Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: THE FORSYTHE EVENING, Sadler's Wells

English National Ballet debut an evening of work from William Forsythe

BWW Review: THE FORSYTHE EVENING, Sadler's Wells BWW Review: THE FORSYTHE EVENING, Sadler's Wells Just under a year ago, English National Ballet debuted one of the first post-Covid programmes of new work entitled Reunion. It was a delight to be back in the theatre even if it was socially distanced, and we were all masked up and tested within an inch of our lives; as a result, it was lovely but sanitised (literally).

This season's debut of The Forsythe Evening feels much more like the heady party we are looking for post-pandemic. It is 90 minutes to make your heart swell, presented by dancers who are technical engineers but also charged with energy and flair for William Forsythe's fiendish choreography.

If Playlist (EP) is the party, Blake Works I is the pre-drinks where the anticipation builds. Forsythe's opener, originally created for Paris Opera Ballet, comprises tracks from James Blake's album The Colour in Anything. Its synthy, sorrowful but unfailingly cool tracks lend themselves to both classical ballet steps but also the boppy pony hops that the girls use to trot around the stage.

The choreography is demanding, though, but this isn't always apparent to the audience. There is quick complex footwork in both ensemble and solo moments where any kind of error would be glaring. The moments of silence as the sections finish and start where one can just hear the dancers' breaths in the stillness are a reminder of this, whether it's deliberate or not.

The dancers intersect, threading in and out of intricate patterns before two or three emerge as the focus of particular sections. Especially successful are the trio of Julia Conway, Ivana Bueno and Rhys Antoni Yeomans, who are effortlessly stylish. They fly around the stage with verve and panache from head to toe, responding to every nuance of the music and each other in a very pleasing display.

Artist Emily Suzuki is partnered with outgoing Lead Principal Isaac Hernandez in the central pas de deux featuring the album's mournful title track. Suzuki is impressive in her softness and strength - a blur of limbs in her fast pirouettes before beautifully controlled moments of stillness.

And so to Playlist (EP) which started life at Playlist (Track 1, 2) in 2018 and was a rip-roaring success that took classical ballet and reworked it for a night at a club. It was a male-only piece that was one big testosterone overdose, and has now been updated to include ENB's ladies in hot pink bringing all the sass and femininity. It is a lot of fun.

The piece opens with another all-male excerpt "Surely Shorty" and is another brooding, casual groove that picks up where Black Works left off. The tone shifts as the girls take over for "Vegas" (by ABRA), an ice-cool synthy R&B number. Beyond the choreography, the way this super group of six respond to each other, the flickers on their faces as they hit another sharp position or arabesque is so satisfying. The lines may be classical but they also bounce around the stage in their pointe shoes and create little wave motions with their wrists. It's silly at times but it works.

Perhaps it's its familiarity (and a lot of revisits on YouTube), but it's Lion Babe's "Impossible" that is the standout banger of the night. The men are so confident with it by now and clearly relish performing it. The crowd are cheering throughout in a way that's unthinkable at any other ballet performance. The entire cast are musical and brim with vitality, but it's Jeffrey Cirio who makes you sit up and pay attention. His feet are so searingly sharp, while his fouettes and turns are endless and poised. He leaves ENB soon for Boston Ballet and will be much missed.

As the curtain comes down, Forsythe himself is invited to the stage to boogie with the company while Natalie Cole's "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) blasts out. You'll probably feel sad because it's over but thrilled that you got a ticket in the first place. Can Tamara Rojo please ensure she puts through some much-deserved promotions before departing for the West Coast?

The Forsythe Evening runs at Sadler's Wells until 10 April

Image: Laurent Liotardo

Related Articles View More UK / West End Stories

From This Author - Vikki Jane Vile