Up for the cup
And the winner of English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer Award 2012 is, surely by some distance, Yonah Acosta (pictured top left). He was the only competitor who seized the stage and grabbed the audience by the enthralls. Flashy routines from Diana and Acteon and Don Quixote admittedly lacked artistry (though Acosta has time aplenty to develop that) but showed off his mega-leaps and beat-that attitude to exciting effect. A deserving champion.
The format of the competition is that six ENB dancers, chosen by the powers that be at ENB, each perform two short solos, at least one of which has to be classical. A winner is chosen on the night by a panel of judges featuring Wayne Eagling, Clement Crisp, Arlene Phillips (whose on-stage comments sadly gave the impression she hadn’t actually seen much ballet), David Wall and Wendy Martin. A Perspex trophy is then awarded. Then another is awarded, again to Yonah Acosta, for The People’s Choice, an accolade gained by winning ENB’s audiences’ votes during the company’s long season.
After Acosta, the best of the rest was Ksenia Ovsyanick; the Russian, recently chosen as The Firebird for George Williamson’s upcoming production, didn’t seem fully aware of the capabilities of her long limbs for Vitaly Satroukine’s Out of Line but she dominated Gorsky’s choreography as a thrillingly extravagant Kitri. She also benefits from a rare stage presence.
Unfortunately for Barry Drummond he had to follow the all-conquering Acosta twice on the night and though he was neat and tidy he had no chance after the pyrotechnics of the Cuban.
Nancy Osbaldeston made a meal of her Paquita but redeemed herself with a sassy mambo she admirably also choreographed; though it lacked a certain Latino kick it showed off her talents well.
You just wanted to squeeze Junor Souza. He constantly seemed on the edge of letting rip, more at home in Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated than in Petipa’s Talisman, but he ultimately kept it all to himself in a pair of frustratingly restrained performances.
Last up was Jia Zhang who warmed slowly to her Black Swan before rippling her body deliciously through the wobbleboard of Impressions. Somehow, though, she was a little cold and didn’t make the impact she could have done.
Nerves undoubtedly played a part for most of the dancers, particularly in the first round of very short solos, and the presentation ceremony, charmingly chaotic though it was, could do with tightening up. However, for thrusting young dancers into the uncompromising glare of the London spotlight, the Emerging Dancer award appears to be a very useful and entertaining thing.