Aud Jebsen Studio Theatre, Royal Academy of Dance, London
November 11, 2022
It was apposite to present this programme in line with the Remembrance weekend when we recall the human loss suffered through the madness of war. Also well-chosen was the venue in the imposing new headquarters of the Royal Academy as New English Ballet Theatre serves such a valuable service in offering graduate dancers and young choreographers a steppingstone into bigger, more established companies.
Director, Karen Pilkington-Miksa, delivered a programme of quality classical works danced with passion and sincerity. A highlight was the inclusion of guest artists Mayara Magri and Matthew Ball from the Royal Ballet in Re(Current), a short duet choreographed by Ball. It’s an imaginative interpretation of bodies swept by watery currents, gentle and fierce by turn. There were dramatic lifts and contact moments that found fresh, novel shapes, all punctuated by instances of unadorned, refreshing emotion.
Innovative partnering was also a feature of Daniela Cardim’s duet Nocturne, a charged interpretation of Chopin’s Nocturne No. 13 in C minor. Genevieve Heron, a dancer always so effortlessly in the moment, was given strong physical and emotional support from Aitor Viscarolasaga Lopez. This is Cardim at her most romantic and the dancers responded, treasuring the emotion in Chopin’s melodies.
‘War Women Waiting’, an excerpt from Wayne Eagling’s Remembrance, backgrounded by war photographs brought the message home. It centres on a poignant duet where Natalia Kerner dances with the ghost of her lost lover, Dylan Springer. Springer’s confident partnering was impressive and Kerner, leading a chorus of grieving women, gave a deeply moving performance. The young artists, made a powerful impact, expressing the depth and darkness of their loss.
The second half was taken by Jenna Lee’s The Four Seasons, an interpretation of Max Richter’s Recomposed: Vivaldi. It’s a work covering a range of moods and giving excellent opportunity for the full company to show their technical expertise. From the golden warmth of summer through to the icy mists of winter, (a particularly effective ethereal backdrop) the dancers worked with commitment showing sensitivity to the musical nuances and finding clarity in structure and execution of the steps. Autumn, with modernist banded dance gear showed the most interesting double work.
Practical stage craft skills were very much in evidence when a dancer took a tumble and neatly transformed it into a dance roll to exit gracefully. The UK does not have junior ballet ensembles which are so much a feature of European ballet companies and NEBT serves a vital role in filling this gap. And for the audience, the dancers sharing their youthful enthusiasm, offered an excellent evening’s entertainment.