Northern Ballet is known for its dramatic prowess in large narrative works, but its latest triple bill shows off the company’s skill in smaller-scale fare, mixing abstraction with a recognisable flux of feeling.
Kenneth Tindall’s elegant and inventive Shape of Sound, set to Max Richter’s reworking of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, sweeps through saturnine tension to sunny virtuosity, with eye-catching bursts of neon lighting.
Company dancer Mlindi Kulashe’s Mamela (“listen” in Xhosa) quite promisingly evokes an air of uncertain malaise, but it suffers from a bland score and could be edited.
The highlight of the evening is Morgann Runacre-Temple’s boldly original The Kingdom of Back, which deploys an expansive yet nuanced scale of emotion without relying on a wash of music to generate it. It’s based on the life of Mozart’s older sister Marianne (nicknamed Nannerl – the title refers to the siblings’ imaginary realm), a prodigiously talented fortepianist and composer denied the freedoms and fame of her brother Wolfgang.
Antoinette Brooks-Daw shines as Nannerl: she begins with zany frivolity, her wiggling dance accompanied by a massive powdered wig and pastel lighting. Austere discipline reigns, however, via the black-clad figure of father Leopold (an imperious Javier Torres), who insists on keyboard practice and patriarchal mores.
While Kulashe’s Wolfgang limbers unreservedly – roiling and coiling around the space – Nannerl remains cloistered in Leopold’s domain, demarcated by a stark white rectangle on the floor. Within that, though, there’s room to evoke the sublimely inventive reaches of musical talent through dartingly mercurial physical phrases.