Review: London Russian Ballet School - mixed bill - Cadogan Hall

Performance: 8 December 2014
Reviewed by Claire Cohen - Friday 12 December 2014

London Russian Ballet School in Evgeny Goremykin's 'Waltz Caprice' Photo: Igor Zakharkin.

The London Russian Ballet School, which specialises in teaching the Russian ballet method, is enjoying a growing reputation for excellence in classical ballet and their show this week at the Cadogan Hall was designed to showcase what their students can do.

The school was founded in 2004 by Evgeny Goremykin, a former principal with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet with director Harriet Pickering, as a tiny venture in Clapham. It has since grown in size and stature, increasing its studio space threefold and rebranding as London Russian Ballet School in 2010. Offering tuition by top instructors in the Russian ballet method, the school is drawing ever larger number of pupils and more studios, including a performance area with seating, are planned. Student numbers have grown to around 20 on the pre-vocational course (age up to 16) and 24 on the three year vocational sixth form course, which also includes study for A Level qualifications.

The performers on Monday were vocational students, but Goremykin and Pickering regard the depth of the School’s engagement with the local community as equally important. Attendance at amateur classes regularly exceeds 250 a week for both children and adults. The School is especially proud of its affiliated charity Kids Love Lambeth, which arranges at least six outreach performances a year in local primary and secondary schools. In this way they have enabled thousands of children and parents, some from deprived areas, to experience live ballet.

If children are inspired by what they see and wish to take up ballet classes, subsidised places are available. An estimated 75% of children are assisted with fees. “No child is ever turned away,” explains Pickering. “The Russian ballet method is very demanding, but equally, there is a culture of openness, of being interested in what you want to do. We are very keen on people of all ages applying to join us, both on vocational and amateur courses, for what we are striving to ensure is a well rounded, very sincerely professional and culturally authentic experience of ballet.”

Performing on the Cadogan Hall’s open stage to a full audience, their students version of the demanding Second Act of Giselle was impressive. The occasional tiny glitch was swept over so well that the production never lost its flow for an instant. Considering the age and experience of the performers – the corps de ballet ranged from age 12 to 16 – this was a real achievement.

As Giselle, leading ballerina Natalie Carter held her positions beautifully. She was ably partnered by Fred Powell who danced the remorseful Count Albrecht with great confidence.

The corps de ballet of 14 ethereal Wilis excelled in the famous sequence where they dance the hapless Hilarion, convincingly portrayed by Dominic Handford, to an exhausted death. Hilarion’s pleas for mercy were dismissed by a poised and imperious Queen of the Wilis, danced by a regal Megan Vain.

Spectacular costumes, atmospheric lighting and Prokofiev’s hauntingly romantic music, played by the* London Soloists Philharmonia Orchestra*, all contributed to a performance of considerable depth.

After the interval the show took on a different tone: seven contrasting divertissements showcased the wide variety of talent of the School’s pupils. A Pas de Quatre, danced with grace and charm, was followed by a slick, humorous routine engagingly performed by two of the School’s younger pupils. Fred Powell and Natalie Carter each returned for a solo, choreographed by the award winning Vladimir Varnova. In these they both demonstrated the strength of their technique. Varnova also danced a short solo to his own choreography, establishing his mastery of both disciplines to appreciative applause.

The stage was a riot of swirling colour as a group of 16 performed the exhilarating Gypsy Dance from the 1939 Soviet ballet Laurencia. A clever and entertaining Walz Caprice included parts for dancers ranging from the youngest class to the seniors, choreographed by school founder Evgeny Goremykin demonstrated the School’s ethos of inclusivity – and was a fitting end to the evening.

London Russian Ballet School is one to watch. It is becoming an important contributor to the capital’s ballet scene with its enthusiastic community involvement and the high quality of its performances.

Photo: London Russian Ballet School in Evgeny Goremykin’s Waltz Caprice by Igor Zakharkin

Claire Cohen is a freelance dance writer. After attending ballet classes for adult beginners at English National Ballet she took part in their Dance is the Word workshop, fusing her writing skills with an enthusiasm for ballet and dance. Find her on Twitter @balletbichon

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