We might still be in November but Christmas is well and truly on its way now English National Ballet is delighting audiences with its dreamy Nutcracker at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Nothing gets me in the festive spirit quite like hearing the opening notes of Tchaikovsky’s glorious score. There are many different versions of this seasonal ballet but the magical music is timeless and immediately evokes feelings of anticipation, enjoyment, excitement, adventure and beauty. Superbly played by English National Ballet Philharmonic, the familiar compositions envelop audience members in a blissful ballet bubble from the overture right through to the finale.

The company’s current Nutcracker, choreographed by Wayne Eagling, is wonderfully wintery and heart-warmingly whimsical. On a frosty Christmas Eve in Edwardian London a family hosts a celebratory get-together. Among the guests is Drosselmeyer, a magician and maker of toys, and his handsome nephew. Young Clara is besotted with the nephew and eagerly dances with him before receiving a painted wooden nutcracker soldier from the mysterious Drosselmeyer. Thrilled with the gift, Clara happily dances with her new doll until a scuffle with her brother Freddie results in the nutcracker being damaged. Fortunately, Drosselmeyer works his magic to fix the wounded toy before the children are sent off to bed. What happens next is a fanciful adventure. Clara encounters an evil Mouse King, battles with the Nutcracker against an army of mice and travels to the Land of Snow. Later, she is entertained by dancers from all over the world, presented with a pretty posy of waltzing flowers and comes of age dancing with her very own prince.

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during English National Ballet's dress rehearsal of the Nutcracker

 

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Theatregoers in Milton Keynes are in for such a treat this October as English National Ballet is bringing not one but two award-winning productions to the new city. Whether you are a dedicated dance fan or simply interested in enjoying a beautifully performed work of art, you will not want to miss out on seeing the Company during its autumn visit to Milton Keynes Theatre.

Artistic director Tamara Rojo is committed to showing that there is more to ballet than the tutu-clad ballerinas featured in the classics. As the driving force behind the Company and a prima ballerina herself, Tamara is intent on advancing the art form in order to keep it relevant, interesting and – most importantly – alive for future generations to enjoy. The reflective triple bill Lest We Forget is her first new commission for English National Ballet. Created to commemorate last year’s centenary of the First World War, this contemporary programme features the choreography of three of the most in-demand British dance-makers of today.

Romeo & Juliet is undeniably the world’s greatest love story. Rudolf Nureyev’s landmark production for English National Ballet was devised in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. It premièred at London Coliseum on 2nd June 1977 and won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best Ballet Creation that year. The Company has since performed Nureyev’s production around the world (373 times!) to critical acclaim. Demonstrating the expressive artistry and explosive virtuosity of the Company’s dancers, Romeo & Juliet is a beloved masterpiece from English National Ballet’s repertoire which promises to prove popular with balletomanes and newcomers alike.

 

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Swan Lake is the epitome of a bucket-list ballet and the English National Ballet production currently in residence at Milton Keynes Theatre is simply stunning.

I must confess to a great affinity for the perennially popular Swan Lake having learned a lot of the repertoire in workshops as a youngster; performed many of the roles in school shows and compulsively viewed countless versions in theatres, on television and online. The swell of the overture is enough to transfix me – listening to Tchaikovsky’s haunting score soothed this scholar during many years of revision throughout school and university. Together, the combination of story, music, choreography and staging makes the ballet a truly touching masterpiece.

Of course, possessing such zeal and knowledge means that with each cumulative performance of Swan Lake I am privileged enough to see, the potential to be disappointed grows. Fortunately, English National Ballet’s touring production had me enraptured on opening night. In fact, I swanned out of the auditorium appropriately moved by such an emotional evening and in awe of the incredible talent within the Company.

 

English National Ballet's Swan Lake dress rehearsal

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Mischief and mistaken identities make for much merriment in English National Ballet’s effervescent Coppélia.

There is plenty of fun to be had with this light-hearted ballet and Company dancers were in high spirits for the opening performance at the London Coliseum last night (23rd July 2014).

Yonah Acosta and Shiori Kase made their debuts in the lead roles as the tale’s bickering – though still smitten – lovers. Both newly promoted, with Yonah soaring from the rank of Junior Soloist to Principal and Shiori more modestly upgraded from Soloist to First Soloist, their infectious enthusiasm and pleasing partnership set the tone for an enchanting evening.

 

English National Ballet's 'Coppélia' (photo by David Jensen)

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One of the world’s greatest love stories comes alive in spectacular style with English National Ballet’s in-the-round production of Romeo and Juliet.

This glorious interpretation of Shakespeare’s tale of warring families and thwarted young lovers is currently captivating crowds of spectators at the Royal Albert Hall. Created by choreographer Derek Deane, the production was first seen 16 years ago when English National Ballet’s current artistic director, Tamara Rojo, was a young dancer in the Company. As Deane’s original Juliet back in 1998, Tamara is revisiting the role for some performances alongside her former dance partner Carlos Acosta, who joins the cast as a guest artist.

I was fortunate enough to see the young Russian principal dancer Vadim Muntagirov (who left English National Ballet to join The Royal Ballet in February 2014) return as a guest artist to partner the dazzling Daria Klimentová. Reunited as Romeo and Juliet for selected performances of this powerful ballet, Vadim and Daria are giving audiences the final chance to witness their perfect partnership before Daria also bids farewell to the Company. She will retire at the end of the run after 25 years as a professional dancer – 18 of which she has spent with English National Ballet – performing for the last time on Sunday (22nd June).

 

English National Ballet's Romeo & Juliet

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