Ce site Web a des limites de navigation. Il est recommandé d'utiliser un navigateur comme Edge, Chrome, Safari ou Firefox.

Hidden Talents

With “Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal,” New English Ballet Theatre demonstrates an unfortunate truth: enthusiasm alone does not a successful performance make. The dancers here are sound and their energy laudable, but the mixed bill, a hodge-podge of five wildly different works, ultimately proves a victim of its own ambition, pitching overpowering choreography to underwhelming effect.

New English Ballet Theatre perform “Orbital Motion.” Photograph by Thierry Fonteyn

subscribe to the latest in dance


“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

“Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal” New English Ballet Theatre Peacock Theatre, London, UK, July 2-5, 2014

The lone exception to this is Kristen McNally’s “Mad Women,” a spunky scorcher of a ballet that serves up a refreshing subversion of the powerless female trope. Here a band of rosy-cheeked, crop-topped pin-ups—a nod to “flesh and blood Stepford wives” for whom “men are assumed to be their consumers,” according to McNally—eschew the virginal compliance expected of them and instead take their sexuality into their own hands, waltzing to the pitch-perfect “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” and playing rock-paper-scissors for bagsies on the delivery boy. The sassy piece manages to strike that tricky balance between self-knowing and self-congratulating, thanks to both McNally’s clever vision and the sharp performances of the dancers she’s cast. Under a tangerine blaze the rockabilly babes’ cigarette smoking and lipstick application transform into superpowers of sorts, and nowhere is their agency more clear-cut than the scene in which they begin ‘malfunctioning’ upon testing out a more tired (read: male-dictated) brand of sexy. By contrast, the evening’s other four ballets fail to resonate much beyond their running time. With Daniela Cardim Fonteyne’s “Tangents,” a look at the universal aspects of romantic relationships, the rushed, stilted tone ushered in during the first phrase never quite recedes; the six dancers, animated though they are, appear hurried, and there’s little chemistry between them to buoy the weighty theme. Erico Montes’ “Toca,” a take on Eça de Queiroz’s The Maias, is likewise strained: the duet attempts to cram a 1,000-page novel’s worth of pathos into a six-minute slot, an undertaking that undermines its own strong points—namely a lovely mood marked by convincing expressions and beautiful lines. Meanwhile, the cast of Valentino Zucchetti’s “Orbital Motion” struggles to keep up with the breakneck strings of Philip Glass, falling out of their turns and scrambling to transition between formations. The galactic set-up, in which an octet revolves around a gold-clad duo meant to represent the sun, is interesting, but its merits are all but swallowed up in the chaos; there’s little time to appreciate the complicated tableaux at hand. The piece feels not only under-rehearsed but overextended—so much so that it’s difficult to imagine even the very top crop of dancers making this work. Finally, there’s Andrew McNicol’s “Kreutzer Sonata,” clearly intended as the evening’s showstopper, what with its baroque set design and ambitious Tolstoy-inspired libretto. The dramatic ballet is lavish and tragic, but it feels very much like a first draft—the numerous set changes are fussy, and the characters’ motivations have yet to be coaxed out and refined. That said, Hayley Blackburn offers a tremendous turn as the youthful wife suffering at the hands of her husband’s possessiveness, her tortured persona dancing on the edge of every graceful arabesque and leap. The onstage music, which sees Anne Lovett and Andrew Harvey respectively dazzle on the piano and violin, proves likewise captivating. The seeds of talent planted across “Tryst” are manifest, and with some choreographic fine-tuning and additional time to rehearse, I’ve no doubt a more polished and robust programme would emerge, one that underpins the commendable ability on offer with apposite choreography. NEBT deserves high praise for its patronage of up-and-coming dancers, but it does them no favours by mining their strengths without equally respecting their limitations.

Sara Veale


Sara Veale is a London-based writer and editor. She's written about dance for the Observer, the Spectator, DanceTabs, Auditorium Magazine, Exeunt and more. Her first book, Untamed: The Radical Women of Modern Dance, will be published in 2024.

comments

Featured

So Far So Good
REVIEWS | Faye Arthurs

So Far So Good

The School of American Ballet is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. So is George Balanchine’s iconic “Serenade”—the first piece he made in America in 1934, choreographed on students from his brand-new academy.

Plus
Sound Effect
REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Sound Effect

Sometimes there’s not much you’re able to say analytically about a dance work, and yet you know you’ve just witnessed a blood-guts-and-soul offering from an artist of the keenest kinaesthetic intelligence. Such was the case with gizeh muñiz vengel’s “auiga,” second on a double bill finale for the ARC Edge residency at San Francisco’s CounterPulse.

Plus
Hope is Action
REVIEWS | Gracia Haby

Hope is Action

The Australian Museum Mammalogy Collection holds ten specimens of the Bramble Cay Melomys collected from 1922–24, when they were in abundance. One hundred years later, a familiar photo of a wide-eyed, mosaic-tailed Melomys, the first native mammal to become extinct due to the impacts of climate change, greets me as I enter the Arts House foyer.

FREE ARTICLE
Common Language
INTERVIEWS | Candice Thompson

Common Language

Pre-pandemic, queerness and ballet were two terms not often put together. So, when choreographer Adriana Pierce started bringing a community of queer-identifying people together on Zoom—cis women, trans people of all genders, and nonbinary dancers—it felt like a watershed moment for many of them. 

FREE ARTICLE
Good Subscription Agency