English National Ballet celebrates the return of live performances next week with a programme of five works by contemporary choreographers – Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant, Yuri Possokhov, Stina Quagebeur and Arielle Smith. These ballets were all created for ENB’s Digital Season late last year, but this will be their first live performance.
The programme opens with Cherkaoui’s Laid in Earth, set to Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas, with the addition of new electronic music by Olga Wojciechowska, a long-time collaborator of Cherkaoui. This aria – performed by mezzo soprano Catherine Backhouse – is sung by Dido after Aeneas has abandoned her, and before she casts herself onto a funeral pyre.
Cherkaoui’s work is a re-imagination of Dido’s Lament for dance, floating between the realms of the living and the dead. According to The Times, “Cherkaoui’s sensuous choreography has a slowly mesmeric rise and fall while Purcell’s Dido’s Lament seals the sombre tone”. Costume design is by Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten.
Integral to Russell Maliphant’s Echoes is his signature style which highlights the relationship between fluidity of movement, ethereal lighting and music. For this “haunting work of extraordinary sensuality” (The Stage), he has collaborated with Panagiotis Tomaras on video projections and lighting, with commissioned sound design by Dana Fouras, and costumes by Stevie Stewart. The Times refers to it as “Secretive and seductive”, and The Observer as “Propulsive and transfixing”.
This programme represents the first occasion on which Russian choreographer Yuri Possokhov has worked with a UK company. A former principal dancer with the Bolshoi, Royal Danish and San Francisco ballets, he is well established as a choreographer, and is now Choreographer in Residence at San Francisco Ballet. Possokhov has based his ballet Senseless Kindness on Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate. It’s a sweeping view of Soviet society during World War II, as seen through the eyes of a Russian family, and set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich – his Piano Trio No 1. Costume design is by Federica Romano.
For Take Five Blues, ENB Associate Choreographer Stina Quagebeur draws her inspiration from Nigel Kennedy’s Vivace – itself inspired by Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra – and Paul Desmond’s jazz hit Take Five. In this high-spirited work, in which classical music meets jazz, eight dancers celebrate the joy of companionship, connecting with each other through the melodies and rhythms of the score. Described by iNews as “sleek and appealingly informal”, this jazzy piece – costumed by the choreographer – highlights the versatility of classical ballet and its ability to adapt to music of different genres.
The final work in the programme, Arielle Smith’s Jolly Folly, is just that – a fun and lively work that could have been lifted from an old Hollywood movie. Performed in the style of silent-era cinema, with costumes – designed by Smith – to match, it’s described by The Stage as “Dazzling and delightful”. The score includes music by Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Mozart – but in the hands of the Klazz Brothers, it’s given the twist of Cuban and Afro-Cuban jazz, as is their speciality.
The music for Laid in Earth and Senseless Kindness is performed live by musicians of English National Ballet Philharmonic, led by Music Director Gavin Sutherland.
English National Ballet presents Reunion at Sadler’s Wells in London from 17th to 30th May. For more information, and to book tickets, visit the ENB website.
Information sourced from:
English National Ballet programme notes
Klazz Brothers – AllMusic