With heart-warming tales of talent-spotting and a starry cast that ranged from Sergei Polunin to Imelda Staunton, the gala in aid of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School came out as a cheerful jumble. There was the odd lurch as it switched from pure dance to showbiz and back again, but there was enough talent and good will to go around.
The Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gives young dancers the chance to work with internationally acclaimed artists. For its fortieth anniversary, YBSS brought its fundraising gala to London. Many of these dancers had studied at the summer school, as did the directors of several British companies.
One exception was Sergei Polunin, flitting in from Moscow. After his high-profile vanishing act in leaving The Royal Ballet, people joke about whether Polunin will show up; this time, he crossed a continent for a single performance. His solo from La Bayadère was a speedy dazzler, with dashing charisma and exuberantly high jumps. In a very brief dance, Polunin lived up to his star billing.
The gala was particularly strong on male dancing. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Brandon Lawrence, recently a YBSS star pupil, danced Christopher Tudor’s When the Time Comes with poised elegance. Rambert’s Dane Hurst moved with sumptuous, animal warmth in Mark Baldwin’s solo Impala. The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae showed off his tap skills with panache, throwing in ballet leaps between bursts of glittering footwork.
Bitter Earth, by rising choreographer Kenneth Tindall, was a taut trio for Northern Ballet’s Tobias Batley, Jessica Morgan and Nicola Gervasi. English National Ballet’s Lauretta Summerscales and Fernando Bufalá danced the Corsaire pas de deux – a sneak preview of ENB’s new production? Despite blandly glitzy costumes, it was a promising performance, with strong turns from Summerscales.
There’s a grim determination to Wayne Sleep in We’re A Couple of Swells. His lack of spontaneity kills the jokes, though Samantha Bond was a game partner. Anthony Dowell and Derek Jacobi, a dance knight and a theatrical one, made stiff hosts. It was a relief when actor Jim Carter popped up, trailing clouds of Downton Abbey celebrity and considerable charm.
Singer Michael Ball belted his way through “The Impossible Dream”, forcing the corny emotions. But he made a good double act with Imelda Staunton, who sang duets and solos with beautiful tone and sensitive phrasing.
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