Solstice opens with a medley of dances from Act III of Coppélia, led on Saturday night by Fernanda Oliveira and Jeffrey Cirio. Cirio, all effortless cheek, with sharp beats and featherlike jumps, is an attentive partner to Oliveira, a generally assured dancer, bar a heart-stopping loss of footing.
The mood shifts abruptly with a dramatic duet from Dust, commissioned from Akram Khan to mark the centenary of World War I. Erina Takahashi and James Streeter embody the devastating impact of war, he as the soldier haunted by the carnage he’s seen, his torso rippling with anguish, she as the woman determined to soothe and heal him.
White-clad Emma Hawes and Junor Souza are impeccably classic, showing off pure lines on either side of a barre in the First Movement pas de deux from Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes, to music by Rachmaninov. Their cold classicism gradually gives way to an impassioned duet, as he lifts her over the barre and the distance between them is momentarily breached.
Le Corsaire pas de trois is the gala staple par excellence, its technical virtuosity designed to dazzle audiences. Francesco Gabriele Frola, mercurial as the bare-chested slave Ali, the breathtaking, bejewelled Shiori Kase as Medora, and the handsome Joseph Caley as Conrad, all performed with satisfying gusto, even if this old chestnut feels at times too familiar.
Jewels, an extract from The Sleeping Beauty for four women and one man came next, tall, elegant Alison McWhinney especially alluring.
Then came the funny, endearing, whimsical La Llorona pas de deux from Broken Wings, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s account of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s turbulent life and marriage to the much older philandering painter Diego Rivera. Katja Khaniukova gives an assured, nuanced account of a role originally created for her boss, ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo. Fabian Reimair in a fat suit dances Rivera as an older man vainly attempting to assert his authority over the impish Kahlo.
Hollow, choreographed by company dancer Stina Quagebeur, skilfully portrays the dysfunctional relationship of a couple that can’t live together, yet can’t quite break apart. Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent bring the required dose of anguish and agitation to their moodily lit pas de deux.
The Black Swan pas de deux, another gala staple, brought us elegant, neat dancing from Isaac Hernandez and a first look at the company’s new principal, Natascha Mair, whose characterisation of the temptress Odille appears to be still a work in progress.
And Solstice ends with testosterone flying all over the place – refined, mind! – by the demands of classical dance, as 12 of the company’s men abandon themselves to William Forsythe’s Playlist (Tracks 1, 2), a fiendishly intricate, playful showcase for explosive, competitive male dancing choreographed to the beat of rock music.
English National Ballet Philharmonic, conducted by Alex Ingram, provided live music.
Age recommendation: 7+
|What||English National Ballet, Solstice review|
|Where||Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
16 Jun 21 – 26 Jun 21, 19:30. Dur.: 90 mins no interval
|Price||£15-£60 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|