Is ballet a sport? Of course it’s not, in the competitive sense, although the physicality and athleticism on the bill for Dance GB, a three-way collaboration between Scottish Ballet, National Dance Company Wales and English National Ballet to celebrate the forthcoming Olympics, would surely impress any national selectors.
Scottish Ballet is brilliant at making technically demanding repertoire look fluid and effortless. Here its supreme team, kitted out in navy gym knickers and diaphanous tracksuit tops that showed the flex of every muscle, left us in no doubt that Run For It was a fiendishly difficult piece.
Martin Lawrance set them to work on John Adams’ choppy Son of Chamber Symphony, beneath an imposing geometric tree designed by the Turner prize-winner Martin Boyce. The dancers had to push hard to compete with the tree, which changed from blue to orange as the dance progressed and would happily stand as an Olympic-standard artwork all on its own. They did, with Eve Mutso’s burning-eyed energy standing out.
Run for It was an exhausting, abstract blur of athletic themes. The Welsh piece, Dream, was a sweetly nostalgic crowd-pleaser, starting off at a bunting-strewn sports day and developing into a charming romp through the shortened Olympic syllabus. Lasses in tea dresses and chaps in demob suits went from the egg and spoon race to synchronised swimming in a hugely witty and enjoyable love letter to the days when it was possible to get hot and sweaty without involving the Nike swoosh. As the activities became more intense, and Ravel’s Bolero built to a climax, their clothes came off. Men rolled up their trousers to dance in their sock suspenders. Five girls in modesty vests formed their arms into the Olympic rings
Itzik Galili’s And the Earth Shall Bear Again had the slick hard edges of a futuristic opening ceremony. Rows of spotlights and dry ice highlighted the technical brilliance of the massed troops of English National Ballet, while obscuring their faces. Galili, who is also a lighting designer, used John Cage’s harsh, clangy prepared piano music to add to the mechanistic notes in the movements, pushing the famously accomplished ENB to their limits. And although it was a fine team effort Junor Souza’s preternaturally long legs, lifted to brilliant effect, were memorable even through the mist.
To 23 June (0844 871 7647); then touring to Cardiff and London to 8 July (www.dancegb.co.uk)