'It doesn’t feel too fanciful to see this inventive, pioneering British composer as a Stravinsky of our time, putting his music at the service of dance...In Polaris, Pite has taken the biggest, most startling Adès piece and responded with a visceral, exhilarating punch of her own. She takes 64 dancers… and transforms them into a wheeling mass that sweeps the stage in waves, in exact response to the shape and sounds of the music… an extraordinary feat both of discipline and imagination, as dancers run as fast as they can or freeze absolutely, or unfold like ropes, or lower their elbows in a synchronised line, like the teeth of a cog. In between these thrilling swathes of movement, Pite creates more tender, questioning sections for smaller groups of dancers, giving the piece focus and depth, conjuring an entire world.
Throughout, the playing of the Britten Sinfonia is outstanding (with Thomas Gould a dazzling violin soloist) and it is a pure pleasure to see Adès, whether conducting or playing the piano, responding to the dance and the dancers.'
The Telegraph (Sarah Crompton), Saturday 1 November 2014
'Talk about musical riches. Dance rarely has it this good...The programme ended on an epic — and sensational — note. Pite’s new Polaris, set to Adès’s orchestral work of the same name, is a stunning monster of a piece for a cast of 64, including dancers from Central School of Ballet and London Contemporary Dance School. Together, they form a fabulous human mountain in which mass equals beautiful power. In their regimented momentum they may seem like soldiers on the march, but Pite’s choreography (and Linda Chow’s sci-fi costumes) also shapes them as inhuman and alien. A few are brave enough to peel off to dance on their own, but they are soon drawn back into the superhuman collective. The choreography features huge and exciting spirals of movement, astonishing Mexican waves and even a hint of night terrors. Meanwhile, the Britten Sinfonia, with Adès conducting, tore the roof off Sadler’s Wells with the sheer magnetism and force of his amazing score.'
The Times (Debra Craine) Monday 3 November 2014
‘Three works on show had already been made – tribute to the power of Adès’ music to speak to choreographers, inspired by its rhythmic wealth, its sonorities, its grand momentum…
The astonishment of the evening was Pite’s new realisation of Adès’ tremendous Polaris, which might – rather obviously – be called a Rite of Spring for our time, so tribal its forces, so massive its effects, so driven its manner. The score is inexorable… The piece is a marvel in its sweep of energies, marvellously conceived and done. We see the music. Must be Filmed’
Financial Times (Clement Crisp), Tuesday 4 November 2014
'None of the four scores was originally composed for dance: but each offers an exhilarating, challenging inspiration…The scale of [Polaris] is huge, 64 dancers matched against the orchestral forces of Adès’s score (played, as throughout the evening by the wonderful Britten Sinfonia). But Pite rides the music with a reckless choreographic variety. Her black-costumed dancers appear first as a dark shifting mass, individuals discernible only as a pale pattern of faces and outspread hands. Peeled into lines, they are galvanised into great roiling waves of movement, or shattered into groups that feel like the aftermath of some monumental catastrophe. Polaris shows the talented Pite working at an exceptional level of confidence.
[Polaris] also reminds us that someone (Millepied perhaps) needs to commission Adès to write a designated dance score.'
The Guardian (Judith Mackrell), Sunday 2 November 2014
'To open, Adès and choreographer McGregor make a good match. The way the composer treats tonality — not discarding it but expanding it, recasting it — is not dissimilar to McGregor’s attitude towards classical technique… the music’s form gives the dance a stronger sense of composition and more light and shade than McGregor sometimes offers… Elsewhere, Armitage’s Life Story is a wry, post-coital debrief, bringing wit and sass to Adès’s setting of words by Tennessee Williams.
There’s much promise in young talent Whitley’s The Grit in the Oyster, set to Adès’s Piano Quintet, his calligraphic movement smoothly riding the waves of Adès alternately inquisitive and sinking strings…
But the best is left until last. If the three previous works come, to an extent, from the same world, Canadian Pite’s Polaris shifts to another dimension. Pite had to come up with a big idea to match the eponymous score, which is cinematic in scope, sci-fi in tone; what a 21st-century Star Wars should sound like. She corrals a cast of 64 who move as a single organism, black-clad bodies swarming on stage like a thick murmuration of starlings. They swell and huddle, pulsating like bubbling tar, falling in domino effect, all subtly, beautifully lit. A fantastic finale.'
The London Evening Standard (Lyndsey Winship), Monday 3 November
'McGregor's trademark direction-changing, kinetic, hyper-flexible style was a good match for the phenomenal violin concerto Concentric Paths, which was played superbly by Gould. The concerto's long central movement provides the most strongly dance-like sections of music, including snatches of a tango and a waltz, and it's this movement which McGregor uses to construct a couple of compelling scenarios: a woman rebuffing a man with barely suppressed annoyance, and later two men in pas de deux. Music and dance one-all after the first round… In Life Story, it's very much the music we note first. Back to the audience, her [Booth’s] shoulder blades twitch languidly, laconically, as the piano's opening notes bubble up, low and liquidly percussive as percolating coffee. Booth keeps her singing of Tennessee Williams' fabulously black-comic words as low in her voice as possible, eschewing vibrato or the temptation to rest on the high notes, which she slides off with delicious disdain.
Pite, in choreographing Polaris (the night's other new commission), to Adès's cinematic canvas of sound, has chosen to "see" the music by matching it with an equally cinematic, visually transporting piece of dance… Huge scope and spectacle definitely brought the dance out on top here, matching the theatricality of Adès's score (played from corners of the auditorium as well as from the pit, with the composer himself at the baton) with something just as impressive.
Alexander Whitley remarked the potential danger of choreographing to Adès: that the music would distract the audience too much from the dance. That did happen to a certain extent last night, but it was a pleasure to be distracted by something of such quality – and probably a deserved payback for all the times in dance performances that the music has been decidely secondary to the movement on stage. So fair dues all round last night – and extra applause for Sadler's Wells for putting on (and pulling off) such an ambitious event.'
The Arts Desk (Hannah Weibye) Saturday 1 November 2014