Almost thirty years after it folded, London City Ballet is reborn. Under the direction of Christopher Marney, it will return to the stage in summer 2024, touring across the UK, including a week of performances at Sadler’s Wells that autumn.
The new company will have a roster of twelve dancers. At the launch at Sadler’s Wells, Marney revealed that the first season repertoire will include a new creation by Arielle Smith, whose Jolly Folly for English National Ballet was such a success, and the revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s 1972 one-act ballet Ballade unseen in Europe for over fifty years. Unlike the original company, the new London City Ballet will not be presenting full-length classics, however.
Formerly the resident company of Sadler’s Wells, the original London City Ballet was founded in 1978 as a joint venture by Harold King as director, Peter Darrell and Michael Beare. An independent classical company, it took popular ballet to Britain’s provinces. King wasn’t afraid to use contacts gained from his time working with ballet promoter Victor Hochhauser in gala seasons that were frequently attended by world ballet stars and royalty. King’s biggest coup, however, was surely gaining the patronage of Diana, Princess of Wales from 1983 onwards. Repeatedly refused subsidy by the Arts Council, the company was kept going by King’s tenacity until its collapse in 1996.
King once said that what makes children become ballet dancers is that they go and see it. And they don’t do that at Covent Garden but in their home towns. Just as then, the reborn company will be taking ballet to the regions and to many of the former company’s venues in the UK and Europe. A full list of dates will be released in due course, although Marney revealed that the company will debut at the Theatre Royal Bath in July 2024.
“The past has to inform the future,” says Marney, who has spent over a year constructing the company with historical insights from London City Ballet’s former Administrative Director, Heather Knight. The company will move into purpose-built dance studio and office space in Angel, Islington from Spring 2024 and work to a touring model of six-months per year for an initial three years.
Kate Lyons (New Adventures) will be the company’s Rehearsal Director and Sean Flanagan (BalletBoyz) takes the position of General Manager.
Marney says, “With immense respect for Harold King and the lives he changed I felt that London City Ballet’s rich history was too important to be forgotten. The company informed my own career and seeing them as a young child provided me with my first experience of dance, spurring my enthusiasm for the artform. The world has changed since its closure in 1996 and I am committed to creating a diverse and progressive company of dancers that speaks to a new generation and one that honours the leaders who paved its way. Where new work is important, an ethos of the company will be across ‘resurrection’. I am deeply drawn to reviving past works of influential choreographers which may have fallen out of the repertoire of mainstream companies and breathing life into those lost ballets.”