Emerging Dancer 2013, Maxine Smiles

With a company that is so dominated by its star names – Tamara, Vadim, Daria; ENB’s holy trinity of glittering performers – it is easy to forget that ballet cannot live on principals alone.

In the cosmos, the birth of protostars begins with an intense gravitational pull deep within a molecular cloud. It is no different in ballet, where dancers need to draw the eye with an irresistible force. ENB showcase these burgeoning stars in their Emerging Dancer competition. Now in its fourth year and with a new artistic director to impress, the competition is intense.

Out of the six nominees put forward by the company, it was Nancy Osbaldeston who managed to impress the judges and seize the prize. Her obvious jubilation at the announcement could only have been matched by the effervescent pleasure with which she dances.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.

More experienced than her partner Ken Saruhasi, it was left to her to create the excitement in their pas de deux. She seemed to revel in the flashiness of Don Quixote, pulling off a series of masterful fouettes and flicking her fan with a satisfying snap. Her solo piece, Bach Suite No: 2 saw her taking on the exaggerated baroque movements with a joyful bounce that could not be diminished even as she ran off stage with a delightful gambol.

Unlike last year, when both the popular and judges votes were amassed by Yonah Acosta, it was Laurretta Summerscales who seized the People’s Choice award. Her Black Swan, filled with flashing eyes and whip-fast turns, flaunted a powerfully sensual Odile. While her Caliope Rag, from Macmillian’s ragtime ballet: Elite Syncopations, showed off her more playful side.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.
Other treats included Alison McWhinney demonstrating a formidable appreciation of Romantic sentimentality in her Giselle pas de deux, supported by her partner Nathan Young, and Guilherme Menezes’ comic capering in the evening’s most modern piece, A Simple Joy, which managed to squeeze a voluminous laugh out of the audience. Ken Saruhashi performed Verdiana, which was too short to fully show off his abilities, while Nathan Young also misjudged his choice of solo, appearing almost grounded in his variation from Napoli.

While each dazzled the audience on the night, only time will tell whether any of these bright young things will fly through the ranks of ENB’s constellation of heavenly bodies.

Maxine Smiles