Review: THE NEW GENERATION FESTIVAL - THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, Royal Opera House

Impeccable and tasteful

By: Jun. 20, 2024
Review: THE NEW GENERATION FESTIVAL - THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, Royal Opera House
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Review: THE NEW GENERATION FESTIVAL - THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, Royal Opera House The Next Generation Festival at the Royal Opera House is an interesting prospect. It promises to bring together “junior companies and exceptional dance schools from the UK, across Europe and around the world to celebrate dance.” The festival, and its ethos continued with the first outing for The Royal Ballet School's annual performance dates on June 19th. 

Without stating the obvious, the RBS actually is the next generation of dancers, specifically for London, so the school's public viewings are rightly held with high importance within the dance industry and beyond.

This year is also the final one for the current Artistic director, Christopher Powney. Powney leaves after a decade at the helm, and his successor, Iain Mackay, was named on June 17. Mackay is an appropriate, and dynamic prospect for the role, however the job in question is no mean feat - so we wish him the absolute best of luck! 

The programme is “a mix of heritage and contemporary works” and promises “technical skills, artistry and versatility” to be on show, which all sounds about perfect.

The performance opened with Marius Petipa’s Paquita (1847) and the standard was set. The RBS should livestream a show, because the broader ballet education sector needs to understand where good training can go when underpinned with the correct value system.

The work is both impeccable and tasteful, and we’re talking down to every last detail. The way the (student) dancers enter and exit the stage, stand in classical pose and use their character training to inform the Petipa choreographic style. It was simply a masterclass. The senior students coped very well with the testing solo/pas de deux choreography, but I kept on coming back to the corps de ballet: energised, individual performances could be seen everywhere one looked! And not a clone in sight! The future's bright indeed.

Review: THE NEW GENERATION FESTIVAL - THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, Royal Opera House
pas de deux from Rhapsody

Another classical highlight was the central pas de deux from Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody - also being performed on the mainstage by the Royal Ballet on the same evening. The two dancers brought passion and control in equal measure, and I'd say a little more risk than seen elsewhere on Bow Street of late.

TooT by Didy Veldman is a good vehicle for the young dancers as it allows them to experience the theatrical demands of present day, contemporary choreography, and likewise Gemma Bond’s sophisticated Assemblage. Bond’s all male piece is a tour de force of idiosyncratic language infused with flowing phrasing, structural form, folk reference and ritualistic patterning. More please.

Remembrance by Royal Ballet dancer Joshua Junker I found less interesting, but his cast of dancers seemed to relish the detailed (predictable) modernity of the piece.

Fieldwork by Ashley Page shows what Page does best: subtle modern tweaks to classical ballet language. The work felt overbusy at times…but this didn't faze the graduate students of White Lodge (RBS Lower School) who danced with confidence way beyond their years.

Apnea by 2nd year Upper School student Pietro Zironi is an accomplished piece, but heavily references William Forsythe circa 1987. That said Zironi includes a lot within his lexicon notably choreography in both flat and pointe shoes, samesex duos and elegant, physical pyrotechnics. And the cast ripped it all to shreds.

Excerpts from Jerome RobbinsThe Concert were very welcome largely due to the inclusion of the only live music for the entire evening. The work calls for comedic skill and American-in-style freedom of movement, and the latter was more evidently accomplished than the former.

Review: THE NEW GENERATION FESTIVAL - THE ROYAL BALLET SCHOOL, Royal Opera House
Concerto Grosso

Closing the evening was a second all male piece: Concerto Grosso by Helgi Tómasson. The work includes so much readable language, it reaffirms with ease where classical virtuosity can go in the right hands. The cast of five all brought something valuable to the table, but watching Emile Gooding makes one feel in the presence of an important young dancer. His balance of bravado and danseur noble presence doesn't occur very often in my humble opinion.

Ballet education, and specifically The Royal Ballet School hasn't had the smoothest of rides of late, but this performance suggests some aspects are absolutely moving in the right direction. I found the theatre full of bright, energised, positive, happy young dancers. I'm aware they were ‘performing’, but the stage environment doesn't tend to mask reality, rather emphasise it, which bodes very well.

The Next Generation Festival continues at the Royal Opera House until 4 July

Photo credits: ©2024 The Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Photography by ASH.




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