Late at Tate Britain – English National Ballet: Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain, London; 2 March 2012

A damn good idea

But is it art? ENB dancers install themselves in Tate Britain. Photo by J Fernandes, Tate Photography

The English National Ballet excell in finding new spaces to perform. Their latest venture is a week-long residency at London’s Tate Britain museum that involves classes, workshops, rehearsals and more, all tying in with the Tate’s new Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition. Tonight saw the culmination in the project with a short free show from ENB.

Setting up a small stage at the end of the long Greco-Roman style Duveen Galleries they performed an extract from Balanchine’s Stravinsky collaboration Apollo and three new commissions from ENB choreographers, each based on a particular Picasso work.

They didn’t hold back with the casting. Up hopped Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov for Apollo and they impressed. She was delicate and flighty while he carved up the stage with fabulous jumps and terrific musicality – no mean feat with such an uneven floor and Stravinsky’s score relayed at a rather modest volume.

The three new works followed in quick succession; Hubert Essakow’s Broken was a mournful duet that was hard going for a standing, mostly new-to-ballet, audience. Stina Quagebeur’s overwrought tango-inspired The Death of Carlos and Ramon had plenty of imaginative lifts and photogenic poses to help push the blood back to the toes while James Streeter’s quirky little Face to Face featured some excitingly hypnotic choreography (and a fabulously athletic Erina Takahashi) all set to the gallic charms of Yann Tiersen’s music.

20 minutes in total, the show was repeated three times at short intervals allowing hundreds (possibly thousands) of mostly young arty-types in NHS specs the opportunity to watch ballet close-up and personal. As it was part of Tate Britain’s late-night opening the audience was also free to explore the museum’s copious galleries – a win-win methinks.

Congratulations therefore to ENB and Tate Britain for putting on a cultural tête-à-tête of art-forms and creating a relaxed, informal atmosphere that might have opened a few eyes.

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