A Double Bill Of Contrasts From English National Ballet

Song Of The Earth/La Sylphide ★★★★☆

By Sam Smith Last edited 56 months ago

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A Double Bill Of Contrasts From English National Ballet Song Of The Earth/La Sylphide 4
Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernández in La Sylphide. Photo: Laurent Liotardo

Song of the Earth, Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 take on Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, is a ballet with everything. Two singers espouse deep philosophies courtesy of Chinese poems (translated into German), and by sharing the stage with the dancers show death to be as much about reunion as separation. English National Ballet captures the full gamut of emotions well as drunkenness is portrayed as effectively as the piece’s more soul-searching elements. Casts vary, but it is hard to picture Tamara Rojo being bettered as The Woman.

In direct contrast, La Sylphide, with its 1836 choreography by August Bournonville, is the oldest ballet still to be regularly performed. Although the plot might seem flimsy today, the fact that even the most overt routines have a clear purpose within it must have felt revolutionary.

The story, which concerns a man who in pursuing an untouchable fairy loses his earthly love, is rendered very effectively by Jurgita Dronina, Isaac Hernández and Precious Adams under the artistic guidance of Frank Andersen. Performances from 16 to 20 January substitute Song of the Earth for Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, another ballet that warns against the dangers of obsession.

Song of the Earth/La Sylphide, London Coliseum, Saint Martin's Lane, Charing Cross, WC2N 4ES, £12-£65, 9-13 January, La Sylphide continues to run until 20 January

Last Updated 10 January 2018