Lest We Forget, English National Ballet's work commemorating the centenary of the Great War, returns to the stage, this time at ENB's new partnership venue, Sadler's Wells. Featuring the biggest names in the world of dance, it wowed the critics in 2014, and has lost none of its power now.
Award-winning British choreographers Akram Khan, latterly known for his spectacular performance at the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony and the much-acclaimed Desh, and Russell Maliphant – partner of Sylvie Guillem in PUSH– have welcomed the opportunity to collaborate for the first time with a classical ballet company. Young star Liam Scarlett, dubbed “dance’s hottest property” by the Independent, provides the third piece.
George Williamson's reworking of Stravinsky’s Firebird, which caused confusion in the original programme, is no longer featured.
Liam Scarlett, No Man's Land ★★★★★
Scarlett's contribution focuses on absences and leavings behind, the divides that came down between couples, loved ones and friends at war. The dancers tantalise each other with soft brushes and remembered embraces, only to vanish out of reach. The women have yellow hands - a mark of their move into the factories to replace conscripted men, and they move with a listless fatigue. Three pas de deux show off Scarlett's remarkable vocabulary, clever and sensual lifts scattered with small, significant gestures in perfect time with Liszt's Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses.
Russell Maliphant, Second Breath ★★★★★
Maliphant has used more dancers than his usual style, and the 20 figures people the stage as though a moving army. With only Michael Hulls' lighting, a score from Andy Bowton and no set, it is down to the dancers to articulate in the programme’s most abstract piece. In true Maliphant style, they move as though paced by their own breath, with t'ai chi-like control. Small shifts of weight move to huge weight-denying steps into the air, only to plunge back to ground again.
Akram Khan, Dust ★★★★★
From its first tense moment, it's clear Dust is something unusual. Intense, rhythmic and playing to ENB's considerable strengths, the audience were rigid with attention, barely a breath escaping. The trenches provide the backdrop, over which figures gradually crawl, and the women of the war, stepping into now vacant roles, the centre-point. A man twitches on stage, his muscles boiling under the yellow light. A wan row of figures loom behind him, with one strike clapping dust into the air. The group moves in perfect unison, their linked, rolling arms moving as though a single limb, until they break for the central pas de deux. Danced with single-minded power on opening night by Tamara Rojo and James Streeter, it is marked by Khan's emotional intelligence. The final standing ovation was almost universal.
This programme marked out a path to success for the charismatic artistic director Tamara Rojo, who has been working hard since her appointment in 2012 to cement English National Ballet’s reputation as one of the UK's frontline dance companies. In spite of doubters, ENB has been on the road to international respect ever since. Beginning by poaching her erstwhile rival, Alina Cojocaru, from the Royal Ballet, she now has her sights on the future of choreography, and has commissioned three female choreographers for her 2016 programme, She Said.
Originally billed as “a landmark event in British Ballet” Lest We Forget exceeded all expectation on its first outing. This happy chance to see it again should not be missed.
|What||English National Ballet: Lest We Forget|
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
08 Sep 15 – 12 Sep 15, Thu & Sat also at 2:30pm
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|