First seen as a project for Ballet du Rhin, in 2008, David Nixon has brought his version of Ondine, the adult fairy tale, to his own Northern Ballet dancers. On the evidence of a week of performances in Leeds they have embraced it and made it their own.
Shimmering with dreamy movements, especially from the water sprites and the sea maiden, Nixon’s choreography fulfils romantic expectations. The opening sequence, with sea maidens flowing eerily, in potent silence, is ravishing. Mystery stirs. Torment and tragedy are waiting.
When Ondine (Michela Paolacci), her princely knight Brand (John Hull) and her romantic rival Beatrice (Isabella Gasparini) sail out to sea, on a boat of classic charm, the story reaches a visual and emotional high point. Brand’s introductory movements, in Act I, are a little disappointing. Ondine and Beatrice are much better served.
Nixon has kept faith with the vision of his original creative team. Jerome Kaplan’s sets and costumes enhance the romance and passion and create a landscape of wild, unfathomable beauty.
The sometimes low-key wedding scene, a weak point in the music (from Hans Werner Henze) more than anything, is given life by vigorous dancing from the boys in the chorus. Highlighted among them is Kevin Poeung, the young dancer who impressed so much in the company’s I Got Rhythm in the spring.
Curiously, nay infuriatingly, Ondine has no other dates scheduled in this year’s Northern Ballet diary. Perhaps David Nixon is testing the water?