There are already firm favourites in the Ballet Nights collection of performances, with two dances reprised from earlier in this launch season. ‘Heisei 9’, performed by Constance Devernay-Laurence and choreographed by Jordan James Bridge, is both contemporary and nostalgic, inspired by ‘Final Fantasy VII’ a video game on the PlayStation console released in the late 1990s. The other reprised dance, ‘Utopia (The Way Inside)’, is grounded in realism as much as it is in imagination. Yasser D’Oquendo has no desire to return to his native Cuba anytime soon, and in this energetic piece, one is reminded that despite our various gripes with the UK Government of the day (all of which are very legitimate), things genuinely could be worse. His daughter, still in Cuba, can be heard in the accompanying music, and D’Oquendo, previously in the company of Acosta Danza, is evidently – as the dance would have it – pulling all the stops out to secure the best future possible for her.
Two dances performed by Ivana Bueno, ‘Medora Variation’ from Act II of Le Corsaire, and ‘Esmeralda Variation’, involved a copious amount of spinning and not much else, even if the performances did give my washing machine a run for its money. Solo and duo performances abound in this particular collection, and the ‘black box’ setting (there are, of course, costumes, lighting and musical accompaniment) leaves the dancers rather more exposed than they would be in a full production. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to showcase their talent, and it’s easy on the audience, who doesn’t need to make choices as to which dancers to look at in any given moment.
With so many different dances crammed into one evening, it takes something substantially at variance with everything else to stand out. ‘Wind’, performed by Laurel Dalley Smith, is a good example of this – without any music, the dance deliberately relies on the sounds of the dancer’s feet to provide a rhythm by itself. It was discombobulating, at least for me, to see a dance without music, but listening to silence, as it were, makes one appreciate how much movement there is in these performances. Each and every step is heard, providing an even more focused performance.
The best was saved for last, with the ‘Don Quixote Suite’ seeing Katja Khaniukova and Aitor Arrieta Coca performing in smart and elegant costumes. A very refined performance, and yet exuberant in its execution, the pair make excellent use of the substantial stage space, with each dance more impressive than the one before, right up to a crowd-pleasing final scene. As ever, each of the performances is given a brief introduction, providing some helpful context. With some of the dances being shorter in length than the latest number one on the radio, the evening as a whole is short and sweet, and is sure to whet the appetites of all but the most hardened and resolute sceptics to explore and discover more dance and ballet.
Review by Chris Omaweng
The final programme of the Autumn Season for a uniquely compered evening of Classical Ballet, Neo Classical & Contemporary Dance with headliners including:
KATJA KHANIUKOVA & AITOR ARREITA
Ukrainian Ballet Star & Lead Principal of English National Ballet and Original BALLET NIGHTS performers
SANGEUN LEE & GARETH HAW
Lead Principal and Soloist of English National Ballet Making their UK Debut
Junior Soloist & Rising Star of English National Ballet
LAUREL DALLEY SMITH
Star of The Martha Graham Dance Company
Best Classical Female Performer, National Dance Awards Winner
Featuring Design by Stevie Stewart