Under the main stage at the Royal Opera House you may be surprised to hear that you’ll find an array of small-scale dance companies performing experimental dance – not a pointe shoe or tutu in sight. This lesser known fact seems to be creeping into mainstream consciousness as last night's performance by Bern:Ballett filled most of the theatres 400 seats.
This is only the second time Swiss Bern:Ballett have performed on UK soil. Here with two contrasting pieces; Artistic Director Cathy Marsons’ classically inspired Clara and Andrea Miller’s contemporary work Howl.
For Clara you may wish to brush up on your music history, or at least allow yourself a few minutes to read the programmes. Exploring themes of possession, through the story of Clara Wieck-Schumann, this is a love triangle with eight kids and an overbearing father thrown in. The movement is a lovely mix of grounded contemporary dance with classical ballet lines. Even if you can’t follow the story, revel in the shapes and enjoy performances from a live pianist (Sonja Lohmiller) and singer (Benoit Capt).
When watching Howl you’ll realise why Andrea Miller is a rising star on the New York dance scene and one of Dance Magazine’s '25 to watch'. Howl opens with a bang. It’s big, bold and is emphatic about lessons not learned from mistakes. Born out of the unsettled vibe in New York in 2009, Miller hasn’t choreographed a narrative ballet to inform us of the many wars started by fea mongering or seductive politicians. No, this is a physical reflection on mob mentality. It’s a must-see, and for all the messages of despair it transmits, Howl does it in a comical way.
Bern:Ballett: Clara/Howl, at ROH2, Linbury Theatre, WC2E, 25-28 May, tickets £8.20 (standing) to £19.40.