Last night Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Phillip hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace in celebration of young people in the performing arts. The Queen holds receptions throughout the year and the guests are drawn from all walks of life. Celebrity guests including Jools Holland, Duffy, Dame Helen Mirren, Ellie Goulding, Sheila Hancock, Kevin Spacey and Goldie met The Queen over champagne and canapés before taking their seats in the Ballroom with its mirrored doors, glittering chandeliers and opulent crimson banquettes.
Before the performance photographer Bex Singleton & I spent some time with four English National Ballet dancers who were thrilled to be dancing for The Queen and agreed that it was the most exciting night of their lives – Max Westwell, Chantel Roulston, Anjuli Hudson and Daniel Jones. These photographs were taken on the Grand Staircase, designed by John Nash for King George IV with a balustrade delicately patterned with acanthus, oak and laurel leaves in bronze casting. The bright light of the staircase is provided by a shallow dome of glass and I wanted our photographs to be suffused with the same sense of expectation that the design conveys.
The Romeo & Juliet inspired 30 minute performance of music, song, drama and dance, produced by English National Ballet and Dramatico Entertainment was introduced by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa DBE, ONZ, AC, who emphasised the importance and immense benefit of these receptions, began with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture by Tchaikovsky, gloriously played by the Docklands Sinfonia and conducted by Mike Batt.
New Zealand born Soprano Ana James followed with Je Veux Vivre from Gounod’s opera Romeo & Juliet and the other singers of the night included X-Factor winner Joe McElderry showing his credentials with Something’s Coming from West Side Story which suited his crystal clear voice and sense of drama. McElderry was accompanied by dancers from the National Youth Music Theatre (who later returned to dance alongside Rumer) in a routine choreographed by Cristian Valle.
Romeo’s Dream, rapped by Ironik (featuring Sara-Jane Skeete) and flanked by dancers Flawless and Alleviate gave a different take on the theme, and Rumer’s Love Story was beautifully sung. Alleviate, dancers Nicolette and Renako, reached the final three in Sky 1’s Got To Dance, and they are accomplished dancers dressed in white with a well-crafted & gentle routine that gave balance to the drama and richness from other performers.
English National Ballet took to the ballroom floor in considerable style with The Dance of the Knights from Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet. Their elaborate costumes in burnt umber, carmine, chamoisee & sinopia created symmetry with the sunglow gold and vermillion of the Palace Ballroom.
As Jane Haworth swept upstage, nobility ringing out, English National Ballet’s dancers – Zhanat Atymatayev, Kerry Birkett, Laura Bruña, Barry Drummond, Shevelle Dynott, Anjuli Hudson, Amber Hunt, Daniel Jones, Natalia Kremen, Van le Ngoc, Jenna Lee, Alison McWhinney, Grant Rae, Chantel Roulston, Max Westwell, Stephen Wilson, Nathan Young and Jia Zhang – danced their hearts out to Prokofiev’s stirring chords.
James Streeter provided the menace around the edges as Tybalt, with Erina Takahashi and Daniel Kraus as Romeo and Juliet, breaking through the massed ranks to dance a delicately perfumed pas de deux.
The performance was perfectly balanced with exemplary acting from Anne Reid, Bryony Hannah and Amy Robbins in Act 1 Scene 111 from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and from Act 1 Scene V by Daniel Kaluuya (Skins) and Tamsin Egerton (currently starring as Guinevere opposite Joseph Fiennes) as the star-crossed lovers, with golden masks.
Read : 6 Things You Don’t know about royal ballet weddings.
Take : a 360 degree virtual tour of the Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace.