DanceNorth East & YorkshireReview

Las Hermanas/Concerto/Gloria – Leeds Grand

Music: Frank Martin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Francis J.M. Poulenc

Producer: Antony Dowson

Reviewer: Dawn Smallwood

To celebrate the late Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Northern Ballet presents a triple bill of his works, Las Hermanas, Concerto and Gloria this season. The audience has an opportunity to pay tribute to the legendary choreographer whose works continues to inspire many today.

The programme opens with Las Hermanas (The Sisters), a psychological provocative story of five sisters who has a domineering mother. Their suppressed and controlling existence triggers strong themes of sexual repression, lost innocence and unmanageable jealously which only leads to a devastating and consequential ending. Set to Frank Martin’s harpsichord concerto, inspiration is sought from The House of Bernada Alba, Federico García Lorca’s play. With expressive dancing and strong interpretation, it features the guest artist Zenaida Yanowsky (as the Eldest Sister) in this somewhat dark and sinister story.

Concerto, which was premiered over 50 years ago, is set to Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major. A classical dynamic interpretation to the Russian composer’s score and the complex connotations are woven into the music. The work is pleasing to one’s eyes, it appears orderly like a traditional ballet but yet there are some unaligned dance movements, symbolising MacMillan’s choreographic journey. The company dances beautifully and the work is complemented by Lady MacMillan’s costumes and staging.

Gloria is the final work presented in this programme. The inspiration for this work is sought from Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, a wartime memoir. It poignantly explores the story of the writer’s fiancé and brother’s fall during the First World War. Set to Poulenc’s triumphant score it is set as a tribute to the soldiers that have fallen and the horrors of war are reflected rear of the stage with its fatalistic trenches and some of the company represents the fallen soldiers. The staging could not be any more realistic to what the war really had brought. There are contrasting moments where there were once the happy and hopeful times and are reflected in the costumes and movements.

Such works, wonderful as they are, represent what MacMillan had achieved. He successfully used dance to tell reality through works of fiction, influential figures and life events. The choreographer revolutionised dance and interpretation through dramatic expression and yet it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Three pieces of work which could not be any more different but one can be similarly drawn to parallel world events today and one’s personal experiences. Northern Ballet takes pride in celebrating and paying tribute to MacMillan with this excellent performance.

Reviewed on 16 March 2018 | Image: Contributed

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