The autumn season of Jamiel Devernay-Laurence’s Ballet Nights reaches its Grande Finale

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Ballet Nights: Autumn Season 2023: Jamiel Devernay-Laurence (compère), Viktor Erik Emanuel (piano). Lanterns Studio Theatre, London, 24.11.2023. (JO’D)

Heisei 9: Constance Devernay-Laurence and Viktor Erik Emanuel (piano) © Deborah Jaffe

With improved lighting (for an audience taking its seats) and improved sightlines, the Ballet Nights Autumn Season at Lanterns Dance Studio reaches a Grande Finale. A programme of choreography ranging from the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries for which Founder and Artistic Director, Jamiel Devernay-Laurence, again acts as compère; and pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel again provides some onstage music, though mainly what we hear is pre-recorded.

A programme that contains at least one tour de force: Martha Graham Dance Company’s Laurel Dalley Smith as a guest with Yorke Dance Project in Robert Cohan’s Wind. And one coup: the ‘gift’ by choreographer William Forsythe of a pas de deux from In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, a work created on the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987. For Ballet Nights this pas de deux is performed by English National Ballet’s Sangeun Lee and Gareth Haw.

A Chopin ballade as introduction; English National Ballet Junior Soloist, Ivana Bueno, confident from toes to upward-tilted chin in a variation from Petipa’s Le Corsaire; Rambert School-trained Felicity Chadwick in The Royal Ballet dancer Joshua Junker’s undulating 324A (to J.S. Bach); then Laurel Dalley Smith’s powerful sweep across the stage, barefoot and in flowing black, to herald the start of Wind.

Adapted by Cohan for this dancer in 2019, from a work he danced himself with the Martha Graham company in the 1950s, Wind is like a palimpsest: from Robert Cohan’s London Contemporary Dance Theatre (the dance of the 1970s) to Martha Graham to Isadora Duncan. The silence to which it is performed, and Laurel Dalley Smith’s physical presence, serve as a reminder of the ‘sterner truths’ which dance writer Deborah Jowitt detects in Duncan’s choreography.

It is followed by the more playful Heisei 9, choreographed by Jordan James Bridge (a previous Ballet Nights performer) and danced, playfully, in pointe shoes and purple body suit, by Constance Devernay-Laurence. The humorous tone extends to pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel, who sports a bow tie and pocket square to match the bodysuit. Sangeun Lee and Gareth Haw may seem hesitant, on this opening night, in the ‘Forsythe strut’ that starts their off-kilter pas de deux, but as it develops Lee moves her arms and legs with the speed of a whip.

After the interval, a Chopin barcarolle before the return of Ivana Bueno, slightly less confident perhaps, with a tambourine in Esmeralda Variation (Petipa, again). Cuban dancer and choreographer, Yasser D’Oquendo, performs a solo of struggle and loss, Utopia (The Way Is Inside), for which Jamiel Devernay-Laurence has already provided biographical background. Travis Clausen-Knight and James Pett, who have danced together since they were members of choreographer Wayne McGregor’s company several years ago, explore distance as much as closeness in their duet, Proximity.

‘Don Quixote Suite’: Katja Khaniukova and Aitor Arrieta Coca © Deborah Jaffe

‘The finale of the finale,’ as Jamiel Devernay-Laurence puts it, is English National Ballet’s Katja Khaniukova and Aitor Arrieta Coca in ‘Don Quixote Suite’ (Petipa a third time). Once again, more than ever perhaps in this ‘up close and personal’ studio space, it is Khaniukova’s bourrée that stands out: the particular quality this dancer brings to the step, or it to her. What stands out about her partner, as always, is a sensitivity that shows in every limb.

After one more performance, the Ballet Nights Autumn Season 2023 season will come to a close. But Jamiel Devernay-Laurence ends this evening by proudly announcing the date of the next Ballet Night: 23rd February 2024.

John O’Dwyer

Chopin Ballade No.1 in G Minor
Performed by Viktor Erik Emanuel

Medora Variation Act II, Le Corsaire
Choreography – Marius Petipa
Music – Adolphe Adam
Dancer – Ivana Bueno

Choreography – Joshua Junker
Music – J.S. Bach
Dancer – Felicity Chadwick

Choreography – Robert Cohan
Dancer – Laurel Dalley Smith

Heisei 9
Choreography – Jordan James Bridge
Music – Nobuo Uematsu
Dancer – Constance Devernay-Laurence

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated
Choreography – William Forsythe
Music – Thom Willems, Leslie Stuck
Dancers – Sangeun Lee, Gareth Haw

Chopin Barcarolle in F# Major, Op.60
Performed by Viktor Erik Emanuel

Esmeralda Variation
Choreography – Marius Petipa
Music – Jules Perrot and Cesare Pugni
Dancer – Ivana Bueno

Utopia (The Way Is Inside)
Choreography – Yasser D’Oquendo
Music – Glenn Morrison, Martin Bloch/Joad del Monte
Dancer – Yasser D’Oquendo

Choreography – James Pett, Travis Clausen-Knight
Music – Federico Albanese
Dancers – James Pett, Travis Clausen-Knight

‘Don Quixote Suite’
Choreography – Marius Petipa
Music – Ludwig Minkus
Dancers – Katja Khaniukova, Aitor Arrieta Coca

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