CriticalDance Forum

English National Ballet 2011
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 28, 2011 5:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Clement Crisp reviews "Swan Lake" for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Cassandra [ Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Black and White

I thought the critics were rather harsh on the new ballet by Van Le Ngoc, I’ve sat through some horrors in my time and Vue de l’autre wasn’t that bad at all in my opinion. Yes, the bit with the rose was rather twee but apart from that it was easy on the eye and I thought the pas de deux with Elena Glurdjidze and Junor Souza was actually very beautiful. I would happily sit through it again.

It was wonderful to see Lifar’s Suite en Blanc once again; it has been out of the repertoire for far too long for a work generally considered a masterpiece. Beautifully staged by Maina Gielgud, the company was on top form with an outstanding performance from Shiori Kase in the Serenade and a sparkling newcomer dancing the mazurka: Yonah Acosta. Young Mr Acosta is the nephew of superstar Carlos and there is even a bit of a resemblance with the same infectious smile and sheer joy in his dancing, he is clearly going to be quite an asset to the company.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jun 04, 2011 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Holly Williams interviews Derek Deane in The Independent.

The Independent

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jun 05, 2011 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Mary Greene interviews Daria Klimentova in the Daily Mail.

Daily Mail

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Laura Thompson reviews Derek Deane's "Strictly Gershwin" at the Royal Albert Hall in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph

Neil Norman reviews "Strictly Gershwin" in the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Judith Mackrell reviews "Strictly Gershwin" in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Author:  David [ Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

‘Strictly Gershwin’
English National Ballet
Royal Albert Hall, London; June 9, 2011

David Mead

The Albert Hall with its wide open acres and audience all around is not the best place for dance. Sometimes it works, as in Deane’s magical lake scenes in Swan Lake, but more often than not the problems of filling the vast acres of the stage and having to work to multiple fronts are hugely problematic. And that’s without there being issues with the nature of the work itself.

The first half of the show is called “Gershwin on Broadway”, the second “Gershwin in Hollywood”, but Deane falls way short of recreating either. In fact, and as the title implies, “Strictly Gershwin” has far more connection with Saturday night television light entertainment. It is bright and breezy. The humour might be missing, but there is certainly lots of glitter and colour. And, just like Saturday night TV, don’t worry if you don’t like ballet, ballroom, cabaret or tap, or the singer, you only have to wait five minutes for something else to come along.

The best part of the show is the music. It is Gershwin all the way, played with great gusto by the English National Ballet Orchestra, who were having a ball all of their own. But why was the sound amped up so much? Singer Maria Friedman, star of many West End musicals, suffered too. Anyone who has seen her in the West End will know she’s a great performer, but her voice sometimes sounded so distorted it was difficult to make out the words. At the front of the band was livewire conductor Gareth Valentine who, in between bouncing around as if on one of those mini-trampolines, had a few dance moves of his own. Special mention too, for guest pianist Jonathan Scott for a vivid playing of “Rhapsody in Blue”.

The audience favourites among the dancers were undoubtedly the infectious tap duo Douglas Mills and Paul Robinson, one of who even got to dance on top of a grand piano. It was easy to see why. Not only do they have some clever choreography, given they are listed as “additional choreographers” I assume this was put together by themselves, but like Valentine they oozed personality. They connected with the audience. In comparison the rest of the show was terribly bland and uninspiring.

The show includes several numbers where Deane fills the floor with action. “An American in Paris”, for example, includes nuns, onion sellers, a cycling postman on a rather nifty bright red bike, showgirls from the Moulin Rouge and nannies with prams, albeit completely empty prams. Budget cuts perhaps? Largely submerged somewhere in all this were guests Tamara Rojo and Guillaume Côté in the Lesley Caron and Fred Astaire roles. A later section also had some very ordinary drum majorettes and rollerbladers.

Busy choreography is not always good choreography, though. Too often in "Strictly Gershwin" it lacks coherence with too many people doing too many different things facing too many different directions. That’s when the dancer were not running around trying to regroup in yet another formation.

The ballet in particular has very little in the way of demanding steps. All too often the choreography looked uncomfortable alongside the Gershwin, especially in the jazzier numbers. Maybe Deane thought it would get lost in the space, but there is almost no quick footwork and, rather more surprisingly, almost no big jumps. Ballroom dancers Carmen and Bryan Watson may not have been exactly full of pizzazz but at least they had a few nifty moves to show off.

Act II has a few more cracks of light that occasionally brightened up the evening. “Rhapsody in Blue” opened with much promise, the corps in stunning two-tone blue tutus, but then only occasionally sparked into life despite the best efforts of Rojo and Côté, the former not being helped by someone being so enthusiastic with the dry ice during her big entrance that they all but hid her legs. The most romantic and meltingly beautiful dance of the evening, though, came from Daria Klimentova and Friedemann Vogel in “Summertime”. At last it seemed like the music meant something.

In so many ways “Strictly Gershwin” is ballet for the West End musical audience. And for that audience it probably works. But, and despite the best efforts of the dancers, my mind couldn’t help wandering back occasionally to Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” or Astaire and Rogers. They may have been on the programme cover, but Fred and Ginger "Strictly Gershwin" certainly ain’t.

"Strictly Gershwin" continues in the round at the Royal Albert Hall to June 19. In the autumn it can been seen in regular theatres at Oxford, Manchester, Southampton, Cardiff, Liverpool and Milton Keynes, and in January 2012 at the London Coliseum. Click here for details of this and other forthcoming English National Ballet performances.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Jeffery Taylor reviews "Strictly Gershwin" for the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Sarah Frater reviews "Strictly Gershwin" for the Evening Standard.

Evening Standard

Judith Flanders reviews "Strictly Gershwin" for The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Zoe Anderson reviews "Strictly Gershwin" for The Independent,

The Independent

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Clement Crisp reviews "Strictly Gershwin" for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Jul 20, 2011 3:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Perhaps the most interesting programme from ENB opens at the Coliseum tomorrow, a tribute to the lately deceased choreographer Roland Petit featuring three of his most famous works: Carmen, Le Jeune Homme et La Mort and L'Arlesienne.

A last minute cast addition is Ivan Vasiliev dancing the role of Le Jeune Homme on Friday night, a previous engagement means I will have to miss him but the other two casts of Yonah Acosta and Anton Lukovkin I shall get to see and will report back.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Jul 22, 2011 7:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

First review of the Petit programme comes from The Standard with an amusing retort from a member of the public at the end: ...

By the way, I'm surprised by the casual mention of Yonah Acosta in Le Jeune Homme et La Mort when actually his rapturous audience reception indicated to me a real 'star is born' moment.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jul 23, 2011 1:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Judith Mackrell reviews the Roland Petit program at the Coliseum for The Guardian.

The Guardian

Ismene Brown for The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Neil Norman for the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon Jul 25, 2011 7:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

Luke Jennings went along on Friday night specifically to see Ivan Vasiliev in Le Jeune Homme et La Mort; here is his review: ... intcmp=239

One of our best, but sadly infrequent reviewers on CriticalDance, saw all three casts for this ballet and considered I.Vasiliev to have been inferior to Yonah Acosta, so it's a great shame that Mr Jennings couldn't be bothered to see more than one cast.

The reference to Igor Zelensky as Le Jeune Homme surprised me as I and most others considered his performance acutely embarrassing - a classic case of mis-casting

Inevitably, however, it's the image of Vasiliev you carry away. "He's just sex on legs," one fellow critic sighs,

Sex on legs? Just goes to show what a sad bunch the UK critics have become.

Author:  David [ Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2011

L’Arlésienne’, ‘Le Jeune Homme et la Mort’, ‘Carmen’
English National Ballet
London Coliseum; July 21, 2011

David Mead and Ana Abad Carles

Roland Petit may be a ballet legend in much of Europe, but in Britain his often expressionist work is little known. Top marks, then, to English National Ballet Artistic Director Wayne Eagling for bringing three of his most noted creations to the London stage. This was, though, a season tinged with sadness following Petit’s death just a fortnight before this short season began. But, as Eagling said in a short, moving address before the opening performance, no doubt he was there in spirit.

“L’Arlésienne”, “Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” and “Carmen” are three very different ballets, but works linked by the common theme of sexual desire and death in the form of two suicides and a murder. Add in some of those wonderful, dramatic solos and pas de deux of which Petit was such a master and you have a heady mix. There were probably bound to be issues. Petit’s work does have a particular style, like everyone else’s. They call for a great deal of detail, a particular dramatic interpretation, and a certain technique that was not always apparent. Despite that, and quite rightly, the audience lapped it up.

The least known of the three, “L’Arlésienne”, was the most successful. Inspired by Daudet’s short story, the ballet tells of the continued passion of the young man Frédéri for an unfaithful girl from Arles, a character who, while dominating the ballet, we never meet. It is an obsession that leads to insanity and suicide, despite the efforts of his fiancée Vivette to help him forget.

The claustrophobia of the situation contrasts dramatically with the wide open mountain scenery of the Van Gogh’s Provençal backdrop. With the leading couple framed by the corps in a manner reminiscent of Nijinska’s “Les Noces”, their movement formally structured around lines and circles, and drawing on folkloric elements, the drama was most compelling. Esteban Berlanga gave a passionate performance as the bridegroom, always attempting to break away, his anguish at being unable to escape his memories there for all to see. Erina Takahashi was most touching as the pure and innocent bride to be, always trying to calm and soothe his pain, often by cradling his head, only for him to disappear once again into his own mixed-up world in a blue of turns and jetés.

“Le Jeune Homme et la Mort” is probably best known by many from the opening minutes of the 1985 movie “White Nights”, with Mikhail Baryshnikov in the lead role. It may be only fifteen minutes long, but it remains a wonderful dance drama that sees a woman tormenting her young lover, eventually driving him to hang himself in a final desperate attempt to free himself from his situation.

Despite the presence of the femme fatale, the ballet is essentially a long solo for the man, danced here by Yonah Acosta, nephew of Carlos. He was certainly full of confidence and displayed all the necessary explosive athleticism as he leapt and spun around the tables and chairs of his Parisian garret. Yet the piece lacked the force it should have. There was little sense that anything was real or coming from inside. There was little sense of anguish, despair or dramatic tension. His final suicide was rather a damp squib. It would have been interesting to see what Ivan Vasiliev, one of the last to work on the role with Petit himself, made of it the following evening. Anäis Chalendard in her lemon dress and black gloves was a powerful presence as Death, her eyes piercingly cruel. Missing though was much in the way of connection with her prey. There should also be a sharper delineation of the choreographic material that at times demands an almost metallic, not-quite-human interpretation

Special mention here for Georges Wakhevitch’s artist’s workshop that finally opens up to reveal the rooftops of Paris at night, complete with Eiffel Tower and flashing Citroën sign. It remains a masterpiece of ballet design.

“Carmen” is better known to British audiences, having been premiered in London in 1949, and danced here several times since. With its vivid story and score, it remains one of Petit’s more popular works. In many ways, though, it was the least satisfactory ballet of the evening. “Carmen” relies heavily on its main characters and neither Begoña Cao nor Fabian Reimar showed the passion or depth needed. Cao played Carmen as a whore, with little attention to the character’s possibilities in terms of richer interpretations and Reimar’s Don José was rather bland. Though the final duelling pas de deux brought the required drama and tragedy, it remained a mystery why Carmen would run to Don José’s arms and meet her death in its conclusion. Alongside that, James Streeter seemed determined to depict Escamillo as a toreador stereotype, accentuating all the clownish aspects. As is often the way, these roles have a much stronger impact when played with a serious face. The choreography is certainly clear enough.

As ever, the issues come back to style. Like any other, Petit’s requires time to assimilate. It does not come quickly. The legs are crucial and, while Cao has very long legs that she puts to great use, they are not sharp enough for Petit’s Carmen. His constant switching from en dehors to en dedans that is part of the French school seems to be alien to ENB’s dancers and it shows. I wonder if those of the old English school with their strong feet and legs would have been better at this choreography than the present dancers who have long extensions but are not strong enough in their use. Perhaps, the fact that Petit choreographed several pieces on Margot Fonteyn may answer that question.

Plenty of reservations, but Eagling should not be discouraged. This was one of the most exciting mixed programmes to be put on in London by a major company in years. More of the same, please!

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