Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review: 1984 Northern Ballet

Northern Ballet are the winner's of Best Company at the Taglioni European Ballet Awards and this innovative company are considered by some to be Europe's best dance company. It is with these and many other dance credentials that they are currently touring and wowing audiences with their new work 1984. This week they are at Theatre Royal Nottingham.

For a fan of Orwell's bleak novel with its central themes around disallowed thoughts and the crushing of anti Party sentiments embodied in the hero, Winston Smith, the idea of a ballet work being capable of expressing 1984 solely through dance may seem unlikely. Not so in the superbly capable hands of choreographer and director Jonathan Watkins and through the original score created by Alex Baranowski.

Orwell's story of Winston and Julia's ultimately doomed love story; his secret diary recording his anti Big Brother sentiments; the robotic workers at the Ministry of Truth; the Thought Police and the Proles all come terrifyingly to life through Northern Ballet electric dance forms. Winston (Tobias Batley) and Julia's (Martha Leebolt) pas de deux is at once joyful and yet sorrowful, sexy and yet has an edge of yearning sadness.

Both the choreography and direction create rich tapestries of a dark dystopian life and the constantly changing sets include startling media design and telescreen graphics dominated by Big Brother's constant stare. Befitting the calibre of Northern Ballet's well earned reputation in the dance world the 1984 company's dance standards are exemplary.

Especially good are the dance sections expressing the daily conditioning of 'two minutes hate'. Here the dancers let loose their emotions as dictated by the Party in order to demonstrate their utter distaste against the enemy. Orwell's book has stood the test of time and resonates with readers all around the world. It is truly a book that makes you think about how we live today and Northern Ballet's brilliant dance adaptation brings all those challenges alive on stage in a 101 different ways.

Originally written for Nottingham Post October 1st 2015

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