English National Ballet School Summer Performance

New Wimbledon Theatre, London
July 4, 2019

Maggie Foyer

The English National Ballet School will soon be following the company to their new home at London City Island where they will have enhanced facilities and a performing space. Hopefully this will be their last year at the Wimbledon theatre where the stage is small and does little to show the dancers to good advantage. The programme this year was less than inspiring and the lighting poor, factors that added to a disappointing end of year show. The students however were giving of their best.

The evening opened on a sombre note featuring the first years as the Wilis in Giselle Act ll. The excerpts were choreographed by first year classical tutor, Taina Morales, after the Alicia Alonso version. The dancers were a credit to her in this carefully rehearsed work, performed with attention to detail. The footwork was precise, the arabesque lines clean and the port de bras showing period style though at times were rather too rigid.

Chloe Keneally and Edoardo Pavoni in PaquitaPhoto Emma Kauldhar
Chloe Keneally and Edoardo Pavoni in Paquita
Photo Emma Kauldhar

Beatriz Kuperus as Myrtha gave a confident performance holding her nerve on the opening penchées and leaping boldly on the grand jetés while maintaining a steely countenance. For school performances finding a recording of the music that is the right length and tempo can be a problem but the slowness and more importantly the lack of dramatic intent in this recording did little to support the dancers.

Again, in the final number, excerpts from Paquita, the turgid tempi made this challenging work an uphill struggle. However, Chloe Keneally in the lead, gave a strong performance nailing each difficult step, whizzing through the fouettés and bringing charm to the lyrical diagonal of intertwining ports de bras. She was competently partnered by Edoardo Pavoni who showed an elegant classical line in the solo.

The Pas de Trois featured Chiara Malavasi and Ritsuko Ogino, dancing the female solos with precision and neat pointes. Mario Charlo Sobrino attacked the fiendishly difficult male solo with courage but a brighter tempo would have made all the difference. Paquita also gives the corps opportunities in brief showy variations and the mix of 2nd and 3rd year students demonstrated good use of epaulement in a well-rehearsed ensemble but without the polished finish we have come to expect from ENBS.

Keneally, a finalist in this year’s BBC Young Dancer competition and the only student to gain a contract with English National Ballet, performed Kenneth Tindall’s Solo for C, an adept piece of neo-classical virtuosity that she tossed off with casual ease.  A very worthwhile part of the programme was the student choreography, the quartet My Dear Love by Cai Sesma Pérez, and the three winning solo entries were all given another well-deserved showing (read the full review here).

English National Ballet school students in José Agudo’s A Thousand ShepherdsPhoto Emma Kauldhar
English National Ballet school in José Agudo’s A Thousand Shepherds
Photo Emma Kauldhar

The only contemporary dance piece was José Agudo’s, A Thousand Shepherds, danced by the third years. I was sorry not to have seen more of this style of full-blooded powerful movement as the students, dancing with full commitment, gave a thrilling display. The skilfully structured group dynamics found added intensity in Vincenzo Lamagna’s music in a quality work.

The choreography by director Carlos Valcárcel was less successful in presenting the students to their best advantage. His ballet to Franz Schubert’s Overture to Zauberharfe written for a select group of seven couples from all years was undistinguished. However, in confident partnering and well executed solo work, the dancers showed potential in self-assured performances.

Pas de Garçon with thirty-one male students from across all levels suffered from too many bodies in too little space working to an uninspiring score. The comedy moments needed to be more focused and edited down, the solo tricks, while some were indeed impressive, were often hit and miss, and in the melee the quality suffered. The English National Ballet School are in danger of jeopardising their good reputation unless artistic standards are raised. These hard-working students deserve better.