Leeds-based Northern Ballet is better known for its full-length narrative works – most recently Cinderella and The Great Gatsby, both choreographed by company artistic director David Nixon – than mixed bills. Its dancers are always rightly praised for their acting, but the current abstract programme shows that their technique and movement abilities warrant just as much commendation, as indeed do the skills of one particular company choreographer, Kenneth Tindall.

Giuliano Contadini and Matthew Koon in Concerto Six Twenty-Two © onEdition
Giuliano Contadini and Matthew Koon in Concerto Six Twenty-Two
© onEdition

Opening the evening at the Linbury Studio Theatre was Lar Lubovitch’s Concerto Six Twenty-Two. For 13 dancers, the 1986 work includes two exuberant allegro sections encompassing a central andante.

In the first and last movements, dancers dressed in white (with the only flashes of colour coming from stripes down the men’s trousers and bright linings inside the women’s skirts) leapt and spun in changing patterns and directions. Repeatedly returning to a clockwise-moving circular formation, their dancing was vibrant and upbeat, reflecting the playful and joyous sounds of Mozart’s score.

The contrasting central movement – a more sober and thoughtful duet for two men – was less to my taste, but offered a well-considered counterbalance to the other high-energy segments. In this, Giuliano Contadini and Matthew Koon demonstrated impressive strength and control through a range of sustained balances and lifts.

Martha Leebolt and Giuliano Contadini in Concertante © onEdition
Martha Leebolt and Giuliano Contadini in Concertante
© onEdition

Hans Van Manen’s Concertante was much less entertaining, though performed equally well by Northern Ballet’s dancers. To the menacing sounds of music by Frank Martin, dancers rolled their hips and pointed aggressively into the air. The cast’s contemporary dance skills were impressive, especially the exquisite musical dynamics shown by Martha Leebolt, but the choreography made little impression on me.

Tobias Batley and Dreda Blow in Luminous Junc•ture © Emma Kauldhar
Tobias Batley and Dreda Blow in Luminous Junc•ture
© Emma Kauldhar

Closing the evening was a new work by company dancer and choreographer Kenneth Tindall. The aptly named Luminous Junc·ture featured junctions of light in which dancers crawled, shuffled and slid across the floor as if journeying to some unknown destination.

In solos, pas de deux and group work, unitard-clad bodies seemed to ripple effortlessly smoothly from one shape to another, until a sudden sharpness would break their fluid movement spell. Tindall’s choreography blended contemporary and ballet styles effectively, as well as abstract ideas with hints of narrative. Bathed in light from low-hanging ceiling lamps, the dancers’ snake-like movements towards the end of the piece seemed to be almost verbal in their power. I didn’t understand what was being said but I was nonetheless captivated by the message.

With music by Max Richter and Olafur Arnalds, as well as a charismatic political speech and sections of silence, Tindall’s choreography created a real tension in the audience (with a notable absence of any noise or coughing throughout the work). Even on a very plainly dressed stage, the authority of his movements and the interesting lighting design by Alastair West made for a really compelling effect.

Luminous Junc•ture © Emma Kauldhar
Luminous Junc•ture
© Emma Kauldhar

Tindall’s choreography reminded me of Wayne McGregor, with its extreme flexibility and unusually contorted movements such as neck protrusions. The former is, of course, not nearly as experienced a choreographer as the latter, but if Luminous Junc·ture is anything to go by, Tindall is definitely one to watch.