United Kingdom English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2022: Livestreamed from the Holloway Production Studio at the Mulryan Centre for Dance on London City Island, 19.5.2022. (JPr)
I have enjoyed this Emerging Dancer event over several years as English National Ballet’s celebration of the talent it has in its ranks. Except that there was only a small pre-invited audience now present, the event was almost fully restored to how it was pre-Covid and was livestreamed from the Holloway Production Studio at ENB’s headquarters on London City Island, the Mulryan Centre for Dance. Those present gave enthusiastic support to their favourites and were egged on by presenter Jordan Lee, who had clearly been inspired by the idiosyncratic presenters of the recent Eurovision Song Contest, who with a year to hone a script on the night seemed to be making it up as they went along. Whilst departing artistic director Tamara Rojo CBE was mentioned as one of the judges, she was clearly elsewhere only appearing in a pre-recorded video and possibly watching online like the rest of us. The other judges were Dana Fouras, Céline Gittens, Kamara Gray, Sir Alistair Spalding CBE, and Joseph Toonga. Music was played live by the English National Ballet Philharmonic conducted by Tim Henty and piped in from an upstairs studio.
Matthew Astley, Ashley Coupal, Noam Durand, Chloe Keneally, Eric Snyder and Angela Wood where the previously announced finalists. They were paired up for the competition which was in two parts: a classical pas de deux and a contemporary one. (As an aside, having been brought up watching the likes of Rudolf Nureyev, Farukh Ruzimatov, Irek Mukhamedov and Carlos Acosta, I know I am getting old when the male dancers competing for the award look, to me now, about 12.)
Ashley Coupal and Noam Durand began by dancing the wedding pas de deux from Coppélia. It can never fail to charm but the dancers failed to spark off each other and it was all a bit too careful despite Coupal’s vivacity and secure technique and Durand’s impressive leaps and fast spins. Chloe Keneally and Erik Snyder danced the Grand Pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty, the first thing to spot with this couple was the confident partnering and Keneally’s fish dives were performed with great confidence. I detected a certain stiffness about Snyder but there is some similarity to Vadim Muntagirov at the same stage of his career in the way he traverses the stage, jumps and lands (and this is why he might ultimately have been named the winner). Once again, I could not discern any great chemistry between Keneally and Snyder. Finally, it was the Grand Pas Classique from Pasquita for Angela Wood and Matthew Astley. With her long expressive arms and authoritative ease of movement Wood, for me, was the most impressive of the ballerinas and she made a brave attempt at her fouettés. Astley had a bouncy gaiety throughout but finished with a flourish and again he was a reliable partner.
The three contemporary duets were apparently inspired by the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and created especially for this event. Firstly Ashley Coupal and Noam Durand enthusiastically performed NEFES with choreography by Ceyda Tanc and music by ENB dancer, Fabian Reimair. I am indebted to the informative interval interviews with personable hosts Giorgio Garrett and Sarah Kundi, both ENB dancers, to learn from Tanc that she was wanting to give Turkish folk dance a new movement language. There was an appropriate sense of bagginess to Coupal and Durand’s costumes and a touch of whirling dervish and Akram Khan to the unoriginal floor work and hand gestures which quickly seemed to run out of ideas even though Reimair’s colourful music built to quite a climax. Chloe Keneally and Eric Snyder were more engaging when dancing Rentaro Nakaaki’s Cha Cha and Tiara to Xavier Cugat’s La Cumparsita. Both were in black with a little styling on their fronts and Keneally began in silence, followed by Snyder in a pool of light with some jerky movements and acrobatics. He was then joined by Keneally for a playful modern take on the cha-cha-cha. Lastly it was left to the garishly costumed Angela Wood and Matthew Astley to entertain us with Hamish Longley’s Interlude on the Jubilee Line, to a musical mashup of jazz and ragtime. This was a very accessible work that allowed Wood and Astley to enjoy themselves as they clearly showed us they did. Longley suggested he had observed two people meeting on a Jubilee Line platform and this inspired him to create a relationship between them through the medium of dance.
As to who my winner would have been I cannot say and – as talented as all were – no one dancer stood out for me. Before we heard Jordan Lee read out the results, we heard Henty and the orchestra play the Overture to Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard which the conductor suggested was a ‘little bit darker, little bit symphonic’ than some of their other music and he suggested it should be played more often as concert overture. Indeed there was an undoubted homage to Wagner in the music which still made it an odd choice for this ballet event. The best dancing of the evening came next as Ivana Bueno and Victor Prigent (respectively, 2020 Emerging Dancer Award Winner and 2020 People’s Choice Award Winner) pulled out all the stops for the famous pas de deux from Le Corsaire that was virtuosically danced; Prigent was fiery and pantherine, whilst Bueno was more crystalline, yet no less capable of the balletic fireworks when required.
On winning the 2022 Emerging Dancer Award, Eric Snyder said, ‘I really am so grateful for this. A big thank you to my mentors James (Streeter) and Shiori (Kase) who were a rock for both me and my beautiful, amazing partner Chloe. Thank you to those who nominated me and the panel for what they saw in me. My Mom arranged a huge viewing party back home, it’s so special to know they have been watching!’ Snyder then endeared himself to all concerned with his ‘Hi, Mom!’
Emilia Cadorin was named as the recipient of the Corps de Ballet Award, acknowledging her exceptional work over the last year. We heard ENB’s ballet master Renato Paroni de Castro say how important it is to be a team player as a member of the corps de ballet. Emilia said, ‘I really was not expecting this! I want to thank my colleagues who inspire me to improve every day.’
Precious Adams was awarded the People’s Choice Award, as voted for by members of the public throughout the season. This award, in my humble opinion, is long overdue and she later said, ‘This is a real surprise, it is great to receive this recognition! Since Covid every performance has felt so precious and I am honoured to have that acknowledged by the audience.’
Commenting on the results after the event Tamara Rojo said, ‘Emerging Dancer is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the bright future of ballet. Watching this incredible showcase of the immense talent among the company’s rising stars is always a joy and a privilege. The talent and skill we saw on stage tonight was extraordinary. Eric showed beautiful qualities in both the classical and contemporary pieces. He is a dancer with enormous potential, and I am delighted this was seen by the jury who agreed unanimously on this year’s winner. Huge congratulations to all the finalists for an evening of fantastic performances.’
A full recording of the broadcast will be available on English National Ballet’s YouTube channel for 30 days from the event.