New English Ballet Theatre is an idealistic venture, a showcase company for young dancers and aspiring choreographers. It has influential patrons, including ballerinas Darcey Bussell and Marianela Nuñez, and a commitment to live music and new design. Synergies, NEBT’s debut programme, had some lively dancing and good music, but too much thin choreography.
Founded by former dancer Karen Pilkington-Miksa, the company aims to fill a gap in the market. There are more trained dancers than jobs for them to go to. A recent flurry of flag-waving publicity suggested that NEBT would employ British dancers, while the main UK companies are full of foreigners. In fact, ballet is now international, and so is the new company. Some of its overseas dancers trained in British schools, while most of its British-born dancers have already worked abroad.
The programme starts cheerfully. Classical Symphony, a new work by English National Ballet soloist Jenna Lee, puts the dancers through their paces. The steps are springy and classical, with clean, well-rehearsed dancing. Jemima Robinson’s set design is a vivid abstract painting, though her acid costumes are less successful. Conducted by Craig Edward, the Westminster Festival Orchestra give a bouncy performance of Prokofiev’s score.
Legends, a new duet by established choreographer Michael Corder, is the strongest on this programme. Chiaki Korematsu and Iván Delgado del Rio dance a fluent, pretty pas de deux. Corder gives them flowing steps with individual touches – she taps his palm before jumping forward to dance with him. The performance is smooth and spontaneous, with bright footwork from Korematsu.
Things get stickier with George Williamson’s new Threefold, in which three women tangle themselves up and face off against one man. Zachary Eastwood-Bloom’s backdrop is a projection of a digital landscape, scrolling distractingly away in the background.
Alongside its premieres, Synergies includes several recent works by young choreographers. Most are lightweight; they don’t push the dancers beyond tidy student performance levels. There’s also an unfussy performance of Wayne Eagling’s overwrought Resolution, with young mezzo-soprano Martha Jones giving a warm account of Mahler’s Rückert lieder, live on stage.
The evening ends with Ernst Meisner’s messy new Bright Young Things, a cluttered party number that doesn’t know what to do with its Mozart score. New English Ballet Theatre has likeable aims, but its young dancers need better works to dance.
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