The Royal Ballet School Summer Performance

Royal Opera House, London
July 15, 2023

The Royal Ballet school rounded off their 2023 season with the annual summer performance at the Royal Opera House in a programme of ten pieces with the usual Grand Défilé finale featuring the whole school.

Overall, the modern pieces showcased the dancers’ skill, technique and emotional engagement somewhat better than the classical ones. Noteworthy was Austen McDonald, who performed the opening solo of Mikaela Polley’s all-male work, Fast Blue. Dancing in total silence for several minutes, he commanded the stage with searing emotion and a fluidity of movement, which made him appear both vulnerable and immensely strong.

Austen McDonald and George Edwards in Fast Blue by Mikaela Polley
Photo The Royal Ballet School/ASH

Another exceptional talent is Caspar Lench, who performed Robert Battle’s Takademe, a dramatic solo piece to a vocal accompaniment. Surely, we will hear more of these two young dancers in the years ahead.

Elsewhere, the female leads showcased were all strong, including Taeryeong Kim as Kitri and Milda Luckute as The Queen of the Dryads in the ‘Dream Scene’ from Carlos Acosta’s London production of Don Quixote; and Liya Fan as The Young Girl, with Tom Hazelby, in the pas de deux from Frederick Ashton’s The Two Pigeons. All technically accomplished dancers, needing that finesse that a year or two of professional experience will give.

Taeryeong Kim as Kitri in Don Quixote
Photo The Royal Ballet School/ASH

The younger dancers from White Lodge gave accomplished and charming performances, especially in Hora La Aninoasa, a Romanian folk dance where the work with the ‘sticks’ deserves a medal for performers and teachers alike.

Of the other pieces, Jiri Kylian’s Sechs Tänze and Goyo Montero’s Bold were outstanding and performed at a professional level, while Bournonville’s Konservatoriet was perhaps not a wise choice. Despite the wonderful opening tableau that reproduces a Degas painting, it is hard to reproduce a class, and requires experienced dancers to produce the effect of a class, without it looking like one.

The ensemble finale, the traditional Grand Défilé ‘walk-down,’ was perfect in both its choreography and timing.

Caspar Lench in Takademe
Photo The Royal Ballet School/ASH

Reviewing a school show, even one as prestigious as the Royal Ballet School, is always a trifle daunting. The performers are, after all, children and young people in various stages of training. So, is one commenting on their progression so far, or their teachers’ competence? Perhaps a bit of both.

But plaudits all round, to teachers and dancers, for presenting a very high standard end-of-year performance. As my companion said, “What a wonderful show. What amazingly talented children and young dancers. I could not have enjoyed it more.” And that surely says it all.