Le Corsaire: Pre-eminent Swashbuckling Ballet At The Coliseum

The part of Medora is shared over the run between Alina Cojocaru (pictured) and Tamara Rojo, © Arnaud Stephenson.

The part of Medora is shared over the run between Alina Cojocaru (pictured) and Tamara Rojo, © Arnaud Stephenson.

Composer Adolphe Adam is best known for Giselle, one of the most famous, elegant and emotionally deep ballets there is. He also, however, created Le Corsaire which lies somewhat at the opposite end of spectrum. Set on the Isle of Cos, it depicts pirates and princes fighting over slave girls, and focuses on the pirate king Conrad’s struggle to steal his love, Medora, away from the isle’s pasha, Seyd.

English National Ballet is the first British ballet company to perform Le Corsaire as a complete work, in a production staged by Anna-Marie Holmes. If the flimsy story is little more than a forum for presenting a series of dances, there is much to delight in when the routines, which feature swashbuckling pirates and ladies with garlands of flowers, are executed to such an impeccably high standard. This surely has to rank as one of ENB’s best danced pieces of the last decade.

Without exception, the soloists are superb. ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo is a class act as Medora, her technical skill combining with both elegance and charge. There is a certain precociousness to her dancing, which perfectly suits the character of this alluring figure, and yet her vulnerability is equally obvious. Matthew Golding as Conrad creates some highly pleasing and nuanced forms as he moves through the air.

As the slave girl Gulnare, Lauretta Sumerscales brings wondrous shape to her movements and yet also demonstrates immense tenderness and grace. Junor Souza as the slave trader Lankendem effectively tempers bold gestures with a remarkably light spring in his step. As Conrad’s ‘sidekick’ Ali, Vadim Muntagirov combines monumental, muscular movements with a mercurial style, and executes some exceptionally difficult moves to perfection.

Bob Ringwood’s sets by combining Moorish, Turkish and Mughal architecture emulate the 19th century orientalist movement, while his sumptuous costumes contribute handsomely to an evening that, courtesy of the outstanding performances, feels wonderfully exuberant from start to finish.

Until 19 January at the London Coliseum, Saint Martin’s Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4ES with start times of 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Casts vary over the run. For further details and tickets (£10-£55) visit the English National Ballet website

Londonist received a complimentary ticket and programme from the English National Ballet press team.   

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  • Chantal

    That’s a bit unkind – ENB’s works are usually performed to a very high standard, Le Corsaire has pretty stiff competition for that title!

  • Alison

    Just to clarify the heading to the photo: Tamara Rojo and Alina Cojocaru are not the only two ballerinas dancing Medora during the run.