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Scottish Ballet review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘remarkably adventurous’

Scottish Ballet's Emergence at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Andy Ross Scottish Ballet's Emergence at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Andy Ross
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One of Crystal Pite’s greatest virtues is that she knows when to stop. The Canadian choreographer’s Emergence is stuffed with ideas and imagery inspired by the collectives of the natural world – birds, bees, insects – yet nothing extends beyond its point. She leaves you wanting more and is never tempted to give it to you.

The aperture through which the dancers swarm might be a nest or a black hole into another dimension; it is noticeably brighter on the other side. The cluster of females arrive in a jittery mass en pointe – this is the first work Pite made on a classical company and it extends her choreographic vocabulary – while the men whirl and swarm around them, one individual even dragging them apart like a ship’s prow through water.

The quicksilver gestures and roiling, twisting ensembles are bounced off the soundtrack that sometimes includes the ominous martial element of marching feet. Whether splicing individuals or shifting large groups around the stage, Pite knows the value of the smallest, almost imperceptible gesture – an oddly-angled flick of the wrist, a sudden jerk of the head – details that bring the work into sharp focus.

Angelin Preljocaj deconstructs The Last Supper for his all-male piece that begins with the masculine tenderness of a man washing another and slides into a terrifying depiction of testosterone-fuelled violence. Six shining tables resembling autopsy or mortuary slabs are unbuilt like metal Lego and bodies are slapped down and manipulated like lumps of dough.

The grotesque parodic tableaux of The Last Supper are accompanied by the anguished shriek of electronica and the muscular distortion of the dancers. A full-body ballet, its awesome physicality overplays its hand through relentless repetition which deadens its initial impact.

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Two works demonstrate the strengths of this remarkably adventurous company