Ballet News Reviews | English National Ballet’s Programme 1 | L’Après-midi d’un faune, Faun(e), World Premiere Firebird, The Rite of Spring
English National Ballet
Programme One – L’Après-midi d’un faune, Faun(e), World Premiere Firebird, The Rite of Spring
Thursday March 22nd 2012
In this programme, and for the most part, the dancers and artistic staff of English National Ballet show you how it’s done, which is a tribute to their discipline and hard work, despite, or perhaps in spite of, their squabbling Board; squabbles that have lead to the premature departure of Artistic Director Wayne Eagling, who leaves this summer.
Commissioning young choreographer George Williamson to inject something earthy and new into The Firebird, a Ballet Russes iconic ballet from 1910 is far-sighted. Williamson makes bold choices and his confidence is evident in his use of dancers on pointe – something that adds another dimension of difficulty for most choreographers. Not all of them looked comfortable on pointe, and Francisco Bosch as Peacock strugged with some of the partnering. Williamson is aided by David Bamber’s costumes, which vividly seperate each of the characters in a way that isn’t often seen. The characters themselves – Peacock, Purity, Lead Celebrity, Army Captain, Three Muses – are quite wacky but the point is that they all stand out. Williamson devises a playground mentality onstage and when these characters decide to play dirty with The Firebird, it’s she who triumphs. Ksenia Ovsyanick is ideally cast as The Firebird – her long slicing legs and arched feet whisk through the air and cascade around the stage by turns regal and replilian. It’s not a costume many could pull off.
Magnets. The other key element in this ballet. The costumes dictate that the feathers and headdress of the Firebird are taken from her during these playground tussles, and in order to retrive them these magnets play a crucial if unseen role in keeping order.
The Corps also get a role, with the vigilant face and perfect timing of Kei Akahoshi most notable.
The two ballets in the middle – L’Après-midi d’un faune, Faun(e), are quickly forgotten (though the latter by David Dawson is beautifully danced by Jan Casier and Raphaël Coumes-Marquet), in the teeth of the stomping massed ranks of dancers in Rite of Spring.
Rite is a ballet which sees another reincarnation via costumes designed by Kinder Aggugini. Black, sometimes transparent, overlaid with fleshy blood-red against a stark and starkly lit stage is what you’ll be hit with. And you will feel it in your solar plexus. If ever anyone was in doubt as to how hard ballet dancers train, here is a ballet to dispel all myths. The company is on fire, and Erina Takahashi, though tiny, dances like a thing possessed as The Chosen One. Kenneth MacMillan’s startling choreography sits well on the company, and they have shown what they are made of in tough times.
Watch out for George Williamson. He knows a thing or two about choreography.