REVIEW: English National Ballet in Akram Khan’s ‘Giselle’ – Sadler’s Wells, November 2016

 

Incredible dancing. Intense storytelling. Totally immersive. English National Ballet’s new Giselle by Akram Khan is an epic dance experience. Everything about Akram Khan’s Giselle is so inspired that, after joining an elated audience in a lengthy standing ovation, I left Sadler’s Wells utterly convinced that no words will ever do this masterpiece justice.

The company, under the direction of Tamara Rojo, is intent on evolving the art of ballet. While still honouring the classical tradition (the dancers begin their Nutcracker season at Milton Keynes Theatre next week), English National Ballet is adding amazing diversity to its repertoire with fresh new works. Following the resounding success of Dust, his piece for the Lest We Forget programme, anticipation has been sky-high for Akram Khan’s Giselle.

In short, Akram Khan’s Giselle is a triumphant re-imagining of the 1841 Romantic Era ballet. All the essential themes – love, betrayal, revenge, the opposing realms of life and death – remain but Khan’s vision teases out the dark undertones that have always been there. Dragged to the surface, these elements are expressed with visceral urgency, arresting intent and harrowing sensibility.

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Akram Khan's Giselle publicity image of English National Ballet's artistic director and lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo.

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REVIEW: Company Wayne McGregor’s ‘Entity’ – Laban Theatre, London, October 2016

 

Entity:

(noun) A thing with distinct and independent existence;

(mass noun) Existence, being.

 

Wayne McGregor‘s whole body of choreographic work could arguably be conceived of as an entity – a living catalogue of thrilling movement possibilities realised thanks to the multi award-winning dance-maker’s enduring fascination with art and science.

Entity epitomises McGregor’s experimental metascience: it is a creation examining how we create. First performed in 2008 by Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance (now Company Wayne McGregor), the piece engages nine performers in a danced investigation of movement exploring the intersection of creativity and cognitive neuroscience.

Bodies, lights, technology and film collide in this riveting voyage of discovery through a sensational soundscape created by Coldplay and Massive Attack collaborator Jon Hopkins and composer Joby Talbot. Quite simply, Entity is awesome experienced live.

 

Company Wayne McGregor. Entity. Laban Theatre, London.

 

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NEWS: ‘Keep Dancing’ sashays into Milton Keynes, September 2016

 

Keep Dancing takes to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre tomorrow and the production promises to deliver an unmissable array of dazzling routines.

Strictly fever is already gripping the nation. The popular BBC reality television programme’s producers drip-fed us with news about the celebrity line-up for Strictly Come Dancing 2016 on social media throughout the summer and Saturday night’s launch show saw each of the contestants get paired with their professional dancer. The couples are now hard at work in rehearsals fine-tuning their debut dances – which means we have a few weeks to wait before the competition begins.

Fortunately, fans in the new city need not wait any longer to enjoy some glitz, glamour and good old fancy footwork as some of our favourite former SCD professionals and celebrities will be showcasing their best moves in Keep Dancing.

 

Keep Dancing. Dance production.

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REVIEW: Shanghai Ballet’s ‘Echoes of Eternity’ – London Coliseum, August 2016

 

Ornate arm gestures, opulent costumes and overwhelming intensity combine in Shanghai Ballet‘s contemporary ballet Echoes of Eternity. Currently engulfing audiences at the London Coliseum in the powerful mysticism of the Orient, this production is part of the venue’s Shanghai Season and was devised thanks to a collaboration between Shanghai Grand Theatre and Shanghai Ballet.

Inspired by an ancient Chinese poem called The Song of Everlasting Regret, Echoes of Eternity is choreographed by Patrick de Bana (whose previous creation for Shanghai Ballet, Jane Eyre, was performed by the Company for their UK debut in 2013). His approach in Echoes of Eternity is predominantly derived from contemporary dance technique, with evocative Eastern embellishment. Indeed, the physical depiction of the work’s dynamic mix of drama and history could not be more removed stylistically from the classical ballets that often grace the Coliseum’s stage. There are no pointe shoes, the dancers’ feet flex, their torsos twist and hunch and many of the shapes and lines they make are distorted and contracted for emotional impact.

Still, despite its decidedly contemporary feel, this romanticised interpretation of a traditional 8th century story ably demonstrates how one of China’s most popular legends has all the narrative components you would find in the most enduring of classical ballets. We see the characters onstage dance with fervour during a long and shadowy journey. Along the way, they encounter eternal love, conflict, community, the supernatural, heartbreak, sacrifice, loss and longing – all those very human emotions and experiences that story-based ballets draw upon.

 

Shanghai Ballet in Echoes of Eternity. Dancers Wu Husheng as the Emperor and Qi Bingxue as Lady Yang.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘1984’ – BBC Four, February 2016

 

Northern Ballet is renowned for taking inspiration from literature, classical dance, theatre, opera and popular culture to develop new and original productions. The latest masterwork to be put under observation and reimagined through dance by the Company is the cult classic political philosophy novel 1984. George Orwell’s dystopian drama follows the moves of one Winston Smith. Winston lives in a world of absolute conformity where his every action is scrutinised by Big Brother, a sinister surveillance squad. However, when Winston crosses paths with a woman named Julia he dares to rebel by falling in love…

The significance of the surveillance state in our society demonstrates the enduring relevance of Orwell’s perceptive predictions. We may not have gone as far as branding independent thinking as “thoughtcrime” but the persecution of individualism is something that threatens us all as homogeneity and fear of difference reign.

In 1984, darkness always looms and lives are joyless. However, transfixed by a special small-screen showing of choreographer Jonathan Watkin’s interpretation for Northern Ballet on BBC Four last night, I could find nothing but joy in the power of dance to tell this tale of tyranny.

 

1984. Northern Ballet dancers Tobias Batley as Winston Smith and Martha Leebolt as Julia in Northern Ballet's 1984. Photo by Guy Farrow. View Post