Cycles of Loss and Love: Nocturne / War Women Waiting / Re(Current) / The Four Seasons

Choreography Daniela Cardim, Wayne Eagling, Matthew Ball, Jenna Lee / music Chopin, Handel, Sibelius, Max Richter/Vivaldi
New English Ballet Theatre
Royal Academy of Dance, Aud Jensen Studio

NEBT in Nocturne by Daniela Cardim Credit: Andrey Uspenski
NEBT in Remembrance by Wayne Eagling Credit: Deborah Jaffe
Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri in Re(Current) Credit: Daniele Silingardi
NEBT in The Four Seasons by Jenna Lee Credit: Deborah Jaffe

Remembrance Day, 11 November, is the day I see NEBT’s Cycles of Loss and Love, and what more apt than a return of Wayne Eagling’s Remembrance, which was paired with former English National Ballet Soloist Jenna Lee’s The Four Seasons in 2018 at the Peacock Theatre. Tonight we only get an extract from Eagling’s work, War Women Waiting, the better to accommodate Daniela Cardim’s Nocturne and Royal Ballet Principal Matthew Ball’s Re(Current), and The Four Seasons in full.

Karen Pilkington-Miksa, who founded NEBT in 2010, makes a speech reminding us that this is a “career development” company. She is thrilled to be working with RAD and is, naturally, grateful to her many sponsors and illustrious patrons. But the faith and glory is hers, nurturing young dancers, choreographers, designers, musicians, as the list of those who have gone on to bigger pastures shows.

The auditorium is the size of The Royal Ballet’s Clore Studio, a much smaller space than the Peacock, where I saw them in 2014 and 2018, and it’s very exposing. There’s nowhere to hide, every nervous tic visible, every idiosyncrasy. I am full of admiration for the bravery of these young dancers.

One young man slips (on floor sweat no doubt) and recovers with a forward somersault—remarkable. Not only that, he stands out as a dancer in several of the pieces. His name is Dylan Springer and he’s one to watch. Natalia Kerner another; Mayako Suzuki impresses, too.

There are three ten or so minute pieces before the interval and The Four Seasons to Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s work after. Music is, as always, the way in. Cardim’s Nocturne to Chopin’s No 13 in C minor does what it says on the box. In beautiful midnight blue outfits (design Lisa James) Genevieve Heron (with a distinctive way of holding her head) and Aitor Viscarolasaga Lopez fulfil the dream with leaps and lovely partnering.

War Women Waiting is set against a video back-projection of a soldier’s pale face on a stained glass cathedral window, which later has images of ruined villages, churches, battle weary men returning and poppies sprouting. Costumes and set are by April Dalton and Nina Kobiashvili; music is appropriately Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day. It reminds me of Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land—same topic.

Natalia Kerner and Dylan Springer are the couple, parting, he going to war, she waiting for his return. They are very moving. His ghost returns to dance with her. In pale blue dress, she is a pale flower amongst the encircling five in widow’s weeds. She is taken into their fold. Their poses make me think of many war works of art. War images from Ukraine today are not dissimilar to those of the First World War, and the dancers’ depiction of grief break the heart. The obscenity of war never seems to go away.

The newest piece is Ball’s Re(Current), which according to the press release was to have be called My Soul Rejoices after the music, Laetare Anima Mea, by Sibelius. A solemn, intense interpretation: in wide, black, samurai-style pants, bare chested, he dances with his partner, Royal Ballet Principal Mayara Magri, also in black.

The recurrent patterns and cycles of life are symbolised by the sound of water flowing, arms liquid, bodies tight. They pull apart and come together, separate and return. Lifts are arduous, many reminding me of Kenneth MacMillan, muscle memory no doubt. There’s dramatic turbulence, head to head conflict, and tension, then they calmly walk off in opposite directions.

After the solemnity of the three shorts, The Four Seasons are a joyous awakening. April Dalton’s costumes, a different outfit for each season, are a delight (I love the tiny crinolines), and Andrew Ellis ignites the stage with changes of seasonal light.

But this is where I feel the dancers need more space. Ten dancers, happy couples, enjoy the Spring, eight fall in love in Summer, six return for a baroque Autumn, and ten are allegro sparkly in celebratory Winter icy blue attire. I wonder if Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon are influences. The acrobatic Summer is my favourite—it’s those crinolines (I’m joking). It’s the music, which lifts the spirit, and doesn't it need lifting these days… More please.

Reviewer: Vera Liber