Scottish Ballet returns to the Edinburgh International Festival stage in a triumphant double bill which marries the sparkling new diptych, Kings 2 Ends, from Jormo Elo, with Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 ballet Songs of the Earth.
Striking and fun, Kings 2 Ends is the sort of piece to leave its audience laughing and glowing at the technical mastery of the dancers. Opening in silence with Eva Mutso in black leotard and incongruous diamonte tiara alone on the grey-toned stage, she sets out the focussed, sometimes broken and contrapuntal movement vocabulary Elo is to employ.
Steve Reich’s Double Sextet fills the first half with a hypnotic air, the movements employed pushing and pulling the dances at a furious pace. Lush red costumes and coloured lighting herald the second part, with James Clark on the violin for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 1. The choreography moves on too, becoming more quirky and frivolous as dancers manipulate each other and movements ripple across the stage.
Comparable only in its minimalism, MacMillan’s Song of the Earth, set to Mahler’s song cycle, has an organic simplicity which the company find and exploit. Against the songs performed by mezzo-soprano Katarina Karneus and tenor Peter Wedd, the company create the breathing beat of the seasons. Here, in lifted, cart-wheeling ballerinas tumbling through waves of dancers, the tides ebb and flow, in fleeting moments the glory of the sun shines through, and ultimately winter pulls all into its heart.
With Adam Blyde omnipresent as the messenger of death, however, this is as much a celebration of the eternal cycles of nature as a lament for the brevity which mankind can enjoy them.