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I don’t think there’s a thread as yet for the Royal Ballet School’s end of year performances at Opera Holland Park and next Sunday at the Royal Opera House although I’m sure somewhere I’ve seen some approving comments about the students’ choreography. First visit for me yesterday to Holland Park and I very much enjoyed the matinee (mainly White Lodge) and evening (mainly Upper School) performances. A great location and a feeling of being outdoors despite the substantial marquee giving an excellent auditorium with I thought good raking in the Stalls providing a clear view of the stage. The Holland House facade gives a splendid ‘backcloth’ and perches for several pigeons (not two white ‘pigeons’). Good to have live music (a piano) for one item, ‘Let’s Begin’, all the rest being recorded. Scottish and Irish dance was well represented - ‘Scottish Dances from Flowers of the Forest’ was danced at both performances with two casts showing great panache (although one sock could have done with some support); and I very much enjoyed White Lodge’s ‘Celtic Voyage’ and ‘Coimeasgadh’. Different excerpts from Paquita were presented in both performances, giving plenty of opportunity to the Upper School girls, and ‘Bottega’ was performed twice. The matinee included ‘Coppelia Suite’, rather whetting the appetite for next season’s Coppelia. The evening began with a very impressive ‘La Valse’, as was ‘Pulse’ for 50 students which started the second half. Two brief extracts from Mats Ek’s Swan Lake and then ‘Untied, Undone’ with 15 of the Upper School’s boys showing real strength. Good to see some familiar faces on stage - Frankenstein’s younger brother, Cesar Corrales’ brother, and many faces from previous years and visits to see classes at the Upper School. Standout for me was the opportunity given to showcase some of the students’ choreography (as suggested above). I thought Year 9 Tianie-Finn Granger’s ‘Classified’ very impressive and was very pleased to see a good photo included over two pages in the programme. A great double performance and very rewarding to see such talented students excelling - a tribute to their dedicated hard work and skill, and reflecting so well on the Royal Ballet School. Looking forward immensely to next Sunday's Annual Performance and hoping that much of the material seen in Holland Park will be included, together with more live music.
Mid to end of July sees the annual performances by the John Cranko School. I saw the performance on 14 July from within the Opera House and on 21 July as part of Ballet in the Park. It was great to catch up with Yumiko again following yesterday’s performance – until next year, or earlier. Some of the works shown had also been presented last year, and were now being performed by a different cast. Air! by Uwe Scholz, George Balanchine’s Glinka Pas de Trois and Stephen Shropshire’s Lamento della Ninfa. Air! – I just love the jubilant and uplifting atmosphere and was very happy to see this piece again. Lots of arabesques, jetes and movements in canon; 2 serene PDD in the middle that included similar movements at different times without being in canon; a bouncy male quartet that was in perfect sync; interaction between male and female dancers that came with some gentle flirting; the full cast coming together again for the finale, displaying friendship and individuality within the group. A wonderful performance all around. Two pieces showcased the technical skills of the younger students, Viva Vivaldi by Stefania Sansavini/ Valentina Falcini and Extract from Najade and the Fisher by Jules Perrot. In particular with regards to Viva Vivaldi which was performed by classes 1 - 3 of the Lower School, it was heartening to see the intense focus of these youngest dancers and their visible joy when things went well (and it did). Full-scale contemporary with Todos os ais Sao Meus by Catarina Antunes Moreira, performed by graduating student Motomi Kiyota. He is equally and utterly at home in classical (Glinka PdT) as well as in contemporary works. I admire his virtuosity, his smile, his charismatic stage presence, it all looks so effortless. I will miss him dearly. Graduating students also for Extracts from The Creation by Uwe Scholz, as part of which Gabriel Figueredo performed a long solo. The skill, artistry and poetry of his dancing made me cry yesterday, it was so serene, emotional and beautiful. What a performance. There was a bit of a murmur of appreciation going through the audience when he appeared for his solo as part of Extracts from Etudes last Sunday (not something that I’ve come across in the past three years for anyone else during Extracts from Etudes). Lots and lots of appreciation for him yesterday at the curtain calls for Extracts from The Creation, he received a massive ovation, and I guess I’ve seen curtain calls for company dancers that didn’t come with as much of an ovation as that for Gabriel Figueredo yesterday. I feel so incredibly lucky to see him join the company next season. As every year, the performance closed with Extracts from Etudes by the school’s Director, Tadeusz Matacz, bringing on stage students of all age groups. Standouts in terms of dancers for this year were – no surprise – Gabriel Figueredo and Motomi Kiyota, it was a pleasure following them through the years since I first saw them in 2016, Alexander Smith with his performances in both Air! & Extracts from The Creation as well as Irene Yang and Danil Zinovyev, both with 2 more years to go until graduation, and already performing with the Academy/ Upper School in soloist roles (Irene Yang in the Glinka PdT, full of delicacy and poetry; Danil Zinovyev in Air! – both assured and dancing without any discernible difference in terms of technical skills in my - non-expert - eyes). There was one very clear standout in terms of choreography with Tabitha Dombroski, another graduating student, who contributed 3 (!) works to this year’s annual performances – Test Run, Meditative State and Cut the World. Test Run, a large-scale work for students of classes 5 and 6 (the two most senior years of the Lower School) – soft flowing contemporary movements with a classical basis and some acro here and there (cartwheels/ walkovers); Meditative State for two male dancers of the Academy/ Upper School – a recorded voice provides guidance with regards to entering such meditative state followed by music and some more voice/ music, I’ve taken the choreography as depicting what happens within someone who is in the process of entering said state; Cut the World to music by Anthony and the Johnsons, a solo for another graduating student who is wondering “when will [he] turn and cut the world”. Wow, what a choreographic talent, three works, three different styles, number of dancers, musical choices, all soft, fluid, contemplative, the kind of contemporary that I like most. Sonia Santiago, who hosted also this event in the park, interviewed her during the interval, and Tabitha Dombroski explained that it had been her contemporary teacher back in New Zealand who encouraged her to start choreographing, that her application by video to the John Cranko School came with a video of one of her choreographies, and that she has already created 10 works on graduating students that have since been performed in a number of countries around the world, including competitions. I do hope to see her back in Stuttgart soon, maybe as part of the Young Choreographer’s Evenings and/ or the annual school performance next year. The programme booklet lists the companies that the graduates have engagements with, without providing a breakdown by student or stating which of these are apprentice/ corps etc. contracts. This year’s graduates join Stuttgart Ballet (Gabriel Figueredo - corps de ballet, 5 other students as apprentice), Ballet Dortmund (googling the graduate’s names, I found 2 of them with Dortmund), The Hungarian National Ballet (3), The Estonian National Ballet, Northern Ballet (I’ve seen from a post about Northern Ballet on the forum that this is Alessandra Bramante), The Royal Ballet Fehervar and The Czech National Ballet. In addition to the contracts mentioned in the programme book, Tabitha Dombroski mentioned during the interview with Sonia Santiago that she had a contract with a company in Switzerland and a number of (choreographic?) projects lined up.