Choreographers: Benjamin Ella, Tiler Peck, Hans van Manen
If you haven’t been to a ballet for a while because, well, it’s ballet and you have had your fill of Pliés, Pirouettes, Arabesques and Relevés, then you really should see the Northern Ballet’s production of Generations to rekindle your love of this form of dance.
The Northern Ballet’s home base is the Stanley & Aubrey Burton Theatre in Leeds which is an intimate theatre with a deceivingly large stage that provides good space for the movement of the dancers with excellent views from all seats.
Your reviewer decided not to read the backgrounds of each of these three separate ballets as he wanted to figure out the stories being told by simply watching the dancers. On this night, he got two out of three.
The idea of bringing together three different choreographers, from three different generations of age and experience, to create three different, very personal pieces, was the brainchild of Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director, Federico Bonelli and it works extremely well. Almost something like a taster session for anyone who thinks they might like ballet but doesn’t want to sit through a whole major production.
Each piece was inspired by a favourite piece of classical music chosen by the choreographers and played live by skilled musicians. They were just long enough to tell the story they intended and to appreciate the skills and abilities of this company of dancers. It was refreshing to see that the male dancers shared equally in the spotlight and that this coryphée of “collaborative artists” worked very well together and were a joy to watch.
The intervals after every short performance were not rushed and gave the audience time for a comfort break, a cold drink and to get outside for some fresh air, which was a very much needed break as the theatre was lacking in any apparent form of air circulation and became uncomfortably hot almost right from the start.
The first piece of the evening was Joie De Vivre (Exuberant Enjoyment of Life), choreographed by newcomer Benjamin Ella and brought together the stories of three couples finding their way through the various stages of a relationship with all of them looking forward to the future together. The use of classical ballet movements along with theatrical staging, the boys huddled together trying to get up the courage to ask the girls to dance, made this piece light, fun, entertaining and relatable.
The second piece, Adagio Hammerklavier, by veteran choreographer Hans Van Manen, who started his career in 1955, was staged beautifully with the dancers forming geometric shapes across all points of the stage which they used to its fullest. The use of a flowing grey curtain as a backdrop and music performed with much emotion, feeling and adagio by pianist Colin Scott, created an almost fantasy like feeling. The dancers intentionally slow, precise and in sync movements must have required more then usual amount of physical stamina which they provided with ease.
The third piece Intimate Pages, choreographed by Dance Luminary, and fellow American, Tiler Peck, was a Pas de bourrée away from the traditional, classic ballet and was in this case a very successful step in the right direction. From the bright red costumes to the infusion of classic ballet moves with modern and interpretive dance, to the string quartet, to the lighting designed by Alistair West, which became as much a performer on stage as the dancers, this powerful piece brought to life as many different emotions as there were people in the audience.
If this evening’s very pleasant experience is a preview of what the Northern Ballet will be presenting to audiences during its 2023 season, this reviewer for one, will definitely be seeing them again.
Runs until: 16 September 2023