The official school of English National Ballet under the dance directorship of Samira Saidi comprises young dancers aged 16 to 19 years. English National Ballet School’s intake reaches from eighteen countries, with over 300 dancers auditioning around the world each year for a place on their three-year Diploma in Professional Dance which is accredited by Trinity College, London.
The performance opens with 1st year students in Lift Me Up, a classical piece choreographed by ENB’s Ballet Master and Repetiteur Antonio Castilla to music by Shostakovich and Sibelius. Set to an upbeat tempo, Jose Agudo’s Arctic is a group contemporary piece interpreting Inuit traditions. Stretching beyond the boundaries of their classical technique, students move their bodies into unusual shapes in a mesmerizing trance. Agudo’s choreography with repetitive motifs demonstrates the versatility of the 3rd year students with certain dancers showing a real flair for his contemporary style.
Three winning choreographic competition pieces follow: Josué Moreno Lagarda’s In the Wild, which showcases fantastic ballon amongst the 1st year boys, highly skilled “Circumduction” choreographed and danced by 3rd year student Pablo Luque Romero and Yuki NonaKa’s short and entertaining Have a Nice Holiday!. Having observed highly-technical Bournonville enchaînments being rehearsed for the school’s Christmas show in December 2015, it is clear that their technical training is paying off.
Interpretation of style varies amongst the dancers in student-creation Feuillemort, choreographed by 2nd year Daniel Myers which is followed by 3rd year students demonstrating their advanced pas de deux work in George Williamson’s Shaker Loops. David Bintley’s Four Scottish Dances which was created in 1985 for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet to Malcolm Arnold’s music of the same name demonstrates 2nd year students high energy, excellent musicality and fast footwork in brightly-coloured costumes and is followed by the 1st year boys and girls dancing to Olga Semenova’s enjoyable Spanish Jota entitled Jotas de Aragon.
The evening culminates with Rudolf Nureyev’s adaption of Petipa’s Raymonda Grand Pas Classique Act III. Saving the best until last, the curtain rises to a majestic backdrop complete with chandeliers as the students dance splendidly to Glazunov’s heritage score, unfortunately disturbed at times by a poor quality recording. The technically challenging solos, corps de ballet and pas de deux work are well-rehearsed with students demonstrating an understanding of the required style. 3rd year student Emily Suzuki’s dazzling interpretation of Raymonda echoes that of Miyako Yoshida’s performance at the reopening of the Royal Opera House in 1999.
Although the second half of the evening is quite short, it is not at all short in showcasing the students’ exuberant artistry and professionalism, which is equal and at times above that of a leading company. Bringing together post-16 students from a wide range of training institutions around the globe can sometimes challenge the ability to successfully perform classical repertoire that requires a strong corps de ballet. However, 2016 shows a significant improvement in technical togetherness amongst all year groups.
The students’ solid grounding in classical technique is impressive and, coupled with their fearless ability to perform demanding choreography spanning classical, neo-classical, contemporary and character, highlights their talent and versatility.
British Theatre Guide, Naomi Cockshutt
The summer round of ballet school performances always provides a little glimpse into the future. On the basis of the first of the season, the English National Ballet School’s show at the New Wimbledon Theatre, that future is bright.
The talented young dancers showcased their considerable talents in a varied and enjoyable evening of classical and contemporary works that climaxed with Rudolf Nureyev’s adaption of Petipa’s Raymonda Act III, the Grand Pas Classique. It’s a challenging examination of classical technique that leaves nowhere to hide. Not that the 3rd year students needed it. The men were excellent in their pas de quatre. Pick of the female variations was Phoebe Liggins, so delicate in the first, but it was a close run thing with Shiori Midorikawa, Claire Barrett and Ana Maria Gergely not far behind. Emily Suzuki sparkled as Raymonda showing nice phrasing along with zest and crispness. She was partnered excellently by her Jean de Brienne, Timothy Dutson, who showed plenty and clean leaps and turns, but who also has the added advantage of actually looking the role; a valuable quality to possess. Suzuki is joining English National Ballet next season while Dutson is off to join Birmingham Royal Ballet; expect to hear more of both.
Also hugely enjoyable was David Bintley’s witty Four Scottish Dances, danced with just the right lightness and sense of fun. Madison Whitely and Jan Špunda showed great sensitivity to each other in the pas de deux, while Thomas Holdsworth and Daniel Myers did a grand job as the kilted drunkards trying to pick up Anna Ciriano Cerdà and Misato Isogami. It was only later that I realised they were all still only 2nd years, which speaks a great deal.
Newly commissioned for the show was Shaker Loops by George Williamson, Associate Artist of English National Ballet, to the John Adams score of the same title. Neoclassical in style, it gave all the 3rd year dancers their own moments in the spotlight, although it struggled to connect with me choreographically, the music and dance not always seeming to gel.
Also new was Lift Me Up by ENB Ballet Master and Repetiteur Antonio Castilla, a bright evening opener for the 1st years set to Shostakovich and Sibelius. Remi Nakano particularly took the eye as one of the two lead women. There was more sunshine from the 1st years later in Olga Semenova’s Jotas de Aragon.
Danced by the 3rd years, Jose Agudo’s powerful Arctic was inspired by Julio Medem’s 1998 film Lovers of the Arctic Circle. An earthy, punchy, contemporary look at Inuit traditions, it was made originally for the London Contemporary Dance School in 2014. At first, two distinct male and female ensembles move around each other. There’s a clear sense of rite that only increases when the men and women come together, the latter held aloft almost like a prize. The final duet, which ends with the apparent death of one of the women is darkly dramatic.
At the 2014 December Showcase, then 1st year Daniel Myers presented Tormented Flux, an impressive solo in which he did indeed seem anguished and caught between opposites. He’s clearly a choreographic talent to watch, because his longer latest work, The Director of Dance’s Commission, Feuillemort is even better. Inspired by the Ted Hughes poem >October Dawn, and to a new piano score by ENB School pianist Meg Morley, it’s a meaningful peek into the nature of relationships and life itself. What is especially impressive is the way Myers pulls a pas de deux, and solos and trios out of the ensemble without pausing for breath. The mix of 2nd and 3rd year dancers did him proud.
The top three in the School’s student choreography competition also got to show their work. The first prize winner, In the Wild by 1st year Josué Moreno Lagarda, is to Springs and Coils by Mike Reed, which is just what the four men seemed like as the leapt and bounced their way through the piece in an exhibition of uninhibited male bravura. Remember what it’s like when you are so excited by a place or new things that you just want to run and yell with boundless energy? That’s exactly the mood of the exuberant Have a Nice Holiday!, choreographed and danced by another 1st year, Yuki NonoKa, who looks one to watch. Another solo, Pablo Luque Romero’s Circumdiction, took third place.
Competition for contracts is very high these days, so it’s good to see an impressive list of graduating student destinations. Apart from Emily Suzuki and Timothy Dutson, others staying in the UK include Isabella Swietlicki, Marco Bozzato, Pablo Luque Romero and Riccardo Rodighiero who are all joining New English Ballet Theatre. Among those heading abroad are Phoebe Liggins (Polish National Ballet), Inés Marroquín (Semperoper Dresden), and Ana Maria Gergely and Hanno Opperman (Estonian National Ballet) with others off to Hungary, Romania, France and Portugal.
David Mead, Seeing Dance