Quint-Essential – New English Ballet Theatre: Peacock Theatre, London, 9 November 2016

Hail the youth

Taxi! New English Ballet Theatre on their way to London's West End. Photo by Patrick Baldwin

Taxi! New English Ballet Theatre on their way to London’s West End. Photo by Patrick Baldwin

New English Ballet Theatre (NEBT) specialise in giving opportunities for young dancers straight out of some of the world’s top ballet schools a chance to develop and perform their craft on the professional stage. As a Company they’re only a few years old but have already met with considerable success – Isabella Gasparini of The Royal Ballet is just one dancer with reason to be thankful for the experience they offered.

Another, less heralded, aspect of their work is the opportunity given to young choreographers with the constant programming of new work. This season’s new show, Quint-Essential, features no less than five world premieres and a satisfyingly consistent standard of output.

On the evidence of tonight, Royal Ballet soloist Valentino Zucchetti has gained the most out of his association with NEBT. Enticement’s Lure is his second commission for them and it shows a considerable step up in choreographic maturity. It’s a well-crafted, beautifully paced examination on the perils of checking out the other side’s greener romantic grass.

It’s not saddled with a melodramatic plot, it relays emotions through its dancing and it entwines itself within Rachmaninov’s Trio Elegiaque No.1 extremely well. It’s also helped by some stylish performances from all five members of the cast, although Alexandra Cameron-Martin stood out in particular for her elegant movement and subtle portrayal of a wronged woman.

Marcelino Sambé, another current star of The Royal Ballet, also hits home with 80% of his creation Land of Nod. The abstract tale of a woman having a rather naughty dream with two men features some exciting and inventive choreography but is slightly let down by an unnecessary pause in the action to reveal the ending’s twist.

Kristen McNally is now an NEBT stalwart and Moonshine is another of her idiosyncratic miniatures. It consists mainly of bold gestures and playful Hungarian folk dancing all set to music from The Grand Budapest Hotel movie. It skips along nicely.

George Williamson’s Strangers is a much more serious affair and while it weaves a delicate and complex web of intricate partnering it also struggles to hold the attention. Daniela Cardim’s Vertex operates in a similar neo-classical vein but fares much better with an array of interesting ensemble patterns and visually striking postures.

Overall, the addition of live music from the Gildas Quartet and pianist Anne Lovett coupled with accessible musical choices that stay away from obvious material is a great asset for the company. On top of everything it’s great to see that the standard of dancing is increasing year by year, especially regarding partnering. This year’s crop looked assured, confident and completely at home on the London stage.

Quint-Essential continues at London’s Peacock Theatre until 12 November 2016. The Peacock Theatre website is where you can buy tickets.

Gerard Davis

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