Review: English National Ballet - Choreographics, A Letter To.. - The Place

Performance: 3 & 4 May 2013
Reviewed by Laura Dodge - Tuesday 7 May 2013

Anton Lukovkin's 'Waiting for the One'
Photo: Chantal Guevara

English National Ballet’s choreographic showcase has been an annual fixture in the company’s diary for some time. But this year, dancers brought their work to a much wider audience at the London home of contemporary dance, The Place.

The evening was introduced by Associate Artist George Williamson, who reiterated Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s aim to make ENB “the most creative ballet company in the UK”. And staying true to this ambition, this year’s choreographers were all mentored by multidisciplinary dance artist Kerry Nicholls and collaborated with emerging composers from the Royal College of Music.

There was one stand out piece – Tamarin Stott’s Work in Progress, which explored dancers’ inner monologues while preparing for performance. In rectangular cells of light, four dancers (Barry Drummond, Shevelle Dynott, Désirée Ballantyne and Araminta Wraith) combined repetitive warm-up movements with frustrated jerky twitches. To a soundtrack of electronic noise and fragmented voices by Ryan Cockerham, the work perfectly captured the feeling of a mind overcrowded with thoughts and anxieties.

The other four works weren’t so successful. Makoto Nakamura considered differing emotional responses to mortality in a trio entitled A Fruitful Death. With movements reminiscent of MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring, a sense of desperation and helplessness was effectively conveyed but the choreography lacked innovation.

Stina Quagebeur’s Domna took inspiration from Philip Larkin’s poem Places, Loved Ones. I have been a huge fan of Quagebeur’s work in the past but this felt unfortunately clichéd and over-dramatic with girls in black dresses staring ferociously at Nathan Young until he was overpowered and fell to the floor.

In Waiting for the One, Anton Lukovkin investigated the different stages of human relationships through choreography for three couples and one lone female. There were some interesting ideas, particularly a pas de deux tilt with the girl held around her neck, but the piece lacked consistency as a whole.

Fabian Reimar’s cohesion explored the notion of particles sticking together through pas de deux with differing levels of touch between partners. Most interesting was Nancy Osbaldeston and Laurent Liotardo’s intricate floor-bound duet.

Accompanying music by Gerardo Gozzi, Laurence Osborn, Raquel Garcia Tomas and Andrew Baldwin may well represent the nature of contemporary composition, but was not to my taste. With piercing and disjointed sounds, the only way to describe it is using critic Donald Hutera’s words on Twitter: “tortured strings”.

Laurent Liotardo’s films introduced each work with rehearsal footage and the choreographer describing their intentions. Whilst they are beautifully shot and it is wonderful to gain an insight into the creative process, they force viewers to see the works in terms defined by their choreographers, rather than just interpreting what is seen onstage. I suggest these films be put online so that audience members can choose whether or not they wish to watch.

Nevertheless, Choreographics is an important part of English National Ballet’s calendar and I wholeheartedly support the platform it provides to test out creative ideas. In many ways, the details of the works don’t matter – the important thing is that ENB is giving its dancers a choreographic voice.

More on English National Ballet


Laura Dodge writes for a number of publications including Dancing Times, The Londonist and English National Ballet’s Dance is the Word blog.

Photo gallery: Chantal Guevara [Includes Emmeline Jansen’s Hooked – the winning choreography from English National Ballet School ‘s Choreographics competition, which was also performed as part of the programme.]

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