The second coming of Alessandra Ferri is something to be celebrated. The former Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theater dancer retired in 2007 only to return six years later. At 55, she is forging a rich new path for the older dancer.
Trio ConcertDance is a three-hander, with Ferri, ABT principal Herman Cornejo and US pianist Bruce Levingston, whose sensitive playing comes solo as well as accompanying the dancers. Their intention is to delve into the innate relationship between music and dance as they move through Ligeti, Bach, Satie, Chopin, Glass (maybe one too many Philip Glasses) and choreography by Demis Volpi, Wayne McGregor, Fang-Yi Sheu, Russell Maliphant and Angelin Preljocaj.
Much of the choreography is slow-paced and stripped of unnecessaries, capitalising on the poise and care of Ferri’s dancing. These are pencil drawings, not splashy canvases, and they reveal moments that would go unnoticed in a busier ballet: the way an elbow nags at the perfectly smooth curve of a simple port de bras; the delight of a supple foot sliding into a pointed tendu. In the Linbury theatre’s intimate setting, the audience is close enough to revel in every movement’s quality.
The fine-boned Ferri often brings a sense of brittleness to the stage (although her physical strength is never in doubt) and a melancholy ache, while Cornejo, a commanding dancer, imbues each step with import without ever seeming to be showing off.
McGregor and Maliphant’s pieces are the highlights of the evening. Ferri previously starred in McGregor’s Woolf Works and this piece, Witness, set to music by Nils Frahm, was originally made in 2016. Ferri clearly brings out something special in McGregor, and he in her. What do you get when you take the usual virtuosity and velocity out of McGregor’s work? Thoughtfulness, questioning, time to breathe, a hesitancy that is very human. The lithe lines still warp but Ferri and Cornejo’s ingrained classicism has its own influence too. Maliphant’s Entwine, meanwhile, sees the couple move in seamless, circling flow; a ripple-less river.
An absorbing hour in the company of three masterful performers. The whole thing is classy, unsensational, grown-up and very beautiful.