Review from the February 2012 issue of Dance Europe

by Diarmaid O'Meara

The Irish National Youth Ballet presented a selection of Nutcracker divertissements and a newly choreographed Snow Queen for their annual Christmas production. The challenge for youth dance companies is matching the work with the abilities of the company members, and here the management got it just right, with the repertoire challenging the dancers while remaining both appropriate and entertaining. Both Pieces had plenty of work for the ensemble, who, although well drilled, haven't quite achieved the corps de ballet cohesion - this is not to detract from their work; this kind of group perception takes years of work to get right, and this is the perfect place for them to hone their skills. The Nutcracker Suite was a suitable platform for the company to exhibit what they have learned thus far in their training. Among some very accomplished dancing a few dancers stood out: Amy Byrne for her elegant poise as a lead Snowflake, Saoirse Delaney for her sprightly personality and neat footwork and Jenna O'Riordan, who led the Spanish dance with assurance and an easy musicality. While the fairer sex were well presented, the boys were few, but held their own; Julian Capolei was a mature partner in the Arabian. The Snow Queen, choreographed by Stephen Brennan, was an ideal work for the young company: clean classical steps and heel-and-toe-tapping character work, giving them an appreciation for presenting classical work while exposing them to the nuances of character dance. It was nice to see a narrative danced by young people that was so clearly delivered, with defined characterisations and well-delivered drama: the storyline was concise and easy to read as a result. This performance impressed upon me the value of youth ballet companies, when done correctly: challenging the dancers, in terms of technique and performance, whilst giving them space to show off their training achievements, all within a professional framework. Many of the company's alumni are now working professionally in various areas of dance, which goes to show that it is fulfilling its brief as a launching pad for budding professionals, and very deserving of its status as Ireland's first grant-aided youth ballet company.

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