Life & Culture

Dance review: Dangerous Liaisons

This production is wild, wicked and wonderful, says Joy Sable


Northern Ballet is well known for its original story-telling ballets, and with Dangerous Liaisons, it has a little gem. The story – you may have seen the play or one of the screen versions – is a tale of lust, manipulation and betrayal.  It is hard to distil the various complications of the plot into a ballet, but even if you did not read the programme notes, you can enjoy the wild and wicked choreography detailing the sexual exploits of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont.

The ballet comes with a warning that it is not suitable for children under 12, and given that sexual violence and erotic couplings make up the bulk of the work, that warning should not be taken lightly.  It is definitely not for the prudish. Nevertheless, some of the pas de deux are breathtakingly dazzling, with the dancers swooping and swirling around as they revel in this bodice-ripping adaptation.

Sets are kept to a minimum: there are five chandeliers which rise and fall as the story progresses, and the dancers are in beautiful costumes which evoke the period of pre-Revolution France yet allow full mobility for the often extreme movements demanded by David Nixon’s choreography.

The ballet only needs a small cast, which makes it ideal material for this touring company, but it requires high technical ability as well as emotional commitment to pull off all the tricks in the passionate pas de deux. The dancers give impressive performances and acquit themselves well. At the performance I saw, Abigail Prudames was a cold-hearted Marquise de Merteuil, with Joseph Taylor as a powerful Vicomte de Valmont. He is a tall dancer with a lovely jump and strong stage presence.

Dangerous Liaisons is set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia. How lovely to hear (and watch) the magnificent violins perform this beautiful work. The ballet has been filmed so there will be an opportunity to see it in the future if you cannot get to a live performance.

Dangerous Liaisons is at Sadler’s Wells EC1 until 10 June.

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