Thursday, 19 May 2016

ENB Emerging Dancer 2016

Cesar Corrales in Diana and Acteon
Photo: Laurent Liotardo

Emerging Dancer, English National Ballet, London Palladium - reviewed on 17th May

Dance competitions are always problematic as it's impossible to compare like for like. Even if all dancers perform the same solos, the repertoire will suit some more than others. If they choose different pieces, how do you judge a dancer who performs eight pirouettes in a virtuosic Petipa variation against someone who excels in a lyrical, dramatic or contemporary work?

Cesar Corrales
Photo: Laurent Liotardo
In spite of these reservations, English National Ballet's annual Emerging Dancer competition holds a particular fondness for me, as it was the first show I reviewed as a dance critic five years ago. It's also been interesting to see how the event has become bigger and better each year, with developments including the addition of duets, an increasingly diverse judging panel, and a move to perform in large West End theatres.

At the London Palladium on Tuesday, there was one dancer who was in an entirely different league to the rest. Whilst everyone else had at least a few wobbles, junior soloist Cesar Corrales was immaculate in both his dynamic Diana and Acteon pas de deux and his less choreographically-exciting Contrabajo para Hombre contemporary solo.

Corrales' multiple pirouettes were superbly-controlled, his leaps sky-high and his partnering confident and secure. He was therefore very deserving of the Emerging Dancer Award, and it was unsurprising that he was also selected by ENB audiences to win the People's Choice Award.

Isabelle Brouwers with Erik Woolhouse
in The Talisman pas-de-deux
Photo: Laurent Liotardo
One other notable performance came from artist Isabelle Brouwers. In  relatively un-virtuosic repertoire, she stood out for her light, delicate and effortless technique and sunny stage presence. I spotted her a few years ago in the Young British Dancer of the Year competition where she was the most captivating performer onstage, and she radiated just as much joy in her dancing this time. She was also thoroughly engaging in the torso isolations and striking arm poses of Charlotte Edmonds' new solo, Pelican.

ENB's Emerging Dancer is important not just for the winner but for all the competitors, who have the opportunity - early in their career - to learn and be seen in repertoire typically reserved for soloists and principals. It's this chance for them to grow that is exciting, as well as the way in which the competition showcases and celebrates the talent and commitment of the company's hard-working lower ranking dancers. 

ENB director Tamara Rojo took the celebration a step further this year, with a Corps de Ballet Award given to artist Jennie Harrington who has "gone beyond the call of duty" in her involvement with the company's outreach work (on top of an already heavy schedule). Harrington's tears on acceptance showed just how much it means to be recognised.