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 returns to Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday with Swan Lake.
Moonlit lakeside scenes of romance and despair; the splendour of a royal palace and the spectacle of a corps de ballet of synchronised swans gliding poetically across the stage make Swan Lake a favourite among dance fans and the perfect introduction for first time ballet-goers.
Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky’s first score for ballet and the haunting music is some of the illustrious composer’s best-known work. The ballet’s 1877 premiere was poorly received but it has since become one of the absolute classics, with demanding technical content and a mesmerising story.
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 (Wednesday 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.
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).
YOUNG, TALENTED AND EMERGING
Emerging as an artist is tough. 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.