English National Ballet is installed at Sadler’s Wells this week, displaying recent acquisitions to the repertory. An initial triple bill on Tuesday suggested – though Heaven is my witness that we don’t need many more such suggestions – that choreography sprung from the glorious traditions of the classic ballet is becoming rarer by the day. One work, Michael Corder’s Melody on the Move, which is an affectionate and astute glance at the “light orchestral” music of 50 years ago, was well-crafted, deft, and not an assault either on its scores or its dancers. There is witty design by Mark Bailey of a giant wireless set (surely the proper term) from which emerge the housewives, the lovers, the office-girls, for whom the music of Eric Coates and Robert Farnon, Ronald Binge and Haydn Wood, was daily listening.

Corder evokes this sanitised dream-world with a merry eye. Domesticity, typing, those nice girls who wore little white gloves when on a date with their nice chaps, the world of Babycham and Rank starlets and wearing a bowler to the office, is set dancing, and because Corder is an admirable craftsman, the piece hangs cunningly together, and the dance looks both nostalgic and fresh. I like the way in which a group of busily dusting women are nearest relations to the Mirlitons in Nutcracker, how hats and parasols and a backward glance at the reign of the first Elizabeth suggest the jollities and aspirations of the Festival of Britain era. The piece is amusing, assured and sensitively danced.

Alas, I cannot say this of the two other works on the bill. Christopher Hampson has saddled himself with Martinu’s frightful Sinfonietta Giocosa, which burbles and clatters interminably on, and leads him into none-too-shapely choreography. Hideously garbed (Bruce French has provided the ultimate unflattering black outfits for women and men, who look like beetles), it was given with what I thought some reluctance by its cast. The dance looks busy. The dancers look dull. The score is never going to end.

And these choreographic sins repeat with David Dawson’s mugging of J.S. Bach’s D minor keyboard concerto. This A Million Kisses to my Skin proposes the score as linoleum on which the cast parade and pose and run. I thought it desperate. These latter pieces also suffered from lighting more capricious than the occasion demanded.
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