National Youth Ballet
Dancing Times, November 2014 Issue
Review by Laura Dodge
National Youth Ballet (NYB) is as much a platform for emerging choreographers as it is for young dancers, as demonstrated in its gala performance at The New Wimbledon Theatre on September 1. The entire second act was devoted to works created by current and former company members, including Padua Eaton, Alfred Taylor-Gaunt, Arielle Smith and Jo Meredith.
The latter’s Suite Bourgeoise was a light-hearted exploration of characters on Margate beach in the 1920’s. Meredith’s playful choreography included four muscle-flexing men in bathing suits, echoing Matthew Bourne’s Spitfire, as well as two mischievous lovers and a girls’ swimming class.
The most striking new choreography, however, was Drew McOnie’s Little Red Riding Hood (as pictured on the cover of the August Dancing Times). Accompanied by brilliant original music composed by Tom Deering and played by an on-stage jazz band, the fairytale’s narrative was rewritten to create a modern and engaging ballet.
Frustrated by her dysfunctional family (neglectful mother, weak father and spoilt younger brother), Red Riding Hood ran away from home and experienced the traditional story in a dream sequence, complete with a pistol-wielding human wolf. Danced brilliantly by the whole cast with Sienna Kelly and Joao Carolino at the helm, Little Red Riding Hood was a thoroughly engaging work showing real choreographic flair. It was testament not only to the skills and versatility of NYB’s dancers, but also to McOnie’s ability to produce fresh and innovative choreography.
At the more classical end of the spectrum, Samira Saidi’s Aspirations impressed with its elegance and lyricism. The curtain opened to reveal immaculately posed dancers in long white tutus, who proceeded to perform an array of ballet movements with the utmost poise. The youngest NYB company members – aged between eight and 12 – also had the chance to shine in Simone Clarke’s Waking Mozart. Set to an arrangement of piano music by the title composer, it was simple choreography performed really well.
Matthew Bourne came on stage at the end of the evening to praise the company and present the NYB Bronze Statuette to Grace Swaby-Moore, who appeared in several ballets but stood out as a wonderful Grandma in Little Red Riding Hood. Overall, the gala evening showed NYB to be in excellent form and was impressive both as a showcase for talented dancers and as a platform for inventive new choreography.