Petite Mort…

A company of great versatility, English National Ballet treated audiences at the London Coliseum to a Triple Bill of power, precision and pride. Opening the evening was contemporary dance work, Petite Mort, choreographed to Mozart’s piano concerti in A and C major, to mark the second centenary of his death. Originally created in 1991 for the Salzburg Festival, Jiri Kylian’s work captures the spirit of the evening.

English National Ballet's Ecstasy and Death_DavidJensen2

Photography by David Jensen

ENB’s orchestra playing Mozart live is a joy in itself. Yet Kylián’s detailed choreography creates another layer to the music, and even adds auditory features through movement. Striking to watch is the male dancers’ fearless sword swiping, creating a sound scape in the opening moments of silence. Also of particular beauty are the large sheets of material, swallowing the dancers in a sweep of inky-purple billows. Like the ominous anticipation after a distant roll of thunder, the sudden emptiness of the stage seems reminiscent of life’s ephemerality.

But within this occasionally solemn tribute, is a subtle humour. The audience laugh in disbelief as six female dancers, clad in full-length black dresses, glide towards them. Even ENB dancers cannot skim the floor with such smoothness. Or can they? Then the spell is broken. The dancers halt, tilting their flesh-corseted torsos to the side, leaving the stiff dress cut-outs to stand for themselves.

The male dancers’ macho fists and bare-chest slapping are contrasted well with intimate partner work creating images of flight. As if transported to a paradise, the audience is treated to intricately fluid duets, where the synergy between the couples turns twelve dancers into six exquisitely long-limbed beings. Having been to heaven, hell and back, I left the Coliseum uplifted and in awe. I look forward to where the next ENB evening takes me.

Jennifer Whittaker