June 11, 2018
It was Daniel McCormick who romped away with this year’s English National Ballet Emerging Dancer Award with a thrilling display in the Le Corsaire pas de deux and a quirky solo. Judging from the audience reaction at the Coliseum, he was a popular winner in the competition also live-streamed across the world.
Each of the six dancers, three men and three women dance a classical pas de deux and a solo with a more contemporary feel. In the pas de deux, McCormick, who is thrilling in the Bluebird pas de deux in the present run of Kenneth MacMillan’s The Sleeping Beauty made it very clear from the off that he was going to put himself out there, that it was all or nothing. He achieved some prodigious height on his leaps and turns to swoon over. Yes, there was a slip at one point, but it was well recovered. Partner and fellow competitor Francesca Velicu was not to be outdone, with and excellent set of fouettés.
McCormick’s contemporary solo from Leatherwing Bat by Trey McIntyre, danced to the wistful and just a little bit quirky ‘Boa Constrictor and Leatherwing Bat’ by Peter, Paul and Mary, also suited him down to the ground. The choreography takes ballet steps and shapes and just loosens them a touch, giving the dance a really fluid feel.
On winning, a clearly surprised but thrilled McCormick said, “Winning this award was completely unexpected, my colleagues on stage with me tonight are so immensely talented. It’s a dream to perform on the stage of the London Coliseum, a place with such history and beauty, and it’s an honour to come to London and perform for this fantastic audience. I’m now ready to work harder than ever to prove why I won this prize.”
Not that it was an easy decision for the judging panel of ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo, Julio Bocca, Lauren Cuthbertson, Johan Kobborg and Kerry Nicholls. The other finalists, Precious Adams, Fernando Carratalá Coloma, Francesca Velicu, Connie Vowles and Giorgio Garrett certainly gave McCormick a run for his money. Indeed, announcing the winner,Rojo paid tribute to the extraordinary standard seen through the evening.
The other pas de deux gave less chance for fireworks. Adams was paired with Coloma in Petipa’s Harliquinade in a dance that calls for a lot of mime to communicate the awkwardness of Harlequin in his chase for the coquettish Columbine. Despite the couple’s best efforts, it just doesn’t work well out of context. Meanwhile, Vowles and Garrett danced Bournonville’s flirtacious and folksy William Tell pas de deux, in which she showed plenty of neat batterie and ballon.
If the competition had been decided on the contemporary solos alone, the winner would surely have been Adams. She was outstanding in A Point of Collapse by Ballet Black’s Mthuthuzeli November, who also composed the music. A truly deeply felt affair about a woman wracked with anguish, there is much fluttering of hands and holding of the face. One really felt everything was coming from deep inside as Adams really did work herself to the point of collapse.
Elsewhere, Connie Vowles was as strong and focused as the music from Carmina Burana demands in the new Be all / End all by Charlotte Edmonds. Most unusual was Giorgio Garrett in Fraudulent Smile by Ross Freddie Ray, an interesting short, superficially comedic but with a darker undercurrent.
While waiting for the judges’ decision, the audience were treated to appearances by last year’s Audience Award winner, Georgia Bould, in an extract from La Sylphide, before 2017’s Emerging Dancer joint winners Rina Kanehara and Aitor Arrieta gave an exciting rendition of the Act III pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty. Given Kanehara’s outstanding performance as Fairy of the Golden Vine and Princess Florine in the Bluebird pas de deux (with McCormick) the previous week, hopefully it will not be too long before we see her as Aurora.
The evening also saw Georgia Bould named as the recipient of the Corps de Ballet Award, awarded by the company’s artistic staff and that acknowledges her exceptional work over the last year, while Alice Bellini (who was quite literally lost for words) was awarded the People’s Choice Award, as voted for through the season by members of the public.