no regrets

Elegant, classical, contemporary ballet with L’Heure Sans Regrets. Pictures: Andrew Ross


Elmhurst Ballet Company


Synergy is the second programme from the fledgling Elmhurst Ballet Company with a pleasing mix of classical and contemporary pieces to showcase the broad range of technique of the young dancers.

The company, in its second year, is an initiative of Elmhurst Ballet School to bridge the gulf between its pupils, who no matter how good talented or accomplished, are still in a school environment, and the much tougher, intense world of professional dance companies.

Highlight of the show was saved until last with L’Heure Sans Regrets (Hour without regrets) choreographed by the company ballet teacher Sander Blommaert set to Grieg’s piano concerto.

With the familiar opening bars came the temptation to write they were dancing all the rights steps but not necessarily in the right order – but of course they weren’t, it was the right steps beautifully danced in the right order with three couples in a delightful modern ballet.

Like a professional company the cast line ups changes with each performance and on Press night it was Joshua Dart, Ruben Flynn-Kann and William Mitchell in what appeared to be Hussar dress tunics with their Press night partners Jennifer Beattie, Grace Owen and Olivia Parham in elegant black dresses with red trim.

We had pas de deux, quartets, solos and all six in unison in an elegant display of technique and talent in a modern ballet in classical style, in a wonderful accomplished finale.

The programme also included a lovely comedy piece from Sir Frederick Ashton with music from Percy Grainger, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, with Jennifer Beatie as Alice in a clever opening trio and Joshua Dart and Jakob Myers as the eponymous duo with an amusing and skilled double act. 

We opened with Swing Mob from the school’s catchily titled Head of Contemporary, Jazz and related dance styles, Jenny MacNamara, set to Fergie’s A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got), a slick, jazzy, fast moving piece with the girls in flapper inspired costumes designed by MacNamara. A piece full of life and colour with the full company. 


Jennifer Beattie as Alice

It was a fine set up for the second piece, You Never Know with music from M-Beat, choreographed by Jakob Myers, remember Tweedledum and Dee? A pupil and member of the company, showing potential beyond dancing with another piece involving the whole company in an array of rainbow coloured t-shirts in a dance involving knapsacks and constantly changing personnel helping to keep interest alive.

Olivia Parham as Princess Florine and and William Mitchell as Bluebird returned us to classical ballet and with Sir Peter Wright’s Bluebird pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. It is a piece that demands athleticism and timing from Mitchell and elegance and precise footwork from Parham, and neither disappointed.

The interval came with the final piece of the half, MultiVox with music by David Wrench and choreography by Catarina Carvalho for Studio Wayne McGregor, performed by the whole company with additional year 13 students.

A mix of techno and slow piano sees an athletic dance sequence with lifts and complex movement, I have no idea what it was about but it was always a good, fascinating watch.

The second half opened with another classical piece from the genius of Sir Peter Wright with his version of the pas de trois from Swan Lake – incidentally, the full ballet from BRB opens at Birmingham Hippodrome from 18 February.

Here Joshua Dart, Emily Ormsby and Mia Stapeton dance in a series of trios, pas de deux and solos displaying admirable classical technical ability.

The most dramatic piece followed with Ruben Flynn-Kann as the Red Knight and Grace Owen as the Black Queen in an excerpt from Dame Ninette de Valois’ Checkmate with music from Arthur Bliss a former Master of the Queen’s Music who had first suggested the idea.

The one act ballet centres around the Red Knight’s love for the Black Queen (red and black not uncommon in chess sets -although paradoxically it is still white, which is red, that has first move) and ends with the knight apparently about to plunge his dagger into the queen. There is a twist to that in the full one act ballet but this excerpt was given a clever end to create a complete piece.


William Mitchell and Olivia Parham in The Bluebird pas de deux

It is a visually stunning dance with lovely interaction between the two combatants. The end relied on spot on timing by the lighting designer Joe Massey, who just happens to be a former Elmhurst pupil.

Former BRB director Sir David Bintley created Take Five set to the music of Dave Brubeck which saw Unsquare Dance with Joshua Dart, William Mitchell, Jakob Myers and Ben Randall (from year 13) in a sort of rhythmic clapping dance, four men in t-shirts adding their own rhythm to the music, then Three to Get Ready which saw Maisie Butler, Emily Ormsby and Mia Stapleton in a jazz inspired dance with costumes with a hint of 1950s about them from Jean-Marc Puissant.

Which brings us to the finale of Hour Without Regrets but, in truth, it was probably closer to a couple of hours and no regrets at all after a splendid and varied evening of dance.

The production heads off on tour appearing at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, on 15 February for two performances, and recently performed alongside London Schools Symphony Orchestra’s celebrations for Jamaican composer Eleanor Alberga’s 70th birthday in a performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Barbican Hall in London.

Like a professional outfit the company also works in community groups and schools, and next year Principal Jessica Wheeler is looking at expanding the tour to give even more experience to her young charges.

The idea is that the final year students operate not as a sixth form class, but as a professional company with all the discipline and demands that that takes, which in turn helps prepare them for interview and audition for when they venture out into the real world of making a living from dance.

Overseeing the company is Wheeler, herself a former professional dancer, and who, incidentally, has been selected as a finalist in Business Woman of the year category of this year’s Ladies First awards. Adding his weight as well is the school’s artistic director Robert Parker, who was a much loved Principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Elmhurst’s associate company.

The head of the ballet company is Silvia Jimenez, wife of former BRB principal dancer Iain Mackay incidentally, who had 18-years-experience dancing principal roles at Stuttgart Ballet and BRB behind her before becoming a teacher while the company ballet teacher, Belgian Sander Blommaert, is a former dancer and teacher with The Royal Ballet.

That is a wealth of valuable experience to share about what it takes to succeed in the real world of dance and hopefully narrow the gap between ballet school and professional dance.

Synergy ends at Elmhurst on 08-02-20.

Roger Clarke


The 2020 company is Jennifer Beattie (Newcastle); Maisie Butler (Birmingham); Joshua Dart (Torquay); Ruben Flynn-Kann (Queensland, Australia); Lucy Elizabeth Fox (Sudbury); William Mitchell (York); Jakob Myers (Birmingham); Emily Ormsby (Warwick); Grace Owen (Tamworth); Olivia Parham (Callington, Cornwall); and Mia Stapleton (Cannock). 

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