Richmond Theatre, Richmond
July 7, 2015

New English Ballet Theatre in Valentino Zucchetti's Orbital Motion Photo Dave Morgan

New English Ballet Theatre in Valentino Zucchetti’s
Orbital Motion
Photo Dave Morgan

Charlotte Kasner

Having seen this programme at the barn that is the Peacock Theatre, it was interesting to see it with a change of cast in the much more intimate setting of the jewel that is Matcham’s Richmond Theatre. At times, the dance looked a little cramped, even for a small company but it was worth the sacrifice of expansiveness to gain the proximity.

There were some problems adjusting to the lack of get-in time but the curtain eventually rose on Daniela Cardim Fonteyne’s Tangents, set to selections from Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. It has interesting moments but rather lacks direction. Pianist Anne Lovett’s precision playing, making the “bells” ring out or toll relentlessly, was sympathetic to the dancers and I confess that my attention wandered a few times from the rather banal moments of choreography to listening to the way that the piano reduction rendered Mussorsgsky’s familiar work. The musical selections, ripped from their context, did not help with the lack of shape that the work had as a whole, as the abstract dance fought with the well-trodden themes of Pictures.

Bare-chested men with black trousers in low lighting were at times difficult to enjoy in detail as any subtle movements below the waist were lost in the gloom with the light bouncing of the torsos. A well-presented, if safe opening to the evening.

Valentino Zucchetti’s Orbital Motion is set to a commissioned orchestration of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No.1. On second viewing, the ballet blossomed like an opening flower shot in time lapse. Glass’ music is so much greater than a sum of the parts: layer upon layer of sophisticated references that span a multitude of musical genres and periods. I hear the complexity of Bach, the fascinating rhythms of Dave Brubeck, the lyricism of Brahms et alia topped off with the trademark ostinato of anxiety from the strings that signals classic Glass. The dancers, clad in bright lycra, flow like globs of oil in a warm lava lamp, demonstrating slow control one moment and zipping in a sudden flash of pirouette, almost over before it has begun, the next.

NEBT in Andrew McNicol's Kreutzer Sonata Photo Dave Morgan

NEBT in Andrew McNicol’s Kreutzer Sonata
Photo Dave Morgan

The comparative lack of space on the stage gave this rendition a sense of danger, arms barely restrained from poking fellow dancers in the eye, a flung foot sussurating past a face as it slows to a stop. Without doubt, it was the highlight of the evening.Toca by Erico Montes is a tantalising pas de deux set to Villa-Lobos. Perfectly suited to the sultry July night, it sizzled with passion only to be extinguished like a flame between pinched fingers. At one point Paul Oliver faces the audience and Arinana Marchiori stands by his side facing backwards. A simple device that they manage to make incredibly telling. It is epitomised by less is more and works like the best of appetisers to pique the interest.

Kristin McNally’s Mad Women is a slight but amusing work with more than a flavour of the 1950s, it’s tangerine-clad women in pedal pushers and knotted bandanas torn between their new-found independence and the domesticity of the ever-encroaching front doorbell. In the end, you fear that it is indeed the doctor-endorsed cigarettes that will get them. The dancers seem to enjoy performing the work and it rounds of the first half well.

Kreutzer Sonata occupied the second half of the evening, just managing to stay on the dramatic side of melodrama. Tolstoy’s controversial novella is difficult to portray on stage as it is inevitably reduced to a murderous love triangle by the impossibility of conveying his opinions on sexual partners and fidelity that lie at the heart of the piece. The device of having the eponymous Beethoven violin sonata played live on stage works extremely well as does working the performers into the dramatic action. The contrast with the much more modern Janacek string quartet of the same name played from the pit serves to underline the sexual tensions evident in the work. Again with a different cast, the nuances shift, but the murder is no less shocking.

NEBT are consolidating into an accomplished, cohesive company that are well worth seeing and I look forward to viewing new offerings in the future.