English National Ballet at Royal Festival Hall – Solstice – Excerpts from: Coppélia; Dust; Three Preludes; Le Corsaire; The Sleeping Beauty; Broken Wings; Hollow; Swan Lake; Playlist (Track 1, 2)

Solstice – Excerpts from: Coppélia; Dust; Three Preludes; Le Corsaire; The Sleeping Beauty; Broken Wings; Hollow; Swan Lake; Playlist (Track 1, 2)

Coppélia – Act III medley with specially choreographed Finale
Bridesmaids – Precious Adams, Senri Kou, Isabelle Brouwers, Jung ah Choi
Escorts – Henry Dowden, Rentaro Nakaaki, Matthew Astley, Noam Durand
Hours – Artists of English National Ballet

Choreography – Ronald Hynd after Marius Petipa
Music – Léo Delibes
Design – Desmond Heeley
Lighting Design – David Mohr
Swanilda – Fernanda Oliveira
Franz – Jeffrey Cirio

Dust – Duet
Dancers – Erina Takahashi, James Streeter

Choreography – Akram Khan
Music – Jocelyn Pook
Set Design – Sander Loonen
Costume Design – Kimie Nakano

Three Preludes – First Movement pas de deux
Dancers – Emma Hawes, Junor Souza

Julius Richter (piano)

Choreography – Ben Stevenson
Music – Sergei Rachmaninov
Design – Peter Farmer

Le Corsaire – Act II pas de trois
Dancers – Shiori Kase, Joseph Caley, Francesco Gabriele Frola

Staging – Anna-Marie Holmes, after Marius Petipa & Konstantin Sergeyev
Music – Adolphe Adam, Cesare Pugni, Léo Delibes, Riccardo Drigo, Prince Pyotr van Oldenburg, Ludwig Minkus, Yuly Gerber, Baron Boris Fitinhof-Schnell & Albert Zabel, and J. Zibin
Set & Costume Design – Bob Ringwood
Lighting Design – Neil Austin

The Sleeping Beauty – Act III ‘Jewels’
Dancers – Ken Saruhashi, Alison McWhinney, Anjuli Hudson, Julia Conway, Carolyne Galvao

Choreography – Kenneth MacMillan after Marius Petipa
Music – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Costume Design – Nicholas Georgiadis
Set Design – Peter Farmer
Lighting Design – David Richardson

Broken Wings – ‘La Llorona’ pas de deux
Dancers – Katja Khaniukova, Fabian Reimair

Choreography – Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Music – Peter Salem. ‘La Llorona’ sung by Charvela Vargas
Design – Dieuweke van Reij
Lighting Design – Vinny Jones

Dancers – Emily Suzuki, Victor Prigent

Choreography – Stina Quagebeur
Music – Il bell’Antonio, Tema III Composed and arranged by Giovanni Sollima, performed by Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott
Costume Design – Anthony Lamble
Lighting Design – David Richardson

Swan Lake – Act III ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux
Dancers – Natascha Mair, Isaac Hernández

Choreography – Derek Deane after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Music – Pyotr Iliych Tchaikovsky
Design – Peter Farmer
Lighting Design – Howard Harrison

Playlist (Track 1, 2)
Dancers – Jeffrey Cirio, Joseph Caley, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Miguel Angel Maidana, Noam Durand, Daniel McCormick, Matthew Astley, Skyler Martin, Henry Dowden, Erik Woolhouse, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Ken Saruhashi

Choreography & Design – William Forsythe
Music – Peven Everett [Surely Shorty]; Lion Babe, Jax Jones Remix [Impossible]
Sound – Niels Lanz

English National Ballet Philharmonic
Gavin Sutherland

4 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 21 June, 2021
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Enterprising to a T, English National Ballet has taken an otherwise empty Royal Festival Hall for a couple of weeks with a potpourri medley of excerpts from some of their greatest recent successes and most popular works.  It is a fun evening in which nothing outstays its welcome and which allows those unfamiliar with the company something of a taste of what they are and those who know it well the opportunity to revisit some of the repertoire.

What emerges is a bright and enthusiastic company which contains some notable dancers and has acquired some quality work.  What is also revealed, however, is perhaps to have been expected after so long away from the stage: a clear confidence in and understanding of classical dance.  It is true to say that those excerpts which required ‘pure’ ballet dancing were the least impressive.  Coppélia suffered from a distinct lack of ensemble and rather wayward musicality which robbed both the choreography and the music of their full combined impact; only Jeffrey Cirio as Franz displayed the demi-caractère brio and sparkle which this ballet needs.  The ‘Jewels’ pas de cinq from Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty needs a purity of style which eluded the cast – their over-careful placement and four-square interpretation of the music were disappointing.  Even the ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux from Swan Lake was not as it should be – Isaac Hernández might have been a technically secure Siegfried, but, alas, his Odile was on energy-saving mode, in both technical and interpretative terms.

Stina Quagebeur’s Hollow was an intriguing duet which seemed to deal with the agony of a baby lost to a young couple; Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent were eloquent in their distress, yearning for, yet repulsed by each other.  Quagebeur’s fluent expressivity shows a natural choreographic facility.  The first movement of Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes is far less spontaneous, demonstrating a level of contrivance as two dancers make a ballet barre central their pas de deux.  However, given the innate artificiality of the art of classical dance, that is far less of a problem than it might seem.   Cool and detached, it owns a lot to Jerome Robbins’s Afternoon of a Faun and offers plenty of opportunity to demonstrate line and placement; Emma Hawes and Junor Souza seized on every chance to show their mettle.  Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Broken Wings is a not-altogether successful exploration of the life and imagery of Frida Kahlo although its ‘Llorona’ duet is not without merit, especially when the artist herself is portrayed by Katja Khaniukova who convinces with her full-on interpretation and whole-hearted engagement with the choreography.

Three works were worth the price of admission in themselves: Playlist (Track1,2), Le Corsaire and Dust.  The first has been a total hit since its creation for the company in 2018 by none other than William Forsythe.  It is firmly based in classical dance technique yet is utterly contemporary in tone; twelve men have a ball in a showcase of male dancing and the audience is sent out into the night with a real spring in its step.  This performance was totally convincing and another welcome opportunity to see a work of contemporary ballet which emerges from a long tradition, rather than being a complete rejection of it.

The Le Corsaire pas de deux (here given as a trio, as per the company’s full-length production) is an old ballet warhorse, trotted out for galas and competitions, but here it felt new-minted and was a joyous display of bravura dancing.  Shiori Kase displayed diamantine technique and a fine sense of rubato as Medora while Francesco Gabriele Frola as Ali pulled out every stop in a coruscating demonstration of virtuosity, every turn spin, leap and flick exultantly executed.  Joseph Caley’s Conrad managed to combine a rollicking piratical swagger with his habitual elegant dancing.

Perhaps finest of all, the intense and moving final duet from Akram Khan’s Dust, created for the company in 2014 as part of their ‘Lest We Forget’ programme to mark the centenary of the First World War.  A shell-shocked James Streeter inhabits his own world of torment while Erina Takahashi attempts to reach out, to comfort and to bring him back to reality and their own shattered relationship.  The duet is moving in itself but both artists take it onto another plane of intensity and focus – Takahashi weaves her body around Streeter’s in quiet anguish and desperation.  The soundscape comprising orchestral and electronic sound also features the repeated refrain ‘we’re here because we’re here’, sung by a Tommy in a 1916 recording – it carries incredible poignancy.

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