Kenneth Tindall’s new Ballet Casanova presents the decadence, energy, love affairs and corruption in the life of notorious 18th century Venetian socialite Giacomo Casanova. It is gorgeous.
As the crimson gauze rises on the opening scene, a huge incense burner silently emits haze into the shadows of a gilded Venetian church. The intensity and sense of intoxication the incense left in its wake remained for the entire performance. The rest of the first act takes place under the seductive darkness of Venetian streets. Casanova moves through the church and the court in pursuit of lovers or being pursued by violent inquisitors.
Without the programme, the narrative would be almost indecipherable. The plot and individual characters get lost in the mass of dancers and costume changes but Casanova’s passion is palpable. Despite recurring books, papers and musical instruments as props, it is not Casanova the intellectual we see, nor the priest or musician; this is absolutely Casanova as the theatrical, spirited Libertine.
On to France in Act Two, the debauchery of Parisian Bohemia was decadent and sickly, the colour palette became lighter in tone and the costumes more lavish. Yet the intensity and artfulness was never lost.
Our Casanova, Giuliano Contadini was a physical and emotional force. He moved with such purpose and tenderness. In fact, the skill of the entire company was stunning. To my untrained eye, the choreography seemed mostly classical in style with more modern, storytelling elements. The ballet was an absolute celebration of the human body, not only of the strength, skill and beauty of a dancing form but also of the body as sensual, sensory and impulsive. Inevitably there were sequences in which the male gaze glared on the ballerinas’ little bodies as Casanova threw lover after lover around the stage. His pas de deux with Henriette (Hannah Bateman) however, was tender and beautifully acted by both dancers.
Christopher Oram’s stage design is subtly stylised using a colour palate of golds, purples and reds. His costumes rich in texture and colour were simply cut and so moved effortlessly with the dancers. Kerry Muzzey’s original score is pacey and theatrical. Perhaps, however, Alastair West stole the show, with the precision of his lighting design. Spotlights cut through the darkness to make striking vignettes whilst unapologetically indulgent chiaroscuro and flashes of purples and pinks magnified the theatrics. The vision of the creative team is ambitious but entirely cohesive and executed with skill and precision.
Choreographer and mastermind behind the production Kenneth Tindal is quoted in the programme saying; ‘Casanova’s life was epic and I just wanted to do this justice’. Without a doubt his ballet does, it is an epic spectacle of light, movement and music. The company rather enjoyed their curtain call, but not undeservedly. Their work was exquisite.
Northern Ballet’s Casanova will tour Britain until May.
Reviwer: Laura Hounsell