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BalletLORENT in Blood, Sweat and Tears and Northern Ballet in Swan Lake

Posted on October 25, 2010


Liv Lorent is not a choreographer afraid of dealing with intensely personal emotions. Her company’s new work Blood, Sweat and Tears, which premiered in Newcastle in January and is now embarked upon a national tour, took shape from her own experiences of becoming a first-time mother and tells of those early joy-and-terror-filled stages of parenthood. As ever with Lorent’s creations, much of her sensual and tender dance movement pierces the heart of real human experience, expressing in simple terms the dynamics and complexities of the landscape of emotions along the parental journey.

The work is structured in three parts: the first – an extended duet – opens in the half-light, two parents cradling their newborn child, whilst an hour-glass hangs overhead marking (like a memento mori) the passing of time. There is a delicacy and caution to the movement – gentle spins punctuated by feather-like flickers of the feet – and a care with which the father touches the mother and child, as if handling the most fragile of objects. As the child is put to bed, the parents’ movements become freer, their arms outstretched in thanks, leaps expressing a searing delight and as they tumble from their bed, entwined in their duvet, rolling as one around the stage, they try to recall that moment of conception and the time when this journey began. But the child awakens; the mother hears its silent screams and returns to its golden cot. It is the moment the father discovers they are no longer “a couple”, but “a family”.


Thence follows dance that maps the anxieties of parenthood, revealing how it begins together, but becomes an activity of the individual: at one point, the mother executes a series of rond de jambs whilst clutching her baby, as if marking out her territory from the father. Lorent shows the obsessive love with which a mother can smother her child – seating her upon and within the child’s cot, rocking it from side to side, walking along it as if a tight-rope – and the selfish yearnings of a father determined to re-capture an earlier time. Without flinching, Lorent offers moments of anger and jealousy, skewering parenthood with flashes of violence and rawest pain, but at whose height (and with that sense that she, as a mother herself, can truly understand) returning always to the mutual love that surrounds the sleeping child and which binds the couple inextricably together. For its 30 minutes the duet is bewitching, sometimes moving and is danced splendidly by Philippa White and Gavin Coward.

The much shorter second part is a memory of the couple’s wedding, the bride and her maids dressed in lengthy skirts and, as with Lorent’s earlier LUXURIA, there is something of the Loië Fuller in her concern for the flow of material and its effects in the pools of dappled light that expand upon the stage. The rippling swathes of fabric hint at a construction that is fairy-like in its stage picture. The most arresting moment is at its conclusion when the dancers form a whirling cocoon of movement, from which each one peels off in turn, leaving the couple standing alone at its centre.

Unfortunately, Part III loses sight of the clear path upon which Lorent has thus far guided her audience and involves a collection of pink child-sized dolls which are variously spun, thrown (at the father), heaped, collected (by the mother) and generally played with in actions which, I assume, suggest the way in which a child can consume its parents’ lives. Sometimes humorous, at times maddeningly confusing, my sense was that it piled too many metaphors upon metaphors and I would venture that, if it is to match the two earlier parts, it needs some re-working. Nevertheless, Blood, Sweat and Tears is greater than the sum of its parts, and should be seen.

In travelling to Leeds, I stopped off at the Bradford Alhambra to catch Northern Ballet in a matinée performance of David Nixon’s superlative Swan Lake, which shifts the narrative onto the Siegfried figure (here named Anthony), whilst, at the lakeside, remaining true enough in manner to Ivanov. The revelation of the afternoon was the new Cuban principal (formerly with Alicia Alonso’s Ballet Nacional de Cuba) Javier Torres, dancing the lead role. He invested Nixon’s choreography with a thoroughbred classical technique married to a penetrating psychological insight. It was an auspicious debut and one that heralds much for the company’s future.


The picture above shows Philippa White and Gavin Coward of BalletLORENT in Blood, Sweat and Tears. Photograph by Bill Cooper.

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