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Maggie Foyer, London: Stylishly modern and stunningly classical

Marianela Nuñez och Sergei Polunin i Ballo della Regina. Fotograf Bill Cooper

Marianela Nuñez and Sergei Polunin in Ballo della Regina. Photographer Bill Cooper

It has been an exciting month for ballet in London with a new Wayne McGregor at the Opera House and high quality art in the Hans van Manen programme at Sadler’s Wells. However other dance forms have not been neglected.

An unlikely pairing of Flamenco and contemporary, María Pagés and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, fused in Dunas. Taking its name from the dunes of the Sahara and cloaked in vaporous tawny veils, it was a visual fantasy. Pagés smouldering energy blazed centre stage while Cherkaoui, modestly reticent in taking the performing space, was generously acknowledged for his inspiration. This symbiotic partnership also drew in technology and visual arts.

Dunas. Foto Pages/Cherkaoui/Sadler's Wells

Dunas. Photo Pagés/Cherkaoui/Sadler's Wells

Cherkaoui’s sand drawings, executed with speed and skill are wiped away with the brush of his hand – as ephemeral as the dance itself. Hi tech was harnessed as the drawings displayed on the screen behind Pagés, seemed magically to be instigated by her choreography in a vortex of intense creativity.  But Dunas was mainly about dance, passionate Flamenco, fluid contemporary and thrilling moments when the two made magic with the drapes.
Larissa Lezhnina och Matthew Golding i Adagio Hammerklavier. Fotograf Stephanie Pistel, HNB

Larissa Lezhnina and Matthew Golding in Adagio Hammerklavier. Photographer Stephanie Pistel, HNB

Hans van Manen – Master of Dance
The Dutch National Ballet’s programme of van Manen’s work was titled Master of Dance. The mastery was there in every detail: in the uncluttered choreography, the elite dancers and the quality of design. Van Manen, also a notable photographer, has an eye for perfection.

Take the video projection on a panel that backgrounds his triple duet Adagio Hammerklavier; a curtain that ripples in the wind subtly suggesting the interior passions coursing between the couples under the austere formalism of the classical choreography.  Passions that only briefly reveal their true nature in the sharply flexed feet that slowly stretch to full pointes with aching intensity

Grosse Fuge. Fotograf Stephanie Pistel, HNB
Grosse Fugue. Dancers: Ana Tsygankova, Viktoriya Ananyan, Marisa Lopez, Igone de Jongh, Matthew Golding, Jozef Varga, Alexander Zhembrovskyy and Cédric Ygnace. Photographer Stephanie Pistel, HNB

Throughout the evening each work was distinctive and each work was a masterpiece. Grosse Fugue, also danced to Beethoven’s music, has proved its pedigree by its longevity. Classical structure and modern innovation hold a fine balance as the dynamic current shifts and eddies.

The cast of eight superb principals made this a performance to treasure. Completing the bill were Solo, Concertante and Trois Gnossiennes danced by Larissa Lezhnina and Casey Herd with the incomparable Olga Khoziainova at the piano. Amazingly there is no sign of age in any of the ballets (though several are decades old) nor any suggestion of a recycled idea; at 79 van Manen proves he is still top of his game.

Live Fire Exercise: Federico Bonelli och Lauren Cuthberetson. Fotograf Bill Cooper
Left: Live Fire Exercise:
Federico Bonelli and Lauren Cuthberetson.
Photographer Bill Cooper

Stylishly modern and stunningly classical
The triple bill at the Opera House was exciting fare in a house not known for innovation. McGregor’s Live Fire Exercise is played against a slow motion reconstruction of a controlled explosion in the African desert where the US army test weapons. It is a work that proves McGregor’s phenomenal choreographic talents as he shapes dance with stylish modernity in a setting that is visually stunning.

The duets of extreme extensions and twisted bodies have an intense beauty but the work is troubling in that it vicariously toys with the power of the weapons while ignoring the immorality of war.

The programme notes state that ‘physical aggression is imbedded in classical ballet’. I beg to differ. Ballet is tough, but it is life affirming and a magnificently expressive art form. The sort of affirmation that pacifist Michael Tippet, whose profound music accompanies the work, strived all his life to achieve.

Federico Bonelli in Danse à grand vitesse. Fotograf Johan Persson

Federico Bonelli in Danse à grand vitesse. Photographer Johan Persson

Balanchine’s Ballo Della Regina is a welcome addition to the Royal ballet repertoire and with Marianela Nuñez and Sergei Polunin in the leads it was nothing short of breathtaking. She finds joy in the fastest, most intricate choreography and Polunin has seldom looked better as he devoured the stage with the power of his runs and leaps.  

Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse
à grand vitesse closed the programme. It sits well on the company and the four duets display the talents of the soloists admirably.

In a fine cast Zenaida Yanowsky took poll position looking absolutely right and absolutely stunning.

Maggie Foyer
June 13 2011
Jag ville bara dansa
NorrDans
Dans i Nord
GöteborgsOperan

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