For English National Ballet’s first appearance at Sadler’s Wells as an Associate Company, Artistic Director Tamara Rojo selected works from three of the most respected contemporary choreographers of the last decades: Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe and John Neumeier. Away from the classics that the ENB usually dances in its other regular venue, London Coliseum, the programme shows the versatility of the company and the skills and commitment of its dancers. They seemed to embrace their new stage and the works, inaugurating the partnership with command and delight. The ENB Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Sutherland, also sounded fresh and comfortable in this new, more intimate venue.  

Ksenia Ovsyanick and james Forbat in <i>Petite Mort</i> © ASH
Ksenia Ovsyanick and james Forbat in Petite Mort
© ASH

The programme opened with Kylián’s Petite Mort (1991), a work which ENB danced two years ago on the first programme Rojo put together as a director of the company and which, then, had been well received by both critics and audiences. A quiet, elegant and occasionally humorous meditation on love and sexuality, it is a work for six couples set to two movements of two Mozart's piano concertos (Adagio from Piano Concerto A major and andante from Piano Concerto C major). In this performance, I particularly liked the tlast three duets, which distinctively and powerfully illustrated three different versions of sexual desire. In a carnal duet, Ksenia Ovsaynick and James Forbat highlighted the urgency, their bodies in seeking each other. Laurretta Summerscales and Junor Souza offered the interpretation of a bond of tender sophistication. Their musical precision and clean, elegant movements contrasted with the languorous sensuality of the duet between Rojo and Max Westwell, who opted for lingering in the rhythmic variations of their union.

Neumeier’s Spring and Fall (1991), at the heart of the bill, transformed the atmosphere of intimacy cast by Kylián into an ambience of joviality. Set to Antonin Dvořák’s Serenade in E major, it has no storyline but expresses the moods and feelings that can arise in the friendly interactions of a group of friends. In this performance, I particularly enjoyed the first half of the piece, which was full of joy and playfulness.

A Cojocaru, J Souza and B Drummond in <i>In the middle somewhat elevated</i> © ASH
A Cojocaru, J Souza and B Drummond in In the middle somewhat elevated
© ASH
Alina Cojocaru shone in the leading female role. She danced with grace and enjoyment and was as lively as the music. As the leading male dancer, Alejandro Virelles danced with elegance and controlled poise but I missed a certain carelessness and the spontaneity which could have helped his dancing match Cojocaru’s gracious vivacity.

The evening closed with the company's much anticipated first performance of Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated (1987). Created for the Paris Opéra Ballet during Rudolf Nureyev’s artistic directorship of the company, the piece quickly acquired the status of a contemporary masterpiece and has been danced by many companies ever since. ENB’s account of its angular, off-balance, sharp dance vocabulary was dynamic, potent and precise. I only wished for a bit more emphasis on the loose quality of some of the choreography, that liberates limbs and articulations of the rigid contention of classical technique. The whole cast was excellent but I especially liked the physicality of Begoña Cao, the authoritative presence of Summerscales and the clean exactitude of Junor Souza.

English National Ballet in <i>Spring and Fall</i> © ASH
English National Ballet in Spring and Fall
© ASH
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