Robert Tanitch reviews ENB’s Voices of America at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1
English National Ballet’s Voices of America is a highly enjoyable bill of works by Aszure Barton, William Forsythe and Jerome Robbins.
Aszure Barton’s Fantastic Beings, which premiered in 2016, gets the performance off to a good start. It’s an admirable ensemble showcase for the energy and dynamism of a talented company, especially in the final stretch when they are all in furs. The music – Mason Bates’s Anthology of Fantastic Zoology – is immensely likeable.
Approximate Sonata 2016
William Forsythe’s Approximate Sonata 2016, is described as “an essay in the nature of pas de deux in the mid-20th century” and danced to an electronic score by Thom Willems. Forsythe deconstructs classical ballet’s vocabulary. It’s like watching the dancers in rehearsal. Isaac Hernandez had an exciting solo.
Jerome Robbins’s The Cage dates from 1951 and then audiences evidently found its mixture of sex and cannibalism shocking. The Mayor of The Hague wanted to ban it.
Robbins takes his inspiration from predatory female insects preying on males who pay the ultimate price for sex – instant death and being eaten. It’s a perfect revival for the MeToo age. A novice (Jurgita Dronina) beheads a male (James Streeter) with her thighs.
The murderous Queen insect has an entourage of 12 frantic females with strange wigs and zombie-like open mouths. The music – Igor Stravinsky’s Concert in D for string orchestra – is creepy and the choreography is sharply angular for these deadly femmes fatales.
Playlist (Track 1, 2)
William Forsythe’s Playlist (Track 1, 2) is his first work for a British company in 20 years. The ballet, an all-male ensemble piece, is in two halves: the first to Peven Everett’s Surely Shorty and the second to Lion Babe’s Impossible (Jack Jones remix).
It’s virtuosity has a bouncy, crowd-pleasing joie de vivre. The dancers (all twelve of them with their names on the back of their shirts) have a ball, soaring high, spinning and pirouetting. Playlist (Track 1, 2) is clearly going to have a long shelf-life.