A summer Ballet Nights was characteristically eclectic

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Ballet Nights: Jamiel Devernay Laurence (compère). Lanterns Studio Theatre, London, 29.6.2024. (JO’D)

Eve Musto in ‘Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen’ by Peter Darrell CBE © Deborah Jaffe

The first of the Ballet Nights to be held in a summer month was a characteristically eclectic line up of the classical, the contemporary and the cutting edge. After a musical prelude by pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel (an arrangement of  music from Verdi’s Rigoletto by Liszt), Jamiel Devernay Laurence, in evening dress, once again acted as the likeable compère.

Outstanding among the dance he introduced was the White Swan Pas de Deux, Act II Swan Lake, performed by English National Ballet’s Lead Principal, Sangeun Lee, and First Soloist, Gareth Haw. Dancers who look exceptionally good together, they would return to close the evening in a new work by Jordan James Bridge, Terra | Astra. For this, the pair’s classically trained torsos became almost as fluid as that of the choreographer’s himself during his solo performances in previous Ballet Nights. The piece ends with Gareth Haw holding his partner, horizontally, high in the air, revolving her in a perpetuum mobile as the lights fade.

Sangeun Lee and Gareth Haw in the White Swan Pas de Deux © Deborah Jaffe

At the evening’s start, English National Ballet’s Minju Kang performed the Act I Solo from Mary Skeaping’s Giselle. She seemed more confident, later on, in choreography by her ENB colleague, Rentaro Nakaaki. After a Dream, to the music of the same name by Fauré, made good use of the dancer’s expressive back.

In work created by Peter Darrell in 1978, ‘Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen’ Solo from Five Rückert Songs, mezzo-soprano Dana Mays sang Mahler (accompanied by Viktor Erik Emanuel) while Eve Mutso, in cream-coloured top and floor-length skirt, danced the angular and anguished choreography. A particularly effective moment towards the end shows singer and dancer acknowledge each other’s presence with a solemn, valedictory bow.

A change of pace was provided by Nicholas Shoesmith’s Insomnia. To music by Ben Chatwin, dancers Sophie Quay (in green) Felicity Chadwick (in white) and Iván Merino Gaspar (in cinnamon) twisted and spun in restless but carefully co-ordinated movement that often started from and returned to a squatting position.

It was then the turn of the Ballet Night’s ‘mystery guest’, or guests: chef Adam Thomason and dancer Eilieh Muir, of the ‘experiential dining company’ flavourandsome, along with dancer Izzac Carroll. A ‘cocktail duet’ that involved members of the audience filling glasses which the two dancers, in elegant black, balanced and swung and passed between them. Less risqué than a similar ‘act’ in the nightclub scene in Antonioni’s La Notte, but with a more intriguing ending.

After the interval Viktor Erik Emanuel played Ondine from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. Kennedy Junior Muntanga and Guy Salim, on drums, then shared the stage in One, dancer and drummer interacting in ways that made the piece seem very immediate, very alive.

To a soundtrack of electronic clicks and beeps, the two, red-lit dancers of James Cousins Company’s Jealousy (Brenda Lee Grech and Tom Davis Dunn) performed a choreographic feat in which, from beginning to end, a woman never makes contact with the floor as she balances on her male partner’s thighs, calves, hands, feet and shoulders.

The cutting edge was there most evidently in Grace O’Brien’s really remarkable Set Fast. Wearing loose black trousers and grey shirts buttoned to the neck, seven dancers from Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance kept their bodies rigid, but rocking slightly, as they moved on demi-pointe from a close-knit group, with one outsider, to occupy the Lantern Studio Theatre’s expanse of shiny, black floor. After subsequent movement that seemed as innovative as it was disconcerting (with the influence of Pina Bausch, perhaps, in the stylised gestures of the hands at one point), the dancers returned to their original position. Except, that is, for the outsider, now a different member of the group.

John O’Dwyer

Verdi Rigoletto: Paraphrase de Concert
Composer – Liszt
Pianist – Viktor Erik Emanuel

Act I Solo from Mary Skeaping’s Giselle
Music – Minkus
Choreography – Mary Skeaping after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa
Dancer – Minju Kang

‘Ich Bin Der Welt Abhanden Gekommen’ Solo from Five Rückert Songs
Music – Mahler
Choreographer – Peter Darrell
Piano – Viktor Erik Emanuel
Mezzo-soprano – Dana Mays
Dancer – Eve Mutso

Music – Ben Chatwin
Choreographer – Nicholas Shoesmith
Dancers – Sophie Quay, Felicity Chadwick, Iván Merino Gaspar

White Swan Pas de Deux, Act II Swan Lake
Music – Tchaikovsky
Choreography – Marius Petipa
Dancers – Sangeun Lee, Gareth Haw

Gaspard De La Nuit, M. 55: I. Ondine
Music – Ravel
Pianist – Viktor Erik Emanuel

After a Dream
Music – Fauré
Choreographer    Rentaro Nakaaki
Dancer – Minju Kang

Music – Guy Salim
Dancer – Kennedy Junior Muntanga

Choreography – James Cousins Company
Dancers – Brenda Lee Grech and Tom Davis Dunn

Set Fast
Music – Zoe Keating
Choreography – Grace O’Brien
Dancers – Amari Webb-Martin, Evie-Leigh Savage, Lottie Hawkins, Matthew Potulski, Jemima Sparrow, Phoebe Dowglass, Rory Clarke

Terra | Astra
Music – Hans Zimmer (arr. Viktor Erik Emanuel)
Choreography – Jordan James Bridge
Piano – Viktor Erik Emanuel
Dancers – Sangeun Lee, Gareth Haw

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