Reimagining and revisiting 2: English National Ballet [Beyond Ballets Russes Programme 2]

So, here’s a conundrum: what do ENB have to do to top the Beyond Ballets Russes programme 1? Simple answer: Beyond Ballets Russes programme 2.  Programme 1 offered up a reimagined Firebird, a comparative study in fauns and a revisited/updated Rite of Spring. Having decided that between work and the ballet what I really needed was forty lengths, last night I strode off to the Coliseum completely reeking of chlorine and spending the entire evening paranoid that the smell was putting everyone around me off the ballet…

Programme 2 kicked off with Apollo which I’d seen performed by ENB a few years previously at their ‘Ballets Russes’ programme at Sadlers’ Wells. Last time I saw Thomas Edur in the title role backed up with Agnes Oaks, Erina Takaheshi and Daria Klimentova as his muses. Three or so years later, I’m almost ashamed to say that I remember little of it… On the plus side that did mean I was looking at it with fresh eyes, sort of. Apollo is early Balanchine – not as dazzling as pieces such as Serenade and Symph in C but still an exercise in technical perfection, a great promise of things to come. Zdenek Konvalina’s Apollo is commanding, growing from restless young man to a more mature one who understands the burden of responsibility on his shoulders. As his muses Daria Klimentova, Anais Chalendard and Begona Cao manage to strike the right kind of ethereal/earthy balance but it’s Klimentova who stands out the whole way through. I can’t help it, the moment she appears on stage I find it hard to drag my eyes away and look at anything else because she really is perfection (</shameless fangirl>).

English National Ballet: Apollo

If you weren’t already in love with Vadim Muntagirov, I defy you not to be after his Le beau gosse from Le Train bleu solo. This is balletic swagger at its best – he’s cheeky, he’s adorable, he completely and utterly owns the stage, well the entire auditorium in fact. And he makes it all look so easy throwing off death defying leaps, acrobatics and dizzying turns without so much as batting an eyelid. “Wow,” I heard someone say out loud a row or so behind me as the curtain went down. Wow, indeed.

The way to get over that? Wayne Eagling’s Jeux “inspired by Vaslav Nijinsky’s original concept and Kenneth MacMillan’s work on the Herbert Ross film Nijinksy“. I was a little wary, I needn’t have been. The premise of Jeux is simple: a frustrated choreographer struggling on his new piece and how his inspiration comes and flows. It’s a simple idea but really effective and actually quite clever – especially the motifs of other ballets in the Beyond Ballets Russes programmes: a bit of Rite here, a spot of Apollo there. What particularly struck me, however, was the lighting: for the most part box shaped projections on the floor but boxes which shifted shape, one minute a square the next a long oblong. The creative process of the choreography always took place within those boxes though, as though the choreographer was thinking well within his, knowing his end aim but not always entirely sure how to get there.

English National Ballet: Jeux

The evening finished with the sublime Suite en blanc which, like Apollo, I was revisiting having seen it as part of the company’s ‘Black and White’ mixed bill last year. I loved it then, I loved it even more last night. Serge Lifar’s choreo is, at first glance, nothing short of a series of bravura roles but it’s so much more than that. It’s one of those pieces, like Rite, that highlights just how well a company gels together and ENB do exactly that. As the curtain went up on the opening tableau there was a roar of applause from the auditorium, not surprising really: it’s one of those moments in ballet where you heart clutches and you remember that this, oh this, is exactly why you love it. Suite en blanc is one of those ballets that simply makes you glad to be alive. Everything comes together in it: the choreo, the performance, the music, the individual dancers. I heard someone liken it to Balanchine’s Symph in C as I was leaving and I’m very much inclined to agree. If I loved Rite in programme 1 for it’s earthy, stripped back, raw display of why ballet is awesome then I loved Suite for the fact that it highlights the perfection that is classical ballet in its purest form. I can’t pick a stand out moment from it the whole thing just gelled so well together from the dreamy opening Sieste, through the commanding pas de trois, to the light serenade, to the joyous pas de cinq, to the enigmatic cigarette, to the assured mazurka, to the stately pas de deux, to the flute and into that awe inspiring finale that ensures you leave feeling as though you’re floating on air.

English National Ballet: Suite en blanc

Bravo, ENB!

[Images via the google machine, click to follow the link to original source]

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