English National Ballet School’s summer performances under the direction of Samira Saidi were always pleasurable to watch, so would Carlos Valcarcel, her replacement as Director of Dance, follow a similar format? He did, and with success: the standard of dancing and the production values were both of professional standard.
The programme opened with a piece of Valcarcel's own: Concerto, danced to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto but with the movements reordered. This was a whole-school piece, the different years dressed in different shades of blue, and they moved en masse on and off the stage like rivers, sometimes trickling quietly, sometimes like swirling torrents. The choreography was well suited to the general standard and ability; it would have been good, though, to give the seniors a chance to show some virtuosity. Two leading couples, Maria del Mar Bonet Sans and Antoni Canellas Artigues, and Brianna Foad with Rentaro Nakaaki, danced very well indeed. I also noticed Jeongeun Park, a dancer I have admired since her first year. She is outstanding at contemporary work but here in the classical steps she was able to demonstrate a neat, strong technique and a charming on-stage presence. She will join Leipzig Ballet; del Mar Bonet Sans, Foad and Nakaaki are headed for English National Ballet, while Canellas Artigues is joining Hungarian National Ballet.
Two prize-winning pieces from the school’s choreographic competition (instigated by Saidi) were among the best I have seen over the years, particularly 1st prize winner 3 years, 4 minutes choreographed and danced by Molly Hall and Nakaaki. Impressively well constructed, with seamless, fluid, dynamic movement showing maturity beyond the tender years of the performers, this was beautifully danced. Head by Lyudmila Loglisci won 2nd prize; Loglisci is only just completing her first year at the school. Judging by her work here we shall have plenty to look forward to from her in the coming years.
Valcarcel's Dusky Fields, a piece based on classical and contemporary movement with folkloric overtones, was, again, very well danced, especially by Foad and Hall, competing for the attentions of Lorenzo Epifani.
The highlight of the show was Valcarcel’s staging of extracts from Sleeping Beauty, retaining most of Petipa’s choreography with additions by Valcarcel and the artistic staff. Using English National Ballet’s Act III set and costumes, but adding in the Garland Dance from Act I, this was exceptionally well rehearsed and produced, with some excellent dancing. In the Jewels divertissement, Beatriz Kuperus (2nd year) was on top form; she impressed earlier this year as Odile in My First Swan Lake. There was a lovely Bluebird pas de deux from Foad and Nakaaki, both in complete control and able to add serene and expressive upper body work to the technical brilliance of the footwork. The Wedding pas de deux was danced by Remi Nakano as Aurora and Yuki Nonaka as the Prince, and it was really delightful to see how these two have developed since their first Christmas showcase. At that time, I felt that Nakano needed to elongate her lines to complement her natural strong balances and turns, and that Nonaka needed to work on reducing the strain in his shoulders and developing a more charismatic stage personality: all this and more has been achieved, and these two young dancers will both have rewarding professional careers. Nakano joins Atlanta Ballet, Nonaka Sarasota Ballet.
The 100% employment success of the graduating 3rd-year students is testament to the hard work and commitment to the highest standards at this high-flying school. Congratulations to all concerned.
Amanda Jennings, Dance Europe