The ballet worlds own ‘English boy done good’, Christopher Wheeldon returns in two programmes including a much-anticipated world premiere with the company set up after his residence at the New York City Ballet, Morphoses.
Morphoses differs from traditional ballet companies in its groundedness; it does not feel at all aloof or grandiose.
As an example, during this tour, there are video clips preceding each work which provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Wheeldon and the dancers living, rehearsing and messing around together.
Programme Two (the piano programme) opens with Contiuum, set to the jagged, difficult music of Hungarian composer Ligeti.
With dancers in simple, plain green leotards, the piece has a dance school training feel to it. The choreography matches this classical movements in clean lines, circles and rigid formations. However, each movement is twisted into something awkward and angular an arabesque turns into bent elbows and flexed feet, dancers rolling over like dolls in a stretch reflecting Ligetis broken, irregular style that can be, at times, reminiscent of a toddler with a piano.
Even the pas de deux are slightly tongue-in-cheek, as manifested in one that provided the piece its title (and named after the Ligeti score) which, according to Wheeldon, is inspired by his sparring cat and dog at home. That particular section, set to repetitive harpsichord sounds, is representative of the whole piece: strange, funny and brilliantly absurd.
Softly As I Leave You is a duet set to Bachs famous Air on the G String and Arvo Prts Spiegel im Spiegel and Kyrie specially choreographed for Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk by Nederlands Dans Theaters Paul Lightfoot and Sol Len. Although purists may turn their noses up at the use of such well known almost clichd music, if this means unseasoned dance-goers become more interested with these familiar melodies, then all the better, I say.
An agitated and desperate Jacoby opens Softly violently pushing and punching the walls of the box she is trapped in. Although there is a union for a time Jacobys restricted, nervy movements are calmed by Pronks slow, gentle hyperextensions she promptly leaves him without reciprocating his kiss, now his turn to experience the pain and frustration she had previously. The two dancers were divine, their expressions and movements capturing the painful yearning and pure joy, but the choreography did not seem to match up to their abilities.
The final piece not to mention the all-important premiere is Wheeldons own Rhapsody Fantaisie. British artist Hugo Dalton created illuminated sketches of the dancers and the atmosphere he derived from rehearsal sessions, which form the backdrop of Rhapsody Fantaisie, while some were projected around Sadlers Wells at the show. In another collaboration, the dancers crimson floaty dresses and harem trousers are designed by Calvin Kleins Creative Director of womenswear, Francisco Costa, that display the signature crisp, minimalist style of the New York fashion house.
This simplicity is mirrored in the dancing, with beautiful soft lines not found elsewhere in this programme. The highlight was the all-male section, refreshingly different to both the showing off sequences of romantic, character-based ballets and merely the support and accompaniment of the leading female. The closing of the section, with the music building up alongside an increasingly fast and hectic sequence in unison, is the perfect definition of simple yet effective. However, the final section, featuring the full cast, was a little short and felt unfinished, which weighted on an otherwise very enjoyable, albeit fairly unchallenging, piece of modern ballet.