Friday, 21 September 2018

Northern Ballet's Mixed Programme

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Northern Ballet  Mixed Programme (The Kingdom of Back, Mamela, The Shape of Sound) Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds 15 Sep 2018, 19:30

A triple bill should be balanced and varied like a good meal.  The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company got it right in their fifth anniversary performance earlier this year (see "In the Future" - Junior Company's Fifth Anniversary Performance 17 April 2018). They started with a bit of Bournonville, continued with Juanjo Arqués's Fingers in the Air and finished with some vintage van Manen.  In contrast Northern Ballet's Mixed Programme was samey and far too long. 

That was a shame because each of the works in the Mixed Programme was worthy enough but they  would have been appreciated more had there been a little more variety.   Northern Ballet has plenty of works in its repertoire that it could have used - Mark Godden's Angels in the Architecture, Hans van Manen's Concertante and Jonathan Watkins's Northern Trilogy to name just threeHad any of those works been sandwiched between say a Watkins and a van Manen the evening would have been much better.

Of the three works in the programme I liked Kenneth Tindall's The Shape of Sound  best.  His score was Vivaldi's Four Seasons recomposed by Max Richter.  There were some spectacular moments such as when his male dancers bounded onto stage in unison almost in silhouette.  There were also quieter moments when the dancers seemed to become architecture.  There was clever lighting some of which appears to have been designed by Tindall himself.  There were curious touches like linear makeup intersecting the eye line at angles of 90 degrees.  Tindall's cast included Hannah Bateman, Antoinette Brooks-Daw,  Ashley Dixon and Abigail Prudames,

Mlindi Kulashe is an exciting dancer so I had expected some exciting choreography from him.  His piece, Mamela.....  which means "listen" in Xhosa, turned out to be pensive and restrained - subdued even.  That may be because the programme states that it encompasses frustration, escapism and imprisonment though he left it to each member of the audience to create his or her own narrative.  I am mot sure how many of those themes came over. Imprisonment perhaps but only because of the greyish blue dungaree style costumes and the absence of women until some way into the piece.   Kulashe chose a score by Jack Edmonds which opens and ends with the human voices.  The movements were jerky with sudden turns and stretches.  Kulashe used 9 dancers of various levels of seniority from first soloists Joseph Taylor and Abigail Prudames to members of the corps.  One dancer who stood out for me was Ommaira Kanga Perez and I shall look out for her in future.

The Kingdom of Back by Morgann Runacre-Temple offered the only levity in the evening.  It opened with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's elder sister bearing an elaborate 18th century hair piece on her head which she removes at her brother's behest.  The piece focused on the relationship between the siblings relationship with their father and each other.   Some of my favourite dancers were in the piece including Javier Torres who was my male dancer of the year last year and Mlindi  Kulashe, Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Rachael Gillespie.  A lot of composers contributed to the score including Wolfgang Amadeus and Leopold Mozart and David Bowie.  The ballet grabbed my attention with its start but I had to work hard to follow it towards the end.  A good idea but it was rather long.

The Mixed Programme will be performed again at the Cast theatre in Doncaster tonight and tomorrow and in Newcastle in April. It is worth attending though I have seen better work including better triple bills from Northern Ballet.

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