New English Ballet Theatre
Synergies: Toca, Lonesome Gun, Classical Symphony, Threefold, Joy, Le Carnaval Des Vérités, Sixes and Sevens, Bright Young Things, Resolution
London, Peacock Theatre
5 July 2012
Gallery of 27 pictures by Dave Morgan
Interview with Karen Pilkington-Miksa (AD)
The New English Ballet Theatre (NEBT) is a commendable venture. The brainchild of Karen Pilkington-Miksa has been implemented with the aid of an impressive band of patrons, trustees and collaborators; and a substantial list of sponsors. This level of philanthropy doesn’t come by chance and a considerable effort has paid off in creating a new professional platform for young dancers, musicians and designers without the need for public subsidy.
This debut “season” cut no corners with nine works featuring 22 dancers and a handful of guest artists. Sadly the much anticipated headline partnership of Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares was side-lined through illness but their places were taken by another pair of Royal Ballet dancers, Leticia Stock and Dawid Trzensimiech, who gave a melting account of Érico Montes’ duet ‘Toca’. Yet another Royal Ballet dancer, Kristen McNally supplied a work in her typically inventive and highly individual style entitled ‘Lonesome Gun’ – a pastiche on all things Cowboy and Wild West (which McNally made initially for the First Drafts season at the Royal Opera House). It showcased another commanding performance from a Royal Ballet guest with Hayley Forskitt’s long-limbed “Calamity Jane” cowgirl.
With a couple of exceptions, the choreography was composed by the bright young things and all of it was broadly akin to seeing a promising choreographic workshop in, say, the Linbury Studio Theatre. Jenna Lee’s opening salvo ‘Classical Symphony’ was an attractive exercise, giving strong expression to Prokofiev’s First Symphony. I particularly liked the maturity of its structure and the colourfulness of Jemima Robinson’s costumes and in her vivid, abstract backdrop to the set. If the choreography lacked a little adventure, then that was to be found in George Williamson’s ‘Threefold’, danced by a quartet of one boy and three girls against an ever-rolling projection of a green, grid-like, graphic “cityscape” that gave an alternative visual stimulus to Poulenc’s ‘Aubade’. Lee and Williamson are prodigiously talented young dancemakers, coming from very different places in the neoclassical spectrum and there was an interesting mutuality in the pairing of their work (separated by Michael Corder’s ‘Legends’ pas de deux) in the first part of the programme.
After the interval, Rebecca Wilson’s ‘Joy’ got off to a disappointing beginning since the VIP gala guests were so intent on socialising that the ballet became the less important ingredient of their evening and many were still taking their seats well after the performance had begun. It had a certain freedom and charm but I struggle to recall much of the choreography, perhaps because my eyes were trying to dodge the bobbing audience members making way for the latecomers. On a similar note, the Peacock Theatre doesn’t suit a tall conductor and I spent a large part of the performance wishing I could see feet obscured by the musical director. Not his fault, but an irritation nonetheless.
I recall Andrew McNicol’s ‘Le Carnaval Des Vérités’ from the Youth Dance England (YDE) show at the Linbury in 2011 and it was good to see its further development here. As an early choreographic offering from a young man not long out of school, it sat well alongside the other “new” pieces and was enhanced by Fauré’s ‘Elégie’ being beautifully illustrated in Mark James’ simple film projection.
Samantha Raine’s duet, ‘Sixes and Sevens’, was created to a contemporary piece by Ludovico Einaudi, and was danced with tenderness and lyricism by Ryoku Yagyu and Daniel Pratt; Ernst Meisner’s ‘Bright Young Things’ not only provided a decent sub-title for the whole event but also proved an effervescent and joyful finale for twelve of the ensemble.
In the midst of all these new choreographies was a revival of Wayne Eagling’s ‘Resolution’, a poignant work that Eagling was inspired to make for the charity, Duchenne, which concerns an extreme form of muscular dystrophy that mainly affects young men. Performed to Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, which was sung with rich and expressive intensity by the stunning Mezzo-Soprano, Martha Jones, Eagling’s emotional choreography sat in the midst of this programme as a masterpiece might appear alongside some A* students’ work. The difference in class, while intending no disrespect to the younger choreographers for their laudable and promising efforts, was considerable.
All in all, this was a programme that delivered what Karen Pilkington-Miksa and her team set out to achieve for which she (and they) deserve our considerable applause. NEBT provides a stepping stone for young people to acquire the experience of participating in a professional show. Given the significant disparity between the number of graduates from our dance schools and the number of professional jobs available to them, any opportunity for paid work must be applauded. It is a stepping stone in the right direction but on a staircase that narrows very quickly. NEBT allows one more throw of the die but these young dancers still need a “double 6” to win contracts for more sustainable jobs.