New English Ballet Theatre was created in 2011 by Karen Pilkington-Miksa with the purpose of giving young classically trained dancers and choreographers the opportunity to perform and create new works to be presented in major venues in the UK. By helping them in the initial stages of their careers, the company aims at promoting both talent and creativity. NEBT presented its first season to great critical acclaim in 2012 and for its second season at Peacock Theatre, it has chosen a programme with five interesting works. With two of them performed to live music, admirably played also by young gifted musicians, the pieces in the bill proved the founder of the company right. These are gifted dancers and choreographers who deserve this opportunity to blossom.  

<i>Tangents</i> © Thierry Fonteyn
Tangents
© Thierry Fonteyn

The evening opened with Daniela Cardim Fonteyne’s Tangents, set to Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a work for three couples projecting an elegant sober look to match the delicacy of the music. The choreography stresses the classic vocabulary, building graceful, harmonious sequences that are dynamically combined in a rich variety of formations. The work was well performed with clear, fast and clean movements.  

Orbital Motion, by Valentino Zucchetti, was inspired by the rotation of the planets around the sun and, accordingly, spins, turns and pirouettes are a recurrent device in the choreography. The piece projects an image of cosmic beautiful perfection that certainly pleases the eye, as it was Zucchetti’s intention. It also remains as unemotional as the music by Philip Glass in the background (his Violin Concerto no. 1). Music and dance seem tailor-made for each other, though at certain passages, constant movements to tireless music make the ballet look a bit busy.

<i>Orbital Motion</i> © Thierry Fonteyn
Orbital Motion
© Thierry Fonteyn

Toca, by Érico Montes to Heitor Villa-Lobos Etudes nos. 11 and 10, is a brief but emotionally intense work that evokes the painful acceptance of an impossible love between siblings. Made for just a couple, it is a suggestive intimate work that imbues the dance vocabulary with the melancholic sadness of the music. It was very well performed by Ludovico di Ubaldo and especially Christina Cecchini, who conveyed the sense of impending tragedy with serene intensity.

Kristen McNally’s Mad Women exhibits the very distinctive dance vocabulary of the choreographer. Plastic, emphatic, sensuous and humorous, it provides the work with a unique enjoyable personality. Mad Women depicts a world of powerful women. Although they are designed by ads and they comply with the demanding beauty expectations of their time, these women are far from being diminished by the servile compliance with the canon. On the contrary, they are happily empowered by it to dominate men. The music of the piece is an eclectic collage assembled and arranged by McNally herself and possesses the same touch of naughty irreverence as the dance. From the sextet of dancers in this work, Francesca Tennant stood out as a playful, supple performer.

<i>Kreutzer Sonata</i> © Thierry Fonteyn
Kreutzer Sonata
© Thierry Fonteyn

The last piece of the evening was the ambitious narrative ballet Kreutzer Sonata, with choreography by Andrew McNicol and libretto by Garth Bardsley. Set to Ludwig van Beethoven’s and Leoš Janáček’s sonatas of the same title, it is a very well-crafted piece that tells the story of a turbulent marriage. The choreography shows a good balance between gestures and dance (in a neo-classical style) to make the narrative progress and has a good sense of pace and economy of means. I particularly enjoyed the scene of the recital where the jealousy of the Husband (he imagines that his wife is having an affair with the violinist who accompanies her, at the piano) is cleverly narrated through the device of splitting the roles between the musicians, playing the real action, and the dancers, portraying the husband’s fantasy. With the audience also turned into an imaginary chorus commenting on the fantasized love-affair, this narrative strategy exemplifies the imaginative and effective approach to storytelling of the piece. Among the performers, Hayley Blackburn demonstrated excellent acting skills in the role of the Wife, Silas Stubbs was convincing in the role of the Husband, and Joshua Barwick exhibited good danseur noble manners as the violinist.