I couldn’t make the actual performance of Linder Sterling’s The Ultimate Form at The Hepworth in Wakefield last Saturday as my daughter was making her debut at a professional theatre in our home town, some distance away. But by all accounts it was a fabulous event in spite of the rain.
However, I managed a sneak preview of the final dress rehearsal at the Northern Ballet in Leeds ahead of the world debut. Not only is Linder a talented visual artist, she is also a friend and muse of Morrissey and produced the artwork for the Buzzcocks’ album covers.
I wanted to make sure I got to the Northern Ballet on time so I jumped in a cab and asked to be taken there. The taxi driver didn’t inspire much confidence as he didn’t seem to know where he was going.
“You know I want to go to the Northern Ballet, right?” I asked him at one point. Mmm, he didn’t have a clue. Time was running out.
He took me to the Grand Theatre. “This is not the Northern Ballet” I hollered as he disappeared up the road in a fug of diesel fumes.
I had less than five minutes to make the dress rehearsal so I ran – literally. Past Primark, past the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Inevitably, I missed the first few minutes.
But I soon realised that, generally, people in Leeds don’t know exactly where the Northern Ballet is located.
The Ultimate Form is like nothing else I’ve seen. It was mesmerising, magical and mysterious. The haunting music, written by Stuart McCallum, added to this atmosphere.
My knowledge of ballet is by no means comprehensive and is essentially limited to watching The Nutcracker. However, I appreciated that it was technically clever with complicated moves that all seemed so seamless.
The dancers wore distinctive costumes which meant one of them had a bird of prey’s face on a leg while others had faces across their chests.
Linder Sterling is also probably the coolest person I’ve ever met – and the most unassuming. She told me it was really hard to draw the lines between who did what in The Ultimate Form. “That’s the beauty of it,” she added. She said the Hepworth was the ideal space to perform the work and Barbara Hepworth was “like a God and is so very extraordinary”. She looked to the legacy of Hepworth to provide the pulse of the work. Her exhibition of collages at the Hepworth had been on show until last week and her work will be exhibited at Tate St Ives as part of Summer 2013, which opens on Saturday.
I told her that what I loved about The Ultimate Form was the seamless way the dancers moved and Linder agreed that the power was in the seamlessness.
Kenny Tindall, the young award-winning choreographer at Northern Ballet, said the dance was in its purest format and was not diluted.
I decided to walk back from Northern Ballet after my taxi journey. As I passed a bus stop near the Leeds station, a young man was shouting into his mobile phone: “I’m a gangster. I will cut you up”. The people standing at the bus stop seemed mildly amused or perplexed. It was remarkably unthreatening. I figured if he really was a gangster he wouldn’t be at a bus stop boasting about it.
It was an eventful hour in Leeds. I would have loved to hear the Octobass playing and to watch the dancers perform their living collage, not least because the lowest notes are inaudible to the human ear and it’s such a rare spectacle.
There’s a chance to see The Ultimate Form again as it is expected that a performance will be staged at Tate St Ives early next year.
Review by Helen Carter
What: The Ultimate Form
Where: The Hepworth Wakefield
More info: www.hepworthwakefield.org