Black & White
English National Ballet
16th March 2011
Five ballets in one hit make quite an impact – first-timers to the ballet will find something to love in this programme.
Wayne Eagling’s Resolution, based on Mahler’s Rückert Lieder is a collection of five songs, beautifully and clearly sung by Elizabeth Sikora. Especially poignant was Liebst du um Schönheit (If you Love for Beauty). Eagling was inspired to make this piece after he worked with the charity Duchenne, and its subject, muscular dystrophy, which predominantly affects men, though females can be carriers. Eagling felt despair when meeting suffers of the disease, but at the same time his spirits were lifted by the courage of the boys he met.
The piece begins with very dark, moody spotlights. Four girls end in a muddle in the middle, arms wafting about them in beautiful shapes cut out by the atmospheric lighting. There are four couples spinning as the lights go out, and a pas de deux for Begoña Cao and Arionel Vargas showing off Cao’s strong arabesque.
There is a bunch of smoke in the background, a girl who stands on her partner’s chest and three bare-chested men who dance acrobatically, ending when Van Le Ngoc tumbles off stage, the two men pushing him backwards with their hands, though they never touch him.
The Black Swan pas de deux is a late addition but fits with the theme of the evening. Who doesn’t want to see those famous 32 fouettes ? Certainly Erina Takahashi had a good stab at them, only losing slight control towards the end and her Prince Siegfried, Dmitri Gruzdyev made light work of partnering her.
Less easy were his jumps which looked laboured on take-off, but he has lovely precise landings and secure balances. Takahashi had glittering, flashing eyes that must have reached Cornwall let alone the back of the dress circle, and matched them with her knowing, assured smile.
Men Y Men was the section of the programme I was initially least looking forward to – but what a surprise. I’ve rarely seen the company of men so together, so as one. For nine bare-chested men, Eagling’s choreography shows their strength but also that they have a fluid port de bras to match any of the girls in the company. Junor Souza (recovered from the wrist injury that you might have seen on Tuesday night’s BBC Four documentary about the company, Agony & Ecstasy) was on form, as was Yat-Sen Chang with some great solo turns, Vadim Muntagirov with his great bursts of speed and Max Westwell, whose torso graces the programme cover. Strength and power, yes; but also elegance and grace. Bewitching.
The World Premiere of the evening, Vue de l’autre by company dancer Van Le Ngoc (who had a busy evening) is beautifully lit with silver and blue, the boys in leotards and the girls bare-legged (this is not a night for tights or shirts) in grey leotards. The piece begins with no music, a group of dancers across the stage walking on the spot. Then a black out. Everyone leaves the stage and a pas de deux begins in a bright pool of sparkly silver light – Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov.
Klimentová, in her grey leotard, could be mistaken for Marianela Nuñez from The Royal Ballet and indeed the choreography had more in common with Wayne McGregor with its extreme splits and off-centre balances. Muntagirov has a red rose, so although this is an abstract ballet you can apply your own connotations.
During a high overhead lift, Muntagirov shows both his supreme strength and that Klimentová can’t weigh more than a feather, as he lowers her almost in slow-motion. Then the light dips again, the rose is abandoned and they exit stage right.
I’m going to mention the shoes. In the words of Derek Deane “Elephants!” Ladies, please shoehorn in some time to work on your pointe shoes; the noise distracts from the beauty of the dance and it doesn’t have to.
Senri Kou always looks delighted to be dancing and here, in a balletic tug of war between two girls and a man, she looks to be in heaven, beaming away with that beautiful smile of hers. There are solos and pas de deux, with Muntagirov and Klimentová returning at the end, into a very bright circle of light.
Neoclassical Suite en Blanc by Serge Lifar is danced to Edouard Lalo’s beautiful music. There is a long prelude and then the curtain goes back to reveal the full cast on stage, dressed in white tutus or black tights. It’s 35 years since the company last danced this ballet – though that is not the only reason to see it. Yonah Acosta makes his assured debut with the company (he is a First Artist), and his entrechats, his feet, the height of his jumps and the speed of his turns – even though they are not yet honed for performance – will fair take your breath away.
The ballet itself is set with two plain staircases to the rear of the stage, and the tutus are not glittering but plainly elegant, as is the dancing. Re-staged by Maina Gielgud, the dancing begins with three girls in long white floating skirts with Kerry Birkett creating the most elegant lines of the three.
In the Pas de Trois Laurretta Summerscales was outstanding, in an outstanding trio. Vadim Muntagirov and Junor Souza matched each other beat for beat and it was thrilling to watch.
Shiori Kase showed off her refined grace in Serenade, and Yonah Acosta made a great start in the Pas de Cinq along with Crystal Costa.
Elena Glurdjidze had some of the best music in Cigarette and made the most of it, with Dmitri Gruzdyev following in the Mazurka who really started to fly.
Esteban Berlanga has perfect feet, and here partnered with Erina Takahashi in the Pas de Deux they were well matched if a little shaky at times with the very difficult partnering. Takahashi returned to the Flute, to finish the ballet in sumptuous style with the boys sat in a semi-circle behind her, the girls behind them occasionally mirroring Takahashi’s steps. It’s a great finale and a feast of ballet – and it’s only on for 4 more performances. Be fleet-footed if you want to see it.
Black & White is in rep until 19th March. This is the casting.
You can see rehearsal footage of Daria Klimentova and Vadim Muntagirov as they prepare for this bill.