English National Ballet School
Summer Performance 2017: Pas de Danse, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Apres une lecture de danse, My First Cinderella pdd, The Carnival of Venice from Satanella, The Matter of Time, Two Movements in C, afFront, The Whisper and others
London, New Wimbledon Theatre
8 July 2017
This year’s summer performance by English National Ballet School marked the departure of Samira Saidi as Director of Dance after five years in the post. Among her achievements she has overseen a choreographic programme for the students, involving them in an annual competition and in contributing to the works she has commissioned for the end-of-year show. The lively results were evident in the varied contributions to the 2017 programme, featuring students from all three years of the school’s training system.
The opening piece, Two Movements in C, by teacher and choreographer Juan Eymar, united them all in a neo-classical mini-ballet to movements from Bizet’s Symphony in C – familiar from Balanchine’s full-length ballet to the same music. Eymar avoided overt references to Balanchine, keeping his corps of colour-coded youngsters intermingled with four third year couples and a central pas de deux pair, Anna Ciriano Cerdà and Daniel Myers.
Then followed three prize-winning entrants from the choreographic competition in May. I was most taken by the 2nd place winner, James Lachlan Murray’s afFront. His was a duet – or rather a duel – between two men in long skirts, Thomas Holdsworth and Daniel Myers. They confronted each other, interlocking like stags or Argentinian tango dancers, swapping roles between aggressor and defender.
Before the interval came two commissions: The Whisper, by Daniela Cardim for 2nd years, and Short Ride in a Fast Machine by Morgann Runacre-Temple for 3rd years. Cardim’s Whisper featured a troubled young man, Andrea Marcelletti, challenged by two very different girls, Ana Ramos and her rival, Jeong Eun Park. A corps of 17 commented on the man’s dilemma, which turned out to be a dream – or nightmare: ingenious but confusing.
Short Ride in a Fast Machine, to John Adams’s music of the same name, was Runacre-Temple’s development of the solo she created for Rhys Antoni Yeomans when he was a finalist in this year’s BBC Young Dancer competition. Television viewers will have seen her pushing Yeomans out of his comfort zone in expressive contemporary choreography. In the extended piece for 12 dancers, his solo came towards the end, to another composition by Adams, The Chairman Dances. This time, Yeomans was in supreme command of the choreography, accompanied on his journey by a frieze of dancers progressing across the stage from (audience) left to right.
The cast had devised repeated phrases of movement through set tasks, following the music’s cumulative structure. Their continuous path across the back was hypnotic, as they rejoined in a chain of linked hands. Couples who broke away were reabsorbed, until by the finale the stage filled with surging energy. This is an original creation well worth preserving for future performances.
The highlight of the second half of the programme was Mats Ek’s Pas de Danse, staged by his assistant, Pompea Santoro. What starts out as a duet for a conflicted man and woman, Olivia Caughey and Daniel Myers, becomes a quartet as they are joined by a seemingly happier couple, Anna-Babette Winkler and Thomas Holdsworth. They swap partners to Swedish folk music (by Benny Andersson of Abba fame), striding, galumphing and hanging on to each other’s body parts. Ek’s exaggerated folk-based movements are comically earthy, and the piece ends when Myers sneezes loudly into his handkerchief, deserted by the others.
The rest of the programme included a Tarantella by character dance teacher Olga Semenova and a revival of Stina Quagebeur’s light-hearted suite of duets, Après une lecture de danse, both for 1st years. George Williamson contributed the final pas de deux from his account of My First Cinderella, charmingly danced by Maria del Mar Bonet Sans and Riku Yamamoto.
3rd year students collaborated with Neil Fleming Brown (formerly with Random Dance) for The Matter of Time. They came up with contemporary ballet’s abusive partnering, convulsions and stompings off, to rackety electronic music. Mercifully brief, it prepared the graduates for the distortions of some modern choreography.
They still looked like students in the showpiece extract from Satanella, a long-lost Petipa ballet. Only a divertissement known as The Carnival of Venice survives, to music by Cesare Pugni. A central pas de deux couple (Julia Baro Claveria and Jan Spunda on Saturday night) is supported by four other couples in demanding classical choreography. No doubt tired on a very hot last night, the dancers looked overstretched. Spunda was the exception, partnering manfully and leaping buoyantly. He has a delightful stage presence, which should serve him well when he joins the Bavarian State Ballet.
The graduates disperse all over Europe, with only Yeomans becoming a member of English National Ballet (others have part time contracts with ENB). Thomas Holdsworth joins Northern Ballet and Alexander Hallas is taken into NB’s graduate course.