Thursday, 15 October 2015

Yasmine Naghdi and Matthew Ball

An afternoon with Royal Ballet dancers, Ivy House Music and Dance, JW3 - reviewed on 11th October

Yasmine Naghdi and Matthew Ball in Onegin
Photo: Dave Morgan

In its plush new JW3 venue on Finchley Road, Ivy House Music and Dance presented an afternoon showing a much condensed 'day in the life' of two Royal Ballet dancers - first artist Matthew Ball, who joined the company in 2013. and soloist Yasmine Naghdi, who joined in 2010. The pair recently debuted in the leading roles in Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, and last year gave excellent performances as Olga and Lensky in John Cranko's Onegin. Naghdi is also one of my favourite ballet dancers with her superb technique, thoughtful interpretations and radiant stage presence.

After an introduction by Gerald Dowler, the event commenced with an abridged ballet class taught by Ricardo Cervera, who described this part of a dancer's daily routine as a "very personal experience - everyone has a different body and a different pace and will prefer different teachers". What was surprising was how hands-on Cervera was, giving corrections to even these two extremely accomplished dancers. He focused particularly on lengthening the legs as much as possible, whether lowering from demi-pointe or performing a battlement tendu. He also reminded Ball to keep all five toes on the floor in his supporting leg - especially when preparing for pirouettes - and encouraged both dancers to lengthen the supporting side of the body during d√©velopp√©s.

Yasmine Naghdi with Johannes Stepanek in Infra
Photo: ROH
Next, Cervera rehearsed the pair in their Act I ballroom variations from Romeo and Juliet. Both solos are very important for character development as the audience gets a glimpse into Romeo's lyrical and romantic side and sees Juliet away from the shadow of the Nurse and Paris.

Cervera encouraged Naghdi to show the different movement dynamics of the choreography and bend her body to demonstrate Juliet's playfulness. For Ball, he suggested the movement needed to be freer, reminding him that a dancer's "life depends on the [security of] the supporting leg, but the audience pays for the other one!". Naghdi also gave a little bit of insight into why she's so captivating and joyful onstage: "I go into a ballet trance. I've rehearsed so much that I don't have to think. My body takes over and does what I love most in the world - that's why I always smile."

The afternoon finished with a performance of the two solos as well as the Romeo and Juliet Act III bedroom pas de deux, and Finchley Road seemed temporarily and gloriously transformed into the Royal Opera House stage.

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