Casanova: a ballet that ‘simmers with sensuality’

‘Giamaco Casanova’, the infamous womanizer, philanderer and sex addict – essentially, the Italian 18th century version of Sex Gods like George Clooney. History has painted him as a man who dabbles in debauchery and involves himself in a range of promiscuous activities, and for the most part, unless you have a keen interest in this niche, we probably would struggle to tell you much more about him.

But who knew that an evenings worth of ballet could shatter such a renowned perception? Kenneth Tindall has taken the Royal Norethern Ballet to new heights, by using ballet as a dramatic medium to draw out the more elusive parts of Casanova’s character, and shatter the one-dimensional persona that has been placed upon him.

And what a wonderful, nuanced performance from Giuliano Contadini, who plays none other than the lead, Casanova. There is a real depth to his character, and as the narrative progresses, further facets of his character are revealed, leading the audience to witness a performance that feels rounded and fundamentally real. Despite his lustfulness, Contadini effectively portrays his ambitious nature, his insatiable thirst for knowledge, and, rather tragically, a depression that constantly clouds his vision. His physical range is astounding, and through various elegant solos, Contadini reveals Casanova’s array of subtle, introspective emotions.

Tindall was heavily inspired by Ian Kelly’s biography on the life of Casanova, and certainly, condensing his epic life into two hours worth of ballet on the stage is no easy feat. And although Tindall does successfully take the audience on a learning curve concerning the ‘real’ life of Casanova, sex is still vey much at the forefront of this production. The dances verge on the lyrical and at times, it feels as if Tindall is pushing the boundaries of what ballet ‘should’ be – his bold, experimental choreography is stimulating and erotic, creating exciting results that perhaps ‘classical’ ballet couldn’t achieve.Almost every scene simmers with sensuality. Some of the most striking scenes were the duets, dances that are inherently intimate in nature, but with choreography that takes it up a notch. The stage features limbs in an array of orgiastic positions, left right and center, and bodies which are beautifully intertwined. Eroticism takes center stage, and it’s never looked quite so aesthetically pleasing.

There is no clearly defined narrative in the story, rather, a selected series of episodes from his life, which involves more than twenty characters, leading to a rather convoluted story, which can prove difficult to follow at times.  Occasionally, the show does come dangerously close to progressing at a rather sluggish pace, but this is saved by the exceptional set, which constantly evolves and adapts to fit the various locations, effortlessly flowing from scene to scene.

There is no denying the scope and ambition of this epic production, with a lavish set that features opulent pillars that tower above the stage, and a score by Kerry Muzzey which perfectly accompanies Casanova’s adventures, all of which take us into a world of heightened drama, where the stakes and tensions are ever-mounting. Northern Ballet have proved that ballet doesn’t have to be dull and dry, but that it actually has the potential to grab audiences, and create exciting theatre. They have certainly succeeded.


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August 2021
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