The shape of things to come

Pam Mills

The EM Forster Theatre hosts Ballet Central on Friday and Saturday this week, which will showcase the country’s latest crop of talented ballet dancers. Here, Eileen Leahy catches up with the troupe’s artistic Director, Christopher Marney, to hear more…

Ballet Central is a touring troupe made up of undergraduates from London’s esteemed Central School of Ballet. Their annual tour, which runs from March until July, offers students the opportunity to gain invaluable touring experience before graduation, but also gives audiences around the country the chance to see not only the company’s young and dynamic dancers perform, but also some of the best dance theatre from current industry professionals.

This season’s Ballet Central repertoire includes excerpts from Matthew Bourne’s Gothicreworking of Sleeping Beauty, Christopher Gable’s Cinderella and also a piece from FAR by the multi-award-winning choreographer and director Wayne McGregor. And if you go along to the EM Forster Theatre this Friday and Saturday, you will be lucky enough to see these as well as choreographer Jenna Lee’s new creation, Black Swan, a dark twist on the iconic classic.

Artistic Director Christopher Marney promises that audiences will enjoy a show that will be full of ‘storytelling, technique and drama’, and a chance to see some ‘exceptional dance talent on the cusp of their professional careers’. “Some of the most distinguished and influential choreographers in the dance industry support this young dance company, meaning that we are able to perform some exceptional repertoire,” explains Christopher.

“This year Matthew Bourne of New Adventures honours us with the Fairies Prologue from his reworking of Sleeping Beauty and, for the first time, Ballet Central will present an excerpt from FAR by multi-award-winning choreographer and director Wayne McGregor.
“Jenna Lee returns with her brand new creation, Black Swan, a dark twist on the iconic
classic, and to celebrate the life and work of Kenneth MacMillan, we introduce an excerpt from his rarely-seen Valley of Shadows.

To close this year’s performance, you will see scenes from Christopher Gable’s Cinderella on the 25th anniversary of its creation. Set to an acclaimed score by Ballet Central’s resident composer Philip Feeney this is a timeless version of a much loved
fairy tale.”

There are 36 dancers on the Ballet Central tour, made up of 12 nationalities. The group was formed in 1984, and Christopher has been in his post as Artistic Director for two years. “It is wonderful to see how the audiences respond on tour and how the dancers find new things in the pieces at every performance. Not only do they dance, they are involved in all aspects of getting the show up and running, such as maintaining the costumes and rigging lights. It gives them an appreciation and also the tools they need for a complete training in theatre,” Christopher reveals.

He is very excited about returning to the EM Forster Theatre as it’s a ‘firm favourite’ on Ballet Central’s touring circuit. “EM Forster is a great venue for dance, and we are
proud of the loyal audience that have supported us over the years. The theatre staff are
fantastic and there is always a positive buzz and good atmosphere.” This year, they have
also added a show so those with younger children can catch a Saturday matinee.

“The chosen repertoire is presented in short, varied excerpts, perfect for children and adults, too,” says Christopher. “Ballet Central appeals to both dance enthusiasts and those who may be attending a performance of dance for the first time.” What does he think audiences will take away with them after seeing the performance? “I feel that entertainment can be a wonderful form of escapism – two hours to lose yourself in a story and appreciate a beautiful art form. “It is also constantly reinventing itself, which is exciting for audience and performers. “No one performance is the same, and showcasing young emerging talent in a mixed bill of dance from different styles is a good recipe for a popular show.”

Ballet Central perform at the EM Forster Theatre on Friday March 23, 7.30pm and Saturday March 24, 2.30pm. Tickets: £15, £13 (16 and under) £10 Group rate 10+ . To book, call 01732 304241 or visit

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