Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Under the directorship of Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet has seen a dramatic shift in its public image. A marketing campaign screaming fashion and glamour was designed to appeal to diverse audiences, while touring has expanded to reach new venues, including the prestigious Palais Garnier in Paris. Repertoire has developed too, with Rojo commissioning new works by leading names including Liam Scarlett and Akram Khan, and programming an all-female evening of choreography for 2016.
English National Ballet’s latest performance, Modern Masters at Sadler’s Wells (another new venue and important artistic collaboration for the company), is a testament to the power of Rojo’s leadership. In three contemporary ballets (with no tutus in sight), the company excels, looking as strong, confident and dynamic as we’ve ever seen them.
Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort is a dance of six women, six men and six foils. Set to a sublime score by Mozart — played beautifully by the English National Ballet Philharmonic and pianist Chris Swithinbank — dancers sculpted themselves with remarkable ease into an array of striking and intricate poses. Ksenia Ovsyanick and James Forbat (pictured) shone particularly for their fluidity of movement and sizzling chemistry onstage. The only problem with Petite Mort is that it ends all too quickly.
John Neumeier’s Spring and Fall explores both the verbs and seasons of its title. Although choreography is abstract, there are hundreds of hints of narrative and character in both Neumeier’s movements and the accompanying moods of Antonín Dvořák’s score. Leading the cast, Alina Cojocaru and Alejandro Virelles seemed like a romantic couple, experiencing the first pangs of love and then maturing as the ballet progressed. Cojocaru stood out particularly with her effortless balances and fearless jumps into her partner’s arms.
Closing the evening, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is a dancer’s endurance test. To an electric soundscape of bangs and crashes, nine performers — costumed simply in leotards and tights — leap, spin and extend their legs far beyond 180 degrees. We felt exhausted just watching, but the company barely even broke a sweat.
Modern Masters is at Sadler’s Wells until Sunday. Tickets are available from the Sader’s Wells website. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.