Elmhurst’s Summer Syncopations

Elmhurst School for Dance at the Birmingham Rep
July 14, 2016

Phil Preece

The Gala evening of Elmhurst School for Dance, in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet opened with a bang proving that it’s fully part of the Midlands powerhouse of dance, training young people to the highest level of excellence in this exacting medium.

Almost like offering the best course first at a rich banquet the Summer Synchopations show opened with a huge cast of future principals in Royal Ballet genius Kenneth Macmillan’s jaunty and very funny Elite Syncopations filled with jokes about dance in which dexterity mingled with endearing artistry. Set to the bouncy ragtime music of Scott Joplin and others, played by an onstage band appearing by permission of the Birmingham Conservatoire this delightful work was absolutely tailor-made for the young performers, and before our very eyes new stars were being born with every number launching an unforgettable night that spanned a whole range of dance styles.

Paquita (Children's Mazurka), Danced by Years 8 and 9Photo Michelle Nyulassie
Paquita (Children’s Mazurka), danced by Years 8 and 9
Photo Michelle Nyulassie

And this was the biggest surprise, because not only was the expected classical ballet amply displayed by all age groups but also a whole range of other dance disciplines were on show from other dance disciplines were on show from jazz to flamenco, even fusing the latter with Kathak in Origines by Ana Garcia and Sonia Sabri, making it very clear these students follow no narrow curriculum, rather one drawn from a widely inclusive world of dance. The marvellous result was that this was no rarefied exhibition – these fresh dancers are being trained to work, and the evening demonstrated loud and clear that they are young professionals who can tackle any style challenge or dance opportunity that comes there way big time.

Year 10 students in Dance of Deity by Paul James RooneyPhoto Michelle Nyulassie
Year 10 students in Dance of Deity by Paul James Rooney
Photo Michelle Nyulassie

I loved the excursions into modern dance but began to get a little anxious we might be missing out on that pinnacle of all dance, classical ballet. Right on cue the evening’s third section gave us Concerto Allegretto by Gloria Grigolato and Lee Robinson, set to Tchaikovsky’s marvellous Piano Concerto No.2, and featuring a huge cast of highly disciplined Years 12 and 13 students (and it really was hard to remember these were still students), and finally Paquita, music by Minkus, choreography by Petipa performed by graduate students – pure classicism which literally stopped the show. The final Grand Defile of all performers brought a well-deserved storm of applause.

On this showing in the future we shall be seeing these young dancers on prestigious stages again and again.