Updated: Nov 11, 2020
English National Ballet
Lockdown Wednesday Watch Party - Review.
Our cultural lives have just been enhanced with the start of a series of ballet screenings being made available on the YouTube platform. Each ballet in the programme will be free to view for 48 hours, although donations are welcome to help support the livelihood of the ENB and the future sharing of more performances. These are hard times for all of us, creatives, producers and viewers alike.
Broken Wings: Art in the ascendancy.
(All images captured from the ENB video)
The series commenced with Broken Wings, a portrayal of the life of the brilliant but troubled Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, with Tamara Rojo in the lead role. The performance was wonderfully multi-faceted, interspersing passages of beauty, celebration and majesty with sadness, frustration and anger, in a dynamic representation of the artist and her world. Mystery and spiritual intensity combined with physical trauma and mental anguish to create a disturbing conflict within a complex human experience. The Mexican Day-of-the-Dead skeletons and the androgynous dancers, bare-chested and in stunning gowns - ‘male Fridas’ - gave us magic and a sense of the underworld, with a contemporary musical fiesta livening the mood.
The theme of death was never far away, but it's captured here with life-enhancing esprit.
The male Fridas, and skull. Beautiful and disconcerting.
Previously I only half knew some of Frida Kahlo’s life-story. Through this performance I became aware of her awakening in life and was reminded of her romances, her miscarriage, her accident, the affairs of her husband Diego Rivera (Irek Mukhamedov, seriously padded up for the role). Through all this there was resilience and perseverance, and specifically female strength. The ballet is part of a series called She Persisted. Some of my favourite moments, though, were a touch frivolous; notably when Tamara propelled her head forward as if she were a chicken, making her presence felt even more by those immediately in front of her. Such presence. Simple, forthright and timed to perfection. In contrast, the string of blood, the skeletons in sombre mood, and the tortured look on Frida’s face, were agonising for all; moments of creative genius that made grim but compulsive viewing.
Anticipation, watchfulness and perfect poise. A shadow that cannot be dismissed. A moment hovering between vivacity and fragility. Note the touching eye-brows, too.
Traumatic and intense, and yet a scene of artistic and technical brilliance.
The finale to the ballet was staggering in its symbolism. Here we witnessed a reverse butterfly effect, with the artist being shut away in darkness inside a container, rather than emerging from a pupa into the light and full of newly claimed energy. Here we saw the inevitable demise of a tormented, celebrated conceptual artist. And all of this was achieved through dance, with not a paintbrush in sight.
Radiant, but soon to be enclosed forever.
The performance presented so much more than I could have hoped for in this time of creative cultural darkness. This time of not going out. Tamara Rojo, you were amazing. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, your choreography was fantastic. Thank you to everyone at the English National Ballet for bring such joy, and okay a little suffering, onto our screens. I wish I had seen the original on stage, but I enjoyed the screening immensely, and I can't wait for the next English National Ballet Watch Party, next time show-casing Akram's Khan's Dust.
© Eddie Hewitt 2020
All images captured as screenshots, courtesy of The ENB
See the Connected Cultures review of the ENB's Swan Lake
See the Connected Cultures feature on Tamara Rojo
The world has genuinely turned upside down. This I recently discovered when I was sent flowers by a prima ballerina. I was sent flowers! When all I do is type on a keyboard, offering my appreciation of creative culture, and in contrast my dancing friend performs beautifully, athletically, magnificently to the delight of millions.
I think I’d better explain. At Easter, Tamara Rojo posted on Twitter a picture of a fried Spanish delicacy. I replied with my own not-quite-full-English frying pan. Tamara gently chided me for having a not-very-Christian breakfast. The eggs were not chocolate, I figured. So I aimed higher and sent her a picture of the blossom on the damson tree on my allotment. To signify growth and new life, and at least some of the joys of Spring, in these difficult times. Straight away, I received back this delightful picture. Muchas gracias, mi señora. Estoy honrado.