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Studio performances offer a friendly playpen for trying out new material but dancemakers and young performers need serious stage time to fine-tune their talents. Enter New English Ballet Theatre, founded by Karen Pilkington-Miksa in 2010 to offer a platform for young choreographers, dancers and musicians.
The latest mixed bill, Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal, gathered a full(ish) house at the Peacock Theatre on Wednesday, including many sponsors keen to support the NEBT manifesto of gently stretching the boundaries of classical ballet. The evening warmed up with an octet by Daniela Cardim Fonteyne before launching into one of those increasingly fashionable backstage film clips. Many find this sort of “DVD extra” material enlightening (others check their emails under their coats).
Royal Ballet soloist Valentino Zucchetti’s Orbital Motion used five couples and a recording of Philip Glass’s first Violin Concerto. Zucchetti has a musical ear and a natural gift for patterning an ensemble. The partnering was a little overwrought (put the woman down) but the puckish male solos fizzed with life.
Erico Montes supplied Toca, a duet based on a story of unwitting incest. This sort of subject should be pas de deux paydirt but Montes barely scratches the surface of his theme. Kristen McNally’s larky, post-feminist romp Mad Women, danced by five babes in watermelon Capri pants, made an excellent first-act closer.
Kreutzer Sonata, by the 21-year-old Royal Ballet-schooled Andrew McNicol, sets Tolstoy’s novella to a blend of Beethoven and Janácek. The latter was played from the pit by the Sacconi Quartet but piano and violin were performed on stage by Anne Lovett and Andrew Harvey dressed as doppelgängers of the unhappy wife and her young violinist lover, freeing them to dance out their musical ecstasies.
Painted scenery gives a mimsy approximation of the married couple’s panelled drawing room. Exposition is clear, characters well-drawn and the writing fluent and demanding. An offstage murder might have had more impact and there was far too much dry-humping in the early duets but it was all impeccably rehearsed. Silas Stubbs managed the scary throws and catches with remarkable aplomb. You wouldn’t call it cutting- edge – the debts to Cranko and MacMillan in both the staging and the acrobatic pairwork could hardly be plainer – but New English Ballet Theatre is not in the horse-frightening business.
Photograph: Jane Hobson