The Graduate Showcase

Elmhurst Ballet School


Forget any ideas you might have about school concerts. This is not just in a different class but a different universe.

Simon Cowell is looking in all the wrong places for talent – Elmhurst is awash with the stuff. The technical skill on show by the graduate students from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s associate ballet school is quite outstanding.

In a programme the students produced themselves, all 15 dancers on show looked easily capable of fitting into the dance ensemble of any professional musical with their contemporary pieces while their competence and confidence in classical ballet was simply astounding.

The standard was exceptional for dancers of such a young age, 18 and 19, and with limited experience, who are now hoping to enter into the highly competitive and cut-throat world of professional dance.

There is an indefinable something which makes a dancer stand out from the crowd, no matter how good the crowd. You can’t teach it, you can’t acquire it, you just have it and one such is Reo Morikawa along with his partner in the pas de deux from Don Quixote, Yuzu Hikosaka. 


Yuzu Hikosaka

The pair have some form. In the prestigious 2017 Cecchetti Classical Ballet Vocational Awards Reo won the Geoghegan Vocational Award with Yuzu the runner-up.

Together they were a delight with Reo’s easy lifts an impressive feature and their solos showed admirable confidence. Reo has that ability to make everything appear elegant, easy and unhurried, he seems to have all the time in the world, while Yuzu has quick, precise feet, pleasing movement and keeps a delightful classical shape – they are a pair to watch.

Not that they were the only ones to catch the eye. Janice Felices gave us a short and sweet Don Quixote Kitri Act 1 Variation with some remarkably quick footwork.

Joey Taylor, an athletic male, partnered Lin Fujimoto, who won The Promising Young Dancer in the Cecchetti awards, in an impressive pas de deux from The Nutcracker, a dance so well known in Sir Peter Wright’s version, it had to be good, and it was.

I was particularly impressed with Kianna Stephens who not only danced but choregraphed Time is Thin, a sensuous piece to Jorja Smith’s Let Me Down, her body as flowing and fluid as ripples in silk, playing like a musical instrument through the dance. A quality moment of contemporary dance.

She also choreographed the opening piece, Onomatopoeia, to Ta Ku’s We were in Love, which was an ensemble piece with Órla Baxendale, Serina Faull, Niamh Robinson, Harvey Evans, Lin Fujmoto, Brittany Green, Yuzu Hikosaka, Honor Mackie, Reo Morikawa, Tokiko Sasao and Joey Taylor.


Joey Taylor. Pictures Johan Persson

Large ensemble pieces of any sort are not easy to choreograph, and Stephens did well to create a piece that was interesting to watch without looking confusing or, worse, out of control.

That was balanced by a classical solo by Tokika Sasao from Japan, one of the 20 per cent or so international students at the school and a dancer who had a commendation in the Cecchetti Musicality Award. She performed the Paquita Etoile female variation quite beautifully. It involved some technically difficult pointe work, executed effortlessly, or at least she made it appear that way – we don’t see the hours of work that goes into making it look that easy.

Who I really am was another contemporary piece, with Órla Baxendale, Serina Faull, Niamh Robinson, Kianna Stephens and Joey Taylor, self-choreographed to Ariana Grande’s Break Free. Technically challenging, interesting to watch and would not have looked out of place in any professional show.

Serina Faull, who was commended in the Fewster Cecchetti Scholarship awards last year, showed her skills as a choreographer with MORFAR, set to music by Bach which saw Georgia Smart, runner up in the Fewster Scholarship, Kianna Stephens and Janice Felices joining the ensemble and just as a little icing on her own particular cake, Faulls played Jay Ungar’s haunting Catskill mountains' Ashokan Farewell as a violin solo.


Rebecca  Hudson

Faull and Taylor had earlier given us a delightfully danced Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty while Harvey Evans had partnered Robinson in the pas de deux from Le Corsaire with Brittany Green, Janice Felices and Georgia Smart dancing the pas de trois from the same ballet, it is a dance that relies on timing and unison and the trio managed to dance it as one which was most impressive.

The shortest piece, at least in name, was X, by guest choreographer Brogan McKelvey to Låpsley’s 2014 track Station, with Blackburn’s Órla Baxendale in fine form again while Rebecca Hudson gave us a sensuous solo contemporary dance to Vivere, another McKelvey piece, set to a Max Ritcher recomposing of Vivaldi. 

In a concert they turned into a charity gig, with a collection for Macmillan Cancer Support, they proved they certainly have the talent to succeed – now they just need the Gods of dance to smile on them.

Roger Clarke


Elmhurst Ballet School

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