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English National Ballet, She Said, April 2016


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ENB on their Facebook page have just posted pictures of Grayson Perry's commissioned front-cloth for this production.  Have to say it looks fantastic, a great tribute to Frida Kahlo.  I'm going to the rehearsal tomorrow afternoon and the evening performance with Tamara and Irek on Friday and from the clips I've seen and the choreographer insight evening I've seen to date, am really looking to it.

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I was at the rehearsal Tuesday night - so here are a few pics.
 
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Broken Wings (Annabelle Lopez Ochoa) - Irek Mukhamedov, Tamara Rojo (plus artists of the company)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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M-Dao (Yabin Wang) - Madison Keesler, Laurretta Summerscales, Fernando Bufala
©Matthew Golding,  Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Fantastic Beings (Aszure Barton) - James Forbat
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Set from DanceTabs: ENB - 'She Said' (triple bill)
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

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Sadly due to misinformation on ENB website, I had to miss the third ballet.

Fortunately, I am going to the matinee on Friday. There are still some tickets for Friday matinee and evening

Performances. Broken Wings and M-Dao are superb. A rare opportunity to see Rojo and Mukhamedov dance together

I have waited a long time to see Summerscales in a meaty role. She did not disappoint.

On the evidence of the two ballets I saw, all I can say is "Well done Tamara"

Edited by Tony Newcombe
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Myself I thought the first dance work - Broken Wings - was by some distance the best.  Peter Salem's intoxicating score was as vivid as all the delightfully fanciful design elements that made up this coruscating piece.  Ms. Rojo was - as ever - electrifying.  I had forgotten too just how potent Mukhamedov's very presence was; those haunted and haunting eyes - and, oh my, those wonderful partnering skills.  They sang.  Indeed, there was a rich and varied detail in the overall (narrative) frame of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's fine work that was not always consistent in the other two pieces ... at least for me on a first viewing  The Broken Wings culmination was moving in the extreme - of that there can be no doubt - and its whole is certainly a fitting celebration of this great artist, namely Frida Khalo.  

 

It was a true delight too to see the charismatic Madison Keesler originating a role (here the Princess in M-Dao).  There were moments certainly in Barton's Fantastic Beings that I  thought inviting - the momentary drop of the men in front of the women near the opening for one - and Michelle Jank's vibrant costume designs deserve a plethora of awards - but the back lighting - while certainly enjoyed by the star cloth behind - robbed many of these truly exemplary ENB dancers of their rightful recognition for personal input.  AT this first outing (happily I have another ticket) I found this culminating piece nowhere near as effectively dramatic as its score by Tobin Del Cuore -  played oh, so stunningly - as was ALL - by the ENB Philharmonic under the ever-glorious baton of Gavin Sutherland.  

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Agree with Bruce Wall, Broken Wings was the best, there were so many different elements, colour, drama, humour, tragedy, some disturbing scenes (first miscarriage in ballet?) but they all worked, Tamara Rojo was outstandingly good, although I knew nothing about Frida Khalo, by the end I felt I had an understanding of her life and works, and it was captured very well by the choreographer, much more than can be said of John Singer Sargent after Strapless. Liked the music too, and very welcome back Irek Mukhamedov!!!

 

Liked the frontcloth, best to get there early, it's worth it. Sorry to say it but I didn't really like the other two ballets or their music, both suffered from low lighting, M-Dao did have intriguing drapes that made misty scenes that you felt you could walk into, but the wailing music put me off, and Lauretta Summerscales had one bare foot and one foot in a pointe show which made her look clumsy. Fantastic Beings had very low level lighting and all the dancers were in grey/black, I couldn't even tell if I was watching male or female from way back, music annoyed me too. The ending perks up with the dancers in scary monster dress (I think, or birds) and there was some fabulous turns from one man, possibly Cesar Corrales, but it was all a waste of time for me.

 

I predict it will be a hit!

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I've just watched the stage rehearsal of Broken Wings, with Begona Cao as Frida. I'd advise anyone unfamiliar with Frida Kahlo to browse her paintings and read a bio, or watch the film; the piece is packed with references to her work which will otherwise be lost. I thought it was excellent. Begona really gives it her all and is of course a great natural casting as Frida.

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Just a quickie as wifi not good where I am but I thought it very good indeed last night ....varied and engrossing.

 

I did like Broken Wings ....by far the best for me ....and M-Dao was very dramatic....loved that

Have more reservations about the third piece but will report when home ....wifi hopeless here!! Hope this goes

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Yesterday evening was a real pleasure.

I wasn't sure what to expect but was delightfully surprised by the interesting range of this triple bill and each of the works shown is worth keeping in the repertoire more permanently.

 

I did really feel that Broken Wings was my favourite of the evening and I knew very little about the subject matter.

I have heard of Frida Kahlo there may have been a TV programme about her? But have not seen the film.

I probably missed some of the references but nevertheless think I got the general gist of a very feisty lady who was tragically confined to bed for most of the time and in a continual struggle with her fate but who got a lot of sustenance and connection to life from her paintings......which of course came alive in the ballet.

Rojo was just brilliant in this. Her scenes danced with Mukhamedov were both entertaining and moving by turns. I loved the music by Peter Salemt and especially ....that guitar solo and song....La Llorona sung by Chavela Vargas. Everything was very colourful ...cleverly done ...with a huge box centre stage with different scenes painted into it ....and somehow full of life as this was a lady who inspite of everything never gave up on it. I was moved to tears by the sadness and then the joy of the ending.

I already want to see this ballet again and would be pleased to hear from people on here who manage to see both casts in this run.

 

The second piece M-Dao was a shorter very dramatic piece concentrating on the relationship of Medea played by Lauretta Summerscales and her husband? Jason ...Fernando Bufala and the young mistress? ....Madison Keesler The main music I was initially confused by as in the programme(which I don't have with me at mo) I had had the impression that it would be Chinese based .....as is the choreographer Yabin Wang.....so spent a bit of a while sorting this music out in my head which was in fact largely a traditional Armenian Song! Anyway it went very well with the choreography turbulent emotions and general rather primal mood of the piece. Needless to say Lauretta was terrific ( and I think she will get better) She was jealousy personified! and I thought Madison portrayed an amazing sort of ardent coolness in contrast to the hot fraughtness of Medea .....who kills her two children in revenge ...rather beautifully shown her as Medea gathers up two fallen drapes to look like babies. The lighting was low a sort of blue tone to it which I did in fact rather like as I thought it really caught the mood of the primal human emotions of the piece.....it felt both ancient and modern somehow.

 

The last piece called Fantastic Beings with music by Mason Batest ( Anthology of Fantastic Zoology) had a rather dark lit stage ....with a night sky backdrop and everyone in darkish bluish greyish leotard and tights.

I thought it started off really well and the choreography very wittily fitted the score..... definitely a bit quirky so it was initially very interesting. However after what seemed about 25 mins I thought to be honest everything had been said so then it seemed to me to get a bit repetitive. This spoiled my enjoyment of it and it's a shame because I really did enjoy it for a while. All beautifully danced but for me just a bit too long!!

The evening definitely seemed to overrun as I was expecting it to end around 10 but it was around 10.35 when I left the theatre!! Perhaps the intervals were longer being a first night etc but an extremely enjoyable evening and hope to see all these ballets again at some point. It was worth it for Broken Wings alone so definitely try and get a ticket if possible anyone not sure whether to go.

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I really enjoyed this very varied programme. There was so much to take in that my head is still buzzing this morning. I didn't find the lighting too low for the most part but I was sitting close to the stage and perhaps this made a difference.

 

Takahashi was terrific in the role of Medea in M-Daa, her usually serene face contorted with jealousy and rage. The denouement was cleverly handled and genuinely shocking. The singing was occasionally overpowering but it contributed to a very intense atmosphere.

 

Unlike some commentators and critics, I really liked the otherworldly Fantastic Beings except perhaps for the costume change. It had the most classical vocabulary with classical looking partnering and some great dancing for the men, particularly Hernandez, Corrales, Drummond and Sarahusi. It perhaps sagged a bit occasionally in places as often seems to happen when an existing score is used. It was very warmly received by the audience.

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I was also there last night.  I loved the Frida piece. I thought it was original, beautifully danced and very well done all round. I loved the groupings of dancers, especially the men dressed in the Mexican skirts and varied head gear;  so together and so effective as different iterations of Frida.  Such a great idea.  I loved the production;  I only wish I knew her art better;  there are obviously all kinds of references to her art and her life in the ballet that you would only get if you know her art well.  But it intrigued me so now I want to learn more.  I know about her life because I have read about her and seen some of her art, but not enough to get all the nuances of the ballet. I would love to see it again. 

 

The second piece, the Medea story (which I know very well), doesn’t work from a narrative point of view in that the tragic denouement isn’t clear;  it looks to the audience like she is killing Jason and his new lover, NOT her children, whom we hadn't seen previously, and were just shadows behind the curtain.   People I spoke to in the interval were confused.  One said to me 'but I always thought Medea killed her children'.   If you didn’t know the story, you wouldn’t know what was going on.  However, Erina Takahashi was totally fabulous, and goodness me how difficult is it to dance an entire ballet with one bare foot and one pointe-shoe foot?!   I was very impressed and moved by her performance.

 

The third piece was very meh.  It went on way too long without enough choreographic variety to hold my interest, the music did nothing for me and it was very, very dark.  I always go on about this, but why don’t designers understand that the audience actually want to see the dancers they have paid to see?  That we want to see a face, or even know if we are looking at a male or a female?  I was at the back of the First Circle, with binocs, and it still didn't help.  The last few minutes of the piece were excellent, but I was struggling until then.  I was thinking about what I have to do at work today, which is always a bad sign!  The dancers were fabulous, of course, so no criticism of them at all.

 

I really admire Tamara Rojo for all the risks she is taking with ENB, risks that have thus far, to my mind, paid off in spades.  I now really look forward to Akram Khan's Giselle. 

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So, part of the reason, we have been told, why we need much more work by women choreographers is to provide an alternative to the male-centric world view of ballet/dance which has resulted from predominantly having male choreographers ruling the roost over the last few centuries.  Does this programme do this - show signs of a female sensibility - beyond the decision to concentrate on female central characters?  Is there something distinctive that we don't find in the work of male choreographers, and if not, why not?  Might it be that people choreograph similarly regardless of gender, or are women choreographers still labouring under the yoke of male oppression, so to speak, and haven't yet thrown it off completely?  I'd be interested in feedback.

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just back from tonight's performance, with Tamara and Irek in BW and Lauretta in Medea.  Second time round and with costumes everything worked better / even better.  Broken Wings is a great spectacle and I found it really quite emotional, in part at least due to Tamara's performance (though I found Begona equally compelling in the rehearsal).  Irek was naturally more at ease as portly, middle aged Diego than Max Westwell.  I wasn't sure about the deer as played by Jeanette Kakareka. The stylised movement grated a little and as a closer reference to Frida's 'Little Hart' I'd have preferred a smaller dancer in the role; JK is very tall even before the antlers go on.   I had found M'Dao a bit dull in rehearsal but Lauretta's Medea really propelled it along and she had us completely gripped; we thought she was fabulous.  Still not entirely convinced at the staging of the children's murder behind the curtain, even when you know the narrative it's not that clear what's going on.  I also enjoyed Fantastic Beings far more on a second outing, though I'd still say it's the weakest of the three, and it feels a bit too long.  We were in row C, so the darkness of the lighting that others have mentioned was not an issue for us, and the piece gave many company members the chance to have their moment in the limelight.

 

I'd happily go and watch the whole thing again tomorrow.

 

As an aside, I wonder why Lauretta is going to do with a pile of unused right-foot pointe shoes at the end of the run!!

Edited by Quintus
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It was a bit strange this one shoe business but I didn't feel it made her look awkward just contributed to the general deranged state she was descending into! Or showed a point of weakness in her character?

I can see how confusing the ending might be if you didn't know the story though it seems obvious she is gathering up the bodies of her children if you know it but may wonder a bit what she's doing if you didn't know this!!

 

A great role to dance though.

 

I was talking to a friend today whose Drama group had performed a play about female artists one of them being Frida Kahlo and she told me about the absolutely horrific accident she had with a pole going right through her body. I don't think this was shown in this ballet or I missed it but I'd like to find out more about her as she seems to have been a terrific character who continually wrestled with the fates life dealt her. I thought this was brilliantly shown in the miscarriage scene .....which although a little gruesome had her in a tug of war with that red strand. I really liked the way Rojo played her with this mixture of feistiness and almost girl like softness.

 

I think I still feel the same about Fantastic Beings. I didn't feel it was really telling any sort of story just an abstract piece so,when the dancers came on at the end with the gorilla like costumes I didn't get it and anyway by that point was rather wishing they would all de materialise so I could go home!! I still think there were some really great moves in it though just needs a bit of cropping here and there though I don't feel very comfortable saying this as I'm sure the choreographer had purpose I've missed!!

 

There was some mention earlier of the reason behind having all female choreographers for this show. Well I'm not sure but in the end I don't really care that much. I don't mind whether it's a male or female choreographer as long as whatever they produce is interesting and worth seeing again. In this instance they have all succeeded for me as they have created an interest in any future work.

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As an aside, I wonder why Lauretta is going to do with a pile of unused right-foot pointe shoes at the end of the run!!

A few years ago my dd was in a dance choreographed by teacher in which all the girls wore only one pointe shoe. As most brands of pointe shoes can be worn on either foot it didn't lead to a pile of unused shoes as I think she got through two pairsin the short run of the summer shows and rehearsals.

 

I was intrigued to watch a group of students dance en pointe on one foot only and now regret not trying to get to see this.

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I was talking to a friend today whose Drama group had performed a play about female artists one of them being Frida Kahlo and she told me about the absolutely horrific accident she had with a pole going right through her body. I don't think this was shown in this ballet or I missed it but I'd like to find out more about her as she seems to have been a terrific character who continually wrestled with the fates life dealt her. 

 

 

 

The accident was represented immediately after the initial scene where Frida is a schoolgirl flirting with the boys; the Mexican Deaths appear amid flashing light and one reaches and touches her stomach; i took that to be the pole.  If you haven't see the film Frida, then that is an excellent place to start to find out more about her.  Schirmer Art books' Masterpieces series has a biography and lots of her paintings in their Frida Kahlo book, well worth getting.

Edited by Quintus
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Thanks Quintus I didn't get that watching it on Wednesday as I didn't realise she was practically bedridden because of an accident until yesterday..... I had thought she had some sort of degenerative illness.

 

Did you see both casts?

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I saw this bill last night. I found that the promotion of it as being works all by women was distracting - I kept involuntarily thinking about that aspect of it instead of feeling able to judge the works completely on their own merit.


 


I thought Broken Wings worked well as a Frida Kahlo painting brought to life. And seeing Mukhamedov again was thrilling, especially he and Rojo dancing together so beautifully. Now there would have been a partnership... It was very striking visually and sustained a sufficient level of interest. But since it was itself rather surrealist in style - images and moments rather than narrative development - I often didn't really know what was happening and couldn't really get involved in the characters. I thought that with such a heavy emphasis on the design and less on the choreography itself, it was more like dance theatre than ballet. But on its own terms I thought it was quite effective and original (and superbly performed by all involved).


 


M-Dao started promisingly, with attractive designs and very expressive dancing from Laurretta Summerscales. But it became repetitive and when the lighting and music changed in the central section I'm afraid that for me it just became really crude and heavy-handed. And I only realised what had happened with the children after it had happened (even though I'd read the programme). The ending was effective, but by then my enthusiasm had gone.


 


I found Fantastic Beings very repetitive and monotonous. There were some good moves but it just went on and on without going anywhere, and for me the music was very insistent but to no good effect. The dancers were wonderful, and I felt sorry for them having to work so hard to so little purpose. They must have been exhausted at the end. There didn't seem to be a lot of individual differentiation between what they were doing, so I couldn't see why they all came on for separate curtain calls at the end (except for the fact that they deserved all the applause they got) - why treat them as individuals once the work is over?!


 


So overall I was disappointed. It's very good to see new three new works in an evening and very good to give opportunities to women as long as they merit the opportunity; but on this occasion I felt that a huge amount of time, money and effort had gone into the bill with not enough to show for it. That could of course just as easily have happened with new works by three men; but if you draw such attention to the gender of the choreographers it does mean that it's going to form part of the assessment.

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I liked this bill even more after a second viewing yesterday afternoon when I saw it to best advantage slightly further back in the stalls..

 

Begona was fabulous as a slightly softer Frida. Max didn't have Irek's natural advantage of age and so his character was slightly different but I felt that his partnering was smoother.

 

Ksenia was devastating in M-Dao and I felt that the cast (Ksenia, Fabian and Alison) had slightly better chemistry than the one which I saw on Thursday evening. The sets were so simple but very effective with the use of shadows and a lovely golden light shining through the grey/white drapes at points. The opening view of Medea at the back of the stage framed by the drapes was beautiful. The reviewer in Bachtrack comments on the symbolism of wearing a single shoe (monosandalism) in Ancient Greek culture.

 

There were several school parties at the matinee yesterday and the theatre was silent during the performances.

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Thanks Quintus I didn't get that watching it on Wednesday as I didn't realise she was practically bedridden because of an accident until yesterday..... I had thought she had some sort of degenerative illness.

 

Did you see both casts?

 

 

Sort of... I went to the full stage rehearsal, which was mostly not in costume, and saw Begona Cao with Max Westwell in that.  I'd also attended an ENB masterclass evening some weeks ago where Annabelle Lopez Ochoa was rehearsing the two of them through the pdd scene with the singing.   Then I saw Tamara and Irek last night.  I'd love to have seen Begona in the full performance, as she was so expressive in rehearsal. 

 

Frida was in and out of bed as she had numerous operations throughout her life; the strappy costume was a representation of her steel corset, as shown in one of her paintings.  Like Diego she also managed to have lots of affairs, including apparently one with Trotsky, so she lived life to the full!

 

 

 

Back to M-Dao, I noticed some martial arts moves in Medea's initial sequence.  I'll have to look up some more of Yabin Wang's work, as I've always thought there was scope for a work that explores the parallels between ballet and martial arts (when I win the Lottery...).

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Really enjoyed last night, although it was certainly true that Fantastic Beings was a bit of a disappointment. I think it wasn't the best idea to put the dancers in swamp green, skin tight spandex. Also, it was handicapped by having so many soloists; I get that everyone should have their moment in the spotlight, but it just became hard to follow. Hard to follow was certainly true for M-Dao. I'm a huge fan of the Euripedes play, and I was disappointed to see that the ballet varied from the source text rather a lot: Medea killed Jason (in the myth he is actually killed while exploring the wreckage of the Argo) and she seemed to have a son and a daughter, as opposed to two sons? I wasn't clear about that, but from a narrative point of view, it would have been so much better if they had just taken an extra five minutes to set up the children. The harsh vocals became grating very quickly too. That said, I massively enjoyed the pas de trois between Creusa, Jason and Medea and I thought Lauretta Summerscales was fab and managed dancing with one pointe shoe on very well. I don't think I need to say how amazing Broken Wings was (definitely the best of the three). I particularly loved the Mexican Day of the Dead people and Frida's muses were gorgeous.

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Was at the matinee this afternoon. The performance featured many of my fave ENB dancers in featured roles (e.g. Begona Cao, Ksenia Ovsyanick, Alison Mcwhinney), so I was particularly happy.

Begona Cao in Broken Wings was superb - vivacious in the happy sections, almost painfully sad in the less than joyful scenes. Her eyes almost told the story on their own! The piece is so colourful, with dazzling imagery, that some comments that the choreography wasn't spectacular didn't matter to me - the dancing just seemed appropriate where it was, and did more than enough as a piece of theatre to be a big hit for me. Hoping Tamara repeats it before too long.

Ksenia Ovsyanick in M-Dao (with Fabian Reimar and Alison Mcwhinney) stepped up another level for me. I have always enjoyed her dancing and today she owned the stage in Yabin Wang's mythology piece. The piece itself is just a little baffling in the plot after the threesome between the lead dancers, but the solos, duets and threesomes are engossing - though not wholly convinced by the one pointe shoe. Another piece I would like to see again.

The finale of 'Fantastic Beings' should have gone first I reckon. There was some dramatic and exciting dancing in this, but so many sections I really struggled to see due to the low lighting. The parts I could see I thought were terrific and the slinky costumes I thought were a definite enhancement - excpet the hairy ones at the end. Thought they were a bit ropey to be honest. I think I'd like to see it again - but with an extra 50p in the light meter...

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meant to say....

 

 

Before the performance was a short piece by Stina Quagebeur (an extract from 'Unsilenced', part of Dance Journeys), for children of ENBYouthco, with students from Burlington Danes Academy, Copthall School, Hammersmith Academy and Holland Park School. The full performance is at the Britten Theatre (Royal College of Music) on Saturday, 30th April - 3.30 and 5.30.

The piece is inspired by Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl the Taliban tried to murder for wanting an education. I don't think I need to add anything to that

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Well, it’s over and many BRAVOS to all concerned [or should it be bravis – I’m never sure these days!]

 

I thought that Broken Wings was a mini-masterpiece with more to discover and enjoy at each viewing. Rojo showed us a full-on feisty Frida whereas Cao was (for me) more natural and nuanced (wow - those eyes). Both were absolutely terrific in the role.

 

However, the female tour de force came from the three dancers cast as Medea in M-DAO (Summerscales, Takahashi and Ovsyanick). Each gave us their own individual take on the character and the story and each totally filled the theatre with her presence. I have never before heard Sadlers Wells so silent. At the end of Takahashi’s searing performance last night I could hardly breathe and needed to take a moment before I could move into ‘interval mode’. She was, for me, the star of the week overall.

 

Fantastic Beings was a good contrast with all the preceding drama but, as others have said, it was too ‘samey’, it went on too long and it was all too dark. I think that I could just about discern some fabulous dancing in the midst of the gloom from a wonderful line up of dancers.

 

[before moving on, I mustn’t forget the very welcome return of Irek Mukhamedov to the stage - still electrifying in his presence, true in his interpretation and generous in his partnering. He must have sweated off as many kilograms dancing in Diego’s fat suit as he used to do in the whole of Spartacus.]

Kudos to the orchestra for playing such unfamiliar and tricky pieces with such aplomb. They and their conductor (the wonderful Gavin Sutherland) must be feeling exhausted now.

 

Sadlers Wells worked well as a venue for this programme but I was surprised by the low volume of audience appreciation compared with the applause and cheering at other shows I have attended there. Did Broken Wings receive a standing ovation on the first night? Did people rise for Medea? I do hope so.

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