Emerging Dancer 2013, Alison Jackson

The Queen Elizabeth Hall buzzed with an infectious clamour of excitement during Emerging Dancer 2013.  The atmosphere provided a feeling of support for all of the contenders, and a sense that it was just a chance for them to showcase their already exceptional talent. As a result, the competitors fed off this community buzz and gained an injection of poise.  A far cry from the sights and sounds I was fortunate enough to observe during the dress run.   Numerous camera shutters of the press pulsed to the rhythm of the competitors’ routines coupled with an occasional ‘Can we run that again please?’  Each light bulb on stage was to be tried and tested to ensure that it was not too overwhelming for the performers, in ensuring that they could turn effectively.  Nerves and adrenalin appeared to permeate the air, which became heavy with the weight of the silences that ensued after each presentation.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.
Aside from the six finalists being passionate and talented in their art, they all had an ability to teeter on the edge of control during their sequences to the point where some spectators were left with bated breath. This unnerving quality created tension, as there were moments when if this exquisite balance had not been found, one could easily imagine they would fall flat on their faces.

However, as we learn through each piece, this is only the case with us mere mortals. The classical ballet technique and precision that the performers possess, is the work of super humans.  Alison McWhinney described her experience of ballet as the ‘never ending quest for perfection.’  With such a codified form of dance that could be judged upon in terms of technique alone, it is no wonder this drive for achieving such precision exists.  It is when this standard of excellence endures across all of the artists, that it becomes apparent that something extra needs be brought to the stage, aside from flawless skill.

Arguably, the effectiveness of emotion and characterisation were what set the competitors apart.  Feigned or not, Nancy Osbaldestone seemed to exude a strong sense of confidence, almost as if it were on steroids.  The playful elements of her solo choreographed by John Neumeier, included deliberate flirtatious eye contact and the snap of a delightfully naughty but nice fan.  Her vivacious bound off stage on its completion, suggested that she was confident with her enactment of the style.  This self-assurance was to be justified, as Darcy Bussell presented her at the end of the evening with the well-deserved Emerging Dancer prize.  The applause of the audience proceeded once more, as Osbaldestone’s face revelled in the once daunting lights of the stage.

Alison Jackson