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With the scene shifting from classical hallucinations to Greek mythology, and then to primitive, earthy rituals, English National Ballet's triple bill offered a well-planned showcase of choreographic contrasts that showed off the varying talents of its dancers. The company, whose name surely refers to the common language spoken rather than to nationality since the sixty-four dancers come from eighteen countries, offered "The Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadere, Glen Tetley's Sphinx, and Kenneth MacMillan's Rite of Spring.

First came the quivering tutus and the challenges of the long zigzag ramp in Natalia Makarova's staging of La Bayadere. Always a breathtaking vision, these twenty-four ghostly maidens carried out their slow procession with only a few wobbles, for which they compensated in the exacting arabesques and balances of the floorwork. Nikiya was danced by Agnes Oaks, Solor by her husband, Thomas Edur. These two from the Baltic Republic of Estonia, who appeared as principal guest artists, have textbook technique and precision with the added and rare bonus of dancing from within. They breathe the music, phrasing their steps so that their movements melt harmoniously into the next phrase, and their poses are always symmetrically aligned with each other. The high lifts looked so effortless that you suspect they must spend their evenings practicing at home. Oaks demonstrates great clarity in her dancing, along with a daintiness that disguises intrepid strength, while Edur, a true danseur noble, moves with elegance and pristine order in his jumps and turns. The couple give the impression that they dance to glorify their art and not themselves. If there had to be a gripe, it would be that Edur was somewhat lacking in emotion--after all he was meeting up with the girl he loved and had betrayed in life. Yet in the next work, his performance as Oedipus sent sparks flying.

Glen Tetley's Sphinx was created in 1977 for American Ballet Theatre, and encapsulates the story of the creature with the head of a woman that guards the pass above Thebes, ready to kill all travelers who cannot answer her riddle. Oedipus so captivates her that she tells him her secret, thus enabling him to pass through unharmed, though she loses both him and her human form. Basing it on Jean Cocteau's play, Tetley used music by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu and designs by Georgian-Armenian Rouben TerArutunian. So with the first-night cast of Edur (Estonia), Daria Klimentova (also Czech), and ex-Kirov dancer Dmitri Gruzdyev (Russia), the performance was an Eastern European affair with all the strength and drama associated with such artists.

Klimentova, encased in a sleek skin-tight unitard, has a truly pliant body--one moment ramrod straight, the next contorting into unearthly shapes. A tall dancer, she moved as smoothly and swiftly as a shiny silverfish, seemingly boneless in the arms of her forceful and authoritative Oedipus, who swung her into high, complicated lifts and supported her while she drew huge arcs in the air as she passed her high leg into arabesque. Gruzdyev, as the jackal-headed Egyptian god of death, Anubis, demonstrated the strong attack and presence of his Russian schooling, leaping airborne with great control or scudding across the stage with fast and finicky footwork.

The evening concluded with MacMillan's Rite of Spring, in which the dancers of the stately Bayadere corps were transformed, joined by the men of the company to stomp and squat in primitive and ritualistic actions to Stravinsky's pounding score. With blackened, hollowed eyes and earth-toned leotards, they crawled like prehistoric insects, hopped on one leg, crouch-walked, flexed and unflexed feet and hands, and sat joined in a long twisting line, only to topple like a set of dominoes. As the pagan sacrificial ceremony reached its climax, the three bearded elders selected a young girl to dance herself to death to appease the god of Spring. As the Chosen One, the talented young Spanish ballerina Tamara Rojo made a chilling victim. Looking so small and vulnerable and obviously an unwilling sacrifice, she threw herself into her frenzied dancing, whipping her arms in circles, springing like a gazelle surrounded by a pride of lions, flopping like a rag doll before setting off once more. It was exhausting to watch and almost a relief when she was finally tossed in the air, to show her death.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 1, 2000
Previous Article:Juvie Jazz.

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