English National Ballet Emerging Dancer Competition – 2018
London Coliseum 11 June 2018
The 2018 ENB Emerging Dancer Competition finalists were:
Precious Adams, Fernando Carratala Coloma, Giorgio Garrett, Daniel McCormick, Francesca Velicu and Connie Vowles.
DanceTabs interview with the 6 finalists
For the first time, English National Ballet’s competition for its junior members was held in the capacious London Coliseum, where the company has been performing The Sleeping Beauty (6-16 June). Host for the evening was Will Kemp, once a dancer with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, now an actor.
He greeted the theatre audience and those watching the live stream (online for 24 hours) – potentially thousands of viewers, so plenty of pressure on the six finalists. The rationale for the Emerging Dancer event, now in its ninth year, is to give lower ranking dancers the chance to shine. The finalists, selected by their peers, are coached by their colleagues, who are encouraged to develop their own talents as mentors.
There seems to be no definition of an ’emerging’ dancer. They might be recent graduates or newcomers with experience in other companies. Some will already have danced solo roles in ENB’s repertoire while still ranked as First Artists; others are corps de ballet members. Previous winners have become principal dancers, while others have quit the company.
The choice of three classical pas de deux seemed arbitrary. Le Corsaire pas de deux is a gala staple, a show-off number for the male dancer – in this case Daniel McCormick, the eventual winner. He trained at American ballet schools and was a member of Houston Ballet before joining ENB last year. (He danced the role of the Bluebird in the first cast of The Sleeping Beauty.) The other two male contestants had less spectacular roles: Giorgio Garrett in the Bournonville pas de deux from William Tell and Fernando Carratala Coloma in Harlequinade, attributed to Petipa.
Harlequinade is a cutie-pie duet that requires an old-fashioned, very mannered style as well as a virtuoso technique. It wasn’t an obvious choice for Precious Adams, an athletic dancer, though she rose to the challenge. Coloma, with his mop of curls, wooed her fetchingly, skipping and bounding as Harlequin. The William Tell pas de deux has no showy lifts, and Garrett isn’t a natural Bournonville dancer. He was outshone by Connie Vowles, who is. A graduate of the Royal Ballet School (2016), she has the ballon and the neat footwork for the girl’s role, as well as a deceptively modest charm.
Garrett fared better in his conflicted clown solo, Fraudulent Smile, choreographed by Ross Freddie Ray of the Romanian National Ballet. Garrett could lose himself behind the white painted mask, becoming a vivid character. Were the solos intended to reveal different aspects of the performers’ personalities and range of skills? If so, Adams should have won the Emerging Dancer prize. Her solo, Point of Collapse, choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November of Ballet Black, was defiantly unballetic (unlike some of the others). She was stricken by unbearable emotions, her physicality earthy and powerful – a transformation from her Columbine role in Harlequinade.
Vowles was less impressive in a solo by Charlotte Edmonds, Be all/End all to Carl Orff excerpts. It looked more like a recital piece for a student than a test of Vowles’s abilities. Francesca Velicu was well served by her solo, Toccata, to quirky piano music by Romanian composer Paul Constantinescu. It was choreographed by Nancy Osbaldeston, who won the Emerging Dancer prize in 2013 and is now a principal with the Royal Ballet of Flanders – and a promising choreographer. Velicu’s response to the music appeared to be spontaneous, impelled by sudden ideas, flickering through the whole of her body.
Coloma was let down by an incomprehensible number involving a telephone call, and McCormick had an easy ride with Leatherwing Bat, a slight piece by experienced choreographer Trey McIntyre.
The judges, Tamara Rojo, Julio Bocca, Lauren Cuthbertson, Johan Kobborg and Kerry Nicholls, withdrew to consider their verdicts. Georgia Bould, last year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award, danced the Sylph’s solo from Bournonville’s La Sylphide. She was presented with the Corps de Ballet Award for most helpful team player. This year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award, voted for by audience members, was Alice Bellini, still in the corps.
Last year’s joint winners of the main award, Aitor Arrieta and Rina Kanehara, danced the Grand Pas de Deux from The Sleeping Beauty, proving that they have emerged as polished performers, worthy of leading roles. Arrieta made his debut as Prince Desiré during the Coliseum run of ENB’s Beauty; Kanehara shone in solo roles and must surely be set to dance Aurora soon. Their performance provided good publicity for ENB’s current season, which is what the awards competition is partly about, as well as ‘celebrating tomorrow’s stars’. I gather that the live stream needs radical improvement if it is to continue to feature as global exposure for the event.