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Subject: "ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force" Archived thread - Read only
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Conferences What's Happening Topic #2662
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Lynette H

24-04-02, 03:09 PM (GMT)
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"ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force"
   ENB Tour de Force, New Victoria Woking, Tuesday 23 April 2002

It’s a funny old world. Received wisdom would have it that triple bills don’t sell, that new work is difficult to sell, and that abstraction rather than narrative always does badly at the box office in the UK. And there I was yesterday in Woking at a performance by a touring group of English National Ballet in the 1400-seat New Victoria Theatre (same size as Sadlers Wells) which had been sold out for some time, and where all three items were greeted by enthusiasm, including the new work by Patrick Lewis. In contrast to the Royal’s difficulties in putting together well balanced and attractive mixed bills, ENB seem to be very much on a roll at the moment, and busy promoting British choreographers. Cathy Marston’s work features on the other ENB small scale tour, and Christopher Hampson's well-received Double Concerto will feature in ENB’s mixed bill in their brief appearance at Covent Garden in May.

This evening offered a pleasant balance of styles. It opened with Balanchine’s Square Dance, which the company has had in its repertory for some time now: this was followed by the new work Manoeuvres, and concluded by the Grand pas Classique (choreography by Frederick Franklin) – white and gold tutus and classical style to end the evening with a flourish. There was a small orchestra, conducted by Anthony Twiner: a reminder of how much can be achieved with quite modest resources.

Square Dance is a testing experience for its corps of twelve, with lots of bright, sharp footwork, but they came though well, and looked happy and confident. Stylistically they don’t have the ultimate Balanchine tautness and zip, but the steps are delivered cleanly enough for the marvellous structure of the work to be appreciated. The leads were Elisa Celis, a soloist, who looked somewhat stretched and a little uncertain in her balances, but still had a strong sense of commitment, and Jan-Erik Wikstrom. He was warmly received, particularly in his slow, beautifully sculpted solo. I thought the audience reaction here was interesting: in previous visits to Woking I had found the audience reaction rather muted. Here they were much more enthusiastic – and not for obviously virtuoso moments, but for presence and authority.

This was the fourth performance of Manoeuvres by Patrick Lewis. One refreshing aspect of this (in the context of a small scale tour) is that it was set for men only – small scale tours can often include lots of pas de deux, and it was good to see the men have a chance to shine on their own. It also illustrated how the standard of the men’s dancing has been improving at ENB. It was an ambitious piece: the composer Philip Feeney had worked closely with Lewis, and the designs from Anthony MacDonald were particularly striking. As the curtain rises you realise you are gazing upwards into a circus tent, complete with circle of lights and ropes springing from the back of the stage. The men’s costumes were quirky quasi-circus tumblers outfits with curious tattoo-like effects across the shoulders.

As you might expect in this context, this was a fast and highly athletic piece, with a few references to acrobatics – six of the men piling up in a human pyramid, lots of jumping and rolling. But this was still decidedly ballet not dance, with the classic vocabulary very much in use, even if it was augmented by some unusual lifts. Most of it sped by at a frantic pace – if in doubt run across the stage and do another double tour….. Leads in this were Wikstrom again, this time with a more mysterious and detached air about him, even when scything through the most demanding jumps, and the irrepressible Yat Sen Chang. There’s no story, no clowning around, just the fierce exhilaration of performance. The cast worked flat out. I had seen some of Lewis’s work for ENB before, but it must be four or five years ago at least. This seemed to have progressed on very considerably from there – I hope we get to see more from Lewis.

Raymonda is a good choice as a closing item, but this perhaps wasn’t delivered as well as the other pieces (though the audience liked it). Again it is handsomely designed, in white and gold. The men in this item had a few regrettable differences of opinion about timing. Erina Takahashi is still rather lacking in the years of stage experience for the authority that a role like Raymonda really demands, although technically she is a confident and accomplished dancer. Yosvani Ramos is dashing and a real charmer, and the audience really warmed to him. He looks like he enjoys every minute of time on stage. A very enjoyable evening, thoughtfully put together.

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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force alison 25-04-02 1
     RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force Tim Powell 25-04-02 2
         RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force trogadmin 01-05-02 3

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25-04-02, 01:38 PM (GMT)
Click to EMail alison Click to send private message to alison Click to view user profileClick to add this user to your buddy list  
1. "RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force"
In response to message #0
   Thank you, Lynette - you beat me to it, so I'll just add a few comments.

Jan-Erik Wikstrom. He was
>warmly received, particularly in his
>slow, beautifully sculpted solo.

Danced much more expressively than any other performances I recall in this role. As in the Nutcracker at Christmas, I was also struck by his attention to his ballerina, really making eye contact with her and generally treating her with great care.

>thought the audience reaction here
>was interesting: in previous visits
>to Woking I had found
>the audience reaction rather muted.
>Here they were much more
>enthusiastic – and not for
>obviously virtuoso moments, but for
>presence and authority.
I think the New Victoria's continuing drive to build up an audience for dance is responsible for this - would that more theatres would follow suit! It's a very good theatre for watching dance, and to judge from the numbers on the station afterwards quite a few people now are making the trip either from London or from elsewhere in the South-East to attend.

>As you might expect in this
>context, this was a fast
>and highly athletic piece, ... just the fierce exhilaration of
>performance. The cast worked flat

Yes, I wondered how any of them could still stand up to take their bows afterwards!

I had seen some
>of Lewis’s work for ENB
>before, but it must be
>four or five years ago
>at least. This seemed to
>have progressed on very considerably
>from there – I hope
>we get to see more
>from Lewis.
I quite agree.

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Tim Powell

25-04-02, 05:43 PM (GMT)
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2. "RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force"
In response to message #1
   A note to say that I do so agree with the postings of Lynette and Alison. I went to the Wednesday matinee which was well attended and as stated well appreciated.The applause was warm and discerning in fact not unlike The Wells or ROH on a good night.
We went to the class in the morning which made a very pleasant day. After the class we saw David Wall coach some soloists and in a time when we hear so much over adulation it occured to me just how underadulated he was in his performing days. His all round qualities were considerable and all too rarely matched.

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01-05-02, 09:36 AM (GMT)
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3. "RE: ENB Triple bill - Tour de Force"
In response to message #2
   I managed to catch up with this in Cheltenham last night. Almost a full house too, which can't be a bad thing.

Square Dance proves what a genius Balanchine was. Not one extraneous movement and each step flowing elegantly into the next. The chaps solos aren't Mr B's best (IMO) but the overall effect is stunning. I would like to see this piece in the original format (with the caller and the orchestra on stage) to see if it works as well.

To quote a previous poster's words concerning Manoeuvre "Most of it sped by at a frantic pace – if in doubt run across the stage and do another double tour" Indeed it is fast but I felt that was it's undoing. There is no contrast, so after a while the speed appears to slow. Also the bits using the ropes debases circus arts. The chaps are strong enough to do cord-de-lisse and they could learn some simple and quite spectacular moves without merely hanging onto a sling. Still the double grand jete en tourant (well I think that what it is) is something you don't see everyday, and the audience absolutely loved the piece (which just goes to prove I know jack). The chaps clearly work very hard dancing it, and it is nice to see a purely male work.

Raymonda is well Raymonda. Erina Takahashi is an accomplished dancer and well up to the task. I don't know her partner sorry; I don't see ENB often and I don't recognise many of the dancers. Anyway he was excellent in the air and gave a good showing. Nice costumes too.

As per previous years Tour de Force, a top night out.

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