£3m lifeline to get English National Ballet back on its feet at City Island
- Credit: Piers-Allardyce
The much-troubled English National Ballet has been given £3million from the government to get back on its dancing feet after the devastating six-month coronavirus lockdown.
The company based at its new City Island HQ at Leamouth, near Canary Wharf, is one of 35 major cultural organisations included in the first round of grants from a £1.5bn Culture Recovery Fund.
The Covid crisis has had a devastating effect on the new ballet studio complex which opened a year ago, just six months before the lockdown when it had to furlough 85 per cent of its dancers and staff.
Many productions were scrapped because of theatre closures with the company losing two-thirds of its income.
But now a mood of optimism is taking centre stage.
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“We can ensure our survival for the immediate future with this grant,” artistic director Tamara Rojo explained.
“This investment is allowing us to create, to collaborate and support our local, national and global communities.
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“It is helping us to retain talent and protect as many jobs as possible in the face of the ongoing challenges and uncertainties that the coronavirus crisis has brought on our company.”
Among its east London community involvement is a dance programme for those with Parkinson’s which was being switched to the company’s new video-on-demand platform, announced just last month, so that those wanting to taking part can join in from home.
A series of world premieres is also being released online as part of a new digital season.
Yet even so, live performances with social-distance audiences are also planned this winter at Sadler’s Wells and the London Coliseum.
A new full-length ballet, Creature, is being put together by choreographer Akram Khan, but its premiere has had to be postponed until next year.
The £3m lifeline follows £334m awarded earlier this month to 2,000 organisations through the Arts Council, including Bethnal Green’s Rich Mix centre which reopened after the six-month lockdown with public safety measures being installed.
English National’s moved to east London just over a year ago from Kensington to its new purpose-built 93,000-sq ft City Island centre, replacing the cramped labyrinth of rehearsal rooms next to the Royal Albert Hall that had been used since 1951.
The new complex won the Architect’s Journal Building of the Year award for its tower rigged with a technical gallery, lighting, sound desks and its retractable seating for audiences up to 175 to see productions in their formative stages.