English National Ballet: Giselle & Men Y Men
This article is from 2010.
A strong male dancer lifting his female partner gracefully into the air is one of the defining images of classical ballet. Which is why getting it right is a cornerstone of ballet training.
So it took some getting used to when the dancers at English National Ballet (ENB) had to take the opposite approach in Wayne Eagling’s new all-male piece Men Y Men. ‘We’re so used to partnering, but it’s a completely different technique to actually be partnered,’ explains dancer James Streeter. ‘A girl learns the technique of being partnered early on – making herself light and knowing to plié when we lift – and when you’re used to doing the lifting, and suddenly you’re being lifted yourself, it’s a very different feeling.’
Lifts are just one aspect of the exciting new piece, which also features leaps, turns and all the other key aspects of male classical ballet. The short work is being performed as an opener to Giselle when ENB visits Glasgow this March, its first time in Scotland since 2006. Stepping from the testosterone-charged atmosphere of Eagling’s piece into the picture postcard world of Giselle is a challenge for the dancers but a fascinating contrast for those watching.
‘We try and do the change from Men Y Men to Giselle in 31/2 minutes,’ says Streeter. ‘Which can be hard because you go from being very intense and controlled to bright and airy and off to work in the village. But it’s great for the audience because they see this fluid piece for men and when the curtain goes back up, there’s this light, beautiful stage. It’s completely different.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 17–Sat 20 Mar