prince ryan

Ryan Felix as Prince Florimund and Francesca Hardwick as Princess Aurora. Pictures: Andy Ross.


elmhurst ballet school

To say this was a school concert is about the same as saying the Royal Ballet Sinfonia is a dance band - this is not only the oldest but also one of the leading ballet schools in Britain, producing a conveyor belt of talent for professional dance companies and musical theatre around the world.

Awakenings was their summer show with a special programme for their Press night with a first half from the lower school and a second half from upper school dancing an excerpt from Sir Peter Wright’s celebrated The Sleeping Beauty.

We opened with the youngsters, Year seven, 11 and 12 year olds in Réves de Jeunesse, appropriately, Dreams of Youth, working through to Year 11, 15 and 16 year olds, the fifth form in old money.

Music ranged from Mozart, Bizet, Shostakovich, Copland and Dvoràk to Vivaldi, Strauss, Fauré, Malcolm Arnold and light orchestra master, Leroy Anderson.

It gave us classical ballet, jigs, a hoedown, a Scottish real and, running throughout, bags of enthusiasm.

Elmhurst started its own ballet company last year to give their older dancers some experience of life in a professional dance company, going on tour and performing at Saddler’s Wells.

In the second part of the first act we had four pieces from them starting with Suite – Sweet Charity, with music from Cy Coleman and choreography from Nicky Woollaston, which included a sexy jazz piece that would not have looked out of place in a pro production of, say, Cabaret.

year 11

Year 11 in Réves de Jeunesse

The company also gave us an intriguing piece, The Message, choreographed by Daniela Cardim, which is a dance about . . . well, a message. Perhaps the clue is in the name. A slip of paper which is grabbed, handed around, read, reread, circulated from hand to hand and finally . . . given to a small boy. What it said? Who knows.

They were also part of the now traditional Flamenco section, Secuencias, choreographed by Ana Garcia, an Elmhurst and internationally recognised flamenco exponent and teacher.

And finally they gave us an excerpt from Wayne McGregor’s Entity, a piece they toured last year. McGregor, the resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, is a Vice President of Elmhurst and came to work with the company on his piece.

Included in the programme was Phosphenes, a piece choreographed a James Lovell, who left a year early, head-hunted by Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, to star as The Prince in the recent tour of Swan Lake.

While Year 12 gave us Equilibrium and Year 13 Hiding Trapped emotions to show both the range of dance covered at Elmhurst and the disciplines the students have to master.

The second act was given over to an excerpt from Sir Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty from the Upper School pupils, lower and upper sixth, with the principal roles all danced by members of Elmhurst Ballet Company and sumptuous costumes loaned by BRB wardrobe department.

Ruben Flynn-Kann crept in as Puss in Boots to join Amy Turner-Daly as White Cat producing a charming amusing dance, Amy, incidentally, will be joining the Northern Ballet graduate programme.


A flavour of Spain with flamenco

Italian Andrea Canalicchio, gave a confident and athletic display as Bluebird with some effortless leaps in a performance matched by Hwee Suan Theresa Tan as Princess Florine, with Andrea set to join the Moravian National Theatre in Olomouc in the east of the Czech Republic while Theresa is off to Austria as a Europballett Trainee. The pair danced well together and Theresa showed some delicate, precise and nimble footwork which could not be faulted.

Dancing the role of Prince Florimund was Ryan Felix, who has been taken on as a Birmingham Royal Ballet Apprentice, with Francesca Hardwick, who has joined Elmhurst’s graduate placement scheme, as Princess Aurora.

The quartet have that easy grace that sets them apart, making ballet look easy and natural with the gentle pas de deux from the royal couple danced with a lovely romantic charm.

There were also superb solo slots from the six attendants, Imogen Inkster, Yuzuka Kogure, Rui Inoue, Darcey Allen, Lydia Brayshaw and Madeline Irwin

Had the excerpt been slipped in as part of a BRB triple bill at the Hippodrome I suspect few would have noticed and even fewer complained – they were that good.

A splendid evening watching dancers of the future and with quite a few names marked down to look out for.

Roger Clarke


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