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BWW Review: ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET - BROKEN WINGS, Sadler's WellsAdmirably enhancing their "at home" offering, in addition to regular live streams of company class and chair-based dance classes for those with limited mobility, English National Ballet now bring us Wednesday Watchalongs, a weekly opportunity to experience key work from their back catalogue for no extra cost.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Broken Wings, depicting the life and art of Frida Kahlo, starts the series in bold and colourful style. The performance in question is from the 2016 run at Sadler's Wells that saw the piece premiere with Artistic Director Tamara Rojo in the central role.

It was especially interesting to take a second look at this first iteration of Ochoa's work, which has since returned to London's dance house in 2019 with a different cast. As well as engrossing storytelling, it was enjoyable to spot company members who have either retired, moved on or progressed up the ranks since the time of this recording.

Ochoa's vision begins with a young Kahlo dressed in a dowdy school uniform, however her vigour and early zest for life is evident in a feisty pas de deux with an early partner played by Cesar Corrales (now with the Royal Ballet).

Imposing Day of the Dead Mexican skeletons follow Kahlo throughout her life and adventures. The start of Kahlo's poor health is depicted in the way these menacing figures play with her, lift her, throw her and torment her. An early accident sees her bed bound for months, and Rojo evocatively portrays her frustration, grit and despair.

Dieuweke van Reij's simple but effective set design is slick, and we are quickly transported from Kahlo's confinement to a stage flooded with a dazzling spectrum of colour. Figures of her reinvented self as seen in her paintings are brought to life. Be sure to enjoy the quirky details here: a long-limbed toy monkey is wrapped around the torso of one of the male ensemble, and another dancer's head features as the centre of a flower.

Ochoa admirably brings Kahlo's strength to the fore throughout; repeated adversity always sees a return to hope. She shares a tormented relationship with eventual husband Diego Rivera, played here by former Bolshoi star Irek Mukhamedov, who at 56 gives both an energetic and emotive display. Rojo remains a convincing actress and we tangibly feel her pain when Rivera parades his sensible new wife around, which receives a typically spirited response from Kahlo.

More than anything, Broken Wings is a captivating spectacle. Its bright colours and vivid storytelling make for 50 minutes that pass quickly. The final moments see dancing birds, deers and more join the chorus of male Frida's in an uplifting, almost whimsical conclusion.

Next week sees a welcome revisit to Akram Khan's Dust, a piece I cited as one of my favourites of the decade. It's a brutal, moving watch. Be sure to steady yourself ...

You can view the free performance of Broken Wings here and you can donate to ENB's future fund here

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From This Author Vikki Jane Vile