Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Dance Review: Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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The ’20s come alive again in Northern’ Ballet’s Great Gatsby, writes Kelly Apter

Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, he captured many things, but two in particular: the brief, war-free abandonment of 1920s New York and the all-consuming passion of falling in love. Jay Gatsby does this twice, with the same woman – because although the flame never dies, when he and Daisy meet again, rekindling it is an echo of their first fall.

In order for us to engage with Fitzgerald’s novel, both aspects had to feel real and delicately sketched – and choreographer David Nixon does exactly the same here. With every pas de deux, the love between Jay and Daisy feels no less than ocean deep. Nixon’s decision to portray the pair at both points throughout the ballet is a stroke of genius – the gentle heat of young love was on display for the more mature Jay and Daisy.

As for the carefree frivolity of a burgeoning metropolis, so is here. Beautiful costumes (also designed by the multi-talented Nixon) and powerful music by Richard Rodney Bennett, performed with incredible aplomb by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia, help the show reach its climax. Busy parties and busy streets can breathe against a simple yet adaptable set design.

But perhaps most impressive here is the quality of the dancing. Remarkably, given the stop-start nature of the last two years, Northern Ballet has never looked so good. Every step is taken with absolute conviction, every high leg perfectly extended. In a cast brimming with talent, special mention goes to Riku Ito, who doesn’t just dance, he exists in motion. Every jump, spin and landing looks so effortless, as if his body was born for it.

After 21 years at the helm, David Nixon leaves Northern Ballet this week in incredible shape that definitely comes from him.

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