Northern Ballet returned to the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre this week with a programme called Generations: Three Short Ballets. This was the company’s first visit under its new director, former Royal Ballet star Federico Bonelli. The triple bill included a new work by New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck, as well as a short piece by Royal Ballet soloist Benjamin Ella. Alongside these two new works was Adagio Hammerklavier by the Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen.
Ella’s piece – Joie de Vivre – is set to music by Sibelius, with three couples coming and going across the stage. It reminded me of Dances at a Gathering (though perhaps comparison with that masterwork is unfair), in that it hints at relationships but there is no distinct narrative. It is gloriously effervescent, flirty and fun. The smiling dancers, displaying beautiful feet and port de bras, look like they are loving every minute.
Van Manen’s Adagio Hammerklavier followed, with not a smile in sight. In the Linbury, the dancers are close to the audience, so this slow, demanding piece leaves them very exposed. Performed immaculately, with intensity and precision, this is a worthy addition to the company’s repertoire. My only gripe is the unflattering leggings for the men: the baggy gatkes did nothing for them; the women looked better in their floaty white dresses.
The evening closed with Peck’s Intimate Pages: speedy and playful, as you would expect from a New York City Ballet dancer, the ballet features one man dashing on and off the stage yearning after various women. I did not quite get the story, but the dancing was sleek – Aerys Merrill as one of the women stood out with her beautiful elevation.
The big news in the ballet world this week is the resurrection of London City Ballet, nearly 30 years after its closure. Now under the directorship of Christopher Marney, it will concentrate on regional touring, bringing new works alongside lesser-known classical pieces to theatres around the country. It will be back on the Sadler’s Wells stage with a small troupe of 12 dancers in autumn of next year.
Northern Ballet Theatre is at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre until 2 November