Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Tamara Rojo and Akram Khan in Dust by Akram Khan. Pkoto ASH

Tamara Rojo and Akram Khan in Dust by Akram Khan. Pkoto ASH

War Remembrance Contrasts with Ballet Fantasy

LONDON: English National Ballet has moved to new territory both choreographically and physically by commissioning two established contemporary choreographers and presenting their World War One centenary programme, Lest We Forget, at the Barbican Theatre, a venue that is usually home to cutting edge Tanztheater.

The horror of modern warfare is not an easy subject for ballet, a medium more used to depicting grace and beauty although Kenneth Macmillan’s Gloria must be the exception here.

Coinciding with the centenary, many stories from those who lived through the horrors have been retold. And although dance has the potential to tap into the emotional core, these new dance works struggled to match the poignancy of the era.

Alina Cojocaru and Junor Souza i Second Breath. Photo ASH

Alina Cojocaru and Junor Souza i Second Breath. Photo ASH

The contemporary pieces, by Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan, opted to focus on universal themes of suffering and loss although in both works the scores introduced specific WW1 themes.

In Maliphant’s Second Breath, voices in many languages, recited a litany of numbers of dead and in Khan’s Dust Jocelyn Pook’s score included the insistent repetition of the song ‘We’re here because we’re here because we’re here …’ a perfect reflection of the mindless stupidity that led millions like cattle to the slaughter.

Dust was an exceptional piece of choreography.

From the opening clap of hands that released a shower of dust - a reminder of mortality – to the ensemble linked in a snake of writhing arms, his concepts and his brilliant translation of these concepts into dance was unfailing, culminating in a formidable pas de deux danced by Khan himself, with director Tamara Rojo at the premiere and later by Fernanda Oliveira and James Streeter.

But it was all too epic and removed from this 'war to end all wars'.

Second Breath, opens strongly, the ensemble in block formation swaying in unison buffeted by invisible, uncontrollable forces before moving into familiar Maliphant territory: a duet of love and loss from Alina Cojocaru, (few can interpret sorrow like this waif-like ballerina) and Junor Souza dancing in Michael Hulls’ dappled light.

Tamara Rojo and Esteban Berlanga in No Mans Land by Liam Scarlett. Photo ASH

Tamara Rojo and Esteban Berlanga in No Mans Land by Liam Scarlett. Photo ASH

Only Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land, a finely structured piece of meaningful choreography, realised the time and place. The setting by Jon Bausor, conflates munitions factory and battlefield, contrasting the greyness of civilian life with the blood red of the slaughter on the front line: the woman in the factories fill the shells with explosives while the men on the front experience their deadly blast.

In the opening ensemble Scarlett sets the theme of meetings and departures, dreams and nightmares as the women cling to their men’s bodies like army backpacks. A passion-driven pas de deux danced by Oliveira with Max Westwell touched the nerve endings, interpreting the screaming pain of loss in soaring lifts.

Doe-eyed Angela Wood and Fabian Reimair in a more sombre duet portray the reality of a repressed generation who buttoned down their deep emotions and never spoke of the hell.

Inexplicably George Williamson’s Firebird was squeezed into the programme, the only virtue being another chance to see Ksenia Ovsyanick, who created the eponymous role, continuing her rise to ballerina status and wearing one of the most exquisite costumes ever.

Jenna Roberts and William Bracewell in The Prince of the Pagodas. Photo: Bill Cooper

Jenna Roberts and William Bracewell in The Prince of the Pagodas. Photo: Bill Cooper

Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Coliseum
Birmingham Royal Ballet paid a visit to London with David Bintley’s The Prince of the Pagodas. The plot is complicated; fusing adolescent rites of passage and the revelation of a Prince disguised in the shape of a slimy Salamander.

Benjamin Britten’s score is also considered problematic: too long and too complicated. However the recent Royal Ballet revival of the Macmillan version, to a suitably edited score, proved otherwise.

Bintley’s version was created in 2011 for the National Ballet of Japan where he is co-director in addition to his duties as director of BRB so it was not surprising that he chose to set his version in Japan. The production is a triumph for designer Rae Smith.

The costumes are simply gorgeous and the story is backgrounded by a series of magnificent sets but sadly, the choreography is, for the most part, rather ordinary. The company is not short on talent but the dancers, particularly the soloists and coryphée, were given little opportunity to show their true worth.

'Her Majesty of the Night' in LAC. Photo Angela Sterling

'Her Majesty of the Night' in LAC. Photo Angela Sterling

Jenna Roberts, the saintly Princess Belle Sakura, escaping the court, embarks on a journey where she meets enough comic and fantasy creatures to make you think the pantomime season has started. However she is rewarded in the last act with an inspired solo of intricately weaving legs and fluid torso movements.

Samara Downs as her evil stepmother, Empress Épine stood out as truly rotten and an absolute joy. Appearing in many guises she brought drama to each entrance and revived many a turgid moment.

As the Salamander Prince, William Bracewell offered a first rate performance, the weirdness of the character inspiring Bintley to more expressive choreography. The final pas de deux brings the ballet to a suitably rousing finale.

Bracewell, who is rapidly rising through the ranks, danced like a true Prince, although the brother and sister reunion offers a different flavour to the relationship missing the frisson that comes from a celebration of true love. Despite the flaws the three acts filled with good, conventional dancing and the magnificence of the designs will no doubt ensure its popularity with audiences both here and in Japan.

Prince Siegfried and Odette in LAC by Jean Christophe Maillot. Photo Alice Nlangero

Prince Siegfried and Odette in LAC by Jean Christophe Maillot. Photo Alice Nlangero

A Cotroversial Swan Lake
Les Ballets de Monte Carlo arrived in London to present Jean-Christophe Maillot’s controversial LAC (after Swan Lake). The warning comes in the title – purists beware. Maillot has cherry picked from Tchaikovsky’s score, brought in additional music from Bertrand Maillot, and stripped the tale down to a black and white Manichean concept; but the result is a gripping piece of theatre.

The swans, the image of aesthetic beauty in the traditional, have morphed into a fierce flock of athletic, sinewy birds. Maillot has fast forwarded them to the twenty-first century in choreography that is bracing, a little wild but always engaging.

This flock are hunters rather than hunted, the feathery extensions to their arms divorcing them even further from any womanly emotion.

Maillot’s choreography favours the vigorous, and in the opening scene the pace is unrelenting as a testosterone fuelled party showcases the strength of the male ensemble. In this production it is the forces of darkness that claim the best moments.

Her Majesty of the Night, danced with evil relish by April Ball and her two Archangel acolytes, are constantly on hand to create havoc, at times merging into a monstrous triple headed beast.

Not the usual timid swans. Photo Angela Sterling

Not the usual timid swans. Photo Angela Sterling

The King, an excellent performance from Gabriele Corrado, is an intriguing figure with a murky background suggesting former liaisons with HM Night.

Together with his Queen, Mi Deng, in a gold dress that beautifully enhanced her lines, they were a dominant if ultimately ineffectual force.

The White Swan, a poignant Anjara Ballesteros, is no longer at the centre of the ballet but flutters helpless on the periphery.

Her Prince, Lucien Postlewaite, is also something of a lost soul. Their one pas de deux that contrasts aesthetic beauty with gauche simplicity made me long for more.

Black Swan danced by Noelani Pantastico gets a better deal choreographically and her genuinely effective disguise doesn’t leave the Prince looking like a colour blind halfwit.

The plot is complicated but the extensive and confusing programme notes were unnecessary as it develops quite lucidly. The very stylish and effective costumes, by Philippe Guillotel, offer further definition as do the minimal sets.

But it is the innate theatricality of the work that triumphs, ending in a true coup de théâtre as a swirl of black silk envelopes the stage leaving the battle unresolved and the fight to continue another day.

Maggie Foyer
27 April, 2014

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