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She Persisted

“Wondrous and rewarding”
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When US senator Mitch McConnell admonished fellow senator Elizabeth Warren in 2017, who refused to be silenced, with the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted” he inadvertently handed feminist activists a custom-tailored rallying cry.

Like #MeToo, #ShePersisted went viral and a sarcastic negative was turned into a potent positive. As the title of the follow-up to English National Ballet’s first all-female choreographic programme She Said, it could hardly be bettered. If nothing else, artistic director Tamara Rojo is a marketing genius.

Tamara Rojo: ‘I became a dancer because I needed to disappear’

She is also an astute curator of mixed bills and has a sharp eye for talent. The premiere of Stina Quagebeur’s Nora is a case in point. An ENB dancer who has been dabbling in choreography for years, Quagebeur justifies Rojo’s faith in her with a confident debut ballet based on Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.

Distilling the story of childlike wife Nora and her possessive, condescending husband Torvald down to the bare minimum and adding a chorus of inner voices who hover behind her, it is a model of narrative economy.

The sharp, jutting angles and whiplash gestures are reminiscent of John Cranko’s accelerated storytelling and the impressionistic nature leaves little doubt as to what is going on. When Jeffrey Cirio’s Torvald extends his hand without looking at her it is a totemic gesture of male entitlement: he owns her. As Nora, Crystal Costa moves from nervy childlike glee to emotional maturity as realisation turns to desolation and finally a hard-won self-possession.

The revival of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Frida Kahlo ballet Broken Wings is very welcome, even if Rojo has passed on the title role to Katja Khaniukova. The vibrancy of the design conflicts beautifully with the physical and psychological pain expressed throughout as Kahlo’s powerful and uniquely self-reflexive imagination is explored through metaphor, myth and mutations of the natural world. The return of Irek Mukhamedov as Diego Rivera is a cause for celebration, even if his fat suit is not.

Finally, Le Sacre du Printemps raises the temperature to boiling point as the company delivers Pina Bausch’s primitive, tremulous and orgiastic ritual ballet like born-again pagans. Francesca Velicu, as The Chosen One, goes down fighting like a dervish. A wondrous and rewarding night.

English National Ballet’s She Said review at Sadler’s Wells, London


Related to this Review

She SaidShe Said

Production Details
Production nameShe Persisted
VenueSadler’s Wells
LocationLondon
StartsApril 4, 2019
EndsApril 13, 2019
Running time2hrs 30mins
ComposerIgor Stravinsky, Peter Salem, Philip Glass
DramaturgNancy Meckler
ChoreographerPina Bausch, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Kerry Nicholls, Stina Quagebeur
Set designerDieuweke Van Reij, Louie Whitemore, Rolf Borzik
Costume designerDieuweke Van Reij, Louie Whitemore, Rolf Borzik
Lighting designerTrui Malten, Vinny Jones
CastAdela Ramirez, Aitor Arrieta, Alison Mcwhinney, Angelo Wood, Anjuli Hudson, Barry Drummond, Claire Barrett, Crystal Costa, Daniel Kraus, Eireen Evrard, Emily Suzuki, Francisco Bosch, Georgia Bould, Henry Dowden, Irek Mukhamedov, James Forbat, James Streeter, Jeffrey Cirio, Julia Conway, Junor Souza, Katja Khaniukova, Precious Adams, Rebecca Blenkinsop, Shiori Kase, Skyler Martin, Victor Prigent, William Beagley
TechnicalDj Walde, Hans Pop
ProducerEnglish National
VerdictEnglish National Ballet's follow-up to She Said reveals a trio of superb female choreographers
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Neil Norman

Neil Norman

Neil Norman

Neil Norman

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