It was only four months ago that a devastating earthquake struck the tiny mountainous country of Nepal, destroying whole villages and making hundreds of thousands homeless. Then, on top of that disaster came another quake a month later, followed by the onslaught of the monsoon season.

NEBT in <i>Mad Women</i> © Thierry Fonteyn
NEBT in Mad Women
© Thierry Fonteyn

To raise funds to provide vital assistance to help the Nepalese people rebuild their homes and their lives, the dancers of New English Ballet Theatre (NEBT), joined by guests from The Royal Ballet, staged a gala of dance at the intimate St James Theatre in London. It proved a highly enjoyable evening of excellent dancing and interesting choreography.

NEBT may be a small and relatively new company — created in 2010 —but its young dancers show prodigious talent, displaying sound technical ability, musicality, inner passion, and outward joy of dancing. Despite its name, of the twelve dancers listed in the programme, only four were British—the others coming from Europe, Australia and America. However, their different training disciplines blended seamlessly, while still allowing individual talent to shine.

The programme opened with Tangents, choreographed by Daniela Cardim Fonteyne and involved three couples interacting to different sections of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This was followed by a short film on Nepal and a speech about what has already been achieved by the Nepal Earthquake Recovery Appeal 2015. The next piece Toca by Érico Montes to music by Villa-Lobos, was based on a Portuguese story about a boy and girl separated at birth, who meet up in later life. They unknowingly fall in love, only to discover they are siblings. Alessia Lugoboni and Paul Oliver danced with fluid poignancy, their movements clearly telling their sad tale.

After the two works showing off young talent on the brink of their careers, the next piece demonstrated what experience — and hard work — produces. Royal Ballet dancers Olivia Cowley  and Gary Avis performed Alastair Marriott's Lieder, a creamy smooth work that certainly has that ‘wow’ factor. Dressed in a short black tunic, Cowley constantly moved to the soothing tones of Brahms, splicing the air with her long beautiful legs and producing sculptured images. Throughout she was expertly and carefully supported by Avis who showed himself an exceptional partner. Elegant and handsome, his timings were perfect — always there to spin a leg around, to catch, lift, turn and bend Cowley’s super flexible body. They were pure magic and surely proved an inspiration to the young dancers.

NEBT in <i>Orbital Motion</i> © Dave Morgan
NEBT in Orbital Motion
© Dave Morgan
The final piece of the first half was great fun. Kristen McNally’s Mad Women showed five identical girls in tight orange capri pants, bra tops and orange bandanas demonstrating the flirty and provocative moves of nightclub dancers. And yet, underlying their sexiness were ulterior motives. Like robotic look-alike dolls they enticed the pizza delivery men to their doom to show the dominance of women. The piece, lit brilliantly, was danced with great pizzazz and enthusiasm and proved a sure hit with the audience.

Another success was Wundarra, also created by Fonteyne, which opened the second half. The neo- classical pas de deux, set to aboriginal music was danced confidently and with joyful vigour and perfect unison by Alexandra Cameron-Martin and Gyõrgy Baán. This was followed by another Royal Ballet guest, David Donnelly, dancing Prometheus, another short piece by Montes and inspired by a poem by Goethe. Dressed in an Apollo look-alike costume, he joyfully showed off high leaps and turns but seemed somewhat hampered by the small stage.

More guests, Maria Barroso and Theo Dubreuil danced Marcelino Sambé's La Llorona to the strains of Chavela Vargas’ song of the same name. The stage floor was patterned with three spot-lights creating a speckled effect like light through a church window, which together with the flowing choreography, gave solemnity for the two lovers’ tender and lyrical duet.

All these pieces were short, telling their ‘stories’ succinctly and without repetition, unlike many choreographic works these days. Only the final work on the programme was longer and in three parts, and involved the whole company with Georgina Connolly and Paul Oliver as the soloists. Entitled Orbital Motion, and created by Valentino Zucchetti to the relentless rhythms of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No.1, it is a free flowing non-stop dancing kaleidoscope of motion, with the four pairs of dancers in colourful leotards and the central pair in flesh coloured ones, swirling in a palate of colour. The gala programme shows a multi-coloured photo of the cosmos taken by the Hubble Space telescope with the same revolving patterns that inspired Zucchetti, and the intensity and dedication of the young dancers brought it visually to life.

Seeing New English Ballet Theatre for the first time was a delightful surprise and, in talking with some of the public who have not been to dance programmes before, I found the impression was the same. Hopefully the funds raised for this good cause will restore smiles on the faces of the resilient Nepalese people like those in St James’ Theatre.