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Adagio Hammerklavier (1973) marks the period in which Hans van Manen started to use classical pointework more often, and in this ‘timeless classic of twentieth-century dance’ he did so in a way that was exceptionally lyrical for him.

As usual, Van Manen took his inspiration from the music; in this case, Christoph Eschenbach’s unusually slow performance of the adagio from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no. 29 in B-flat major. The master choreographer was inspired to carry out a deep investigation into just how slow a movement can be. He once described the result as, “a wheel that is still just moving after a push, just before it falls.”

From the Stage

Female dancer against a black backdrop holds her arms above her head and one leg is raise near vertical , foot above her head
Male and female dancer in white perform synchronous arabesque
Dancers in white standing one behind the other, half look to the sky with their arms raise like Atlas
Dancers in white, one standing and holding the other by their arms as they are close to the ground, on knee bent and the other leg stretched out front
Three couples, each wearing white, a male holds steady a female who is leaning forward on one foot while the other leg is extended in the air behind her

Production photos featuring dancers Joseph Taylor, Dominique Larose, Alessandra Bramante, George Liang, Amber Lewis, and Jonathan Hanks. All taken by Emily Nuttall.

From the Rehearsal Room

Female dance in splits, one leg in front of her, torso leaning forward and her head touching her lower leg, her arms help up and supported by the male dancer.
Three couples, the women standing on one foot, leaning to one side, hands on hips, and the other leg raised high above them, the male supporting them by holding their waists
Male dancer lifts female dancer above his head, his arms fully extended, one hand by her waist and another holding her leg as she is in a classic arabesque pose.
Three male/female couples him supporting her by the waist as she as she leans back, draped over his hold and en pointe.
Repetiteur Larissa Lezhnina wearing round glasses and a mauve top and holding a letter while she addresses dancers in a rehearsal
Female dancer en pointe in extreme arabesque, her extended leg behind her raised and her body leaning forward as a male dancer supports her by her arms which are raised above her head.
Female dancer in arabesque while a male supports her by holding her waist

Rehearsals of Adagio Hammerklavier by Hans Van Manen featuring dancers Joseph Taylor, Dominique Larose, George Liang, and Alessandra Bramante with Larissa Lezhnina. Photos by Emily Nuttall and Sophie Beth Jones.

In the opening section and the subsequent short pieces for the six soloists, it is evident how much the dancers have to move as one and almost breathe together. Each group section is followed by a duet for one of the couples. The first is tender, although the woman does regularly try to escape the man. Here, the movement idiom is downwards and grounded, whereas the second dynamic duet seems about to take flight, with snappy extensions and high lifts. The tangible unrest of these two duets makes way in the third pas de deux for harmony and submission. In breathtaking slow motion, the deceleration reaches its absolute peak here.

Music by Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Sonata No. 29, Op. 106 III. Adagio sostenuto

Performed live by:

Colin Scott - Piano

Set design by

Jean Paul Vroom

Lighting design by

Jan Hofstra

Lighting revival by

Bert Dalhuysen

Restaged by

Larisa Lezhnina & Rachel Beaujean

Costume design by

Jean Paul Vroom

Costumes provided by

English National Ballet

Running time 25 minutes