Wednesday, 15 June 2011

White Lodge Open Day

Royal Ballet School Open Day, White Lodge – reviewed on 11th June

Once every two years, the gorgeous home of the Royal Ballet lower school and Grade 1 listed building White Lodge opens its doors to the public. A fun day out for the whole family, there are stalls selling food and merchandise and tours around the school and its ballet museum. But of course the highlight is the students performing in the gardens.

Junior Associates showed a suite of 17th Century English dances. Just 8-10 years old, they danced simple steps (mainly walks) but in impressively complicated patterns. With plenty of confidence and excellent posture, they seemed assured and capable young dancers.

Year 7 school students performed the party dance from The Nutcracker with precision and charm. The ballroom scene from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet by Year 10 was superb. Students had mastered the elegant, regal feeling of the choreography to perfection and seemed to glide across the floor. The Swan Lake peasant dance shown by Year 11 was more like aerobics in terms of the level of energy required. However, it was performed with technical accuracy as well as the pleasant, relaxed-looking faces of any professional corps de ballet.

The Royal Ballet School’s folk and national dancing displays were exemplary. Year 8 performed an Irish reel with outstanding understanding of the upright and still upper body combined with vigorously-moving legs that typify its style. Boys in Year 10 showed the highly energetic morris ‘rapper’ dance, holding long metal swords as they weaved around each other. Alexander Bird and John Rhys Halliwell from Year 11 demonstrated the clog dance, moving their feet in a precise and speedy fashion, similar to tap. Years 7-10 performed various styles of character dance; the Year 8 Tarantella with its fun and liveliness and the vibrant Year 10 Hungarian proved to be particular highlights.

The performance’s only weakness was the Year 11 demonstration of contemporary dance. The piece, entitled Momentum, lacked the dynamics its name implied and was performed by students in an all-too balletic and exacting manner. It lacked the feelings of suspension, weight and flight that such choreography requires.

All in all, the students demonstrated sound classical technique and superb folk and national dancing skills. Clearly, the Royal Ballet School is providing an exemplary training for these young dancers, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy and admire their hard work.

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