REVIEW: English National Ballet – Song of the Earth/ La Sylphide (The Palace Theatre, Manchester)

English National Ballet: Song of the Earth/ La Sylphide © Jason Bell
English National Ballet: Song of the Earth/ La Sylphide
© Jason Bell
guest reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 
Ballet. One of the most renowned and beautiful cultural practices performed throughout the world. The English National Ballet (ENB) is without a doubt, one of the highest respected programmes for continuing the visibility of one of the most delightful of artistic expressions. With the longevity of excellence that the ENB has endured, one is left with a level of high expectation, and anticipation, and the ENG is creating a spectacle of ballet with its offering of not one, but two productions back to back. From the 11th to the 14th at the Manchester Palace Theatre, audiences can experience Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s much-celebrated Song of the Earth, to coincide with his 25th anniversary of his passing, and a faithfully accurate version of the 1830s classical production, La Sylphide.
The first of the two performances, Song of The Earth, is more of a contemporary production than its counterpart of the night. It offers a more primal show, one that is stripped down to its bare bones, with its lack of set design and modest costume, this story is told through the basics; movement and sound. What it managed to do with this, however, was to create a mesmerising, simple, yet complex narrative that beautifully fused the very fundamental essence of what ballet is; dance. The music of Mahler’s song cycle, Das Lied von der Erde, performed live by the English National Ballet Philharmonic, harmonised perfectly with the sequences unfolding on stage, sequences that present not just the beauty of movement, but the pure power, stamina and discipline of the art form itself.  All of these elements come together to create a compelling story of, life, death and renewal, through three central characters, a Woman, A Man, and an ‘enigmatic Messenger’, in a show of pure expressionism through sensational audible visuality.
The second of the performances, La Sylphide, is a classical ballet, and what we have come to expect. However, that is not to say this is without merit, as it achieves to create a beautiful show, with lavish, outstanding set designs, enhanced by the sensational costume design, all encompassed by the breath-taking performances and musicianship.  What is witnessed, is a story of love, fantasy, humour and tragedy, which aforementioned is all held together by the truly impeccable work of the ENB. Not one element of the show is the star, the production itself is the star – a platform showcasing some of the most spectacular talent a stage has shown. What was created is something to be proud of, and I celebrate what the ENB has achieved with this show, and highly recommend that you try to see it whilst you can.
-Demi West
ENB’s Song of the Earth/ La Sylphide runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 14th October 2017.

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