Emerging Dancer 2013

Emerging Dancer encourages promising artists within the company to step up to a new level. Each year six dancers — thee men and three women up to the rank of soloist — are chosen to prepare for this privilege on top of their demanding touring schedule. Unlike last year, where dancers were judged on two solos, the 2013 competition is based on a solo and a pas de deux, a framework that allows both individual expression and fine-tuning with a partner.

English National Ballet. Emerging Dancer competition 2013.

The nature of competition is to single out a winner and Nancy Osbaldeston rose to the challenge to carry off this year’s prize. John Neumeier’s fluid solo Bach Suite No. 2 is a perfect vehicle for her radiant turns and effortless ballon and in the pas de deux from Don Quixote with Ken Saruhashi she infuses Kitri’s dark vein of passion with her natural ebullience.
The award is made on the night by a jury of five, but an additional prize is the result of audience votes over the previous season. In 2012 the jury and the public concurred, but this year’s People’s Choice recognized the qualities of Lauretta Summerscales, whose wit and intelligence and swan-like ability to reveal beauty without any apparent effort are the mark of a great artist. My heart went out to Alison McWhinney, whose ethereal tenderness in Giselle — she will save many a young man from an early death and will make them all eternally repentant — is a joy to watch.

It is fitting in the year Tamara Rojo becomes artistic director that the women feature so strongly in this competition. In a sense they have already emerged, while the men are still finding their way. Guilherme Menezes is so full of enthusiasm and innocence that he draws us naturally into his confidence, whether in the Black Swan pas de deux or in the comic Nicky Ellis solo, Simple Joy. Saruhashi has prodigious technical ability but wears his emotions close to the skin, giving an impeccable if somewhat inscrutable rendering of Don Quixote and unwinding only slightly in the Patrice Bart solo, Verdiana. Nathan Young gives full play to his romantic spirit as Albrecht, but in his choice of Bournonville’s Napoli variation, his style is too muscular to bring out the Danish charm and buoyancy.

It is worth noting that Osbaldeston and Summerscales were both finalists in 2012 and 2011 respectively; it will be interesting to see which of these three men will emerge next year.

Nicholas Minns