Fits and starts
The second instalment of English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballets Russes season was an entertaining affair despite a lacklustre Apollo that opened proceedings. Zdenek Konvalina was a decidedly spikey Greco-Roman god and it wasn’t until he joined forces with Daria Klimentová’s excellent Terpsichore that he smoothed himself into the role. Klimentová was quite the reverse; luxuriously fluid from the start she was a cut above the rest of the cast.
The world premiere of Wayne Eagling’s mongrel Jeux with bits of Nijinsky, MacMillan and his own choreography mashed in together, actually came off rather well. Not having seen any previous version it’s difficult to say what was new but once the annoyingly twee tennis racquets were thrown away and David Richardson’s inappropriately boxed lighting was dispensed with, there was plenty to catch the eye, particularly the lengthy pas de trois which must have inspired/been inspired by Balanchine’s Apollo. Debussy’s sublime score was also wonderfully played by Gavin Sutherland and the band.
There was just time before the second interval for handsome young chap Vadim Muntagirov to show off his cartwheels in a flamboyant snippet from Nijinska’s Le Train bleu. The colourful swimsuit was originally designed for Anton Dolin by Coco Chanel – not one of her better days. Still, the sunburnt legs were a nice touch.
It was tutus a go-go for Serge Lifar’s undeniably charming Suite en blanc (Balanchine created the role of Apollo for Lifar so it brought the evening full-circle). The curtain opens to reveal a large chunk of the company beautifully arranged around the stage. So beautifully arranged in fact that the audience burst into applause at the sight of them. Sadly, not all the soloists that followed lived up to the magnificent entrance although Yonah Acosta did his jumping thing perfectly well. Elena Glurdjidze, on the other hand, was a miracle of poise and elegance in her Cigarette variation and whisked away a killer series of lightning quick spins for a finale. Zdenek Konvalina returned to the floor with Erina Takahashi to deliver a divine pas de deux oozing intimate chemistry. Takahashi followed this up with an exquisitely judged solo amidst an Ivanov-style lake scene that left the audience going home sighing for more ballet-like-it-used-to-be.