Three award winning ballets of artistic director David Bintley are presented in one evening, collectively as Penguin Café. A celebration of varying styles, this is the perfect blend of modern ballet that although different in theme are equally relevant and are still as incredibly thought-provoking since their creations within the last 25 years.
The first, E=mc² is the story of an equation. You may recall it from a GCSE science lesson whereby the mass of an object is the measure of it's energy content... Physics was never one of my favourite topics and I can't say that I'd be particularly thrilled at the idea of devoting any more of my time to the study of it... that is until it is presented by a world-class ballet company. It's true that the equation is really important, but to understand it truly isn't all together straight forward. Here, Bintley presents a ballet that mirrors the components of the equation, such as E (energy) which is extremely powerful and musically colossal. M (mass) is a stark contrast that explores weight and stillness followed by 'The Manhattan Project' which involves little movement but is perhaps the most poignant moment. The use of intense sound is the energy released in the atomic bomb - it's completely overwhelming and somewhat difficult to watch although there is very little happening... a perfect example of the effect a live theatre experience can have.
The Manhattan Project
The second piece presented is Tombeaux, the ballet about a funeral, even figuratively this does not suggest joyous entertainment but what we do have is a piece that is representative of hope. With the ending of one chapter is the beginning of another and this beautiful ballet suggests just that. What we see is a ballet that is reminiscent of Bintley's experience of the Royal Ballet whereby his vision for the company was at odds with the direction in which it was going. Bintley believed tradition was ebbing away and the spirit of the company was changing - evident in performance however this ballet company are still as much as ever at the top of their game.
'Still Life' At The Penguin Café
The final performance is the hugely popular 'Still Life' At The Penguin Café. Each section within the piece is danced by an animal of the endangered species list. Cleverly, the endangered animal also represents a dance style that we are in danger of losing. This is far from a lecture about climate change and the extinction of various species but what is presented in a light, entertaining and humorous way highlights the issues. There is a stunning final image of Noah's Ark, the salvation for these animals and for humans too of which the stunning costumes suggest dual identity - similar to the way in which The Lion King musical approaches representation (but of course, this is the original). 'Still Life' At The Penguin Café is incredibly danced and this in particular is no ordinary night at the ballet. Premiering in 1988, this seemingly prophetical display is extremely entertaining theatre and the most vivid and colourful trip to the zoo.