Britten Dances – review

Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh

Benjamin Britten wrote very little for ballet. But as this programme of new, Britten-inspired dances reveals, the rhythmic detail of his music, the vibrancy of his orchestral palette and the floating beauty of his melodic line can hold riches for the choreographer.

Kim Brandstrup's Ceremony of Innocence is a setting of Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, but takes its inspiration from Death in Venice, eliding the first encounter between Aschenbach and the exquisite Tadzio with an imagined encounter between the mature Britten and his own golden, gifted and innocent youth.

Taking his cue from the light and shadows in Britten's music, Brandstrup's narrative is an impressionistic shuffle of past and present. The older Britten (Edward Watson) feels himself caught in the toils of his physical and artistic mortality, looking on with envy at the spontaneous facility and verve of his former self (the very young and gifted Marcelino Sambé). Branstrup conjures a wonderfully elegiac fragility of tone here, reflected in Leo Warner's light projections, which cast a vestigial half-remembered landscape over the dark red brick of the Snape stage.

Death in Venice also haunts Ashley Page's If Memory Serves, a setting of Young Apollo, originally created for Royal Ballet of Flanders, which conjures the beautiful boys on the Lido beach and the piercing romance of a summer's infatuation. It's a sweet and witty piece, that makes sly choreographic allusion to Balanchine's Apollo, stacking its dancers into crisp art deco shapes, while spinning out glamorously fluid, extended lines of movement.

Both ballets serve Britten beautifully; less so Courting the Senses, Page's slightly predictable deconstruction of a courtly duet, and Cameron McMillan's Dream Weaver, whose layering of classical and contemporary languages flares into moments of promisingly fierce invention, but also loses its way in inconsequential repetition.

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Judith Mackrell

The GuardianTramp

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