Life & Culture

Our Voices ballet review: Three very different works highlighting dancers’ versatility

It is the first English National Ballet programme under new artistic director Aaron S Watkin


Our Voices
English National Ballet

September sees our major dance companies return to the stage after the summer break and the English National Ballet is at Sadler’s Wells for a new triple bill called Our Voices. 

It is the first programme under the company’s new artistic director, Aaron S. Watkin and features three very different works highlighting the dancers’ versatility.

The performance begins with Theme and Variations, Balanchine’s short classical masterpiece, set to music by Tchaikovsky. It is – literally – a glittering start to the evening with three sparkling chandeliers decorating the otherwise bare stage.

The focus is on the corps who bring a lot of energy to the ballet. They lack the sharp clarity of Balanchine dancers, but their footwork is neat and port de bras pretty. Emma Hawes brings elegance to the main role and the use of her head and neck is particularly eloquent. Aitor Arrieta shows impressive elevation in his solo and the company brings the ballet to a rousing finish.

The second piece is Les Noces, Ascent to Days – a new work by Andrea Miller. Les Noces has been made into a ballet before, and though I admire the disturbing, visceral movements of the dancers, I am afraid this version leaves me cold and try as I might, I cannot enjoy Stravinky’s music for this particular work.

There is a lot of running on demi-pointe, dashing around the stage and throwing of bodies. Breanna Foad and Francesca Velicu, tossed around like rag dolls, deserve praise for their energy and commitment.

The evening concludes with Four Last Songs by English choreographer David Dawson. Set to Richard Strauss’s moving score, this short piece is accompanied by soprano Madeleine Pierard, standing at the side of the stage.

The dancers are clad in flesh-coloured unitards, exposing every inch of their amazing bodies and leaving very little to the imagination. There is not an ounce of fat on their sinewy, finely-tuned physiques…it is very evident that they do not reach for that extra doughnut at lunchtime.

Beautifully danced, the piece is nevertheless rather repetitive and could do with more light and shade in the choreography. It brings the performance to an end on a rather gloomy note – it would have been better to start the show with this and end it with Theme and Variations. Going out with a joyous bang is better than with a melancholy whimper.

Our Voices is at Sadler’s Wells Theatre until September 30

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