English National Ballet, Palace Theatre, Manchester
Monday 28 September 2009
Once it was traditional to pair Giselle, one of the shorter ballet classics, with a curtain-raiser.
It's better value for audiences, but also for the dancers: a contrast in styles, and roles for dancers left out of Giselle's cast of peasants, nobles and vengeful ghosts.
Reviving this custom, Wayne Eagling, English National Ballet's artistic director, has created Men Y Men for the company's male dancers. Set to Rachmaninoff, it gives nine men a chance to strut through signature jumps and turns. It also features some unusual partnering. The men can lift each other in turn, where male-female duets tend to stress the contrast in strength.
It makes an inventive opener, danced with gusto but dampened by the production. Eagling and Wizzy Shawyer dress the cast in black trousers, so their legs vanish against the dark backdrop. The disembodied torsos are clearly high off the ground, but you have to peer to see how they got up there.
ENB's Giselle, by Mary Skeaping, emphasises the ballet's Romantic roots. She follows the traditional choreography (originally by Perrot and Coralli, revised by Petipa), while stressing supernatural elements.
Elena Glurdjidze's Giselle is delicate. Her phrasing is vivid, with springy footwork and clear line. This village heroine goes mad when betrayed by her lover Albrecht, a duke in disguise. Her mad scene is full of echoes of past happiness – but Glurdjidze also makes you remember the warning signs.
Comforted by her mother, she stares at her in fear. A thrill in the music recalls the mother's warning of what happens to girls who dance too much. The second act, with its ghostly Wilis, beckons. It's no surprise that Giselle can already see spirits crossing the stage.
Glurdjidze is driven in her first Wili dances. Her darting speed has a puppet quality, convulsively fast. When she dances with her lover, her line softens, becoming ethereal. Arionel Vargas is a miscast and underpowered Albrecht. There's stronger support from Begoña Cao as his aristocratic fiancée, and from Laura Hussey as Giselle's mother.
The company performance is strongest in the second act. The corps, well-drilled as peasants, show new scale and force as ghosts. Jenna Lee is a frosty Queen of the Wilis, with a hungry thrust to her leaps.
Touring until 23 January. See www.ballet.org.uk
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Lucy Hawking: Stephen Hawking's daughter writes impassioned open letter to Katie Hopkins about rights of disabled people
- 2 #NotGuilty: Second Oxford student writes of brutal rape by two men who then threw her in a bin as part of campaign against victim blaming
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 5 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
The C-Word - review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest adaptation of Lisa Lynch's book about living with cancer
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 4 - review: Sansa is in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils