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Ballet Nights - first show of a new concept

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I loved this show!   What a super concept to mix different dance styles and performers together, all under the umbrella of being unique, new or unseen in London, and to do it in an unfamiliar venue.

Each piece was introduced personally by Jamiel Laurence to explain its uniqueness, and therefore why it had been included in the programme.  It was a privilege to be in the audience of these young entrepreneurial dancers (the evening was a joint effort of Jamiel Laurence and Henry Dowden both looking businesslike in suits) bringing a new concept of dance programme to Canary Wharf and to dance audiences.  I feel more inclined to look up some of the dancers/companies that I did not know so well now … to widen my experience.  I believe that was the point 👏


The programme was in two halves, each half beginning with a Chopin piano solo performed ably by Viktor Erik Emanuel.  The dancing was topped and tailed with classical ballet, beginning with the Medora solo from Le Corsaire performed by Ivana Bueno.  We were told she had not performed this anywhere before, had offered to learn the solo to perform it here and had been helped by Shiori Kase.  She was superb in this demanding variation.  She has a lightness of performance that usually comes only after multiple shows.  The ending piece was the full Don Quixote pdd.  I believe this was the only piece not to have something new or unique about it … and of course it’s a great crowd pleaser to end on.  Katja Khaniukova had flown in that morning having performed in Kyiv the night before and was hugely engaging, partnered by Francesco Gabriele Frola on fire 🔥  


The other ‘ballet’ on the programme was the Act II pdd from David Dawson’s version of Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet.  A first, because it has not been seen in London, and a first occasion for Barnaby Bishop to perform this pdd.  And last, as we were also told, as he is leaving Scottish Ballet.  He partnered the beautiful Constance Devernay who has wonderful dynamics and movement quality.  Probably my highlight of the evening.  


The contemporary pieces were all new, except a Robert Cohan solo.  And all were different in style and intensity, and included a piece by Hannah Rudd originally choreographed for one of the Royal Ballet Draft Works programmes that got COVID cancelled.  

Jeffrey Cirio’s movement and focus in his own choreography was extraordinary.  He performed to a combination of Chopin played live and a new music composition by Fabian Reimar.  


It was a nice touch to be personally welcomed by Jamiel as we entered the theatre, and, the bar service was great!  There were a fair amount of ENB dancers in the audience supporting their dancers which is always good to see.  Heartwarming applause from the appreciative audience.

Here’s a brief overview of the event from Graham Watts (he says longer review to follow)



Curtain call videos from Ballet Nights own Instagram



The programme



Regarding Practicalities …


- Having psyched myself up for the journey to Canary Wharf with which I was unfamiliar, it turned out to be a non-event.  The Jubilee Line takes you into the heart of the business area, at speed from Waterloo.  Then it’s a short walk of 5 minutes or so to the Lanterns Theatre across the waterways with the reflections from the lights in the tall buildings around twinkling in the water.  Rather beautiful.  


- the stage itself was huge.  The audience of  300 or so (I think) was spread in seven rows up steps along the wide front of the stage.  I felt that the seating is not sufficiently raked, but as there are so few rows, it was no hardship to dodge heads.  The lucky VIPs in the front row had their feet right up against the dance floor.  

- including a half hour interval, the show was over around 9.30pm and I was home near Earls Court by 10.15pm

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Will definitely try and get to the next one. 
Thanks for the report ....I’m sure Frola was worth it alone! But a nice way to show off talented dancers and maybe give them a chance to perform something not yet or may never be cast in with their Companies particularly if not in their Rep etc. 

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@LinMMyou raise a good point … Don Q isn’t in ENB rep.   Though no doubt Francesco will get many invitations to perform it at galas.  

His technique was spot on … particularly lovely jete manège which ate up the enormous stage.   For me he could add more panache … a few tips from Katja K would be good.  She was stylistically superb.  It’s not a time for British understated style, this needs to be ‘look at me’ !

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Having bought a ticket for this before I realised I had double-booked myself for the evening of 23 October, the organisers of the inaugural Ballet Nights performance (Henry Dowden of English National Ballet and Jamiel Laurence, formerly of Scottish Ballet) very kindly invited me to watch the afternoon dress rehearsal.  The technical rehearsal having happened earlier in the day, this felt almost like a private performance, especially as everything was danced almost full out!  To get to this new venue, I walked from Canary Wharf tube station, only to discover it was just around the corner from South Quay DLR so this is definitely the stop I will use in the future!  The Lanterns Studio Theatre has been created by Laurence’s mother and is a huge space above her nursery school.  With a vaulted ceiling and an enviable performance space, this is certainly a welcome addition to dance venues in London. Lighting is fairly basic at the moment but the sound system was excellent, and the recorded pieces were played at a very pleasing volume.  Each half of the programme began with Chopin performed with great sensitivity by pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel.  Apparently the Yamaha piano was Elton John’s touring piano but thankfully it has lost none of the beauty of its tone as a result!


The dance section of the first half opened with a delightful performance by ENB’s 2020 Emerging Dancer, Ivana Bueno, of Medora’s Act II solo from “Le Corsaire”.  This suited her admirably and she had been coached by one of the company’s finest Medoras, Shiori Kase, so there was a lovely sense of style to the whole thing, as well as very clean fouetté turns.  This was followed by “Kirra’s Death, Greater than Lion” choreographed and danced by Kennedy Junior Muntanga, along with Olivia Grassot, which I found absolutely mesmerising.  I was unable to read the programme note at the time but I later read that the work is based partly on a story of the same name by Alexander McCall Smith.  In the first section, they hardly moved from the spot and created fascinating shapes with their bodies, greatly helped by their excellent costumes, at times resembling a Rorschach picture or a kaleidoscope.  However, when they started to move, it was obvious that both or one of them were creatures rather than humans, such was the immediacy of Muntanga’s choreography.  This was followed by “Heavenly Bodies”, choreographed and danced by Daniel Davidson, whose dancing lived up to the title.  The first half closed with the Act II pas de deux from David Dawson’s “Swan Lake”.  Choreographed for Scottish Ballet in 2016, London audiences were robbed of the chance to see this by lockdown so it was a real pleasure to see this brief excerpt.  Danced by Constance Devernay and Barnaby Rook Bishop with great elegance, this was a beautiful, elegiac rethinking of the piece in modern costumes.  I was rather fascinated by the red diamond-shaped gemstone on Devernay’s leotard and wondered if it was a nod to Pavlova’s “Dying Swan” costume which featured the same.


After some more lovely Chopin, the second half opened with one of Robert Cohan’s final creations, “Communion”, danced by Luke Ahmet, which was a fitting tribute to this leader of contemporary dance in the UK for so long.  This was followed by “How do you know all this?” choreographed and danced by Hannah Rudd, which seemed to be a rather angry piece although danced with an expressionless face as were the previous solos.  Then came “Untitled”, choreographed and danced by Jeffrey Cirio.  Created for his own company, the Cirio Collective, several years ago, the opening section was originally danced in silence but Cirio decided to commission ENB colleague, Fabian Reimair, to compose a soundscape for this performance, which worked extremely well, the second section being danced to Chopin’s “Raindrop” prelude played by Emanuel.  Cirio once again showed the extraordinary breadth and inventiveness of his movement vocabulary in this intriguing piece.  The programme ended in true gala style with the pas de deux from “Don Quixote”. Danced by the supremely elegant pairing of Francesco Gabriele Frola and Katja Khaniukova, this was a truly stylish performance with all the expected fireworks – and more!  A slight drawback of having a black backcloth was that, with Frola in dark tights, I could not clearly see the detail of his spectacular leaps or his beautifully clean beats but that is a minor niggle.  As for Khaniukova, it was hard to believe she had stepped off a plane from Kyiv only a few hours earlier, so sublime was her dancing!  I loved the way her delicious solo started with a series of tiny runs en pointe which were so fast that her feet were a blur, rather like a hummingbird’s beating wings. 


All in all I thought this was an excellent first programme by the enterprising duo of Dowden and Laurence, and I am sure the evening’s audience enjoyed the performance as much as I enjoyed the rehearsal.  Personally, I would have liked one more ballet piece so that there was an even balance with the contemporary pieces and hopefully this will happen in future programmes, of which I hope there will be many.   

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Thank you Irmgard & Fiona fro your wonderfully detailed feedback! I cant emphasise enough how useful this is during our event breakdown and future planning.


I want everyone to know that we keenly follow all of the feedback on our new live event concept - although we may be dropping the word 'concept' very soon with such a ferocious audience response! Our 165 sounded like 2000 up that close, and certainly made themselves known during the Don Q finale!!


We are now into the planing stages of BALLET NIGHTS 2, aiming for an end of March 2022 show date (light pencil March 26th...) so please do let me know how you think that sits with the wider ballet community.


Furthermore, if you have any further feedback on how we can make this event work even better on our second go round, have ideas for programming or would even like to get involved in actively commissioning a work, please do not hesitate to contact us via BalletNightUK@gmail.com


Both Henry and I have yet to fully process all of the wonderful emotions that came up in seeing our many colleagues and friends back in action post pandemic, and seeing this idea come to life. We look forward to continuing this journey together with our audience in 2022 and beyond!!


Jamiel Laurence


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Thanks @Jan McNultyAs you probably guessed, I didn’t check any others 😉

As Ballet Nights is a one-off event … I’d say it’s good to get their date fixed early, then us regulars can choose another performance date at our favourite companies that don’t clash.  The others mostly have multiple dates to choose from.  

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