Bausch/Forsythe/van Manen – English National Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, London, 23 March 2017

Pina Will Hans

You’ve probably red it all before. English National Ballet in Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring. Photo by Laurent Liotardo

Finally, after gawd knows how long, I finally got to see Pina Bausch’s soil-strewn The Rite of Spring. Not by Tanztheater Wuppertal but, unthinkable as it would have seemed just a few years ago, by English National Ballet. It’s a mark of the Company’s progress under Tamara Rojo that not only did it seem a fairly logical fit for one of their programmes but that it was also no surprise they performed it so well.

It’s a brilliant piece of work. For someone used to watching the excitingly peculiar juxtapositions that’s more typical of Bausch’s output, it was something of an eye-opener to see her pure dance choreography. It was created in 1975 but it might as well be a new work for 2017, so contemporary does it remain.

It’s raw, it’s powerful and the ensemble sections are spectacular in their force and beauty. More surprising was the vitality of the solos, vicious in their intensity, and the Company’s dancers tore into them with a furious passion; the Chosen girl looked shattered at the end. With the English National Ballet Philharmonic backing them up with some compelling musicianship, this Rite was truly memorable.

It made a great conclusion to a night which had opened with a disappointing performance of William Forsythe’s signature work In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. First performed by Paris Opera Ballet in 1987, it ultimately became a key section of the full-length ballet Impressing the Czar but is still performed regularly as a stand-alone piece. It comes across like a work in rehearsal; the dancers often appear to be walking through steps before suddenly exploding into unified jabs and extensions.

Precious Adams made a good stab of her solo and Cesar Corrales really found the thrusting angles of his, but generally the dancers seemed to be lacking the razor-sharp edges and the element of danger so vital to the success of Forsythe’s work.

Hans van Manen’s Adagio Hammerklavier was much more to the Company’s liking. A wistfully musical turn set to the adagio of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.29, it was performed with a wonderfully lilting quality by the required three couples. The fragile lifts and delicately drawn lines seem to weave their own thread through Beethoven’s opus and even managed to calm the ubiquitous chorus of audience coughing that had accompanied much of In the Middle.

Bausch/Forsythe/van Manen continues at London’s Sadler’s Wells until 1 April 2017. Check the English National Ballet website for info and tickets. If there any seats available, I’d grab some if I were you.

Gerard Davis

This entry was posted in English National Ballet, Hans van Manen, Pina Bausch, Sadler's Wells, William Forsythe and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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