Partners in crime or at least dance in Peaky Pachuco! Picture: Magda Hoffman


Elmhurst Ballet Company

Elmhurst Ballet School


It is more than two years since we sat in the theatre at Elmhurst Ballet School, more than two years since graduates could strut their stuff in public as they prepared to venture into the world of professional dance.

The school started the ballet company four years ago as a halfway house, a stepping stone between the sheltered, supportive life of school and the harsher reality of professional dance companies and theatre productions.

Elmhurst’s company might not have the same cut throat element of commercial operations but in other respects it is set up as any professional ballet company with class, rehearsals, and then performances, not just at home in Edgbaston but in different theatres, different set ups, different stages - next week the dancers move on to Sadler’s Wells.

It gives its young dancers a taste of what not just making a career, but making a living from dance is like and provided a certain degree of experience and familiarity, a little edge, when auditioning or applying for positions.

It is also an international company with the 16 dancers from not only around the UK but from South Africa, Spain, Australia  (2) and Japan. Immerse is the latest production from the company, performed first at the school in Edgebaston, and all you can say is “If Carlsberg did school concerts . . . “

It is a programme devoid of classical ballet, which brings in another set of disciplines with everything from Highland flings to a circus with sex appeal, all reminiscent of a Birmingham Royal ballet Triple Bill.

Indeed, the opening piece, Four Scottish Dances choreographed by Sir David Bintley to music by Malcolm Arnold, I first saw with Iain Mackay and Nao Sakuma on a triple bill back in 2014.

highland fling

 Three couples and four Scottish dances

It is a light hearted dance with three couples, on Press night , Isabel Falcus, Mackenzie Jacob, Candela Nieto, Zack Pye, Holly Slater and Nat Sweeney, who gave us swirling kilts and two drunken Scotsmen who gave a somewhat comatose setting for a touch of sword dance.

The second piece, Being, was a fabulous dance of syncopated movement choreographed by Peter Leung, involving the entire company. If you have ever seen a slow motion closeup of a centipede’s legs in motion, then that was Being.

A line of dancers with waves of perfectly flowing. smooth movement rippling from back to front, front to back in  a sequence that must have taken hours to perfect.

All the while dancers broke out of the line, creating individual shapes, solo or with partners, before falling back in line as other dancers broke free.

It was fascinating to watch, a thing of beauty, all set to String by Antonin Dvorak.

Another piece I first came across at a Triple Bill was Elite Syncopations, excerpts in this instance, choreographed by the late, great Sir Kenneth MacMillan to the music of legendary Scott Joplin, the undisputed King of Ragtime.

On Press night this brought in Alice Higginbottom (Calliope), Zack Pye and Holly Slater (Golden Hours), Olivia Chang-Clarke (Bethena Girl), Shea Linley (Friday Night) along with Year 13 students Jack Farren and William Davolls.

The colourful costumes from Ian Spurling are a cross between circus and burlesque and add a risqué appeal, particularly in the hands of Alice and Olivia.

The first half ended with a jazzy, 1920’s inspired Peaky Pachuco! opening with the Peaky Blinders’ Theme by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds along with Hey Pachuco by Royal Crown Revue and The Hollywood Wiz by Cirque du Soleil and Jeremy Kushnier and choreographed by acclaimed jazz choreographer Zak Nemorin.

The entire company, along with, again, Jack Farren, took us to the interval in a whirl of flappers, peaked caps and feather head bands.


Three senoritas en pointe, fans aloft in the Latin inspired Majisimo

The second half opened with Majisimo, with music from Jules Massenet's opera Le Cid, the tale of legendary Spanish hero El Cid, and choreographed by Cuba’s George Garcia. It was a piece danced by BRB at the close of their recent An Evening of Music and Dance at Birmingham Rep.

It is a dance for four couples full of Spanish passion with a cast of Leah Allen, Isabel Falcus, Mackenzie Jacob, Amy Jones, Shea Linley, Zack Pye, Satsuki Ueda with Year 13 student William Davolls.

Olivia Chang-Clarke had her racy solo in the first half with Elite Syncopations and showed another of her talents by choreographing Tetris, based on the Tetris Theme by Trifantasy Trio which in turn was based on the Russian folk song Korobeiniki, which translates as Peddlers. It became world famous as the electronic music for Nintendo’s version of Tetris on the 1989 Gameboy.

This involved the whole company in a quick moving dance, full of life and with enough interlocking movement to give a nod to the dance’s title.

The evening concluded with Atomos, from Studio Wayne McGregor with music written for the piece by American duo, A Winged Victory for The Sullen. This is a dance of shapes and forms with singles, duos, trios, groups bending around each other, intertwining, clashing, blending. The point and reason may be elusive but the ability and flair required to achieve it was palpable.

Roger Clarke


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