Emerging Dancer 2013, Jennifer Whittaker

The fourth of its kind, Emerging Dancer 2013 sees six fresh talents grace the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage. Nurtured at English National Ballet School before joining ENB, each dancer performs a pas de deux selected by Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, followed by a solo of their own choice. After a day’s glimpse into their meticulous rehearsal process, I look forward to an evening which sees multiple moments of promise.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.

A whirl of spins and triumphant lifts, Ken Saruhashi and Nancy Osbaldeston’s vibrant partnership presents Don Quixote in style. In ghostly contrast, Alison McWhinney’s sensitive fragility transports us to the ethereal, spirit-land of Giselle, as she floats in Nathan Young’s steadfastly upstretched arms. Lauretta Summerscale’s bold Black Swan inspires confidence, strength and attention to nuance conveying her controlling dominance over innocent, beguiled prince, Guliherme Menezes.

Solo highlights include a juicily flirtatious number from Kenneth MacMillan’s Elite Syncopations danced by Summerscales, while Menezes’ developing comedic skills in A Simple Joy are warmly received. Despite previous nerves, McWhinney’s performance is exquisitely understated, while Saruhashi shoots through an athletic but lamentably brief Verdiana with glinting radiance. Young’s light solo variation from Napoli deprives us of the muscular physicality asserted in company class. However, it is winner Osbaldeston’s light-hearted performance of Bach Suit No:2 which truly seems to embrace the ethos of the evening. Having buoyantly skimmed through elegant elevation and sinuous hip movements, this bubble of joy bows, grins, then springs into the wings.

As judges deliberate, the audience are treated to previous winners Jonah Acosta and Shiori Kase performing Diana and Acteon. This immediately dispels any argument for male invisibility in pas de deux. Acosta fills the stage. With grounded warmth, his lines seem to extend beyond his body, calmly channelled energy flowing with fluent finesse.
It is little wonder that, in the six dancers’ biographical film clips, the stage is repeatedly referred to as a safe haven. Throughout class, rehearsals, and performance, the support of fellow company and school members is heart-warming. During the interval, the glowing excitement of mentor and principal dancer Bridget Riley is infectious as her efforts over the last six weeks are rewarded: “I’m happy and I know they’re happy.”

As ambassadors for a company spanning many generations, tonight’s performances re-iterate ENB’s diversity and richness, adding six new subtleties to this flavoursome melting-pot. Celebrating a community’s perpetual search for perfection’s recipe, this evening has left me hungrily eager for more.

Jennifer Whittaker