Posts Tagged ‘Esteban Berlanga’

Ecstasy and Death, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, April 2013

19 April, 2013

This intriguing triple bill is the first programme artistic director Tamara Rojo has put together for the Company, and she even dances in it herself.

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

Rojo and le Riche, all images ENB/ David Jensen

The second item Le Jeune Homme et la Mort is worth the whole programme, and on the first night Rojo was the coolly callous young woman, with Nicolas le Riche, star of the Paris Opéra Ballet, as the young painter driven to madness by her strangely cold attraction. Roland Petit’s gloriously expressive choreography shows him to be in a state of nervous tension and exhaustion, and le Riche gave a riveting portrayal of his emotional despair. Two other performers will dance the role in the present run of performances, guest artist Ivan Putrov and Company member Fabian Reimair. As the girl, Tamara Rojo in her yellow dress, and later the mask of death, showed superb manipulation and indifference.

This extraordinary 1946 work, to a libretto by Jean Cocteau, formed an electrifyingly creative collaboration in post-Liberation Paris. For the music, he and Petit finally settled on Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor — at the dress rehearsal! The Bach was very strongly played under principal conductor Gavin Sutherland who gave fine musical direction to the evening, with Chris Swithinbank at the piano in Mozart’s Concertos K488 and K467 for the first item Petite Mort.

Petite Mort

Petite Mort

The French term la petite mort is an idiomatic euphemism for sexual orgasm, and the rapiers in Jiří Kylián’s choreography suggest a dichotomy between assertiveness and oblivion for the six couples. The men performed superbly with their rapiers, setting them in motion on the stage as if moving in unison of their own accord. Excellent rehearsal preparation must have led to this precision, and the unusual and very physical choreography was crisply and energetically performed by the twelve dancers.

Etudes

Etudes

The Company is at the top of its game, and the final Etudes was beautifully danced. Choreography is by Harald Lander, director of the Royal Danish Ballet, who created this work in 1948 to orchestral music by Knudåge Riisager, based on Czerny’s renowned piano exercises. It reveals a ballet class with a difference, as it starts with twelve girls in black tutus at the barre forming four sets of three, then three sets of four, each set in unison but different from the others. It then slowly opens out to other dancers, ending with nearly forty on stage. As the leading girl, Erina Takahashi showed lovely gentle movements, and her partners James Forbat, Esteban Berlanga and Vadim Muntagirov danced with fine precision. Muntagirov in particular showed a relaxed nobility of posture and line that was very attractive.

This  triple bill shows the Company to perfection, and performances continue until April 21 — for details click here.

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The Nutcracker with Klimentová and Muntagirov, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2012

15 December, 2012

The clever concept behind English National Ballet’s Nutcracker is not that the toy comes to life, but that in Clara’s mind he takes on the form of Drosselmeyer’s handsome nephew, seen in a blue uniform at the party in Act I. After the death of the Mouse King, which occurs in Act II of this production, the nephew becomes the Nutcracker, and towards the end, in new costumes, he and Clara dance the Sugar Plum fairy pas-de-deux.

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

Mouse King, ENB image Patrick Baldwin

The way this concept is really brought to life by Toer van Schayk and Wayne Eagling is to have two Nutcrackers. The one with a painted mask on his face is the toy come to life, the one without a mask is Clara’s vision of him as the Nephew. They interchange for the first time after the snow scene in Act I, and the masked Nutcracker only finally disappears in early Act II after killing the Mouse King, who survived Act I and hung on to the balloon taking Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker to the land of Sweets.

ENB image Annabel Moeller

ENB image Annabel Moeller

Having the final battle in Act II is unusual but Wayne Eagling’s production is otherwise entirely standard, starting and ending with Clara’s bedroom and skaters on the ice outside the house. The party scene in Act I is a spontaneous medley of dancing, action, and conjuring tricks from Fabian Reimair as a fine Drosselmeyer. He twice alters the hands of the clock, the second occasion being when the young Clara, beautifully played by Annabella Sanders, gets out of bed after the party to go downstairs. Drosselmeyer turns the time to midnight, and the magic starts.

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Clara and Nutcracker, image Patrick Baldwin

Fine performances by James Forbat and James Streeter as Nutcracker and Mouse King, and the grown-up Clara was Daria Klimentová with Vadim Muntagirov as the Nephew. They were superb together, a real treat to watch.

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

Nephew as Nutcracker Prince, image Baldwin

In the Arabian dance Clara joins in to release the prisoner, none other than her own grown-up brother Freddie, who also appeared earlier to help battle the mice. In the Mirliton variation, which in this production is for one girl as a butterfly partnered by Drosslemeyer, Ksenia Ovsyanick was beautifully fluid in her movements. It was a star turn of the evening, but there was fine dancing all round and Esteban Berlanga as one of the Cavaliers in the Waltz of the Flowers was wonderfully precise and on the music.

Lovely designs by Peter Farmer, well lit by David Richardson, and good musical direction by Gavin Sutherland from the orchestra pit, always sensitive to the tempos for the dancers.

Nutcracker not to be missed, but performances finish on January 5 and tickets are now few and far between — for details click here.

Petit Triple Bill: L’Arlésienne, Le jeune homme et la mort, Carmen, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, July 2011

23 July, 2011

Roland Petit died less than two weeks ago, and the remarkable timing of this triple bill made it a wonderful tribute to his choreography. That I happened to go on July 22, rather than the first night was entirely fortuitous, and we were rewarded by an incredible performance of Le jeune homme brilliantly danced by guest artist Ivan Vasiliev, shown in the photo below and making his debut with the company.

Ivan Vasiliev in Jeune Homme, photo by Laurent Liotardo

I’ll come back to this wholly unexpected treat later, but things started more gently with L’Arlésienne, based on a short story and play by Alphonse Daudet. It expresses the anguish and eventual suicide of a young man who cannot forget a woman in Arles. Despite having a lovely fiancée and a group of peasant friends who try to support him, he descends into madness and ends up throwing himself out of a window. The choreography is intriguing, and reminiscent of that wonderful Ballets Russes work Les Noces, showing a wedding ceremony in a tightly knit peasant society. The music for L’Arlésienne was written by Bizet for the original play, and will be familiar from two orchestral suites that are often played. The ensemble dancing was excellent, and Erina Takehashi gave a lovely portrayal of the girl, so full of life. By contrast the young man is heading for death, and although Esteban Berlanga danced it with huge energy, warming to the agony as the ballet progressed, his emotion seemed unconvincing.

Esteban Berlanga in L'Arlésienne, photo by Simon Tomkinson

Carmen, the last item on the programme, is great fun, but to those who know Bizet’s opera the music is not always used for the same scenes in the ballet, and the characterisation is confusing. Don Jose with his cape looks more like a toreador than a simple soldier, and the Toreador himself, who comes in towards the end, is rather too camp. But Adela Ramirez as the Bandit girl was sexy, sassy and adorable, very well supported by Juan Rodriguez and Joshua McSherry-Gray as the bandits. Fabian Reimair was a stylish Don Jose, proudly assertive at the start yet showing a slow descent to desperation, and Begoña Cao was a fiercely cold Carmen. More warmth and emotion from the two main characters would have been welcome, but that had already come in bucketfuls from Ivan Vasiliev in the second item of the programme.

Begoña Cao and Fabian Reimair in Carmen, photo by Patrick Baldwin

Vasiliev was quite extraordinary, and apparently wanted to dance  Jeune Homme as a tribute to Roland Petit’s widow Zizi Jeanmaire. He gave it everything: enormous feeling, terrifying acrobatics, and hugely suppressed desire and emotion. His nemesis was Jia Zhang as the girl — the femme fatale who takes him to his death. She was superbly controlled and manipulative, and immensely desirable in her yellow dress. As he grasped her wrist he gave her a look of quiet desperation, and the two of them together created a glorious effect. In the final minute and a half the room vanishes and we see rooftops. It’s a fabulous set, costing an arm and a leg, but worth every penny, and this was a truly memorable occasion. Wonderful conducting by Benjamin Pope, particularly of the Bach music for Jeune Homme.

We don’t see enough of Roland Petit’s work in this country so go to this if you have the chance. Performances continue until July 24 — for details click here.