CriticalDance Forum

English National Ballet 2012
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 29, 2012 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Reviews of the "Beyond Ballets Russes" Programme 2: "Apollo," "Jeux" and "Suite en blanc."

Ismene Brown for the Arts Desk.

Arts Desk

Sarah Frater for The Stage.

The Stage

Clifford Bishop for the Evening Standard.

Evening Standard

Zoe Anderson for the Independent.


Judith Mackrell for the Guardian.


Author:  David [ Fri Mar 30, 2012 8:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Beyond Ballets Russes (Programme II)
‘Apollo’, ‘Jeux’, ‘Le train bleu’, ‘Suite en blanc’
English National Ballet
London Coliseum; March 28, 2012

David Mead

English National Ballet in Apollo. Photo Annabel Moeller.jpg
English National Ballet in Apollo. Photo Annabel Moeller.jpg [ 45.65 KiB | Viewed 8436 times ]

There are not too many ballets that you sit and watch in awe, but Balanchine’s “Apollo” is one such, especially when it is danced so near-perfectly as by English National Ballet at the Coliseum. Zdenek Konvalina was a fine and commanding Apollo. The three muses were all playful in their own way. Daria Klimentova as Terpsichore just about took the honours, not even put off by an errant should strap that slowly inched its way down her arm, but it was a close-run thing. Anaïs Chalendard as Polyhymnia and Begoña Cao as Calliope were equally sublime. When together they danced as perfectly as I think I’ve ever seen, every arabesque at exactly the same height, every head inclined to exactly same degree, every arm at the precisely same angle and extension. It was magical indeed.

After that, I worried for Wayne Eagling’s new take on “Jeux”. He had wanted to do MacMillan’s unfinished version, but with only a fragment surviving, that was impossible. Instead he has reimagined Nijinsky’s 1913 original for Diaghilev. It’s about a choreographer, seemingly lost for ideas, who gets inspiration from an errant tennis ball. In his imagination he becomes involved in the game along with some passers-by. The original, of course, featured a game of tennis.
English National Ballet in Jeux. Photo Annabel Moeller.jpg
English National Ballet in Jeux. Photo Annabel Moeller.jpg [ 34.61 KiB | Viewed 8436 times ]

It is all faintly romantic and dreamy. People lean on and hang around the piano as they would a park bench. Some of the early gesture and side-on poses hark back to Nijinsky, although later it gets rather more conventional. One pas de trois seems to make reference to “Apollo”; another nice link. At the end a black-coated, cane-carrying, bowler hated man appears, looking for all the world like an undertaker. He tosses the ball to the choreographer. When he turns to the audience we realise it is, of course, Diaghilev.

I needn’t have been concerned. “Jeux” is not a classic, and I do wish Eagling had got rid of the tennis racquets a little earlier, but it is all rather appealing. There is plenty of room for the ballet to grow, and for characterisations to develop fully. The costumes are smashing too, Wizzy Shawyer having come up with some classic takes on 1920s tennis gear.

Following “Jeux”, Vadim Muntagirov showed much athleticism as he cartwheeled and tumbled his way through “Le beau gosse” (handsome young chap) from Nijinska’s “Le Train bleu”, created for the 1924 Paris Olympics and so rather appropriately making a reappearance now, however brief. Muntagirov was as light as a feather and made everything look so easy. The solo is very short. Blink and you miss it. But it brought the house down. Coco Chanel’s stripy bathing costume is never going to be a best seller though!

Rounding off what has been a terrific season was Serge Lifar’s white tutu-fest, “Suite en blanc”. Lifar was Balanchine’s first Apollo, so in a way, the ballet completed the circle. Danced against black wall, steps and platform, it sometimes seems as if the performers are floating in space. It’s a piece designed to show off the company and it works a treat. The dancing was outstanding throughout. The highlight was Elena Glurdjidze in the Cigarette variation. Her series of speedy entrechat sixes were impressive indeed. Elsewhere, Yonah Acosta was all panache in the Mazurka, and Erina Takahashi and Zdenek Konvalina were a most arresting pairing in the pas de deux, the former also showing some super turns in her closing solo.

It was all heady stuff, and as in everything else, the whole company looked on top form. The season has been a fabulous goodbye from outgoing artistic director Wayne Eagling. Whoever succeeds him has a very difficult act to follow.

Author:  Cassandra [ Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:38 am ]
Post subject:  Beyond Ballet Russe

I’ve now seen both of the programmes making up ENB’s beyond Diaghilev event and both were totally rewarding to watch.

Programme 1 opened with that increasingly rare pleasure, a major new work from a new choreographer and although I approached this new version of Firebird with some trepidation, I came away mightily impressed. True, I could make neither head nor tail of the plot line, but it hardly mattered because the dancing was so fine with star-in-waiting Ksenia Ovsyanick as a Firebird who was both majestic and vulnerable. The choreographer of this new work George Williamson is either 19 or 20 or 21 according to whichever ENB fan you speak to, but whatever his age his achievement is remarkable and I’m hoping this is the first shot of a major career.

Nijinsky’s L’Apres- midi d’un Faune is a work I’ve seen many times but the faunes I’ve seen have rarely made an impression. Anton Lukovkin however did make an impression – a big one. He dances the Faune as being completely other worldly, an eternal child of nature, a creature you think you have seen out the corner of your eye on a hot day but dismiss as a trick of the light. Elusive and sensual, he is hardly aware such things as nymphs exist but he discovers the physical allure of a discarded scarf is far more exciting than his flute or grapes. This proved a wonderful role for this unique artist who just seems to go from strength to strength.

Coupled with this work is David Dawson’s Faun(e) far removed from the groves of Arcadia in both style and mood, but interpreting Debussy’s score with the same degree of imagination. The two men in the ambivalent relationship were Jan Casier and Raphael Coumes-Marquet who danced with intensity and intelligence. Every time I see this ballet I discover another layer of nuance, it really is one of Dawson’s best.

Finally we saw MacMillan’s evergreen Rite of Spring but on this occasion looking very different in new costumes by Kinder Aggugini. Now although it is quite an experience to see a Sydney Nolan picture come to life I’ve always felt that the Nolan costumes, and especially the bizarre make-ups, really de-humanize the performers. Perhaps that was the point, but in what is after all a human drama seeing the faces makes a huge difference. I may be nit-picking but the odd make up in this version resembled the markings of chin-strap penguins, so still not ideal even though in my view better than the original. The costumes had some rather beautiful designs but in the dim lighting I could only appreciate the patterning at the curtain calls. Led by Tamarin Stott the dancers gave it their all and the score was played magnificently by the ENB orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland, in fact I hadn’t heard Rite played so well at a ballet performance since Bernard Haitink played it at the ROH a couple of decades ago: real concert hall standard.

Programme 2 opened with Balanchine’s Apollo, adequately danced by Zdenek Konvalina in the title role but I felt his Terpsichore (Klimentova) was rather mis-cast; the two other muses were very good though. This was the version doesn’t start with Apollo in his swaddling bands and I must confess to missing that other opening.

The highlight of the evening was the premiere of Jeux by Wayne Eagling, a joy from start to finish. Taking his inspiration from the original ballet of that name with a sporty theme throughout, Eagling has a poet/choreographer (Dmirty Gruzdyev) inspired by a trio of twenties muses and a bunch of sporty boys including a tennis player in a copy of the costume worn by Nijinsky in the original. Any story line is slim – flirting mostly, but the work has real wit and as always with Eagling many arresting moments of real invention such the back massage with elbows. The girls were led by Elena Gurdjidze wearing an art deco inspired dress and amongst the guys scene-stealer Junor Souza was eye catching as a slinky-hipped sailor boy. The ballet ends with a top-hatted figure in an overcoat waking on stage, Diaghilev? Or as some audience members suggested, John Talbot, head of the ENB board and Eagling’s nemesis.

Anton Dolin, the co-founder of ENB was the original “Handsome Young Man” in Nijinska’s Le Train Bleu, so it is apt that this solo should be revived for the massively talented Vadim Muntagirov. Why it is so rarely performed is a mystery to me as this piece is a real crowd pleaser and the link with Dolin should have given it a place in the rep years ago. Muntagirov danced it with great awareness of the humour inherent in the role and would I’m sure have met with fond approval were Dolin here today.

The evening ended with Suite en Blanc by Serge Lifar and the moment the curtain went up the audience started applauding. From the opening pas de trios danced with such dreamy perfection to the fiercely exciting circuit of the stage by exciting young Yonah Acosta, the ballet offered up one pleasure after another, the chief of which had to be Glurdjidze as La Cigarette. Think of any superlative and it applies to this woman, for me her dancing can achieve the divine and there are few dancers that can match her artistry anywhere on the stage today.

Alas the curtain had to come down and I left the theatre wondering if it really had been too good to be true. I’ve seen the company flourish beyond my dreams in recent years and am aware that it is all down to Wayne Eagling and the brilliant team he has assembled around him. This is to end and the future is full of uncertainty and I got to thinking about Anton Dolin whom I am old enough to actually have known. Forthright and outspoken he would have had a few choice words to describe the ENB board: they would have been apt – but they wouldn’t have been polite.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Lise Smith reviews Programme 2 of Beyond Ballets Russes for Londonist.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 02, 2012 12:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Clement Crisp reviews Programme 2 of Beyond Ballets Russes for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Author:  Cassandra [ Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:23 am ]
Post subject:  Vote for Yonah Acosta in South Bank Show Breakthrough award

Yonah Acosta has been nominated for a South Bank Show Breakthrough award. Show your support for this exciting young ENB dancer by clicking on this link:

And note that you don't have to be a Times subscriber to vote.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Louise Levene reviews Programme 1 of "Beyond Ballets Russes" for the Telegraph.


Author:  David [ Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

English National Ballet announces Tamara Rojo as its new Artistic Director

English National Ballet has announced that Royal Ballet principal dancer Tamara Rojo will take over as Artistic Director in September 2012. Besides her experience as a dancer, Rojo is also a board member of many of the UK’s most prestigious arts organisations including Arts Council East, Dance UK, the ICA, the Anglo-Spanish Society.

According to the press release, Rojo will continue with English National Ballet's aim to be innovative, creative, and to take ballet of the highest quality to audiences in all regions of the UK and around the world at affordable prices.

She says, “I am honoured to have been asked by the board of English National Ballet to be their next Artistic Director. I have very fond memories of my time as a dancer with English National Ballet and nothing could make me prouder than to return to this internationally respected company, with its wonderful dancers and invaluable legacy in bringing dance to the nation. I am particularly excited about working with young British choreographers, building strong relationships with our audiences in the regions, and exploring opportunities across other art forms.”

John Talbot, Chairman of English National Ballet says, “English National Ballet is very happy to welcome Tamara as the new Artistic Director. We look forward to the continuing success of the Company which has thrived under Wayne Eagling’s Artistic Direction over the last seven years. Tamara will use her world wide reputation and creative vision to form inspiring collaborations throughout the UK and the world. She is looking forward to developing, mentoring and showcasing young talent within the Company, and building the profiles of those who are already performing at the highest level.“

As well as her role as Artistic Director, Tamara will also dance with the Company.

English National Ballet will be announcing plans for the 2013 season under the new leadership of Tamara Rojo later this year.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Leaving aside the significant issues surrounding the succession, I am perplexed by Tamara Rojo's decision to continue performing while taking on the enormous responsibilities of an AD of a major company. Given that she will be on a steep learning curve in her wide-ranging and time consuming responsibilities to her dancers, staff, Board, funders and public, I fail to see how she can possibly spend the time maintaining the exacting standards demanded as a ballerina. Even more astonishing is that some dance critics think this is a good idea.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Some early news stories on the appointment of Tamara Rojo as Artistic Director.

Ismene Brown for the Arts Desk.

Arts Desk

Judith Mackrell for the Guardian.


Mark Brown, also for the Guardian.


Nick Clark for the Independent.


Mark Monahan for the Telegraph.


Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Nick Clark in the Independent writes: "...the Spanish ballerina has been appointed to turn around the fortunes of the under pressure English National Ballet (ENB)."

Eh what! Given the praise for both the choreographic selection of the recent Coliseum season and the quality of dancers on show, there is no problem on the artistic side. If it is finance we are talking about, well ENB is ALWAYS under pressure financially given its limited Arts council grant and its inevitably costly touring mission. That's why Eagling and previous ED, Craig Hassell, balanced innovative artisitc programmes with high quality populist shows like "Strictly Gershwin". In any case finance is the primary responsibility of the Exec Director rather than the AD.

Nick Clark is no doubt a splendid chap and is described on the Indie website as - Arts correspondent - and has also "covered beats including the City, markets and technology, media & telecoms." He writes roughly an article a day covering the full range of the Arts. In looking back over the last month, this is his only dance article from a long list of contributions. Dare one ask: "When, if ever, did you last see ENB, Mr Clark?"

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Louise Levene reviews Programme 2 of Beyond Ballets Russes for the Telegraph.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Ruaridh Nicoll writes and extensive profile of Tamaro Rojo for The Observer.


Valerie Lawson writes about the situation at ENB for the Australian.


Colin Fernandez reports on Tamara Rojo's position on dancers' weight for the Daily Mail.

Daily Mail

Author:  drdance [ Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

Yet another foreign director for a company whose very name is a joke the only thing English about the compoany is the taxpayers money which pays for it.

Audiences can see better programmes from visiting companies at no cost to the taxpayer and in London the Royal Ballet has better productions.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: English National Ballet 2012

In the Toronto Star, Michael Crabb reports on the appointment of Tamara Rojo at English National Ballet and details some interesting information about her preparations (some at the National Ballet of Canada, shadowing Karen Kain) for making the transition from dancer to director.

Toronto Star

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