English National Ballet School's annual Christmas showcase has become a tradition to look forward to with confidence that it will be well prepared, well danced and polished. This year was no exception, and our expectations were fulfilled and surpassed.
Classwork here is always enjoyable to watch, and Samira Saidi's team produce perfectly judged enchaînments and short dances without shrinking from challenges. The techical work in the classical and pas de deux sections was certainly demanding, and the students clearly relished the chance to rise to the occasion, presenting their work with style and charm. The occasional slip was dealt with professionally and calmly, an important skill to acquire at this youthful stage. The girls showed particularly lively petit allegro work and confident turns, and the boys' jumps and neat footwork were impressive. Contemporary work was also very well presented.
Few schools are able to show character dancing of the standard produced by ENBS, and Saidi is to be commended for giving this important work the attention it deserves. Olga Semenova clearly teaches it with great flair; the students always seem to enjoy performing it and they take on the personality of each dance with a commitment that must be due to Semenova's inspirational style of coaching. Her choreography is always challenging and exciting to watch. This year she also staged a male ensemble piece which gave the boys a chance to try some virtuoso leaps and turns, which they attacked with gusto.
Saidi is always keen to stress the importance the school places on the teaching of choreography, and once again the selections of students' work we saw were of a high standard. Particuarly good was Notes from the South choreographed by third year Julia Baro Claveria and extremely well danced with plenty of fiery Spanish élan by Anna Cipriano Cerda and the very talented Daniel Myers (third year), who had also choreographed Puck for third year Rhys Yeomans. Yeomans will dance the piece in the finals of the BBC Young Dancer of the Year competition.
In the repertoire section, the pas de six from the Vainonen Nutcracker gave five young men the chance to demonstrate partnering skills of a mature refinement. Guest of honour was Isla Baring of the Tait Memorial Trust, an organisation that funds scholarships for young Australians to study in the UK. One of the first year students I picked out for her understanding of épaulement and her charming stage presence turned out to be Lauren Somberg, sponsored under this admirable scheme. Other names to watch: first year Thomas Sanza, showing signs of impressive strength and facility, with bags of charm to set it all off, second year Yuki Nonaka, whose extremely secure technique makes it quite unnecessary for him to show strain in his shoulders, a bad habit but easily dealt with. His partnering is excellent too. Catching the eye most of all was third year Rebecca Mabin, who has impressed us at every showing and continues to do so. She has lovely lines, good feet and an all-round technique, enhanced by a mature elegance and performance quality beyond her years.
Amanda Jennings, Dance Europe
Most vocational dance schools wait for the summer to open their doors for a public performance but the ENBS leapt in early and delivered a real cracker of a show in their studio theatre. The students, drawn from all three years, showed remarkable maturity and professionalism, dancing with real passion in choreographed classroom sequences as well as excerpts from the classical repertoire. Notable throughout was the keen musicality as all movements were given full value and taken to the end of the phrase.
Most impressive were the pas de deux and the students’ own choreography. The demonstration of pas de deux was fiendishly difficult – choreography that would challenge professional dancers – yet the dancers grasped the challenge with true grit. There was nothing foolhardy, rather careful calculation, well-honed skill and the confidence to pull of daring lifts and intricate manoeuvres. If fortune favours the brave these young dancers have Lady Luck on their side.
The student choreography was also a treat. The 1st-years had a one-minute limit, but Beatriz Kuperus packed in a great deal (maybe a little too much) of interesting contemporary movement in her work, Flash of Remembrance. This was particularly cheering as the year group had looked rather tense in their Graham contemporary classwork with movements that remained superficial rather than fully engaging.
My favourite was the 2nd-year quartet, Unpredictable that was given a confident, professional performance by choreographer/dancers, Joyce Dahl, Lorenzo Epifani, Yuki Nonaka and Jeong Eun Park. It showed sophisticated structure, innovative movements, including interesting partnering, and a distinctive style. Rhys Yeomans also gave a confident performance of Puck, a virtuoso solo choreographed by 3rd-year, Daniel Myers. There were seven short choreographies in all and throughout the quality was impressive.
The senior students get a number of performance opportunities with the English National Ballet and this was apparent in their repertoire work, which included the Pas de Six from Vasili Vainonen’s, The Nutcracker. The young dancers had the ease that comes from regular audience contact and the chance to share their pleasure. Director of Dance, Samira Saidi, has a school to be proud of.
Maggie Foyer, Seeing Dance
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