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  1. Thank you very much for this! I thought it might be for comfort at first because both Cao and Khaniukova almost caress the jacket and then sniff it (as they 'sniff' Rivera on their first encounter - something Ochoa was very specific about in her masterclass) but this reference to yet another of her paintings shows how much there is to discover in this ballet, as I found on each of my six viewings of it this time round! A DVD would certainly be very welcome!
  2. No, not possible. As far as I could see, having watched it six times (!), Francesca Velicu and Emily Suzuki danced the same 'role' each time, whether or not they ended up being the chosen one. When Francesca Velicu was the chosen one, Precious Adams did the 'role' I have mentioned Sarah Kundi dancing in the other performances so she seemed to be the only one dancing different choreography when and when not dancing the chosen one but, as far as I remember, she did not dance the 'matriarchal' role (as I have named it) during the one show I saw when Emily Suzuki danced the chosen one. Therefore, until they step out of the circle, it really is impossible for the audience to tell (and the order of this is obviously carefully worked out before each show so that the dress/es are handed to each other in the correct order).
  3. By a stroke of luck, I was able to attend the last performance of this triple bill yesterday evening at Sadler’s Wells. It means I have been able to see five out of Khaniukova’s six performances as Frida in “Broken Wings” and it has been a joy and a privilege to watch her develop the character since I first saw her in the masterclass at Markova House two weeks before opening night. While she has captured Frida’s zest for life, especially in the vivacious pas de deux with Barry Drummond as the Young Boy and in her mischievous interplay with the skeletons, it is her depiction of tragedy and Frida’s dogged determination to overcome it which I feel has matured in her interpretation over the past ten days. The miscarriage scene was especially heartrending as she seemed to cling on to the ribbon with all her might, as was the despair on her face and in her body language as this was ripped from her hands. After she has caught Diego with his mistress and puts on his jacket as if for comfort, the ensuing pas de deux with the skeleton in the green skirt (Junor Souza) was particularly violent last night, as if Frida were fighting with herself (the skeleton wears the yellow headdress of flowers which Diego had placed on her head earlier to symbolise their love) to rid herself of her demons, i.e. her failing health and increasing disability. Above all, I was moved by the final pas de deux at the moment when, to the plangent piano solo exquisitely played by Julia Richter, Diego tries to attract her attention and the far-away look on her face, especially in her eyes, indicates she is already lost to the world. There is a brief flicker of recognition and a playful kiss, reminiscent of their first meeting, and a last attempt to ‘fly’ (which Khaniukova does with a wonderful awkwardness to show that, in reality, Frida’s leg had been amputated by this point) before she collapses. As with all the performances I have seen, the bird (Adriana Lizardi) fluttering above her tomb is a totally uplifting experience after this gentlest of deaths. Khaniukova has shown in these performances what an exceptional artist she is, both technically and artistically, and I hope this will lead to her being featured more regularly when it comes to casting major roles in ENB’s repertoire. Another exceptional artist who proved that she has the ability to make something special out of the smallest of roles is Jia Zhang who appeared as the stag/deer in this performance, making her encounter with Frida and her death something very moving. It has also been a delight to have the great Mukhamedov back onstage, a dream partner for Khaniukova and for Alison McWhinney as the Mistress, perfectly capturing Diego Rivera’s larger than life personality. My one regret is that I was only able to see one performance by the magnificent Begoña Cao as Frida but I hope this work will be revived soon or that the company acquires the planned full-length version by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. As a point of interest, she posted on her Facebook page that five of her ballets were being presented in five different countries last night – quite an achievement! “Nora” received another quality performance from Jeffrey Cirio, Junor Souza and, above all, Crystal Costa, not forgetting the crucial contribution from the Five Voices. I note that some members on here have mentioned that they did not think Torvald looked like an abusive husband and that they looked too happy together. This is where I think Quagebeur has scored, in showing that domestic abuse in the form of controlling behaviour is insidious in nature and it may take a very long time for the victim to realise that he/she is being abused, as it does in Ibsen’s play. For Nora, as we learn from the play, this comes after many years of being treated as the “little woman” with no mind of her own and being the child-like creature her husband desires. For the first time last night, I noticed how much the set reflects Nora’s transformation. During the final pas de deux with Torvald when she resists his advances, the black curtains gradually enclose the box representing their home, leaving only the small ‘doorway’ through which she finally leaves. As this also closes, and Torvald is left alone, the structure of the house he has created breaks up (this I have noticed at all other performances), as if his carefully constructed world has come crashing down around him. The evening finished with another awe-inspiring performance from the dancers and orchestra of ‘Sacre’, featuring Precious Adams once more as the chosen one in her visceral interpretation of the sacrificial dance. This was the third time I had seen her and my only regret was that I had not seen Emily Suzuki once more so that I would have seen two performances each by all three of the chosen ones. It seems invidious to single out dancers for special praise in such an otherwise ensemble piece, but I have been very impressed by the athleticism of Pedro Lapetra and Eric Woolhouse (sadly absent last night) amongst the men, and the beauty yet rawness of movement of Sarah Kundi as one of the more featured females who has found herself flung against James Streeter’s face to sit astride his shoulders at most of the performances I have seen and who has an almost matriarchal gravitas as the chosen one seems to plead for her help. As always, the star for me was the music, superbly conducted by Gavin Sutherland, and it was rather wonderful to see the mutual admiration between the orchestra and the dancers as they applauded each other during the curtain calls. Having been intrigued by the two red dresses, I watched very carefully last night and it appears that the second dress Is actually inside the first dress and the girls very discreetly separate the two while they are grouped in the tightly-knit circle before the selection begins.
  4. On Monday it was the wonderful Emily Suzuki and she chose not to. At the 'Creatives' session on Tuesday, the two representatives of the Pina Bausch Foundation did say there was room for interpretation within the choreography. Quite frankly, I find bearing a breast adds nothing to the performance. It was very much the trend in the 1970s to feature nudity within new works (strangely, complete nudity for male dancers, apart from Pilobolus, quickly went out of fashion because part of the male anatomy refused to be choreographed, leading to a famous headline by dance writer Deborah Jowitt!) so that element of the piece is very much of its time.
  5. Petperj, you are absolutely correct! There were two red dresses although I don't think we are supposed to notice this. Certainly from the stalls point of view the dancers take great pains to hide the second dress and I only noticed because I was looking for it specifically after you mentioned it. I did not see when they fetched the second one (presumably as the girls gathered into the circle) but the girl who throws the 'used' one into the wings (Anjuli Hudson) was was well hidden by the others and the whole thing was done very discreetly (but obviously not discreetly enough for your sharp eyes!). I was actually quite relieved about this because last week I was thinking how unhygienic it was for the chosen one (another searing performance last night by Precious Adams) to have to put on a dress that has been ground into the dirt by not one but two people lying on it and then tossed around by dancers who are inevitably perspiring a lot by that point! The ballet as a whole still does nothing for me apart from increasing my admiration for the energy and commitment of the amazing dancers of ENB (something which has been a hallmark of the company for the 40+ years I have been watching them). I don't think there is anything more I can say about "Broken Wings" except that Khaniukova and Mukhamedov gave another heartrending performance. Since it has been announced that Lopez Ochoa is creating a full-length version for Dutch National Ballet, I can only hope it will be a co-production with ENB! With regard to the Grayson Perry frontcloth, this has definitely been there for all the performances and is raised about five minutes before the scheduled curtain-up. However, as there have been a few delayed starts due to the getting the capacity audiences into their seats, it may be that it has sometimes been raised about ten minutes before the actual curtain-up. There is a little note at the bottom of the cast sheet to indicate it is by Grayson Perry and was commissioned for the 2016 triple bill (the people behind me last night thought it was by Frida Kahlo!).
  6. I haven't notice the second red dress so far but I have been sitting in the stalls so perhaps that is why. I shall look out for it tonight!
  7. Are you sure it was the red dress which was thrown off stage? The 'white' dress she wears up until that point is thrown offstage. Whoever is dancing the chosen one is informed during the afternoon of the performance by the repetiteurs from the Bausch Foundation (as far as I am aware) although those dancing it in the run are informed during rehearsals, just not which shows they will be doing (a bit difficult on them to let friends etc. know, especially when the shows sell out like they have this time!) The edges of the soil have to be visible - if they went as far as the side curtains, these would need cleaning after each performance, otherwise there is a chance the dirt would rub off on anyone brushing against the curtains in the other pieces.
  8. I made another trip to the Wells last night for what I believe will be the final debuts in the programme. Fabian Reimair gave his one and only performance as Diego Rivera in “Broken Wings”. Barely recognisable in the obligatory fat-suit, he gave us a completely believable human being, flawed but thoroughly likeable, even when tempted away from Frida by the beguiling Adela Ramirez as the mistress. I hope Reimair will take it as a compliment that, although he did not have quite the charisma of Mukhamedov in the role, he came a very close second! His very secure partnering made all the quirky lifts in his first encounter with Frida look effortless and there was a palpable chemistry between the two of them. Khaniukova goes from strength to strength in her increasingly confident and captivating portrayal of Frida. For me, she has always been a most soulful dancer, witnessed in her only performance in ENB’s “Giselle” (Skeaping version) in Belfast in 2017, repeating the entire role again in Ukrainian National Ballet’s production just ten days before her debut as Frida. She is also capable of great technical brilliance and brio, as seen in her show-stopping performances in Ivan Putrov’s gala last Sunday. (With another gala in Kiev this coming Sunday, life must seem like a whirlwind for her at the moment!) She uses all of these facets of her dancing and personality to further enrich her remarkable interpretation of Frida. There was even more passion in her dance with the skeleton in green, which to me represents her final struggle with life. I found the scene in which she kills the stag (a reference to Frida’s painting, “The Wounded Deer”) especially poignant, due in no small part to the beautiful interpretation by Jia Zhang. However, it was her final encounter with Diego which I found the most moving, actually moving me to tears as he tenderly lifted her completely broken body (and, like Cao the night before, Khaniukova’s ability to make herself look utterly fragile is astonishing) and placed her lovingly against the butterfly painting, giving her the gentlest of kisses as he leaves her. As always with Reimair, his emotions appear completely natural and, as the doors of the box close on Frida, his grief was palpable as he dropped to his knees and sobbed. “Nora” was given another searing performance by Crystal Costa, Jeffrey Cirio and Junor Souza, with company pianist Chris Swithinbank shining in Philip Glass’s “Tirol” Concerto. Once again, I discovered new details in the choreography, particularly in Costa’s tour de force performance. In ‘Sacre’, Precious Adams made her debut as the chosen one in a solo of almost primordial ferocity although, for me, I still find Emily Suzuki’s interpretation the most breath-taking. For those not familiar with all of ENB’s dancers, I would like to pay tribute to Shiori Kase, the only one of the company’s principal dancers to appear in ‘Sacre’ as ‘one of the crowd’ in all these performances.
  9. Try calling the box office. I managed to buy one for a friend for tomorrow evening when I was there this afternoon. It was the only return at that stage for tomorrow but there might be others by tomorrow and perhaps for other nights. In answer to your previous question about "Broken Wings" being longer than before, the dance for the ten male Fridas has been extended, purely for the practical reason of giving Frida more time to sort out her hair etc. before she appears in the long orange skirt for the first time. In the Q&A session before tonight's show, the dramaturg said that the skeletons' dance had also been extended but I'm not sure where and she didn't elaborate.
  10. I was back at the Wells last night (Monday) to see some major cast changes in all three ballets. It was Begoña Cao’s visceral, no-holds-barred Frida which completely sold me on “Broken Wings” in 2016 and last night she proved yet again what an exceptional artist she is. Long, lean and beautiful, she bears no physical resemblance to the Frida we have come to know through photographs and paintings but she has the ability to get under her skin completely and show us the multi-faceted personality and strength of character of this amazing woman through all her trials and tribulations. From her first appearance on top of the box as a young girl, there is Frida’s confidence and love of life in her interplay with the skeletons and then the youthful abandon of the pas de deux with the Young Boy, in which she was securely and sympathetically partnered by William Beagley, with her gloriously long legs and arms making the most beautiful shapes. As in the final scenes of her Manon, following Frida’s accident, Cao made her whole body look fragile and vulnerable, especially when she is first confined to the bed, giving all the angular movements as she tries to come to terms with her injuries a real poignancy, culminating in the moment when she curls herself up, facing the back of the box, her beautifully expressive neck taking on a particularly dejected quality. It was interesting to note that, with Cao being the same height as most of the male Fridas, when she was dancing with them, she became completely integrated with her many alter-egos and, along with the men, the way she moved her skirt to create beautiful images was mesmerising. Her first encounter with Diego Rivera (James Streeter) was particularly seductive as she very provocatively bent forward and lifted up her skirt and, of course, with her Spanish heritage, the nod to flamenco hand movements seems second nature to her. Again, during the pas de deux, there was such beauty of movement, peppered with the wonderfully quirky gestures Ochoa has created to show the volatile, playful and passionate relationship between the two. At this stage, Streeter’s Diego is rather tame compared to the blazing light of Cao’s Frida, but I am sure it must be almost impossible to fill the shoes of the charismatic Mukhamedov in this role (or in any other, for that matter!). The miscarriage scene was intensely moving, with Cao’s fragility again visible in her throes of agony and then desperately trying to keep hold of the red ribbon. There was a nice little cameo from Adela Ramirez, again adding an authentic Spanish flavour to her movements, as Diego’s mistress, provoking a visible bubbling up of anger in Cao and lashing out at Diego. As previously, I found Cao’s anguish as her leg fails her almost unbearable in its emotional intensity and it seems her anger is given full vent in the almost violent pas de deux with the skeleton in the green skirt who seems to taunt her. As she is surrounded by all the images from her paintings and kills the stag, which I take to be symbolic of realising her own life is ending, Cao presents us with all the anger and frustration of one whose life is ending far too soon. I find the moment when Diego places her in the box and she becomes the butterfly preserved forever such a beautiful, calming moment, as uplifting as the bird fluttering above her which closes the ballet. Cao’s total artistry in this role, as with everything else she does, is a joy and a privilege to behold. There was a complete change of principals in “Nora”, with Erina Takahashi making a triumphant debut in the title role. She has such a childlike appearance that it makes her treatment by Torvald and Krogstad exceptionally poignant. Her glorious, understated technique is showcased by Quagebeur’s fluid choreography in which Nora is dancing for almost the entire twenty-five minutes of the piece. Joseph Caley as Torvald and Henry Dowden as Krogstad make less of an impact in their roles than Jeffrey Cirio and Junor Souza but Takahashi more than makes up for this in the way she responds to the unfortunate chain of events. After her husband’s angry outburst, her face so perfectly demonstrates her hurt, incomprehension and final realisation of what his controlling has done to her. I particularly liked the way she refused to play the little hand game with him that seems to symbolise how he controls her to remain a child he can manipulate. Another wonderful interpretation from one of ENB’s most cherished dancers who, like Cao, does not always seem to get the recognition she so richly deserves. In ‘Sacre’, I was quite simply blown away by Emily Suzuki as the chosen one. All through the autumn, I was impressed by the beauty of her classical dancing and now she has shown a completely different side. I was mesmerised by the intelligence and maturity of her artistry in this role, especially in one so young! Whereas with Velicu I felt the sacrificial dance was an anti-climax after her intensely moving reaction before it, with Suzuki the dance suddenly came alive for me with the power of her movement and her musicality. She has such very strong legs and she used these to create sharp pauses in the action, perfectly complementing the music, holding a leg in the air in a tip-tilted ā la seconde position for just long enough to create a breath-taking image full of anguish before collapsing. Likewise the timing of her self-flagellations – there was a jagged rhythm to these which again reflected the music. Each time she collapsed onto the ground, it seemed totally spontaneous and real, as did her final death throe. I do hope I will see this remarkable interpretation again during the week. As always, Gavin Sutherland brought out the best in the fabulous ENB Phiharmonic. It just goes to show what tricks the brain can play – in my previous report I said that, in the signature step I liked so much, the body bend was towards the supporting leg. It is, of course towards the leg in retiré!
  11. Well that could explain it, but it is just MY opinion.
  12. I gave up going to galas many years ago as they were usually overpriced, over-long, under-rehearsed and the standard of dancing was not always as good as the names suggested. However, as I am a huge admirer of Katja Khaniukova, and the programme looked more interesting than most, I attended Ivan Putrov’s gala last night. Fresh from her triumphant debut in “Broken Wings”, for me, Khaniukova stole the show, not just with her brilliant dancing but also with her stage presence which lit up the vast auditorium. Admittedly, she and Dmitry Zagrebin gave us the only two real “party pieces” of the evening, those wonderful twentieth century warhorses “Flames of Paris” and “Diana and Actaeon” but what fabulous party pieces they are when danced with such exquisite technique and panache. Khaniukova gave us an immaculate set of thirty-two fouettés in each of the solos, starting each with a dazzling double and perhaps adding a few extra at the end. Equally impressive were her ballonnés en pointe in the ‘Flames’ solo, and all done with her totally disarming smile and the most beautiful relevés. Indeed, she appears to have been born en pointe, such was the ease and security with which she performed even the most fiendish of steps. Likewise, Zagrebin gave us plenty of fireworks and partnered her to perfection. As to the other pieces, some not seen on the London stage for many years, it is difficult to judge the performances objectively, having seen some of them performed by the dancers on whom they were created. Joaquin de Luz gave an especially entertaining rendition of Jerome Robbins’s “Suite of dances” but could not quite shake off the memory of Baryshnikov’s witty, seamless performance, but then who could?! Likewise, Putrov himself made a good attempt at Ashton’s “Dance of the blessed spirits” but I missed the purity of line and exceptional grace of its creator, Anthony Dowell. I do not remember having seen “In G pas” before and it was danced with cool elegance by Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle but I cannot hear that music without remembering the middle section of MacMillan’s “Fin de Jour” with Merle Park and Jennifer Penny being carried aloft and manipulated by the corps de ballet of men. Maria Kowroski also brought her cool elegance to ‘Diamonds’, partnered by Marcelo Gomes, but for me it did not sparkle quite enough as I did not feel they felt Tchaikovsky’s ravishing music throughout their bodies. “Sinatra Suite” was a joy, although with all pieces by Twyla Tharp, it goes on just a bit too long for my taste. However, the comedy and insouciance of it were well captured by Marcelo Gomes and Kate-Lynn Robichaux. From the Royal Ballet, we had the lovely Mayara Magri in “Images of Love” and, in a complete change of pace, in the beautiful Awakening pas de deux by Ashton. She is an exceptionally graceful, musical dancer and I only wish someone had given her a more beautiful costume for Aurora! It may have been the original design but it badly needed replacing! Matthew Ball was her partner in the pas de deux but I felt he fared better in the ‘Images’ pas de trois with Magri and Putrov, as his style seemed more suited to MacMillan. It was a treat to see this piece as, apart from photographs, it was completely new to me. The weakest link in the programme was Hannah O’Neill but I wonder if this may have been because she was a replacement (I don’t know how last-minute) for the advertised Eleonora Abbagnato (the only no-show!). For me, she did not have the beauty of line (her back foot in arabesque in particular) or the sense of chic for the “Suite en blanc” pas de deux and there seemed to be a few partnering difficulties in the pas de deux from Nureyev’s “Cinderella”. She was partnered in both by Mathieu Ganio and I wondered if perhaps they were not used to dancing together or perhaps he was just a tiny bit too short for her (this seemed to be the case for the ‘finger’ pirouettes). However, this is a small gripe in a thoroughly enjoyable evening which offered something for everyone and gave us a delightfully different evening from the galas I have avoided in the past! Despite over-running by about half an hour from the advertised finishing time, this was still a perfect length of programme, leaving us wanting more rather than wondering when the whole thing would be over!
  13. Yes, there is a bit of music added but I can't remember exactly where at the moment - I'll make a note when I see it again this week!
  14. I was very pleased that I was able to see Thursday’s performance and then Friday’s so that I could consolidate my thoughts and marvel at even more details in the first two pieces. I loved Ochoa’s “Broken Wings” when I first saw it in 2016. Spending most of my school years in Canada, I was extremely fortunate to have had a Spanish teacher who immersed us in Mexican and South American culture and history, as well as teaching us the language. And then there were the wonderful, vibrant performances of the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico on tour. Ochoa’s choreography and the colourful costumes brought back such vivid memories, along with the life-affirming music! I particularly like the set design by Dieuweke van Reij. The simple black box is such a potent image as it becomes the bed to which Frida was confined for so many months, with the mirrored sides representing the mirror her parents installed above her bed so that Frida became her own model for her portraits, then her refuge following her miscarriage and finally her tomb. The skeletons commenting on and driving the action forward are also highly evocative of Latin American culture with its Day of the Dead celebrations. Ochoa’s witty choreography for the male skeletons allows them to develop personalities through their very entertaining body language, despite being masked until the curtain calls. As they remained anonymous on the cast list, I will give their names here for the first two performances: James Forbat, Junor Souza, Daniel McCormick and Ken Saruhashi. The female skeletons, who first taunt Frida by dancing with her faithless husband and then console her after her miscarriage, were Tiffany Hedman, Jia Zhang, Isabelle Brouwers and Maria Jose Sales. The birds were Rina Kanehara, Adriana Lizardi and Anjuli Hudson. The stag was Rebecca Blenkinsop. It was impossible to identify all the male Fridas under their heavy make-up and I do feel it is a shame they are not credited on the cast sheet, especially as the entire cast for ‘Sacre’ is listed. It helps to have some knowledge of Frida Kahlo’s extraordinary life when watching this ballet but I feel Ochoa and her dramaturg, Nancy Meckler, have captured its essence through the key episodes they have chosen to portray. Katja Khaniukova, making her debut as Frida on opening night, was a triumph. She is far too pretty to physically resemble her, apart from being petite and copying her distinctive hairstyle, but she captured her spirit from the first enchanting pas de deux with Barry Drummond’s Young Boy, in which she was fun-loving, vivacious and headstrong. This is brought to an abrupt end by her horrific traffic accident, symbolised by the skeletons ‘punching’ her abdomen and then manipulating her in slow motion. Here, the anguish expressed by Khaniukova’s body language as her body is literally broken was heartrending, as was her terror, frustration and, finally, acceptance as she is confined to her bed in the body brace. I love the idea of her self-portraits coming to life, as the ‘male Fridas’ parade in with their elegant, mesmerising movements, all sporting headdresses and accessories from her paintings, and this is where the graceful use of skirts reminded me of the ballet folklorico. When Frida is liberated from her bed, she joins them so that they become the many facets of her personality, joining in her brazen seduction of Diego Rivera, performed by the legendary Irek Mukhamedov, charismatic as ever, despite his fat-suit and dishevelled appearance. What a masterstroke to set their extended pas de deux to the Mexican folksong “La Llorona” (the weeping woman) sung by Frida’s friend, Chavela Vargas, in which the volatility and passion of the ups and downs of their relationship is portrayed by Ochoa’s fascinating, liberating choreography and the palpable chemistry between Mukhamedov and Khaniukova. I have long admired the quality of Khaniukova’s dancing, mainly seen in purely classical roles but, having seen her extraordinary Novice in “The Cage” last year, it is clear she revels in challenges to her classical persona, especially portraying this earthy, sexy, passionate woman whose incredible strength in overcoming the astounding adversities life threw at her is so remarkably illustrated in this work. The pas de deux with Diego culminates in Frida’s miscarriage and here I found Khaniukova’s throes of agony as she desperately tries to hold on to her child (symbolised by the red ribbon being pulled away from her by the skeletons) overwhelming. As she retreats into her paintings of nature, with the female skeletons representing trees, I was very impressed and moved by the way Khaniukova portrayed her struggle with her increasingly useless leg. The ending, where at first she hardly recognises Diego and then makes one desperate, last attempt to ‘fly’ before collapsing in his arms, was so gentle that it was intensely moving, especially as he ‘pins’ her to the butterfly as if in an attempt to keep her with him forever. The last moments, with the little bird (the lovely Adriana Lizardi) fluttering atop her tomb, were like a danced epitaph to the spirit of this extraordinary woman. Just as it is helpful to know something of Kahlo’s life when watching the first piece, it helps to know the scenario of “A Doll’s House” (helpfully given in detail in the programme) when watching Stina Quagebeur’s first major work for the company, “Nora”. Quagebeur has distilled the story to portray the relationships between the three main characters and the consequences of Nora, the ‘doll’, having forged a signature on a loan document to help her husband without his knowledge, then being blackmailed by her creditor, Krogstad, and finally the fall-out when her husband, Torvald, discovers what she has done even though Krogstad has had a crisis of conscience and torn up the incriminating document. At the first performance, I was so involved in watching Quagebeur’s seamless, inventive choreography performed by her quality cast that I did not pay in-depth attention to the story. On the second viewing, I was much more aware of the choreographic details which tell the story. Quagebeur has chosen an exceptional cast of dancer-actors, especially Crystal Costa as Nora, who gives a beautifully nuanced performance and whose expressive eyes and body indicate with the subtlest of movements her thoughts, which are echoed by the five Voices (Adela Ramirez, Angela Wood, James Forbat, Francisco Bosch and Henry Dowden, all fine dance-actors themselves) who at times spur on her actions and at other times comment on them or represent her conscience. When Nora is in turmoil about telling her husband what she has done, the Voices appear to externalise this turmoil with their jerky, individualistic movements. Junor Souza makes much of the relatively small role of Krogstag, dominating the stage with his virile dancing, which Quagebeur exploits to wonderful effect in her choreography for him, which makes his crumbling at the end all the more moving. Jeffrey Cirio’s fabulous technique is also fully exploited and is given full rein in his solo of anger on discovering Nora’s deception. Torvald’s emotional abuse of Nora is subtly done with the smallest of gestures, showing that life is happy provided Nora does what he wants and remains childlike. After his angry outburst at her (and is it because she forged a signature or because she did not ask his permission first?), it slowly dawns on Nora how shallow the marriage is and how she will never be allowed to have a mind of her own if she stays with him, prompting her to walk out on her life with him. This provoked my only criticism about the piece as I would like Nora’s movements to have more strength of purpose as she walks out of the door for the last time but I do like the way the structure of the house breaks up as Torvald is left alone. This is a complex plot tackled with confidence and imagination by Quagebeur and her team, and deserving of further viewings so I will be delighted to revisit it next week. I have always had a problem with danced versions of “The Rite of Spring” since I had my first experience of them in the mid-1970s with Bejart’s frenzy of copulating couples right up to the last version I saw when the Australian Ballet brought their aboriginal-inspired version here a few years ago as I feel they never live up to the complexity or genius of the music. I long for a choreographer to explore the complex rhythms in the music and, apart from Millicent Hodson’s imagining of what Nijinsky’s choreography might have looked like, to explore the scenario as worked out by Stravinsky and Roerich which possibly had a huge input from Nijinsky himself, so that there is variation in the action, rather than almost forty minutes of gloom while everyone wonders who will be the chosen one before the sacrificial dance. I first saw Bausch’s version (about the fourth version I had seen by then) by Wuppertal Tanztheatre a few years after it was created and my abiding memory was of a lot of running around and rolling around in the earth. Despite the magnificent performances by ENB’s exceptional dancers, my opinion has not really changed. For me, too much of it is a cop-out, with dancers running frantically around the stage far too often, and Bausch has gone for the obvious in the music for her movements, rather than exploring the more difficult rhythms. However, with the dancers’ beautifully honed bodies and precision of movement plus their extraordinary commitment to everything they do, the piece looks far better than I remember when it was danced by Bausch’s company. My abiding memory of these performances will be the ‘signature’ step performed by both males and females at various times throughout the piece, when they step into an off-balance position with the working leg in retire, and a slight body bend towards the supporting leg with the arm raised above. This was ravishing, as were the beautifully stretched legs and feet of the men as they jumped en masse (and the astonishing height of Eric Woolhouse’s split jeté). Since the Bausch Foundation will not allow the name of the chosen maiden to be printed on the cast sheet, and I understand the dancer herself does not know until the day of the performance, for anyone unfamiliar with ENB, the chosen one at both performances was Francesca Velicu. What impressed me most was watching her reaction after she has been chosen, when James Streeter (presumably the leader of the community) pushes her around, as her tiny body is too petrified with fear to walk, and she contemplates her fate. After this remarkably moving interlude, the sacrificial dance itself seems to me like an anti-climax, full of self-flagellation and convulsions, and I do find it bizarre that the leader indicates her collapse with an arm movement, rather than it coming from any movement she makes. Speaking of a tiny body racked with fear, when all the females succumb to mass hysteria in the form of body tremors, I noticed with awe the tiny Carolyne Galvao’s extraordinarily violent and realistic trembling. The dancers certainly deserved the huge ovation they received at both performances but, as always with this piece, it was the music which had the greatest impact on me, superbly played by the orchestra with great passion, energy and precision under the baton of Maestro Gavin Sutherland. Thursday evening's performance began with a moving tribute from Tamara Rojo about Kevin Richmond, who was such an integral part of the company for so many years, coming back to guest in character roles long after he had 'retired'. For those of us who knew him (about forty years in my case!), it was lovely that the company to which he devoted so much of his life dedicated this run of performances to him.
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