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Casanova review at Grand Theatre, Leeds – ‘nothing short of mesmerising’

Javier Torres and Northern Ballet dancers in Casanova at Leeds Grand Theatre. Photo: Emma Kauldhar[ Javier Torres and Northern Ballet dancers in Casanova at Leeds Grand Theatre. Photo: Emma Kauldhar
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Was Giacomo Casanova just an 18th-century sex addict, or a man of many colours? He was a trainee cleric, gambler, writer, violinist, alchemist and enlightened polymath who travelled Europe mixing the joys of passion with a life-long desire for knowledge.

Kenneth Tindall’s first full-length narrative work for Northern Ballet, inspired by Ian Kelley’s biography and Casanova’s own memoirs, combined with Kerry Muzzey’s insistent cinematic score, is as complex and seductive as its central figure. It shines a light on a potent marriage of sex, power, psychology, politics and gender to create a remarkable visual, aural and emotional experience that pushes dance beyond the body language of ballet and into another realm of consummate theatrical excellence.

Moving an episodic storyline between Venice and Versailles, Tindall’s choreographic formations are nothing short of mesmerising – both muscular and sensuous, kinetic and elegant. There is staggeringly beautiful solo and corps work, conveying introspective emotions, writhing orgiastic rituals, striking tableaux and vividly drawn characters ranging from corrupt cardinals and cross-dressing castrati to agents of the Venetian Inquisition and Madame Pompadour.

Masquerade and intrigue are reflected in the gilded Baroque opulence of Christopher Oram’s set and costume design, while Alastair West’s atmosphere-laden lighting employs gloom and shadow to heighten the changes in Casanova’s increasingly haunted mental state. Richard Mawbey’s wigs and make-up contribute fine detail to the production’s overall painterly tones.

As Casanova, Javier Torres is a genuine star turn with a virtuoso emotional and physical range that reveals in dance the enigmatic nature of a man for whom the sexual hunt was never quite enough.

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A landmark Northern Ballet production of a true story reimagined with masterful staging