New English National Ballet boss to launch first season with string of premieres

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The new artistic director of the English National Ballet is to launch his first season with a series of world and UK premieres.

Aaron S Watkin, who took over the role from Tamara Rojo after she led the company for 10 years, announced his programme for the 2023/2024 season on Wednesday.

The season has been designed to represent the vast spectrum of ballet and will forge “ground-breaking new productions while continuing to honour the great tradition of large-scale, classical ballet”.

Opening the season at Sadler’s Wells Theatre with a limited run from September 21 to 30 is a new triple bill, titled Our Voices, which will feature three ballets in diverse styles of classical ballet, neo-classical and contemporary dance.

As part of the production, there will be a world premiere of a new interpretation of Les Noces by US choreographer Andrea Miller and artwork by renowned sculptor Dame Phyllida Barlow.

Presented in its centenary year, Les Noces is a “visceral piece” that sees the dancers joined on stage by a live chorus from Opera Holland Park with accompaniment by the English National Ballet Philharmonic.

Another performance in the collection will see leading choreographer David Dawson return to the English National Ballet for the first time in 15 years.

He will present the world premiere of his latest creation, Four Last Songs, which explores humanity and the circle of life, set to the final score by Richard Strauss.

Completing the programme for Our Voices is the piece Theme and Variations which has been choreographed by George Balanchine.

It will see 13 couples take to the stage alongside a new set and designs by Roberta Guidi di Bagno.

Jonathan Ollivier death
Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Audiences will have the chance to see two versions of the romantic ballet as Mary Skeaping’s production of Giselle will also return to the London Coliseum in January 2024.

This festive season, Nutcracker will go on tour at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, followed by performances at the London Coliseum.

In spring 2024, the UK premiere of Johan Inger’s award-winning Carmen will be staged at Sadler’s Wells.

Originally created for Spain’s Compania Nacional de Danza, this two-act ballet tells the love story of Carmen, Don Jose and the Toreador set to a score by Bizet and Shchedrin with new music from Spanish composer Marc Alvarez.

The 2024 programme will also see Derek Deane’s Swan Lake in-the-round, which features more than 100 performers, return to the Royal Albert Hall in the summer.

Watkin said: “Being entrusted to lead this brilliant organisation is a privilege. I am so grateful to be able to show audiences my vision for English National Ballet and share the immense talent and versatility this company has to offer.

“By pairing works from some of the greatest classical choreographers with visceral new works by some of the most exciting artists working today, I believe we are showcasing the full potential of this brilliant artform for audiences across the country.

“I am proud to build on Tamara’s legacy and will continue to forge innovation and embrace the great tradition of classical ballet.

“I am excited to bring the whole company and our audiences on this journey, as we take English National Ballet into the next chapter in its rich history.”

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