Elmhurst Ballet Company

Elmhurst Ballet School


Eight varied pieces, from Marius Petipa in 1881 St Petersburg to Wayne McGregor’s 2008 Entity, via Sir Peter Wright, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and David Bintley, with a home grown piece from student Amy Turner-Daly, add a group of young dancers and you have the recipe for a phenomenal evening.

But, perhaps we should put that in context; the dancers,12 girls and six men in the full company, are final-year students dancing parts normally the preserve of principals, first soloists and soloists in any ballet company, in short, dancers with years of hard-earned experience – in army terms the company are squaddies just out of training taking on the roles of battle-hardened officers.

These are students with precious little, if any, experience of the professional stage, and experience can only be learned by . . . well, experience, something a school, no matter how good, can’t teach – until now.

Elmhurst has formed its own ballet company for its final year students to give them a taste of the cold, hard world of professional dance.

But don’t be deceived though, this is not a school concert, it is a company production, professionally prepared and rehearsed by, among others, the likes of Robert Parker, former BRB star and the company and school artistic director, David Bintley, retiring BRB director and former BRB ballerina Silvia Jimenez, wife, incidentally of recent BRB star Iain Mackay.

For the students it is an experience which can never be taught in a classroom, they are even heading on the road on tour with a performance at Saddler’s Wells on Friday, 15 February –  something many a professional dancer can’t put that on their CV.

The new company is designed to ease the transition from dancing in a school studio to appearing on a professional stage, as Elmhurst principal Jessica Wheeler said, it is to not only prepare them as dancers but also to get them industry ready.

new corps

And it is in that context, inexperienced students taking on the demanding roles of ballet principals that their performances had to be judged, and they were quite phenomenal.

Time and again you could have been watching a professional dance company. Yes, at times perhaps a touch of professional polish was lacking here and there - and classical ballet can be far less forgiving than contemporary dance - but that is nit picking.

Balance, footwork, poise, elegance, shape, effortless lifts,  fouette turns, confidence and sheer talent were way beyond the tender years of the dancers.

In a glittering evening, two stars shone brighter than most, Ellie Hennequin and Ryan Felix who, in the first act, gave us the beautiful pas de deux from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Ellie as the young teenage Juliet falling for Ryan’s equally young Romeo. Shakespeare’s star cross’d lovers becoming star kiss’d dancers in wonderful lyrical episode.

The same pair excelled again in Petipa’s Grand Pas De Deux from Paquita, with music by Ludwig Minkus, ballet in the classic Russian style, and again quite beautifully danced with a dazzling number of perfect fourettes from Ellie.

In both pieces it is not just the steps and lifts that matter, superb and confident as they were, it is the feelings, the emotion that the dancers convey and the pair told their story quite magnificently, especially in the emotive tale of Romeo and Juliet. The pair dance quite beautifully together.

Incidentally Theresa Tan and Andrea Canalicchio share the Petipa piece in other performances.

Another highlight is the Clog Dance and Lily of Laguna Pas de Deux from David Bintley’s Hobson’s Choice performed by Samuel Parham as Will and Nina  Avrillon-Rivault as Maggie.

Will, incidentally, being a much-loved role in Robert Parker’s former BRB repertoire.

Clog dancing is not easy, and is a strenuous business, but Samuel managed it with a splendid rhythmic touch and a lovely sense of fun comedy which he continued over in to the lovely soft shoe shuffle with Nina. An amusing, light interlude. Theresa and Andrea again share the role for other performances.


There was more Bintley with Sugar Rum Cherry from The Nutcracker Sweeties to music from Duke Ellington. Amelia Hancock, looking gorgeous in a scarlet strapless dress, is as sultry and sexy as they come in a teasing performance. Olivia Duran shares the role in other performances.

Ryan Felix had shown his undoubted ability in classical ballet, but showed he was just at home in contemporary dance in David Bintley’s Hamlet from his Shakespeare Suite.

The music is an uneasy even troubled score from the Madness in Great Ones track from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s Shakespeare tribute album, Such Sweet Thunder, itself a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:I never heard so musical a discord, such sweet thunder.

It requires a black clad Ryan to show every emotion in his tortured mind from anguish and despair to a sort of bleak acceptance.

Sir Peter Wright’s Swan Lake is rightly regarded as one of the finest versions of Tchaikovsky’s ballet and the students paid due homage with some quite lovely performances. Nina, again, Olivia Duran, Ellie and Theresa gave us a delightful dance of the cygnets, keeping up a commendable synchronisation while Amy Turner-Daly as Odette and Samuel Parham gave us a memorably haunting White Swan Pas de Deux – another fabulous pairing.

Francesca Hardwick displayed some impressive pointe work and precision with Odette’s Variation from act II while Isla Ghali and Kirsty Walker showed the required maturity as big swans.

Continuing the rotation employed by all major professional companies Francesca and Joseph Tideswell shared the duet role, Samantha Clay and Amy also danced as big swans and Amelia Hancock danced the variation.

The whole company danced in Amy’s opener Adrenaline and in Wayne McGregor’s well known piece Entity, with its waves flowing through bodies, to close Act I.

Act II was all Paquita which saw, on Press night, Kirsty and Nina with female variations and Andrea dancing the male variation roles also danced by Samantha and Olivia with Joseph in the male variation. Olivia, Amy and Joseph along with Isla and Ryan share the Pas de Trois.

The standard is quite remarkable which is a tribute not only to the pupils but also to the teaching staff.

The professional stage is not the easiest career to break into with always many more hopefuls than jobs and roles available but on the evidence from this new company, Elmhurst is providing them with all the elements they will need to succeed - now it is up to the dance Gods to smile kindly on them. We wish them luck. To 15-09-18

Roger Clarke


Incidentally, Elmhurst is not a private school, and the criteria for entry is ability, not ability to pay. As the school states: “We believe that talent is classless, and that world-leading ballet training should be open to gifted, passionate and committed young people, regardless of their financial circumstances.”

Apparently more than 90 per cent of pupils would be at their local state school had they not been accepted by Elmhurst. 

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