Sunday, 10 May 2015

Between Friends - Northern Ballet's Mixed Programme

The Architect - Trailer from Kenneth Tindall on Vimeo.

Northern Ballet, Mixed Programme, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, 9 May 2015

Every Spring Northern Ballet presents a programme of short ballets to its public in Leeds and London. For me that programme is the highlight of the year because the company is at its best.  Not all the works in the programme are new but they are always fresh as the dancers seem to delight in performing them. That delight is picked up and reciprocated by the audience which makes these shows very intimate and very precious.

This year is special because it is the 45th anniversary of the formation of the company which it celebrated with the Sapphire gala (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). The company included three of the works from that gala in the programme.  They were Jonathan Watkins's A Northern Trilogy, Daniel de Abdrade's Fatal Kiss and Demis Volpi's Little Monsters.  They formed part of the first act which was crowned with Christopher Hampson's Perpetuum Mobile. Top of the bill was Kenneth Tindall's The Architect  which I had seen last year (see Jane Lambert A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014 23 June 2014 and Mel Wong Kenneth Tindall - The Architect of Ballet 21 June 2014).

It was lovely to see the first three ballets in the intimacy of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre. A Northern Trilogy is a pas de deux by Martha Leebolt and Tobias Batley, a solo by Kevin Poeung and a narrative by Leebolt and Barley joined by Hannah Bateman, Dreda Blow and Isaac Lee-Baker to Stanley Holloway's Yorkshire PuddenOne-Each A-Piece All Round and The Lion and Albert. The  opening pas de deux was danced "with Heavenly magic ...... As light as a maiden's first kiss", the solo proudly "as any gentry" and the Lion and Albert with love. I enjoyed A Northern Trilogy when I first saw it at The Grand but I relished it in the the company's own theatre.

The same is true of the other ballets, particularly Fatal Kiss danced passionately by Lucia Solari and Javier Torres.  Since the gala I have seen van Dantzig's 5 Tangos performed by Scottish Ballet which is also to the music of the tango composer Astor Piazzolla (see No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2015) which helped my appreciation of de Andrade's work. The dance represents a life which ends in a full frontal kiss on the lips that means death.

Little Monsters is danced by Dreda Blow and Joseph Taylor to three Elvis songs. In Love me Tender we see only Blow's arms which grab Taylor's body first his upper body then his legs like a clamp as she appears about to devour him. It is love all right but love in the sense of "I'd love a tender steak" rather than "I love him tenderly."  By contrast, in "Are you Lonesone Tonight" the dancers were apart and almost disconnected.

Christopher Hampson's Perpetuum Mobile was the only work I had not seen before and what a surprise and delight. Choreographed to Bach's Violin Concerto in E Minor it has joyful leaps for the men and turns for the women.  It is exhilarating to watch but demands much from the dancers. The company did Hampson proud. Batley and Leebolt were brilliant, of course, but so too were Lucia Solari, Abigail Prudames. Ayami Miyata, Kevin Poeung, Isaac Lee-Baker, Sean Bates and Rachael Gillespie. I love to see Gillespie dance and I don't think I have ever seen her dance better.

Even though he created it last year The Architect is Kendall's first show as an independent choreographer and it was impressive. Tindall spoke about the show immediately after the matinee performance. He explained how he wanted to explore the story of Adam and Eve but tie it in with science. He referred to the double helix of the male dancers' costumes representing DNA.  Do we carry Adam's disobedience in our DNA? The words of Milton* sprang to mind:
"Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit
Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast
Brought Death into the World, and all our woe..."
That prompted a question from me about the characters on the chests of the male dancers which reminded me of DNA sequencing. Tindall confirmed that the allusion was deliberate.

Gillespie was in The Architect and again it was a joy to see her.  But the others were great too: Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Abigail Prudames, Jeremy Curnier, Matthew Topliss, Mlibdi Kulashe and Matthew Koon who joined Miyata and Lee-Baker. The lighting and the set design were like extra dancers particularly in the last scene when humanity combined to grab the apple. The ballet was striking. Even better second time round.

This show is on its way to The Linbury with the substitution of Mark Godden's Angels in the Architecture for Perpetuum Mobile. Angels in the Architecture is a gorgeous ballet that I saw in the 2013 Mixed Programme (see Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013). It has the same music and even some of the same choreography as Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring. I would have liked to have seen that too though I wouldn't have missed Chris Hampson's ballet for the world.  London is in for a treat.

Further Reading

14 May 2015  Joanna Goodman Mixed Programme - with a sweet centre (the Mixed Programme in London)

* An old boy of my school as it happens

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