This year marks 12 years of Emerging Dancer, English National Ballet’s annual competition that showcases up and coming talent in the Company.
For the past eleven years, this special event has recognised the excellence and dedication of our dancers: selected by their peers, six rising artists perform before a judging panel of industry experts and live audience before one receives the coveted Emerging Dancer Award. Audiences also have the chance to vote for their favourite dancer to win the People’s Choice Award.
The idea of the competition originated with our previous Artistic Director Wayne Eagling. When Eemerging Dancer started in 2010, it was a small gathering in the Donald Barclay Studio at Markova House, our former home in Kensington. Gradually it grew, moving to various theatres over the years including Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Lyceum Theatre, the London Palladium, the London Coliseum and Sadler’s Wells. Along the way, we also began to live stream the annual showcase around the world.
The driving force behind Emerging Dancer is developing the stars of the future. The finalists are offered one-on-one coaching from their dancer colleagues and it is often their first experience performing a classical pas de deux and being in the spotlight with a contemporary (sometimes brand new) work.
This year’s Emerging Dancer: A Celebration will be a special one: it will feature twelve past winners, showing how far they have all come since taking part in the competition. Their performances will be recorded in the Holloway Production Studio at our new home in the Mulryan Centre for Dance, and will be available to watch online around the world from Thursday 9 September 2021.
Since winning Emerging Dancer in 2011, Shiori Kase has quickly risen in the ranks: first being promoted to Soloist in 2013, then First Soloist in 2014, and following a performance as Gulnare in Le Corsaire, was promoted to Principal on the stage of the Palais Garnier in June 2016. She has since performed a great number of lead roles such as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker, Aurora and Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty as well as Cinderella and Sister Clementine in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella to name but a few. She also graces the beloved campaign image for our Nutcracker by Wayne Eagling.
Since becoming a Principal, Shiori has coached other dancers for Emerging Dancer; she mentored the 2019 winner, Julia Conway. This year, Shiori will perform the Flames of Paris pas de deux with Daniel McCormick, which is coincidentally the same piece that she coached with Julia in 2019.
Also returning for this year’s celebration will be the first joint winners of the competition, who danced and won together in 2014:
Junor Souza competed in the very first year of Emerging Dancer in 2010, and again in 2012 and 2014, when he jointly won the award with dance partner Alison McWhinney. He also took home the People’s Choice Award in 2014. As Junor took part over three years of the competition, he also rose through the ranks of the Company: in 2010 he was promoted to First Artist, then in 2011 to Junior Soloist and finally to First Soloist in 2014. Career highlights include dancing the Prince in Nutcracker, Albrecht in Giselle, Romeo in Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet and Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake. Junor has also coached for Emerging Dancer; he mentored the 2018 winner Daniel McCormick as well as the 2018 People’s Choice Award winner, Alice Bellini, when she competed as a finalist in 2019.
The other 2014 joint winner, Alison McWhinney, competed as a finalist in 2013 and 2014. She has also progressed quickly: being promoted to First Artist in 2014, Soloist in 2015 and more recently to First Soloist in 2017. Favourite roles have included Juliet in Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet, Myrtha and Giselle in Mary Skeaping’s classical Giselle, and the title role in Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon.
For this year’s Emerging Dancer: A Celebration, Alison and Junor return to the same piece they danced in 2015, the year following their win, a pas de deux from Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land.
The two joint winners from 2017 will also take part this year:
Aitor Arrieta, who only joined English National Ballet in 2016, and progressed to Soloist in 2017 and First Soloist in 2019, and Rina Kanehara, who joined the Company in 2015 and has since been promoted to Junior Soloist in 2017 and then Soloist in 2018.
Aitor has since danced roles from Albrecht in Akram Khan’s Giselle, the role of Des Grieux in MacMillan’s Manon and was in the creation of William Forsythe’s Playlist (Track 1, 2). Next month, he will take on the lead role in Akram Khan’s new full-length ballet, Creature.
Rina has since danced the role of Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker, Fairy of the Golden Vine and Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty and the Peasant pas de trois in Swan Lake.
Daniel McCormick joined English National Ballet in autumn 2017 and then competed in Emerging Dancer that same season, going on to win the 2018 award. From there, he’s been promoted to First Artist in 2019 and Soloist in 2020. Leading roles have included Ali in Le Corsaire, the title role in Nutcracker, Lescaut in MacMillan’s Manon and creating roles in William Forsythe’s Playlist (Track 1, 2).
2019 Emerging Dancer winner Julia Conway also joined the Company in 2017. Since she won the competition, she has been to promoted to First Artist in 2019 and Junior Soloist in 2020. Notable roles include Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, the Peasant pas de trois in Swan Lake, Stepsister Clementine in Wheeldon’s Cinderella, Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker and Gulnare in Le Corsaire.
Most recent winner Ivana Bueno, only joined the Company in 2018. In her short time with us, a notable role is the Spanish pas de trois in Nutcracker.
Also joining these eight Emerging Dancer Award winners are four dancers who have won the People’s Choice Award:
Georgia Bould, who joined in 2015, won the People’s Choice Award in 2017 as well as the 2018 Corps de Ballet Award, for an exceptional Artist of the Company who has gone above and beyond. Most recently she has performed in the film version of Arielle Smith’s Jolly Folly.
Alice Bellini joined in 2017, winning the People’s Choice Award in 2018 and also competed as a finalist in Emerging Dancer 2019. She has danced a number of roles including the Novice in Jerome Robbins’ The Cage and the pas de deux in Aszure Barton’s Fantastic Beings.
Rhys Antoni Yeomans also joined in 2017, from English National Ballet School. He competed as an Emerging Dancer finalist alongside Julia Conway and Alice Bellini in 2019 and took home the People’s Choice Award that year. In his time with the Company, he has danced in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and created roles in Playlist (Track 1, 2) and the film version of Arielle Smith’s Jolly Folly. Most recently, Rhys performed in the collaboration with Anne-Marie and Arielle Smith at The National Lottery’s Team GB homecoming event.
Another 2017 joiner, Victor Prigent competed as a finalist in last year’s Emerging Dancer alongside Ivana Bueno. He went on to win the People’s Choice Award. At English National Ballet, he has danced such roles as Freddie and the Chinese pas de trois in Nutcracker, the Beggar Chief in MacMillan’s Manon and the Neapolitan in Swan Lake. This season, he will dance the role of Andres in Akram Khan’s Creature.
Even James Streeter, the producer of this year’s Emerging Dancer: A Celebration, took part in the competition twice, first in 2011 and again in 2015. His career with the Company is yet another testament to the spirit of Emerging Dancer: he joined in 2004, was first promoted in 2007 to First Artist, then Junior Soloist in 2011, Soloist in 2015 and more recently to First Soloist in 2018. Highlights of his dancing career include Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet, Rothbart in Swan Lake, Albrecht in Akram Khan’s Giselle and partnering his wife, Lead Principal Erina Takahashi, in Akram Khan’s Dust on the Pyramid Stage of Glastonbury in 2014. This is his second year producing Emerging Dancer as part of English National Ballet’s Dance Leaders of the Future programme.
It’s a huge honour to be involved in this very special event. It is a real opportunity for us to celebrate not only the incredible journeys these dancers have been on since winning an award as part of the competition but also to thank and celebrate with our audiences who have made Emerging Dancer what it is today.James Streeter