Aud Jebsen Studio Theatre, Royal Academy of Dance – until 11th November 2022
Reviewed by Antonia Hebbert
This was a fabulous evening of dance in a stunning setting. New English Ballet Theatre exists to nurture dancers, choreographers and designers as they enter their professional careers. The idea is that they can explore and experiment while always honing their classical skills, and launch themselves into full-time places with top companies. This evening was a fine demonstration of the dancers’ commitment – besides the gorgeous technical skills, they brought striking emotional intensity to the performances. The theatre itself felt like an ideal place to enjoy this – spacious for the dancers, but bringing the audience very close.
The evening’s four works paid tribute to Remembrance Day (11th November), with themes of love, loss and resilience, including one work directly inspired by the Armistice year of 1918.
The lovely opening piece was Nocturne, choreographed by Daniela Cardim. It’s a pas-de-deux set to the melting music of Chopin’s ‘Nocturne 13 in C Minor’. Dancers Genevieve Heron and Aitor Viscarolasaga Lopez drew us beautifully into the deep blue world of this piece, designed by Lisa James.
Next was War Women Awaiting, which is an excerpt from Wayne Eagling’s ballet Remembrance. It was inspired by the real-life love story of the dancer Marie Rambert and the playwright Ashley Dukes. They met in 1917 and fell in love, but within a few days he had to go back to the war. This part of the ballet focusses especially on women’s experience of waiting, hopes and fears – and mourning, with widows providing a delicate and moving chorus part to the dance. Natalia Kerner and Dylan Springer gave us compelling, passionate conviction as the young lovers in their pas-de-deux, and it is all set irresistibly to the music of Handel’s ‘Ode to St Cecilia’, with back projections of church architecture and wartime scenes (costumes by Arpil Dalton, set design by Nina Kobiashvili).
We had a special treat to end the first half: Re(Current) was performed by guests Mayara Magri and Matthew Ball, who are principal dancers at the Royal Ballet and supporters of NEBT. It was a breathtaking feast of beauty, strength and agility, choreographed by Matthew Ball to the music of Sibelius’s ‘Laetare Anima Mea’ (My Soul Rejoices).
The second half was The Four Seasons, using Max Richter’s bouncy reworking of Vivaldi’s music. It didn’t have the intimate emotional intensity of the dances in the first half, but allowed the dancers to showcase their impressive range of skills as they followed the cycles of the year. Choreography was by Jenna Lee; costumes were by April Dalton.
NEBT finishes its season with this programme. Various performances and workshops are planned for 2023 (see nebt.co.uk), and in the meantime you can see a lot of their work on Youtube. The Royal Academy of Dance (royalacademyofdance.org) is also worth a look, not just for its stunning premises in Battersea but also because it has a mission to get the world to dance. Its website promotes opportunities for all ages and abilities (perhaps there is hope for me yet).