Perpetual Motion: Perpetuum Mobile | Project # 1 | Glass Canon | Rhapsody in Blue
Leeds, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre
9 February 2012
This was a pleasant night, pleasant for its broad content but especially pleasant because mixed bills and choreographic variety are not something normally associated with Northern Ballet (NB). It’s a time of great hardship for all the major companies as grants are pegged back and I hope the company will continue its journey in introducing more variety like this. In the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre they certainly have a gorgeous studio space at their new Leeds HQ with a wide and deep stage and excellent lighting rig. No reason not to do more!
The evening opened with Christopher Hampson’s Perpetuum Mobile. I have to declare Christopher as a friend and colleague but I look to put that to one side in reviewing… and say I thought this was the classiest piece of the night by a good margin. I always had fond memories of Mobile (first created on English National Ballet 15 years ago) for making me instantly elated no matter what my mood and driving all the cares of the world away – and that all came rushing back in Leeds. What makes it the more astounding was that this was Hampson’s first professional commission and one where he deliberately decided to work in neo-classical style throughout. Many might try but few deliver such a sustained breathless punch – in this case to Bach’s Violin Concerto. And just when you don’t think you can take any more stage energy it all drops into the slow movement and a duet of gentle growing intensity. Originally created on Tamara Rojo, Hannah Bateman together with Javier Torres really picked up on the subtle and intimate mood. Then it’s all energy again for the closing section and a particularly satisfying final pose. Northern Ballet dancers don’t normally do classical work like this and they made a very fine job of it, I have to say.
From one first professional piece to another and Kenneth Tindall’s Project # 1. Tindall is a Premier Dancer with the company and the work is based on an earlier workshop piece which I think has become the second part for 3 dancers and very much explores the physically and partnering possibilities of 2 boys and a girl. The highlight is a duet for the boys with a BalletBoyz/Maliphant feel. But the piece overal starts with 1 minute of contemporary ballet cliches – bright lights, blackness, electronic noises, purposeful walking, little chest dips, silhouettes, tight costumes ‘n’ trunks etc. It’s a hell of a difference from normal NB work but settles down as dancers are teased from a group to do less balletic and stronger movement supported by some strong light designs. Tindall’s work got a lot of applause and David Nixon (NB Artistic Director) generously stood up to applaud this first commission too.
Glass Canon by Northern Ballet’s ballet master, Daniel de Andrade, was created in 2010 and has the look of an assured piece. The music, by Moishe Bagel, sounds like a mash-up of Philip Glass (the choreographer’s friend) and Jewish Klezmer to give a propulsive base for 12 dancers to hurl themselves at with spiky, jazz-infused enthusiasm. The odd take on music is matched by Christopher Giles’ costumes of gorgeously busy prints. It’s a piece that like Perpetuum Mobile would tour well.
The evening closed with Artistic Director David Nixon’s Rhapsody in Blue from the full-evening I Got Rhythm which will be returning to the rep in May. Great Gershwin score, great costumes (also by Nixon), great dancers led out by the charismatic Keiko Amemori (back guesting with the company), and great lighting all auger well but choreographically it does not really get going and seems to pull its punches rather than go with the flow of music – very frustrating. But Nixon, in the round, is a good director and at the end I applauded much for this rare handing over of the choreographic reins to others just as the audience applauded the work itself.