National Youth Ballet
Dancing Times, November 2015 Issue
Review by Laura Dodge
After a last minute change of venue and a two week delay (due to the discovery of asbestos at The Bloomsbury Theatre), the National Youth Ballet (NYB) gave a very enjoyable gala performance at Sadler’s Wells on September 13.
Under Jill Tookey’s direction, great importance was placed – as always – on works by emerging choreographers. Jo Meredith’s The Sighing commenced with a soldier voiceover reading out a letter to his lover, danced by Cloe Shuffleton. She was then lifted up by a camouflage-clad mass of bodies, such that she appeared to float – sylph-like in a long white dress – around the stage. Her serene stillness contrasted with the fluid and continuous movements of the rest of the cast, concluding as a letter was carried in a ripple through the performers and delivered into her hands as the lights went down.
Arielle Smith’s Athena took an alternative approach to Act II of Giselle using Adam’s traditional music but with horned and black leather jacket-wearing ‘Wilis’ aggressively confronting the ‘Albrecht’. With flat footed jumps and hunched backs they tormented the male lead (Chris Thomas), with only the Giselle-equivalent Bryony Harrison begging for his safety. A final contrastingly calm and tender duet between the leading pair brought Athena to a dramatic but tragic end.
NYB dancer Eleanor Marsh used simple movements and patterns effectively in Venn, a contemporary piece inspired by Venn diagrams and her first professional commission. Jamie Neale’s pigs and wolves-themed Trotters had an unclear storyline but was performed excellently by company members with superb live onstage accompaniment from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Set to Vivaldi’s music of the same name, Frank Freeman’s Four Seasons demonstrated the company’s classical ballet skills. Grace Swaby-Moore sparkled as Winter, showcasing her secure technique and truly effervescent personality. She also excelled alongside Kaine Ward in Drew McOnie’s brief but joyous contemporary duet, To You.
This year’s gala included Rock ‘n’ Roll, a delightful new piece created by Jenna Lee for three NYB alumni. To a compilation of 1950s music, James Streeter and Max Westwell fawned over Nancy Osbaldeston with playful skips and turned-in steps combined with huge lifts and seriously impressive lifts.
The gala finished with a pleasing performance of Wayne Sleep’s Cinderella. The large NYB cast worked well together to convey the narrative, from the simple movements of the young Mice and Pumpkin to the technically difficult solos. Ward stood out particularly as the multiple pirouetting Jester.