English National Ballet at London Coliseum – 70th-Anniversary Gala

The Three-Cornered Hat – Farruca
Dancer – Sergio Bernal
Antonio Ruiz Soler – Choreography
Manuel de Falla – Music

Dust – Wave
Dancers – Erina Takahashi, Fabian Reimair, Artists of ENB
Akram Khan – Choreography
Jocelyn Pook – Music

Swansong – First Trio
Dancers – Jeffrey Cirio, James Streeter, Matthew Astley
Christopher Bruce – Choreography
Philip Chambon – Music

…Of What’s to Come
Dancers – ENBYouthCo.
Richard Bermange – Choreography
Adolphe Adam – Music

Apollo – Second Solo
Dancer – Francesco Gabriele Frola
George Balanchine – Choreography
Igor Stravinsky – Music

Romeo and Juliet – Dance of the Knights
Juliet – Alison McWhinney
Paris – Skyler Martin
Tybalt – Daniel Kraus
Lady Capulet – Jane Haworth
Lord Capulet – Dominic Hickie
Hurse – Laura Hussey
Artists of ENB
Rudolf Nureyev – Choreography
Sergei Prokofiev – Music

Giselle – Migration
Dancers – Students of ENB School
Akram Khan – Choreography
Vincenzo Lamagna – Music

Broken Wings – La Llorona pas de deux
Frida Kahlo – Tamara Rojo
Diego Rivera – Fabian Reimair
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa – Choreography
Peter Salem – Music

Who Cares? – Fascinatin’ Rhythm Solo
Dancer – Precious Adams
George Balanchine – Choreography
George Gershwin – Music

La Sylphide – The Reel
Dancers – Francesca Velicu, Joseph Caley, Joshua McSherry-Gray, Students from ENB School
Auguste Bournonville – Choreography
Herman Severin Løvenskiold – Music

The Sleeping Beauty – Jewels
Dancers – Daniel McCormick, Alsion McWhinney, Anjuli Hudson, Julia Conway, Carolyne Galvao
Kenneth MacMillan – Choreography
Pyotr Tchaikovsky – Music

Three Preludes – 1st Prelude pas de deux
Dancers – Fernanda Oliveira, Junor Souza
Ben Stevenson – Choreography
Sergei Rachmaninov – Music

Carmen – pas de deux
Dancers – Tamara Rojo, Francesco Gabriele Frola
Roland Petit – Choreography
Georges Bizet – Music

Coppélia – Mazurka
Swanhilda – Shiori Kase
Franz – Brooklyn Mack
Dawn – Adela Ramirez
Prayer – Isabelle Brouwers
Innkeeper and his wife – Michael Colemen, Laura Hussey
Burgomaster – James Streeter
Artists of ENB
Ronald Hynd – Choreography
Léo Delibes – Music

Strictly Gershwin – The Man I Love
Dancers – Erina Takahashi, Isaac Hernández
Brittany Wallis (singer)
Derek Deane – Choreography
George Gershwin – Music

Playlist (Track 2)
Dancers – Jeffrey Cirio, Joseph Caley, Barry Drummond, William Yamada, Noam Durand, Daniel McCormick, Rhys Antoni Yeomans, Skyler Martin, Henry Dowden, Erik Woolhouse, Aitor Arrieta, Victor Prigent
William Forsythe – Choreography
Lion Babe – Music [Impossible]

Dancers – Shiori Kase, Erina Takahashi, Fernanda Oliveira, Isaac Hernández, Joseph Caley, Jeffrey Cirio, Francesco Gabriele Frola
Pas de deux Romantique – Erina Takahashi, James Forbat
Artists of ENB
Harald Lander – Choreography
Knudåge Riisager – Music [from Carl Czerny’s Etudes]

English National Ballet Philharmonic
Gavin Sutherland

Reviewed by: G. J. Dowler

Reviewed: 17 January, 2020
Venue: The Coliseum, London

English National Ballet at London Coliseum – 70th-Anniversary GalaPhotograph: Bill CooperHappy Birthday English National Ballet! 2020 sees this at-times unstable company celebrate seventy years since its establishment as London’s Festival Ballet, then essentially a backing ensemble for the star dancers Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin. Its history has been rocky, with artistic and financial crises littering its path through the decades, but throughout it has been characterised by a raffish charm, an occasional belt-and-braces approach to getting show on, and the appearance of the greatest dancers of the time, unable to break through The Royal Ballet’s standing policy of ‘No Guests’. Certainly, the company seems in fine form at present, ensconced in its spacious new home in London’s East End and led by Tamara Rojo, star dancer and director of vision and fearsome determination.

Certainly, this celebratory gala programme (repeated twice more to allow the public to see the company in party mode) was a slick affair, with the sixteen pieces of the first half following on from each other without a hitch. It was very much unusual gala fare, and did not include a single ‘warhorse’ pas de deux, wheeled out for yet another party. Rather, these were often company-based excerpts from a selection of both the active and historical repertoires, allowing all to appear, principals often part of the ensemble, corps de ballet as important as any.

There were, of course, particular highlights, not least La Rojo herself in a delightful Zizi Jeanmaire bobbed wig in the bedroom pas de deux from Roland Petit’s Carmen, all smoulder and playfulness, the brilliance of her star quality undimmed and ably matched by an emphatic Francesco Gabriele Frola – palpable sexual tension crackled between them. Another duet also stood out, firstly because that it was by Ben Stevenson, whose quality work is now pretty much forgotten in the UK, secondly that it was a beautifully crafted piece (the first Prelude in his work Three Preludes to Rachmaninov), featuring a ballet barre and displaying focussed, legato movement from Fernanda Oliveira and Junor Souza.

A youthful and explosive Frola in Apollo’s second solo from Balanchine’s ballet of the same name made one wish to see the whole work again (inexplicably ignored now for several seasons not only by ENB but also The Royal Ballet companies) while the striking Wave section from Akram Khan’s Dust served to remind us of the choreographer’s individual voice and level of inventiveness which with Giselle, scored the greatest success of Rojo’s directorship thus far and which promise much for his new Creature this spring. The Mazurka from Ronald Hynd’s Coppélia was lively and engaging – Brooklyn Mack and Shiori Kase twinkled as Swanhilda and Franz – while Playlist (Track 2), the second half of William Forsythe’s recent unexpected hit, showed just how much male talent exists in all ranks of the company. It made for a wholly contemporary, utterly uplifting end to the first half.

English National Ballet at London Coliseum – 70th-Anniversary GalaIsaac Hernandez, Shiori Kase, Joseph Caley & ENB Artists in EtudesPhotograph: Bill Cooper

Post-interval, Etudes, first performed by LFB in 1955, one of its signature works, and never long absent from performance. This being a gala, principal roles were shared out, allowing nearly all the senior-ranked dancers to appear. But this is, above all, a company work, designed to show off the entire ensemble, and, ENB showed that it continues to shine in its multiple technical challenges. Inspired by Czerny’s famous piano studies, it takes the audience from the basic five positions of classical ballet, through classroom practice to the most challenging tricks in the principal’s bag. It is not subtle stuff (fully in line with Knudåge Riisager’s rumbustious orchestrations) but, golly is it fun when as well danced as it was here. Harald Lander, the choreographer, was Danish, and there is much of that dance school’s tradition in the work – high, light jumps and fast, complicated footwork – but he was unafraid to push his dancers even back in 1948 into steps and combinations more akin to those of the Russian and French traditions. The ballet has been a showcase for successive generations of LFB/ENB stars, all eager to take on the multiple hurdles placed before them. This performance was exultant, the company in festive mood, and each dancer giving their all, from corps de ballet, through soloists to the white-clad principals.

Throughout all the performances, the company orchestra, the English National Ballet Philharmonic, played with its customary attack and aplomb. Under Music Director Gavin Sutherland they have become a highly accomplished musical ensemble whose serious work underpins the dancing on stage in a way which eludes some UK orchestras who play for the dance. What emanates from the pit matches the enthusiasm and engagement seen from the dancers and is wholly in the company tradition of giving real performances.

A final address by Rojo paid tribute to everyone, living and departed, who had been part of the ‘family’ over seventy years; she asked ex-dancers and back-stagers in the audience to wave back at her, brought on two members of the original company from 1950 and emphasised the exciting future that awaits English National Ballet. Happy Birthday indeed!

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