I’ll come right out and say it: This was one of the most satisfying evenings of dance I’ve experienced in a long time. The beautifully balanced programme consisted of works by Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe and John Neumeier. Two of the pieces, Petite Mort and In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, were classics dating back to the creative ferment of the 1960s. The middle piece was a new work by John Neumeier, Spring and Fall.
The first piece, by Jiri Kylian, Petite Morts, to two Mozart piano concertos, is a tightly structured piece danced with precise muscularity by the company, especial the men. It opens in silence, the men holding swords, the women standing in the back in shadow. They move forward and the structure of the dance is so precise that it is almost impossible te separate the music from the movement. I loved the moment when the music shifted and with it the style, as the women rolled on behind large cutouts of bodies in period evening dress. It is a short but totally gripping piece, classically elegant, cool and witty. The ending was particularly good, the men once more in the centre and the girls in the shadows at the side, the dark figures of the past which haunt the present.
The middle piece, Spring and Fall, is a new work by John Neumeier a choreographer best known for his narrative ballets. This is not a narrative ballet, but there is a story threading through it, a story of human relationships, the relationship of bodies together in space and the relationship between people, all to the wonderfully evocative music of Dvorak’s Serenade in e Major. Like Petite Mort, it starts in silence and continues as a curtain of dancers move aside in a mass of turns and leaps to reveal a couple standing at the back. After a beat, they begin to move.
They are joined by other couples and we see the story unfold, a story of people’s relationships expressed with a lyrical elegance. Couples move fluidly together and apart, and we are aware of a story of attraction, rejection, longing, desire and possession, which rivets the attention as every movement springs from a relationship to another. Groups joined in references to the community of folk dance; couples appeared in passages of enveloping and unfolding. Spring and fall is of course a literal reference to dance itself and to dancers.
All the dancing is excellent, but Alina Cojocaru in particular is stunning; vulnerable, tender, passionate, delicate and powerful. When she stretched out her hand toward the man who stood with his back to her, the simple gesture told the whole story of their lives at that moment. She also had a superb moment when with her arms curved above her head, she contracted, bowed and was suddenly released with a breath that impelled her across the stage as if toward a loved one. The pas de deux between Cojocaru and Alejandro Virelles was magical in its dramatic tension and vulnerability. It was the longest section of the ballet and I could have watched it forever. The final moment, when Cojocaru raised her arms and ran forward, her whole body and face an expression of pure joy was forever memorable.
The third piece was In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, a ballet of harsh, driving energy that doesn’t let up its jazzy physicality for a second and leaves the audience very elevated indeed. Again, Cojocaru was magnificent as were Begonia Cao and Laura Summerscales. An exhilarating finale.
These three ballets are called ‘contemporary’ but all three choreographers owe a great deal to classical ballet and in this wonderful production it shows, both in the structure of the ballets themselves and the way in which the company of classically trained dancers are completely at home with contemporary movement. While watching, I remembered what a division there was in the past between classical and contemporary dance when these three choreographers began to work, and how much the blurring of that line has benefitted dance in general.
An evening of total joy.
Review by Kate Beswick
Modern Masters honours the work of three of the most influential and creative choreographers of the 20th Century, and brings two new works to English National Ballet’s repertoire.
Choreography: Jiří Kylián
Music: W.A. Mozart
Set Design: Jiří Kylián
Costume Design: Joke Visser
Light Design: Jiří Kylián (Concept) Joop Caboort (realisation)
Technical Superviser: Kees Tjebbes
SPRING AND FALL
Choreography: John Neumeier
Music: Antonín Dvořák
Light and Costume Design: John Neumeier
IN THE MIDDLE, SOMEWHAT ELEVATED
Choreography: William Forsythe
Music: Thom Willems in collaboration with Les Stuck
Stage, Light and Costume Design: William Forsythe
Sadler’s Wells, London
10th March 2015 to 15th March 2015
Thursday 12th March 2015