Vibrant brilliance: The Forsythe Evening from English National Ballet

Sadler’s Wells, London
March 31, 2022

Forsythe loves his ballet. He knows the drill, the positions – and the rules – which he bends with such infectious relish. Like the masters before him, Petipa and Balanchine, he knows how to structure the corps de ballet, to play with the polyphony and cajole the counterpoint. The opening of Blake Works 1 is a prime example: clean classical positions morph with a cheeky thrust of a hip, a dropped wrist and a grin before the dancer rejoins the line quite unperturbed. The shifts are constant in the brilliantly ordered anarchy.

James Blake’s songs hold the beat, occasionally tinged with melancholy. It is in the duets that he introduces the personal. In the midst of an ensemble, perfectly groomed in pale blue tights and tunics,Isaac Hernández goes casual in comfy T-shirt and joggers for a strange and lovely pas de deux with Emily Suzuki, exquisitely shaped in a very classical mode. The ensemble floods back on stage, in an amazing show of energy and virtuosity. It continues in waves closing on a final duet from Emma Hawes with Aitor Arrieta adding a touch of quiet elegance.

Forsythe goes for broke in Playlist (EP), a welcome revival from pre-lockdown. From the opening pulse that warms the blood and sets the tempo, it is pure exuberance. The men in electric blue tights and named T-shirts get the best moments despite the thrilling pointe virtuosity displayed by the women in flamingo pink tunics.

Jeffrey Cirio has a blistering solo, matched by Joseph Caley while Fernando Carratalá Coloma and Aitor Arrieta also get their turn. The aerial turns are breath-taking, the footwork bullet speed and the batterie, the crisp icing on the cake.

The mood changes as Precious Adams and James Streeter find an off-key partnership in a sparky conversation that offers a brief breathing space where Forsythe take his foot off the accelerator to let the dance find a different voice before its back to the fray and the thrill of the chase.

The two works complement to make a vibrant evening that leave the audience breathless and begging for more.