Royal Ballet School
‘Joy’, ‘Brush Strokes’, ‘Le Corsaire pdd’, ‘Don Quixote pdd’, ‘Striving for the Light’, ‘Les Jeunes Hommes’, ‘Dance Bohemienne’, ‘Piano Concerto No. 2’
by Bruce Marriott
In the most difficult of economic times it's terrific to know that all 28 of this year's RBS graduates have jobs. They came from around the world to learn in London and scatter back across the world after graduating - from Australia to the USA and from Sweden to South Africa. But before going there is a last hooray at the annual performances where they and students across the school dance for us and we get the chance to 'sniff the air' and talent-spot. It struck me as a particularly good year this year, as spied in the Linbury last Thursday, and the ROH main stage performance next Sunday (12 July) I hope will confirm that to an already sold-out house.
There were 14 short pieces on the bill including four choreographed by students, though I was surprised not to see anything by Bethany West (going to Bordeaux) who at January's Royal Ballet Draft Works. The knock-out crowd-pleaser was by Laura Day (in her last year at the Lower School) - Joy is the collision of ballet and Irish dance and unstuffily, let-your-hair-down, beguiling fun in a bill where everybody is generally on best behaviour. I also liked William Bracewell's (Upper School) Brush Strokes. It might have been to choreographers' favourite Philip Glass but there was some unusually luminous and feline movement here.
Shiori Kase and Benjamin Ella of the Royal Ballet School dancing an extract from Le Corsaire at the 2008 National Dance Awards
© John Ross
In any group there will be some stars and a couple of pas de deux highlighted some of them. Shiori Kase and Benjamin Ella danced Le Corsaire pdd at the recent National Dance Awards and reprised it here with the same panache. Kase (going to English National Ballet) is quietly fine and more precise than you have a right to expect and yet makes it all look effortless. Ella, joining The Royal Ballet, is going to be giving Steven McRae and Sergei Polunin a run for their money in the technical whizz department - such go-for-it attitude and without the narcissism that puts me off some. Because of injury Elisa Badenes and Vadim Muntagirov gave an abbreviated Don Quixote pas de deux, but even so - ohh! Badenes has huge personality and audience-winning ways - a good catch for Stuttgart Ballet. Muntagirov is joining ENB as a First Artist - incredibly rare to start one level higher than most. A tall boy and technically strong, he should go far with one-arm lifts like that.
Stanton Welch's Les Jeunes Hommes
© Johan Persson
One tiny girl, I think Colombe Hays (second year of Upper School), really impressed me in Striving for the Light: to a Carmina Burana-type score she was the lone girl buffeted by the mass group of dancers. A powerful and edgy communicator, I felt echos of Viviana Durante, though that's a lot to say based on just a 5 minute student piece. After the interval Stanton Welsh delivered another crowd-pleaser in the form of Les Jeunes Hommes, as 16 Upper School boys, all stripped to the waist, did their classical thing to Vivaldi. Not deep or particularly clever, but visually impressive and danced well. The evening had opened with stronger choreographic fare but for the youngest dancers - the Lower School's year 7. Liam Scarlet's Dance Bohemienne to Bizet is wonderfully musical and the young dancers rose to it with great fluidity and did him proud. But the evening closed with the graduates of course, in Robert Hill's meaty Piano Concerto No. 2 (Lowell Liebermann) - at times thunderous, it's a terrific workout for the 13 dancers led by the ever commanding Badenes. Huge congrats to all the graduates and my best wishes in their dancing wherever they may go. Congrats also to all the other students who put on a great show - you make us so proud of you: that you can achieve what the millions of us never, ever will. Or as Elbert Einstein much more elegantly put it: "Dancers are the athletes of God".