Dance Review: English National Ballet's Le Corsaire at The Coliseum

The festive sparkle of December was carried through to the usually glum January thanks to the English National Ballet’s swashbuckling Le Corsaire. The first time that a UK company has performed this ballet in its entirety, this production didn’t fail in delivering the spectacular.

Interpreting Byron’s poem of a pirate falling in love with a slave girl, this is a ballet overflowing with romanticism and drama. Anne-Marie Holmes’ staging for this new production is straight out of the golden age of cinema  - dashing pirates, led by a hunky Errol Flynn-esque Conrad as played by Vadim Muntagirov, countless erotic harem girls and a ridiculously comedic Pasha dripping in jewels and overcome with infantile excitement over attractive slave purchases.   

All principal casting, male and female, prompted audience gasps with gravity-defying leaps and pirouettes. Hardly does a classical ballet give the boys a chance to shine like the girls so Le Corsaire is a refreshing balance and it was a treat to see the likes of Muntagirov and Junor Souza, as Ali, demonstrate such awe-inspiring athleticism. Highlights of the show include the pas de deux a trois in the pirate cave with the flawlessly elegant Alina Cojocaru, as slave girl Medora, with Muntagirov and Souza; and the ethereal dream sequence in the Pasha’s fantasy garden full of uniformed prettiness from the harem girls and wing-clad children.  

Designed by Bob Ringwood, with a long list of major films on his CV, the sets and costumes range from the opulent to the breathtaking. The gilded Pasha’s palace, with its shimmeringly attired occupants, would not have been out of place in a Powell & Pressburger Technicolor picture. The most impressive scenery was saved till last with a towering pirate ship swaying to and fro in a storm with giant waves crashing around while Conrad and his fellow survivors cling onto the mast for dear life. The finale is pure Hollywood.

Le Corsaire guarantees two and a half hours of pure visual pleasure. It’s the ballet equivalent of watching a classic afternoon movie covering universal themes in a pleasingly over-the-top fashion - love, friendship, betrayal and death. Go on, go to the Coliseum and escape boring January for a bit.

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