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English National Ballet

"Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes",
"Melody On The Move", "The Rite Of Spring"

by Petra Tschiene

July 8, 2003 -- Sadler's Wells, London


This week English National Ballet returns to Sadler’s Wells for their London summer season presenting a mixed programme including a world premier by Michael Corder and their production of ‘Coppélia’.

Michael Corder’s new work ‘Melody on the Move’ is a light, entertaining ‘feel good’ show set to 8 popular tunes of the 30s and 40s. From the moment the corps de ballet emerges through the giant, old-fashioned radio at the back of the stage to the slightly crowded finale featuring the corps and all the characters, Corder manages not to miss
one silver screen cliché. In the number ‘High Heels’ we even get to see girls in a typing bureau fighting about the boss who inevitably goes off with the secretary in
the end after she lets her hair down, throws away her glasses and changes into a sexy red dress. Gruzdyev and Chang appear in ‘Jumping Bean’ ‘mit Schirm, Charm und Melone’ (‘with umbrella, charm and bowler hat’ the German title of the TV series ‘The Avengers’) and Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur are just perfect as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in pointe –and ballet shoes. It is all light and amusing and the audience was very enthusiastic but in my opinion this ballet is too nice and sweet for its own good. I doubt it will still be performed in 15 years time like Mark Morris’s ‘Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes’, which opened the evening.

Originally created for 6 females and 6 male dancers of ABT in 1988 the solos, duets and ensemble sections capture the wit of 13 pieces selected from Virgil Thomson’s Etudes for Piano. Morris clearly likes to surprise the audience with unexpected twists. In one of my favourite moments three girls come on stage right after a trio for three men only for two of them to dart off stage again straight away and we are treated to a female solo instead of the ‘expected’ trio. The work is performed with the pianist on stage and I could not help but admire not only Jonathan Still’s skills as a musician but also his discipline. It must be hard to be so close to the dancers and yet not be allowed to glance in their direction.

Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ is one of those timeless masterpieces that are as relevant today as it was 40 years ago at its creation. I have never seen a more powerful and emotionally engaging work. The choreography seamlessly combines classical ballet
vocabulary with contemporary movement language and perfectly interprets the savagery of Stravinsky’s score. Last night Sarah McIlroy once again triumphed as The Chosen One, the role created by Monica Mason in 1962. It was after her admirable performance of the same role at the Coliseum last December that McIlroy got promoted to Principal and I am very much looking forward to seeing her in other leading roles in the future.

The whole company looks in fine form and I think we do not get to see ENB often enough in London. Their current season will end on Saturday 12/07/03. Do not miss ‘Coppélia’ if you get the chance.

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