Once upon a time, Matthew Bourne created a vamped-up adaptation of Sleeping Beauty for his innovative company, New Adventures, devised to wake audiences up to the charms of contemporary dance theatre. Premiered in 2012, Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty proved to be a gothic fairy tale that dance aficionados and newcomers alike could really get their teeth into. This week, having been roused from its slumber for a second nationwide tour, the enthralling interpretation of a much-loved classic is once again casting its spell over visitors to Milton Keynes Theatre.
As a choreographer, Matthew Bourne has always been one who dares to dream. This is, after all, the dazzlingly deviant dance-maker who gave us a deliciously different, Dickensian orphanage-set Nutcracker; not to mention a Swan Lake featuring a menacing male ensemble which initially ruffled a few feathers among ballet purists. It was certainly no mean feat to overhaul these iconic ballets in a totally new movement style!
Bourne’s re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty (which is perhaps the ultimate classical ballet thanks to its glorious score, tutu-clad fairies and abundance of virtuoso dancing) came about as a way of celebrating New Adventures’ 25th birthday. Its inclusion in the company’s repertoire made Bourne’s dream of completing Tchaikovsky’s trilogy of ballet masterworks – in his own inimitable manner – a reality.
Dancer Dominic North is currently touring with New Adventures, performing in Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty. He found time for a quick chat with Georgina Butler to discuss how things have moved on since the “original” Princess Aurora dozed off…
Dancer Dominic North first appeared with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures in 2004 as an ensemble swan in Swan Lake. Since making his official début in a principal role as Edward in Edward Sissorhands in 2008 at the Sydney Opera House, he has performed as many of Bourne’s lead characters.
Matthew Bourne is renowned for delving into stories in a bid to reveal characters’ motivations and unearth deeply buried narrative elements. His Sleeping Beauty is devised as a gothic romance full of fairies, supernatural surprises and, of course, true love. Bourne plays around with the time that the story is set so that Princess Aurora is born the year that the classical ballet first premièred and “comes of age” with a 21st birthday during the Edwardian era. This means that she is roused from her slumber in 2012 (which is when Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty was premièred).
He certainly gives the traditional tale enough ingenious twists and turns to keep a contemporary audience intrigued. Just for starters, Aurora falls for the royal gamekeeper; the couple enjoy a sweet romance before the princess visits the land of Nod and a vampiric twist heavily influences who is there to wake her up a century later! Nonetheless, Bourne’s careful attention to detail when coming up with his concept means that he manages to put his own spin on proceedings while simultaneously paying homage to the masterpiece that the classical ballet will forever be.
I am such a balletomane and The Sleeping Beauty may well be my favourite classical ballet (although, admittedly, the top-spot seems to change far too frequently to enable me to have a definitive favourite!). Still, prior to seeing Matthew Bourne’s version, I had never properly considered quite how momentous falling asleep for 100 years would actually be. Maybe it is just because we know the children’s yarn so well but his imaginative approach certainly adds an array of fascinating features that were missing from my bedtime stories!
What better way to learn more about Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty than by chatting to New Adventures‘ principal dancer Dominic North all about the role that has made him wake up and see this fairy tale differently…
Awesome and absorbing, Lest We Forget makes for an evening to remember
Dance may be the most transient of mediums but English National Ballet’s emotive Lest We Forget will forever remain with audience members privileged to see the award-winning triple bill at Milton Keynes Theatre last night.
Commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, this mixed programme of profoundly powerful pieces of contemporary choreography astounded fans and critics alike when it premiered in London at the Barbican in 2014 and during its recent revival at Sadler’s Wells. A huge departure from the traditional classics that theatregoers associate with English National Ballet, ‘Lest We Forget’ marks artistic director Tamara Rojo‘s boldest move so far.
Inspired by the loss, longing, pain, sacrifice, strength and sadness evoked by war, Lest We Forget reflects upon the experiences of both the men who went off to fight and the women who were left to keep the home fires burning. Liberated from the conventions of classical ballet technique, English National Ballet’s dancers effortlessly embody the approach to movement taken by each of three of today’s most celebrated British choreographers: Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett.
Theatregoers in Milton Keynes are in for such a treat this October as English National Ballet is bringing not one but two award-winning productions to the new city. Whether you are a dedicated dance fan or simply interested in enjoying a beautifully performed work of art, you will not want to miss out on seeing the Company during its autumn visit to Milton Keynes Theatre.
Artistic director Tamara Rojo is committed to showing that there is more to ballet than the tutu-clad ballerinas featured in the classics. As the driving force behind the Company and a prima ballerina herself, Tamara is intent on advancing the art form in order to keep it relevant, interesting and – most importantly – alive for future generations to enjoy. The reflective triple bill Lest We Forget is her first new commission for English National Ballet. Created to commemorate last year’s centenary of the First World War, this contemporary programme features the choreography of three of the most in-demand British dance-makers of today.
Romeo & Juliet is undeniably the world’s greatest love story. Rudolf Nureyev’s landmark production for English National Ballet was devised in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It premièred at London Coliseum on 2nd June 1977 and won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best Ballet Creation that year. The Company has since performed Nureyev’s production around the world (373 times!) to critical acclaim. Demonstrating the expressive artistry and explosive virtuosity of the Company’s dancers, Romeo & Juliet is a beloved masterpiece from English National Ballet’s repertoire which promises to prove popular with balletomanes and newcomers alike.
English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget is ambitious and astounding.
English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget is a poignant reflection on World War One. It is dimly-lit, intensely affecting and profoundly powerful. As a theatrical experience, it is majorly melancholic since haunting hopelessness, deep despair and the painful reality of lost lives permeate all three of the pieces in the programme. Nonetheless, the atmospheric compositions and admirable quality of dance readily raised my spirits when I watched this week’s London revival of the production at Sadler’s Wells.
When it premiered at the Barbican in 2014 as part of the First World War centenary commemorations, Lest We Forget marked a defining moment for English National Ballet. No longer was the Company simply synonymous with the classics and tradition. Just as dedicated dancer and driven Artistic Director Tamara Rojo promised it would, English National Ballet was vehemently taking strides to secure its future and reach new audiences by demonstrating how ambitious collaborations can push the boundaries of ballet, dance and art.
English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget was conceived by combining the contemporary technique of three exceptionally sought-after British choreographers with the technical prowess and keen appetite for learning that English National Ballet’s classically-trained dancers possess. Dance-makers Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan introduced the Company to new ways of moving, thinking and communicating – resulting in a triple bill of stirring works that astounded audiences, critics and even the cast members themselves.