English National Ballet
English National Ballet is one of the world’s great ballet companies. The original 1950s vision for the Company – to take classical ballet of the highest quality to the widest geographical audience, at a price everyone can afford – remains the cornerstone of the Company’s philosophy today.
As a flagship company for the nation, English National Ballet presents an extensive touring schedule at home and abroad. They employ the best of British and international talent: choreographers, dancers, designers, musicians, rehearsal staff, technicians and administrators – all working as an ensemble to create productions that tour brilliantly and are accessible and exciting to their audiences.
English National Ballet is committed to developing the artform by keeping the cornerstones of the classical repertoire vibrantly alive. By commissioning and acquiring new pieces, refurbishing existing works and encouraging new choreographers to work with their impeccably trained performers they aim to maintain an original and popular repertoire for the nation. Affordable pricing for their performances is key and ensures that they continue to develop new audiences, maintaining an enthusiastic and dedicated following for their work.
The Company has set the standard in maximizing accessibility to dance, especially in its ground-breaking education and outreach activity. The dedicated Education and Community Unit works within all the communities that the Company tours to. Their work is integral to their goal of creating relationships with a wide variety of audiences nationwide and encouraging understanding of ballet.
There are 64 dancers in the Company, and this is augmented to 120 for annual performances at the Royal Albert Hall. There are approximately 80 members of staff, with departments including Artistic, Wardrobe, Technical, Education and Administration. In addition, the Orchestra of English National Ballet has 47 core members and is increased for performances in large theatres throughout the country.
57 years of English National Ballet
As the new millennium dawned, English National Ballet celebrated 50 years as an internationally acclaimed classical ballet company. English National Ballet tours extensively throughout England and presents two high-profile seasons in London; at the London Coliseum at Christmas and, with huge arena productions, at the Royal Albert Hall in the Summer. Overseas touring is also a regular part of the annual performance programme and English National Ballet has traveled the world over, serving as a flagship company for British ballet.
The Foundations of English National Ballet
Founded in 1950 by Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, with the financial backing of Polish impresario Julian Braunsweg, the Company’s original name, Festival Ballet, was inspired by the then imminent Festival of Britain. In 1989, however, to reflect the Company’s role as the nation’s touring classical ballet company, the name English National Ballet was adopted.
It was Dolin, Artistic Director for the first decade, who gave the Company its focus as a touring organisation that took the finest classical ballet to new, and established, audiences throughout the country, at affordable prices. He also introduced outreach and education programmes to develop new audiences; in the 1950s, Dolin and his dancers would visit schools to talk about dance. Continuing Dolin’s work today, the Company has a dedicated Education and Community team whose activities range from year-long projects to one-off workshops with schools and communities nation-wide.
The International Stage
In 1951 the Company began to tour abroad, quickly becoming a cultural ambassador (particularly after the Company’s appearance on Eurovision in 1956, when its performance of Etudes at the gala to celebrate the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly was transmitted). In its first 15 years, the Company was seen throughout Europe, the Middle East and in North and South America. It was also the first major ballet company to perform in Israel. English National Ballet continues to tour internationally today and in recent years has visited Australia, the Far East and Japan. During 2004/05, the Company travelled to Dubai and Athens and the 2005/06 season will see performances in Madrid and Taipei.
Taking ballet into the next century
As well as performing the traditional ballet favourites of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet, the Company has a history of initiating the creation of new, and often innovative, ballets. English National Ballet’s former Artistic Director, Matz Skoog, placed particular emphasis on commissioning new works to supplement the Company’s established repertoire. Commissions included works by British choreographers Michael Corder (Melody on the Move), Wayne McGregor (2 Human) and Christopher Hampson (Double Concerto). Matz’s work was recognised at the Critics Circle National Dance Awards in January 2004, when the Company won the “Outstanding Repertoire” (classical category) award.
The dancers, members of staff and those who serve on the Board of Governors are led by John Talbot (Chairman), Wayne Eagling (Artistic Director) and Craig Hassall (Managing Director). The original 1950s aspiration for the Company – to take popular ballet to the widest geographical audience at a price they can afford – remains as valid today as when first expressed by the Company’s founders.