Needing something suitable to celebrate Britten’s 100th birthday I decided to go and see the National Ballet’s new show Innovation which premiered last night and included a piece set to the Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes.  A Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Emma Kirkby and Daniel Taylor was a considerable additional attraction.  I’m not a dance expert so take any comments on that subject that follow as the impressions of a complete non-expert.

The show consisted of four short works, three of which were world premieres.  First up was José Navas’ Watershed, to the Sea Interludes.  It’s an ensemble piece and, apparently, the choreographer was working for the first time with classically trained dancers.  The dancers were almost all dressed in blue/grey tutus (male and female) and performed a series of movements evoking the ocean or maybe even a shoal of fish.  The lighting and colour scheme were suitably maritime but perhaps suggested somewhere a little less bleak than the Suffolk coast.  The music was played with quite a light touch by the National Ballet Orchestra under David Briskin.

The second piece was a solo for Greta Hodgkinson by Principal Dancer Guillaume Coté.  It was called Being and Nothingness (Part 1) after the Sartre work and was danced to Philip Glass’ Metamorphosis I-V (4th movement) played by Edward Connell.  The simple, repetitive music was matched with an athletic and angular dance style with Ms. Hodgkinson confined to one brightly lit spot on stage.  One could easily see that this was a technical tour de force but whether it really had much to say about “nothingness” I’m not sure.  I really need tolearn more about how dance can express abstract ideas.

Third up was Unearth by Robert Binet to an original score by Owen Pallett.  I confess I found this musically and choreographically unmemorable and have really nothing to say about it.

The final, and longest piece, was James Kudelka’s night’s bright day to the Pergolesi Stabat Mater. This piece explored death and loss in a series of solos, duets and ensemble numbers.  It had a lot going for it and seemed to be playing with the idea of the very thin boundary between Life and Death.  There was some very fine dancing, especially a solo from Heather Ogden.  The Stabat Mater was also beautifully sung by Dame Emma and Mr. Taylor.  One thing i did find odd was the applause for individual numbers.  I know this is the ballet custom but it seems odd when the dance is set to a sacred work.  One would never applaud after the Credo, say, at a concert performance!

The above should make it obvious that I really ought to learn more about ballet.  (I’ve been saying that for decades).

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