Firebird/ Rite of Spring, English National Ballet, London Coliseum | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Firebird/ Rite of Spring, English National Ballet, London Coliseum
ENB plucks a bold young talent and a stunning performance out of a Ballets Russes mixed bag
Two amazing things in one evening from a company totally at sixes and sevens artistically - it could only be English National Ballet. First amazing thing: the uncovering of a confident and stylish young choreographer straight from school. Second amazing thing: the radical redesign of a modern classic with stunning flair and a performance that’s got to be one of the shows of the year, whatever else happens.
While the fights between ENB’s Board and its artistic directors are one of those dependable balletic traditions, like Nutcracker at Christmas, and their firings inevitable (bye-bye, Mr Wayne Eagling, this summer), there’s a swagger in ENB that can spring surprises you don’t get in the other ballet companies. While its budget has forced it into some lamentable programming in the past couple of years (this season, wall-to-wall Strictly Gershwin) who’d have predicted that it would place a prominent bet on a 20-year-old choreographer, giving him a major fashion designer and one of the most ravishing and iconic of Stravinsky ballet scores?
These characters look like video-game avatars - today's world of magic
George Williamson is undoubtedly a talent to watch. What we saw was a very young man’s viewpoint on ballet - more about physical glitter and styling, more about, yes, swagger than about magic and strange encounters between worlds. But boy, what confidence as he moved his lithe, rather reptilian Firebird with her flamboyant gold crest around the stage between two opposed couples and some rather Goth muses in shredded purple.
These characters look more like video-game avatars - today's world of magic - and their moves have the faintly surreal slink of Russian “artistic gymnastics”. I didn’t understand the dramaturgy; characters are named Lead Celebrity, Army Captain, Purity, Peacock, and they pull the Firebird’s golden feathers off her head and wear them themselves, before tidily putting them back again on her crest. Yet some eternal fairytale ingredients surface: the bad girl, the good girl, the magical being, the man flying too close to the sun, the commenting corps de ballet. In between the showy gestures there’s a lot of detailed ballet language, swift and varied. The physicality shouts out how different dancers are from us lumpy mortals seated watching them, and that’s to be expected when a young man and a fashion designer get together in today’s world. This Firebird doesn't make me want to see it again, but it does make me want to see Williamson again.
Share this article
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
A ballet to offend lovers, geniuses, muses, sculptors, mental patients and women everywhere
Olivier Award-winning genius with light and dance explains his art
Dance theatre at full throttle in two contemporary takes on Ballets Russes classics
A brand-new, beautiful Shakespeare ballet to open the spring season
Belgian dancemaker presents a rich but overlong meditation on illness and difference
Strongly styled pieces inspired by World War One show Tamara Rojo's company on fine form
For all its lush design, this valiant effort is still not the definitive Britten ballet
Brighton Festival's guest curator on new challenges and politics in art
The talent of the performers lifts cultural commentary above the level of sixth-form drama class
Two rich offerings in the ongoing Flamenco Festival
A feast of archive footage is some compensation for this season's narrow scope
Flamenco festival's opening number is no history lesson, but the dancing's all right