Alina Cojocaru review – goosebumpy delight and gems amid disjointed evening

Sadler’s Wells, London
The English National Ballet’s luminous lead principal here creates her own show, ranging from Frederick Ashton to Arvo Pärt and two superb short films

It’s impossible not to love Alina Cojocaru. There’s no ballerina more natural on stage, a bringer of light with a kind of innocent intelligence always dancing around her face. A lead principal with English National Ballet, the 38-year-old now brings her first wholly self-produced offering, following the likes of Sylvie Guillem and Natalia Osipova in creating her own show. But where Guillem and Osipova used the platform to experiment with contemporary dance, that’s not Cojocaru’s jam.

Instead, she brings a slightly disjointed collection of short ballets and films, followed by Frederick Ashton’s meatier Marguerite and Armand from 1963. There are gemlike moments from the off. The simplicity of Tim Rushton’s Reminiscence, danced with partner Johan Kobborg to Arvo Pärt offers goosebumpy delight in the tenderness of their hands meeting palm to palm. She raises her leg in delicate developpé and it just keeps rising, as if lifted by air, so seemingly effortless is her mastery of this fiendish discipline.

Simplicity … Tim Rushton’s Reminiscence at Sadler’s Wells.
Simplicity … Tim Rushton’s Reminiscence at Sadler’s Wells. Photograph: Andrej Uspenski

Two highlights are short films by choreographer/director Kim Brandstrup, beautifully made miniatures rich with insight into a dancer’s world. The first, Faces, watches Cojocaru in mesmerising closeup as she marks through a dance in her head, her eyes tracing a story. Kiev is a personal portrait of the dancer revisiting her old ballet school and it poignantly shows the thread of learning passed on, the imprint of teachers’ words and hands living in her dancing body.

Watch trailer for Alina Cojocaru

Marguerite and Armand is new to Cojocaru and she gives a sensitive performance as the consumptive courtesan mourning her lost young love, never tipping into the melodrama some dancers do. ENB’s Francesco Gabriele Frola ably plays her adoring young lover, but their partnership doesn’t soar to the absolute heights. Kobborg’s own Les Lutins is a bit cutesy. It gives Marcelino Sambé and Takahiro Tamagawa the chance to show off fanciful flights of tightly beating footwork, racing against Sasha Grynyuk’s virtuoso violin, yet when Cojocaru appears she just wiggles her bum. So much for girl power.

The individual pieces all have much to recommend them, and there’s live music, too, but the bitty format means there is little flow to the evening. Still, perhaps that can be forgiven for the luminous Cojocaru.

• At Sadler’s Wells, London, until 23 February.

Contributor

Lyndsey Winship

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The top 10 dance shows of 2017
Sgt Pepper strutted, Boris Charmatz gave us a buttock-scratching beauty and three men became Lady Macbeth – our critic picks the best dance of the year

Judith Mackrell

18, Dec, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Emanuel Gat: Works review – moving, mysterious dance is a delight
Relationships between the Israeli choreographer’s idiosyncratic dancers play out on stage in a surreal and touching show

Lyndsey Winship

12, Nov, 2019 @12:49 PM

Article image
Royal Ballet mixed bill review – a trio of 60s flashbacks
Lauren Cuthbertson and Reece Clarke’s masterclass in clarity is the highlight in a night of Macmillan, Ashton and Petipa

Lyndsey Winship

23, Oct, 2019 @10:38 AM

Article image
Royal Ballet: Asphodel Meadows/The Two Pigeons review – beauty and whimsy
Liam Scarlett’s 2010 work is as lyrical as ever, while strong performances and a live pigeon can’t save Frederick Ashton’s cutesy romcom

Lyndsey Winship

20, Jan, 2019 @3:54 PM

Article image
Darbar festival review – blazing celebration of Indian dance
The Temple of Fine Arts explode with energy and Nahid Siddiqui captivates with her lightness and gravity

Sanjoy Roy

27, Nov, 2019 @3:12 PM

Article image
Icon review – Antony Gormley's amazing feat of dancing, churning clay
GöteborgsOperans Danskompani paired the sculptor with choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for this thrilling piece exploring how we mould and remould ourselves

Lyndsey Winship

02, Dec, 2018 @12:55 PM

Article image
Tanztheater Wuppertal: Bon Voyage, Bob … review – love, loss and Pina
The loss of the company’s founder Pina Bausch a decade ago is at the heart of this meticulous meditation on grief and death

Lyndsey Winship

24, Feb, 2019 @12:32 PM

Article image
Dorrance Dance review – tip-top tap gets into the groove
Michelle Dorrance’s superb pieces range from rubber-legged slapstick to brilliantly musical moves

Lyndsey Winship

15, Nov, 2019 @11:25 AM

Article image
English National Ballet: She Persisted review – odes to Frida, Pina and Nora
Ibsen gets an urgent retelling, Kahlo dances with a monkey and Bausch’s masterwork is back in Tamara Rojo’s stellar triple bill

Lyndsey Winship

05, Apr, 2019 @11:23 AM

Article image
Richard Alston Dance Company review – class and craft
Classical virtuosity combines with contemporary sensibility in this latest programme exploring the relationship between music and dance

Lyndsey Winship

03, Mar, 2019 @3:41 PM