Emerging Dancer 2017 – English National Ballet: Sadler’s Wells, London, 25 May 2017

It’s an emerge and see

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winners. Rina Kanehara and Aitor Arrieta are two for the price of one.

Although English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer 2017 contest ended in a tie between Rina Kanehara and Aitor Arrieta, it wasn’t actually that big a surprise as there was very little to choose between any of the six finalists. Some of them showed better in the classical and some in the contemporary but none shone in both – I’d have found it almost impossible to pick a winner, although I broadly agreed with the judge’s decision.

For me, the Classical pas de deux part of the programme won it for Kanehara and Arrieta. The opening pair of Isabelle Brouwers and Emilio Pavan looked more accomplished in their performance of the Paquita pas de deux, especially regarding Pavan’s partnering, but Kanehara and Arrieta had more zing in their dancing. Despite a bit of over-enthusiasm at times, they showed glimpses of raw potential in their more adventurous approach – Kanehara was a particularly exciting tambourine-tapping Esmeralda.

Madison Keesler and Guilherme Menezes were kind of hamstrung by having to dance the pas de deux from La Sylphide. Bournonville’s more subtle style made it hard to compete with the flashy bravura fireworks of the other two pas de deux on display. If Menezes had been able to show off some big lifts and other party tricks, then he would surely have won the competition because his contemporary solo was head and shoulders above the rest.

Sebastian Kloborg’s Flight Mode was a witty little number concerning a RyanAir flight attendant acting out the on-board safety instructions. Menezes’ dancing was sharp and precise and his expressive comic timing was brilliant. The other five contemporary works were much of a muchness really, although Emilio Pavan showed some excellent balance in Kirill Burlov’s Proprioception and Kanehara some marvellously swift changes of momentum and deft placement of body weight in Raimondo Rebeck’s Blind Dreams.

For further entertainment, last year’s winner Cesar Corrales came out after the interval and knocked out a ‘bring-the -house-down’ Don Quixote pas de deux with an impressive Katja Khaniukova. Then the Award-winners for 2017 were announced by Tamara Rojo in frock of the night (a resplendent 1950s-style shiny gold flared skirted extravaganza). Clearly neither Sarah Kundi (Corps de Ballet Award) or Georgia Bould (People’s Choice Award) knew they were going to win – Kundi was on the verge of tears as she gave an impromptu speech and the delightfully astonished-looking Bould simply announced she was ‘overwhelmed and confused’ and handed the microphone back to Rojo.

Kanehara and Arrieta both looked rightly happy with their victory – it’ll be interesting to see how they develop in the Company from here. If you fancy what they look like right now, you can watch the whole of the Emerging Dancer 2017 competition by clicking on this link which will take you to the live stream of the whole event, something I highly recommend.

Gerard Davis

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