Contemporary Cuts 2021: For an Instant, Little Monsters, 1984 excerpt, Jane Eyre excerpt, States of Mind
London, Sadler’s Wells
11 June 2021
A rare and full mixed bill of a night from Northern Ballet (NB), the more welcome for featuring two London premieres. The premieres bookended a bill with one short work and two pas de deux (pdd) between, plus a short interval film about Northern’s (non-traditional) Swan Lake.
The short work on the bill was Demis Volpi’s Little Monsters, danced by NB earlier in London but worth a return visit as a couple work through their relationship to three Elvis Presley numbers – it’s fun, reflective and has some interesting contemporary partnering, nicely done by Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor. Good partnering was also to the fore in the pdd from Jonathan Watkins 1984 and Cathy Marston’s Jane Eyre. The Watkins excerpt, with Minju Kang and Lorenzo Trossello in the Countryside pdd, fares better when stripped of full context with a clear emotional arc from initial love to more torrid moments, but the Marston (the Proposal pdd with Dominique Larose and Mlindi Kulashe) features more original movement and a softer female take on love. Good, but I did miss the huge wing chair from the original set which is the normal starting point and clearly shows their difference in social standing and projects male power big time.
Opening the evening was Amaury Lebrun’s For an Instant, a thoughtful piece on the “fleeting aspects of life and humanity”. As with life it starts in darkness with a slow pulse and ends in darkness. Between life and death, the cast of twelve dance a mix of withdrawn solos, duets of love and other combinations of togetherness, all to the eminently life-affirming delights of Purcell and Biber. Danced in ballet slippers, this is contemporary movement but from somebody who understands ballet and the company – it’s the gentle tug of the new. An interesting work, if it seemed a bit too long and I did not get all the references that I felt I should.
Kenneth Tindall’s States of Mind nicely closed out the night. Tindall knows how to grab and please an audience and despite us all being thoroughly sick of Covid-19 this was his Covid ballet, and we warmed to it, the more so come the end. Created last year in the darkest days of the pandemic, it is in three district sections. It starts in serious and reflective vein with Bach and 20th century modernist Jacob ter Veldhuis overlaid with occasional spoken international news quotes and the Queen offering words of succour. The dance comes in an inventive edgy torrent supported by modern costumes (from Hannah Bateman); it all has the confident feel of ballet that is seriously urban – anything but pretty or twee. And then it all changes and the dance become brighter and to some magnificent Aretha Franklin we get a good-time musical theatre ending – the stage pulses with energy and we all start smiling and giggling – it is so not what we expected. Tindall is that rare beast with an umbilical connection to Joe Public and knows what will send us home entertained and oh-so-nicely challenged. He has had a good boss in artistic director David Nixon who has rightly backed him all the way – Tindall represents a wonderful future and should be much more widely commissioned.