Tamara Rojo and Ivan Vasiliev in Le Jeune Homme et La Mort
Two hugely contrasting ballets brought back one star and launched another in a night that, once again, asserted the ENB’s impressive renaissance.
Returning hero Ivan Vasiliev was the hot ticket as the stricken and shirtless Le Jeune Homme of the title in Jean Cocteau’s incandescent showpiece for male virtuosity. Throw in Tamara Rojo as his cruel mistress and you have an explosive match made in Heaven (or Hell in the poor chap’s case).
Following that, La Sylphide runs the risk of appearing twee in tweed, but a spectacular lead from rising star Aitor Arrieta gave a stunned audience two male dance divas for the price of one.
On a side note, catch the ever-magnificent (but sadly soon-departing) Cesar Corrales dance La Jeune Homme this Saturday if you don’t already have tickets.
ENB: Ivan Vasiliev in full flight
ENB guest star Ivan Vasiliev
Le Jeune Homme is rightly viewed as one of the greatest jewel’s in a male dancer’s crown.
Roland Petit’s explosive, emotional choreography is a dizzying succession of leaps and pirouettes that require muscularity, control and elegance. Modern steps with classical ballet lines soar over Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor.
My breath was no sooner taken by one corkscrew spin to the ground, than Vasiliev was leaping over tables and swinging (almost) from the rafters. His technique is jaw-dropping, even if he acted rather more with his face than his body.
It’s a tough act to partner, but Tamara Rojo rose to the challenge with icy majesty.
ENB Tamara Rojo and Ivan Vasiliev
From her dramatic entry to the bitter end she made us believe a man could lose his mind and his life over such a tantalising temptress.
The concept may feel a little melodramatic and achingly French New Wave, but Vasiliev and Rojo on stage together at the height of their powers dancing this exquisite choreography is something no dance fan should miss.
How can the poor ENB corps de ballet and principals follow that, clad in tartan and tutus in a whimsical Scottish fantasy?
With ease, it seemed, as three powerful leads and a vigorous corps injected purpose and brio into La Sylphide.
With staging by three luminaries of Danish ballet, Frank Andersen, Eva Kloborg and Anne Marie Vessel Schlüter, the production explodes with colours, textures and slick visual tricks.
Aitor Arrieta was spectacular as the fickle Highlaird laird James who ditches his sweet fiancee for the flighty Sylph. His feet flickered like the sharpest Scottish blade and his vertical jumps and constant back and forth Tour Jetes were a wonder to behold. With intelligent interpretation and unabashed emotion he is a thrilling new addition to the leading ENB ranks.
As the object of his desire, Alison McWhinney, was a smarter type of Sylph, who mixed the choreographed coquettish foolishness with a knowing glance to the audience and an emotional commitment to the devastating end.
This is a slightly strange traditional ballet which never reaches the usual grande pas de deux. Basically, there’s a lot of foreplay without the finale but the two outstanding leads still kept the audience rapt with ravishing displays of artisty.
ENB: La Sylphide is a riot of colour and choreography
There is, however, plenty of drama. Special mention should also go to an energised corps from the exhuberent reels to the massed sylphs in the tragic final act, with a scene-stealing and powerfully danced turn from a dashing and dynamic Henry Dowden as James’ love rival, Gurn.
From a self-consciously modern piece to the fluffiest of classical fantasy, it’s a double bill that shouldn’t work but finds a gleaming and pitiless common thread. Betrayal and tragedy are regular ballet bed fellows and do their work with gusto here.
Death reaped a full harvest in both performances with a disturbing undercurrent that men are the most foolish of creatures when bewitching women are involved.
ENB: La Jeune Homme et La Mort / La Sylphide is on at the London Coliseum until Saturday January 20.
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