Encore Dance Company
Tour 2015 including De Pärt Ed, Intermezzo, Don Quixote pdd, Testament, Untouchable Void
London, Lilian Baylis Studio
8 May 2015
High spirits saturated this programme from Encore Dance, the graduate company of Tring Park School for the Performing Arts. The young dancers – all in their final year of Tring’s sixth form dance course – performed a varied and entertaining showcase of their year’s work, and the audience greeted their efforts with a lot of enthusiasm, myself included.
The programme reflected Tring’s comprehensive curriculum: among its dozen-odd pieces were ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary and commercial numbers, and even a bit of live singing. It was good fun to watch the dancers try on all these different styles, morphing from waltzing ballerinas to sashaying jazz sirens, though in my opinion this particular class shines brighter in the former sphere than in the latter. Between pieces were snippets of video documenting the troupe’s rehearsals with Royal Ballet alumnus Antony Dowson, who took up the role of company director last year and emerged on screen as a caring and competent figurehead for the troupe.
I found the overall standard of technique on display patchier than I expected, given the high regard surrounding Tring’s training. There were many demonstrations of technical proficiency to be sure, but a not inconsiderable amount of coarse renderings too, and not just of the more trying steps. In general the women outshone the men, though the best turns of the evening belonged to Paris Fitzpatrick, whose fetching composure recently won him a spot as a finalist in BBC’s Young Dancer 2015 competition. Other stand-out performers include Nicole Alphonce, Lois Wong, Erin Flaherty and Kana Takahashi – all cast with noticeable prominence across the programme, despite the group having no delineated hierarchy.
Alphonce was particularly gripping in Dowson’s “De Pärt Ed,” a contemporary duet she performed with João Carolino; she handled the complicated partnerwork with mesmeric poise, cutting a lithe figure against his sturdy one. Flaherty and Takahashi excelled in Dowson’s balletic “Intermezzo,” each neatly tackling the tricky twist- and-turn-flecked phrasing, while Wong and Fitzpatrick shone in the grand pas de deux from act three of Don Quixote, staged here by English National Ballet star Erina Takahashi. Wong’s piques were sharps and her arabesques crisp, and Fitzpatrick busted out more than one faultless quadruple pirouette. As far as full company performances go, Jodie Blemings’ modern “Testament” was a highlight: here the group did a commendable job of harnessing the techno soundtrack’s erratic tempo.
Aside from the Don Q variation, all of the works shown were created for this programme. In my opinion the ballet and contemporary choreography on show was far more dynamic than the jazz and commercial numbers, which felt dated and tediously derivative. Dowson debuted some of the evening’s best work, despite a few pieces being weighed down by distracting add-ons like props and videography: his “Intermezzo” was full of pretty, interesting tableaux, and the partnerwork he devised for “De Pärt Ed’ was creative, sophisticated and intimate. ENB’s James Streeter also deserves a mention for his crafty floorwork and compelling incorporation of body contractions in “Untouchable Void.”
And then there was the dancers’ self-choreographed opening number, which actually summed up the show as a whole pretty well: it was unfailingly chirpy, highlighted all manner of different dance styles and, despite its inconsistencies, left us keen to see more.