The Ardani Artists ballet gala brings together an international clutch of top-notch dancers, but instead of the usual short showpieces, it features three contemporary works emphasising choreography above virtuosity or star appeal.
Cued by the cosmic ripples of its Philip Glass score, Alastair Marriott’s new Zeitgeist is all about volatile energies, bodies clustering together and spinning apart. Natalia Osipova, backed by four men, moves with a concentrated, comet force, and her tangled duet with Edward Watson is the high point, an unstable powerplay of lifts and blocks that remains as unresolved as the music. But the outer group sections look underrehearsed, and the video graphics have all the zeitgeist of 20th-century screensavers.
Marcelo Gomes’s Tristesse is altogether more assured. It follows an established piano ballet format – intimate relationships portrayed in a suite of dances to live piano music – yet it is rare to see an all-male piece with such range and nuance of emotion, from camaraderie and bravado through rivalry and rejection to sincerity and love. Initially, the men (Gomes, Joaquín de Luz, Denis Matvienko and Friedemann Vogel, all excellent) seem no more than carefree, flop-haired youths. But through deft details – palms open or closed, shoulders stiff or supple – and an exactness of phrasing, Gomes illuminates their inner lives with a touch as light and as sure as the Chopin score.
Forget the decorously dying maidens of 19th-century ballet: Osipova plays a jilted bridezilla with murder on her mind.
Arthur Pita’s Facada is a kind of anti-ballet. Forget the decorously dying maidens of 19th-century ballet: Osipova plays a jilted bridezilla with murder on her mind. She begins by galloping about like a tomboy, and ends dancing flat-footed on the glassy grave of her betrothed. Hapless fiance Ivan Vasiliev need do little more than bound around looking hot and bothered, and Elizabeth McGorian’s mother figure is an icon of icy uptightness. Facada is a black comedy with a deadly aim. When Osipova finally stabs not the groom (he’s already been suffocated) but a corsage of flowers, she’s sticking the knife into the idea of the wedding itself.