WHEN I was five years old, I asked my parents whether I could take ballet lessons with my childhood best friend.
She was a tiny wisp of a thing – all colt-like and agile. I, on the other hand, was not.
Since I was told I had the grace of a baby elephant, I was discouraged from a career in dance, so that’s the closest I’ve ever been to the ballet – that and watching Natalie Portman prance around in Black Swan.
But when I had the chance to see Northern Ballet Theatre’s adaptation of one of the most smouldering love stories ever to hit celluloid, I decided to bury my wounded pride.
Cleopatra was one of the first ambassadors for feminism – a strong, beautiful queen who overcame exile to become one of Egypt’s most memorable rulers.
Lest we forget that while she was busy reigning over a country she had not one, but two, powerful men falling at her feet.
NBT’s version retells history with a splash of artistic license. Prima ballerina, Martha Leebolt, succeeds in portraying the Queen of the Nile as both seductive and strong-willed, stalking across the stage en pointe to dispose of her brother-husband to become sole ruler.
This is a character with determination and there’s no shortage of passion in either act. Her sensual unfurling from a carpet into the arms of Rome’s Julius Caeser (Javier Torres) marks the start of a brief, intense love affair, cut-short by his brutal gang-murder.
The fire however is between the bereaved lover and Caeser’s deputy, Mark Anthony (Tobias Batley), who passionately falls into her arms with disastrous consequences.
It’s a contemporary and accessible production with well-pitched musical direction setting each scene and colour-coded costumes providing a visual checklist of who’s who.
Expressive performances from the soloists speak louder than words and though some opening night nerves were apparent with the occasional wobble, the chorus were delightful as silent narrators.
A powerful interpretation from artistic director David Nixon, NBT’s production gives Cleopatra a modern, sensual twist.