English National Ballet director Tamara Rojo here challenges the idea that the company only does classical ballet with a mixed bill of mostly new work marking the centernary of the First World War by contemporary giants Akram Khan and Russell Maliphant, alongside up-and-comers Liam Scarlett and George Williamson.
A scene from Lest We Forget, Barbican, London Photo: Tristram Kenton
Khan proves his stellar theatrical judgment - and considerable physical charisma - in Dust, a work for him, Rojo and 10 supporting dancers. Despite a ground-based, bare-footed style, Dust taps the dancer’s strengths, making them look confident and serious - not easy when they are used to tutus and toe shoes.
Also strong is Russell Maliphant’s Second Breath with the astonishing Alina Cojocaru in the lead female role. The bare-footed Cojocaru and Junor Souza exactly catch Maliphant’s rolling, relaxed moves, although the supporting corps have less scope to show their talent.
Liam Scarlettt’s No Man’s Land is a First World War narrative of women in factories and men on the battle fields. It is, perhaps, too literal to capture the universal horror of war, while George Williamson’s reinterpretation of the famous Firebird seems out of place (it’s not new, and it doesn’t relate to the Great War). However, for a 23-year-old, it shows a strong command of the ballet vocabulary.
Sections of the programme look under-rehearsed, but overall it demonstrates Rojo’s boldness that does credit to her and the ENB dancers.