English National Ballet | A Day at the Lake

Last year we went to the Coliseum to do a Nutcracker workshop with English National Ballet. It was literally two weeks after Christmas and I felt like a Christmas pudding, round, short and well, not very much like a ballerina. So when we signed up to the Swan Lake workshop I was determined not to be the post-Christmas-pudding that plodded around the stage last year.

Confidence goes a long way, especially when throwing yourself into intimidating situations and after last year, (and even the way my own regular classes left me feeling last week) I was determined to turn a blind eye to any ENB dancer that may be warming up in the wings, as well as choosing an I-don’t-stand-out-from-the-crowd concoction of dancewear that is also slimming and not attention seeking. Stripey Rubiawear legwarmers are permitted however.
Luckily for me this year’s workshop wasn’t half as daunting. English National Ballet’s Jennie Harrington led us through some short barre and centre work (it is right here that I can now say I have executed a pirouette or two on the stage at the London Coliseum) before teaching us Waltz of the Swans. And right there I died and went to ballet heaven. The end.
Actually, there was a little more to it than that. The choreography was relatively easy to pick up, but obviously very beautiful and effective, especially to an audience watching (see later on in post). Having not had very much opportunity for rep/corp de ballet work this was a real treat and I as I was enjoying it so much I found myself feeling quite relaxed about picking up the steps rather than being worried about who and what was happening around me. Jennie was also a very friendly and warm teacher, not once did we feel like we were out of place and any little struggles we did have were met without judgement. Jennie is very much a credit to ENB.
We seemed to get through a fair amount of the piece in the little time we had and by the time it came to the last full run through I was very much enjoying the actual dancing rather than being concerned over the steps. A miracle had happened and my brain had actually absorbed them. We had a little round of applause from the three members of staff watching in the wings which was encouraging and I certainly left the workshop feeling a million times better than I had when I left my own class last week. Here’s hoping everything will feel better this week.

We all piled into the stalls to watch company class which is always a real treat. Usually you go in with the thought that you can ‘do’ ballet, and then come out stunned, feeling like a mere mortal who can barely point your toes, and yet equally inspired. Barry Drum’s ballet feet make you want to go home and get the resistance bands out and improve your own. Alison McWhinney’s abs, in fact, ballerina body, super strong looking and at the same time so elegant. Yes, I’m going to work more on my core now.

And then we have the evening performance of Swan Lake with Laurretta Summerscales as Odette/Odile and Alejandro Virelles as Prince Siegfried.
As those that have read these sort of things before know, I like to be at the front, in the stalls, were the action is. I want to see the pointe shoes, the footwork, to see who is dancing. I therefore end up spending a fair amount of money on my ticket. Well, by the time the waltz in Act I had started I already felt my £79 was well spent. Everything after that was a bonus. It’s the first time I had seen ENB do Swan Lake that wasn’t in the round and the production was just stunning from start to finish. From the choreography of the Swans in Act II and IV that didn’t look over complicated but was extremely effective, especially I’m sure to watch from the circle/balconies, to the set in Act III, nothing was ‘over done’.

Anjuli Hudson and her mind-blowingly quick feet in the Pas de Trois brought equal feelings of amazement, shock and fear of my own future petit allegro in future classes. Brava!

Waltz of the Swans now has a very special place in my ballerina heart and having danced it earlier that day it was something I appreciated more than before while watching it. And there was a bit of a lump in the throat which we aren’t going to talk about. On other emotional moments, I was doing just fine until the very end of Act IV and then everything got to me, there was even watery eyes. That’s one thing that will always cement Swan Lake as my favourite ballet, such a boring choice of favourite ballet yes I know, but that music, the story, all the swans, the more you watch Swan Lake and the more you learn to understand it, the more you fall in love with it.

Oh, and Laurretta Summerscales. I’m a little basic when it comes to ballerinas and ballet. Swan Lake is my favourite (boring) and Tamara Rojo and Daria Klimentova have my ballerina heart (same as everybody else I know, but I’m not sorry) and are my go to for inspiration. Then came Laurretta.
Laurretta has cracked my tough interior before (as a Lead Snowflake and a Flower) so I guess she has always stood out from the crowd. But then after watching her as Odette/Odile last weekend, I want to know where I sign up for the ‘Laurretta Summerscales for Principal’ campaign please. That girl can dance. And act. Her Odette was great, the pas de deux was so gentle and heartbreaking, but her Odile, wow! Such a sly, cunning seductress. As much as I love the lakeside, I kind of wanted to stay at the party with Odile.
Laurretta’s dancing went all the way to the tips of her fingers, her arms and port de bras reminded me of when I saw Daria Kilimentova in Nutcraker that time, just so beautiful, graceful, her wrists, how can you be envious of the way somebody’s wrists move?! She moves so gracefully constantly and she has firmly cemented her place in my ballerina heart. Now I don’t just want to dance like Tamara and Daria, I want to dance like Laurretta too. I hope she gets the promotion she deserves very soon.


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