After still basking in the afterglow of Lest We Forget last year, I was intrigued and excited to see what Tamara Rojo and her diverse range of dancers were going to show us with this new triple bill. The works in themselves are not new, having been first premiered in the 80s and 90s, however this is the first time the three works have been programmed alongside each other in this way.
As the title suggest, Modern Masters is a celebration of the work of choreographers William Forsythe, John Neumeier and Jiří Kylian. It is Forsythe’s work that is arguably the most eagerly anticipated from this programme. Forsythe is credited with deconstructing classical ballet as it was previously known and enabled dancers to display their physical and technical abilities in a whole new way.
The first piece is Jiří Kylian’s Petite Mort. The curtain is raised to reveal a cast of male dancers stretching and lunging, wielding swords in perfect synchronicity. There is no musical accompaniment at this stage so we are simply left with the men’s chiselled bodies and nothing but the sound of the swords as they cut through the air. As the piece unfolds, the men are strong and unwavering, while the women are whispy and ethereal. It’s a purely elegant, romantic piece staged very simply. Rojo herself partners Emerging Dancer 2014 winner Junor Souza who is suitably powerful and athletic to complement her ever confident and stylish presence.
A floaty, romantic tone is maintained with John Neumeier’s Spring and Fall, featuring the incomparable Alina Cojocaru as the heroine. Dance is of course a matter of personal taste, but to my mind she is a dancer so special no-one else on the stage can really have my attention; a dancer who can convey a hundred emotions with the subtlest of movements, not to mention breathtaking versatility and flawless technique.
Most memorable of the evening was Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. In a complete shift in tone, we are immediately immersed in an 80s soundtrack of industrial rhythms and clashes. The piece is far more aggressive and demands attack. The men are commanding and the women must mimic elastic bands in the way they snap from one position to another and from one angle to another. The soundtrack is repetitive but builds anticipation as different partnerships are given their moment to shine. Principal Erina Takahashi is especially strong and maintains energy well with James Streeter, however it is also good to see lower ranked dancers such as Tiffany Hedman given a chance in the spotlight. Hedman has long limbs, longer than many of her fellow dancers, in a piece where movements need to be sharp and compact but she performed well and her on stage charisma made her most watchable.
Modern Masters is playing at Sadler’s Wells until 15 March. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website.