Graduate Showcase at Elmhurst Studio Theatre
February 9, 2018
I’m told the graduating students chose and planned the programme for this showcase themselves. If so, these young dance professionals show a rare prescience in knowing exactly how to stimulate and delight their audience. with a masterclass of taste and style. But better still, the programme was perfect in targeting exactly each dancer’s distinct talents. Come on, let’s face it, they’ve got talent and been brilliantly taught. What’s not to like?
Of course this programme of their own devising wasn’t just a display of excellence for its own sake. Rather it was a shop window for these accomplished young dancers leaving behind Elmhurst’s careful nurturing to go it alone in the big wide world; in other words push has come to shove as it must do for all young graduates everywhere. And by the look of the expertise, charm and style on offer I’d say these newly-fledged professionals should no have trouble at all finding their place in the dance world internationally. Their beautifully chosen and wide-ranging showcase opened up a magic box of rare delight.
It wasn’t just tutus. The programme on offer here glimpses into the world of classical ballet certainly, but also a fair number of opportunities for these graduates to shine in contemporary dance. A perfect example of this, Kianna Stephens’ punchy Onomatopoeia opened the first half with a full complement of dancers to a beat-driven electronic score by Ta-Ku. The contemporary was further mined next by Kiana Stephens in her own feisty and introspective piece Time Is Thin to an Amy Winehouse-sounding track by Ta-Ku.
But it’s interesting that even in a show case of this kind, no matter how much programmers may try include to a range of dance disciplines, for a convincing clincher in terms of training, they have to fall back on the great nineteenth-century ballets with choreography generally by or ‘after’ Petipa and with music by composers such as Adam and Tchaikovsky.
Right on cue any classical ballet lover would have been delighted by Brittany Green, Janice Felices and Georgia Smart in the Le Corsaire pas de trois. Then we saw Niamh Robinson and Harvey Evans in the pas de deux from the same ballet already looking like established stars, serenely making the impossible look effortlessly easy to prolonged applause.
Hard to follow, but we were next presented with the stunning technique of future stars Serina Faull and Joey Taylor, the latter’s elevation particularly spectacular, in Petipa’s famous Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty. To follow, Tokiko Sasao gave a rare display of voluptuous and impossible-looking steps en pointe in the étoile female variation from Paquita. To close the first half, Who I Really, a vigorously sexy disco romp, gave prominence to the same graduate squad but allowed Joey Taylor’s star quality to shine through his sheer stage presence and technique.
The second half opened explosively with Lin Parker and Joey Taylor effortlessly demonstrating the almost inhuman degree of expertise needed to fully master the Nutcracker pas de deux, followed spectacularly by Janice Felices with the Act One variation from Don Quixote.
Honor Mackie followed this by producing gasps at the aerial delights of her Tchaikovsky pas de deux female variation after which a modern ensemble piece, Morfar, allowed the whole company to shine as one. Next jay Ungar’s score Ashokan Farewell gave Serina Faull the opportunity to shine followed by Orla Baxendale in the sublime X.
But for me the evening reached a new peak with the astonishing Yuzu Hikosaka and Reo Morikawa in Petipa’s sublime Don Quixote pas de deux. Their seemingly effortless performance of these almost impossible steps to audience shouts of delight made it clear they could step onto any stage world world-wide and star right away.
Next, Rebecca Hudson gave us Brogan McKelvey’s Vivere set to Max Richter’s Spring 2, interestingly re-composed from Vivaldi, her elegant expertise received with rapturous applause. The evening’s final offering of the whole graduate year in Britten’s Concerto Toccato to Brogan McKelvey’s choreography brought shouts (and a few tears I suspect) at the brilliance of the young performers on display. Bravo!
As they set off to start their careers in the bigger world I’m sure there wasn’t a single person present not willing them all the best the future has to offer. A marvellous farewell to Elmhurst for these students, and a wonderful hello to the world.