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
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Dylan Moran on quitting smoking, being about as sexy as the Pope and why comedy panel programmes are 'c*ck shows'
- 5 Modern society encapsulated in five seconds
Poldark, review: Demelza’s insouciance is almost as impressive as Ross’ pecs
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
James May hints he will not continue on Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson
Menstruation-themed photo series artist 'censored by Instagram' says images are to demystify taboos around periods
Jeremy Clarkson Top Gear return: Suspended host set for live event in Norway next week
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans