National Youth Ballet 2013 Season
Dancing Times, November 2013 Issue
Review by Laura Dodge
The National Youth Ballet (NYB) gives dancers aged 8-18, many of whom are not in vocational training, a chance to stretch their skills and perform in prestigious venues. For 2013’s talented company, this included the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dance at the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace. The line-up of alumni is equally as impressive; Royal Ballet soloists Kristen McNally and Emma Maguire both performed with NYB, and other former NYB dancers can be found in major companies including Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB), English National Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.
This year’s gala at the Bloomsbury theatre on August 31 showed a diverse range of repertoire that the young dancers seemed to enjoy performing. The highlight was undoubtedly the Edwardian-style Impressions of Sophie, which followed the title character as she grew from small, playful child to geeky teenager, and finally a young woman in the throes of first love. Choreography by Janet Kinson was well-crafted with a charming and engaging narrative, and the ballet gave a large cast of varied ages and abilities the chance to shine. Saskia Gregson-Williams was particularly pleasing as the older Sophie.
Wayne Sleep’s Toad felt disjointed, perhaps due to its being cut down for the purposes of NYB, but it did have some nice moments. Kaine Ward was excellent in the lead role, with wonderful jumps and characterisation, and Gaoler’s Daughter Grace Swaby-Moore also gave a lovely performance, with particularly well-executed pas de deux alongside Ward.
Other ballets in the programmer included Phoebus Arise, a classical quintuplet created by BRB dancer Jonathan Payn, and Mikhail Fokine’s Polovtsian Dances. There was also the rather unusual inclusion of Small House of Uncle Thomas, a quirky dance interlude form the musical The King and I, though it was well performed by the NYB cast.
What was perhaps more impressive than the dancing on display was the quality of the choreography by company members. Seventeen-year-old Alfred Taylor-Gaunt showed real potential in his Chaos at the Keaton Café, a ballet set to jazz music that followed the frenzied events of a new restaurant’s opening night. His choreography was extremely fun and original with a particularly creative pas de deux and some interesting balances and lifts.
There were two entertaining short works, one by Kaine Ward, winner of the Frank Freeman Choreographic Competition, and the other by Arielle Smith, winner of the first-ever Nijinska Cup. Sugar, a contemporary dance for five girls set to a modern reworking of the infamous Sugar Plum Fairy tune, impressed particularly with its clever musicality.
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