From Darkness to Light

English National Ballet’s Ecstasy and Death opened last night at the London Coliseum. This triple bill is a perfect sampler of the diversity of styles tackled by the Company, showing ballet as an art form that combines the demands of precision, of form and technique to convey the human, the abstract and the sublime. In our first guest article for English National Ballet (ENB), we look at each of the pieces that form this very grown-up programme:

Petite Mort
An abstraction on the themes of sex and desire set to two Mozart piano concertos, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort is a new addition to the ENB’s repertory. Kylián is one of the most important choreographers of his generation; he has created over one hundred works and is in demand all over the world. According to Artistic Director Tamara Rojo – introducing a masterclass with repetiteur Ken Ossola last week -Petite Mort is a great work to introduce dancers to the choreographer’s unique style, his fusion of classical dance with many different modern influences to create highly articulated movement.

With Petite Mort, audiences are invited to form their own stories about couples and soloists who inhabit a musical landscape of power play, femininity and sexuality. There are plenty of images and symbols (the title Petite Mort itself is an allusion to sexual climax): a forest dance, a section for 6 male soloists who handle fencing foils, but also a sense of the poetic and of pure movement that emanates from the score.

Go to photo Adela Ramírez and Zhanat Atymtayev in Petite Mort. © 2013 David Jenson

What to look out for: Soloists dancing in perfect sync, the physicality and articulation of the two couples in their respective duets.

The “wow” factor: Crinolines! Foils! Silk!

Le Jeune Homme et La Mort
As we had noted in reviewing ENB’s Carmen : Roland Petit gave us sex, death and raw emotion at a time when audiences expected fairy tale ballets filled with delicate creatures dressed in tutus and tulle. Petit’s works have a strong theatrical voice filled with real characters. Last seen at ENB during the all-Petit programme in 2011 and with a scenario originally conceived by master of the symbolic and the surreal Jean Cocteau, the ballet follows a young man’s obsession with a mysterious woman. Tension mounts as he waits for his mistress in his apartment, her appearance and dark designs finally leading him to suicide.

Go to photo Tamara Rojo as Girl/Death and Nicolas Le Riche as Young Man in Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. © 2013 David Jenson

What to look out for: the end, pure drama!

The “wow” factor: Nicolas Le Riche (Paris Opera Ballet) and Ivan Putrov guesting in a demanding role that has been made famous by Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. These performances also mark the first time Le Riche and Tamara Rojo will have danced together.

From darkness and death, we get back to light and ecstasy with programme closer Etudes. Fizzy and fun, Danish choreographer Harald Lander’s most famous work pays homage to classical ballet training and was inspired by the technical demands faced by dancers in their daily class. To a score by Carl Czerny, the company moves from barre to centre, performing sections of adagio, allegro, port de bras (carriage of the arms), pirouettes and big jumps in a dazzling display of balletic fireworks.

What to look out for: grace, musicality, quirky steps and signature poses, such as the “hand on hip”. Don’t miss the leading soloist’s grand pirouette while the corps de ballet spin around him.

Go to photo Artists of the Company at the Barre in Etudes. © 2013 David Jenson

The ‘wow’ factor: big finish!

English National Ballet perform Ecstasy and Death 18-21 April at the London Coliseum. Emilia Spitz and Linda Uruchurtu write about ballet and dance at They have been named among the “100 Best Arts Tweeters” by The Times.