She Persisted, the new triple bill from English National Ballet, has generated a plethora of four and five-star reviews. It is rare to find a shrivel of critics so unanimous.
She Persisted follows on from She Said, ENB's first all-female choreography programme in 2016. Broken Wings (the Frida Kahlo work) was created for that occasion and returns in the new all-female evening. In 2017 Pina Bausch's Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) was performed by the Company and returns here after 2017's sold-out performances.
Lyndsey Winship, Guardian:
In 2016, English National Ballet director Tamara Rojo took a stand with She Said, a programme of all-female choreographers. She Persisted reassures us that Rojo is serious about showcasing women's work, and it appears in a landscape that already shows signs of cultural shift.
The new piece is Nora, created by Stina Quagebeur, a First Artist of the Company. It is inspired by the character in Ibsen's A Doll's House… “a woman on the path to independence”.
Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Assistant to the Choreographer
Adela Ramírez. Angela Wood, James Forbat, Francisco Bosch, Henry Dowden
Teresa Guerreiro, Culture Whisper:
The bulk of the ballet is danced to Philip Glass's Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; and Quagebeur takes her cue from the music, creating elegant, fluid and fluent dance that shines in the two pas de deux between Nora and Torvald: at first, Nora is childish, playful, the wife Torvald expects her to be; after the fateful revelation she becomes her own woman, and the choreography acquires a darker urgency.
Zoë Anderson, Independent:
Crystal Costa is a vital Nora, from flowing, lively dances to frozen shock. As her husband Torvald, Jeffrey Cirio whips through spins and jumps, explosive movement suggesting reproaches bursting out of him. Costa sinks slowly into her chair, stiff with horror, before her own anger comes whirling out of her. Nora is an impressive step forward from a choreographer to watch.
Debra Craine, The Times:
It's a work that reflects the fierce aspect, bright surrealism and high colour of Kahlo's art, while graphically illustrating the pain of her life, from the hideous traffic accident that skewered her body to the disastrous marriage with a philandering Diego Rivera that broke her spirit. At 45 minutes it's too long, but there's never a dull moment. Dancing the central role, Katja Khaniukova inhabits an emotional journey from playful innocence to agonised maturity. As Rivera, Irek Mukhamedov shambles around the stage like a clown, a loveable yet hopeless husband.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
La Llorona sung by Chavela Vargas
Dieuweke van Reij
Skeletons, Birds, Female Deer
and Male Fridas
Artists of the Company
Lisa Allardice, The Observer:
Mexican skeletons, male dancers in the flamboyant dresses of her self-portraits, dancing monkeys and deers speared with arrows – comic touches capture the surreal playfulness of Kahlo's art alongside the darker incidents of her story: the bus accident she suffered in her teens and the terrible injuries and miscarriages she endured as a result, all imaginatively and harrowingly suggested. The whole is both sexy and sad.
Teresa Guerreiro, Culture Whisper:
[Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo's relationship] was a tempestuous love match; and in Broken Wings it's subsumed in an extended pas de deux between Frida, danced by the remarkable ENB soloist Katja Khaniukova and Irek Mukhamedov.
As performed by Khaniukova and Mukhamedov, always a profoundly expressive dance actor, this pas de deux is up there with the most affecting in the entire ballet canon. Danced to a poignant Mexican folk song La Llorona, it encapsulates the full gamut of emotions that went into that relationship: love, abandon, sex, jealousy, break up and reconciliation, to the point where you feel your heart might explode.
Mark Pullinger, Bachtrack:
With English National Ballet on such irresistible form, She Persisted continues She Said's important dialogue.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.