Lest We Forget – reviews of ENB's 'ambitious' new ballets

New dance works commemorating WWI thrill many critics, but for some they trivialise the suffering

(Image credit: © 2014 Arnaud Stephenson)

What you need to know A new mixed bill from the English National Ballet, Lest We Forget has opened at the Barbican, London. The programme presents new dance works by contemporary choreographers Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Liam Scarlett, commemorating the First World War.

Maliphant explores the sacrifice of lives in Second Breath, while Khan's work Dust explores the role of women in the war, and Scarlett's No Man's Land, conveys the sense of loss and longing for those left behind. A reworked revival of George Williamson's Firebird with a Stravinsky score completes the programme. Runs until 12 April.

What the critics like The English National Ballet's Lest We Forget is both "moving and ambitious", says Zoe Anderson in The Independent. It's Tamara Rojo's most bold and exiting move since she became director of the company, and Khan's Dust, is superb.

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The theme of the First World War tinged the evening with melancholy, but "the overall impact was thrillingly uplifting since the works were simply so good", says Sarah Crompton in the Daily Telegraph. Scarlett's No Man's Land is a work of great intensity, and Maliphant's Second Breath is devastatingly effective.

"This is exactly the kind of shot in the arm that English National Ballet needs," says Debra Craine in The Times. Three of Britain's top choreographers have created ballets that ignite the repertoire with their passion and reach.

What they don't like The English National Ballet's "fatuous commemoration" of the suffering in Flanders is "War for Beginners", says Clement Crisp in the Financial Times. This is unspeakable suffering as souvenir, along with a revival of an inane company version of Stravinsky's Firebird, whose relevance defeats even ENB's eager casuistry.

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