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Northern Ballet’s powerful Celebration of Sir Kenneth MacMillan

Northern Ballet’s powerful Celebration of Sir Kenneth MacMillan

October 10
22:27 2017

Northern Ballet has never danced any Kenneth MacMillan — even the one-act works would be ruinously expensive for a mid-scale company to license, dress and stage — until now. An outpouring of inclusivity and largesse prompted by the 2017 MacMillan celebrations has given David Nixon’s dancers a chance to break new ground. Their triple bill of vintage MacMillan choreography had a short run at the Bradford Alhambra last week, a dry run for a Covent Garden debut later this month.

Concerto was a brave choice and, to be brutally honest, the corps de ballet’s struggles with its unforgiving unison ensembles and steely pointework were best watched through the fingers, but last Saturday’s matinee was a triumph just the same, thanks to Las Hermanas and Gloria.

Northern Ballet may have dropped “Theatre” from its name but dance drama is where its strengths lie and 1963’s Las Hermanas, a masterly 25-minute distillation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, proved a natural fit for Nixon’s expressive and idiosyncratic performers.

Giuliano Contadini, who created the lead in this year’s Casanova, was well cast as the preening male who invades this unhappy henhouse, and every gesture carried dramatic weight. The vehemence with which he wiped his mouth clean of his fiancée’s frigid **sensored** prepared us for the far fruitier pairwork he would later enjoy with her younger, more pneumatic sister. Dreda Blow and Minju Kang were sharply contrasted as the rival virgins.

Nicholas Georgiadis’s two-storey set (on loan from the Royal Ballet) was created for mid-scale spaces and can look lost on the Royal Opera House stage with its long sightlines, but regained all its claustrophobic intensity in the more intimate Alhambra.

Northern Ballet in Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Gloria’ © Lauren Godfrey

The first two ballets had live accompaniment (bouquets for Darius Battiwalla on harpsichord for Las Hermanas and Andrew Dunlop’s airy Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto). Poulenc’s Gloria had to make do with a recording (it will be played live at Covent Garden) but the dancers made a fine job of MacMillan’s heartfelt tribute to the fallen of the Great War. Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Javier Torres sailed through the sorrowful pas de deux, Ayami Miyata gave a fearless account of the Wendy Ellis role and Riku Ito’s super-supple torso raged against fate, carving the air like a blade.


At the Royal Opera House, London, from October 18,, then at Leeds Grand Theatre, March 16-17 2018,

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