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 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: English National Ballet’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, October 2015

 

Even Shakespeare’s cruel twists of fate are powerless to dampen the blazing passion of English National Ballet’s current Romeo & Juliet.

Undeniably the world’s greatest love story, the tragedy is eternally destined to be an audience-pleaser and Milton Keynes Theatre was packed on opening night for the touring revival of Rudolf Nureyev’s 1977 interpretation. Originally created for the Company in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, this sumptuous production intensifies the tale of two star-crossed lovers by frequently emphasising the notion of human weakness; ominously accentuating the brutality of Renaissance Verona; and boldly challenging the dancers with demanding, multifaceted, choreography.

Contrasts command much clout in any Romeo & Juliet. The opposition of the two rival families. The hustle and bustle of the swarming marketplace juxtaposed against the serenity of the moonlit trysts in the garden and at the chapel. The differences between idealistic Romeo and passive Paris as they vie for Juliet’s attention. Still, what really stands out in this version is how the spectacle of impressive leaps, turns and lifts can be impeccably matched by the potency of far more natural human movement – a glance, a touch, a kiss. Nureyev’s staging manages to develop all of the characters and provide further insight into several relationships, balancing the brilliance and bravado of ballet with a depth of drama befitting of the Bard’s prose.

 

Romeo & Juliet. English National Ballet's 'Romeo & Juliet'. Alina Cojocaru as Juliet and James Forbat as Romeo (photo by Jason Bell). View Post