English National Ballet dazzles in beloved classics

February 03, 2017 17:31
Alina Cojocaru as Giselle and Isaac Hernández as Albrecht in English National Ballet's production of Giselle. Photo: Laurent Liotardo

In mid-January, at the end of its winter season at the London Coliseum, the English National Ballet gave 15 performances of one of the jewels in its repertory – the 1971 production of the Romantic classic Giselle by Mary Skeaping.

This is an excellent textbook production with traditional choreography. It has restored Adolphe Adam’s musical score to its original length at the ballet’s 1841 premiere.

Particularly pleasing is an additional duet for the two leads at the end of Act 1. David Walker’s designs are lavish.

This classic is about an innocent peasant girl, Giselle, who loves dancing. Albrecht is a noble prince who disguises himself as a villager to seduce her.

After learning that Albrecht is betrothed to another, Giselle becomes mad and dies.

However, as a spirit, she protects him from the Wilis, supernatural beings who would have driven him to death.

The company fielded five casts, a sumptuous treat for London balletomanes.

I saw three casts. The best in the title role was undoubtedly Alina Cojocaru, a former top star of London’s Royal Ballet who unexpectedly joined this company in 2013.

Her performance was rich in detail. As the innocent Giselle, she was most convincing in conveying the frailty of the peasant girl.

As the wili, she was spiritually pure. She was dazzling in her solo of tiny beats.

Her partner, Isaac Hernández, made less impact as Albrecht.

Another cast saw an exciting debut as Albrecht by Cesar Corrales, a hugely talented Cuban soloist of the company who is just over 20.

His technique was sensational. His acting was pretty good too for a debut.

In another cast the ballerina role was quite impressively danced by Laurretta Summerscales, a newly promoted principal of the company.

She was partnered by Xander Parish, an English soloist of Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet. Parish’s acting was more impressive than his technical virtuosity.

Among the supporting performances, Summerscales was dazzling as Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis. The corps de ballet was strong, though slightly lacking in uniformity.

During the Christmas season, many ballet companies worldwide performed The Nutcracker, and the English National Ballet was no exception.

Its current production of this classic is by its former artistic director Wayne Eagling.

In this 2010 version, Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy are danced by the same ballerina, making the ballerina role more rewarding.

Act 2 is turned into a puppet theater, instead of the usual Kingdom of the Sweets.

The main innovation is that Clara dreams of herself not only in the battle between the rats and the Nutcracker, but also of becoming a princess in Act 2.

In Act 1 she is in love with the Nutcracker, and in Act 2 she falls in love with a prince.

Unfortunately, it is not so easy for children to follow the complicated scenario.

Peter Farmer’s designs, set in Edwardian London, are beautiful. There are nice touches like skating on ice.

Crystal Costa, a former principal of the Hong Kong Ballet, performed the ballerina role in Nutcracker.

The English National Ballet has become more prominent since Tamara Rojo, another former Royal Ballet star, became the artistic director in 2012.

The programmes have become more diverse, raising the company’s profile in the ballet world.

-- Contact us at [email protected]


The Waltz of the Snowflakes from English National Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo: ASH

veteran dance critic