I wonder if choreographer Kenneth Tindall’s Casanova is what Matthew Bourne would like to create if he was asked to make a dance for ballet grown-ups.
The movement is sublime, the dance vocabulary inventive with a mesmerizing fusion of lyrical ballet and the verve of contemporary dance, the quality of dance polished, refined and luscious.
Adapted from Ian Kelly’s biography of Giacomo Casanova the narrative somehow takes us on the larger-than-life character’s equally tumultuous 73 years from trainee priest, sexual libertine, favourite of aristocrats, child of the Enlightenment, combined with his sexual libertinism and target of the Inquisition.
Tindall selects pivotal episodes to chart Casanova’s life and presents them in the most wondrous neo-classical sets from Christopher Oram that through gripping lighting designs, from Alastair West, transform into a myriad of locations and at times literally mirror the actions and thoughts of our players.
With 18th century Venice as his backdrop, Oram revels in the opportunity for magnificent costumes from masked balls, nuns, clerics, aristocrats, musicians and the Inquisition. Yet these are not just period pieces, each is a delightful take on the traditional and always ravishingly chic.
This is a sensual and sexual dance work from Tindall who does not shy away from his central character’s physical activities from purely hedonistic and orgiastic to being the target of others’ sexual attention. This not purely a Don Juan character. Javier Torres dances Casanova as muscular, proud and lithe yet also yearning for intellectual acceptance, which is cruelly denied him. Moments of sexual euphoria are there yet there is also the sense of his own exploitation and vulnerability.
He is joined by a world of fantastical characters individually drawn and danced with style, elegance and power by the principals and internationally selected ensemble. Tindall shapes movements for soloist and ensemble with a boldness, innovative virtuosity combined with the often missing ability to communicate with an audience.
There are quickly moving sections where knowledge of the biography – or at least the programme notes – is helpful in keeping up with the narrative but even if some audience members slightly lost the details of plot the overarching story is clear. Frankly, it is such a visual treat you could be swept along for two hours in sensual ecstasy and still have a wonderful time.
Visually a masterpiece indeed, but with Northern Ballet Sinfonia it is also a ravishing delight on the ear. Conducted by John Pryce Jones, Kerry Muzzey sweeps the story along as the dancers surf across his sweeping score, rich in melodrama, pathos, sensuality and tragedy.
With some exciting new work on the horizon Let’s hope Northern Ballet get booked to visit Cardiff at least every year if not twice a year.
New Theatre, Cardiff. Until April 29