Arielle Smith's Jolly Folly is exactly how it sounds, and it is exhilarating. A throwback to the old days of silent movies, this is a high-energy, Chaplinesque work for eight dancers in unisex tuxedos, spurred on by Latin and jazz-infused covers of Tchaikovsky, Strauss and Mozart by the Klazz Brothers. It looks like a romp, yet the choreography, which often mimics the jerky speeds of old cinema, works on split-second timing, effortlessly blending feats of classical technique with comical wiggles of various body parts, and demands perfect coordination in the dancers' constant interactions.
On first night it felt like a controlled explosion of pent-up energy by dancers relishing the stage after having been kept away for so long; and the audience responded with whoops and whistles and clapping along – after all they, too, had been kept away for far too long…
Made up of five very diverse works originally created to be streamed during lockdown, Reunion starts with Yuri Possokhov's Senseless Kindness, the Bolshoi-trained Russian choreographer's first collaboration with a UK company. Inspired by Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate, about a Russian family caught in the Second World War, and closely responding to Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 1, this is a work for two couples, danced on press night by Isaac Hernández, Alison McWhinney, Francesco Gabriele Frola and Emma Hawes. An academic work in the Russian tradition, Senseless Kindness substitutes impressions, hints and suggestions for narrative detail. It's competent, though not greatly innovative.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Laid In Earth is a supernatural work, described as a 'torn apart' quartet, where the dancers are ghosts long ago laid in earth. In its streamed version it was all of one piece with director Thomas James cinematography, which set it in a humid, green-tinged ghostly world of sprouting, crawling vegetation. On a bare stage only a bare long-dead tree pointed to desolation. It was up to the score – new electronic music composed by Olga Wojciechowska sandwiching the poignant Dido's Lament, from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – and the dancers to convey that intense atmosphere, and that they certainly did. Erina Takahashi, Precious Adams, Jeffrey Cirio and James Streeter were all sublime in their slow, drawn-out, other-worldly dancing.
ENB dancer Stina Quagebeur is fast making her mark as an inventive, accomplished choreographer, and her Take Five Blues, set to two of her favourite pieces of music, Paul Desmond’s Take Five, and a jazzy arrangement of Bach's Vivace, can only further cement her reputation. She says she created the work to show off her colleagues at their best: and under hanging mellow light globes in what could well be a 50s ballroom, her blue-clad dancers, five men and three women, injected freshness, humour and jazzy twists into her classical steps, performing first as a group, then breaking into playful individual athletic displays.
With choreographer Russell Maliphant's Echoes, we entered his unique world of slow, earth-bound movement framed and shaped by the pointillist lighting of video artist Panagiotis Tomaras, with a score by Maliphant's wife Dana Fouras, where plaintive melodic lines overlay an electronic continuum. Fernanda Oliveira and Fabian Reimair danced its long central duet with perfect balance of push and pull, force and resistance, under a slowly expanding cone of light.
Each piece was preceded by a short film showing the dancers in rehearsal, alongside brief explanations by choreographers and interpreters. Kept to essentials, these films added an extra dimension to an interesting and enjoyable evening.
|What||English National Ballet, Reunion review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
17 May 21 – 30 May 21, 17 to 19 May & 25 to 30 May at 19.30 Wed 19 + Thur, Sat, Sun at 14.30 Dur.: 1 hour 20 mins no interval
|Price||£15-£65 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book|