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.
Northern Ballet’s Wuthering Heights is an emotive, expressive and eloquent adaptation of Emily Brontë’s absorbing tale of two doomed lovers.
With its deep and interwoven romantic relationships and powerful themes of betrayal and revenge, the narrative could not be more suited to portrayal through dance – and Northern Ballet are the company to beat when it comes to dramatic interpretation.
We all endeavour to carve out a place for ourselves in the world and Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands reminds us that Bourne has most certainly found his place as a dance-maker.
Matthew Bourne is renowned for his bold adaptations of classical ballets including Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. The clever re-writes unearth previously unexplored elements of these well-loved stories and his company, New Adventures, impressively engages audiences through innovative contemporary dance. As a dedicated balletomane, I have found Bourne’s inventive interpretations deliciously refreshing so I expected Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands (a work that does not exist in the classical ballet repertoire) to be similarly “cutting-edge”.
Happily, opening night was a “shear” delight, with Bourne proving once again how sharply attuned he is to theatregoers’ predilection for quirky stories told well. Based on Tim Burton’s 1990 fantasy film, Edward Scissorhands is the touching tale of a boy created by a bereaved father. In Bourne’s dark prologue, we learn that the late Edward was a young boy who was struck dead by lightning while playing with scissors. His grieving father becomes determined to bring his son back to life and sets to work producing an artificial being. Unfortunately, the eccentric creator is frightened to death by Halloween trick-or-treaters, leaving Edward alone and unfinished – with scissor blades for hands.
The simple – admittedly, surreal – narrative follows isolated Edward’s attempts to fit into 1950s suburban America. Bourne excels at creating characters and the production certainly delivers razor-sharp character-driven dance-drama.