Pros: The bite-size nature of the pieces makes this accessible even to the absolute novice recruit to the world of ballet.
Cons: There was a slight air of pretension that could feel formidable to first-timers, although this perception may have been brought on by my entering a whole new world of theatre.
Trying something new can be a very daunting experience. But it’s in the trying of new things that we learn. There’s no guarantee that you will love everything you try, but there’s a good chance you’ll discover something you’ll want to revisit. Think of a Chinese buffet; there is plenty you will nibble at and never go back to, but there is always that one dish that you just can’t get enough of, neither during that evening nor any time you go back for a Chinese.
In that vein, it felt time to venture out of my comfort zone and try a little ballet. After all it’s just another genre of theatre, albeit one that contains no words. For someone whose usual fare is theatre that relies heavily on words and little else, this was going to be a challenge. I’m such a novice that I cannot explain the difference between simple dance and ballet; to me, if they are in tights and standing on tiptoe, it’s probably ballet. So a performance like Quint-essential by New English Ballet Theatre was probably perfect for me.
Quint-essential brings five new short pieces of ballet from five different choreographers to the stage. This means that if a piece isn’t to your liking, maybe the next one will be. Like that Chinese buffet.
And it’s that concept that meant that after enjoying the first piece, The Land of Nod, I found the second, Strangers, lost my interest early on, only for the third piece, Moonshine, to delight me to the point that I wanted it never to end. To go back to my analogy, this was the crispy chilli beef that, once tried, was on every future order. After a short interval the second half saw the final two pieces, Enticement’s Lure and Vertex, with the latter appealing to me more than the former.
It’s difficult to explain why I liked or disliked a piece, both due to my lack of knowledge and because surely all theatre, and therefore all ballet, is a matter of taste. Based on my preferences on the evening, however, my tastes seem to gravitate towards pieces with greater numbers of dancers. Both the third and last pieces featured eight dancers, and both enchanted me in ways that those with fewer numbers couldn’t. This could be personal taste, or it could be that my untrained mind failed to appreciate the complexity of those pieces with fewer performers. Either way I know what put the widest smile on my face, and what I will look out for when I next venture into ballet.
A great addition to the production was the introductory videos which saw each choreographer explain the thinking behind their work. Whilst the suggestion that there were stories to follow was beyond my understanding, hearing them speak of how they came to each piece allowed me a greater understanding, which in turn gave me something else to try to come to grips with. It also provided a greater appreciation of what goes into making such work.
Ballet is always going to be an acquired taste, but the same could be said about all genres of theatre; musicals are loved and despised in equal measure, but most who fall into the latter camp have probably come across an exception or two. If you enjoy a good song and dance in a West End musical then Quint-essential could be for you, as it is a performance that keeps your eyes firmly on the stage throughout.
Producer: New English Ballet Theatre
Choreographers: Marcelino Sambé, George Williamson, Kristen McNally, Valentino Zucchetti, Daniela Cardim Fonteyne
Box Office: 020 7863 8222
Booking Link: http://peacocktheatre.com/whats-on/new-english-ballet-theatre-quint-essential-five-new-ballets/
Booking Until: 12 November 2016