English National Ballet’s stunning new double bill Song of the Earth / La Sylphide embodies what I love most about dance: you can lose yourself in it and it makes you think.
The compelling Song of the Earth / La Sylphide programme is at Milton Keynes Theatre all week and ticketholders will not be disappointed. This is another unmissable offering from a company determined to ensure ballet evolves so it has relevance for audiences, today and in the future, while simultaneously paying tribute to its glorious history.
Juxtaposing Kenneth MacMillan’s breakthrough, avant-garde masterpiece, Song of the Earth, against the quintessential Romantic era ballet, La Sylphide, is an inspired expression of English National Ballet’s enduring mission. Seeing these two new additions to the company’s repertoire performed back-to-back affords us the opportunity to admire the scope of ballet as an art form and the versatility of the dancers.
English National Ballet’s artistic director and lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo talks to Georgina Butler about why the company’s new double bill has the potential to change your life…
Tamara Rojo is in no doubt that we need the arts in our lives – that is why she has devoted herself to the business of ballet dancing.
The Spanish ballerina danced with Scottish Ballet and English National Ballet early in her career, before moving to The Royal Ballet for twelve glittering years. Dedicated, ambitious and articulate, Tamara Rojo dreamt of not only dancing with a world-class company but also running one. This dream came true when she was appointed in the dual role of artistic director and lead principal dancer of English National Ballet in 2012. Upon starting the top management job, she initiated a rebranding process to sharpen the company’s identity as a distinctive troupe of incredibly versatile ballet dancers with something to say.
Five years later and the touring company, which endeavours to bring ballet of the highest quality to the widest possible audience, has found lots to say under Tamara’s leadership. It has developed collaborative relationships with exciting choreographers; confidently crossed into the realms of contemporary dance; staged new versions of old classics and made history as the first ever ballet company to perform on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
English National Ballet returns to Milton Keynes Theatre with a brand new double bill from Tuesday – and Tamara will perform a lead principal role. Unsurprisingly, keeping on top of her duties as artistic director and the demands made on her as a dancer keep Tamara extremely busy.
Happily, she still managed to find time for a chat…
English National Ballet is to make a much-anticipated return to Milton Keynes Theatre with an exciting new double bill next week.
When the dancers tour to the venue for their annual autumn visit, they will perform Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s masterpiece Song of the Earth alongside Frank Andersen’s faithful recreation of La Sylphide. Both works are recent additions to English National Ballet’s repertoire so audiences in Milton Keynes will be among the very first dance lovers to see them performed by the company.
We might still be in November but Christmas is well and truly on its way now English National Ballet is delighting audiences with its dreamy Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Nothing gets me in the festive spirit quite like hearing the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. There are many different versions of this seasonal ballet but the magical music is timeless and immediately evokes feelings of anticipation, enjoyment, excitement, adventure and beauty. Superbly played by English National Ballet Philharmonic, the familiar compositions envelop audience members in a blissful ballet bubble from the overture right through to the finale.
The company’s current Nutcracker, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, is wonderfully wintery and heart-warmingly whimsical. On a frosty Christmas Eve in Edwardian London a family hosts a celebratory get-together. Among the guests is Drosselmeyer, a magician and maker of toys, and his handsome nephew. Young Clara is besotted with the nephew and eagerly dances with him before receiving a painted wooden nutcracker soldier from the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Thrilled with the gift, Clara happily dances with her new doll until a scuffle with her brother Freddie results in the nutcracker being damaged. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer works his magic to fix the wounded toy before the children are sent off to bed. What happens next is a fanciful adventure. Clara encounters an evil Mouse King, battles with the Nutcracker against an army of mice and travels to the Land of Snow. Later, she is entertained by dancers from all over the world, presented with a pretty posy of waltzing flowers and comes of age dancing with her very own prince.
English National Ballet First Artist Barry Drummond finds a few minutes between classes, performances and rehearsals to fill Georgina Butler in with his thoughts on dancing in Nutcracker and enjoying the magic of Christmas…
English National Ballet opens its acclaimed Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre this evening and First Artist Barry Drummond is looking forward to a busy run.
The festive family favourite boasts a sparkling seasonal story, captivating characters and delightful dancing. This ballet’s enduring popularity has seen the Company present a Nutcracker production every year since 1950, its founding year. Last Christmas, over 73,000 people made watching a performance of English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum part of their holiday celebrations.
This year’s tour (beginning in Milton Keynes and then visiting Liverpool before a return to the Coliseum) continues the annual Nutcracker tradition while bringing choreographer Wayne Eagling’s version to audiences outside the capital.
First Artist Barry Drummond is already embracing the Yuletide season thanks to Nutcracker. As well as looking forward to being part of audience members’ Christmas celebrations, he is eager to make the most of his own festivities when the big day finally arrives!
“Nutcracker is a one-way ticket to festive cheer!”
[English National Ballet’s Barry Drummond performing as Older Freddie in Nutcracker. Photography by Ash.]