Northern Ballet: The Great Gatsby, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh ****
When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby he captured many things, but two in particular: the brief war-free abandon of 1920s New York and the all-consuming fervour of falling in love. Jay Gatsby does this twice, with the same woman – for although the flame never goes out, the re-ignition when he and Daisy meet again is an echo of their first falling.
For us to buy into Fitzgerald’s novel, both of these aspects had to feel genuine and finely sketched – and choreographer David Nixon does exactly the same here. With each pas de deux, the love between Jay and Daisy feels nothing less than ocean deep. Nixon’s decision to depict the couple at both moments in time throughout the ballet is a stroke of genius – the gentle heat of young love turned up for the more mature Jay and Daisy.
As for the carefree frivolity of a burgeoning metropolis, that’s here, too. Gorgeous costumes (also designed by the multi-talented Nixon) and the powerful music of Richard Rodney Bennett performed with incredible aplomb by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia help the show kick up its heels. Bustling parties and busy streets are allowed to breath against a simple yet adaptable stage set.
But perhaps most impressive of all here, is the quality of the dancing. Remarkably, given the stop-start nature of the past two years, Northern Ballet has never looked so good. Each step is delivered with absolute conviction, each high leg stretched to perfection. In a cast brimming with talent, special mention goes to Riku Ito who doesn’t just dance, he exists in movement. Each leap, turn and land looks so effortless, it’s as if that’s what his body was born to do.
After 21 years at the helm, David Nixon leaves Northern Ballet this week, in incredible shape that’s most definitely of his making.