Holloway Studio, London City Island (live online)
September 22, 2020.
The 2020 Emerging Dancer Awards streamed from the English National Ballet’s impressive new headquarters on London City Island, showed us the ‘new normal’ and it was a treat. There was an audience, seated at socially distanced tables, there was an orchestra, led by maestro Gavin Sutherland, generously spaced one floor above and, most importantly, half a dozen young dancers just so happy to be back on stage. Ore Oduba was the friendly host, presenting the show and conducting the interviews with warmth, though the masked judges, standing stiffly apart, looked distinctly ominous. Perhaps clear plastic visors that allowed us to see smiling faces would have been a happier choice? However, they were a distinguished cohort, led by ENB director Tamara Rojo and including Edward Watson and Natalia Osipova from The Royal Ballet
The three classical pas de deux were followed by three newly choreographed contemporary duets. Duets rather than solos is welcome, particularly in the new works. It gives the dancers time to develop their partnership, tell their story and present their artistry in a stimulating range of works.
From a hugely talented line-up, the Emerging Dancer Award went to Mexican, Ivana Bueno who danced with total joy. She was partnered by William Yamada first in Petipa’s Talisman, a distinctive pas de deux that offers good opportunities for both dancers. Bueno gave an outstanding performance, giving each phrase full musical value, embroidered with exquisite port de bras. She has ballerina grace and elegance but can equally toss off a series of intricate fouettés or dive into a passionate embrace, always well supported by Yamada.
Their second duet, FULL-ON choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November is a cracker. It gave the dancers a total makeover, thrashed out in exuberant one-upmanship. The air crackled with static electricity as the pair, totally immersed in their game, never missed a trick.
Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent offered Satanella, a lighthearted, frothy duet with its share of virtuosity. The polished delivery was enhanced by the easy repartee between the two with Prigent showing the charm that won him the People’s Choice Award, as voted for by the live audience watching from around the world.
Their contemporary duet, Hollow, from ENB first artist and associate choreographer Stina Quagebeur was another winner, offering the dancers the opportunity to draw out the subtext in a troubled relationship. It’s a sombre work, intense and unrelenting and no easy task to present in a competitive environment.
Diana and Actaeon, danced by Carolyne Galvao and Miguel Angel Maidana, lit the fuse to set the stage alight. Maidana showed the most impressive jumps of the evening while Galvao’s turns and balances were spectacular. Their contemporary duo, Both of Two, choreographed by ENB lead principal Jeffrey Cirio, is a well-crafted work of abstract movement, enhanced by effective lighting and proved a thought-provoking alternative.
There were treats on offer from last year’s winners. Julia Conway jumped all the hurdles in the flashy La Esmeralda solo while Rhys Antoni Yeomans, scored with a witty creation, Mañana Iguana, by Arielle Smith. I think we’re going to see a lot of this brilliant solo as it’s perfect gala material and Yeomans gave a show stopping performance.
It was a heart-warming evening, a company achievement with kudos to producer, James Streeter and the dedicated mentors not forgetting that very important addition the Corps de Ballet Award this year given to Claire Barrett.