On our Facebook page, we’re currently running through an alphabetical list of forthcoming hightlights in the 2013-14 season. Today we’ve reached E, for E=mc², a one-act ballet that this autumn returns to the stage for the first time since its debut tour in 2009. Here’s why we’re so excited about it:

E=mc²

A few years ago, Company Director David Bintley commented that for each new work he created, he liked to head in a completely different creative direction to that of the piece before it.

In 2009 he certainly did that. Arriving between the frothy comedy of his reworked Sylvia and the festive fairytale sparkle of Cinderella, E=mc² was an abstract one-act sucker-punch that pinned you to your seat; a narrative-free contemporary dance piece based upon Einstein’s 1905 theory of mass-energy equivalence, which now returns to the stage as part of our Autumn 2013 Penguin Cafe triple bill.

Structurally, the piece is simple, with three main choreographic movements representing the equation’s elements of Energy, Mass and Celeritas (speed). A short interlude also appears part-way through. Entitled ‘The Manhattan Project’, it references America’s development of the Atomic Bomb, which they embarked upon after President Roosevelt received a written recommendation from Einstein himself, who feared that the German’s would harness its power first.

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But while the ballet’s structure came straight from the different parts of the famous equation, a great deal of the piece’s power comes from its creative elements. E=mc² is another in a long series of successful Bintley collaborations, and the team that David gathered together could not have been more perfect.

Peter Mumford’s lighting designs use the Company’s rig in ways never seen before. At times they bombard the auditorium with illumination, at others they create laser beams that frame the stage, and elsewhere drop to a strobe-like flicker, outlining the dancers and leaving you wondering where one body ends and another begins.

Costume Designs by Kate Ford also accentuated the dancers’ bodies, with the clothing pulled tight across their torsos and limbs. When the Company produced a book shortly after, charting 20 years of performances in glossy photographs, it was a still taken from E=mc², showing two dancers dressed in Ford’s figure-hugging outfits that was picked to adorn the cover.

E=mc²

But it was the marriage of music and choreography that garnered the most praise. The piece was the first collaboration between David and Australian composer Matthew Hindson, who would later return to write music for 2012’s Olympics-inspired ballet, Faster.

“The key to this investigation of Einstein’s equation is Matthew Hindson’s brilliant orchestral score, to which Bintley responds with force fields of gleaming, pared-back dance”, said Luke Jennings in The Observer. “The result has an extraordinary new-minted brightness.”

“The most meaningful commissioned music for ballet I’ve heard for years”, wrote LondonDance.com’s Graham Watts, while Jeffery Taylor in the Sunday Express commented: “Bintley’s explosive talent is matched by composer Matthew Hindson’s writing one of the best pieces of new dance music this side of Stravinsky.”

Many chorused that David has indeed achieved something quite unlike his existing body of work.

“Not only looks as urgent and brainy as the physics it evokes,” wrote Judith Mackrell in the Guardian, “but is unlike anything he has choreographed before.”

Debra Craine agreed in The Times: “A stunning advance on most of what has gone before… Bintley has mined a fabulous new enthusiasm for structure and sense of pure dance… Bristles with excitement and a light-hearted unpredictability”.

Now returning to the stage for the first time since its debut season, E=mc² will be joined by two other Bintley ballets to make a full evening’s (or afternoon’s) entertainment. With both originating from earlier in his career, the programme will allow audiences to judge for themselves if he succeeded in breaking his own mould, and creating a new winning formula.

Click here for details of all 2013 performances of E=mc².

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