Bounding out of the wings like some kind of piratical dervish, Isaac Hernández‘s Conrad looked like he was truly skimming the surface of the stage as he leapt and turned. He also looked constrained by the size of the Coliseum’s stage, a creature needing to stretch but instead caged.
His bravura technique was eye-catching but his Conrad needed a touch more snap, dynamism or pizazz (call it what you will) in acting to temper the pyrotechnics. Conrad should be dashing, which is different to just dashing around the stage – albeit admittedly rather well. Dashing and derring-do comes across in mime. Hernández’s could have been stronger. Hand movements needed to be larger, and drawn in brighter colour. Physical fireworks are all well and good but there needs to be strong presence for when the smoke clears. From the stalls he probably looked good, but smouldering eyes look like embers from the balcony’s heights. As it was, the aforementioned sense of captivity and need for clearer “motivation” meant his Conrad didn’t dash as I had hoped.
Osiel Gouneo‘s Ali was gloriously languid in places, his ending to variations finding little flourishes – a deep backbend before the ending chord of his first variation, a sinuous pose and fountaining hand completing the pas de trois – but he was not Hernández’s whirlwind, nor Ken Saruhashi’s limpid mysticism. Instead, lithe and bright and smiling – and still a pleasure to see.
Junor Souza as the slave market owner Lankendem too was smiley – that grin is perhaps the brightest beam in English National Ballet (and there’s a lot of contenders!). He was fine in his dancing – his pas seul’s given with a plush deep plié-, but as with Gouneo’s Lankendem from my previous viewing, he came across a little bit too much of a nice guy.
Birbanto was once more Max Westwell, who had “improved” upon his last Birbanto. Memorable was the ending to the “sword-crossing dance” where he advanced toward the audience, leapt and kicked with a “Yeah!” expression. Now that was the spirit! And further, as a note, comparing his steps with those of Souza in the same role in the next day’s performance (more of which later) Westwell’s finesse and definition of statement – experience perhaps? came though. A much better performance than when I saw him last.
As a note, there was some varied interpetation of how to angle one’s sword in the corps during that same sword bashing, peasant girl partnering dance, which, if this were the Bolshoi, or Maryinsky, would probably have been ruthlessly ironed out in rehearsal. I quite like that there’s a lassitude of relaxed fun, which the whole company has begun to exude.
And who was this delightful “Rose” in the Pasha’s dream? With beautiful control to the tips of her fingers – hands too, beautifully artistic and carefully drawn? Ah yes. Katja Khaniukova, that’s who. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Shiori Kase’s Gunare was technically strong and carried by impeccable phrasing. Her lightness of landing was impressive, as (the same with Kaunokova) was her ballon in lifts. The development and illusion of lightness was total. Her descent from lift in her duet with Lankendem was different yet still from the other two dancers I saw. Kase found a strong pointe, landed in first, then releved. A bit of a disconnect in steps, but I wasn’t too bothered.
Three odialesques were excellent. Travelling brises hummed, Lauretta Summerscales‘ releves and small jumps onto pointe were rock solid. Ksenia Ovsyanick’s pliancy and description of shape were delightful. Alison McWhinney’s dancing was crystal cut and lucid. I think these three were perhaps the best three Odialesques yet, Petipa’s steps given marvellously.
And of Tamara Rojo, what can one say except to express admiration? Her Medora is robustly drawn. No waif and stray this one.
As before, turns were her speciality, and in partnership with Hernández she showed fine beauty in line and grace. Hernández himself displayed some micro-hesitancies when he was about to catch her which is understandable. Catching your boss is pretty important – but I didn’t quite like how his outstretched arms wavered in a kind of “oh, ok, she’s running and uh..oh, jumping uh…ok! GOT HER!” way. At forty two years of age, Ms Rojo is marvellous. It will be sad when she retires, but one hopes her stewardship of the ENB, it’s development into a truly fine company, will continue.
Let me finally mention Shevelle Dynott. As Pasha’s assistant he is charmingly ditzy and camp and I loved how he bopped along to Medora’s variation. Something of a thankless role, but excellently given.
A break of a day, and then to the 24 Jan Matinee.
“She stepped outside the arches!” my friend said of Lauretta Summerscales‘ Medora after the dream scene. Indeed she did, but now let’s look at those arches themselves, approximately, I’d estimate, fourteen inches square, and then consider how difficult it is to manoeuvre from each to each, and to step and pose once inside one. She performed exquisitely throughout. Her poses and arabesques en pointe seem thrill by being held just that little bit longer than one thinks ordinary, or possible. Summerscales demands that one pays attention to her.
To enumerate her fast-developing virtues: She displays uncommon rhythmic insight. Her variations were beautifully timed to the score’s pulse. She is adept too at illustrating nuance by expression, and she crowns and develops phrases with sophisticated port de bras and use of hands which is a delight to watch. She has a winning, sincere smile, and can transform into a the archetype of dancerly softness and grace in partnering. Her fouettés are solid consistently strong and she is a lively actor. It was truly special to see Tamara Rojo walk onstage to announce the close of the run of Corsaire, and then to announce it was Summerscales’ birthday, and then to further announce that she was being promoted, and from that moment on, was now Principal. Well deserved indeed.
Let’s give deserved mention to those indomitable gifted young future-professionals, the children of Tring Park School for the Peforming Arts. As tiny be-turbaned angels, they were cute and in the synchronisation and execution of their steps, faultless. It’s not easy to waft garlands around especially when so young, but there was some great wafting. Next time though, slightly more luxurious garlands would have been nice?