FEATURE: The English National Ballet presents its 2023/24 season

Following the announcement of its new Artistic Director, the company has introduced today all the the upcoming productions that will be put together over the following months – through a programming that will combine tradition with modernism and also social awareness.

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative. The ENB has learned that lesson the hard way, but no doubt they’ve been able to implement it quite adequately and on time. In a moment when the Arts Council has opted to blacklist London-based organizations from considerable funding (an unquestionably smart move given the high numbers of attendance in the past two years…), the company seems to have managed the storm with admirable success – the tendencies in booking slowly resembling the pre-pandemic scenario, according to Executive Director Patrick Harrison.

“It’s all about the balance”, says with a hopeful smile Chief Operating Officer Grace Chan. It certainly looks that way, at least from what the association is planning to bring both to the capital and national stage throughout the year. A harmony between cultural tradition and modern experimentation, the first and most prominent innovation comes in the form of a new Artistic Director Designate, as dancer and choreographer Aaron S. Watkin is stepping in after serving in the same position at Germany’s Dresden Semperoper Ballett for 17 seasons.

“The programming we’ve chosen will allow us to transition from classical, to visceral and eventually modern”, he explains. The repertoire is promising as such, with Tchaikovksy’s passionate scores returning in different shapes and proposals: highlights including Derek Deane’s Swan Lake in-the-round, a lavish production featuring 60 swan dancers bringing back the timeless fairy tale within the magic of the Royal Albert Hall, and of course, The Nutcracker – following ENB’s custom of putting on a production of this piece every year since 1950.

The task of reuniting audiences with their more instinctive side will fall to Akram Khan’s reimagined version of Giselle, which will be performed in Manchester and Bristol throughout October, as well as Mary Skeaping’s take on the same work – scheduled to land on the London Coliseum in 2024. The edgier cut, on the other hand, will come through the UK premiere of Johan Inger’s on Carmen. Hosted by the Sadler Well’s in 2024, this reenvision of the romantic myth by the award-winning creator (whose work has been rarely seen in this country) will feature a combination of Bizet and Schredin’s scores with new music by Spanish composer Marc Alvarez.

Finally, following the spirit of arts being the food of the soul, the ENB will also provide a set of initiatives to promote community care and integration, with pioneering programmes such as Dance for Parkinson’s (delivered via six national hubs and as an online offer. This will be accompanied by the campaign Mindful Movers, designed for people suffering from dementia and carried out in East London care homes.

Opulence, minimalism, virtuality… But always grandeur no matter the form. The ENB’s next season promises as interesting and varied programming designed to entice both regulars and newcomers regardless of artistic preferences, background or age. Creativity takes courage – and so does their endless support to the world of dance.

Picture credited to Guillermo Nazara.

Further shows, dates and tickets for all of ENB’s upcoming productions are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Nazara

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