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5-star Quint-Essential Five New Ballets at The Peacock Theatre

New English Ballet Theatre
New English Ballet Theatre 2016 – Photo by Patrick Baldwin. Dancers Diogo Barbosa, Alexander Nuttall, Alexandra Cameron-Martin

The vibrancy of the London Arts scene is well illustrated by the success of the “New English Ballet Theatre” which over five years has carved itself a niche, without public funding, that complements the institutions of the “Royal Ballet” and the “English National Ballet” and the eclectic visiting repertoire at Sadlers Wells. Under the direction of its founder Artistic Director and CEO – Karen Pilkington-Miksa, the NEBT is a youthful enterprise in every way offering opportunities to young dancers, choreographers and musicians that are elusive elsewhere. The new production of “Five New Ballets” is very much a case in point. The dance exuded youth and energy but without any sacrifice of subtlety or feeling – this is maturely danced ballet by very young artists and was totally engaging.

This reviewer has a particular passion for art that defies categorisation or travels across conventional musical boundaries. In dance there is, of course, a distinction between the classical ballet warhorses like the great Tchaikovsky or Prokoviev works where the choreography created by (say) Kenneth Macmillan is still reverentially followed. And when this doesn’t happen it can make us uncomfortable. I saw a conventional, but wonderful, production of Romeo and Juliet in St Petersburg last December. A day later I saw a very unconventional Nutcracker. Despite my love of novelty I preferred the former. “Don’t tinker with the greats” is not a good guideline for a reviewer, but for me anyway novel presentations of the classics – be it theatre or opera or dance – are not always welcome! The NEBT avoids this challenge by leaving the classics to the long-established companies and by concentrating on new works. Triumphantly in the case of “Five New Ballets”.

New English Ballet Theatre.
New English Ballet Theatre
Photo by Patrick Baldwin.

The five ballets are each by a different choreographer – and each introduces the work on film before its performance. I liked this a lot – to hear the creative artist’s intent before viewing the work was illuminating. Although these are separate works with different creators and very different music there seemed a common theme – whether serendipitous or intended I’m not sure.

The first, “Land of Nod”, was created by the Royal Ballet soloist Marcelino Sambé who at twenty-two shows precociousness in his choreography to match that in his dance! The music, by Nathan Halpern and Yann Tiersen, is full of jazz rhythms and is complemented by non-musical sounds of various types. It is a very sensory trio with one female and two male dancers which I felt was more than “just” abstract. The female in particular communicated a sensuality which was both youthful and knowing at the same time. There was a veneer of naivety but a very assured woman underneath – or so it seemed to me. It was a liberating piece.

The second ballet “Strangers” was danced, after a silent opening, to the wistful and elegiac first movement of the Brahms Cello Sonata in E Minor. The music is not without its variations and this gives the dancers changes of pace that the choreographer George Williamson built in – though the dance flowed effortlessly, as the music does. There is a narrative to the ballet exploring the breakdown of a relationship – the couple have become “strangers to one another”. Each of the characters is played by three separate dancers, an original idea which allowed different times to be shown simultaneously – you could see “now” and “then” together. There is love, rejection, fear even hints of abuse with the cello (beautifully played by Anna Menzies) commenting on each stage of the story and binding it together.

New English Ballet Theatre 2016 (2) photo by Patrick Baldwin. Dancers Diogo Barbosa, Alexander Nuttall, Alexandra Cameron-Martin
New English Ballet Theatre 2016 (2) photo by Patrick Baldwin. Dancers Diogo Barbosa, Alexander Nuttall, Alexandra Cameron-Martin

“Moonshine” was the most daring of the ballets with choreographer Kristen McNally exploring the concept of a “Pilgrimage” with her cast in stripey pyjamas and dancing often perfectly in sync with one another – to often comic effect. The music (by Alexandre Desplate) was from the movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – it won an Oscar and is highly original. As was the idea to use it for a ballet – I hope that the NEBT didn’t have to pay too much for the performance rights! It is a funny, hypnotising and wonderfully danced work.

“Enticement’s lure”, the fourth ballet, was choreographed by Valentino Zucchetti to Rachmaninov’s youthful “Trio Elegiaque No. 1” – a work full of typical Rachmaninov melody and romance. There are two couples and some beautiful pas de deux – including pointe work of a truly classical character.

The relationships of the couples are put at risk by temptation and desire, there is passion and rejection and at least one ménage à trois. It is very sexy with one dancer in a red dress (a rare deviation from pastel colours which was the costume norm for all the ballets) who combined a confident sexual potency with the most graceful of movements. Powerful emotions are portrayed in this quite wonderful work.

The final piece was “Vertex” where the Brazilian choreographer Daniela Cardim chose her countryman Camargo Guarnieri’s little known String Quartet No. 2. This was a celebration of the Dance with eight dancers and frequent changes of combination – individuals and groups. It is a very beautiful if abstract work though not, I thought, particularly Brazilian – indeed I was more reminded of Ravel than anyone else. The three movements, “Enérgico”, “Nostálgico” and “Allegro” have rhythmic and melodic counterpoints which gave the choreographer, and then the dancers, variety to which they responded very well.

“Quint-Essential Five New Ballets” is a very accessible and enjoyable new work full of contrasting musical and dance textures – there is much variation. It is a coherent work with no dissidence or real shock. The audience was engaged by the work itself, and the astonishing young dance talent on display. A wonderful evening.

5 Stars

Review by Paddy Briggs

New English Ballet Theatre returns with a programme showcasing five new works from the UK’s top choreographic talents. The Royal Ballet’s Marcelino Sambe creates his first work for NEBT to the music of Nathan Halpern.

The Royal Ballet’s Kristen McNally and Valentino Zucchetti return to choreograph new pieces, with Zucchetti featuring music by Rachmaninoff, performed live by emerging pianist Anne Lovett.

Daniela Cardim Fonteyne creates a dynamic new peice, highlighting the physicality and youthful energy of the company’s dancers, while English National Ballet Associate Artist George Williamson presents Foreign, a new work based on Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s poem, set to Brahms’ cello sonata and played live.

Dancers: Zoe Arshamian, Diogo Barbosa, Alexandra Cameron-Martin, Giulio Galimberti, Bethany Headland, Nicola Henshall, Nathan Hunt, Pablo Luque Romero, Alexander Nuttall, Cecilia Pacillo, Riccardo Rodighiero, Hannah Sofo, Isabella Swietlicki, Seamus Wilkinson.

Peacock Theatre
Portugal Street, London, WC2A 2HT

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Age Restrictions: Children under 5’s are not admitted.
Show Opened: 9th Nov 2016
Booking Until: 12th Nov 2016

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