New English Ballet Theatre (NEBT) were founded just five years ago but have already established themselves as a leader in nurturing young talent and offering professional opportunities for dancers, choreographers and designers. This charity fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake appeal featured a selection of works first premiered elsewhere on a recent tour as well as much anticipated guest appearances from the Royal Ballet. A chocolate box selection of mainly hits but perhaps just a couple of misses. On the whole I felt the NEBT performers were stronger in their duets than when they performed as a group. The St James’ Theatre stage felt a little suffocating for ten dancers to move around as freely as they could have at times.
As such, Tangents and Oribital Motion, the opening and closing pieces respectively, worked the least for me. Orbital Motion, notably could have been cut down but 3 -5 minutes. The music felt repetitive by the end and the experience would have remained enjoyable had it been a little shorter. Additionally, the jumps and leaps incorporated into both choreographies felt heavy and clumpy on this slightly restrictive and intimate stage that left few places to hide. More positively however, the individual dancers were all given opportunities to shine. Notably Georgina Connolly in Orbital Motion hit some beautiful lines with her lengthy limbs and remained poised and composed throughout the lengthy finale to the evening.
Of course, one cannot ignore the high point of the evening, a guest performance of Lieder from the Royal Ballet’s Olivia Cowley and Gary Avis. Tucked into the middle of this eight piece programme this felt like an unfortunate choice and it seems unfair to draw comparisons between them and the NEBT Company. Cowley’s flexibility, strength and expressive face all served her well to produce a thoroughly pleasing performance, aided by her endless legs which provided some beautiful lines. Avis’s partnering of the Soloist was effortless and understated, the implicit trust the pair have in one another was obviously apparent, making for easy viewing. The whole showing displayed a refinement and maturity the NEBT Company could not quite match.
Kristen McNally’s Mad Women demonstrated the most original choreography of the night with a quintet of NEBT ladies showing the power of women and the foolishness of men in underestimating them. McNally’s choreography featured a number of well-timed comic moments including the ladies brutal treatment of the pizza delivery men who never stood a chance against such self-assured and empowered lionesses. Overall it was a sassy, feel good little number, I particularly liked the reoccurring motif where they all simultaneously applied rouge to their lips and the robotic movements evoking a Stepford Wives feel to this witty piece.
Another enjoyable but brief highlight was Wundarra, a unique duet featuring classical choreography to aboriginal music. Alexandra Cameron-Martin has an infectious grin throughout and the music is so rhythmical the choreography seems to fit in effortlessly it would have been nice to see this piece extended and developed a little more. This was the kind of duet that makes dance accessible and exciting for all.
Dancing for Nepal was a brave evening with much for NEBT to be proud of. The inclusion of the Royal Ballet guest artists makes their aspirations very clear and with their current crop of talent of choreographic originality they undoubtedly have a very exciting future in store for them.
First published on LondonTheatre1.com