Estonia Now: Estonian National Ballet

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

five stars

This is the first time that Estonian National Ballet (ENB) has performed in Scotland, however we already have connections with the company through Eve Mutso, formerly a Principal Ballerina with Scottish Ballet. Mutso, born and trained in Tallinn, had danced with ENB as a guest artist: now she has choreographed a new one-act work for them, Echo, which had its UK premiere at Tramway. The other elements in this handsome triple bill - Time (2011, choreographed by Tiit Helimets) and Silent Monologues (2009, by ENB’s artistic director Thomas Edur - allowed the dancers to show not just bravura classical technique but also the kind of nuanced expressiveness that goes beyond delivering steps and reaches out to an audience. This was especially true of the three couples in Silent Monologues which, even as the pastoral landscape behind them darkened towards gloom, spoke with evocatively pliant bodies of innermost doubts and tensions in relationships.

Mutso’s Echo took the ballerinas off-pointe, had all four couples barefoot and in unisex black leotards - and set them a contemporary challenge where old constraints/securities gave way to the thrilling risks of unknown paths. All eight were initially held in place by huge elastic bands that stretched across the stage: supportive, yet limiting, like the leading reins of childhood. Suddenly released from such bondage, the dancers faced a bare stage with no fixed points, and Mutso’s intuitively edgy choreography took them on various journeys of self-discovery where balance and counter-balance tested individual control and group dynamics. Here were moments of pivotal change: the feel of new ground under bare feet, the surge of bold energy - the freedom to leap across empty space - the arrival of contact with, and increasingly trust in, other bodies, even to a point where high lifts were liberating, not manipulative. The dancers embraced Mutso’s contemporary moves with tremendous dramatic intensity. Choreographically, musically and visually, Echo brought Estonia and Scotland together in creative elan - well done everybody!