First published on 12 Jun 2012. Updated on 12 Jun 2012.
The English National Ballet was on pointe at the Diamond Jubilee Gala Season opening in Chatswood, captivating audiences with the raw technical talent of the company. The evening showcased acts from George Balanchine’s Apollo, Serge Lifar’s legendary Suite en Blanc and three of the company’s favourite pas de deux’s. The high-intensity performances were perfectly proportioned for first-time ballet-goers. For those already committed to their love affair with the form, the acts are over all too soon.
The Performing Arts Centre at The Concourse provided an intimate setting for the Jubilee performance. While at times the dancers appeared confined by the smaller space, it allowed the audience to engage with every movement on the stage.
The caliber of the dancers was not surprising from a company whose skilled performers are hand-picked from around the world. The ENB put it’s best foot forward for the occasion, with company favourites Daria Klimentová – who won the Dancer of the Year Award at the Dance Critics Awards earlier this year – and rising star Vadim Muntagirov performing for the Sydney audience. In only two short years, with the company Muntagirov has rocketed from First Artist to a Principal dancer.
Breaking away from a focus on the whimsical fantasy and romance of the ballet, artistic director Wayne Eagling stripped back costumes and sets to highlight the strength and range of his dancers. In each of the five performances, sets were simple, limited to a single prop or coloured back drop.
In the first performance of the evening, Balanchine’s classic Apollo, a single industrial staircase centered the stage. The simple staging allowed the kaleidoscopic use of space by the young Apollo (Muntagirov) and the three muses vying for his attention to fully animate the stage.
It was the same case with most performances: simple worked. The only exception was the ornate black tutu worn by Klimentova as she danced Odile the Black Swan pas de deux. The intricate disguise is an essential aspect of Odile’s fiery persona as she tactically woos Prince Siegfried, convincing him that she is his true love, Odette. And uncharacteristically, Klimentova faltered during her 32 fouettees, a continuous whipped turn for which this scene is famous.
While each of the dances are classics in their own right, the tone of the evening was fast-paced, with strong and deliberate movements that projected an overall modern feel.
The small orchestral pit of the Concourse’s theatre served as no boundary for the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. Artfully conducted by Gavin Sutherland, their delivery of classic Igor Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky perfectly complemented the spectacle on stage. Australian pianist Kevin Darvas became the backdrop for Adela Ramirez and Fabian Reimar’s performance of the modern/classic Trois Gnossiennes, setting the pace for the charged battle of the sexes with his execution of Erik Satie’s score.
The English National Ballet performs at the Concourse Jun 8-17.