I have to confess that I approached the world premiere of “Broken WInge” with some trepidation for how can one depict the tumultuous and passionate life of Frida Kahlo in 30 to 40 minutes of dance? In a stroke of genius however, choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa has channeled the artist’s iconic paintings through powerful and colorfully painted dancers, introduced skeleton characters reminiscent of the lively Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos to depict Kahlo’s flirtation with death — of which my favorite part was when Tamara Rojo as Kahlo playfully hits a skeleton in childish defiance — and with the help of scenographer Dieuweke van Reij conjured up a stage-grabbing magical box to depict birth, death and seminal life events in between. When you add to all that a Rojo performance in which she is not afraid to act “ugly” and the return of Irek Mukhamedov to the stage, this has to be a dream come true for the performing arts lover who is also a fan of Kahlo.
Aszure Barton’s “Fantastic Beings” is the type of fantastical ensemble work that typically makes me perk up. It did for the most part, with stunning pas de deux sections and mesmerizing corps movements to selections of music from the imagination-spurring “Anthology of Fantastical Zoology” by Mason Bates. But some parts seemed long in execution and did not hold my attention.
“M-Dao,” Yabin Wang’s take on the cruelty of a jealous Medea exuded angst and passion. Stylish with a high degree of dramatic flair, it could have been much more in my eyes or rather my ears. Luscious portions of the music by Jocelyn Pook and Tanja Tzarovska went unaccompanied with only three dancers for the first half of the work.
In the end, the significance of presenting a program of all world premieres let alone by three female choreographers cannot be lost. It is a brave endeavor that will mark the current leadership of the English National Ballet.