Having conquered hearts and minds at the Edinburgh International Festival with Kings 2 Ends, its 2011 commission by Jorma Elo, Scottish Ballet takes it out on tour to the States and Sadler’s Wells in even better heart. Coupled here with outgoing artistic director Ashley Page’s witty Pennies from Heaven of 2008 - danced to a clutch of songs from the 1930s - it makes for a delightful and uplifting evening.
In the few months since August the company has not just settled into Elo’s somewhat outlandish choreography but mastered it with easy grace. Eve Mutso’s opening solo sequence, danced in silence with the piece’s seven male dancers motionless in the gloom behind her, sets out the quirky vocabulary that will spring into life to Steve Reich’s Double Sextet then be developed with fluid grace in Mozart’s first violin concerto.
It demands both precision of movement and a lightness of touch, particularly to the Reich. The occasional unison sequences, that evolve out of the complex interplay of duets and the shifting alignments of dancers, are not always as perfectly synchronised as the music demands, but in all else, they have captured its balance of wry humour with sleek clarity of line.
Pennies from Heaven remains a crowd-pleasing piece which harnesses the power of popular music to encapsulate big emotions in brief moments. It plays out a series of relationships against the backdrop of a busy cocktail bar, giving the whole company a chance to shine and develop character in their dance, whether Sophie Martin and Christopher Harrison’s upright, tweedy couple or Sophie Laplane’s head-turning lady of rather looser morals. A real delight.