Male dancers stand in a line with female dancers kneeling in front of them on a stage

Celebrating our 2022 Summer Performances

Saturday 16 July saw our students take to the stage at the Royal Opera House for their final performance this academic year. It was an exuberant, emotional occasion as the whole School were able to perform together for the first time since 2019, in what Artistic Director Christopher Powney described as ‘a true celebration.’  

The performance marked the end of this year’s run of Summer Performances, which were generously sponsored by Imagination. Each year group at the School took to the stage twice in a series of performances held in our in-School theatres at both White Lodge and Upper School, and our Upper School 1st and Pre-professional Year students also took part in this year’s Next Generation Festival at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. The School then gave five performances at beautiful Opera Holland Park.

The Royal Opera House performance featured a varied repertoire, including classical heritage works (Petipa’s Raymonda Act III and Ashton’s Swan Lake pas de douze) and more contemporary pieces (Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient and John Neumeier’s Yondering). There were also brand-new works created on students especially for these performances: Moments by The Royal Ballet Emerging Choreographer Joseph Toonga, and Jubilation, a piece created by Mikaela Polley for all five year groups at White Lodge. Eccentric Pulses, a new piece of choreography by Upper School 2nd Year student Guillem Cabrera Espinach, was performed by two of his classmates before the traditional Grand Défilé gave an exultant finish to the programme.

You can find full details of our Opera Holland Park and Royal Opera House programmes on our cast sheets page.

Celebrating our 2022 summer performances
Grand Défilé ©2022 Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Photography by ASH

A warm reception

As well as an auditorium filled with proud parents, staff, special guests and ballet fans delighted to have this opportunity to share in the achievements of our students, we also welcomed members of the press to the matinée. We’ve shared some highlights from their reviews below:

As Powney observed, the 2021-22 Pre-professional Year students have been affected by Covid restrictions throughout their time at the Upper School. It is a tribute to their fortitude they have come through and can still show such talent. It was a super afternoon, but you really do have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that they are all still in their late-teens.

David Mead, Seeing Dance

What’s striking… is that these teenagers perform at a level beyond their years. Especially in terms of emotional maturity.

Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian

They are required to deliver near professional standards and even the youngest White Lodgers must be step perfect. They did not disappoint. Far from it, they excelled and left many of us open-mouthed with admiration. Even more remarkable is that a large proportion of this particular group of students have spent the last three years negotiating their way through a pandemic, with disruptions, training at home, bubbles and illness.  Well, it didn’t show!

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You
Celebrating our 2022 summer performances
Raymonda Act III after Marius Petipa ©2022 Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Photography by ASH

On Raymonda Act III, after Marius Petipa, performed by Upper School 1st, 2nd and Pre-professional Year students:

The important role still played in ballet by the nineteenth-century classics was emphasised by the performance opening with Act III of Raymonda. Performed under the chandeliers and hanging Russian Orthodox images of designer Barry Kay’s sumptuous castle hall, its series of divertissements gave students from across the Upper School plenty of chance to show their admirable character ensemble work… In the Grand pas de deux, Takumi Miyake thrilled everyone and won himself plenty of admirers with his soaring jumps and soft landings, some fast but beautifully controlled turns, and flying across the stage when needed.

David Mead, Seeing Dance

Act lll from Marius Petipa’s Raymonda was a bold opening, with its exposing classical choreography. Dancing the title role, and luxuriously talented, Penney radiates a langourous ease…  Beautiful lines, expressive, flashing eyes & strong balances, Penney held the audience, superbly partnered by prodigiously talented Takumi Miyake.

With a supporting cast of glossy dust motes dancing in the beams of light cast by the stellar leads, this was a joyful, confident & immensely satisfying opening.

Cheryl Angear, Ballet News

Raymonda Act III, so often the grand closing number on a mixed bill, opened the proceedings with such immense talent on show, it fairly took one’s breath away… After a stylish Hungarian dance led by Andrea Riolo and Jules Chastre, there followed the grand pas which could easily have been compared to an established classical company. Soloists Isabella Boyd, Frieda Kaden, Chaeyeon Kang and Scarlett Harvey each displayed the qualities and technical assurance to convince the audience that they were in complete control. Liya Fan, Isabella Shaker and Jessica Templeton were crisply together in the pas de trois and Aidan Buss, Jack Easton, Luc Foskett and Mason King were terrific in the pas de quatre not only mastering the numerous tours en l’air but revealing warm personalities too.

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You

On Moments by Royal Ballet Emerging Choreographer Joseph Toonga, performed by Upper School 2nd Year students:

A new piece, Moments, by Joseph Toonga, who comes from a hip-hop and contemporary background. Toonga pastes movements from the street style krump on to ballet bodies to make something that looks like neither: full of urgent, stilted energy as well as easy grace and long-legged extensions.

Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian

Moments… filled the stage with a bunch of slightly rascally spirits. Sharp, again; bold, fierce & phosphorus. It felt like the ominous throb of dark clouds.

Cheryl Angear, Ballet News
Celebrating our 2022 summer performances
Moments by Joseph Toonga ©2022 Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Photography by ASH

On Mikaela Polley’s Jubilation, performed by students from all years at White Lodge:

A ray of sunshine to match the weather outside came with Mikaela Polley’s Jubilation, which featured no fewer than 76 dancers from all years at White Lodge. It starts with each year group in their own section before the groups start to mingle and the structure gets increasingly complex. It is quite formal but very neatly arranged, not only showing each group of students off to their best but allowing us to see individuals.

David Mead, Seeing Dance

Polley, who seems to get it so right in terms of age and ability, gave us a piece that truly reflected the joy in the title to JS Bach’s Violin Concerto no.1 in A minor. Very musical in structure, Jubilation was simply a charming display of classical dance by Years 7 to 11.

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You

On Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient, performed by Upper School Pre-professional Year students:

Wayne McGregor’s PreSentinent may now be twenty years old but it still brims with originality. It just doesn’t stop. The Pre-professional Year students captured well its powerful athleticism, the ballet’s flow of movement just seeming to course through their bodies. There was sharpness of attack and lots of directed energy wherever you looked… Miyake was outstanding again, both in his solo and a delicious pas de deux with Scarlett Harvey.

David Mead, Seeing Dance

Wayne McGregor’s Presentient allowed the pre-professional year dancers to be seen in a contemporary light. An instantly recognisable McGregor ballet, the twelve dancers worked their magic in its expressive shapes; crisp angles, neat partnering & a lot of walking.

Cheryl Angear, Ballet News

The programme shows that the Royal Ballet School is training its older students for the realities of the current dance world, in pieces that push them out of the finely tuned poise they’ve spent all these years honing, and into more exploratory movement. Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient, for example, asks them to turn straight spines into undulating waves.

Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian
Celebrating our 2022 summer performances
PreSentient by Wayne McGregor ©2022 Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Photography by ASH

On Frederick Ashton’s Swan Lake pas de douze, performed by Upper School 1st Year students:

The third part opened with Ashton’s Swan Lake pas de douze. This was a lovely rendition from the 1st Years with some excellent footwork and ballon from the men and women and some very strong stage presences. 

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You

On John Neumeier’s Yondering, performed by Upper School 2nd and Pre-professional Year students:

Without doubt, the highlight of the afternoon was John Neumeier’s Yondering… it was an absolute delight. Not only is the ballet a joy choreographically but the Upper School students clearly enjoyed dancing it as much as the audience did watching it… There’s a sense of losing friends and innocence and is thus very relevant to the students’ situation as they prepare to leave for jobs in companies around the world. They captured its essence and moods perfectly.

‘Molly! Do You Love Me?’ is a delightfully, gently comic duet. George Edwards was the joker who only has eyes for Tilly Wightman… Comedy, especially gentle comedy, can be difficult for any dancer, but the couple judged it superbly… for tugging at the heartstrings, it has to be ‘Beautiful Dreamer’, a dance that emphasises being defenceless and vulnerable. Jack Easton and Ishan Mahabir-Stokes showed all that in the most loving, tender and caring of duets.

David Mead, Seeing Dance

In John Neumeier’s Yondering, set to a series of 19th-century American popular songs that sound like an endless summer of first loves, the choreography asks for openness, vulnerability and tenderness – and the dancers deliver. We see it especially in a brief duo between Jack Easton and Ishan Mahabir-Stokes to the song Beautiful Dreamer. Both performances show that dance training demands utter physical commitment, but inner strength and self-knowledge too.

Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian

One of the big highlights of the afternoon was John Neumeier’s Yondering. This is a piece which he insists should only ever be danced by students and one can see why. There is such an air of innocence and youthful energy about it… With a folksy theme and wonderfully crafted choreography, infused with gentle humour, it was pleasurable from beginning to end. Especially enjoyable were Tilly Wightman and George Edwards in Molly! Do You Love Me?, a playful duet which they both made their own. Frieda Kaden, Jack Easton and Ishan Mahabir-Stokes were wistful and moving in Beautiful Dreamer and the men were jovial and boisterous in That’s What’s the Matter.

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You

And finally, on the Grand Défilé:

The azure blue background was the perfect backdrop for the hyphens of pink & blue, red, burgundy & black shot out from both sides of the stage until it was filled with vertical rows of filigree brilliance: every student in position as the perfect full stop to the most balanced curation of work I’ve seen the School dance (credit to Artistic Director Christopher Powney).

Cheryl Angear, Ballet News

Since 2001, the annual performance has concluded with the Grand Défilé, introduced by Gailene Stock when she was directing the school… It’s a goose-bump inducing moment and never fails to bring the house down. I think it’s fair to say, this is what the RBS would call a ‘vintage year’.

Deborah Weiss, Dance For You

See more photos of our final Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House below:

Raymonda, act iii after marius petipa
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