Northern Ballet review – dancing with dreams and facing fear

Linbury theatre, London
Works by Kenneth Tindall, Mlindi Kulashe and Morgann Runacre-Temple give these dancers a chance to get their bodies around abstraction

Trends for favoured composers in dance come in waves. For a while Arvo Pärt was everywhere, then Philip Glass, and now you can’t pirouette without bumping into Max Richter, specifically his remix of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Here it is in Kenneth Tindall’s new work for Northern Ballet, The Shape of Sound, the main event in a triple bill of contemporary works.

It’s a great piece of music, but it’s also a challenging dance partner, its cycling repetition acting like a weighted blanket. Tindall doesn’t really get inside Richter’s textural and rhythmic interest, or even the big tunes, giving us the feel of a lot of constant movement at a moderate pace with soporific results. What Tindall does do is display bodies beautifully, savouring the elegant stretch of the classical dancer, from pointe shoe to fingertip. It’s all danced with care and precision but no oomph (technical term). This company are best known for their popular narrative ballets and it’s perhaps not unrelated that the dancers don’t completely know what to do with abstract work, how to bring bite, dynamics and intention to their steps. Sparky first soloist Matthew Koon deserves honourable mention for engaging with his movement, and the audience, and briefly ruling the stage.

Koon is good, too, in Mlindi Kulashe’s Mamela, which has some thoughtful moments amid the sense of amorphous fear and generalised anxiety. Kulashe is still a dancer with the company and this is his first official choreography for them. It goes in a few different directions at once, but there’s plenty here to build on.

Creates its own world … Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Javier Torres and Mlindi Kulashe in The Kingdom of Back.
Creates its own world … Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Javier Torres and Mlindi Kulashe in The Kingdom of Back. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Most successful in terms of creating its own unique world is Morgann Runacre-Temple’s The Kingdom of Back, inspired by Mozart’s sister Nannerl, her wunderkind brother and stern, exacting father (“After God comes Papa,” says the voiceover). It has a curious, mischievous, dreamy spirit – she opens with the doo-be-doo sound of the Swingle Singers rather than a conventional Mozart recording. In relatively simple movement language, Runacre-Temple captures the playful, loving, occasionally jealous relationship between older sister and young prodigy, its success in large part down to the warm, winning presence of dancer Antoinette Brooks-Daw in the central role.


Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
English National Ballet: Le Corsaire review – firecracker dancing
While its story of slavery and exotica is dubious, ENB’s virtuoso dancers sparkle as much as the fake jewels

Lyndsey Winship

09, Jan, 2020 @2:49 PM

Article image
Royal Ballet gambles on new talent and competitive spirit to invigorate classics
For its 2017-18 season, the Royal Ballet pays tribute to Kenneth MacMillan and Leonard Bernstein – and brings in Liam Scarlett, Edmund de Waal and a take on a deranged silent movie

Judith Mackrell

05, Apr, 2017 @9:30 AM

Article image
Northern Ballet: Cinderella – review

A new Cinderella with a fresh score and an enjoyable cast is hugely entertaining for the first half but falls short of true magic, writes Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell

20, Dec, 2013 @12:06 PM

Article image
Northern Ballet: Geisha review – potent fusion of romantic dance and Japanese horror
This lavish production uses cinematic design to chilling effect and terrific choreography to drive the drama

Sanjoy Roy

15, Mar, 2020 @11:52 AM

Article image
Northern Ballet: Dangerous Liaisons review – more sedate than seductive
The plot convolutions of De Laclos’ classic novel, and a shortage of real passion, hold back David Nixon’s adaptation

Lyndsey Winship

09, Jun, 2021 @10:40 AM

Article image
Royal Ballet: Coppélia review – hello, dolly!
Francesca Hayward sparkles in this twee revival, a luminous presence in an inconsequential story about a lifesize doll

Lyndsey Winship

29, Nov, 2019 @1:04 PM

Article image
Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby – review

Choreographer David Nixon has a very good stab at adapting a complicated, literary plot to ballet, but it's not quite there, writes Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell

06, Mar, 2013 @12:53 PM

Article image
Dance review: Northern Ballet Theatre / Sadler's Wells, London

Sadler's Wells, London
This 40th birthday programme of one-act works is quite a departure, thinks Judith Mackrell

Judith Mackrell

20, May, 2009 @11:11 PM

Article image
Leeds united: Northern Ballet plot knees-up for 50th anniversary
Drew McOnie’s Merlin and Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha will mark the company’s remarkable half century, alongside digital archive

Chris Wiegand

13, Nov, 2019 @10:45 PM

Article image
Swan Lake review – a shining ballet, danced to the hilt
The principals and flock are on fine form throughout this revival of Peter Wright and Galina Samsova’s 1981 production

Anna Winter

30, Jan, 2020 @2:15 PM