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.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

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