Emerging Dancer 2013, Nancy Rynne

There was an excited buzz at the Queen Elizabeth Hall for the English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Final, to be judged by a panel including Darcey Bussell and Tamara Rojo.

The six nominees, mentored by senior members of the company, each danced a solo and a pas de deux. It was a balanced programme, entertaining for the audience and challenging for the competitors. As the lights dimmed one felt the audience willing the young dancers to succeed.

The stage glowed with red light as the pulse-racing music of Don Quixote brought Nancy Osbaldeston and Ken Saruhashi to the stage. The pace was fast and the footwork neat in the dizzying, mesmeric spins. Ken partnered well and showed strength and control in his solo section. Nancy’s style was suitably light and flirtatious and the chemistry between the two dancers was palpable.

Mood and pace changed as Alison McWhinney floated on to stage to the aching score of Giselle. The basic, cold lighting helped to create an eerie atmosphere: she, wistful and elegant; he, attentive and supportive.

Laurretta Summerscales and Guilherme Menezes danced the Black Swan pas de deux. Their characterisation was excellent: she, proud and brittle; he, strong yet bewildered.

The six varied solos played to each dancer’s strengths to a greater or lesser degree, the men’s solos proving dissatisfyingly brief.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.
Nancy’s dance to the Bach Suite No. 2 suited both her personality and style. She was light and playful, displaying an exuberant joy in dance.

Alison’s Grand Pas Classique perhaps lacked a little conviction on the night but it was cool and elegant. She presented some beautiful lines with her eloquent arms.

Scott Joplin’s Elite Syncopations was used by Laurretta in a languorous and coolly suggestive dance by Kenneth MacMillan. Here the dancer, the music and the choreography were a happy coincidence.

The men’s solos served them less well. Nathan’s Napoli, choreographed by August Bournoville, was strong but a little earth-bound. The music did not help him create an Italian atmosphere, despite his commitment and strength.

Strains of Verdi heralded the entrance of swaggering Ken Saruhashi in Patrice Bart’s Verdiana. Ken’s dancing was dramatic and arrogant, drawing in the audience.

Guilherme’s solo A Simple Joy brought the audience a touch of the silent movies. Guilherme was a diminutive clown, full of the joys of life, twisting and tumbling with youthful exuberance.

While the judges conferred, the real fireworks of the evening exploded when the whirling, gravity-defying dervish that was Yonah Acosta cannoned on as Acteon. The atmosphere was electric. Shiori Kase, as Diana, harried and challenged him with lovely technique and authority.

In the event, Nancy Osbaldeston triumphed as the judges’ choice and was named Emerging Dancer 2013. Laurretta Summerscales won People’s Choice, the result of an audience poll carried out during English National Ballet’s most recent season. The audience applauded in appreciation of winners and losers alike, thrilled to have been so well entertained and wishing all of them the very best for the future.

Nancy Rynne