English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Award is possibly one of the most unique nights out of the dance year. There’s certainly an X Factor feel, with nerves in the air, friends and family sitting supportively in the audience and a celebrity host (Natasha Kaplinsky, an ENB board member). Now in its seventh year Emerging Dancer provides lower ranked dancers from the company to shine individually for an evening. The past demonstrates that a strong performance here doesn’t harm these dancer’s careers either: Alison McWhinney, a winner from two years ago was promoted immediately from an Artist to a First Artist and then again to a Soloist.
The six finalists firstly pair up to dance three classical pas de deux. The evening opened with a careful, but still enjoyable interpretation of The Talisman pas de deux from Isabelle Brouwers (unfortunate not to win last year) and Erik Woolhouse. These younger dancer’s clearly incredibly focused on landing every pirouette and jump leaving charisma and personality lacking slightly in what felt like a pleasant, if not slightly pedestrian opening.
The Black Swan pas de deux that followed from Daniele Silingardi and Jeanette Kakareka certainly couldn’t be accused of such and Kakareka (also a finalist last year who expressed in the preceding video that she felt “strong this year”) demonstrated some explosive attack and the feisty, sass required for the enigmatic role. She evidently took such joy in the repeated rejection of Silingardi’s meek Prince, expressing her disdain right down to the spiky placement of her fingers. Such attitude, add to this a comfortable thirty-two fouettes and an arabesque that appeared to be gifted from God and this reviewer was certainly sold, even Silingardi seemed reduced to a bystander at times.
The evening had now truly warmed up, just in time for the eventual winner, Cesar Corrales, partnered by the company’s youngest dancer, Rina Kanehara, to perform the ever crowd-pleasing the Diana and Acteon pas de deux. Kanehara showed impressive control and composure in her opening solo sections before being joined by Corrales for a masterclass in jumps and leaps. Secure technique and effortless athleticism it was hard to tear one’s eyes from his captivating presence, his feet seemingly in the air more than they were on the stage. It was only a shame that Kanehara’s highly competent showing was somewhat overshadowed by the powerhouse of Corrales.
As per most years, the solos proved to be less enjoyable, most choosing to sit in the contemporary genre and opting for dingy lighting and plotless narratives that always leave this reviewer underwhelmed. The pick of the bunch however was a Charlotte Edmonds piece entitled Pelican, performed by Isabelle Brouwers. Brouwers is highly skills in seamlessly linking her movements together and it make for a slinky, smooth showing, contrasted with jerky, contorted movements in a dynamic display that demonstrated great versatility from her earlier fluffy pas de deux.
Predictably, it seemed, Corrales was crowned the winner, not only of the Emerging Dancer Award but also The People’s Choice award (an award voted for every year by ENB audiences.) Although not all the dancers were as charismatic in their performances as one would expect, it was heartening to see everyone deliver a sold pas de deux and solo, the nerves of previous years appear to have been banished the evening works as an impressive showcase for what ballet can look forward to in the future.
Review by Vikki Jane Vile
This inspiring annual event celebrates the talent of tomorrow’s stars. The recipient of the People’s Choice Award, selected by members of the public will also be revealed.
Having trained at English National Ballet School, Isabelle joined English National Ballet in 2014. Since joining the Company she has performed in Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and as an Odalisque in Le Corsaire. In 2015 Isabelle was a finalist in Emerging Dancer. She has won the Silver Medal at the 2013 Genée International Ballet Competition, and came second place in Young British Dancer of the Year 2013.
Jeanette joined English National Ballet in 2013, having graduated from San Francisco Ballet School. She has performed as Rosaline in Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet, and in Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land, part of the Company’s award-winning Lest We Forget programme, and as an Odalisque in Le Corsaire . In 2015 she was an Emerging Dancer finalist.
The youngest dancer in the Company, Rina trained at the Princess Grace Academy, Monaco and joined English National Ballet after winning the Prix de Lausanne 2015. During her short time with the Company, she has performed as an Odalisque in Le Corsaire and as a Lead Snowflake in Nutcracker.
Having joined English National Ballet in 2014, Cesar was promoted to Junior Soloist at the end of the 14/15 season. He has gone on to perform as Mercutio in Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet, the Nephew in Nutcracker, and as Ali and Birbanto in Le Corsaire.
Daniele joined the Company in 2013 upon graduating from the Royal Ballet Upper School. He has performed in the role of Paris in Romeo & Juliet, Second Breath by Russell Maliphant, and Dust by Akram Khan, both part of the award-winning Lest We Forget programme.
Erik trained at the Royal Ballet Upper School and joined English National Ballet last year and has so far performed in Romeo & Juliet, and in the Russian dance in Nutcracker. In 2014 he won Young British Dancer of the Year.
Previous winners of the Emerging Dancer Award include Yonah Acosta (2012), who is now Principal of English National Ballet, Shiori Kase (2011), and Junor Souza (2014), who have since been promoted to First Soloist, Alison McWhinney (2014) who was promoted to Soloist last year, and Jinhao Zhang (2015), recently seen performing in the lead roles of Ali and Lankendem in Le Corsaire at the London Coliseum in January this year.
Joining Tamara Rojo on the judging panel:
Sir Matthew Bourne OBE
Thomas Edur CBE