Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London, UK; July 3, 2014
In the run-up to their Annual Matinee Performance on the main stage at the Opera House, the Royal Ballet School gives a series of performances at the Linbury Studio Theatre to offer junior members and alternate casts greater opportunities. This year, again, all graduating students have landed good jobs and their final school performances celebrate their achievement. Five dancers have gained contracts with the Royal Ballet and Johan Kobberg has bagged four for the National Ballet of Romania, the company he now directs. The RBS mission statement: to produce dancers who are not only a pleasure to watch but a pleasure to know has given graduates a passport to success.
The evening had its traditional mix of students from across the upper and lower schools, in ballets old and new. The juniors were mightily impressive in their opener, “Jubilation” choreographed by Antonio Castilla and Diane van Schoor to Glazunov’s “Polonaise”. They performed with confidence taking to the stage with delight while never forgetting to point their feet.
For the seniors Mark Annear choreographed “Vivace”, a fiendishly difficult work. The intricate pointe work for the females and the fast and furious allegro challenged on all counts. Adam Russell-Jones, who will be joining Stuttgart Ballet next season, was outstanding; dancing with the speed and precision of a young Steven MacRae.
The talent of Calvin Richardson was evident in “The Dying Swan” that he both performed and choreographed. His was a powerful male swan, its natural grace twisted into distorted shapes as the creature battles for its life. The second student choreography, “Django’s Waltz” by Lukas Bjørneboe Brændsrød, was more light hearted, the dancers obviously enjoying the distinctive jazz style and revelling in interesting use of steps and partnering.
“Concordance” choreographed by three alumni, Martin Joyce, Kristen McNally and Alexander Whitley was an interesting experiment that didn’t quite link up. McNally’s opener was, I felt the most successful, in offering the students a challenge in a contemporary style.
Three pas de deux proved the excellent partnering skills nurtured at the school. Kenneth MacMillan’s “Solitaire” was performed by Grace Robinson, a dancer of great potential with a warm stage presence and ably partnered by Harry Churches. Liam Scarlett has written a new work for the RBS matinee. It takes its title from Prokofiev’s, “Classical Symphony” and at the Linbury the dancers presented the central duet. It’s a beautiful example in his best balletic style: fluid, organic and wrapping round the music like a glove. Hannah Bettes was a joy, searching out the essence of the music and expressing it sensitively through the choreography. She was partnered by Churches who also drew on his emotional reserves to create a tender relationship.
Most challenging was the pas de deux from David Dawson’s “A Sweet Spell of Oblivion”. Though the sense of abandon and total exhilaration that top dancers are able to bring to his work was not yet there, Bettes and partner Samuel Zaldivar approached the work with total integrity giving their all and making a pretty good fist of it.
Frederick Ashton’s “Pas de Douze” from “Swan Lake” and MacMillan’s “Garland Dance” showed the cohort ready and primed to move into the professional companies. The closing work, excerpts from “Raymonda” Act III, offered as well a string of solo variations. Chisato Katsura showed her ballerina potential in a role that demands at least as much artistry as technique. Poised, with elegant épaulement and placing each foot with precision, she led the field. Brændsrød, a tall dancer, partnered strongly and gave a good rendition of the elegant Jean de Brienne solo. My bravery award goes to Laetitia Dias Domingues who danced Variation Four with such radiance then fell flat on the final pose. Falling on your bottom is an occupational hazard in the dance world – getting up and finishing the performance is what counts and this she did, even if the smile was a touch tremulous. She is a dancer to watch out for.