Brno National Theatre Ballet NdB2: Symphony No. 7 Allegretto / Pampúšik / Distant Instant

Brno National Theatre Ballet NdB2
Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House

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Ballet NdB 2 in Symphony No. 7 Allegretto Credit: Andrej Uspenski
Ballet NdB 2 in Symphony No. 7 Allegretto Credit: Andrej Uspenski
Ballet NdB 2 in Pampúšik Credit: Andrej Uspenski
Izabela Gracikova in Pampúšik Credit: Andrej Uspenski
Ballet NdB 2 in Distant Instant Credit: Andrej Uspenski
Izabela Gracikova in Distant Instant Credit: Andrej Uspenski

The Next Generation Festival, running from 11 June to 4 July, provides a platform for young international companies, which this year include BRNO National Theatre Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet 2, New English Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet School, German National Youth Ballet, ZooNation Youth Company, Rambert School, English National Ballet School amongst others.

Tonight sees the twelve-strong Ballet NdB 2, Brno National Theatre Ballet’s junior ballet company, created in September 2022, in a mixed bill of three short contemporary pieces.

The standout piece is Mário Radačovaský’s Symphony No. 7 Allegretto to the first movement of Shostakovich’s famous 1942 ‘Leningrad’ Symphony, in honour of his city under siege by German troops, and we now know he was addressing terror in its fascist and totalitarian forms in Germany and his own country, Hitler and Stalin.

The video projection of an image of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) with its huge Soviet Motherland Calls statue, on Mamai’s high mound, to fallen war heroes is uncredited, but it directs the eye to its underlying message. And the music binds the past with the present. Eastern Europe knew the Soviet knout well. Colour changes to grey and khaki green.

As the thirty-five-minute ballet progresses with its searchlights, goose-stepping soldiers, their ambiguous salutes, a raised arm that slowly descends to touch the forehead, its couple who are torn apart, a deserter shot in the head, we know it is about now, another fascist war in Europe. The statue, in a misty grey landscape, draws closer and closer, as the girl cradles her dead lover in pietà.

Markéta Štofčíková’s fifteen-minute Pampúšik follows, a satirical absurdist number to music by Kishi Bashi and The Haxan Cloak, both new to me. The story is that “of a human puppet, the work encourages us to step out of our adult lives and encourages us to be carried away by the joy and silliness of childhood”.

I don’t quite get that. All dancers are in black, the lighting is dark, a white puppet head stands out in that gloom. Lights flicker, the dancers move as one, looking quite solemn. They take the head and pass it around. The headless puppet (Izabela Gracíková) dances on.

The final piece, Carolina Isach’s twenty-minute Distant Instant, is, apparently, “inspired by philosopher Zygmunt Bauman and his concept of ‘liquid modernity’ to describe the changing relations of today’s society”.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag of changing dance styles, popping and locking, Broadway musicals and cabaret amongst them, but it brings the evening to a close on a happy Copacabana cha cha cha note.

Torsos bare, some in silver trousers, some in shiny black, Distant Instant is all over the place. As is youth, as is water, I guess that’s the concept. Glitter falls from the flies, they are having fun, letting go, being fluid.

At times, they move as a shoal of shiny fish. Watery sounds play. A girl, in what could be a large amniotic fluid bag, rises out of this chrysalis, this pupae, like Botticelli's Venus. Seductive, liberated.

A musical mix across the ages, music is by Nils Frahm, Don Swan, Joseph Capriati and Charles Aznavour singing his romantic 1965 hit “La Bohème”, about the passing of his impoverished youth in bohemian Montmartre.

It’s good to see young companies just starting out, their commitment is a joy to behold. Well done all. It’s down to the choreography to serve them well.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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