Swan Queen Laurretta Summerscales

At English National Ballet’s new season press launch earlier this month, Tamara Rojo described her plans for the talented young dancers in the company. And first up was Laurretta Summerscales, winner of the 2013 People’s Choice Award, who debuted as Odette / Odile in Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall last week. Rojo stated: “The role is a great challenge for a young ballerina but I’m very confident that Laurretta has great talent and a bright future ahead.”

Having seen Summerscales perform as the Black Swan in the Emerging Dancer Awards, I knew she would have no trouble with the ballet’s third act, but I was keen to see how she would handle the lyricism and heartbreak of Acts II and IV. And I was not disappointed – she was utterly serene and impassioned, as well as technically secure with the difficult choreography.

Photograph of Laurretta Summerscales as Odile in Emergerng Dancer Awards 2012
Photography by Patrick Baldwin

The moment in the White Swan pas de deux where she extended her wings, only for them to be tenderly folded in and embraced by Arionel Vargas’s affectionate Prince, brought a tear to my eye. Her extended balances on pointe were equally stunning as were her whirling fouettés in the Black Swan coda.

When I spoke to Summerscales before her performances, she described being amazed to be cast as well as worried as to whether audiences would understand her interpretation. “When I found out about the casting I couldn’t believe it! I had imagined it, thinking ‘wow it would be amazing to do Odette / Odile at the Royal Albert Hall’. But I didn’t think it would happen as I had never actually done the principal role in any ballet.

“The most amazing thing about the part is that it has depth, meaning and emotion. It’s good to do that instead of always trying to look pretty! I just hope that the audience will understand what I’m trying to express. It is such a rare opportunity to lay out your heart and let everyone see who you are – faults and all! It’s scary but I feel that’s the only way it can and should be done.

“Working with everyone – Arionel Vargas, Derek Deane, all the ballet staff and the principals – has been fantastic. I have loved trying to absorb every little detail that everyone has given. I have loved every second. Now I need to just enjoy it on stage!”

I don’t know whether Summerscales enjoyed her experience on stage but I do know how much both I, and the rest of the audience (with their enraptured applause), appreciated her magnificent performance. Last week, Summerscales was a Swan Queen at the Royal Albert Hall, but I have no doubt that before long she will be a world-wide ballet queen.

Laura Dodge