Following last week’s mixed bag, English National Ballet continues their celebration of the Ballets Russes legacy with a second mixed bill of new and pre-loved works.
Balanchine’s Apollo is now 84 years old, but with its turned-in pliés and clean, unfussy lines it still looks strikingly modern today. Mr B’s trademarks are all there – the flexed hand details, six o’clock penchées and strong geometric arrangements – this time pressed into the service of a semi-narrative about the Greek god Apollo conducting three of the nine muses. Daria Klimentová makes light work of the detailed running steps in her solo as Tersichore; Zdenek Konvalina as Apollo has a nice combination of ballon and attack on his nimble yet muscular jumps.
ENB’s outgoing Artistic Director Wayne Eagling has made a name for himself in recent years as a loving reconstructor of lost and rare ballets; his Jeux is a recreation of a 1913 ballet by Nikinsky that uses tennis as a light-hearted motif for the games adult couples – and trios play. Two gaily-clad ingénues come skipping into the living room of a louche young Noel Coward-type, tennis racquets in hand; the young man (danced by Dmitri Gruzdyev) takes both ladies for a spin around the forestage ending in languid kisses for all. Breezy and effortlessly sensual with its carefree 1920s vibe, Eagling’s ballet unfortunately also illustrates what the company will soon be missing with his departure.
Russian sensation Vadim Muntagirov delights with his athletic, preening Handsome Young Man from Le Train Bleu. Clad in Chanel beachwear, a beaming Muntagirov rattles off the solo’s bag of tricks – handstands, somersaults and multiple tours en l’air – with consummate ease. The brief variation is only two minutes long but it brings the house down.
Suite en Blanc, an exhibition ballet created in 1943 by former Ballets Russes principal Serge Lifar, showcases the company’s strength in depth. Yonah Acosta, winner of ENB’s recent Emerging Dancer award, dances a buoyant mazurka with a lovely musicality; Laurretta Summerscales makes a dazzling series of pirouettes and posé turns look effortless. The corps, resplendent in white tutus for the ladies and black Cossack pants for the men, are sometimes little more than moving backdrops for the soloists, but their ensemble performances are clean and poised. Light and frothy as a well-whipped meringue, Suite en Blanc is the crowning confection of this delicious evening.
Beyond Ballets Russes Programme 2 (Apollo, Le beau Gosse, Jeux and Suite en blanc) played at the London Coliseum. More information and booking at www.ballet.org.uk.