Ballet Nights 004

Lanterns Studio Theatre, London
February 23, 2024

Ballet Nights 004 was another evening of dance diversity: the stars shone brightly and the mystery guest made a dynamic appearance. The highlight was the closing number, Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke dancing the balcony pas de deux from MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. On the vast empty expanse of stage, they created the scented evening air of a Verona garden, suffused with the passion and vulnerability of youth. They lived and loved every moment, every lift and every photo perfect pose. Both are experienced in the roles, and this was the first time they had danced the duet together, but they felt the music and movement as one. And Naghdi surely has the most exquisite runs on pointe!

Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke in Spring Waters pas de deux
Photo Deborah Jaffe

As a warm-up, the couple danced Asaf Messerer’s Spring Waters pas de Deux taking the duet in the spirit of a test of virtuosic courage which they passed with flying colours in a breathtaking display.

Chloe Keneally provided a further two classical items. Her ‘Aurora Act 3 solo’ from The Sleeping Beauty, with playful arms and easy charm plus neat, musically defined, footwork was a delight. Her other choice, the étoile solo from Paquita, was the first dance number of the evening when she seemed a little nervous and less confident. She accomplished the fiendishly difficult steps but still needs to develop the ballerina authority and hauteur to fully nail it.

Chloe Keneally in Paquita at Ballet Nights 004
Photo Deborah Jaffe

There were three contemporary works in the first half. Watson & Woodvine, a duet from Cydney Watson and Liam Woodvine, commissioned and developed by Jamiel Laurence, the artistic director and compere of the evening, was performed with commitment and received an enthusiastic response from the audience. There was a lot of close contact and the partnering would have benefitted from more rehearsal to lift it from a work in progress. I hope they get the chance to work further on it.

And So the Rhythm Goes, was given a strong performance by the choreographer, Jordan James Bridge. His agility and innovation of movement make him an exhilarating dancer to watch, while a clearer context would have given more intention but, notwithstanding, the solo built to a punchy close.  

Laurel Dalley Smith performing ‘Laurel’ from Seven Portraits by Sir Robert Cohan
at Ballet Nights 004
Photo Deborah Jaffe

It was Laurel Dalley Smith in a powerful entrance, barefooted in a black slip, that fully grabbed attention. Her solo, ‘Laurel’, from Robert Cohan’s Seven Portraits captured her feral grace in a performance that was earthy and honest, catching the nuances in the phrasing of this finely constructed work. The background of forest sounds completed the picture transforming the theatre into a living space.

Felicity Chadwick in 324a by Joshua Junker with Viktor Erik Emanuel on piano
Photo Deborah Jaffe

Also memorable was Joshua Junker’s, 324a. The extraordinary title comes from his house address during Covid lockdown, and the work is a soliloquy sensitively performed by Felicity Chadwick to music by J.S. Bach. Her fluid movement, whether standing or melting to the floor flowed naturally, making the end an expectant pause, a moment in time, rather than a closing statement. Viktor Erik Emanuel accompanied Chadwick on the grand piano. He also opened each half of the programme, first with Maurice Ravel’s invigorating Miroirs lV, followed by Abegg Variations from Robert Schumann. Hopefully future programmes can make even more use of his dynamic interpretations.

Nerve Wire by Pett|Clausen-Knight (James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight) to a score by Sean Pett (James’ brother) showed skilful partnering and dynamic structure. A simple set of upright neon batons across the back of the stage rang the changes in light and colours. Suitably titled, the movement was fierce, the emotion building to tense stand-off in red light as the lights flickered and were extinguished one by one as the dancers made their exit.

Pett|Clausen-Knight in Nerve Wire
Photo Deborah Jaffe

The mystery guest, Guy Salim, added a new element with tapping feet that had the velocity of a machine gun. Creating his own rhythm, full of variety and clever invention, he gave a brilliant performance. It made a lively addition to an interesting evening.