Review: New English Ballet Theatre, Peacock Theatre @NEBT_tweets #TrystDevotionBetrayal

What a fabulous treat! The Kreutzer Sonata was one of those simple, brilliant ideas that makes you wonder why nobody did it before. The violin sonata is one of Beethoven’s most beautiful pieces which then formed the climax of Tolstoy’s story of the same name in which the jealous husband realises his wife is in love with her violin teacher when he sees them playing together. Janáček then based his passionate String Quartet No. 1 on Tolstoy’s story. Andrew McNicol’s ballet brings all three together, telling Tolstoy’s story, using both pieces of music. I hope other companies pick up on this brilliant ballet. If the Royal Ballet performed it then I am certain it would immediately join their standard repertoire. NEBT is a young company and this may not have had quite the same polish, and certainly did not have as expensive sets, but they easily made up for this is sheer energy and passion from the three leading dancers, Hayley Blackburn as the wife, Silas Stubbs as her husband and Joshua Barwick as the violinist. The live music from the Sacconi Quartet and Andrew Harvey on violin, accompanied by Anne Lovett, would have made a delightful concert in its own right but the fusion with the dance was magical.

The Kreutzer Sonata filled the second half of a mixed bill entitled Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal, the first half consisting of four much shorter ballets. The first, Tangents, was choreographed by Daniela Cardim Fonteyne to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Both music and dance were terrific but I was distracted by knowing the former too well and expecting the dance to reflect the titles of the movements which it didn’t. I enjoyed Valentino Zucchetti’s Orbital Motion more, even though it was performed to a recording of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1. The dance matched the music perfectly, with the dancers orbiting each other like suns, planets and galaxies. The short Toca from Érico Montes didn’t work for me, maybe because I couldn’t get into the recorded music by Villa-Lobos. The last work in the second half, Mad Women, choregraphed by Kristen McNally lived up to its title, “mad” in the funny sense and performed to a montage of music from many genres, with American adverts and sounds.

I could say much more but this is already much longer than my usual reviews. If you are at all interested in ballet, then this is an absolute must. My only, teeny grumble is that, in the year in which same sex marriage was introduced, I did feel a little disappointed to see an all-white (or near-white) company in which every portrayal of a relationship was between a man and a woman. The company’s work is firmly grounded in classical European ballet, which I do not criticise, but still.


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