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English National Ballet at Tate Britain

Posted on October 28, 2011

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faune_smallerNext March, English National Ballet will move into Tate Britain’s Duveen galleries for a week, taking class and rehearsing among the paintings. The residency, from February 27 to March 4, celebrates the opening of the major exhibition Picasso and Modern British Art and ENB’s Beyond Ballets Russes season.


Inspired by Picasso’s costume and design work for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, this collaboration will offer a rare insight into the way English National Ballet rehearses existing ballets and creates new ones. The high point of the week will be world premiere performances of three new works at Late at Tate on March 2, 2012. The company will also perform David Dawson’s Faun(e) (pictured), created in 2009 for ENB’s celebration of the Ballets Russes centenary.


During the week, visitors can see the full company of 67 dancers taking morning class along a barre stretching the length of the North Duveen Gallery. They will rehearse ballets including The Rite of Spring and Firebird. There will be workshops for people of all ages, talks, discussions and demonstrations highlighting the links between dance and the visual arts, especially in the legacy of the Ballets Russes.


Picasso and Modern British Art is the first exhibition to explore Picasso’s connections with the UK, examining his evolving critical reputation here. It will also explore the response of British artists such as Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney to his work. The exhibition will include more than 150 works from major public and private collections. It culminates with Picasso’s 1925 painting The Three Dancers, a work symbolic of Picasso’s affection for Britain, which Tate acquired from the artist following his 1960 exhibition.


Picasso worked closely with the Ballets Russes from 1916, designing several ballets including Le Tricorne, Pulcinella and the groundbreaking Cubist Parade. He married Olga Kokhlova, a Ballets Russes dancer, and frequently sketched dancers in rehearsal and offstage. In 1919, he came to London with the company to create the designs for Le Tricorne, a visit that will be featured in the exhibition. Parade and Le Tricorne have been performed by ENB: Picasso himself oversaw the recreation of the sets and costumes. This history has inspired the collaboration between Tate Britain and ENB.


ENB’s Beyond Ballets Russes season will be performed at the London Coliseum in March. It includes the world premiere of a new production of Firebird, inspired by Picasso’s work, as well as Kenneth MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring and Dawson’s Faun(e), alongside its inspiration, Nijinsky’s L’Après-midi d’un faune.


Picasso and Modern British Art is at Tate Britain from February 15 – July 15, 2012.

English National Ballet is at Tate Britain from February 27 – March 4. The company’s Late at Tate evening is on March 3. Beyond Ballets Russes is at the London Coliseum from March 22 – April 1.


Picture: Estaban Berlanga in Faun(e). Photograph: Anabel Moeller 

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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