BWW Review: NATIONAL YOUTH BALLET GALA - BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, Sadler's Wells
National Youth Ballet has been providing opportunities for young dancers to perform as a company since 1988.
Make no mistake, NYB is a wholly professional outfit that attracts upcoming and emerging choreographers to create work for its skilled performers. Perhaps most impressive of all, the work performed in this year's annual gala was created in just ten days during the summer holidays, at Elmhurst Ballet School.
Bright Young Things comprises seven short ballets inspired by the lives of extraordinary people and celebrates the power of imagination. It's two hours of joyful, enticing dance delivered by 105 performers.
NYB features dancers from age nine to 18, and it was impressive to see the way the very youngest held themselves on the Sadler's Wells stage. The Red Balloon featured dancers from the Junior Company and is a charming tale set on the streets of Paris. Emily-Jane Boyle's choreography is fun without sacrificing clarity of the narrative. The presentation from the piece's lead dancers (unfortunately not named in the programme) enhanced the sweet story further.
A more abstract work was Louise Bennett's Ada, inspired by the life and work of Ada Lovelace. It seeks to connect mathematics and art through its intricate patterns within the choreography of this large cast. Tessa Balls' clean but feminine costumes were complemented well by the black backdrop that featured the occasional spark of electricity or turning cog. The more senior dancers wore aqua blue, and among them were some technically very capable dancers who showcased a range of jetés and pirouettes with apparent ease.
Completing the first act was Matthew Nicholson's Another Night's Dream, a modern twist on the Shakespeare classic set in 1960s America. With a running time of just over ten minutes, it's a little too ambitious for the narrative to work, but there were some engaging performances from the lead characters, such as Hamish Ogilvy's Oberon and Jessica Templeton's skittish and ditzy Titania. Balls was once again responsible for the kooky, colourful array of costumes that gave the piece a strong identity.
I adored the simplicity of Antony Dowson's Bright Young Things, a wartime piece set to some glorious Glenn Miller tunes. The girls wore dresses with full skirts and the boys were dapper in their suits that denoted the period, against a backdrop of wartime London. The piece could feel mournful, but it's full of hope and wonderfully evocative. It was the only section danced en pointe, curiously, and the choreography is not easy, requiring multiple relevés and turns on one leg, but the work was impressively secure and the choreography charming throughout.
In an evening of consistently strong work, the most remarkable trait was the slickness and professionalism of the performances. The majority did not appear as the work of a "youth" company from an audience perspective.
NYB patron Sir Matthew Bourne praised the work of the dancers post-performance - which was fitting, as a number of the characterful, story ballets have shades of work performed Bourne's own company, New Adventures. On this showing, the dancers seen here will surely go onto achieve similar success.
Image credit: Amber Hunt