Broken Wings, is part of an English National Ballet’s triple bill. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Broken Wings tells the story of one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo, from her life-changing accident as a teenager to her stormy relationship with painter Diego Rivera. Broken Wings marks the second collaboration between Peter, Lopez Ochoa and director Nancy Meckler; their first being the award-winning A Streetcar Named Desire for the Scottish Ballet.
At any rate, the piece that breaks that cycle of Rojo’s, opens this programme and inspired Perry’s offering, turns out to be really rather special. Entitled Broken Wings, and reuniting Lopez Ochoa, Meckler and Streetcar composer Peter Salem, it explores the life and mind of the celebrated Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954).
It begins noirishly and abstractly, with the young Kahlo (Rojo) emerging on top of a large cube, surrounded by a part-playful, part-menacing cohort of demons adroitly decked out as Day of the Dead participants. Thereafter, these characters – deftly conceived, unmistakably Mexican emblems of psychological torment and malign fortune– are never far away, constantly waiting to pounce. As, indeed, they soon do.
With Rojo effortlessly passing for 18, Kahlo dances an engagingly carefree duet with a young fellow (Cesar Corrales), whereupon Salem’s light-hearted but rhythmically complex music suddenly screeches to a halt, the colour instantly drains from the stage, and she is brutally snatched into the air by her skeletal coterie.
And its triumph is inseparable from Peter Salem’s score, a vast exotic landscape in itself. Blasts of Tijuana brass and louche maracas summon the heat of a Mexican fiesta, a husky Mexican balladeer croons along with the love affair, and Salem even finds a musical solution to the crash on the public bus. Here is a composer who understands exactly what a ballet needs to motor it along. Hats off, too, to conductor Gavin Sutherland and the ENB Philharmonic. This is exciting work, excitingly executed.
Photos: Laurent Liota