ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET Diamond Jubilee Gala Season
|Added:||14 June 2012|
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The Concourse Theatre, Sydney,
The English National Ballet’s season at Chatswood’s new Concourse Theatre was well marketed and advertised in the weeks leading up to the company’s arrival. On opening night it was clear that a lot of care had been taken in organising the visit and making this a night to be remembered. But the dancers lacked polish and consistency throughout, ultimately failing to live up to the hype that had been created. The dancers had an engagingly positive energy and spontaneity but appeared hampered by a lack of depth to the stage, resulting in some issues with spacing. Meanwhile some untidy footwork was highlighted by the dancers’ proximity to the audience (unavoidable due to the steeply raked seating in the auditorium) and less than flattering lighting. In spite of this the highlights, namely performances by senior principals Elena Glurdjidze, Vadim Muntagirov and Daria Klimentova, carried the evening and made it all worthwhile.
Muntagirov and Klimentova, a partnership that has been making waves in London, were prominently displayed throughout the program. The pair complemented each other well as partners, both visually with matching proportions and extensions, and artistically by co-ordinating line and musicality. As well as leading roles in the two main works, George Balanchine’s Apollo and Serge Lifar’s Suite en blanc, they also danced the Black Swan pas de deux, giving the audience a chance to see their versatility in contrasting styles of classical dance. They delivered neat interpretations of Apollo’s pared back neoclassicism and Suite en blanc’s heavily stylised French chic but shone brightest in the iconic Black Swan pas de deux, despite Daria Klimentova’s loss of control in the final sequence of fouettes.
For my money the most beguiling performance came from Glurdjidze, whose appearances were a rare treat and a reminder of classical ballet’s rich European heritage. Seen firstly in the pas de deux from Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon, she had a vividly expressive quality that reached across the footlights into the auditorium, easily overshadowing a few fumbled moments with partner Arionel Vargas. In the Cigarette solo of Suite en blanc she revealed exquisite style and authority of performance.
With a relatively small contingent of 22 dancers taking part, only about a third of the English National Ballet, program choices must have been considerably limited. The combination of two one act ballets and three divertissements seemed to place it in a no-man’s land between gala and triple bill. The program did not feel well balanced and was fairly colourless (so many white costumes!) but offered plenty of rewards for ballet lovers as well as the chance to compare and contrast choreography from sources as varied as Balanchine, MacMillan, Petipa, Lifar and Van Manen.
- GERALDINE HIGGINSON