Time to shine as English National Ballet celebrates talent with its Emerging Dancer competition
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
It was all-change aboard the onstage vessel for English National Ballet’s Friday performance of Le Corsaire. The buoyant cast at the helm of the first show following the dazzling world premiere had a lot to live up to.
Former Royal Ballet star Alina Cojocaru and young principal Vadim Muntagirov had completely captivated international press and audience members the evening before. Artistic Director — and lead principal dancer — Tamara Rojo danced as Medora on the second night at Milton Keynes Theatre, following in the perfectly pointed footsteps of her latest recruit (plundered from the rival company this summer).
Tamara Rojo is an exceptionally expressive dancer and a driven personality. This makes her an unstoppable onstage force; she embodies a role and dances with every fibre of her being. Her Medora had a feisty streak, demonstrated through impressively quick footwork and perfectly controlled, yet still youthfully skittish, jumps en pointe.
Rojo’s considerable charm ensured her portrayal of the fictional young Greek woman (kidnapped by slave trader Lankendem and sold to a comically lustful wealthy Seyd) had a playfulness and allure in the first Act. Medora dances with her adored pirate lover, Conrad, (portrayed by Fernando Bufalá in this particular performance) in the second Act. At this point, vulnerability and romanticism are necessary in dreamy, tender, pas de deux moments.
Epic pirate ballet Le Corsaire marks Alina Cojocaru’s debut with English National Ballet, a blockbuster start to the autumn season and a chance for the men to show what they can do.
Pirates, passion and pas de deux thrilled theatregoers at the world premiere of English National Ballet’s epic new production last night. Dazzling dancers from the touring ballet company raised the anchor and set sail on a swashbuckling adventure, with the rarely seen 19th Century classic Le Corsaire (The Pirate), at Milton Keynes Theatre.
A treasure trove of delights awaited audience members keenly anticipating the 7.30pm performance as this three-act ballet features a rich tapestry of plot twists and turns. Loosely based on the 1814 poem ‘The Corsair’ by Lord Byron, it is set in a world of sumptuous Turkish palaces and populated with pirates, exotic slave girls and wealthy male dignitaries. Dramatic rescues, abductions, mutiny, subterfuge, love and betrayal abound as the tale of a dashing pirate and his love affair with a beautiful harem girl unfolds.
Artistic Director Tamara Rojo promised to rejuvenate English National Ballet’s repertoire when she took on the top position last year and this re-imagining of Le Corsaire illustrates her dedication to bringing more varied ballets to the masses.
English National Ballet is the first UK company to stage the complete work (others have extracted famous segments, performing them independently). Consequently, Milton Keynes has played a part in making ballet history with the opening of this spectacular new masterpiece. And, as if this was not excitement enough, last night also marked glittering ex-Royal Ballet star Alina Cojocaru’s debut with English National Ballet.
Prima ballerina Daria Klimentová talks to Georgina Butler about pirates, perfect partners and pointe shoes ahead of English National Ballet’s return to Milton Keynes Theatre.
Daria Klimentová is English National Ballet’s senior principal dancer. She has been one of Britain’s best-loved ballerinas for two decades and her clean and pure technique makes her a joy to watch.
Daria was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), and started gymnastics when she was 5 years old. At 10 she entered the Prague State Conservatoire of Music and Dance where she was placed into a training scheme for future principal dancers. Upon graduating she was immediately offered a soloist contract with the National Theatre Ballet Company in Prague. A move to the Capab/Kruik Ballet based in Cape Town, South Africa, preceded three years with Scottish Ballet.
In 1996, Daria was invited by the then Artistic Director of English National Ballet, Derek Deane, to join English National Ballet. Her repertoire includes all the major classical ballet roles and works by many contemporary choreographers.
In 2011 she was featured in two episodes of the BBC documentary series The Agony and the Ecstasy — a fascinating insight into English National Ballet. Viewers followed Daria and her regular dance partner — the young Russian principal Vadim Muntagirov – as they prepared for the famous “in the round” Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The pair have forged a remarkable partnership, which is frequently likened to the Fonteyn/Nureyev relationship. The documentary also showed the chaotic process of creating the Sugar Plum Fairy role for Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker at the Coliseum Theatre, London.
Now in her forties, Daria continues to captivate audiences with her impeccable dancing. As well as being in great demand as a guest artist all over the world, this prima ballerina is also a talented photographer and highly respected director/teacher.
It is with excitement, then, that I learn I will have the opportunity to talk to Daria ahead of English National Ballet’s return to Milton Keynes Theatre for the premiere of Le Corsaire. The chance to interview a classical ballerina of such fame appeals to both my undying love of all things ballet and my ambition to educate the people of Milton Keynes about the wonders of dance. We should be honoured that English National Ballet debuted The Sleeping Beauty with Tamara Rojo here last year and that they have chosen to premiere their latest work in the new city.
Once upon a time, English National Ballet visited Milton Keynes Theatre to dance The Sleeping Beauty…
The Sleeping Beauty was the very first ballet I was taken to see at a theatre as a child and it remains a favourite of mine.
World-famous ballerina Tamara Rojo’s first outing as both Artistic Director of, and principal ballerina with, English National Ballet saw her take to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre last week, to dance Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.
A narrative ballet, bringing to life the world’s favourite fairytale, The Sleeping Beauty is often the standard by which classical ballet companies are judged. This is because it is one of the biggest and most difficult ballets to stage, showcasing pure, unadulterated dance — heavenly for lovers of classical productions.
Tamara herself acknowledges the importance of such opulent productions and the commendable commitment that English National Ballet shows in meeting touring obligations. In an interview prior to the start of English National Ballet’s latest tour, she told me: “Classical ballet is a big and important part of the repertoire for a ballet company as it is traditional and it is what draws new audiences to the ballet.”
On opening night, Tamara would have been all too aware of the judgements being made of her — as both newly acquired chief ballerina (returning to the company where she first flourished as a principal) and top boss. What pressure she must have felt to dance as a carefree sixteen-year-old princess while carrying with her the challenge of ensuring the Company survives as a business in a climate of cuts and dancing with her very own employees!