English National Ballet's return to its roots at the Royal Festival Hall on a balmy summer's evening last night was ultimately triumphant although there were first night nerves, timing and injury issues to deal with.
A Million Kisses to my Skin opened the programme but, despite a stand out performance by Erina Takahashi who was delightful to watch, you could have been forgiven for missing the fact that this work is all about the joy of dancing. Seriously - anyone else for a little smile? Of course, the company have been off cavorting to Gershwin for a while so perhaps they were nervous to be back in leotard and tights but a more expressive performance from the majority of dancers might have distracted from occasional wobbles and off timing.
The premiere of Resolution by Artistic Director Wayne Eagling was contrastingly dark and decadent after the bright lights of Kisses... and superbly accompanied by a Mezzo Soprano singing the Mahler poems. The final section, featuring a topless, male trio and lots of Christ-like lifts, went down a storm with the audience although, as a whole, the work didn't blow us away.
Reader, Thom Sanders, was the lucky winner of a pair of free tickets for this show and he captures the point of the final piece, Etudes, based on the ballet class perfectly when he says that it "shows off so many moves... you often don't focus on the skill involved [in ballet] as you are caught up in the story, sets or costumes". He's bang on. Etudes was surprisingly entertaining as a showcase finale for the company. It's start was delayed due to a last minute lead substitution due to injury, but anyone who's ever taken ballet class will appreciate the progression from barre to centre to turns and jumps and the wonderful big leaps of the grande jete - all performed here with precision, elan and a sense of fun from the entire company. A feelgood ending to a properly mixed bill programme.
Image of David Dawson's A Million Kisses to my Skin by Michael Garner courtesy of ENB.