The anticipation for English National Ballet’s new dance platform SHE SAID has been building with gorgeous advertising posters across London promising a vibrant and strong female production. However, nothing could’ve prepared audiences for the incredible experience that was SHE SAID.
Arriving at Sadler’s Wells, London’s leading dance house, I knew it wasn’t going to be just another night at the ballet, as the stage was adorned by a brightly coloured mural-like curtain painting by artist Grayson Perry.
Tamara Rojo CBE, ENB’s artistic director and principal dancer, presented three incredible pieces by three amazingly talented and unique female choreographers from three different countries: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Yabin Wang and Aszure Barton.
And these three choreographers couldn’t have interpreted “she said” more differently, more deeply and more meaningfully.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ‘Broken Wings’ kicked off the night with an intense, emotional and raw performance from Tamara Rojo as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Tamara sensationally portrayed the tragic life of Frida Kahlo who suffered illness, miscarriages, love and betrayal. Tamara twisted, contorted, strained and writhed in pain, which was contrast by lightness, humour and joy when love filled Frida’s life.
The absorbing contemporary and complex ballet was set against a stunning backdrop as bright as Frida Kahlo’s paintings, just as surreal and totally crazy.
There were beautiful male Fridas adorned in skirts, their naked chests and faces each painted a different pink, yellow, green, blue with headdress of flowers, plants and antlers. There were also skeletons, birds and the most divine female deer, who was shot with an arrow of course!
Broken Wings is a gloriously vibrant piece that left me deeply moved by the choreography, music, design and incredible English National Ballet dancers. Simply Amazing, a real journey and I was more than happy to follow Tamara through every twist and turn!
A-Dao was the piece I was mostly looking forward to after interviewing the choreographer Yabin Wang earlier in the week. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed by the telling of the story of Medea who, betrayed by her husband, seeks revenge by killing their children.
Recently promoted principal dancer Lauretta Summerscales performed Medea with passion, fury and torment all the while with only one point shoe that accentuated her flexibility, strength and elegance. I was so moved by Lauretta that my heart wrenched for her Medea. Yabin created a dark and moody stage filled with billowing fabrics that dramatically fell from the sky. Both Fernando Bufala (as Husband) and Madison Keesler (as Young Wife) were also outstanding and the trio moved beautifully together. A-Dao is stunning creating a stage worthy of the stars of ENB.
And finally after my heart had been torn by the life of Frida and Medea I returned to my seat expecting the story of pain to continue, but again nothing prepared me for ‘Fantastic Beings’ from Aszure Barton.
And what a sensational piece to end with, it was totally different seemingly set in a distant future where the 16 strong cast are dressed in slick bodysuits creating an androgynous-like society that danced the complex contemporary ballet perfectly against a dark ominous backdrop infused with digi-techno sets and lighting. The music was booming, the dancing precise, emotionless, linear.
I was so impressed by the choreography, blown away by the dancers and constantly whispering “wow” “wow” “omg”. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, the dancers returned to the stage in what can only be described as silky flowing gorilla-like costumes that they jiggled and shimmered, jumping and leaping in total unison, like one harmonious, individual-less tribe.
I absolutely loved SHE SAID, throughout I kept thinking how wonderful it was that I was experiencing a night of female choreographers and each performance completely impressed and moved me. SHE SAID has stayed with me every day since; I keep getting flashbacks to all three performances, each incredible for their own uniqueness.
This has been one of the most incredible nights of dance for a very long time! I wish it was on for a longer run so more people could experience this sensational and important platform!
Well done Tamara, congratulations to all the English National Ballet dancers and of course to the three amazing choreographers. I cannot wait to see more of their work!