Quivers down the backbone
No-one can accuse Le Corsaire of not having enough dancing. It’s full of the stuff. And when it’s as well performed as it was here by English National Ballet it makes for a great show.
Aside from the lure of a new production of a classic 19th century ballet that’s rarely seen in Britain (this was in fact the first full production by a UK company), the mercurial Alina Cojacaru was probably the main draw. Her early solo for the Pasha showed she’s lost none of the poise and impeccable balance that she became renowned for at The Royal Ballet and her clean, crisp technique remains as stately as ever.
Vadim Muntagirov’s smooth and effortlessly graceful Conrad was her main foil and a real chemistry developed between them in their beautifully tender ‘bedroom’ pas de deux. The revelation, however, was Junor Souza. As Ali he prowled the stage with magnetic charisma, a huge floating jump and a body as supple as a young branch.
The famous 2nd act pas de trois between the three of them was breathtaking, each crackling variation fed off the previous one’s fireworks; leaps became higher, pirouettes quicker and excitement levels rose prodigiously. The energy was palpable.
There were some excellent supporting performances too. Erina Takahashi stood out for her sympathetic portrayal of the not-really-needed role of Gulnare, Shiori Kase showcased some terrifically nimble feet during her Odalisque variation while Yonah Acosta threw himself about with considerable technical gusto as the dastardly Birbanto.
Traditionally, the ho-ho-ho and a bottle of rum narrative of Le Corsaire is notorious for its incomprehensibility but Anna-Marie Holmes’ staging is clear and concise in its story-telling, although the ending is nothing if not unexpectedly confusing.
Another winning note for the production is the employment of Hollywood designer Bob Ringwood. His orientalist fantasy sets are as colourfully exotic as you’d want (although they are rather nomadic – the Pasha’s palace appears to stretch all the way from Istanbul to North Africa) and the costumes are superb; the Pasha and his entourage out-bling even the grandest Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Le Corsaire is hugely entertaining, brilliantly presented and wonderfully danced by a company that’s clearly enjoying itself under Tamara Rojo’s tenure as artistic director. Exhilarating stuff.
Le Corsaire runs at the London Coliseum until 19 January 2014 before moving on to the Manchester Palace Theatre from 11th February. Tickets can be bought from the English National Ballet website.