REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Manon’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2018

 

English National Ballet dances emotionally-charged choreography with seamless fluidity in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, bringing dazzling decadence, drama and despair to the stage.

The late British choreographer’s intense romance is a classic narrative ballet that is rarely performed regionally. In fact, English National Ballet’s current revival and tour of this MacMillan masterpiece is quite an occasion as the company is presenting it outside London for only the second time in thirty years.

Despite being created in 1974, the three-act tragedy remains a paragon of adult, dramatic dance. Inspired by Abbé Prévost’s notorious 1731 French novel Manon Lescaut and danced to the music of Jules Massenet, MacMillan’s Manon is a balletic interpretation of one of the earliest imaginings of a femme fatale. It boasts meaty principal roles, bustling crowd scenes and enthralling pas de deux highlights; all of which push the boundaries of what ballet is, and should be, to unashamedly explore the darker side of the human condition.

If you love ballet, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to experience Manon – and if you don’t think ballet is for you, it’s even more important to give this powerful production a go.

 

English National Ballet dancers in Kenneth MacMillan's Manon

 

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REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ – London Coliseum, January 2016

 

A flurry of sparkling snowflakes, a cascade of blossoming flowers and a colourful hot air balloon drifting skywards – English National Ballet’s Nutcracker proved the perfect antidote to a woefully wet and windy Saturday!

Christmas seems merely a dim and distant memory now that the sparkly decorations have come down and January has well and truly arrived. However, inside the London Coliseum theatre the magic of the Yuletide season lingers this weekend as the venue hosts the final performances in this run of the festive – and fantastical – ballet.

Wayne Eagling’s exuberant Nutcracker premièred in 2010 and is the tenth version to have been incorporated into English National Ballet’s repertoire since the Company was established in 1950. Of all the 19th Century ballets, Nutcracker is the one which is most often staged and interpreted in strikingly different ways. English National Ballet’s current production includes some wonderful moments which are full of timeless Christmas cheer and plenty of divine dancing.

 

Nutcracker. English National Ballet. Shiori Kase as Clara. Photo by Jason Bell.

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REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Swan Lake’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, November 2014

 

Swan Lake is the epitome of a bucket-list ballet and the English National Ballet production currently in residence at Milton Keynes Theatre is simply stunning.

I must confess to a great affinity for the perennially popular Swan Lake having learned a lot of the repertoire in workshops as a youngster; performed many of the roles in school shows and compulsively viewed countless versions in theatres, on television and online. The swell of the overture is enough to transfix me – listening to Tchaikovsky’s haunting score soothed this scholar during many years of revision throughout school and university. Together, the combination of story, music, choreography and staging makes the ballet a truly touching masterpiece.

Of course, possessing such zeal and knowledge means that with each cumulative performance of Swan Lake I am privileged enough to see, the potential to be disappointed grows. Fortunately, English National Ballet’s touring production had me enraptured on opening night. In fact, I swanned out of the auditorium appropriately moved by such an emotional evening and in awe of the incredible talent within the Company.

 

English National Ballet's Swan Lake. The Swans corps de ballet. (Photography by ASH).

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