Culture Critic Naomi Simpson reviews the 'brutally delicate' The Unreturning by Anna Jordan, performed by Frantic AssemblyWritten by Naomi Simpson on 7th November 2018
Review: ‘Summer Creations: New Works’ at Elmhurst Ballet School
Culture Editor Olivia Boyce reviews 'Summer Creations', a stunning showcase performed by the talented students of Elmhurst Ballet School
Birmingham is a city in which dance thrives, with ballet in particular having a strong presence in the capable hands of the world-class Birmingham Royal Ballet and several visiting companies. Elmhurst Ballet School builds upon this tradition by nurturing the talent of a group of young ballet dancers, providing them with an innovative and immersive dance education. The students of the school now perform ‘Summer Creations: New Works’, a showcase which proves that these are not just the dancers of the future – they are the dancers of the present too.
The evening showcases the various styles of ballet and dance practised by the students, with more classical ballet pieces complementing jazz, contemporary, flamenco, and character dances. It is a brilliant mix, demonstrating the diverse talents of the students, as they produce piece after piece in beautiful, seemingly effortless style. Each piece is set to carefully chosen music, and the addition of live performers, reacting to the flamenco dancers they play for, is a lovely idea.
“These are not just the dancers of the future – they are the dancers of the present too...
Each dance is choreographed brilliantly and performed with aplomb by the talented students from years seven through fourteen, and it is difficult to pick out standout performances when each and every dance is in fact a standout moment. Year 7 pupils open the show with a performance of ‘Tangled Vines’, a lively jazz piece set to Phil Collins’ Tarzan soundtrack that delights the audience, and this is followed by a wonderful character piece called ‘Cruinneachadh’, in which Year 8 dancers gracefully carry out Nicky Linzie’s delightful choreography.
‘Powers of Reasoning’, a contemporary piece performed by Year 9, is followed by an equally enjoyable ‘Swing’ number, with some students showing off their impressive tap skills, and this is followed by ‘Out of Line’, a stunning flamenco piece from year 11. These dances showed off a startling range of disciplines practiced by the students and delighted the audience in their range. Even at a young age, these dancers show an accomplished approach to some very complex choreography, and would not be out of place amongst the companies on major stages around the world.
The showcase then moved to a 'Classical Inspiration' segment, with each piece resembling in some way classical routines, traditions or styles. Familiar classical pieces such as ‘In The Hall of the Mountain King’ were accompanied by excellent ballet, with each male dancer perfectly on time, and capturing the building momentum of the song and choreography. Simply astonishing throughout the nine pieces was the sheer technical precision of each young dancer, and I heard many audible gasps from audience members around me at continued en pointe, pirouettes and aerial work.
After the interval, it was time for the older pupils to take to the stage, and they performed astonishing feats of athleticism as they realised pieces old and new. The ‘Waltz and March from Giselle Act 1’, choreographed by the legendary Sir Peter Wright, was a simply breath-taking piece of ballet perfection, whilst the ‘Excerpt from Coppélia’ was similarly wonderful. ‘Emociones’, a fiery and commanding flamenco piece from Ana Garcia, led into a delightful flamenco face-off, whilst ‘Concierto de Fuego’ was a masterclass in powerful emotive dance.
Two contemporary pieces also featured on the bill, and these were electric moments to witness. ‘Ask Yourself’, choreographed by Stéphen Delattre, featured striking movement work, with students in exhilarating lifts as they move to the music of Plastikman. ‘Flite’ was choreographed by Alexander Whitley, who has previously worked with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the pulsating music of Bruce Dessner is accompanied by fluid and almost mesmeric performances from year 14. For many of these students, it marks one of their final performances before they leave to join dance companies across the world, and indeed, it is a testament to their brilliance, as well as that o the choreographers and staff, that these particular pieces feel like ground-breaking additions to the ballet world.
“Fluid and almost mesmeric performances ....feels like ground-breaking additions to the ballet world
The effortless nature of the dance on show might make it easy to forget the sheer dedication of these dancers, and it must be noted that these skilled youngsters show an absolute dedication to their craft. Their talent, skill and commitment is to be applauded and celebrated, and as such, the Summer Creations showcase is a wonderful example of the magic that, with the support of dedicated staff and families, they can achieve.
More information on Elmhurst Ballet School can be found here.