Flawless and English National Ballet
London, Hammersmith Apollo
1 June 2012
This is a show that you can bitch about at length – so much seems wrong. And yet I came out without a long face and was rather thrilled to have been part of a very different audience, many high as kites, screaming at every opportunity and ending with a standing ovation.
The problem is that it looks like a hastily-put-together and under-resourced show from a ballet perspective. The Flawless boys (no girls in Flawless) put on a bravura and technically exciting performance effectively cast at principal level, while the English National Ballet (ENB) girls, although giving their all, get rather ordinary movement and are from lower ranks, not yet capable of projecting the dazzle to keep up with some of the best audience communicators in the business. As it happens it’s clear many in the audience are there for Flawless, hence the happiness as they do their stuff, but I suspect ENB company hopes of winning the audience over to come back and see a ballet performance or two will be dashed. In truth ballet just didn’t look very interesting.
It’s not helped by the combined companies trying to tell a bonkers story about a professor, a mystical hat that distorts time and the students of the “All Star Academy”. Along the way there is much student rivalry and some love duets before a happy ending. In a couple of sections choreographers Marlon ‘Swoosh’ Wallen and Jenna Lee conspire to have the ENB girls rise above leggy eye candy to equal the Flawless action. Early on there is a love duet between Alison McWhinney and Leroy Dias dos Santos, where he’s slowed up to match the mood, the bravura is scrubbed and they each impress as equals, if he (as with all the Flawless boys) is not yet fully at home with partnering. Later in a ball scene we get something a little like Western Symphony with bar girls vamping the boys and looking much stronger rather than twee.
All up I think regular dance goers would probably give this 2 stars, while those come to be entertained mainly on the strength of the Flawless lead (the vast majority) will walk out 4-star happy. I’m certainly glad I went and saw them live – they are a bucket-load of fun. Ballet will have its day in such mixed company another time.
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