A collective sense of joy in movement from talented dancers from English and Norwegian companies

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Next Generation Festival – New English Ballet Theatre/Norwegian National Ballet 2: Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden, London, 15.6.2024. (JO’D)

NEBT in Baroque Encounters by Daniela Cardim © Andre Uspenski

Acts of Exaltation
Choreography – Matthew Ball
Music – Claudio Monteverdi

Dancers – Genevieve Heron, Jerome Barnes, Ana Carolina Freire, Tamara Hinson, Ella Mansford, Dan Corthorn, Jethro Paine

Baroque Encounters
Choreography – Daniela Cardim
Music – Johann Sebastian Bach

Dancers – Ana Carolina Freire, Genevieve Heron, Emily Pohl, Tamara Hinson, Jose Alves, Noah Benzie-Drayton, Dan Corthorn

Where it Began
Choreography – Anaïs Touret
Music – Joey McNamara

Dancers – Isabella Boyd, Alicia Rose Couvrette, Hannah Thi Dvergsdal, Dmytro Litvinov, Giuseppe Ventura

Choreography – Kumiko Hayakawa
Music – Johannes Brahms

Dancers – Isabella Boyd, Alicia Rose Couvrette, Julie Ann Joyner, Taeryeong Kim, Lulu Welford, Pedro Alcantara, Gabriel Gudim, Linus Lynch, Isaac Martin, Giuseppe Ventura

Step Lightly
Choreography – Sol León and Paul Lightfoot

Dancers – Isabella Boyd, Taeryeong Kim, Anna Sheleg, Charlotte Steckmest, Dmytro Litvinov, Giuseppe Ventura

The Royal Ballet principal, Matthew Ball, has performed choreography of his own with New English Ballet Theatre in the past. For the Next Generation Festival at the Royal Opera House, he creates work on the company’s young and eager dancers. Acts of Exaltation, on a theme of broadly defined ‘religiosity’, is set to music by Claudio Monteverdi (all the evening’s music comes from recordings). It devises complex patterns of bodies, arms and hands. Sometimes the patterns are too complex, too static. The piece seems weighed down by its concept. Elsewhere it opens out into sections that give the dancers light and freedom, allowing them to express a collective sense of joy in movement.

NEBT in Acts of Exaltation by Matthew Ball © Andre Uspenski

Daniela Cardim’s Baroque Encounters, to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, is in many ways a more conventional work. Yet it carefully shows each dancer to their best as it moves from an opening ensemble through combinations of two, three, or six. The company has danced it before; but one of the dancers in the duet, this time, is Jose Alves, a core member of Ballet Black for several years. He is well-matched by his partner, Emily Pohl.

After the interval it is the turn of Norwegian National Ballet 2, the ‘recruiting ground’ for Norwegian National Ballet itself. This company’s first piece, Where it Began, shows five dancers huddled in a group wearing garments of greyish linen that suggest a hospital or an asylum. Behind them is a semi-circle of spotlights (like that often found in the work of Crystal Pite). When they move, to a throbbing or pulsating score, the dancers keep close to the floor. Except for a central duet in which a man (Dmytro Litvinov) lifts one of the women (Hannah Thi Dvergsdal) towards a light that descends on a wire.

Limerence, by contrast, is all lightness and flow. To music for strings by Brahms, in loose or floaty costumes of muted grey (for the men) and brown (for the women), ten dancers go through a crisp, neo-classical dance that often brings Balanchine and Robbins to mind. The unity in what the dancers do, with their arms above all, testifies to the training they have received.

Step Lightly presents its dancers on a white stage against a backdrop of winter trees by moonlight. But the women wear floor-length gowns of soft, emerald-green velvet; the men are in tan and grey. To a soundtrack of women’s voices (Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares) the dancers, who have rolled on to the stage, make agitated, angular movements that bring their elbows and knees to the fore. The setting and the choreography are stark; but as performed by these young dancers the piece takes on an unexpectedly emotional quality. It becomes mesmerising.

Interviewed in a short film about Norwegian National Ballet 2, dancer Taeryeong Kim says her dream is to join Norwegian National Ballet and to dance on the main stage of the Oslo Opera House. On the basis of Step Lightly, it is a dream (if they share it) that might come true for several members of the company.

John O’Dwyer

Featured Image: Norwegian National Ballet 2’s Where it Began with Dmytro Litvinov and Hannah Thi Dvergsdal

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