The English National Ballet is bringing the best of their world-renowned repertoire to Sydney for an exclusive season. Ahead of the company’s arrival, soloist Max Westwell speaks to Garrett Bithell from London.
One of the world’s greatest ballet companies, English National Ballet, is coming to Australia for an exclusive season in Sydney, where they will showcase some of the highlights of their formidable repertoire.
Taking over The Concourse in Chatswood for only 14 performances, the programme, accompanied by a live orchestra, will open with George Balanchine’s Apollo and close with Serge Lifar’s bravura piece, Suite en Blanc. These two classics will frame a selection of favourite pas de deux, Manon, Don Quixote and Trois Gnossiennes, featuring the company’s stars.
“It’s definitely got a little bit of everything,” soloist Max Westwell tells SX. “Don Quixote is very flash, Manon is very romantic, Apollo is quite abstract but very macho, Suite en Blanc is the big-finish classical piece, and Trois Gnossiennes is very modern and very intense. You’re certainly not going to get bored in any way.”
Established in the 1950s, today the English National Ballet has 67 dancers from 20 different countries. Westwell, who has been with company for eight years, recently returned to the fold after a short stint in Berlin.
“I left to go to Berlin Royal Ballet,” he says. “But I was only there for four and a half months – it just really didn’t suit me. I didn’t enjoy the city; it was a different way of working. So I came back, which was a bit weird for the first couple of weeks because I had moved forward, but I’m very happy I did.”
Indeed returning to English National Ballet has given Westwell fresh perspective on just how exceptional the company is. “It’s definitely a work ethic,” he asserts.”It’s really installed in you and they’re after perfection – we do so many shows and we tour so much, so everyone knows everyone inside out and there’s a real family feel. There’s such a sense of pride in the work.”
Born in London, Westwell started dancing at the tender age of three. “It was just an after-school activity and everyone did it,” he tells. “As we got older, the boys started dropping out because it wasn’t ‘cool’, but I was massively hyperactive and not very good at school, so basically it was the only thing that occupied my body and my mind. Sport was a bit too simple, so I stuck it out.
“I never really got bullied though, because I was on every single sports team as well!”
Westwell admits he becomes miserable if he doesn’t “get hot and sweaty at least once a day”, so professional dancing is a perfect fit. Moreover, the strength of mind required to dance well sustains him. “I’d say a good 70 per cent of ballet is mental,” he says. “The focus, being in the zone and knowing what you’re doing and looking after your body.
“You can see when dancer is completely in the zone – they never waver. Whereas someone who goes in and out of that zone, they’re less expressive.”
Max Westwell dances in the exclusive Sydney showcase of the English National Ballet at The Concourse in Chatswood from June 8 – 17. Bookings at www.theconcourse.com.au/enb.