REVIEW: English National Ballet’s ‘Le Corsaire’, starring Tamara Rojo and Fernando Bufalá – Milton Keynes Theatre, 18th October 2013
English National Ballet’s Artistic Director takes to the stage in her first full-length commission for the company…
It was all-change aboard the onstage vessel for English National Ballet’s Friday 18th October performance of ‘Le Corsaire’. The buoyant cast at the helm of the first show to follow the dazzling opening night premiere had a lot to live up to.
Former Royal Ballet star Alina Cojocaru and young principal Vadim Muntagirov had completely captivated international press and audience members the evening before. Artistic Director – and lead principal dancer – Tamara Rojo danced as Medora on the second night at Milton Keynes Theatre, following in the perfectly pointed footsteps of her latest recruit (plundered from the rival company this summer).
Tamara Rojo is an exceptionally expressive dancer and a driven personality. This makes her an unstoppable onstage force – she embodies a role and dances with every fibre of her being. Her Medora had a feisty streak, demonstrated through impressively quick footwork and perfectly controlled, yet still youthfully skittish, jumps en pointe.
Rojo’s considerable charm ensured her portrayal of the fictional young Greek woman (kidnapped by slave trader Lankendem and sold to a comically lustful wealthy Seyd) had a playfulness and allure in the first Act. Medora dances with her adored pirate lover, Conrad, (portrayed by Fernando Bufalá in this particular performance) in the second Act. At this point, vulnerability and romanticism are necessary in dreamy, tender, pas de deux moments.
Wearing a slinky, shimmery white and turquoise slip, encrusted with Swarovski crystals, Rojo completes clean and vivid turns and draws out her allongé poses in long, effortless balances. Vulnerability? Plenty. Romanticism? Absolutely.
Fernando Bufalá was a particularly longing Conrad. He expressed the original characterisation of the Conrad role (as described by Lord Byron in his 1814 poem) better than we saw in the opening night performance. Bufalá’s Conrad had more of an air of desperation surrounding him. This is not to diminish Vadim Muntagirov’s efforts. My point is merely an observation that his Conrad had less resemblance to Byron’s doomed fictional self-portrait. Muntagirov made more of the dashing heroism English National Ballet have infused the lead pirate with.
Joan Zamora as Conrad’s faithful slave, Ali, gave the part a strong athleticism, while Fabian Reimar as the traitorous second-in-command pirate, Birbanto, offered a convincing dramatic presence.
In short, the whole company sparkles in ‘Le Corsaire’. Large-scale ensemble scenes (the villagers’ dance in Act one, pirate clashes throughout and the famous ‘Le Jardin Animé’ divertissement scene in Act three) offer plenty of opportunities for ENB to showcase the technical ability and artistry of every single dancer. The stunning solo and pas de deux passages ensure that the principals inspire and excite.
This thrilling ballet has it all – hunky pirates, beautiful harem girls, nimble sword fights, tutu-clad ballerinas, comedy, romance and betrayal. After making ballet history with the world premiere of the first full-length UK production of ‘Le Corsaire’ in Milton Keynes, I predict that English National Ballet is set to have nothing but success with the addition of this treasure of a ballet to its repertoire.
> Visit www.ballet.org.uk/ to find out more about ‘Le Corsaire’ and book tickets for a theatre near you – the national tour continues until 15th February 2014.