Posts Tagged ‘James Forbat’

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.

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, December 2011

12 December, 2011

The original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann  interweaves the real and magical worlds, with Drosselmeyer’s toy Nutcracker based on his own nephew. Wayne Eagling’s production, based on a joint idea with Toer van Schayk, combines the two worlds in various clever ways and the nephew, who appears in the party scene of Act I, later interchanges with the Nutcracker several times.

Photos by Annabel Moeller

At the end of Act I, Clara, Drosselmeyer and the Nutcracker escape in a balloon, with the Mouse King clinging on below and quietly disengaging himself at the start of the second Act. Later he and the Nutcracker fight again, and this time it’s the Nutcracker who delivers the fatal thrust of his sword. Clara’s brother Freddie reappears in Act II as a prisoner in the Arabian dance, and she and Drosselmeyer come on to help him escape. Then right at the very end of the ballet when the guests leave the house, the balloon reappears just for a moment, hovering in the background.

Despite these clever inventions this is a traditional production and it works very well indeed. I loved the choreography for Clara and the Nutcracker in the late Act I snow scene, and the main ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ pas-de-deux was beautifully danced by Crystal Costa as Clara, and Jonah Acosta as the Nephew, both making their debuts in these roles. She was beautifully musical, showing superb control in her solos, and he danced strongly, exhibiting fine coupé jetés around the stage.

The Spanish dance was performed with great musicality and fluidity by Anjuli Hudson, Laurretta Summerscales and Anton Lukovkin, the Arabian dance was well performed by James Streeter and ladies, along with Barry Drummond looking suitably naïve as the prisoner, and the other character dances all went well. Eagling has changed the choreography for the Mirlitons, eliminating the three boys who chase the butterfly, but keeping the butterfly, delightfully danced by Adela Ramírez, along with Drosselmeyer. One critic wondered why there were two names in the programme for Mirlitons, but of course the other is Drosselmeyer, danced here by Daniel Jones, making his debut in the role. The lead flowers were Chantel Roulston and Jenna Lee, partnered by Fabian Reimair and by Junor Souza, who also performed very well as the Mouse King, with James Forbat as a fine Nutcracker.

The whole performance came over with a sense of magic, and David Richardson’s lighting gives a sudden mysteriously warm glow after the main Act II pas-de-deux, just before everyone comes on for the final waltz. Peter Farmer’s sets work beautifully, and the conducting by Gavin Sutherland was excellent. The London Coliseum is a great auditorium for dance, so if you want a Nutcracker with fine choreography, dancing and musical excitement, do not hesitate.

Performances at the London Coliseum continue until December 30 — for details click here.

Swan Lake, English National Ballet, ENB, London Coliseum, March 2011

23 March, 2011

With the recent success of the movie Black Swan, Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake is filling auditoriums, so tickets are getting scarce. In London at the moment both the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet have productions on stage, so there’s a choice. If you want to hear Tchaikovsky, then I’d go to the London Coliseum where Gavin Sutherland’s conducting drives the music forward in a dramatic way, and if you like designs and choreography, then I’d also go to the Coliseum to see the ENB’s production. Its choreography by Derek Deane, based on Ivanov and Petipa, works very well, as do the wonderful designs by Peter Farmer, most beautifully lit by Howard Harrison.

It’s remarkable how the sets and lighting create the sense of a mysterious outer world beyond the peasant domain in Act I, and the courtly world of Act III. In Acts II and IV we are of course in that outer world, lit by a full moon, and this production even gives us a glimpse of it during the overture by showing the evil Von Rothbart capturing a princess and turning her into a swan trapped by his spell.

all photos by Daria Klimentova

As for the dancing and movement on stage, the peasant pas-de-douze in Act I was charmingly performed, creating a sense of space and movement, and the pas-de-quatre, with Begoña Cao, James Forbat, Laurretta Summerscales and Max Westwell was terrific. The conducting gave a tremendous sense of rhythm and forward movement when Jane Haworth entered as Prince Siegfried’s mother, elegant and with a hugely engaging stage presence. The music fits Derek Deane’s choreography perfectly, and the lighting is magical for Arionel Vargas’s solo ‘soliloquy’ as the Prince, with a spot on him as the rest of the stage shades into irreality.

The four cygnets

In Act II, Fabian Reimair’s Von Rothbart moved dramatically, with great presence, and Elena Glurdjidze was a marvellous Swan Queen. Her pas-de-deux with Arionel Vargas, just before the cygnets enter, was beautifully done and she ended it with a palpable sense of regret that she is still trapped by Von Rothbart. His dramatic reappearance in Act III with his two scabrous, bald-headed followers, provided a much needed antidote to the tension between the Prince and his mother, which was very well portrayed.

Elena Glurdjidze as the black swan

When Elena Glurdjidze reappears as the black swan, Von Rothbart exudes elegance and seriousness, before taking a more active — perhaps too active — part in the amorous attraction of the prince towards his scheming daughter. The pas-de-deux between Prince and Black Swan had tremendous rhythmic energy, brilliantly supported by the orchestra under Gavin Sutherland. There was only a slight disconnect between dancer and conductor here, but the forceful playing of the orchestra is the way it should be done, and in Act IV as the Prince enters, the drums beat for all they are worth.

This was a hugely enjoyable performance, and finding tickets is well worth whatever effort it takes. Performances at the Coliseum continue only until March 26 — for more details click here.

Nutcracker, English National Ballet, ENB at the London Coliseum, December 2010

11 December, 2010

Nutcracker is based on a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann that beautifully interweaves the real world with the magical world, all under the enchanting influence of Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer. On the other hand Tchaikovsky’s ballet creates a greater distinction between the two worlds, and linking them more intimately is a potential challenge for any production. This one by Wayne Eagling involves some interesting ideas. For example, the mouse king is not killed in Act I but lives on into Act II, clinging to the carriage of a balloon that takes Clara and the Nutcracker away from the snow scene at the end of the first Act. He’s then killed during the second Act in a small theatre on stage, which serves as a background for the character dances.

In the Hoffmann original the Nutcracker is a magical version of Drosselmeyer’s nephew, a feature represented in Eagling’s production by having the two characters interchange on stage several times. For instance during a pas-de-trois for Nutcracker, Drosselmeyer and Clara, the Nutcracker transforms into the nephew and dances with her alone. And rather than having Clara as an onlooker during the festivities of Act II, she is a participant, coming on during the Arabian dance to release a prisoner from bondage, and later dancing with her prince as if she were the sugar plum fairy. The Spanish, Chinese, and Russian dances, along with the dance of the flowers, are of the usual type, but the dance of the mirlitons becomes a pas-de-quatre for three boys and a girl who represents a butterfly that eventually falls prey to Drosselmeyer’s net. These aspects of the production help to link the real and the magical, but I missed any representation of the Mother Ginger episode whose music I love. I also missed the final bars at the end, which were cut to leave everything quietly as it was in the prologue, with the exterior of the parents’ house on stage, and Clara and her brother creeping out for some fresh air.

The prologue — during the orchestral overture — started very well with ice skaters in front of the parents’ house, but Act I didn’t really gel on the first night. Things warmed up in Act II and the pas-de-deux between Daria Klimentova as Clara, and Vadim Muntagirov as her prince, was terrific. His lines were beautifully clean and their dancing had real élan. There were also some wonderful performances in the character dances particularly Shiori Kase in the Chinese dance, and the leading flowers Begoña Cao and Sarah McIlroy with their partners Daniel Kraus and James Forbat danced beautifully.

The designs by Peter Farmer gave a sense of solidity to the real world, and a lightness of touch to the magical. The Christmas tree grew while the mice were dancing and then transformed itself into a snow-covered tree for the rest of Act I. This is a Nutcracker interweaving the real and the magical, though the first night may not have shown it to best advantage, and the orchestral playing under the baton of Gavin Sutherland seemed a little uneven. It will surely settle down later, and performances continue until December 30 — for more details click here.