English National Ballet School’s young choreographers show impressive skills

English National Ballet School, Choreographic Competition 2017
May 17, 2017

Maggie Foyer

Watching art in embryonic form is always interesting and when it is created and performed with commitment by talented young dancers, it becomes really exciting. So it was at this year’s choreographic competition in the studio theatre at the ENBS.

On show were the thirteen works that had made it through the preliminaries danced and choreographed by students, nine women and eight men, from all three years of study. As judges Kerry Nicholls and Wayne Sleep mentioned, none of the works were without merit but they were unanimous in their choice of winner: Luke Watson, (3rd year) who wrote Cry for Man a perceptive piece for six men that explored the vulnerability lurking within masculine power. James Lachlan Murray, (3rd  year) winner of the second prize, in addition to the audience prize, chose a similar theme for his duet, afFront, danced by Watson and Daniel Myers. In a bold and physical piece of choreography, he looked at society’s perception of masculinity and how it can create conflict. What a treat to see relevant, contemporary ideas effectively rendered in dance.

Myers, also in the 3rd year, was responsible for Fleeting Desires that gained third prize. Danced by Jan Špunda, Madison Whitely and Anna-Babette Winkler it was a playful ode to youth expressed in pleasingly liberated bodies. This was ballet let out of the box in free-flowing movement and impressively informal pointework.

From the 2nd year, Molly Hall and Conner Jordan-Collins got a special mention for Outcasts. Danced by the pair, it was a brave attempt to express the difficult and important theme of those rejected by society through an interesting exploration of movement. Luigi Cifone in the 1st year also gained a mention for his very intense solo, Dear me…

In the ballet world, which until quite recently had a strong female bias, it is exciting to see so many male dancers coming to the fore and a display of powerful male dance as in Murray’s afFront, is impressive. As Nicholls said, ‘what’s not to like?’ However, it was disappointing that women were not better represented in the choreographic winner’s line-up. I found Rebecca Mabin’s work, The flood came to wash away, an interesting exploration of big ideas. Quirky and quizzical, it needed greater cohesion but remained stimulating.

Interestingly, I found the best use of pointework came from Myers – is it easier to explore a technique when you are not schooled in it? Pointework can feel restrictive and Beatriz Kuperus opted for bare feet for her Flash of Rememberance, a gentle, lovely work somewhat overwhelmed by Rachmaninov’s music. Jade Longley’s Crux showed interesting choreography and structure but struggled somewhat to interpret the relationships between the sexes. No doubt gender politics will continue to raise questions but watching the dedication and talent on stage it is easy to feel positive about the future of dance. Director of Dance, Samira Saidi, said this was her favourite event of the year and it’s easy to see why.

The three winning pieces will all be danced as part of the School’s Summer Performance 2017 at the New Wimbledon Theatre in July.