New talent shines: English National Ballet School

New Wimbledon Theatre
July 1, 2016

David Mead

The summer round of ballet school performances always provides a little glimpse into the future. On the basis of the first of the season, the English National Ballet School’s show at the New Wimbledon Theatre, that future is bright.

The talented young dancers showcased their considerable talents in a varied and enjoyable evening of classical and contemporary works that climaxed with Rudolf Nureyev’s adaption of Petipa’s Raymonda Act III, the Grand Pas Classique. It’s a challenging examination of classical technique that leaves nowhere to hide. Not that the 3rd year students needed it. The men were excellent in their pas de quatre. Pick of the female variations was Phoebe Liggins, so delicate in the first, but it was a close run thing with Shiori Midorikawa, Claire Barrett and Ana Maria Gergely not far behind. Emily Suzuki sparkled as Raymonda showing nice phrasing along with zest and crispness. She was partnered excellently by her Jean de Brienne, Timothy Dutson, who showed plenty and clean leaps and turns, but who also has the added advantage of actually looking the role; a valuable quality to possess. Suzuki is joining English National Ballet next season while Dutson is off to join Birmingham Royal Ballet; expect to hear more of both.

Inés Marroquín with Timothy Dutson in Raymonda Act III, Grand Pas ClassiquePhoto Tim Cross
Inés Marroquín with Timothy Dutson in
Raymonda Act III, Grand Pas Classique
Photo Tim Cross

Also hugely enjoyable was David Bintley’s witty Four Scottish Dances, danced with just the right lightness and sense of fun. Madison Whitely and Jan Špunda showed great sensitivity to each other in the pas de deux, while Thomas Holdsworth and Daniel Myers did a grand job as the kilted drunkards trying to pick up Anna Ciriano Cerdà and Misato Isogami. It was only later that I realised they were all still only 2nd years, which speaks a great deal.

Newly commissioned for the show was Shaker Loops by George Williamson, Associate Artist of English National Ballet, to the John Adams score of the same title. Neoclassical in style, it gave all the 3rd year dancers their own moments in the spotlight, although it struggled to connect with me choreographically, the music and dance not always seeming to gel.

Also new was Lift Me Up by ENB Ballet Master and Repetiteur Antonio Castilla, a bright evening opener for the 1st years set to Shostakovich and Sibelius. Remi Nakano particularly took the eye as one of the two lead women. There was more sunshine from the 1st years later in Olga Semenova’s Jotas de Aragon.

Hanno Opperman and Claire Barrett in Arctic by Jose AgudoPhoto Tim Cross
Hanno Opperman and Claire Barrett in Arctic by Jose Agudo
Photo Tim Cross

Danced by the 3rd years, Jose Agudo’s powerful Arctic was inspired by Julio Medem’s 1998 film Lovers of the Arctic Circle. An earthy, punchy, contemporary look at Inuit traditions, it was made originally for the London Contemporary Dance School in 2014. At first, two distinct male and female ensembles move around each other. There’s a clear sense of rite that only increases when the men and women come together, the latter held aloft almost like a prize. The final duet, which ends with the apparent death of one of the women is darkly dramatic.

At the 2014 December Showcase, then 1st year Daniel Myers presented Tormented Flux, an impressive solo in which he did indeed seem anguished and caught between opposites. He’s clearly a choreographic talent to watch, because his longer latest work, The Director of Dance’s Commission, Feuillemort is even better. Inspired by the Ted Hughes poem October Dawn, and to a new piano score by ENB School pianist Meg Morley, it’s a meaningful peek into the nature of relationships and life itself. What is especially impressive is the way Myers pulls a pas de deux, and solos and trios out of the ensemble without pausing for breath. The mix of 2nd and 3rd year dancers did him proud.

Pablo Luque Romero's CircumdictionPhoto Tim Cross
Pablo Luque Romero’s Circumdiction
Photo Tim Cross

The top three in the School’s student choreography competition also got to show their work. The first prize winner, In the Wild by 1st year Josué Moreno Lagarda, is to Springs and Coils by Mike Reed, which is just what the four men seemed like as the leapt and bounced their way through the piece in an exhibition of uninhibited male bravura. Remember what it’s like when you are so excited by a place or new things that you just want to run and yell with boundless energy? That’s exactly the mood of the exuberant Have a Nice Holiday!, choreographed and danced by another 1st year, Yuki NonoKa, who looks one to watch. Another solo, Pablo Luque Romero’s Circumdiction, took third place.

Competition for contracts is very high these days, so it’s good to see an impressive list of graduating student destinations. Apart from Emily Suzuki and Timothy Dutson, others staying in the UK include Isabella Swietlicki, Marco Bozzato, Pablo Luque Romero and Riccardo Rodighiero who are all joining New English Ballet Theatre. Among those heading abroad are Phoebe Liggins (Polish National Ballet), Inés Marroquín (Semperoper Dresden), and Ana Maria Gergely and Hanno Opperman (Estonian National Ballet) with others off to Hungary, Romania, France and Portugal.