Ivana Bueno in Playlist, Photo Laurent Liotardo

The Forsythe Evening

English National Ballet and William Forsythe are a magical combination and the proof lies in a triumphant evening, showing two of his works that prompted an explosive reaction from the opening night audience. What a wonderful way to pass the time, smiling and whooping at the display of pure, unadulterated exuberance and joy. And it does feel good to leave the theatre feeling utterly exhilarated.

The first ballet, Blake Works I, was originally created for the Paris Opera Ballet in 2016 and suits ENB’s dancers perfectly. The music is the driver, with seven songs from James Blake’s The Colour In Anything. The most compelling thing about Forsythe’s choreography is that you cannot dance it without being a supremely good classical dancer but everything is more extreme – higher, longer, faster and exceedingly challenging. What results is a tremendous upsurge of excitement. He also has an uncanny ability of bringing out the very best in his dancers. Right at the start it was good to see Angela Wood shining in her role, confirming that when given the opportunity, she rises to the challenge. Emma Hawes is extraordinary throughout and particularly beautiful in the final pas de deux with her gracious partner, Aitor Arrieta to f.o.r.e.v.e.r., a serene ending to the piece. Emily Suzuki, still only an artist, is paired with Isaac Hernández, a well established principal, in the central duet to The Colour In Anything. Not only does Suzuki possess a formidable technique, she has a very individual way of moving that instantly draws attention and a face that carries right out into the auditorium. It’s about time her sterling work in soloist and principal roles was recognised with a promotion. Other notables amidst a stellar cast were Rhys Antoni Yeomans, also an artist who needs pushing up the ranks and who really seems to ‘get’ Forsythe, and the ever-more dynamic Jeffrey Cirio.

Julia Conway Rhys , Antoni Yeomans, Ivana Bueno in Blake Works I , Photos by Laurent Liotardo
Shiori Kase and Joseph Caley in Playlist EP

If you enjoy Blake Works I, then the expanded version of Forsythe’s hugely enjoyable and popular Playlist (Tracks 1, 2) created in 2018 for ENB’s men, now renamed Playlist (EP) and including a large female cast, will blow your socks off. It’s an eclectic mix of music beginning with Peven Everett’s Surely Shorty and within seconds one is completely hooked into the feel good factor. It’s catchy, it’s witty and enthralling. Cirio once again, takes your breath away and Erik Woolhouse gets into the groove, funk and slink as if his life depended on it, raising the temperature even higher. It just gets better as the women strut their stuff in coquettish style. Precious Adams and James Streeter have a delightfully playful pas de deux to Khalid’s Location and the stage is flooded with effervescent dancers to Barry White’s Sha La La Means I Love You. The ballet closes with Natalie Cole’s This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) by which time the audience are cheering and on their feet. The energy, athleticism and blatant enthusiasm is infectious and it is, without question, the most fun I have had at the ballet for a very long time. And would I like to see it again? Yes, every night of the week, please. Bravo on every front, ENB has a runaway winner that sends the audience home skipping, shaking and shimmying (with the odd jeté thrown in) all the way to the tube station.

Deborah Weiss