New English Ballet Theatre or NEBT is the brainchild of Karen Pilkington-Miksa. This young company works as a pick-up troupe, hiring dancers for a period of 3 months and commissioning new works for an annual programme. With a patron list that includes Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez, Mara Galeazzi, Darcey Bussell and Wayne Eagling, plus support from Sadler’s Wells, NEBT hopes to provide a platform where young dancers, choreographers and designers can showcase their talent and work with some of the brightest names in the UK dance scene.
Earlier this month I attended their debut program at the Peacock Theatre, “Synergies”, featuring no less than four dance premieres, all set to live music (by the Westminster Festival Orchestra) and a selection of works from budding choreographers.
Carefully choosing unique pieces and rarities is a clever strategy that will allow NEBT to create an identity and stand out in the busy London dance calendar (these performances had to compete for attention with the sold-out season of Pina’s “World Cities”), but this can also result in a mixed bag of offerings. There were many pluses: Michael Corder’s Legends stood out as a work from someone in complete command of his choreographic skills and Jenna Lee’s Classical Symphony was a playful yet well-structured work for 10 dancers set to Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1.
Another highlight was Kristen McNally‘s Spaghetti Western-ballet Lonesome Gun. First shown at Draft Works in the Linbury Theatre, this had a truly original voice as is typical in McNally’s works. But less appealing to me were some of the stereotypical neoclassical pieces – complete with central pas de deux – which didn’t feel quite as original. Most impressive throughout were the background projections/designs, reminding us that there is no shortage of creative minds interested in collaborating with dance makers.
I noted with interest that – among all contributing choreographers – 4 out of 9 were female, a very rare occurrence. Here’s hoping NEBT will continue to grant opportunities to them and other young dance makers, since the company can only benefit from assembling a good repertoire. In particular, programming unique works like Lee’s and McNally’s reward audiences with a sense of how gratifying it can be to watch ballets that show promise from their creators.
This is especially important at a time when so many small to medium sized companies have lost their funding in the latest round of Arts Council grants. And with so much conservative programming in the UK dance scene, ventures like NEBT should be celebrated and welcomed.