As one of the most long established English ballet companies, the almost 60 year old Northern Ballet do not fail to impress in their ability to honour the cultural and artistic traditions of the ballet whilst constantly breathing new life into the beauty of the art form. Their newest work Casanova tells the story of Italian author Giacomo Casanova and his journey from a training priest to writing one of the most valuable works documenting eighteenth century life.
As the curtain rises the audience are transported to a gothic church of evident splendour, indicated by three dramatic sets of pillars which are filled with beautiful toned rays of green, blue and later orange light. It is award winning Christopher Oram who provides these spectacular aesthetic choices and as the six male dancers begin to perform their delicate combination of spiritual gesture with seamless shifts in and out of the floor, consequently sending mesmerising ripples through the fabric of their free-flowing clothing, the space looks almost like a delicately crafted painting constantly reimagining itself.
The dancers themselves do not move effortlessly, however this is perhaps one of the piece’s greatest attributes – instead their are moments of violence, sensuality, fear and glimpses of joy enlivening the work, which really successfully manages to ‘live’ outside of the dance steps. Often the gender of dancers is irrelevant with the women demonstrating their ability to be incredibly strong and powerful, and the men a capacity for soft and tender movements. Choreographer Kenneth Tindall has created a movement language of repeated gestures with which the dancers converse, argue and flirt and as the uninitiated audience member we are drawn in to try and comprehend this.
Through the work there is a sexual energy which is unapologetically presented, this is introduced by the Savorgnan sisters (Abigail Prudames and Minju Kang) who perform with a whimsical charm suspending their legs in dynamic angular positions and climbing protagonist Giuliano Contandi who suspends both in the air with ease. As this piece progresses this sensuality becomes overwhelming – the dancers experience their bodies in sometimes very intimate, sometimes very crowded moments by the second act this passion transcends gender and emotion becoming purely lustful.
The second act, unfortunately, lacks the flow and excitement which runs through the first – it is a very fast paced collection of moments which build through the act to the final image of Cassonova surrounded by the many figures who he has encounter during the piece. Despite this it contains two very beautiful duets – the second is danced by Contadini and Dreda Blow which saves the act for me, Blow is a skilled emotional performer who is incredibly detailed in performance as she articulates what in my opinion is the strongest choreography through the whole piece.
Northern Ballet`s Casanova is currently on at The Lowry Salford until 6/5/17
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