Even Shakespeare’s cruel twists of fate are powerless to dampen the blazing passion of English National Ballet’s current Romeo & Juliet.

 

Undeniably the world’s greatest love story, the tragedy is eternally destined to be an audience-pleaser and Milton Keynes Theatre was packed on opening night for the touring revival of Rudolf Nureyev’s 1977 interpretation. Originally created for the Company in celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, this sumptuous production intensifies the tale of two star-crossed lovers by frequently emphasising the notion of human weakness; ominously accentuating the brutality of Renaissance Verona; and boldly challenging the dancers with demanding, multifaceted, choreography.

Contrasts command much clout in any Romeo & Juliet. The opposition of the two rival families. The hustle and bustle of the swarming marketplace juxtaposed against the serenity of the moonlit trysts in the garden and at the chapel. The differences between idealistic Romeo and passive Paris as they vie for Juliet’s attention. Still, what really stands out in this version is how the spectacle of impressive leaps, turns and lifts can be impeccably matched by the potency of far more natural human movement – a glance, a touch, a kiss. Nureyev’s staging manages to develop all of the characters and provide further insight into several relationships, balancing the brilliance and bravado of ballet with a depth of drama befitting of the Bard’s prose.

 

English National Ballet's 'Romeo & Juliet' - Alina Cojocaru as Juliet and James Forbat as Romeo (photo by Jason Bell) View Post

 

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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As an English National Ballet Dance is the Word writer, I was asked to write an article describing my experience of meeting other journalists, bloggers and writers and watching this year’s nominated Emerging Dancer competitors in rehearsal and performance.

My piece, Dance is the Word: An Inside Perspective, was featured on English National Ballet’s website as a post on their blog.

 

pointe shoes dancing writing dancing notepad

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YOUNG, TALENTED AND EMERGING

 

It can be hard for junior members of a ballet company to leave a lasting impression. Most of the dancers who reach the top companies will spend their career in the corps de ballet. This term (which literally means ‘body of the ballet’) refers to the dancers who generally work in a disciplined group, undifferentiated from each other. The objective is to blend in – not stand out.

Companies tend to grade their dancers (artist, first artist, soloist and first soloist, principal, lead principal) and nineteenth century ballets (which are still the foundation for most companies’ repertoire) were created to showcase those at the top of the hierarchy. Of course, talent does pay off and the most talented dancers will eventually receive promotion. However, for the public, opportunities to really see what junior artists are capable of are limited.

This is why English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer competition is so warmly received by balletomanes. The competition is an annual opportunity for English National Ballet to nurture and showcase the talent of its up-and-coming dancers.

 

English National Ballet 'Emerging Dancers': Vitor Menezes,

English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer participants for 2014: (l to r) Vitor Menezes, Junor Souza, Alison McWhinney, Senri Kou, Joan Sebastian Zamora and Madison Keesler (Photo by Laurent Liotardo)

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Time to shine as English National Ballet celebrates its Emerging Dancers…

 

Timing is everything – in life and in dance. This proved true for English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2014 as two past competitors were declared joint winners.

Judges Deborah Bull CBE, Clement Crisp OBE, Dame Gillian Lynne DBE, Arlene Phillips CBE, Tamara Rojo and Wayne Sleep OBE deemed it time for Alison McWhinney (previously 2013 participant) and Junor Souza (2012) to ‘emerge’.

Performing Perrot’s Esmeralda Pas de Deux, at London’s packed Lyceum Theatre, both dancers sparkled – and not just because their forest-green costumes were adorned with gold.

 

English National Ballet's 'Emerging Dancer' 2014 joint winners Junor Souza and Alison McWhinney (Photography by ASH)

English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2014 joint winners Junor Souza and Alison McWhinney (Photography by ASH)

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