“Super – absolutely spot on” I thought when Tamara Rojo announced Alison McWhinney and Junor Souza as joint winners of the company’s Emerging Dancer Competition. In its fifth year I’ve seen the competition grow from a very small event held in ENB’s Jay mews studios, before a specially invited audience, to sell out at the Lyceum – 2,100 seats and still not big enough, it seems.
Going into the competition I think there was a healthy amount of money on Junor Souza to win and McWhinney looked flabbergasted having been nominated last year and then losing out. In the event a joint win had almost been heralded with Souza and McWhinney dancing Esmeralda together in the pas de deux section of the evening. There have never been joint winners before.
I’m really pleased because I have noticed them both whenever I see ENB – Souza for his big, bold, charismatic dancing and McWhinney for fine filigree in all she does, built on foundations of steel. The wider public knows its stuff of course and Junor Souza also won the People’s Choice Award. Huge congrats to both him and Alison McWhinney – worthy winners.
I’d love to tell you about all the dancing in the competition but I can’t – West London ground to a halt last night with roads totally closed off following a big accident and I arrived 50 minutes after the start. I saw some of the solos, with a general penchant for surprising dramatic works, but actually it’s very hard to draw people into your theatrical orbit in just 2 minutes. I liked the video talking heads where each nominee talks about what dancing means to them. Beautifully shot, by company dancer Laurent Liotardo, but sadly their heads were lost from view in some parts of the theatre. But all could see the dancing and later the wonderful judges’ arrival on stage. It’s very ‘ballet’ in approach with huge respect for those with knowledge gained over a lifetime. Take out Deborah Bull and Tamara Rojo and the average age of of the others – Clement Crisp, Dame Gillian Lynne, Arlene Philips and Wayne Sleep – must be at least 75, and yet they are all playfully idiosyncratic stage magnets. And very, very, wise.
Just prior to the results being announced last year’s winners, Nancy Osbaldeston and Laurretta Summerscales, did some short party pieces, Nancy in her own dramatic solo to some recent ‘pop music’ as Clement Crisp might refer to it. She will be missed as she leaves to join The Royal Ballet of Flanders this summer. Summerscales put her long look to good work in the Manon bedroom pdd, partnered by James Forbat. A reminder that ENB ought to bring Manon back.
To the 4 nominees who did not win this year I say, your time will come and to be nominated is a wonderful and distinctive thing. Talbot Hughes McKillop are also to be much congratulated for funding the competition. In it from the start, they have helped create a terrific annual event that shines such a positive light on ballet and its rising stars.
The full list of nominees:
Joan Sebastian Zamora