Dance Europe, Amanda Jennings
The opening showcase of classwork highlighted the attention to detail brought to bear on the classical training; neat fifth positions, strong feet and lyrical ports de bras were widely in evidence. I could still wish for more epaulement, but the unfortunate lack of it on view on stage these days leaves young dancers with little example to follow.
The boys' work was once again particularly strong; plenty of virtuoso tricks were shown, underpinned by excellent training but with a lovely layer of charm on top. Marcio Teixeira, now in the third year, shone: he is a committed performer with a very strong technical facility whose slight nervousness, betrayed by occasional shoulder tension, will dissipate with experience. Drew Jackson, now in his second year and showing pure technique with increased partnering strength, is one to watch. I noticed the neat footwork and strong partnering of Nathan Hunt and the charm of of Diogo Barbosa, and was delighted to spot, among the first-year girls, the lovely legs and feet of promising Eleonora Magnanini.
Contemporary classwork is clearly very well taught (by Nuno Campos), and it was with delight to see character work, danced with great enthusiasm and emcompassing a Polish Krakowiak, Persian Oriental, Georgian Lezginka and Italian Tarantella. Teacher Olga Semenova is clearly not only knowledgeable, but inspirational.
The choreography section opened with ENBS alum George Williamson's Trice, choreographically challenging and well danced by Teixeira, Archie Sullivan and Olivia Lindon, whose pointe work is particuarly strong. I rather liked Memoria, choreographed by Conal Francis-Martin (third year): perhaps a little too long, but impressively danced by Jonathan Milton, whose mature approach and expressive style belied his youth.
Among the repertoire pieces, the second years gave a very good account of an extract from Renato Paroni's Mozart Allegro, seen and enjoyed in full last summer. In the snowflakes scene from Wayne Eagling's Nutcracker, I liked the neat footwork of Kaylee Marko, a dancer who uses her upper body very well and has an innate musicality.
Guest of honour Sir Peter Wright gave a moving speech, praising the batterie work, which is, indeed, generally very strong and clean. He also paid tribute to Samira Saidi's achievement in putting together a team of teachers who can pass on her own superb performance skills.
Critical Dance, David Mead
English National Ballet School’s annual December Showcase offers a chance for the students to show off their improving skills in front of a supportive audience in the School’s intimate studio theatre. It proved to be a most enjoyable evening that illustrated well the dancers’ progression through the years, and included some notable highlights.
The opening Showcase of Class Work was well choreographed by the teachers. Perhaps it was the many well-known faces in the audience, perhaps it was just having the audience so close, but the opening 1st Years understandably looked a little anxious at first. It wasn’t long before the nerves abated and the smiles appeared, though, and solid performances were given throughout. Among the highlights were some excellent, well-controlled turns from the 2nd and 3rd Year men; some sharp, neat petit allegro with some impressive batterie from the women – danced to a rag that seemed to put a smile on everyone’s face; and a very neat and well-placed series of fouetté turns from Kanako Ogura. The pas de deux section included some solid work from the 3rd Years, but it was 2nd Year Shiori Midorikawa and partner who really took the eye.
After a short demonstration of contemporary technique, we were treated to one or two unusual character dances taught by Olga Semenova including a Krakowiak (a fast tempo dance from Poland) from the 1st Years and a Georgian Lezginka from the 2nd Year men. Particularly interesting, and different, though, was a Persian Oriental dance from the second year women. Filled with graceful hand and arm gestures (a repeated motif had the dancers apparently placing something in the palm of one hand with the other), it was quite fascinating.
The Choreography part of the evening opened with Trice, by ENB Class of 2010 graduate George Williamson, now English National Ballet Associate Artist. It deserves to be seen more widely. Premiered only last month at the Dance Conservatory of Eva Jacz 35th Anniversary Gala in Bratislava, it’s an impressive piece reminiscent of some of Balanchine’s black and white works. It’s certainly as richly textured as is Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks to which it is danced. The three dancers (3rd Years, Olivia Lindon, Archie Sullivan, and Marcio Teixeira) dealt excellently with Williamson’s sometimes complex use of space and looked fully at home both in the slightly jazzy-edged rhythmic playfulness of the opening and closing movements, and in the more traditionally classical pas de deux and solo to the delicious, delicate air de dance of the second movement.
There were some impressive offerings from the present students too. Best of all was Diego Barbosa’s thoughtful and timely Fallen, in which Jordan Bautista hauled three victims of war, and presumably three friends, across the stage, dancing an outpouring of grief, anguish and anger in between each. It was most moving and powerful, although unfortunately that sense was dissipated considerably by Barbosa’s choosing to have the bodies return to life and gather in Bautista at the close.
I also enjoyed Conscious Breath, an impressive classical piece created and danced by four 2nd Years: Drew Jackson, Phoebe Liggins, Maria Sousa and Isabella Swietlicki. Combining the audible sound of breath with Polish composer Abel Korzeniowski’s score worked nicely, and the choreography was well structured, and well-danced. Running it close was Tormented Flux choreographed and danced by 1st Year Daniel Myers, a powerful solo in which he did indeed appear anguished and caught in many minds. Myers also showed a good understanding of how lighting can enhance work, especially in the opening.
In the Repertoire section, the 3rd Year women gave a good account of the Snowflakes from Derek Deane’s Nutcracker, before some of the 1st Year men showed off some leaps and turns in the Pas de Quatre from Raymonda. The 2nd Years danced a short section from Renato Paroni’s gorgeous Mozart Allegro, with Midorikawa again shining along with her partner Drew Jackson, and Charlotte Levy who performed a most impressive series of fouetté turns. Rather appropriately, the 3rd Years returned to round things off with an upbeat section from Harald Lander’s Etudes.
After a Grand Défilé, Guest of Honour, Sir Peter Wright, spoke for everyone when he paid tribute to the teachers and thanked the dancers for their exceptional work. “With schools doing work like this, classical ballet really lives,” he said. Hear, hear to that!