English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer: A Celebration

Livestreamed from the Mulryan Centre for Dance, London via ENB’s Ballet on Demand
September 9, 2021

This year’s Emerging Dancer was different from previous years. It may have lacked the thrill of a single winner, but it gained by a full measure of the feel-good factor. The performers were all previous award winners, they were mentored by fellow dancers and the producer of the programme was first soloist James Streeter. It was an inhouse event to be proud of and Streeter was bursting with praise and superlatives when he gave thanks to all at the end of the evening.

The pas de deux were nicely contrasted: elegant, romantic, poignant and virtuosic. Aitor Arietta and Julia Conway gave an award-winning performance of Grand Pas Classique. One of the loveliest of the grand pas, it is brutal in revealing any technical weakness. However, Arietta scored with crisp batterie, precision tours and elegant style while Conway was unruffled by the strength marathon of a solo and captivated with the charm of her ports de bras and nuanced musicality.

Julia Conway and Aitor Arrieta in Grand pas Classique
Photo Laurent Liotardo

Last year’s winner, Ivana Bueno, was an enchanting La Sylphide. Her feather-soft feet, effortless jump and teasing charm causedVictor Prigent to succumb instantly. He has yet to master fully the clarity and precision of Bournonville technique but his passion was evident in his leaps and together they brought the doomed love story to life.

Liam Scarlett’s duet from No Man’s Land offered a deep emotional interlude amidst the bright virtuosity. In this duet of loss and remembrance, Alison McWhinney and Junor Souza gave a performance of heart-breaking intensity. Souza as the soldier, returns only in spirit to comfort McWhinney, and the pain etched on her face and in her movement was painfully eloquent. It was a joy to see the work again.

Flames of Paris was the right work with the right couple and Shiori Kase and Daniel McCormick set the stage alight. Kase was cool, unflappable and quite amazing, from the precision placing of her footwork in the skippy solo to her exquisitely timed fouettés. McCormick’s determination to enjoy himself was evident as he marched upstage to launch into his solo. And launch he did. His jumps had jet propelled exuberance and his pirouettes were only curtailed by maestro Gavin Sutherland’s command of the musical beat. I am sure the roars and applause of the small in-house audience were matched by many watching at home.

Georgia Bould, Alice Bellini and Rina Kanehara in Lilith’s Voice by Nikita Goile
Photo Laurent Liotardo

A welcome change came with two new pieces of choreography. Self Tape, was interpreted by Rhys Antoni Yeomans with suitable irony as he moved fluidly through a succession of photo op poses, creating self-images as many dancers did when lockdown barred them from the stage. Choreographer Mlindi Kulashe picked up on a smart contemporary idea and created an entertaining solo.

More sombre was Nikita Goile’s skilfully adaptation of the myths and fantasies that swirl around the ‘first female’ figure in ancient texts. In Lilith’s Voice, Alice Bellini, Georgia Bould and Rina Kanehara find meaning in Goile’s nuanced and finely detailed choreography. The music and setting are solemn as each woman balances her individuality with the need for solidarity. In the darkness, it is their hands and faces that capture the emotions as they overcome distrust to find solace together as three faces of womanhood.

It was truly an evening to celebrate: the traditions of classicism driven forward by innovation, and free to watch on demand.