Northern Ballet’s mixed programme certainly displays the company’s range. Mark Godden’s Angels in the Architecture is a strong opener, much enlivened by its score – Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, originally composed for a 1944 work by Martha Graham (to which Godden pays homage). Through the simple use of chairs, brooms and women’s costumes that double as skirts and cowls, Godden’s unpretentious, finely crafted choreography deftly hymns the spiritualism and homespun virtues of Shaker communities.
Christopher Hampson’s Perpetuum Mobile is a plotless, neoclassical work based on conventional classroom steps – not a style generally associated with this company. It is full of formal patterns that chase the chords and canons of its Bach score. Yet, while its compositional craft is always evident in its twisting lines and skimming lifts, the dancers seem overly careful, as if on good behaviour.
Two shorter works make refreshing contrasts. Demis Volpi’s Little Monsters charts a love affair from encounter to separation. Three Elvis songs express the emotional story, but the physical material explains it: the pair (Dreda Blow and Joseph Taylor) were doomed from the start, their clasps, tugs and kicks sprung with traps of need and projections of desire. Jonathan Watkins’ A Northern Trilogy is crowd-pleasing but intelligent, gently illustrating three comic monologues by Stanley Holloway (about Yorkshire pudding, a drunken soldier and a boy eaten by a lion) while stopping nicely short of literalism.
There is a lot of agonising over apples
The Architect, by Northern Ballet’s own Kenneth Tindall, looks great – leaf-vein costumes, numeric tattoos, lightning flashes, a giant honeycomb structure – but choreographically it is confusing, and overladen with portent. Kevin Poeung is some kind of Adam, birthed from a tube of fabric. He swaps his trunks for tights after witnessing some other Adams (in tights) dancing crotchily with their Eves. There is a lot of agonising over apples; sometimes, in sci-fi style, they appear to radiate laser beams. Everyone looks a bit android. Eventually, our Adam gets his apple. Altogether weird, a bit like a balletic space-disco concept album.