From the solar system to a re-imagining of a Tolstoy novella, it seems that no topic is too audacious for the New English Ballet Theatre. Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal is a bold chain of five varied dances that exhibit the sensational talent of emerging and established dancers, musicians and choreographers.
Previously held at the Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre, Rambert Studio at Southbank is now Tryst’s temporary home. The sense of intimacy achieved within the Rambert Studio is rather special; there is some merit to the blank canvas that a white studio provides. Ultimately, it enhances the awe-inspiring dancing on stage.
The studio space invites a strange interaction between audience member and dancer; whilst the routines are performed with vigour and professionalism, the small intimate space means that the efforts of the dancers are more prominent than normal. Deep, heavy breathing is audible when the dancers move to the wings of the stage or after a particularly strenuous move. Arguably, this changes the nature of the performance – it is elevated from being merely a serene, fluid display of movement into a fully realised example of what the human body can achieve. One can witness the determination and stamina of the dancers, and it is truly impressive. The mechanics of the human body become a tangible part of the performance.
Mad Women is an engaging and playful piece that earns a few chuckles from the audience, while Tangents and Toca are two delicate, subtle and powerful dances that add new hues to the evening by displaying more delicate models of dance. The highlight of the show is Orbital Motion, choreographed by Valentino Zucchetti and accompanied by Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No.1. Originally conceived for The Royal Ballet’s Draft Work, which had the audience surrounding the stage from all angles, the revolving piece works beautifully for the more uniform placement of the audience in the Rambert Studio. The gravitational pull of the sun, with the planets orbiting round, is spectacular. As the principal dancers, Mercedes Schindler and Joshua Barwick excel, and all dancers involved produce an epic display of vigorous movements.
Tolstoy’s novella, Kreutzer Sonata, is the inspiration behind Andrew McNicol’s choreographed dance of the same name in the second half. McNicol’s work depicts hyperbolic love and violence signified through the dissolution of a marriage. The husband is overwhelmed by jealousy as he imagines his wife’s lust for a violinist who is a guest within his home. Feeling threatened, the husband violently reacts to the fantasies of betrayal that he has conjured. Of all the dances, Kreutzer Sonata demands fine acting abilities from the principals to deliver the high stakes of this tale with believability; the gut-wrenching performances they deliver definitely serve the morose tale. Dressed by Linbury Prize winner Emma Bailey, and accompanied by Beethoven and Leoš Janáček, the mood of this piece is more dramatically intense than the previous dances: it is a magnificent finale for the evening.
Tryst showcases inspired routines that range from heartfelt duets, to re-enactments of the solar system, to an epic re-imagining of Kreutzer Sonata. The content is hugely varied yet somehow it works seamlessly as a succinct show that is a pleasure to watch. The NEBT certainly have a bright future ahead.
Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal played at the Rambert Studio on the Southbank. For more information, visit the New English Ballet Theatre website.