Krishna is one of the great subjects of dance. So many classical Indian forms tell stories of this god. His loves, his majesty and tenderness are celebrated in a huge range of styles. Birmingham Royal Ballet's new Krishna, by the dancer and choreographer Nahid Siddiqui, borrows Kathak traditions for a ballet.
It's a remarkable idea, not least in its clash of styles. Most of Kathak technique is the opposite of ballet's. Energy travels downwards, through bending knees into percussive feet. There may be jumps, but there's nothing to compare to ballet's urge to be airborne.
The main overlap is in stylised mime scenes. There are many of those in Siddiqui's scenes from Krishna's life - his discovery as a baby, his defeat of monster snakes, with his beloved Radha. BRB artists take to these warmly. Laëtitia Lo Sardo is touching as Radha, and Siddiqui's response to ballet is fun, allowing Tiit Helimets' Krishna plenty of light jumps.
There's a danger of dilution. This Krishna has none of the awesome complexity of Kathak rhythm. But it excels in its group dances. Hariprasad Chaurasia's music is a cheerful gallop, almost like a cowboy-movie score, with sitar and tabla passages. Kate Ford's costumes are fashioned in gorgeous colours and fabrics. Siddiqui brings on waves of villagersin procession and dancing in circles, and girls spin, feet flexed, as the god descends from a watermelon-pink sky.
There aren't many dances about the sons of Horus - figures such as Qebhsnuf, the falcon-headed protector of the intestines, tend not to make appealing subjects. David Bintley's ballet is really a suite of classical dances with ancient Egyptian references. Terry Bartlett's wire crowns suggest ape and jackal heads, but leave the dancers free to show off their technical skills. The ballet could be tauter, but this is a bright performance.
The simplicity of Stravinsky's Apollo, scored for string orchestra, inspired Balanchine to cut his ballet down to essentials. The piece's clarity is astounding: lucid classical line with jazz rhythms and unforgettable images. The young god supports his three muses in a triple arabesque, driving them as if they were the sun god's chariot.
European dancers, trained in a softer style, often fail to dance Balanchine with enough attack and nerve. Asta Bazeviciute is too safe as Terpsichore, waiting to be sure of her balance before launching into the next step. Nao Sakuma as Polyhymnia is braver and more musical. Robert Parker's clean account of Apollo is sometimes careful, but at his boldest he has a sparkling sense of rhythm.
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