Without a managing director and with its artistic director Wayne Eagling scheduled to leave, English National Ballet faces unsettling time. However, you wouldn’t know it from this second programme in its Beyond Ballet Russes two-parter. Inspired by Serge Diaghilev’s legendary Ballets Russes, it demonstrates an assured artistic focus and considerable commitment from the dancers. Some of them looked a little under-prepared, but it was otherwise an artistically impressive evening.
Fernanda Oliveira, top, Dmitri Gruzdyev and Elena Glurdjidze in Beyond Ballets Russes at the London Coliseum Photo: Tristram Kenton
George Balanchine’s Apollo is often danced by ballet companies and needs little elaboration, except to say Daria Klimentova was a composed Terpsichore, the lead Muse who inspires the young god Apollo (an able Zdenek Konvalina who needs to tone down his waving arms). Bronislava’s Le Train bleu is never seen, but Vadim Muntagirov’s spot-on interpretation of the male solo makes you wish it was. Serge Lifar (the original Apollo) choreographed the wonderful Suite en blanc, a ballet about ballet, and again a wonderful piece that is little seen except when danced by ENB.
Unexpected hit of the evening was Wayne Eagling’s interpretation of Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1913 ballet Jeux, created before the famous dancer succumbed to madness. Eagling draws on Nijinska’s movement metaphors and steps created by choreographer Kenneth MacMillan for the Herbert Ross film about Nijinsky’s life. However, Eagling’s formulation is original and ingenious - it casts the troubled Nijinsky as part of the ballet which depicts the on- and off-court games of six tennis players. However, Diaghilev is both umpire and race fixer, tipping the hapless Nijinsky into madness. Impressive.