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English National Ballet "Solstice" programme, Royal Festival Hall, June 2021


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I saw the performance last night and for me it was 90 minutes of joy.   When the orchestra and Gavin Sutherland arrived in place the audience completely erupted with clapping and cheering and there was a pretty  celebratory feeling to the whole evening.   I love galas anyway, and there was a great mixture of classic show pieces, for instance the pas de trois from Le Corsaire and the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake, and more contemporary pieces which are particularly associated with ENB (duet from Dust and the pas de deux from Broken Wings).    For me the highlights were the Le Corsaire pas de trois (which  was  thrillingly danced by Shiori Kase, Joseph Caley and Francesco Gabriele Frola) and Playlist (Track 1,2).   There is something so exciting about seeing the control and athleticism of top rank male classical dancing against a pulsing beat.    I was also very pleased to see the Three Preludes pas de deux again, which I had never seen before the ENB 70th anniversary gala.    I have to say that I enjoyed every single piece included during the evening.    As Irmgard says, it was a showcase for the whole company, but I become more of a fan every time I see Jeffrey Cirio.

 

From a Covid point of view, entry and movement around the Festival Hall was well organised and as there is so much space in the auditorium anyway, it felt very safe.    As I was there on my own, I also rather liked the fact that there was no interval (and the 90 minutes certainly raced by).     I would certainly recommend going to see Solstice if you get the chance.    Every time I see ENB I decide I must see them more, and I do hope that there are more opportunities to do so over the coming months.    

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I went to the rehearsal and the matinee today and thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

My highlights today were

 

the duet from Dust in which Jeffrey Cirio was mesmerising;

 

Corsaire pd3 with terrific solos from Hernandez and McCormick - slightly less convinced by Natascha Mair who joined as a principal recently;

 

and Playlist (Track 1, 2). 

 

For a mid week matinee, it was well attended by an enthusiastic audience. 

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I saw tonight's performance - a wonderful 90 minutes that went by really really quickly! A word of warning if anyone is still booking tickets - G is the first row being sold, and that's because F is basically still IN the orchestra. This means if you're going for one of the cheaper side stall seats close to the stage (right), prepare to be blown out of your seats by the brass section during most of the classical variations... ;) 

 

It almost goes without saying that Playlist (Track 1, 2) put a massive smile on everyone's faces and even had the ushers dancing as they were waving us out. What a brilliant ensemble piece showcasing the ENB men. Among my other highlights were the "modern and sad" duets of Dust (Erina Takahashi / James Streeter) and Hollow (Emily Suzuki / Victor Prigent).

 

Medora Pas de Trois was brilliant especially from Shiori Kase and Francesco Gabriele Frola, very enthusiastic audience there. Black Swan PDD was beautiful - as expected, Isaac Hernández made it all look easy, and Natascha Mair made a very good Odile. I'd seen her once before in Vienna and also in the recorded ENB Nutcracker and wasn't blown away, but I thought she played the Flirty Ice Queen well here.

 

I hadn't seen Three Preludes before but thought it was lovely from Emma Hawes and Junor Souza. Was a bit confused by the PDD from Broken Wings - the dancing seemed a bit too flirty and lovey to sit well with such an intense and tragic song (La Llorona sung by Chavela Vargas), I couldn't really get into it. It probably worked better as part of the full ballet? I could live without most of the Coppélia extract but Jeffrey Cirio was great in it.

 

 

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9 hours ago, Sophie_B said:

Was a bit confused by the PDD from Broken Wings - the dancing seemed a bit too flirty and lovey to sit well with such an intense and tragic song (La Llorona sung by Chavela Vargas), I couldn't really get into it. It probably worked better as part of the full ballet? I could live without most of the Coppélia extract but Jeffrey Cirio was great in it.

 

 

 

Yes - the pdd from Broken Wings does feel more appropriate in context, not least because one is following Frida Kahlo's story.

The Coppelia extract was surely there to provide an outing for the female corps? The men had 'turns' in Playlist and the Company must have been very keen to get everyone one stage.

I enjoyed the programme for its mix of rep. - which did, indeed, showcase ENB's ever richer store-cupboard of new and older works - but I felt the level of performance was also 'mixed'. ENB's standards, which often blow me away, did not seem universally high on this occasion (I have seen two casts) but, maybe, the stellar level achieved in the RB's Balanchine/Apollo programme last week had heightened my expectations.

Seeing Jeffrey Cirio in Dust (extraordinary, as was James Streeter) has made me look forward even more to Creature in September.

 

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It was good to be back in the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday evening (16 June) for the first performance of ENB’s “Solstice” programme.  I spent many happy hours in this venue from the late 1970s to the early 1990s watching the company’s three-week summer seasons of full-length ballets and mixed bills drawn from its vast repertoire at the time, plus of course its annual “Nutcracker” season.  It is not an ideal venue for dance, with the stage, “wings” and proscenium having to be fashioned from the concert stage and an orchestra “pit” created but it has seen many exceptional performances over the years.   In “Solstice”, there is a happy mixture of excerpts from cornerstones of the company’s repertoire and newer additions, most of them accompanied by the ENB Philharmonic, under the baton of Maestro Gavin Sutherland, giving its first performances in front of a paying audience since January 2020, its members playing with their customary combination of finesse and gusto, although necessarily reduced to thirty-one players under the current restrictions,

 

The evening started with an arrangement of extracts from “Coppélia” Act III under the supervision of Ronald Hynd, still going strong at ninety, and it was great to see him in the first-night audience.  Due to the type of repertoire the company had been rehearsing before this programme, for many of the dancers this was the first purely classical work they had danced since the galas in January 2020 and so might have been forgiven for any roughness around the edges, especially on a stage new to most of them.  However, the ladies’ performance of the “Hours” was stylish and precise, particularly the circle in which each one in turn performs a pirouette from a kneel, and the joy they exuded was infectious.  The fiendishly difficult pas de deux for Swanilda and Franz, as performed by Fernanda Oliveira and Jeffrey Cirio, looked effortless, sunny and always full of love.

 

It was followed by the duet from Akram Khan’s “Dust”, performed by James Streeter and Erina Takahashi who, incredibly, celebrates her 25th season with the company this year and is most definitely at the top of her game.  Inspired by the mental damage caused to soldiers in the First World War and the effect on their loved ones, this duet never fails to move when performed with such intensity.

 

Another pas de deux followed: the divine first movement of Ben Stevenson’s “Three Preludes” also seen at the company’s 70th anniversary galas last January.  Then, Junor Souza performed it with the petite Fernanda Oliveira.  This time he was paired with the long-limbed Emma Hawes which gave a different dynamic to the piece which was equally sublime, and they were obviously inspired by the gorgeous playing of the Rachmaninov prelude by company pianist, Julia Richter, who took full advantage of the venue’s wonderful acoustic and gave a performance of great sensitivity.  How I would love to see the company perform the complete work again!

 

We were then treated to the pas de trois from “Le Corsaire” with Shiori Kase absolutely on fire as Medora with her stunning series of double and single fouetté turns and some breathtaking multiple pirouettes.  Joseph Caley and especially Francesco Gabriele Frola also gave us plenty of pyrotechnics, so that the trio received tumultuous applause and gave a real party feeling to the evening.

 

The highlight for me of the Jewels segment from Act III of “The Sleeping Beauty” was the very stylish dancing of Alison McWhinney in the Diamond variation. 

 

After that came the slightly truncated version of the central “La Llorona” duet from Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa’s evocation of the life of Frida Kahlo, "Broken Wings".  As danced by Katja Khaniukova, it was easy to see why this was the role for which she won the National Dance Award for Outstanding Classical Performance last year. Her expressive portrayal of the complex Frida was radiant, flirtatious, at times vulnerable but always spirited. All the pieces in this programme are performed on a bare stage with lighting effects only and, for this duet, it was bathed in orange which picked up the colour of Khaniukova’s huge, flounced orange skirt which she swirled seductively at Fabian Reimair, who portrayed her husband Diego Rivera as larger than life in every way.   Their extraordinary chemistry was palpable in what is essentially a courtship dance with its moments of playfulness and tenderness, with Reimair proving yet again not only that he is a master of characterisation but also of partnering as he effortlessly tossed and swung the diminutive Khaniukova around in this life-affirming work.  

 

I was very pleased that “Hollow” created by Stina Quagebeur for last year’s Emerging Dancer nominees, Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent, was included in the programme so that these two outstanding artists had the opportunity to perform it onstage, instead of in the production studio.  Created during lockdown, if any piece reflects the mental anguish of the time, it is this haunting portrayal of a young man trying to reach out to a young girl who has shut down.  Suzuki gives an extraordinary performance, making her eyes completely blank, as if lost in her own world, as does Prigent who becomes increasingly distressed as she fails to respond to his efforts to communicate with her. The effect was heartbreaking, and they certainly deserved the accolade of being the only members of the corps de ballet given a pas de deux together in this programme.

 

After Shiori Kase’s sensational performance in “Le Corsaire”, the Black Swan pas de deux felt rather like an anti-climax.  Natascha Mair did not look entirely comfortable as Odile, although ably supported by Isaac Hernandez. 

 

William Forsythe’s “Playlist” brought the evening to a rousing conclusion, exploiting as it does the male talent in all ranks of the company. Melding classical and contemporary, it is a chance for them to let their hair down and have fun but still maintain the discipline required for some very polished ensemble dancing.  Each member of the twelve-strong team is highlighted at some point, with Jeffrey Cirio and Erik Woolhouse providing the standout moments in this powerhouse of a piece which received a huge ovation from the enthusiastic audience.  The ENB Philharmonic and Maestro Sutherland, who had sat in darkness during this piece as it is to recorded music, finally took a bow and it was great to see all the Playlisters clapping and cheering their orchestra from whom they have been separated for far too long.  

 

At a running time of ninety minutes without interval, this programme is full of delights and has the rare distinction of showcasing all the principals at every performance, as well as the formidable talent in all ranks of the company, and it is well worth the very reasonable ticket prices.  I look forward very much to seeing this cast again and the changes of cast over the two-week run.

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Thanks for all the reports on this Program definitely increased my enthusiasm for the 24th Matinee! 
A close friend was there on the first night and she really enjoyed it highlighting the Corsaire Preludes and Wings! So she did enjoy that piece ....though I sometimes think certain pieces taken out of a main ballet especially a more dramatic one can be difficult to get in to. It’s why I rarely enjoy extracts from ballets like R & J at Galas. 

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We also went on Wednesday and Irmgard's excellent review sums it up nicely.

Our highlights were pretty much the same as those who have already reported:

Erina Takahashi and James Streeter were incredibly moving in the duet from Dust, as were Emily Sazuki and Victor Prigent in Hollow. 

Le Corsaire pas de trois was sensational with Shiori Kase and Francesco Gabriel Frola being worth the admission price on their own and Forsythe's Playlist was a fitting showstopper to end the evening.

If we lived in London, I'd be there every night!

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Thanks Capybara and LinMM for your additional comments about Broken Wings - I looked up an extract on Youtube and it seems like in the original there were SKELETONS watching Frida and Diego dance, making the lighter moments of the lovers' dance seem more like denial in the face of tragedy / cluelessness as to what's around the corner which makes a lot more sense. I would have liked more menacing skeletons and darkness, basically :) With my comments I was thinking about moments like when the lyrics were going "the flowers of the cemetery... they are weeping" and on stage Frida was being lifted and fluttering her hands as if she didn't have a care in the world. It was still good dancing, of course! 

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4 hours ago, Irmgard said:

It was followed by the duet from Akram Khan’s “Dust”, performed by James Streeter and Erina Takahashi who, incredibly, celebrates her 25th season with the company this year and is most definitely at the top of her game.  Inspired by the mental damage caused to soldiers in the First World War and the effect on their loved ones, this duet never fails to move when performed with such intensity.

I saw the opening night show and this piece showed me that the better the dancer, the greater the appreciation for and understanding of a modern (and dare I say more depressing) work. That's kind of a duh I guess but I loved them in this. They made me forget I was there mostly for Le Corsaire and Playlist (which didn't disappoint). The rest was a mixed bag for me personally; some great moments, some that dragged a bit.

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I have just bought tickets for the 24th matinee.  Such decent prices, and you can choose your own seats.  Thanks so much ENB/RFH for making this such an easy process.  

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It was very remiss of me not to mention - and celebrate - the wonderful Erina Takahashi. If ever there was a 'company ballerina', it is Erina. I remember her when she first joined from the School and was given roles very quickly. And here she still is - dancing as if age is only a number and expanding her artistry into new fields. I love that fact that a star like Erina was 'home grown' by ENB and remains ' right up there' as an inspiration to those who are following her.

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I’m going with a friend on the 24th Matinee we are sitting in the Balcony Row A. 
It’s quite some years now since I’ve been to the main Festival Hall I cant remember the layout at all or how you get to the Balcony or what the view is like up there lol!!  Will look out for you anyway. 
The seats are good value and I got a promotion code for being a Friend so that was another 20 percent off the price so excellent value altogether. 
Ive just booked Creature today as well ...am going on the first night. 
 

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9 hours ago, capybara said:

 

 

I enjoyed the programme for its mix of rep. - which did, indeed, showcase ENB's ever richer store-cupboard of new and older works - but I felt the level of performance was also 'mixed'. ENB's standards, which often blow me away, did not seem universally high on this occasion 

 

 

I agree.  This was a thoroughly enjoyable programme but I felt that the long period without public performance highlighted a slight lack of "match fitness" in the classical items.  The company looked (to me at least) far more comfortable in the contemporary pieces.  Having said that, my highlight of the evening (first night) was the Ben Stevenson Three Preludes - beautiful, lyrical neoclassical steps delivered in stunning style by Emma Hawes and Junor Souza.  

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Some thoughts on the changes of principal casting I saw in last night’s performance (18 June):

 

As far as I am aware, Shiori Kase and Francesco Gabriele Frola were dancing Swanilda and Franz together for the first time and were simply stunning.  Not only did they make an utterly charming couple but they were technically flawless, with Frola making all the shoulder lifts look effortless and bringing a real sense of excitement to his immaculate solo.  Kase’s totally assured Swanilda was vivacious and mischievous, and her exquisite footwork, particularly in the delicious series of pas de bourrée en pointe was a joy to behold.  Together with the lovely smiles of the ladies of the corps de ballet, this sunny start to the evening was the perfect antidote to the rain-soaked day.

 

“Three Preludes” received another sublime performance, this time danced by Fernanda Oliveira and Skyler Martin.  I can only describe the way Oliveira uses her very pretty legs and feet as luscious and, with her innate musicality, the Rachmaninov prelude, in another superb performance by Julia Richter, seemed to flow through her entire body.  She and Martin made a very handsome couple and, if the chemistry was not quite as electric as it was with Junor Souza in their unforgettable performances last January, there was a beautifully tender connection between them.

 

In the ‘Corsaire’ pas de trois, Daniel McCormick completely stole the limelight with his larger than life personality, and the pyrotechnics in his bravura solo were delivered with both panache and elegance, drawing gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience.

 

In less than one hour, the amazing Erina Takahashi went from extraordinary body contortions in the ultra-contemporary “Dust” to giving a masterclass in that pinnacle of the classical ballet repertoire, the Black Swan pas de deux.  Her Odile literally glittered with stunning balances, rippling, sensuous arm movements, a firecracker series of double and single fouetté turns and seductive échappé relevés and temps levés en arrière, and even the smallest movement was imbued with Odile’s duplicitous character.  This was truly a performance to treasure, in which she was very sympathetically supported by Joseph Caley as the enamoured Siegfried.

 

Kudos to Victor Prigent, who went from another emotionally draining performance of “Hollow” with Emily Suzuki into the effervescent “Playlist”, with only the Black Swan pas de deux in between.  The Playlisters are stamping their individual personalities even more on this dance-off, the exuberance of which is so infectious, it would not surprise me if there was dancing in the aisles by the end of next week. 

 

I take on board Sophie_B’s post about not being able to get into the “Broken Wings” duet on its own.  I suppose that I have seen the complete ballet so many times that the juxtaposition of such joyous movement  (given another rapturous performance last night by Katja Khaniukova and Fabian Reimair) and mournful lyrics does not seem incongruous to me.  The main theme of Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa’s ballet is the extraordinary resilience of Frida Kahlo in the face of overwhelming adversity and her determination to live her relatively short life to the full.  Indeed, the bodice of Frida’s costume represents the steel corset she was forced to wear for much of her life following her horrendous accident and surgery as a teenager.  So, for me, ‘La Llorona’ signifies the foreboding that, even in her moments of greatest happiness, tragedy was not far away (if memory serves me right, her miscarriage follows almost directly on from this duet, and then her husband’s infidelity).

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Having waited a few days before setting down my thoughts on Wednesday's opener has given me time to rationalise my reactions to what was, first and foremost, an assured and inspired selection of classical and contemporary works from ENB's current core repertoire, each of which contributed to an extremely enjoyable evening.

 

So, yes, I did indeed enjoy the evening and would encourage anyone who hasn't already been along to the RFH to snap up a ticket before the run closes but, echoing Capybara, and contrary to my prior expectations, I wasn't totally blown away. I agree that this may, in part, have been due to the lingering high of the RB's recent Balanchine/Robbins programme, but also, in my case at least, there was the inevitable comparison with ENB's fabulous pre-Covid 70th anniversary gala which, with a similar mix of the classical and the new, was frankly off the scale.

 

That said, there was much to applaud in Wednesday's performance, more particularly since this was the first night in which the company had performed its classical repertoire in over a year, and the performances were all of such a high standard that it would be almost impossible to single anyone out.

 

Unlike some of the posters, I loved the extract from Broken Wings, which was given so much dramatic heft by Katja Khaniukova and Fabien Reimair: this work really does take the art of partnering to a new and exciting level and I adore the music which, enhancing but never overpowering, gives such an authentic flavour to the work as a whole. 

 

Moving on to Swan Lake, Annamk and Irmgard have each indicated that they were not entirely convinced by Natascha Mair. For me, her Black Swan started strongly, with a cogent and persuasive characterisation, but - and I am not entirely sure why - after the initial impact, her performance seemed to lose its edge. It would be interesting to hear from anyone who has seen her subsequent performances since at present I am very much in two minds about her. Less so, on the other hand, about Isaac Hernandez, whose dancing, whilst technically accomplished, has previously failed to engage me but delivered a compelling performance on Wednesday evening.

 

There is little that I can add to previous posts with regard to the other pieces. The programme finished strongly with the infectiously upbeat Playlist which, I understand, will be expanded during the Forsythe evening at Sadlers Wells early in 2022. Something else to look forward to from ENB in the coming year.

 

 

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For what it's worth Scheherezade, we went again on Sunday afternoon to see the other cast and Natascha Mair looked equally uncomfortable in the Corsaire Pas de trois as she had in the Black Swan pas de deux on opening night. The rest of the programme was wonderful.

Like you, can't wait for the Forsythe evening next year! 

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I attended the Saturday matinée on 19 June to see the last major cast changes in this programme.  Outstanding were Jeffrey Cirio and Emily Suzuki in the duet from “Dust”.  Cirio gives a much sharper dynamic to the piece than James Streeter does, with jerky, angular movements, very suggestive of a shellshock victim.  He and Suzuki are so in tune with each other that she responds in a similar manner, creating a piece that is truly harrowing, and the sudden lifts towards the middle of the piece have an almost brutal feel to them as Suzuki’s body stiffens as she is lifted.  The one moment that I found absolutely heartbreaking was when Suzuki reached out to touch Cirio’s face and he jerked his head away with such violence as if he could not bear any human contact.  This was an awe-inspiring performance which will long stay in my mind.  The fact that Suzuki has been given two major duets in this programme hopefully signals that a promotion will soon be on the cards for this extremely talented artist.

 

In the Jewels extract from ‘Beauty’ Katja Khaniukova showed us her immaculate Russian style as the Diamond fairy, with her exquisite footwork and beautiful use of upper back and ports de bras. 

 

In “Hollow”, Junor Souza and Alison McWhinney take on the roles created by Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent and give a very different but equally moving interpretation.  The height difference of these two dancers works to advantage, with Souza showing an enveloping tenderness towards McWhinney.  His is a more mature, almost resigned grief as he tries to reach out to McWhinney’s haunted character, lost in her own world.  The moment at the end of the piece, when McWhinney finally appears to recognise Souza by reaching out and gently touching his arm, was heartbreaking. 

 

In “Playlist”, Fernando Carratalá Coloma continues to impress me with his thoroughly entertaining stage presence.

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 I attended on Friday 18th June and thoroughly enjoyed the evening as a whole.  The lovely joyous Coppelia extract to begin … Shiori Kase & FG Frola are well matched in temperament and accomplished technique.   And ending with the punchy Playlist … Erik Woolhouse, Noam Durand, and Jeffrey Cirio were highlights.  And then the diverts in-between.  So much to delight in.  

 

I too didn’t quite warm to Natasha Mair, and I so wanted to having seen some super clips online.  She was performing Le Corsaire … and seemed to me to be trying too hard to control her technique (which didn’t work).  This role needs flashiness.  I look forward to that returning when she gains performance time and her on stage confidence returns.  Dani McCormick threw everything at Ali …fun!  … and I loved the wicked glint and manly strutting of Isaac Hernandez, as well as his superlative technique.  
 

What else?  Oh yes … reliable Takahashi and Caley zipped through Black Swan, Oliviera and Martin were classical purity defined in 3 Preludes, as was Alison McWhinney and the 3 supporting ladies (Hudson, Galvao, Conway) in Jewels, and Khaniukova & Reimar were delicious and sensuous in Broken Wings … such emotive music, I love it.  

 

An upbeat and uplifting programme … including Dust (Takahashi, Streeter) and Hollow (Suzuki, Prigent) which were so brilliantly performed that one could only marvel at all the dancers maintaining the intensity of emotions needed.  Excellent performances.  👏👏👏

 

 

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I attended the matinee yesterday and loved it.  It was wonderful to see ENB live again, and for them to welcome me back in this way was just lovely.  

 

Solstice was beautifully danced and perfectly curated.  A mix of styles that flowed seamlessly from one to the next.  This is how a truly mixed bill can work.  

 

I don't have time to write much, save to say that I loved Shiori Kase and Gabriele Frola in Coppelia.  I would love to see them dance the entire ballet together one day.  Frola impressed me all evening, as he always does.  Shiori is strong yet gossamer light and between the two of them it was hard to know who to look at through my binocs...both of them, as much as I could!

 

I really enjoyed the more contemporary pieces too;  they actually had a lot to say, and this was conveyed by the dancers.  Jeffrey Cirio and Emily Suzuki just about moved me to tears in Dust.  I didn't know Three Preludes, but if this first movement was anything to go by I would really like to see the second two.

 

A swing back to the classics after this, and the two men in the Corsaire pdd (Isaac Hernandez and an on-fire Daniel McCormick) acquitted themselves very well, especially McCormick.  This was my first viewing of Natasha Mair and I am not sure if she was nervous but her footwork in her solo was very sloppy.  She did do her fouettees nicely, though...interestingly, all singles, the old fashioned way.  

 

The Sleeping Beauty snippets were sweet, and I was so happy to see Francesca Velicu and Katya Khaniukova amongst the four girls.

 

I loved the interpretation of The Broken Wings pdd.  I had never seen Carolyne Galvao before, and on this evidence I want to see her again...a lot.  Such beautiful interpretation, veering from funny to angry to accepting to sadness.  Aside from this, her musicality really made everything flow, and I could really understand how the song was so totally right.   Even if I didn't know what came before or after, she and James Streeter made very clear what was going on.  

 

This was also the case with Alison McWhinney and Junor Souza in Hollow.  Such depth of feeling and anguish:  a couple who can no longer communicate, and despite his support and best efforts he just can't reach her...but it ends on a positive note, where he envelops her and we know that he will keep on trying, and will be there for her.  

 

The Swan Lake black pdd was danced by Erina Takahashi and Joseph Caley.  He, as ever, such an attentive and caring partner, and despatched his solos very well.  Erina is now in her 25th season with the company and doesn't look a day older than she did when she joined.  Her dancing was creamy and seductive, and although she briefly came off pointe during the fouettes she dealt with it like a true pro, and kept on going until she got back on pointe.  She didn't lose her rhythm whilst this was going on, and I was impressed with that.  

 

What a fabulous idea to end on Playlist.  I hadn't seen Forsythe's piece live before, and it is so much fun, and so uplifting.  Great to see the men getting the stage to themselves and having a blast.  Again, I was very impressed with Frola, but as someone said above, it seems almost churlish to single any of them out.  I too thought it was a bit short, and would love the idea of Forsythe expanding it one day.   It says something about the elation of this piece that we are complaining about it being too short....makes a pleasant change from finding something way too long...!

 

So all in all a joyous way to spend a Thursday afternoon.  I am really looking forward to getting to know this company all over again.

 

 

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I think you’ve said it all Sim for the Matinee. 
Loved the show ...very varied a really nice mix to watch. 
I agree with just about everything you say and yes a really loud shout out for Daniel McCormick in Corsaire ....even in that extract his Ali was very stylish and exciting ❤️......Couldn’t take my eyes off him ....though Hernandez was pretty good too ....Hernández is  a very relaxed dancer which I really like he produces some showy stuff without being showy somehow. 
The jury’s out on the new lady Natascha Mair at the moment. I can see she’s very strong so can certainly cover the technical requirements for this role but for me on this performance I felt she lacked any stage presence or charm. As she’s new to the Company and performances have been few  it will be interesting to see how she develops. 

Another stand out for me was Carolyne Galvao....terrific in The Broken Wings ...she was so convincing and really seemed to be enjoying and owning this role and can certainly hold her own with others I’ve seen in it.  I’ve never seen her before but definitely would like to see more of her dancing too. 
The Dust pas de deux was quite extraordinary and a real highlight. 
I did like the Playlist was a fun piece to end with .....more balletic though than I was expecting doesn’t quite grab me like Rambert’s Rooster does where I find it really hard to sit still!!! 
So all in all as Sim said above a very enjoyable afternoon and didn’t miss the interval at all. 
I have to say it was a real pleasure to be at the Festival Hall such a relaxing building to use. Obviously lacks the style of a building like the ROH but it’s so easy and spacious to get around and you know where all the loos are etc!! The staff were falling over each other (almost literally) to be helpful and make sure you had no worries ....I have to say in contrast to a couple of weeks ago being rather abandoned in the Amphi at the ROH with no idea where the seat actually was!! 
Well done ENB for putting together such an interesting programme in very little time. 

 

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1 hour ago, LinMM said:

I think you’ve said it all Sim for the Matinee. 
Loved the show ...very varied a really nice mix to watch. 
I agree with just about everything you say and yes a really loud shout out for Daniel McCormick in Corsaire ....even in that extract his Ali was very stylish and exciting ❤️......Couldn’t take my eyes off him ....though Hernandez was pretty good too ....Hernández is  a very relaxed dancer which I really like he produces some showy stuff without being showy somehow. 
The jury’s out on the new lady Natascha Mair at the moment. I can see she’s very strong so can certainly cover the technical requirements for this role but for me on this performance I felt she lacked any stage presence or charm. As she’s new to the Company and performances have been few  it will be interesting to see how she develops. 

Another stand out for me was Carolyne Galvao....terrific in The Broken Wings ...she was so convincing and really seemed to be enjoying and owning this role and can certainly hold her own with others I’ve seen in it.  I’ve never seen her before but definitely would like to see more of her dancing too. 
The Dust pas de deux was quite extraordinary and a real highlight. 
I did like the Playlist was a fun piece to end with .....more balletic though than I was expecting doesn’t quite grab me like Rambert’s Rooster does where I find it really hard to sit still!!! 
So all in all as Sim said above a very enjoyable afternoon and didn’t miss the interval at all. 
I have to say it was a real pleasure to be at the Festival Hall such a relaxing building to use. Obviously lacks the style of a building like the ROH but it’s so easy and spacious to get around and you know where all the loos are etc!! The staff were falling over each other (almost literally) to be helpful and make sure you had no worries ....I have to say in contrast to a couple of weeks ago being rather abandoned in the Amphi at the ROH with no idea where the seat actually was!! 
Well done ENB for putting together such an interesting programme in very little time. 

 


The good news is that the expanded “Playlist EP” will be performed as part of The Forsythe Evening at Sadlers Wells 31/3-10/4 2022

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The thirteenth and final performance of ENB’s Solstice on 26 June had a party atmosphere to it right from the start with a glowing performance of the excerpts from “Coppélia” Act III, especially the exquisite Swanilda of Fernanda Oliveira, all charm and deceptively steely technique, and Jeffrey Cirio whose smile is as disarming as his formidable technique, greatly enhanced by Delibes’ heartwarming score played lusciously by the ENB Philharmonic under Maestro Gavin Sutherland who never fails to impress by his empathy for the dancers and making the music come alive.  If the style of dancing from the Hours ladies was not quite as uniform as it would be if they had not had such a long break from classical dancing, it was nonetheless charming in every respect.  For the beautiful style needed for this piece, my eyes were drawn, as they have been at every performance, to Adriana Lizardi, Angela Wood (oh! those beautifully controlled turns in attitude!) and Chloe Keneally, and to the delightfully sunny smile of Francesca Velicu.  This performance was the last show with ENB by the lovely Senri Kou (Bridesmaid in this cast) after sixteen years with the company during which she has literally graced the stage whenever she has appeared. It was therefore wonderful that Cirio led her downstage to take a solo bow so that her huge contribution over the years could be acknowledged by all of her colleagues onstage and in the pit, and by the audience.  From a personal point of view, it was an absolute delight for me to work with her on the peasant pas de deux and Zulma (first Wili solo) in Mary Skeaping’s “Giselle” and my abiding memory of her will be as the girl in the Third Song of “Song of the Earth” where her sunny personality and exquisite technique were shown to perfection.  She will be sorely missed by everyone onstage and off.

 

Erina Takahashi and James Streeter were again extraordinary in “Dust”, and Emma Hawes and Junor Souza were sublime in “Three Preludes”.  In fact, they have developed a wonderful chemistry over this run of performances so that one can marvel not only at the beauty of their technique but at the emotional depth they bring to the piece.  Shiori Kase and Francesco Gabriele Frola added extra fireworks to “Le Corsaire” so that they absolutely brought the house down – what an amazing ending to the evening this would have been if programmed as the last piece!  Frola added new gasp-inducing pyrotechnics to his solo and the coda, all done with seemingly effortless grace.  As for Kase, from her first balance in arabesque, held to the last millisecond of the musical phrase, it was clear she was on fire.  Her solo was flawless and thrilling as she played with the music during the relevés en passant, followed by amazingly controlled double pirouettes á la seconde, and her fouettés in the coda (sixteen perfect doubles and fifteen singles with a multiple one at the end) sizzled, and all done with the most radiant of smiles.   Alison McWhinney impressed as always with her impeccable style and grace as the Diamond Fairy and I only wish we had had the chance to see more of her lovely classical dancing in this programme.

 

With the ‘Llorona’ pas de deux from “Broken Wings”, I have to correct my post about 16 June as this was actually the full pas de deux (with a few alterations at the end made by Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa via the indispensable Zoom) and not the shortened gala version I had assumed it was.  However, it seemed all too short to me as I was left wanting more each time I saw it.  Khaniukova and Reimair have developed their interpretations even more over this run and their chemistry is electrifying.  From the moment Khaniukova bent over and raised the hem of her skirt oh so seductively, Remair was immediately smitten, and the result was a pas de deux of finely nuanced, intimate moments as well as great joyousness, playfulness and love.  For me, they have simply become Kahlo and Rivera (perhaps a happy coincidence that their surnames begin with the same letters!).

 

Likewise, Emily Suzuki and Victor Prigent have developed their interpretations in the hauntingly beautiful “Hollow” which never failed to move me at each performance. Natascha Mair looks less uncomfortable now as Odile in the Black Swan pas de deux, and has added some characterisation, but still suffers in appearing after the extraordinary Kase, although sympathetically partnered, as always, by Isaac Hernández. “Playlist” had an end-of-term feeling to it, with all the ‘boys’ letting their hair down and having a rip-roaring time, with the audience clapping along during the second half.  Needless to say, I think the audience all went home with smiles on our faces after this exhilarating dance-off, and the company to a well-deserved holiday after this disjointed but ultimately successful season.

 

Reflecting on this season and recent ones, it seems that ENB has tended to spotlight the prodigious talent of its male dancers, sometimes overlooking the exceptional talent amongst its female dancers.  Notwithstanding the recent losses of Cao, Cojocaru and Dronina, it has four outstanding ballerinas in Takahashi, Oliveira, Kase and Khaniukova who led the company impeccably during the truncated 2019/2020 season and should be celebrated much more than they seem to be, in my opinion, along with Hawes, McWhinney and the up-and-coming Suzuki, who all light up the stage whenever they appear.  

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Really enjoyed ENB’s Solstice programme which I was lucky enough to see a number of times.  One thought stood out.  This beautifully crafted fare was exactly what was ideal in this concert space.  More please.  Indeed, I think this is exactly the kind of thing that the company should always do in this space.  Next time it would be grand to see a similar programme – but with segments perhaps from works that ENB has not done in the past.  The RFH was never intended as a balletic performance space and scenery always compromises possibility there.  Here the dance did the talking and often it was yelling from the rooftops.  There’s no question but that it took the audience with it.  It will, I know, again. 

 

Were it to have been otherwise you could never have seen the brilliant largess of space-gobbling Frola’s Ali.  Unquestionably this is a dancer now in the historic first league.  (That one performance of Nijinsky of his in Paris will I think always remain one of the highlights of my ballet going of ALL TIME.)  What I loved about his Ali is that at every performance he gave he always mixed it up.  No two performances were the same.  He was always challenging himself.  Then came the triumph of the last performance.  He did the whole of the Baryishnikov variations and triumphed – replete with that cross-stage run prior to the initial preparation to that full arabesque – which he had partially attempted previously – with Shori Kase being held glittering aloft – to the bombastic barrel turns of the second variation.  I had never actually thought to see it live again.  I found myself almost weeping.  I recalled a week back in the 70’s in New York – at the height of the so-called 'dance boom' – seeing Nureyev do that same aside Gelsey Kirkland one Sunday and then Baryishnikov seemingly punch the entranced State Theater audience for six doing the same the next, again opposite a thrillingly radiant Kirkland.  All were then at the heights of their powers.  The titanic volume of those audiences' cheers still live in my ears.  There is no question but that Frola is now of that ilk.  He must be duly prised.  

 

The ENB men here were really – in so many aspects – the highlight.  Playlist 1,2 was rightfully chosen as the 11 o’clock number.  Well it was deserved.  With Cirio - as historically ever - defining dramatic elegance in whatever his sleekly precise gams – and laser-fierce intelligence - chose to do – [my only disappointment in his regard being that he was not paired with the ever radiant Katja Khaniukova as theirs is a classical pairing to be reckoned with]; with the mighty McCormick stealth-fully scrambling ever higher up that ladder of a definitive star on the make, and Hernandez continuing to dance well there is so, SO much on offer.  Junor Souza offered a masterclass in ... well, .... classy partnering and pristine line in both of his charges; James Streeter continues to never, EVER disappoint but only surprise with 110% soulfulness .... and Noam Durand routinely toyed us with rapid-fire brises that might well cut glass. 

 

Of the women these past two weeks really was – for me – the dawing of Emma Hawes.  She excited in both the heart-stopping Three Preludes segment and her Coppelia charge.    Equally Emily Suzuki mindfully tantalised in both Dust and Hollow – where I found myself thinking of her as being sister to the very fine brother of Victor Prigent and his earnest efforts to wholly understand.  The aforementioned Khaniukova joyfully gobbled up the very lust of Khalos life in the Broken Wings PDD (as Galvao did) and shone in the diamond gleam of her Sleeping Beauty Jewels’ variation every bit as much as did the always fine McWhinney.  Kase cosseted skilfully opposite Frola (who wouldn’t) in the Coppelia segment (something which sadly escaped Oliviera’s technical capacity opposite a stellar Cirio) but it really was the anniversary girl, Erina Takahashi, who dominated by the whirlwind force of her majestic theatrical mind and balletic maturity.  She provided the laser focus of Dust – a PDD in which – for me at least – the woman is very much the catalyst and thrilled in the Black Swan PDD.  I was at the performance that Irmgard rightfully defines at some length above.  It could – and now will – stand amongst antiquity’s very best.  I too was disheartened by the repeatedly lacklustre outings by the new principal, Natascha Mair.  I’m sorry to say but I found her port de bras most awkward and her frequent lack of preparation downright shoddy.  One could continually feel the audience’s disappointment being surrounded – as she was - by just so much excellence.  It was with some relief therefore to find at the very last performance she actually managed to actually pull the Black Swan adagio and first variation out of the bag.  It came as a pleasant surprise.  It allowed her strengths – those telling eyes – for once to have their fitting prominence and at least gave some hope for her future in this fine company;  the lustrous house that Rojo has built. 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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Thank you, Irmgard and Bruce.  I only managed to catch a couple of performances of this bill, but did, I think, manage to catch pretty much a full change of cast between the "first" and "second" casts - I realise there were other combinations, but unfortunately left booking too late to catch them.  Not being able to see faces clearly from the back of the house, I was afraid it had been Senri Kou who was leaving, and she will indeed be very much missed - Irmgard's mention of her in Song of the Earth brought back some very pleasant memories.  I found last night's performance very enjoyable on all fronts, and think probably everyone really deserves crediting, but I would like to mention Kase, Frola and Caley on fire in the Le Corsaire pas de trois, Takahashi and Streeter in Dust, Suzuki and Prigent in Hollow, and Hernandez and Mair in the Black Swan pdd, of which I hadn't had particularly high hopes based on comments I'd read previously, but actually I appreciated it very much, particularly from an emotional standpoint, as it seemed to be on a more strongly interpretive level than many "gala-type" performances I'd seen in the past.  The men in Playlist were great, as usual - was it my imagination, or did some of the choreography get embellished more than usual, in an "it's the last night, so let's party" sort of way?

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On 19/06/2021 at 10:03, Irmgard said:

In the ‘Corsaire’ pas de trois, Daniel McCormick completely stole the limelight with his larger than life personality, and the pyrotechnics in his bravura solo were delivered with both panache and elegance, drawing gasps and spontaneous applause from the audience.

I heartily agree Irmgard, for me..Daniel McCormick stole the show. A rising star, I sincerely hope he continues to progress in his career. He is also very modest and friendly as I had the pleasure of chatting to him at the stage door after the show.

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