Northern Ballet Theatre: Dangerous Liaisons
All those who have read the book, seen the play and/or watched the film will know that Dangerous Liaisons contains a hell of a lot of shenanigans. On paper, keeping track of who’s jumping into bed with who – or at least trying to – can be tricky. So how do you translate that to dance, where explaining with words is not an option? For David Nixon, artistic director of Northern Ballet Theatre, creating a clear narrative has been an ongoing challenge since he first choreographed his ballet in 1996.
‘It has gone through so many manifestations,’ he says. ‘But it was never really the choreography that changed, it was always about the clarity of the story. At first, I used an actress as a narrator, but that really broke up the piece, and was only there because I was a bit insecure and didn’t trust that what the dancers were doing on stage would clarify things.’
With the narrator a thing of the past, Nixon now relies solely on the superb dancers in his company to get the message across. Made all the more easy by their mix of technical dance prowess and strong acting ability. But as Nixon says, to enjoy Dangerous Liaisons in all its forms, we don’t need to grasp every complex detail.
‘So many stories can be appreciated on many levels, and to have a good time do you really need to understand all those levels?’ he says. ‘With this story, it’s about the characterisation, especially the Valmont and Marquise characters and what predatorial creatures they are, using sex to prey on people. While the others are pawns that are simply played with. And I think in dance that comes out very clearly.’
For music, Nixon cast around for composers working at the same time as Pierre Choderlos de Laclos was writing his 18th century novel, Les Liaisons dangereuses – and came up with Vivaldi. ‘The Four Seasons are very moody,’ explains Nixon. ‘You get turbulence, you get pleasantry, you get fun – so all the moods of the show are there in the music.’
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Wed 2–Sat 5 Jun