Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg
Choreographer and Co-Director: David Nixon
Reviewer: Beverley Haigh
Following the success of last season’s Jane Eyre, Northern Ballet opens their Autumn season by revisiting another classic work of literature and turning it into a modern ballet, full of passion and relevance for a modern audience. This time, it is the turn of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, previously created as a ballet in 2002 by Artistic Director David Nixon OBE. Nixon’s slightly rewritten version simplifies the text to create a more coherent story, focusing on the protagonists and the love triangle between Heathcliff, Cathy and Edgar (and later Isabella) rather than the intricacies of the second generation in Bronte’s original novel.
The piece begins with jovial scenes between the perfectly paired young Cathy (Ayami Miyata) and Heathcliff (Kevin Poeung) as they explore their freedom and happiness on the moors before morphing into their older selves, as they playfully roll across the landscape. The intensity between the characters becomes heightened as the relationship between them deepens. As we watch Cathy (Dreda Blow) transform into a lady at Thrushcross Grange under the watchful eye of Edgar Linton, accustomed to dancing en pointe rather than the heathen barefootedness when dancing on the moors with Heathcliff, her movements become more refined as her character is less free, her true self, slipping away.
A non-conformist love interest, Heathcliff is played to perfection by Javier Torres. A break away from the archetypal ballet ‘prince’, Heathcliff is more ‘rogue’ and at times, not always likeable. His pas de deux with Rachael Gillespie’s Isabella Linton is poignant by not only revealing the darker sideof Heathcliff’s characterbut also displaying Torre’s strengths as a dancer. Heathcliff’s treatment of Isabella is despicable, and the more he pushes her away the more desperate she is for him to like her, evoking an enormous amount of empathy for this rather pathetic character. Heathcliff reveals his true feelings for Cathy by highlighting completely contrasting behaviour towards each of the female characters. He displays no tenderness whatsoever for Isabella, whereas he cannot hide it for Cathy. During the wedding scenes, despite dancing with Isabella, his eyes betray him by never letting Cathy out of his sight, attributing a great deal of skill to the performer, but also attesting his desire for Cathy and his incompleteness without her.
Despite making sense of a complicated story, successfully bringing the characters to life, Northern Ballet’s is a very literal translation of Wuthering Heights, where slightly more dance in certain scenes would be welcomed: the actual ballet element at times feels compromised in favour of storytelling. As mainly a sequence of pas de deux and solo performances, although emanating the bleakness of Emily Bronte’s novel, the corp de ballet scenes, such as the wedding of Cathy and Edgar are very much needed to intersperse some variety into the piece and showcase the talents of the dancers.
The ballet reaches its climax with the demise of Cathy, the desolation of Heathcliff on his beloved moors (which become almost of equal importance in stature to the leading characters, so great is their presence) and the return of the young couple, as they become reunited once more. Finally, the tender side of Heathcliff is revealed through his grief, his incomprehension at being left alone by Cathy. Nixon delivers a classic love storyand judging by the sell-out audience, a real crowd pleaser too.
Runs until 10 September 2016 | Image: Emma Kauldhar