Interview: New English Ballet Theatre
New English Ballet Theatre is a new company for recent graduates of dance training programmes established in 2010 by dancer and choreographer Karen Pilkington-Miksa. The company offers 20 young dancers an opportunity to tour professionally and to work with established choreographers including English National Ballet’s Wayne Eagling and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Michael Corder, as well as emerging choreographers Jenna Lee and Rebecca Wilson. We spoke to Rebecca and company dancer Iván Delgado del Río during a rare break in rehearsals to find out more about life in the company.
“The company is in its first year of project-based work,” says Rebecca, who graduated from Rambert School last year. “It’s amazing for dancers and choreographers like myself, because the dancers are getting to work with established choreographers like Wayne Eagling, but also new people like myself where it’s completely off the scale to what most of them have ever done before.”
Iván, who trained at the Conservatorio Profesional de Danzxa in Seville, the London Studio Centre and the English National Ballet School, agrees: “I’m really glad to be a part of it because there’s good people involved – I have the opportunity to work with people like Wayne Eagling or Michael Corder, and also to be open to new ideas.”
Although londondance readers may be familiar with graduate touring companies such as Ballet Central, which provide young dancers with a chance to continue training while rehearsing and performing repertory, New English Ballet Theatre’s aim is to give emerging young artists a full professional experience rather than touring in a school environment. Dancers are paid, take company class together daily before rehearsals, and come from a variety of training and professional backgrounds. Birmingham-born Rebecca took part in Insight days with the Royal Ballet and seminars with Yorkshire Ballet as a teenager before training at Rambert; Iván has performed professionally with English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Corrella Ballet in Barcelona.
“You’re working with people who might have just graduated but also who have gone off and had experience; dancers here have been in some of the major ballet companies and they’re mixing with people that have literally just graduated, so people are learning off each other.”
Iván adds, “It’s more professional because we are all professionals – we are all graduates and working in a school is very different to working in a company.”
The company’s first showcase, Synergies, will be presented at the Peacock Theatre at the beginning of July, and preparations for the evening are already well underway. “It’s a huge rainbow of styles!” says Iván.
“The audience in the show are going to see a huge variety – for example we just had rehearsal with Wayne Eagling and his style is neoclassical, but we also had rehearsal with Michael Corder and that’s really classical, you have to keep your centre and it’s all classical lines.”
Rebecca’s piece, first created for the Rambert School graduate showcase in 2010, is different again. “With Rebecca it’s very contemporary in bare feet and you have to use your voice, your body as much as you can,” says Iván. “I love that because I don’t get bored of what I do; I have a lot of different things to do. I think it makes it very interesting.”
The inspiration for Rebecca’s piece, set to music by Mozart, is the class TV series The Darling Buds of May and her own grandmother’s memories of growing up on a farm in Kent. “It came together very quickly,” says Rebecca. “With a lot of pieces you find is everyone trying to be serious and a little bit ‘this is dance, this is what dance is meant to be like,’ and I was saying, ‘We need a bit of fun!’” It’s still unusual for ballet to be performed in bare feet and jeans, and some of the girls have found the change from their usual pointe work challenging. Rebecca describes leading a “fun first class – I just wanted to see them express themselves and use their personalities.” The piece also uses speaking and voice work, again still unusual in ballet. “I’ve just got to keep reminding them of both sides”, says Rebecca, “you’ve got to have the voice but you’ve got to also have the technique going on.”
Rebecca is keen to bring classical styles to a much wider audience:
“I really would love to bring dance to the masses, especially contemporary dance and ballet. I think people don’t really know what to expect when they come to see ballet or contemporary – it’s actually different now and it’s moving on, so I think I’d like to change people’s points of view of the classical world.”
“To any of the young readers out there I would say keep your options open and try and experience all types of dance that are out there, because it will just make you a better dancer.”
It’s clear that despite the long days and hard work, the dancers have enjoyed the project so far. “It’s busy, because we have a lot of choreographies going on, we do class every morning early in the morning and then we have a lot of rehearsals,” says Iván, “but I really like to work with people like this. New people and renowned choreographers, young people but also with experience. I’ve spent an amazing three months in London, and the fact that I’m in London makes it even better because this is like my second home!”
Feature by Lise Smith
New English Ballet Theatre makes its London debut with Synergies
When: Wednesday 4 – Sunday 8 July
Where: Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street, Holborn, London WC2
Tickets: £12-£38. Schools discount performance Weds 4
To book: Visit www.sadlerswells.com or call 0844 412 4300.
Find out more about New English Ballet Theatre and visit www.nebt.co.uk or watch the video below.