Review: English National Ballet - Emerging Dancer - Sadler's Wells

Performance: 25 May 2017
Reviewed by Naomi Cockshutt - Friday 26 May 2017

Rina Kanehara and Aitor Arrieta performing the Esmeralda pas de deux (c) Laurent Liotardo

Reviewed Thursday 25 May 2017

In the eighth installment of English National Ballet’s annual competition, six finalists, selected by Company associates, compete for the 2017 Emerging Dancer Award.

The evening hosted internationally acclaimed choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips CBE, and live streamed from Sadler’s Wells. Accompanied by English National Ballet Philharmonic and conducted by Gavin Sutherland, the rivals each perform a classical pas de deux as well as a contemporary solo.

The judging panel consist of English National Ballet’s Artistic Director Tamara Rojo CBE, Vaganova Academy graduate Dmitri Gruzdyev, formerly of both The Mariinsky Ballet and English National Ballet, Marguerite Porter MBE and Laura Connor, both former Royal Ballet dancers, former Artistic Director of Dance at Elmhurst Ballet School Alfreda Thorogood and Graham Watts OBE, chairman of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle and of the National Dance Awards.

First Soloist Cuban-Canadian Cesar Corrales winner of both the 2016 Emerging Dancer Award and the People’s Choice Award returns to the competition stage with former Kiev Ballet Principal Dancer and fellow Junior Soloist Katja Khaniukova to present the ravishing Don Quixote pas de deux.

Royal Ballet School and English National Ballet School trained Isabelle Brouwers is partnered by Australian-born Soloist Emilio Pavan in the Grand Pas from the ballet Paquita. Together the couple present an opulent depiction of Petipa’s regal adage, typically cast to dancers of highest rank.

Embracing the unabbreviated and challenging partner work, Pavan lifts Bouwers into a majestic seated lift and Brouwer’s flaunts her perfectly placed port de bras and use of épaulement; evidence of her formative White Lodge training. Sadly, the cacophonous sounds of the under rehearsed orchestra, notably in the solo and coda section, place higher emphasis on the timpani and cymbals, than being sensitive to the dancers they are accompanying.

August Bournonville’s La Sylphide pas de deux is danced by First Artist Madison Keesler from California with Brazilian-born Artist Guilherme Menezes, an English National Ballet School graduate. Well paired, the couples’ stagecraft is vivacious, yet their technique does not fully exemplify the Bournonville style. Later, in the contemporary solo section, aircraft-inspired Flight Mode, choreographed to the Ryanair Safety Announcement by Sebastian Kloborg showcases Menezes’ phenomenal acting skills and dynamism, highly entertaining the theatre audience.

Energy levels soar as Varna International Ballet Competition 2016 Silver Medallist, Rina Kanehara (Artist) and her partner Junior Soloist Aitor Arrieta from the Basque Country perform Jules Perrot’s Esmeralda pas de deux. Complete with the dazzling tambourine solo, Kanehara from Japan who trained at the Princess Grace Academy, Monaco executes a number of unsupported balances in attitude.

Tamara Rojo crowns the pair joint winners of the 2017 Emerging Dancer Award, Georgia Bould receives the coveted People’s Choice Award; voted by audience members over the course of the season and British Asian Artist Sarah Kundi wins the newly introduced Corps de Ballet Award.

Naomi Cockshutt is a UK trained ballet teacher (Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies, Royal Academy of Dance) and Master of Science, Media and Communication graduate (Cardiff University), currently working for the Dental Institute at King’s College London. Naomi began writing for British Theatre Guide, Londondance.com and Theatre Bubble where she reviews a range of theatre; from classical ballet galas and vocational school performances to musical theatre and contemporary creations.

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