Against Time was, in a word, spectacular. It has been a while since I have been so captivated, awestruck and so entertained by a dance show. It’s fair to say that dance has exploded in the last couple of years. The dance world has worked hard to become more accessible to the public and never has there been such an intense interest in the art form. Against Time was as accessible as they come. With audience members spanning all possible generations, it showed just how sought after the show was. I can’t say I was surprised.
Against Time was the second collaboration between Flawless and English National Ballet. The first was a single performance at Peace One Day at the O2; this time it was a national tour and a much larger spectacle. The men of Flawless and the ladies of ENB merged their different styles and took to the stage in a show that was cheeky and playful in all the right places, but never compromised the quality of dance. Street dance and ballet couldn’t be further apart in terms of style, movement content or mind-set, yet the two styles complemented each other perfectly, as if they were born to be fused together. I’ve seen ENB and Flawless perform separately, so am familiar with the usual repertoire, but this combined performance was by far my favourite by both troupes.
The Against Time plot was, in a nutshell, a race against time. Manipulating time was never far from the surface of each scene and yet the story seemed secondary to the terrific dancing. The ladies of ENB were exquisite; with bright-eyed youth on their side and a bouncy enthusiasm that was infectious. Their point work was flawless (no pun intended), their musicality spot on. They were almost mechanically perfect, yet not so mechanical that they lacked personality. The Flawless boys were equally as impressive, with bags of wit and charm. Their extreme physical fitness is extraordinary; I felt exhausted just watching them.
There was a pure sense of fun that radiated from the performance, a quality that modern ballet or contemporary often lacks. Adding another layer to the performance were the large back projections, which played with scale and were cleverly executed.
The performance was carried along skilfully by the music, which was a mix tape of hip-hop, chart music and classic tunes. I was pleased to hear some Ed Sheeran, which was a contrast to both the ballet and street dance styles. The ‘young lovers’ duet to the acoustic Wake Me Up was tender and heart-felt; a particular highlight of the show. The costumes were some of the best I’ve witnessed, particularly the El Tango de Roxanne dresses and suits, which were a bright and flamboyant visual treat. It is these carefully thought-out musical and costume designs that help to pull a show together and Against Time did not disappoint.
It is evident that the choreographers worked hard to create a performance that was not only a hugely entertaining show, but also broke dance stereotypes. It could be said that the plot was at times hard to hold on to, but with such a high standard of performance the story is not what you go to see; the dancing is.