The Royal Ballet School end of year performance at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, thankfully managed to take place in front of a socially distanced audience. Artistic Director Christopher Powney, in his pre-performance speech, requested 3 times the applause from those present to compensate for the 2/3rds of the seats sadly unable to be sold, and the excellence of the show made this an easy task. The school had pulled out all the stops at the end of this difficult year to give the students their chance to perform, so although not all were present on the Opera House stage (only Year 11 from the lower school White Lodge were able to be included), 32 previous smaller performances had given the younger students their opportunities to shine. He gave heartfelt thanks to all the staff and sponsors who had made this mammoth feat possible.
The afternoon opened with a joyous Playfully So choreographed by the Royal Ballet’s Valentino Zucchetti for the Upper School 2nd Year, displaying, as ever, exemplary techniques, with soaring jetes abounding and rock solid ensemble fouettés. Zucchetti interpreted Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1 in D with classicism and gentle humour, although for me it was unfortunately costumed, the grey tabards not doing justice to glorious physiques. Yuma Matsuura, destined for the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, then dashed off the boys solo from the Don Quixote Act 3 pas de deux, outstandingly slowing his last pirouette to a breath- taking hold on demi-point, before slamming into a rocket powered finish. Congratulations to conductor Paul Murphy who suspended the orchestra to the exact millisecond to match. The 1st Year then performed The Garland Dance from Sleeping Beauty Act 1 before Morgann Runacre-Temple’s Swingle Stepping for the White Lodge 11 year olds changed the mood.
Melding both classical and contemporary, this piece flowed and melted beautifully. Ashley Page’s Mephisto Waltz conclude the first section with 6 well-matched couples who mastered his fast and furious footwork and fiddly contortions with good control and aplomb. Mr Matsuura was again worthy of note and also Eric Pinto Cata with his long legs, flexibility and radiant smile. We look forward to seeing him with Birmingham Royal Ballet in the future. Elite Syncopations, complete with onstage band, was again meticulously danced but perhaps missed some of the timing and confidence to fully deliver the comedy aspects successfully. These
are skills that come with maturity and experience. Olivia Findlay’s Calliope Rag was a delight as was Viola Pantuso’s StopTime Rag. Both will be joining the Royal Ballet’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme next season. Raffaelo Barber (a contract with Hungarian National Ballet) partnered admirably, and again Yuma Matsuura’s solo exuded panache and presence. Following the 2nd interval Michaela Polly’s Mozart Suite displayed beautiful por de bras and upper body work from all of the 1st year students, with the males showcasing airborne batterie of note. Didy Veldman’s Is to Be was the most contemporary piece of the afternoon and memorable for complex ever developing patterns, reminiscent of kaleidoscope viewing.
Waves of bodies rhythmically shifted, constantly rising and falling with remarkably mature and powerful solos from both Skya Powney and Jack Easton. Set to a section of Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa it must have
been a nightmare to rehearse on the traffic control front, but worth every effort for it’s mesmerising
Ben Stevenson’s 3 preludes was sensitively danced by Julie Petanova (Norwegian National Ballet 2) and Alejandro Valera Outlaw (American Ballet Theatre Studio Company) who imbued this jewel of a piece with innocence and grace. This was followed by a short Film from White Lodge created by the BalletBoyz and introduced and narrated by Dame Darcy Bussell giving us a charming insight into life at the Lower School. With the absence of years 7 – 10, the famous Grand Defile finale included these students in projected form on a front gauze. They were then ingeniously joined live by the rest of the school so that the final tableau was as ever, with all the students together on stage, whether virtual or in person. A tremendous effort. Congratulations to all for
producing the usual high calibre performance with such inclusivity despite all the pandemic restrictions.
By Viki Westall-Eyre