BWW Review: EMERGING DANCER 2019, Sadler's Wells
Now in its 10th year, English National Ballet's Emerging Dancer competition returned to Sadler's Wells on May 7 with six finalists, all members of ENB's corps de ballet, competing for the title.
Previous years have seen now fully "emerged" stars such as Cesar Corrales (Royal Ballet First Soloist), Shiori Kase (ENB Principal) and Alison McWhinney (ENB First Soloist) achieve great success and regularly be cast in Principal roles.
The simple format of three classical pas de deux and six contemporary solos makes for a succinct and satisfying evening. Unlike previous years, all finalists were introduced in one video segment, meaning the evening had great momentum moving through the performances. Compere and former Royal Ballet Principal Adam Cooper was a concise and gracious host, with the six finalists presenting a varied selection of work that showcased their versatility and passion for performing.
Alice Bellini and Shale Wagman opened the programme elegantly with their Grand Pas Classique, both demonstrating strong classical technique and natural lines. Wagman presented his partner very well amongst the complex sequence of jumps and catches whilst Bellini dug deep to pull off the extended section of jumps en pointe.
The eventual winner on the night, Julia Conway, was partnered by Rentaro Nakaaki in a powerhouse Flames of Paris pas de deux. Both performed with great confidence and flair as the fast pace of the score demands. Nakaaki was especially impressive with his spectacular turning jetés, with Conway delivering steely technique in the endless fouettes that completed the thrilling finale. Combining just enough swagger and accuracy, theirs were the most complete package of the three performances.
It's unclear whether the pas de deux are selected by the dancers themselves. In the case of Emilia Cadorin and Rhys Antoni Yeoman, their Coppelia pas de deux, although pleasant and musical, lacked the impact of the other two tour de forces it found itself between. Both these bright dancers floated easily through Arthur Saint-Léon's choreography, but it did not appear to grab the audience as the other two did.
As found in previous years, the solo section that followed threw the field wild open. It's an uneven, unpredictable affair featuring both familiar and new choreography. Yeoman returned with the inspired choice of William Forsythe's In the Middle Somewhat Elevated. Thom Willems' unforgettable music and Yeoman's precise execution working effectively together.
Wagman's Peculiar Mind, choreographed by Sofie Vervaecke, highlighted his natural flexibility and strength of technique, although the narrative hinted at was never fully realised. Emilia Cadorin underwent the most stark transformation from her rather safe Coppelia pas de deux to a sultry lit solo, BAM!, in which she appeared just as a silhouette before emerging from the darkness - although Fabian Reimair's choreography never showcased her fully.
Conway sealed her victory with Untitled Code. Beginning in silence, her breathing was audible as she struck a sequence of fast poses before softening in reaction to the music. Conway's dancing showed the greatest maturity of all the competitors and, combined with her quality of movement, set her apart as the strongest all-around performer of the evening.
The evening was rounded off in majestic style with last year's winner Daniel McCormick partnering First Artist Francesca Velicu (winner of an Olivier Award for her performance of the Chosen One in Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring) for a rip-roaring interpretation of the Don Quixote pas de deux. Velicu's beautifully neat, compact dancing and McCormick's virtuoso jumps made for a performance that seemed to pass in a flash, completing a gratifying evening of dancing.
English National Ballet's Emerging Dancer took place at Sadler's Wells on 7 May