Yuzu Hikosaka, Harvey Evans, Chloe Jones and Reo Morikawa in Explosion Polka

Summer Variations

Elmhurst Ballet School


You don’t really need to be clairvoyant or even have a crystal ball to see the future of ballet, you just need to watch a student performance at Elmhurst, Birmingham Royal Ballet's associate school.

The youngsters produced a very clean and professional display of dancing with some fine solos and, in general, a well synchronised corps de ballet, which is not always the easiest element to get right, a group dancing as one, and they managed it most of the time.

The result was a celebration as much as a performance with some of the cast from years 13 and 14, in their final Elmhurst public show before moving on.

The school aims to place 85 percent of its leavers within six months and with 82 per cent of this year’s graduates already organised the target is already well in sight before the term ends.

Three of this year’s leavers are joining associate company BRB:, Hamish Scott, who took bronze at an international competition in Sydney, where three of the five finalists were from Elmhurst; Jade Wallace, one of the five finalists in the BBC Young Dancer 2017 and Brogan McKelvey.

Others are off to ballet companies in the USA, Austria, France, Japan, Estonia, Germany, Poland, Ireland and closer to home Northern Ballet in Leeds and Ballet Cymru in Newport, South Wales, as well as some heading off to university – it is a school remember.

This end of term show by the upper school was aptly named, variation is what you got. Classical ballet may be the core discipline of the school but that isn’t to the exclusion of other dance styles so we had contemporary, jazz, tap and even flamenco.

The flamenco, section, Compromiso followed by Soleá was choreographed by Ana Garcia, the driving force behind Flamenco:Birmingham, with Marco “el Canastero” on vocals and guitar. She is also the flamenco teacher at the school.


Emilia Rouanet Feliu in Compromiso

Garcia who trained in classical ballet and flamenco in her native Spain, has been teaching in England since 1993 and created an exciting, dramatic slice of Andalusia in Edgbaston with a large cast, beautifully costumed, all from year 13. The flamenco is a dance with attitude, fiery and full of passion and they had that in spades.

The evening opened with a jolly and very elegant Explosion Polka, which like every other dance in this fine programme was beautifully costumed to a remarkably high standard.

This was followed by a more contemporary Next Breath with bodies entwining around the stage and then some quite beautiful dancing from sixth formers in a Schumann Piano Quintet which included an impressive solo from Ryan Felix, another of the five BBC Young Dancer 2017’s finalists, a dancer who is just 17.

That was followed by a Suite of Dancers from the year 14s which included a quite delightful pas de deux from Saho Nozaki and Jordan Wright to Rachmaninoff’s beautiful Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini, Variation 18. 

And from classical ballet we moved on to classical flamenco, a dance genre which in 2010 UNESCO declared as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Following the break we had Adversus, with music by Vivaldi and choreographed by Chloe Jones from year 13, winner of David Bintley’s Choreography Award. A more classical ballet piece followed by another classical piece with an excerpt from La Bayadère, first staged in St Petersburg in 1877 with choreography by the legendary Marius Petita and music by Ludwig Minkus.

Which brought us to jazz and the opening number of La La Land, Another Day of Sun, which brought us some lovely slinky, sexy, jazzy corps work and some classy tap dancing. Incidentally, anyone seeing Elmhurst’s Artistic Director, former BRB star Robert Parker as the hoofer in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue will know he is no mean tapper himself.


Lydia Holt  and Charlampos Skoupas in Next Breath 

More contemporary dance followed to Ten Walls Walking with Elephants, which once again showed the versatility of the talented group of students in what was a dance needing endurance as much as ability.

Finally, a world premiere, with a new work by BRB’s director David Bintley, Comic Cuts, which provided a fun cartoony finale to the evening with a year 14 cast, starting with a jailhouse dance in The Big House followed by a crowd-pleasing Penguins danced by Billy Brooke and Jordan Wright, and they danced it quite brilliantly, moving as one, amusing, clever and a delight to watch.

That was followed by The Ugly Bug Ball with a lively quartet of pairs then an oddly named Egyptian Barn Dance with Saho Nozako in a rather different pas de deux with Hamish Scott as the Pharaoh which brought in four bandaged mummies before a Fun’ale with the entire Comic Cut Cast. It was a light, lively, amusing and clever end to what had been a most enjoyable show.

The evening showed there is talent aplenty at Elmhurst with some outstanding young dancers coming through. History and logic says the road to the top is a hard one with few reaching the summit, but for now there is plenty of promise to start the journey and they showed us a quite magnificent send-off.

Roger Clarke


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