweeping great bows and curtseys to the evening's star.Reuse content