Leaving the open theatre in Holland Park, I heard a member of the audience gasp, “How can they get any better than this?” She had a point. This was a performance by the upper school of the Royal Ballet, effectively their sixth form – one that was, given the age and experience of the dances, supremely assured and professional.
It was, of course, a programme designed to showcase the talents of these young dancers and it ranged from the (in ballet terms) ancient – the stylised choreography of Bournonville’s Napoli – to the charmingly classical (Ashley Page’s Larina Waltz) to more contemporary ballets. These included Andrew McNicol’s dreamy Sea Interludes, the girls in blue, the boys in white between them reflecting all the moods of the sea, coming together and drifting apart in mesmerising patterns. This was followed by Robert Binet’s Self and Soul, a very different modern work. This is a pas de deux of great complexity and, while not as obviously beautiful as Sea Interludes, it was beautifully danced by Rebecca Blenkinsop and Harris Bell who caught its fragile, sometimes clumsy heart perfectly.
The final contemporary ballet consisted of excerpts from Bach, Multiplicity Forms of Silence and Emptiness. Bach appears as the central figure (an authoritative Simon Regourd) who conducts the dancers either as his music or quite literally as his instruments. There were three funny and delightful pas de deux (I especially liked Victoria Norris and Brayden Gallucci in “Pianito”) and some beautiful ensemble dancing (particularly in “Claves”).
So, it was a very varied selection of hors d’oeuvres that built up to the second half and Aurora’s Wedding. This, of course, is the final part of Petipa’s classical ballet, Sleeping Beauty, here restaged for the School by Anthony Dowell, former Principal Dancer and Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet. It contains some formidable classical choreography but this was a performance that oozed polish and confidence. There was fine technique throughout the company but of special note was a crisp Golden Vine from Katharina Nikelski and a charming White Cat from Madison Bailey. Amelia Townsend was a lovely Princess Florine and her Bluebird, Taisuke Nakao was little short of dazzling. The Three Ivans – Damen Axtens, William Boswell and Ryota Hasegawa – were athletic and funny in equal measure. And I have to say there are some very strong boys this year.
Yu Hang and Harrison Lee made a captivating Aurora and her Prince. Lore Zonderman as the Lilac Fairy danced with such serene assurance I found it hard to believe she was only just about to graduate. I would strongly recommend anyone interested in spotting the future stars of the ballet world to experience the Royal Ballet School at Holland Park.
The Royal Ballet School at Opera Holland Park 2018 continues with Isabeau opening on 14 July and Ariadne opening on 17 July. For more information and tickets please visit the website. Images ©2018 The Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Tristram Kenton.