Sadler’s Wells, London
May 15, 2022
Unite for Ukraine was an evening of goodwill and youthful enthusiasm bringing together six of Britain’s top dance schools to show support for Ukraine. It was the first time that students from Central School of Ballet, Elmhurst Ballet School, English National Ballet School, Northern Ballet School, Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and The Royal Ballet School have shared a platform. Sharing facilities and studios with students from other schools who share their passion for dance was a huge bonus and for the viewing public it was an impressive show of the talent in waiting.
The variety was stimulating. The larger works ranged from Rambert School’s Being choreographed by Darren Ellis, to Central School’s Bolero by Sherrill Wexler, to the Royal Ballet School’s ‘Pas de Douze’ from Act One of Swan Lake. The latter was beautifully danced, costumed and rehearsed by an outstanding Royal Ballet School dozen.
Being is a work contemporary in style and theme with a hint of Hofesh Shechter in the driving score, smoke filled stage and fiercely insistent repetition. It nevertheless has space for individual expression which the young dancers eagerly grabbed.
Bolero to Ravel’s eponymous score introduced flamenco in heeled shoes and ruffled skirts in red and black. It was delivered with style and flair, the choreography skilfully crafted to build with the music and ring the changes.
Most impressive were the two solos performed by student choreographers. Fremd (German for ‘foreign’ or ‘outsider’) by Jack Easton from the Royal Ballet School was intelligently structured with smartly paced dynamics in a dance language absolutely of now. A powerful dancer, he punctuated the text in moves that punched home with the shock of an electric short circuit. Easton is certainly a name to watch as is Lana Klemen from the English National Ballet School who used her gymnastic training to surprise and delight. Dead Game of Time was amusing, sassy and totally engaging.
Two classical solos from the Royal Ballet School looked Prix de Lausanne ready. Takumi Miyake soared through Franz’s variation from Coppélia, displaying cut-glass batterie, a fine classical line and oodles of charm. Tall and elegant, Milda Luckute, dancing the Bridesmaid Solo from Don Quixote, was absolutely secure in every technical detail and so confident that it all looked as easy as a walk in the park.
A mention also for Kaho Masumoto (English National Ballet School) and her totally assured rendition of Aurora’s Act Three solo from The Sleeping Beauty. She played with the tempo, daring to hold a retire to the limit and then quickly catching up. She was partnered in the Pas de Deux by Josh Fisk, not yet quite at ease in the princely role, he courageously succeeded in all three fish dives in that tricky diagonal.
Other highlights were Andrew McNicol’s stylish Grace & Gravity. A classy neo-classical work with distinctive port de bras, it was given a spirited performance by the large cast of English National Ballet School students.
The Northern Ballet School had a good showing in Mantle choreographed by Ryan Upton. Dressed in sharp athletic styled gear, it is contemporary with ballet influences. The style, notably the floorwork, was dynamic and the dancers revelled in the opportunities offered.
Quieter and deeper was Peter Leung’s Being for Elmhurst Ballet School, intricately structured, with twelve dancers working in close harmony in a corporate body. The line of dancers, vertical or horizontal, moved fluidly in canon finding the soul in Dvorak’s music.
Bookending the evening was the magnificent voice of Ukrainian baritone Yuriy Yurchuk, principal artist at the Royal Opera House, opening on a stirring rendition of the Ukrainian national anthem and closing with ‘Nemico della patria’ from Andrea Chenier. Viviana Durante, director of the English National Ballet School, initiator and director of the evening did a great job. Not only in raising funds and awareness for Ukraine, it was also a moment of unity for the cohort of young dancers on the cusp of their professional careers.