Modern Masters at Sadler’s Wells
The English National Ballet partners with Sadler’s Wells Theatre, intending to push the realms of ballet into the modern world and far into the future. Modern Masters, the lovechild of this unusual but innovative pairing, is as ambitious as it is enchanting.
As Jiří Kylián’s 1991 Petite Mort begins, the curtain rises to dancers donning risqué, flesh-coloured apparel resembling lascivious underwear. The men are virile – or as virile as they can be whilst fiddling around with swords – and the women exude elegant femininity that oozes with sensuality. But it’s not until the blades are discarded that the dance begins to take shape, flattering the gentle movements of Mozart’s piano concertos, No. 21 & 23, played by Chris Swithinbank and the English National Ballet Philharmonic.
John Neumeier’s Spring and Fall is next. Fluid and flowing, it’s a piece full of fresh, fledgling romance: a piece that shuns drastic gymnastics for character, phrasing and dynamic dance. Girls wear spaghetti-strapped viscose dresses over bodysuits, while boys sport loose pants and bare chests, radiating the first flush of youth.
Finally, with In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, William Forsythe’s new school of choreography deconstructs classical ballet. Set against a bare stage, nine dancers culminate in a fierce display of technical and physical wizardry. On the whole, despite a slow start, the English National Ballet rise to the challenge admirably, considering this high-speed, high-precision, high-impact style, not often seen in the classical field. The result is effortless and smooth, like the thick flow of creamy chocolate.
In all, Modern Masters has its ups and downs. The beautiful discipline of ballet is not an easy one to criticise, especially where it is embodied in the excellence of the English National Ballet. However, one could say that the where the dancing could have been gritty and strong, it all seemed just a little too perfect, just a little too poised. And although it is great to see classical dance and music adapt to modern life and culture, one has to wonder whether a hybrid really does do the tradition justice and, for that matter, its newer dance prototype.
Modern Masters was on at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from 10th March until 15th March 2015, for further information visit here.