Mini-review – English National Ballet School & Central School of Ballet – City of London Festival

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Over lunch today I ran to St. Paul’s to catch the English National Ballet School & Central School of Ballet performing on the steps of St. Paul’s as part of the City of London festival. The ENB dancers went on first, opening with a five-person, five movement ballet with two sections using Astor Piazolla (photo here and here – unfortunately I missed the intro as I’d gone the wrong way around the building so I can’t provide information on the choreographer or the dancers). The three girls and two young men performed fairly well – I was impressed they were able to manage so well despite the high heat and humidity.

Next up was a piece that should have been easy to pick out if I’d even once seen the ballet (though I suspected Beauty and the Beast). The dancers were dressed as cats, and while I found this piece fairly cute and enjoyed them swatting at each other, I felt like they weren’t really focusing on the character enough – perhaps they were finding it all just a little silly. (The woman in this picture is supposed to be Marina Takahashi.)

The third piece was a pas de deux performed in blue and for some reason I think it’s from Sleeping Beauty, the Bluebird Pas de Deux (I didn’t photograph it but it very much looks like this photo). This was, I thought, the strongest piece, and what’s surprising was that it was the man I thought was shining. In addition to his leaps, he was a superior partner. His eye contact with her was tight and lifted his companion not so much like she was a sack of potatoes, but like he knew where her body was and where it needed to go, and had no trouble getting her there. I think I’ll be seeing him on stage again. Exciting to think I caught him at the start of his career! (Note: I went back and watched it again the next day, when it was even better – and this time I took a picture. And then three weeks later he was identified as Ivan Delgado, who’s just been hired by the Scottish Ballet. His partner was Ayako Nagai.)

A “Red Riding Hood” scene followed, once again making me worry that the heavily costumed male dancer was going to keel over on stage. I think this was chosen for audience appeal as it didn’t have too much dancing (other than some pantomime and growling) in the bit they presented – more’s the shame. Everyone sitting on the steps with me seemed to enjoy it, anyway.

I think this was the end of the ENB section, and was followed by the Central School of Ballet, performing three pieces, “Five Lullabies,” something by Ashton, and a newly choreographed hip hop piece. This group of dancers seemed much younger than the other group and also lacking in dance maturity (though they were charming, see photo) – but they seemed to be thinking about what they were doing rather a lot, and something about the way the women were being handled made me think they were on the verge of careening out of control. Still, I liked the girls’ enthusiasm as they faced certain doom. I also really like the young man who was the only non-Caucasian of this group – in “5 Lullabies,” he was really getting a lot of height in his leaps, and his body seemed to have a really good form to it. Alas, if only I knew his name!

Even more alas, I wasn’t able to stay for the other three pieces. Still, I really enjoyed my lunchtime ballet treat and am looking to seeing them perform tomorrow.

(This review is for a performance that took place on June 29th, 2009.)
FOr another take, please see Graham Watt’s review.)

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