Cloud Dance Festival | Displaying items by tag: English National Ballet
A contemporary of Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, Harald Lander's Études takes the audience through the daily routine of a ballet company, with the start of their warmup class through to technique exercises and company rehearsals. While the start of the work seems to play with the effects of lighting on imagery, more than on the choreography itself, the rest of the work is a feast for classical ballet fans.
Jiri Kylián is one of modern ballet's best-loved choreographers, but his work is all too rarely performed in England, in part due to mixed critical response.
And Petite Mort is one of his best-loved works. Created in 1991 for the Salzburg Festival, Kylián draws on the dual meanings of "petite mort", exploring fencing and orgasmic ecstasy in visually striking duets.
The photos below are of both English National Ballet casts in dress rehearsal.
If I could pick two works for my dream triple-bill of ballet works, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort by Roland Petit would be way up there at the top. And fortuitously, Tamara Rojo, the new Artistic Director of English National Ballet, seemed to feel the same way.
Here are photos of Nicolas Le Riche and Tamara Rojo in the lead roles; there are still two performances left at the London Coliseum, if you want to see it: www.eno.org/see-whats-on/productions/production-page.php?&itemid=2283
English National Ballet's website: www.ballet.org.uk
If you asked me to devise my ideal triple bill, Jiri Kylian and Roland Petit would be way at the top of the list - and I'm certainly not alone in that. So English National Ballet's first triple bill under Tamara Rojo's leadership is a dream come true, with Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort and Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. And as English National Ballet is fundamentally a classical ballet company, it was only fitting that the Ecstasy & Death programme concluded with Harald Lander's Études, a quirky insight into the workings of a ballet company.
Petite Mort by Jiri Kylian opened in perfect silence, with six men walking backwards, each balancing a sword on a single fingertip. And in that perfect silence, we heard the sounds of the swords slicing through the air, as the dancers moved between a series of sword-driven friezes.
Jiri Kylian is a master at creating beautiful yet interesting movement, focussing on the sculptural effects of his choreography. And Petite Mort is a perfect example of this; "petite mort", "little death" in French, also means an orgasm in French and Arabic, and this sets the theme for the work, which explores a diverse range of male and female interaction and poses suggesting frozen ecstasy.
With the dancers divided into pairs, each couple communicates in their own unique way, while props often become a second or third party, whether the theatrical dresses-on-wheels, or swords.
While Jiri Kylian is closely associated with more modern companies such as Nederlands Dans Theater, his blending of classical movement in a modern context is beautifully suited to the fluidity and grace of English National Ballet's dancers, making all movement flow seamlessly, with all of Kylian's playfulness and quirks.
Ending way too abruptly, Petite Mort is a work to savour, both the imagery and beautiful performances from all dancers throughout.
One of the greatest tragedies of English ballet is that Roland Petit's work is too rarely performed over here. English National Ballet performed a triple bill of Roland Petit's works in 2011, barely two weeks after his death, with Ivan Vasiliev guesting in the male role. And there lies the challenge of Le Jeune Homme et la Mort: previously performed by the likes of Nureyev, Baryshnikov and Vasiliev, it's associated with the very cream of male ballet dancers, and demands both virtuosity and compelling acting ability.
At 41, and with his retirement from Paris Opéra Ballet imminent, Nicolas Le Riche is at the peak of his career, making Le Jeune Homme an exhilarating experience to watch, grabbing you by the neck from the opening scenes of him smoking idly in bed and not letting go until the very end.
It's a stylised yet naturalistic work: Le Riche repeatedly holds his wrist to his ear, and shifts his knees inwards and outwards. Meanwhile, in his opening solo, his character is reaching, yearning, deafeated and trapped in his little attic room.
Tamara Rojo's character - a woman in a yellow dress with a black bob and black gloves - in turn teases, seduces and captivates him, exploiting his inner vulnerabilities to the point where she has him completely under her spell, idly ordering him about the space until he is completely broken. Rojo portrays a cruel savagery, luxuriating in her power which increases as he declines further until his suicide, orchestrated by her.
The final work of the programme, Études is a work for classical ballet fans and classical-ballet-curious, offering the audience an insight into the workings of a ballet company, from the warmup stage of daily class to technique work and ongoing rehearsals.
The warmup stages appear to focus more on the effect of the dancers' movements in relation to the creative use of lighting rather than on the choreography itself, which helps to make Etudes more relevant to modern audiences.
The warmup over, the dancers proceed to rehearse excerpts of well-known classics - which will delight classical ballet fans, but elude those, like me, who've never actually seen any of them. If you fall into the latter category, there are aspects to appreciate such as watching seven dancers executing perfect turns in unison, and the indefatigable Erina Takahashi.
Quite simply, this is one of the best programmes of modern ballet you could hope to watch in London. Don't miss this chance to see it.
London Dance has a special offer on ticket sales; for further details, please visit londondance.com/articles/features/english-national-ballet-special-ticket-offer/
Photo gallery to follow.
2010 ended with several discussions about the dearth of Good Dance that year, with the hope that Good Dance would play a more prominent role in 2011. Although the conversations had been specifically about contemporary dance, 2011 took a somewhat unexpected twist, as those who follow me on Twitter will know.
If anybody had told me a year ago that I'd be a diehard Royal Ballet fan by the end of 2011, I'd have assumed they had me confused with someone else. Although I've loved modern ballet since I first saw NDT2 in 2000, I've tended to approach modern ballet from the contemporary dance side of things, treading warily among ballet companies in the fear that they might not be "modern enough". That came to a crashing halt in late March, when the amount of raving about Steven McRae in Rhapsody, in the Royal Ballet's then triple bill, persuaded me to book a ticket and see for myself. Although that didn't quite convince me, Mara Galeazzi's gala in April, followed by Draft Works, a platform for the dancers to show their own choreography, were enough to make that final step.
To an extent, it's been a relief that ballet has played such a prominent role in my dance calendar this year, as so many of the contemporary dance companies, especially the eagerly-awaited companies such as La La La Human Steps, Beiging Dance Theatre and Darshan Singh Bhuller failed to live up to their high expectations; this autumn has also seen a worrisome trend towards overlong pieces, as though "leaving the audience wanting less" is the new "leaving the audience wanting more".
There are two notable mentions for 2011, the first of which has dominated discussions about dance this year: dance on film. Yes, Black Swan - and the audiences have been firmly divided into those who took it very very seriously, and complained bitterly about its lack of authenticity and accuracy - and those who laughed nonstop from the beginning to end. Other films released in 2011 were Pina, a beautiful and haunting tribute to Pina Bausch, one of dance's greatest pioneers - and a very limited overdue release of Mao's Last Dancer, Li Cunxin's autobiography, introduced by Chi Cao himself.
The other mention is for "pop up dance" - while there have been several dance installations at galleries such as the Tate and the V&A, the ones I saw were Kristen McNally's #kanyeballet at the Covent Garden Apple Store, New Movement's dance installation at the Architectural Association in Bloomsbury, and Zenaida Yanowsky performing in an installation at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, choreographed by Will Tuckett - each of these events has been an eye-opener, and rewarding for all audiences; let's hope 2012 has even more similar events in store for us. As well as much much much more work by Kristen McNally, of course!!
Best Dance Moments of 2011 are as follows:
- 'The Royal Ballet. Not What You Think'.
Anonymously posted on YouTube on 16 February, this video was an instant sensation, featuring highlights of the Royal Ballet's many artists and works. It wasn't until The Ballet Bag interviewed the Royal Ballet's Bennet Gartside at Move It! on 13 March that he admitted that he was the creator of this video, which has humbly notched up over 46,000 hits since then. We're still waiting for the follow-up...
- Daniil Simkin, American Ballet Theatre
Although I'd read The Ballet Bag's interview with Daniil Simkin prior to ABT's performances at Sadler's Wells in February, his performance in Benjamin Millepied's Everything Doesn't Happen at Once immediately made it clear that he's in a league way above many ballet dancers. If anything, one could complain that Millepied's piece contained too many dancers who weren't Simkin.
Here's a video of Daniil Simkin from 2006: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2aj79ql9iY
- The Royal Ballet
Outstanding performances this year have been from:
- Marianela Nuñez and Rupert Pennefather in Glen Tetley's Voluntaries
- Kenneth MacMillan's The Rite Of Spring
- Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin in Frederick Ashton's Marguerite & Armand
- Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli in Kenneth MacMillan's Requiem
- Liam Scarlett's Asphodel Meadows, with special congratulations to Leanne Cope
- Rambert Dance Company
Again proving that their spring programmes are not to be missed, and best seen at least twice, their May programme included a stunning performance of Paul Taylor's Roses, which had been overlooked in all the publicity for Tim Rushton's Monolith, which was reminiscent of Wayne McGregor's earlier work, with a baroque veneer. One viewing really was not sufficient to do this programme justice - or at least, these two pieces.
- English National Ballet's Roland Petit Triple Bill
Coinciding perfectly with our July festival, this triple bill was a long-overdue opportunity to see Petit's work performed in London - which tragically became a tribute to Petit after he died unexpectedly two weeks beforehand. Although the pieces were overlong, and I didn't get to see Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, the sassiness, quirkiness and theatricality of Petit's choreography was wonderful to watch, and a much-needed addition to the London-based ballet diet.
An extract of Le Jeune Homme et la mort, performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov in the film White Nights:
- Birmingham Royal Ballet in Pineapple Poll
Having watched two tributes to John Cranko performed by the Royal Ballet (Tetley's Voluntaries and MacMillan's Requiem), this was the first time I've seen John Cranko's work, which was described as 'quite simply, barking mad' by G J Dowler of Classical Source. With more than a few nods to Broadway style, the charm of this piece was completely irresistible, with dancing and characters to love.
Rehearsals for BRB's performances of Pineapple Poll: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcTHCHDoeJY
- Ballet Cymru's Under Milk Wood
Let's face it, we don't often leave dance shows on an ecstatic high - but that's definitely how the audience felt after Ballet Cymru's skilful adaptation of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, narrated by Gwyn Vaughen Jones with a haunting score by Thomas Hewitt Jones. It beautifully showcased this small company's dancers, especially Helena Casado Cortes.
- Sydney Dance Company
Although Rafael Bonachela's company received mixed reviews during its recent visit to the South Bank Centre, the evening was a stunning showcase of Bonachela's beautiful choreography, and the impressive ability of Sydney Dance Company's dancers. The second piece, LANDforms, emphasised the dancers' individual abilities through a series of solos, duet and group sections. Let's hope they return soon: England needs Bonachela!
An excerpt of LANDforms: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZNQV7xf8lQ
We cannot yet confirm dates for our next festival/s.