The Forsythe Evening

James Blake – Songs from The Colour In Anything
Blake Works I
Peven Everett – Surely Shorty ABRA, VEGAS
Lion Babe – Impossible (Jax Jones remix)
Khalid – Location
Barry White – Sha La La Means I Love You
Natalie Cole – This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)
Playlist (EP)

Blake Works I
Choreography and Stage Design – William Forsythe
Lighting Design – Tanja Rühl, William Forsythe
Costume Design – Dorothee Merg, William Forsythe
‘I Need A Forest Fire’ – Emma Hawes, Emily Suzuki, Angela Wood, Julia Conway, Ivana Bueno, Alice Bellini, Isabelle Brouwers, Francesca Velicu, Eireen Evrard, Georgia Bould, Ashley Coupal, Chloe Keneally, Ken Saruhashi, Giorgio Garrett, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Miguel Angel Maidana, Henry Dowden, Noam Durand, Jeffrey Cirio, Aitor Arrieta, Isaac Hernández
‘Put That Away And Talk To Me’ – Julia Conway, Ivana Bueno, Rhys Antoni Yeomans
‘The Colour In Anything’ – Emily Suzuki, Isaac Hernández
‘I Hope My Life – 1800-Mix’ – Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Ken Saruhashi, Aitor Arrieta, Miguel Angel Maidana, Henry Dowden, Noam Durand, Giorgio Garrett, Emma Hawes, Emily Suzuki, Julia Conway, Ivana Bueno, Alice Bellini, Isabelle Brouwers, Francesca Velicu, Eireen Evrard, Georgia Bould, Ashley Coupal, Chloe Keneally, Claire Barrett
‘Waves Know Shores’ – Angela Wood, Ken Saruhashi, Giorgio Garrett, Henry Dowden, Miguel Angel Maidana, Isabelle Brouwers, Julia Conway, Eireen Evrard
‘Two Men Down’ – Miguel Angel Maidana, Henry Dowden, Giorgio Garrett, Ken Saruhashi, Noam Durand, Aitor Arrieta, Isaac Hernández
‘f.o.r.e.v.e.r.’ – Emma Hawes, Aitor Arrieta

Playlist (EP)
Choreography, Stage and Costume Design – William Forsythe
Lighting Design – Tanja Rühl
‘Surely Shorty’ – Jeffrey Cirio, Joseph Caley, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Miguel Angel Maidana, Noam Durand, Daniel McCormick, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Giorgio Garrett, Henry Dowden, Erik Woolhouse, Aitor Arrieta, Ken Saruhashi
‘VEGAS’ – Emma Hawes, Emily Suzuki, Alice Bellini, Ivana Bueno, Georgia Bould, Francesca Velicu
‘Impossible – Jax Jones Remix’ – Jeffrey Cirio, Joseph Caley, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Miguel Angel Maidana, Noam Durand, Daniel McCormick, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Giorgio Garrett, Henry Dowden, Erik Woolhouse, Aitor Arrieta, Ken Saruhashi
‘Location’ – Precious Adams, James Streeter
‘Sha La La Means I Love You’ – Shiori Kase, Joseph Caley, Haruhi Otani, Erik Woolhouse, Aitor Arrieta, Henry Dowden, Francesca Velicu, Miguel Angel Maidana, Georgia Bould, Daniel McCormick, Ivana Bueno, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Alice Bellini, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Giorgio Garrett, Ken Saruhashi, James Streeter, Noam Durand, Anna-Babette Winkler, Claire Barrett, Isabelle Brouwers, Ashley Coupal, Eireen Evrard, Chloe Keneally, Adriana Lizardi, Lucinda Strachan, Van Le Ngoc, Matthew Astley, Eric Snyder, Shunhei Fuchiyama, Jose Maria Lorca Menchon, Archie Sullivan
‘This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)’ – Precious Adams, James Streeter, Ken Saruhashi, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Miguel Angel Maidana, Noam Durand

Blake Works I – 5 stars
Playlist (EP) – 5 stars

5 of 5 stars

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 31 March, 2022
Venue: Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London

The British dance world emerged from the pandemic seemingly hell-bent on delivering programmes of angst and woe, oblivious to what its audiences actually needed: enjoyment and pleasure; London has been waiting for a post-covid feel-good evening of dance and finally English National Ballet and William Forsythe have come up trumps. Not that ENB has dropped any standards; in fact, it has raised them by engaging the now veteran choreographer William Forsythe whose high-octane neo-classicism and an unerring ability to choose the right music has made the company’s short season at Sadler’s Wells a copper-bottomed hit.

Forsythe is a contemporary dance-maker fully within the ballet tradition who revels in the beauty and prowess of classically-trained dancers and, unlike so very many who work with ballet companies at present, makes no apologies for their schooling and technique.  No grovelling on the floor, no external, alien movement styles, just his own very modern take on the fundamental danse d’école.  In so doing, he is closest to the great Russo-American choreographer George Balanchine, who believed passionately in ballet and extended what it could do by trusting it – what we currently see at Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra and at countless other ballet venues is nothing short of a lack of faith in the power of their own art form.

This double bill is a joyous celebration of ballet, a very modern presentation with ‘popular’ music, lyrics and rhythms, and it is Forsythe’s own brilliance that he sees how the vocabulary and grammar of the language of classical dancing is just as valid with such sounds as with Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Stravinsky.  The juxtaposition of purity of physical position and line in I Need A Forest Fire, the first song of Blake Works I to the music of James Blake is a shock, two seemingly separate worlds colliding, but one sees how they can fuse as the work progresses, mood and atmosphere subtly shifting as varying combinations of dancers dance to the seven songs.  Your reviewer was reminded frequently of Balanchine’s Serenade, his ‘blueprint’ for dance in America in which he revels in the language of classical ballet yet, often with positions and movements of the arms, indicates that this is something new and modern.  Forsythe does exactly that in Blake Works I, arms and hands often playful, unexpected, emphatically contemporary.  And yet this is a love letter to the art form, the choreographer’s understanding and mastery of the idiom complete – unlike many, ballet’s intrinsic beauty is never compromised by awkward or ugly movements; he remains firmly, gloriously within the idiom.  ENB’s dancers looked very happy indeed speaking his language, the language of their own training and the basis of their entire raison d’être as artists and performers.  They also looked energised and proud in what they were doing; Jeffrey Cirio and Isaac Hernández, Lead Principals both, were alive to the quicksilver grace notes in Forsythe’s choreography and it was good to see Emily Suzuki, a corps de ballet member, seize her ‘principal’ role with such attack and vitality.  Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Julia Conway and Ivana Bueno stamped themselves on the mischievous trio Put That Away And Talk To Me, while Emma Hawes and Aitor Arrieta impressed in the final, controlled duet f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

Impressive as Blake Works I was, it was a warm-up act for the extraordinary Playlist (EP).  Forsythe’s two-section Playlist 1, 2 from 2018 has been expanded by him into a half-hour piece which can take its place alongside Symphony in CÉtudes and Suite en blanc as a supreme abstract celebration of classical ballet.  Set in a black box with dancers in simple costumes of electric blue and shocking pink, a torrent of dance is unleashed, each section an exploration of another side to the art form and each a success.  The undimmed brilliance of bravura male dancing in the original Surely Shorty and Impossible – Jax Jones Remix is now separated by the sassy VEGAS, a celebration of female dancing in pink rah-rah skirts and tops reminiscent of Balanchine’s inspiration by the Rockettes for his ballet Rubies.  Location, a joyous, flirtatious pas de deux for Precious Adams and James Streeter, artfully brings the focus in before the waves of movement the Sha La La Means I Love You led by Shiori Kase and Joseph Caley relishing every challenge set.

The audience clapped along, shouted whooped and applauded, and it was all richly deserved. Buoyed by us all and the knowledge that what they were performing was really, really good, the entire company beamed with pleasure – how rare is it to see performers who are actually enjoying themselves?  The technical standards of the ensemble are impressively high; that is only one of soon-to-depart director Tamara Rojo’s achievements over the past ten years, and it was so satisfying to see this highly-likeable company rewarded with work which pushed and satisfied them.  William Forsythe joined the dancers at the curtain call, a smile stretching from ear to ear.  It is easy to understand why: this immensely enjoyable evening was nothing less than a vindication of his own belief in the validity of the classical dance idiom.

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