Thursday, 31 December 2015

Arise Sir Matthew

Sir Matthew Bourne
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Many congratulations to Sir Matthew Bourne on his knighthood in the New Year's Honours List for services to dance. While I can't claim to be his most avid fan I have always recognized his genius and appreciated his massive contribution to the performing arts. I am delighted that he has been honoured in this way and send him my very best wishes. I am not a great admirer of the honours system - particularly not when it is used to advance party political as opposed to public service ends as it has been today - but Sir Matthew's knighthood is an example of how the system ought to work. He joins a very select group of knights and dames such as Peter Wright and Anthony Dowell who have made an extraordinary contribution to dance.

Also honoured this morning are Jill Tuckey, artistic director of the National Youth Ballet, who is appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to dance and young people, Maralyn Barton-Kronman, head of wardrobe at the Royal Opera House for services to the performing arts, Felicity Belfield for services to supporting musicians and dancers and Brenda Taylor, founder of the Brenda Taylor School of Dance and the Performing Arts. Congratulations to them too.

If I have forgotten to mention anyone else who has been honoured for his or her contributions to dance I apologize profusely and offer my congratulations.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Looking Forward to 2016

"Shakespeare" possibly by John Taylor
Source Wikipedia
National Portrait Gallery

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 1964 Sir Frederick Ashton created The Dream.  Antoinette Sibley was Titania and Anthony Dowell  her Oberon, The Dream was one of the most beautiful ballets that Ashton ever created. Here is a snippet of the original production and another to a more recent performance by American Ballet Theatre with Alessandra Ferri and Ethan Stiefel. The ballet was part of a triple bill of works inspired by Shakespeare. The others were Kenneth MacMillan's Images of Love and Sir Robert Helpmann's Hamlet.  To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death the Birmingham Royal Ballet will revive this iconic work at the Hippodrome between the 17 and 20 Feb 2016. If you see only one ballet this year this is the one you should not miss.

This is not the only contribution of the Birmingham Royal Ballet to the anniversary commemorations.  The company will dance its Romeo and Juliet the following week in Birmingham before taking it on tour to the Lowry, Sunderland, Nottingham and Plymouth.  The Northern touring section of the company will take pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet, The Dream and The Taming of the Shrew together with Wink, a new work by Jessica Lang and the Moor's Pavane to Durham, York and Shrewsbury on its Shakespeare Midscale Tour.

Regular readers of this blog will know that my favourite choreographer of all time was John Cranko (see Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew": Now's our chance to see one of the Ballets everyone should see before they die 21 Sept 2013). One of the works that he created for his Stuttgart Ballet is The Taming of the Shrew for which I waited 44 years to see (see Stuttgart Ballet's "Taming of the Shrew" - well worth the Wait 26 Nov 2013). Birmingham Royal Ballet, the successor to the company in which Cranko began his career, will perform his Taming of the Shrew in Birmingham between 16 and 18 June 2016.  Incidentally, the Stuttgart Ballet will dance their production of the ballet at the Stuttgart Opera House on the 21 July 2016. Whether you catch it in Brum or Stuttgart, Cranko's masterpiece is another must see show.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet's final contribution to the anniversary commemorations will be The Shakespeare Triple Bill consisting of Wink, The Moor's Pavane and David Bintley's The Shakespeare Suite at the Hippodrome between the 22 and 25 June 2016.

As Birmingham is just over 30 miles from Stratford on Avon and in the same historic country it is perhaps fitting that the Birmingham Royal Ballet should lead those commemorations but it is by no means the only company to dance works inspired by Shakespeare. The Royal Ballet will revive The Winter's Tale in Spring. The Bolshoi will bring their version of The Taming of the Shrew by Jean-Cristophe Maillot to music by Shostakovich to London in the Summer (see Bolshoi Ballet to return to the Royal Opera House in summer 2016 11 Nov 2015 on the Royal Opera House website:

Bolshoi Ballet's Taming of the Shrew, 
Standard YouTube Licence

British audiences will also get a chance to see that work streamed from Moscow on 24 Jan 2016 (see Live Performances streamed from the Bolshoi and Covent Garden 20 Sept 2015).  Phoenix Dance Theatre will launch Undivided Loves by Kate Flatt based on Shakespeare's Sonnets in their triple bill at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 17 Feb 2016. I have already seen an extract of the work and I strongly recommend it (see Never attend a Ballet Class the Morning after the Night Before 21 Dec 2015).

Yesterday I chose Scottish Ballet as my company of the year (see Highlights of 2015 29 Dec 2015) and they will certainly be in contention for the 2016 title if David Dawson's Swan Lake is as good as I expect it to be. Dawson is Associate Artist to the Dutch National Ballet and was its resident choreographer between 2004 and 2012. I saw his Empire Noir in the Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia triple bill and was most impressed (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015 and David Dawson's Empire Noir 18 June 2015). Swan Lake will open in Glasgow on 19 April 2016 and will visit Newcastle between 11 and 14 May 2016 and Liverpool between 1 and 4 June 2016 as well as Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh.

Another new work to which I look forward immensely is Akram Khan's Giselle for English National Ballet. This work will be premièred at the Palace on 27 Sept 2016 and will be the centre piece of the Manchester International Festival. Having seen Kaash at the Lowry (see Akram Khan's Kaash - contemporary meets Indian classical 7 Oct 2015) and Dust at the Palace (see Lest We Forget 25 Oct 2015) I am intrigued. After Manchester the company will take the work to Bristol, Southampton and London.

Looking across the North Sea I tip Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari  for the Dutch National Ballet (see Mata Hari 30 Nov 2015) and Ballet Bubbles the new season for the Durch National Ballet's Junior Company. The programme will include new works by Ernst Meisner and Charlotte Edmonds as well as pieces by Krzysztof Pastor, David Dawson and my favourite living choreographer Hans van Manen. Sadly the company will be unable to perform at the Linbury this year because it is closed for renovation. I have tried to persuade the company to consider other theatres in the UK but I am not confident that I have been successful. Other shows I should really like to see include Hans van Manen's Gold which will tour the Netherlands and Sasha Watts's Romeo and Juliet to Berlioz;s score. Incidentally, if like me you are a van Manen fan but can't make it to the Netherlands you can see Birmingham Royal Ballet dance his Five Tangos together with Solitaire, Four Scottish Dances and Monotones II in Cheltenham, Poole or Truro. I saw Scottish Ballet's performance of Five Tangos last April and enjoyed it very much (see No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2016),

While it may not be possible to welcome the Junior Company to England this year we can at least look forward to visits by the Australian Ballet and the Bolshoi. The Australians are bringing Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake and Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella to the Coliseum in July. The Bolshoi are bringing Maria Alexandrova, Ekaterina Krysanova, Olga Smirnova, Svetlana Zakharova, Semyon Chudin, David Hallberg, Denis Rodkin and others to delight us and will perform Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Flames of Paris and Le Corsaire as well as Maillot's Taming of the Shrew which I mentioned earlier.

I am aware that I have barely scratched the surface and I apologize for any omissions. On the eve of what promises to be an outstanding year for dance I wish all my readers a happy and prosperous new year.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Highlights of 2015

Ballet Cymru's Cinderella

In Looking Forward to 2015 - My Choices 29 Dec 2014 I tipped Queensland Ballet's La Sylphide for ballet of the year with the Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia, the Royal Ballet's Fille, Ballet Black's triple bill, Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet and Scottish Ballet's Nutcracker as likely runners up. They were all good and I enjoyed them all tremendously but none of them was the ballet of the year in my book. That accolade belongs to Ballet Cymru's Cinderella by Darius James and Amy Doughty (see Ballet Cymru's Cinderella 15 June 2015).

James and Doughty also choreographed the second best show which was Tiran arrangement of Welsh folk songs sung on stage by Cerys Matthews (see "The Pride of Newport and the Pride of Wales" 8 Nov 2015 and Ballet Cymru in London 1 Dec 2015). The performances that I saw were charged with emotion because the company had recently lost Mandev Sokhi, one of the most attractive dancers on the stage (see Mandev Sokhi 10 Oct 2015). Matthews had added the Rev Eli Jenkings's prayer from Milkwood to her medley in Sokhi's memory. I doubt that there was a dry eye in the house. How the dancers carried it off with memories so raw is  remarkable.

Ballet Cymru have some wonderful dancers and this was the year I got to make their acquaintance (see Ballet Cymru at Home 5 Oct 2015). I visited their studios in Rogerstone with the London Ballet Circle and watched their company class and a rehearsal of Cinderella. At the end of the company class James invited each of his artists to perform their party piece. The women showed off their fouettés and the men their jumps and turns.

This was a vintage year for Cinderella as the panel agreed in the State of the Art Panel Discussion: Narrative Dance in Ballet during Northern Ballet's Choreographic Laboratory 2015 (see My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015). There were great productions by Christopher Hampson for Scottish Ballet and Christopher Wheeldon's for the Dutch National Ballet (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015 and  Wheeldon's Cinderella 13 July 2015. They both had their strengths and I liked them a lot but it is the Welsh version with Jack White's glorious score that stands out like a beacon.

Ballet Cymru shows that a company does not have to be big to be great and two of my other favourite companies, Ballet Black and Phoenix Dance Theatre, emphasize that point. I saw them both at the Linbury - Ballet Black's triple bill on 14 Feb 2015 (see Ballet Black's Best Performance Yet 17 Feb 2015) and Phoenix's on 12 Nov 2015 (see The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015).

There are of course big companies that are also great and one of the greatest is Scottish Ballet. Last year was a succession of successes: the revival of Peter Darrell's Nutcracker in Edinburgh (Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015), A Streetcar named Desire at Sadler's Wells (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015), Marc Brew's Exalt and van Manen's 5 Tangos at the Tramway (see No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2015) and Christopher Hampson's magnificent Cinderella which I mentioned above. Scottish Ballet was the first ballet company I got to know and love and it is still special to me. Yesterday I tweeted that if I could see only one ballet company this year it would have to be Scottish Ballet.

Scottish Ballet owes much of its success to its artistic director in Christopher Hampson. I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh in the State of the Art Panel Discussion which I mentioned above. He choreographed Perpetuum Mobile for Northern Ballet which accompanied Madame Butterfly on its mid-scale tour which was the best thing I saw from that company last year (see Nixon's Masterpiece 22 May 2015) and Four for Ballet Central (see Dazzled 3 May 2015).  I look forward to his Sextet for Ballet Black very much.

I saw two great performances by the Royal Ballet in 2015:  Cranko's Onegin on 16 Feb 2015 with Matthew Golding and Natalia Osipova in the leading roles (see Onegin: the most enjoyable performance that I have seen at the House since Sibley and Dowell 21 Feb 2015) and La Fille mal gardée with Laura Morera and Vadim Muntagirov as Lise and Colas (see The Best Fille Ever 18 April 2015). Morera was a lovely Lise and Muntagirov was the best Colas ever and I got the opportunity to tell Morera how much I enjoyed her performance when she and Ricardo Cervera spoke to the London Ballet Circle in August (see Laura Morera 25 Aug 2015).

Cranko is my favourite choreographer of all time but he died so young. Two young choreographers who remind me of Cranko are Christopher Marney and  Ernst Meisner, I had an opportunity to compare Cranko and Marney back to back when the Chelmsford Ballet Company performed Cranko's Pineapple Poll and Carnival of the Animals, a work that Marney created specially for the company (see A Delight Indeed  22 March 2015. Meisner created Embers for the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company of which he is artistic coordinator. In my review of the work danced by Nancy Burer and Thomas van Damme I described it as "one of the most beautiful ballets I have ever seen" (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015).

We were lucky enough to see the Junior Company in London in June (see Junior Company in London - even more polished but as fresh and exuberant as ever 7 June 2015) and the main company's Cinderella in July. I also saw their Cool Britannia, a mixed bill of works by British choreographers at the Stopera in Amsterdam (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015) and the opening gala of the Amsterdam ballet season (see The Best Evening I have ever spent at the Ballet 13 Sept 2015). There was  a party after the gala at which I met many of the company's choreographers and dancers including Ted Brandsen, Juanjo Arques and Michaela DePrince.

Another splendid evening at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 June 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the Birmingham Royal Ballet's move to Birmingham and the 20th anniversary of David Bintley's appointment as artistic director of that company (see In Praise of Bintley 20 June 2015). The company performed David The King Dances, Bintley's latest work, and his Carmina Burana (see A Special Ballet for a Special Day 23 June 2015 and Oh Fortuna 23 June 2015). Bintley spoke about both works on his visits to the London Ballet Circle in May and November.  The Birmingham Royal Ballet also danced a magnificent Coppelia in Salford on 5 March 2015 (see Sensational 6 March 2015 and Swan Lake on 24 Sept 2015 (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Swan Lake at the Lowry 26 Sept 2015)

Yet another gala too place in Leeds on the 14 March 2015 to mark Northern Ballet's 35th anniversary (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). Thirteen works were performed that night by artists from Northern Ballet and many other companies. The highlight of my evening was the pas de deux from the White Act of Swan Lake by Muntagirov and Daria Klimentova.  They were a remarkable partnership and I had thought that I would never see them dance again. It was also good to see Xander Parish again in Eric Gauthier's Ballet 101, Phoenix's Shift and Javier Torres's Dying Swan. That was the first time I had seen a male dancer attempt Pavlova's iconic piece and Torres succeeded handsomely. My mother saw Pavlova dance the Dying Swan in the same theatre many years ago (see In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic 18 Sept 2013). I also enjoyed Jonathan Watkins's Northern Trilogy and in particular his Yorkshire Pudding. It promised so much for 1984 but although that ballet grew on my the second time I saw it, it fell a long way short of my expectations (see My First Impressions of 1984 12 Sept 2015 and 1984 Second Time Round 24 Oct 2015).

I saw 3 productions of Romeo and Juliet in 2015. One was by Northern Ballet, another by Ballet West and the third by the English National Ballet in 2015. Northern's version by Jean Christophe-Maillot with its emphasis on Friar Lawrence was interesting but the production that I enjoyed the most was Nureyev's version which ENB danced at the Palace on 28 Nov 2015 (see Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015). Max Westwell and Lauretta Summerscales danced the title roles magnificently and I was particularly pleased to see Sarah Kundi as Lady Capulet.

ENB also performed Lest We Forget at the Palace on 24 Nov 2015 (see Lest We Forget 25 Nov 2015). This was a triple bill of works by Liam Scarlett, Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan in memory of those who took part in World War 1. This was not an easy programme to watch but it was intensely moving. I admired all three works, particularly Scarlett's No Man's Land,

The centenary of World War I was also marked by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in Andrew Simmons's Dear Horizon and Neil Ieremia's Passchendale which they performed at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre on 4 Nov 2015 as part their A Passing Cloud mixed bill (see Kia Ora! The Royal New Zealand Ballet in Leeds 5 Nov 2015). This was one of two antipodean companies that visited us in 2015 of which I for one would liked to have seen more. I did catch the New Zealanders' Giselle in High Wycombe on 7 Nov 2015 (see Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle 10 Nov 2015).

The other antipodean company that we welcomed was the Queensland Ballet which danced La Sylphide at the Coliseum in August (see A Dream realized; the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). Australia used to send its best dancers to us starting with Sir Robert Helpmann but is now a power house of dance in its own right attracting talent from around the world. One of its brightest stars is the legendary Li-Cunxin who has carved an impressive career in stockbroking as well as dance. Meeting him at the London Ballet Circle and hearing his life story was an unforgettable experience (see Li-Cunxin at the London Ballet Circle 5 Aug 2015).

Another foreign company that visited us in August was the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre which brought the Mariinsky's Denis Rodkin to our shores. I saw him in La Bayadère with Irina Kolesnikova as Nikiya (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). I had previously seen him in HDTV transmissions from Moscow as the Nutcracker (see Clara grows up- Grigorovitch's Nutcracker transmitted directly from Moscow 21 Dec 2014). Siegfried in Swan Lake (see Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Bradford 26 Jan 2015) and Ferhad in The Legend of Love (see The Bolshoi's "A Legend of Love" streamed from Moscow 27 Oct 2014) but he is even more impressive in real life.

I saw some great performances last year by some outstanding dancers from the world's most famous companies and it is probably unfair to select any for special praise but here is my list for what it is worth:

Ballet of the Year
Ballet Cymru's Cinderella, runner up Ballet Cymru's Tir

Company of the Year
Scottish Ballet, runners up Dutch National Ballet and the Royal Ballet

Small Companies of the Year
Ballet Black and Ballet Cymru

Contemporary Company of the Year
Phoenix Dance Theatre

Male Dancer of the Year
Denis Rodkin in La Bayadere, runner up Matthew Golding in the Royal Ballet's Onegin and the Dutch National Ballet's Cinderella

Female Dancer of the Year
Laura Morera as Lise  runners up Anna Tsygankova and Bethany Kingsley-Garner as Cinderella 

Choreographers of the Year 
Christopher Hampson for Perpetuum Mobile for Northern Ballet and Ernst Meisner for Embers for the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company

Dancers to watch
Floor Elmers of Dutch National Ballet, Krystal Lowe of Ballet Cymru, Marie-Astrid-Mence of Phoenix Dance Theatre and Gavin McCaig of Northern Ballet

Promising Newcomers
Bart Engelen, Norwegian Ballet, Cristiano Principato and Emilie Tassinari, Dutch National Ballet Junior Company, Tim Hill of Ballet Cymru and Prentice Whitlow of Phoenix Dance Theatre

Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Liverpudlian Whittington

A 19th Century Panto: Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell in Babes
 in the Wood
, 1897
Source Wikipedia

Dick Whittingon, Liverpool Empire 26 Dec 2015

The first taste of ballet for many Brits is not The Nutcracker or Swan Lake in the Royal Opera House or some other great theatre but a Christmas pantomime in the local rep, town hall or community centre. A pantomime is a bit like a Christmas pudding in that it has just about everything thrown in (see the trailer for Dick Whittington at the Liverpool Empire)  A typical production is based loosely on a fairy tale or other popular story. There is a lot of singing and dancing, slapstick comedy including a lot of topical jokes some of which are quite blue and a great deal of shouting from the audience. No matter what the title of the entertainment there is always a man dressed as a woman known as "the dame", a villain, a comic, a principal girl and a principal boy who is also often played by an attractive young woman (see Pantomime Wikipedia).

Although pantomimes are performed in other English speaking countries they are most popular in the UK. They are part of the British Christmas like crackers, turkey with all the trimmings, mince pies and Christmas pud.  I remember my first pantomime very well. It was Babes in the Wood at the Palace Theatre and starred George Formby. My parents, Northern exiles, were terrified of my becoming what they called despairingly a "cockney clod" with whining vowels, an inability to distinguish between "f" and "th" and a regrettable tendency to insert an "r" into phonetically clear words like "grass" and "class". No doubt they reasoned that a dose of Formby would remind me of my Mancunuan roots but I am afraid that the only impression that he made on me was that he was not very funny because he was always laughing at his own jokes.

However, I was enchanted by the fairy who danced on pointe in a brilliant tutu.  Ballet in England has plenty of overlaps with pantomime. Think of Widow Simone in Ashton's La Fille mal gardée, villains like the Mouse King and Rothbart in The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and the sword fights in Romeo and Juliet. Some ballets like Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty even share the same plot. And in the Liverpool Empire's Dick Whittington  my ballet teacher, Mark Hindle was in the cast.

My excuse for watching the show was that I was hosting Christmas this year for a little lad from London who can run like the wind and leap like a frog. We were badly delayed by a partial closure of the M62 which required a detour into central Manchester to pick up the M602 from Salford and arrived just as Dick and his cat were about to be banished from London for (allegedly) purloining Sarah the Cook's life savings. On the way back to Liverpool the Fairy Fazakerley (Sally Lindsay) revealed Dick's future in a dream on Whittington Hill. Thrice Lord Mayor not of London but of the infinitely greater city (at least in the view of the audience and no doubt also that of the indomitable Janet McNulty) of


Dick (Kurtis Stacey) enlists on board the Good Ship Lollipop which belongs to the father (Pete Price) of the lovely Alice (Leanne Campbell). The ship is wrecked off the coast of Morocco by a storm conjured up by the wicked King Rat (Warren Donnelly) and the audience are treated to a 3D cinema animation of the ocean deep. Sarah (Eric Potts) is stranded on the beach in her underwear. "I'm glad to see you again" says Dick "but perhaps not so much of you" when the adventurers are reunited. Fortunately she finds pantaloons and turban as the company belted out Jai Ho. Gita who once danced Bollywood on the stage of the West Yorkshire Playhouse was in her element. Morocco was infested with rats, a problem that Tommy the cat (Hayley Goold) resolved in no time. There was an epic sword fight in which King Rat escaped the fate of Tybalt. Dick won the lovely Alica and the company took its bow.

There was plenty of good dancing in various styles. Most of the dancers came from Dolphin Dance Studio which hosts KNT Danceworks in Liverpool where Mark HIndle used to teach for part of the week. Having danced with KNT in Liverpool Town Hall (It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014) and also with students from Liverpool in the Swan Lake intensive (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015) I was so proud of those young men and women. Their choreographer, Beverley Norris-Edmunds, deserves an enormous bouquet  for her trouble.

My guests and I met Mark after the show. He graciously accepted our praise and my thanks for all that I had learned from him. My little grandson manqué performed his act for him. Mark told his parents that he should try ballet which is what I have been saying for ages. Perhaps they will act on the advice now they have heard it from a pro rather than a doting granny.

Yesterday was the first time that I had set foot in the Liverpool Empire. It is a splendid theatre. Arriving late we were shepherded into row Q of the stalls but still had a magnificent view. The acoustics were excellent. When Idle Jack (Liam Mellor) invited four children on to the stage we heard  them perfectly. Incidentally, one of those children (a little girl called Summer) was as entertaining as any member of the cast. She wielded a drumstick at Mellor with real attitude as Jack gently teased her. Scottish Ballet is coming to the Empire with David Dawson's Swan Lake between 1 and 4 June. I shall be there and if you want to see a really good show in one of the best auditoriums in England so, too, will you. 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Alicia Alonso

Alicia Alonso
Source Wikipedia

Yesterday was Alicia Alonso's 95th birthday. I was alerted to that anniversary by Javier Torres who mentioned it on his Facebook page. She founded the National Ballet of Cuba and her company's website describes her as:
"Prima Ballerina Assoluta y Directora del Ballet Nacional de Cuba, es una de las personalidades más relevantes en la historia de la danza y constituye la figura cimera del ballet clásico en el ámbito iberoamericano."
I never saw her dance except on film but I did see her company when it visited Sadler's Wells in September 2006 to perform Magia de la Danza and Don Quixote. Torres was a principal of the company, He is now a premier dancer with Northern Ballet.

Joanna Goodman was lucky enough to see Alonso when she joined the company on stage for its curtain call after it had danced Swan Lake (see Goodman We are the dancers, we create the dreams: Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2014). I am sure all my readers will join me in congratulating that great dancer and wishing her well for the future.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Never attend a Ballet Class the Morning after the Night Before

While I was in Edinburgh I bought these very special cards for my very special ballet friends.  They show Bethany Kingsley-Garnet who danced Cinderella on Saturday and that is the costume she wore in the ballet. It was a lovely production as you can see from my review (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015). You may remember that Cinders had been warned to leave the ball before the end of the drivers' shift at Murine Motors otherwise they would take their Pumpkin stretched limo back to the garage and she would have to find her way home on the night bus. Cinders could have walked home when her mum was alive because the family lived in the New Town. She and her dad had to move to Craigmillar after he had taken to the bottle to relieve the stress that he suffered in a disastrous second marriage.

Cinders managed to change out of her party dress and even had time for a brief lift by the prince just before the Pumpkin drove off. That was more than I was able to do when I attended our chambers party on Wednesday. It was a seriously good party which was still going strong as I left for King's Cross to catch my train back to Leeds at 06:30. The reason I had to be on that train was that I had a ballet class at 11:00, cocktails at The Alchemist after class and an invitation to see one of Phoenix Dance Theatre's  new pieces at 17:00.

Leeds is 200 miles from London and the journey takes just over 2 hours. For the whole of that journey I felt I was doing pirouettes if not more fouettés than Legnani had ever accomplished in her life. As I say, it had been a very, very good party. I regained my composure on the walk to Quarry Hill and changed out of my party dress into my leotard.

The first exercise was pliés which are usually a doddle but when I tried to relevé in 5th at the end of the exercise my feet and ankles wobbled like a jelly. It was even worse when we tried tendus because we had to remember to stretch our inside leg after the exercise on our outside leg and then attempt to stretch outside leg and insider leg alternately en croix. Glissés were even worse because they required a pas de cheval st various stages. To say I was hopelessly confused is putting it mildly. After the usual ronds de jambe. grands battements and so forth and then it was time for centre work when my troubles really began. Even though my brain had been doing pirouettes all the way from King's Cross to Leeds could my body pull one off when it needed to do so. No way don Jose. It was hard enough to remember the preparation. We had a lovely port de bras which I just managed to struggle through. Then jumps which is the bit I usually like best. Finally, chassés, balancés, a complex exercise consisting of curtsey, arabesque,  pas de bourrés and balancé turns which is hard enough when I have had a good night's sleep and have been stone cold sober the night before. For once in my life cool down and reverence could not come soon enough.

Mel had been following  my tweets from Budapest. "How was class?" she asked solicitously. "I didn't injure myself or anyone else or even fall over" I replied "but that was about all the credit I could claim." We met for cocktails as arranged. Michelle Richer, one of the most prolific contributors to BalletcoForum, managed to join us from Lincolnshire.  She was accompanied by Adrian whom she had mentioned in the forum from time to time. In fact we met  on the train to Leeds. Although I stuck to mineral water my classmaters' cocktails were amazing. One of them ordered something that erupted with the violence of Vesuvius. Another produced dry ice like the wilis emerging from their tombs.

My over 55 ballet class was almost as gregarious as my chambers. We found a table on the terrace outside the cocktail lounge where we could observe le tout Leeds and there my fellows consumed the barman's concoctions until dusk. I stayed in Leeds for the new work for Phoenix by Kate Flatt called Undivided Loves which will be premièred at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 17 Feb 2016. We had a talk from the choreographer and another from Adriano Adewale, the composer, and finally a run through by Prentice Whitlow, Marie-Astrid Mence and Jack Thomson. As the work is still in progress I have promised to say nothing about it except that it is enchanting and I would urge my readers to see it.

I had forgotten to mention what I did between cocktails and the performance. I spent an interesting time at the British Art Show at Leeds Art Gallery. It is not everybody's cup of tea. Maybe not even Marcel Duchamp's but it is good to know what artists in other mediums are creating. I was attracted to Charlotte Prodger's "Northern Dancer"  but found out that it was all about a horse.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Scottish Ballet's Cinderella

Scottish Ballet, Cinderella,  Festival Theatre, Edinburgh 19 Dec 2015

While just about every other company in the United Kingdom is staging The Nutcracker this Christmas (see All those Nutcrackers 11 Dec 2015) Scottish Ballet presents Cinderella not as "a rags-to-riches story that offers a girl a way out of the ordinary" but as a study of grief and loneliness. But it is not only Cinderella who is lonely, as the choreographer, Christopnher Hampson, explains in his interview with Alan Morrison in the programme notes. So, too, is the prince and they each find a way out of their loneliness by finding each other.

Such a prince has to be very sensitive and Hampson chose Christopher Harrison to dance that role. Having previously seen Harrison as Romeo and Stanley in A Streetcar named Desire (Scottish Ballet's Timeless Romeo and Juliet 18 May 2014 and Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015) which are strong male roles. It was something of a revelation that he does sensitive but he can and he did it very well. His bride, Bethany Kingsley-Garner whom I had previously seen as Gretel and the the Sugar Plum (see Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel 23 Dec 2013 and Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015), was a more obvious fit. She was a delightful Cinderella -not too good to be true - she appreciated the attention from the dressmakers when they came to prepare her stepsisters and stepmother for the ball.

The other stars in Hampson's Cinderella are those step sisters and for those roles he chose the company's female principals, Eve Mutso and Sophie Martin. These are magnificent dancers.  I saw them both in Marc Brew's Exalt earlier this year (see No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2015). Mutso has been nominated for the National  Dance Awards for her performance as Blanche in Streetcar. It must be difficult for such graceful creatures to clown on stage but how we laughed as they struggled through their dance lesson and dress and show fittings, their gauche encounters with the prince and his courtiers and their attempts to make the slipper fit.

Hampson structured the ballet very cleverly, Each Act was preceded with a prologue with the house lights up. The mourners at the funeral of Cinderella's mother started the ballet. Two flunkies dusted a chandelier before Act II. Matthew Broadbent, one of Leeds's favourites when he was at Northern Ballet, laboured at his last as the bossy royal shoemaker. For me it was such a delight to see him again. The transposition of the grasshopper (Jamiel Lawrence) for the scornful dancing master and moths and spiders for the shoe and dressmakers is another example of Hampson's ingenuity. They mirrored the real world with fantasy.

There was some novel choreography. The grasshopper's dives which startled Cinderella first time and then amused her at the next delighted me. So too were the back to back lifts in the final pas de deux between Cinderella and her prince which were surprisingly graceful. There was Martin's can-can as she tried to interest the prince and Mutso's duet with the courtier struggling to retain his dignity with this she monster.

The sets and costumes for this performance were stunning. They were designed by Tracy Grant Lord who had originally created them for the Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Hampson's Cinderella in 2007. The were among the best that we have seen since the days of Diaghilev. The designs are almost an integral part of the libretto. For instance, the rose tree that Cinderella plants by her mother's grave with its leaves that become a face and are almost a continuing presence of her mother.

There is so much to like about this production. Even the programmes are to be treasured for their fine paper, rich colours, striking designs and high quality printing. The Festival Theatre is a delightful venue with a restaurant that serves some of the best meals and snacks that I have ever savoured in Edinburgh. Despite the Forth Bridge closures the Edinburgh season is pretty close to fully booked but the show will shortly tour Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness though, sadly, not the rest of the country.  It was well worth a trek from Yorkshire. Knowing what I now know, I would travel from the Lizard or cross seas or even oceans to see it again.

I began this year with a review of Darrell's Nutcracker and it is fitting that the last ballet that I will see this year is Hampson's Cinderella. Scottish Ballet connects me with my days at St Andrews which were the happiest of my life. I try not to have favourite companies. I love English National Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, Rambert, the Royal and Birmingham Royal Ballets, Ballet Black, Ballet Cymru, Northern Ballet, Phoenix and many others with a passion. But Scottish Ballet was my first love and you know what they say about the first love being the love that is never to be forgotten.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Northern Nutcracker

Standard YouTube Licence

Northern Ballet, The Nutcracker, The Grand Theatre Leeds, 18 Dec 2015, 19:00

I had begun to worry about Northern Ballet. 1984 did not quite meet my expectations even second time round (My First Impressions of 1984 12 Sept 2015 and 1984 Second Time Round 24 Oct 2015) and I had seen them dance better than they did in Bradford with Wuthering Heights (see  Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). All that coinciding with the management's increasing my Friend's membership subscription by 133% including VAT on the basis that the concessions which I have never taken up constitute a chargeable supply (see The Increasing Cost of Friendship 14 Oct 2015).

All of that, however, is in the past - forgotten and forgiven. Last night's performance could not be faulted. It showed Northern Ballet at its best - energetic and exuberant.  I attended last night's show with my teacher and members of my ballet class at Dance Studio Leeds (see Dance Studio Leeds Beginners' Ballet Class 22 Oct 2015). For several members of out class it was our first taste of ballet on stage and for them it must have been magical. I enjoyed it tremendously even though it was at least the third and probably the fourth time time that I had seen that production (see my pre-Terpsichore article Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography IP North West 24 Nov 2011 IP North West).

I think the reason I liked last night's show so much was that all my favourite dancers were there even though some of them were not on stage for very long. The excellent Hannah Bateman danced the Arabian dance with the magnificent Javier Torres and Joseph Taylor. The splendid Hironao Takahashi danced Drosselmeyer. The great Pippa Moore was a slightly dotty granny. Isaac Lee-Baker was the pater familiae. Sean Bates doubled as the Sugar Plum's cavalier and the mischievous little boy who broke the nutcracker. Kevin Poeng was a fine prince, Antoinette Brooks-Daw  a delightful Clara, Niola Gervasi an impressive mouse king and Ayami Miyata a gorgeous sugar plum. Great also to see Gavin McCaig doing so well and Rachael Gillespie and Abigail Prudames are always a pleasure. All the cast did well and I congratulate each and every one of them.

Good though this production was there are a few light touches that could make it perfect. First, the scenery needs a bit of attention.  The walls of the Edwards' drawing room (would it really hurt to call them the Stahlbaums as every other company does?) are noticeably flimsy even when viewed from the gods. The orchestration could be reviewed. More than one member of our group thought it was too light. I missed the vocals in the snow scene at the end of Act I. Why can't James be Fritz or Hans, Clara's pesky little brother? And where were Harlequin and Columbine? French and Chinese dolls, apparently, even though Kiara Flavin, Jeremy Curnier and Matthew Topliss danced them well.

Having said that there are some delightful touches that one does not see in every other production. There are the mime sequences where Clara recounts the battle with the mice to Drosselmeyer and later her dad and the children's pieces, particularly the little chap with his trumpet whom Gita named "man of the match". Cara O'Shea has to be congratulated for the work she did with the little ones for so often it is they who can make The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker is not to everybody's taste. It is very sweet to the point of sugary. But if you have never seen ballet before - particularly if you are very young - this is a good one to start with and Northern Ballet's is one of the best.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Bolshoi's Encore

Last Sunday I took another butcher's at The Bolshoi's performance of The Nutcracker of 21 Dec 2014. I reviewed it last year in Clara grows up- Grigorovitch's Nutcracker transmitted directly from Moscow 21 Dec 2015 so this was literally a case of déjà vu. The company is actually dancing The Nutcracker on Sunday with Semyon Chudin in the title role. So why could we not see that performance in England? My guess is that the cinemas think they can make more money from showing the latest Star Wars and if that is the case they are almost certainly right. Love a duck! So much for popular taste. May the force be with us!

I enjoyed the show a bit more second time round as I knew what to watch for. Having seen Rodkin on the stage in St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's production of La Bayadere in September (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015) I expected fireworks and that was what we got -  particularly in the final pas de deux with Nikulina, Russian ballerinas can be rather grand, remote if not slightly frosty ladies. Nikulina is sweet and sparkly. She is as exciting to watch as any other Russian principal dancer but she can also act. She looked genuinely frightened in the fight between the Nutcracker and King Mouse. She looked as though she needed a hug and a cuddle.

I saw the video at the Pictureville cinema at the Bradford Media Museum. It was quite full for a Sunday afternoon screening. On leaving the cinema I overheard one of the denizens of Bramhope or Huby remark to her companion "I'm seeing The Nutcracker again you know.  By the "Royal" Northern Ballet" (sic). Now there's a thought.

Monday, 14 December 2015

English National Ballet's Appeal for Funds for its Parkinson's Classes

I should have mentioned this earlier (and would have done had I kept up to date with my emails) but English National Ballet are raising money to fund their classes for persons suffering from Parkinson's disease (see The Big Give: Dance for Parkinson’s 27 Nov 2015 English National Ballet blog). Their main fund raising effort took place on 4 and 5 Dec 2015 but members of the public can still contribute up to 17:00 on 14 Dec 2015 through the Big Give website.

Readers may remember one of the company's classes on World Ballet Day. These seem to be adult ballet classes just like any in that they start with barre work, continue in the centre and end with a reverence for the instructor and musicians. The students may not be able to do everything that takes place in other adult ballet classes but they clearly do a lot. These are rightly described as high quality dance classes and the company's artistic director has every right to be proud of the initiative.

Classes take place at Cardiff, Ipswich, Liverpool, London and Oxford and English National Ballet hope to open a sixth venue with the funds that they expect to raise. They bring considerable benefits for the students which are mentioned in Dance for Parkinson’s study results announced 30 Oct 2015 English National Ballet blog.

I congratulate English National Ballet and wish them well with this project. I hope other companies will undertake similar initiatives in other parts of the UK and overseas. I wish the instructors, students, musicians, management and everyone participating in these classes a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Queensland Ballet's Bounty

Author TUBS
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Two of the highlights of the year were listening to and actually meeting Li Cunxin, the artistic director of the Queensland Ballet at the London Ballet Circle on the 3 Aug 2015 (see Li Cunxin at the London Ballet Circle 5 Aug 2015) and then watching his company dance La Sylphide at the Coliseum the following Saturday (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). There are three reasons for that which I explained in Queensland Ballet's La Sylphide - Why it is so special 22 July 2015.

Because the Queensland Ballet is special I was delighted to learn of the A$1.2 million (£568,611.48 or US$ 862,680.00) funding increase that the company has been promised by the Queensland government and a A$5 million (£2.37 million or US$3.59 million) grant from the Ian Potter Foundation.

In a media statement dated 10 Dec 2015 Annastacia Palaszczuk MP, the Premier of Queensland, who is also Minister for the Arts in the state government said:
“My Government is investing an additional $1.2m annually from 2016 for Queensland Ballet to cement its profile in the Asia Pacific region, expand its home base and company of dancers and offer more performances, more collaborations, more international touring and exchanges."
 “Importantly the company will add eight additional dancers by 2020, allowing Queensland Ballet to align with other world-class companies of its size."
“This will give the company more choice in selecting its repertoire and give Queenslanders more opportunities to enjoy high quality ballet.
The Premier also announced a 50 year extension of the company's lease to the Thomas Dixon Centre where the company is housed. The gift from the foundation will be used to re-design the company's space in the Centre.

Replying to the Premier and Lady Potter who represented the Foundation, Li Cunxin said:
“We have a bold vision for Queensland Ballet to truly connect meaningfully with our audiences and communities in Queensland, Australia, the Asia Pacific and beyond.”
The popular support that the company enjoys was evidenced by the number of Australians who had come to London to support their dancers. They doubled the numbers who normally attend a meeting of the London Ballet Circle and they occupied a whole block of seats in the stalls. It was good to see them and I hope they enjoyed their stay in our country. I also hope it will not  be long before we see the Queensland Ballet again in England.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Manchester City Ballet's Giselle

Manchester City Ballet's Giselle
Photographer Caroline Holden
(c) Northern Ballet School 2011 all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the School

Manchester City Ballet, Giselle, The Dancehouse, Manchester 11 Dec 2015

Yesterday I saw Manchester City Ballet, Northern Ballet School's performing company, dance Giselle and I am convinced that I saw some stars in the making. Giselle is not an easy ballet to dance because it makes considerable demands on technique, particularly in the leading female roles, but also because the ballet is a study of powerful emotions such as grief, guilt, jealousy, remorse and, above all, love not all of which the young men and women who performed last night may have experienced. This is a ballet that could easily go very wrong but instead it went very right. A great credit to the producer, Patricia McDonald, the choreographers, Anton Alexandrov and Rachel Hernon who teach at the School, and, of course, the cast.

When I reviewed the company's performance of The Nutcracker last year I mentioned Yukiho Kasai who danced one of the Mirlitons, Sayaka Sugimoto who danced Columbine and Carlos Oliveira and Alex Burrows who were in the Russian dance (see Alchemy 13 Dec 2014). This year Kasai was Giselle, Sugimoto was Myrtha, Oliveira was Albrecht and Burrows and Sugimoto danced the peasant pas de deux. One of the pleasures of following a student company is watching the development of young talent and each of those four has grown considerably. Last year they were promising. This year they are good.

One of the difficulties of Giselle is that it consists of two very different acts. The first is a jolly, bucolic scene until the very end with the gathering of the grapes, the peasant pas de deux and the arrival of the aristocrats' hunting party. There are hints of trouble as Giselle picks the petals off a flower, Albrecht reaches for a sword when Hilarion challenges him with a knife, Giselle falters with what appears to be chest pain and, of course, when Hilarion discovers Albrecht's sword and scabbard but could anyone have foreseen the tragedy at the end? Act II is spooky, A grave in a forest clearing with dangerous malevolent spirits couruing across the stage. This is the act in which the corps comes into its own with its tricky arabesques and travelling steps.

Transitioning between those two acts requires dramatic as well as balletic skills and this is where Kasai impressed me. I have seen some of the world's greatest ballerinas dance Giselle but I can't think of any who pulled off the mad scene better than her. The shock, almost a blanching of the face, the whites of her eyes as she learned of her betrayal and humiliation. She reappeared in act II in a cloud of dry ice dancing with the energy of an uncoiled spring. She performed both parts of her role - the impressionable young girl in act I - and the noble, forgiving spirit in act II - exquisitely.

In both acts Oliveira partnered Kasai masterfully. In the second he showed some real dignity in his remorse. Sugimoto danced her two roles convincingly - the exuberant peasant girl possibly a bride in act I and the icy bringer of vengeance in act II. There were two other talents that I don't remember from last year - Miguel Cardoso who danced Hilarion and Cameron Barclay who was Wilfred, Albrecht's faithful groom. I look forward to seeing them again in future shows.

There were a few little glitches in individual performance but I have seen far worse from established companies. Polly Ward is to be congratulated for her costumes as is the designer of the sets whoever he or she may be.

The programme contains a short history of the Northern Ballet School which does not appear on its website:
"NBS graduates from the company have joined over forty ballet companies worldwide, ranging from the Birmingham Royal Ballet to the Hong Kong Ballet and from the Norwegian National Ballet to the Yuma Ballet of Texas."
Several of its alumni, Jane Tucker, Karen Sant, Josh MossMark Hindle and Cara O'Shea have taught me and I have learned so much from each of them. A school that can produce dancers and teachers like them must be special.

Friday, 11 December 2015

All those Nutcrackers

The Nutcracker is always popular this time of the year but this year we have an unusually heavy crop. In the UK we have:

You can also watch the Royal Ballet's cinema transmission on the 16 Dec and the Bolshoi's on the 20 Dec 2015 (see Live Performances streamed from the Bolshoi and Covent Garden 20 Sept 2015). 

If you live in Scotland you had the chance to see Peter Darrell's version for Scottish Ballet last year which I reviewed in Like meeting an old friend after so many years 4 Jan 2015. You will have to wait until the new year to see Ballet West's (see Ballet West's Next Tour 2 Dec 2015).

Outside the UK I would love to see Jeroen Verbruggen for the Geneva Ballet which is about to tour France (see Geneva Nutcracker 25 Nov 2015).  Also on offer is Wayne Eagling's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King the synopsis of which sounds very similar to English National Ballet's except that the Stahlbaums have become the Staalbooms and seem to have acquired a pad in Amsterdam as well as another on the banks of the Thames.

Although I grew up with English National Ballet's I have not really taken to Eagling's version. I don't take kindly to Anglicizing the Stahlbaums or indeed transposing Swan Lake from Mitteleuropa to New England. If I wanted  innovation in my favourite ballets I would go to Matthew Bourne or Verbruggen.

Having said that I shall be in the audience with my classmates from The Dance Studio Leeds on the 18 Dec 2015 to see the adventures of "Clara Edwards" in Northern Ballet's and I will also try to catch Ballet West's and the Bolshoi's HDTV transmission. Alas I shall miss the Royal Ballet's which is by far the best in my book. As I can't get to the so called "Midlands engine" to see it this year I shall catch Peter Wright's version from the Birmingham Royal Ballet in November or December next year.

Whichever version you patronize, chums, enjoy it.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Chantry Dance looks forward to 2016

This has been a great year for the Chantry Dance Company. They started the year by performing in Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden which was followed by an engagement in La Dama di Picche in Rome between which they spent some weeks in Japan (see Welcome Home Paul and Rae 10 June 2015). They spent the summer with their summer school and associate programmes before hitting the road with their Autumn tour. I caught them in Halifax on 27 Sept 2015 and was very impressed (see Duology 29 Sept 2015). They also managed to find time to found the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts (see If only I were young again - Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts 27 July 2015).

The company is now planning its 2016 tour "which will involve two original pieces - one set in space, and the other at a card game!" (Chantry Dance newsletter Dec 2015). It has already performed Chasing the Eclipse at the Gravity Fields festival which is about the cosmos with Dominic North and Rae Piper in the title roles (see Gravity Fields - Chasing the Eclipse 28 Sept 2014).

Chantry Dance has opened its company class to professionals and student dancers in full-time vocational training on the following dates:

January 2016:
9, 15-22, 24-29

February 2016:
1-6, 8-13, 15-16

I have been fortunate enough to watch the company class when Chantry Dance visited Halifax in 2014 (see The Happy Prince in Halifax 21 Nov 2014) and also in their rehearsal studios in Grantham earlier this year (see Chantry Dance's Vincent - Rarely have I been more excited by a New Ballet 4 Sept 2015). Here is what I wrote about them:
"Earlier in the day I got a chance to see their company class and a rehearsal for the Dylan ballet. All dancers work hard. I appreciated that when I saw English National Ballet in class in Oxford three weeks ago (Coppelia in Oxford 2 Nov 2014) but I think this troupe works harder than most. I had been to class in Leeds in the morning and had done several of the same exercises. Watching the professionals from a distance of a few feet I noted how they hold their arms in bras bas and second, how they define space in a forward port de bras, how they find their balance on demi-pointe and arabesque and much, much more. I hope I can remember and incorporate what I learned in my own dancing the next time I go to class."
If I could pick up this much from a chair think how much  more a real dancer or serious student can learn from joining them at the barre.  If you want to put your name forward send your email to the joint artistic director, Rae Piper.

The School will publish a new prospectus for its three year vocational course shortly as well as information on its summer intensives, associate programmes and other activities. I first got to know the company through one of its workshops (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014) and I learned so much from them. They have offered to run a workshop in either Leeds or Manchester in the New Year if enough people are interested so let me know if you would like to attend.

The Chantry School is based in Grantham which is a beautiful old town with a magnificent medieval church and other historic buildings such as the high school that one of our greatest scientists attended and the grocery store where our first and so far only female prime minister was born. Until very recently Grantham might have been regarded as a bit of a backwater but now there are more and more opportunities for dancers in the Midlands. The whole region has been designated as an engine of growth (see Jane Lambert The Midlands Engine 7 Dec 2015 IP East Midlands) and the Chancellor has promised a £4 million public investment in the Birmingham dance hub (see Thanks George 8 Dec 2015). Paul Chantry and Rae Piper are picking up plenty of commissions such as Horrible Hitsories' Horrible Christmas in Cambridge and Davis Walliam's Gangsta Granny in Birmingham. There is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Twelve of the best Ballerinas of all Time

Pas de Quatre

The Daily Telegraph has just published 12 of the greatest ballerinas of all time 8 Dec 2015. It has chosen Pavlova, Ulanova, Markova, Fonteyn, Nerina,  Ananiashvili, Guillem, Bussell, Lopatkina, Rojo, Cojocaru and Osipova. I wouldn't argue about Pavlova or Fonteyn or indeed Cojocaru and Osipova if we restricted the choice to dancers of our own time.  I am amazed that the Telegraph omitted La Camargo or the four great ballerinas of the early 19th century shown in the illustration above, namely Lucile Grahn, Carlotta Grisi, Fanny Cerrito, and Marie Taglioni or indeed Fanny Elssler.

The Royal Ballet set this challenge:
Here's my response:
Others tweeps have suggested Zakharova (mmm maybe after her performance as Marguerite  on Sunday see Lady of the Camellias Streamed from Moscow 7 Dec 2015), Núñez, Yuanyouan Tan, Pliestetskaya (definitely), Seymour (my choice), Shearer (maybe and perhaps also May),  McBride, Farrell, Kirkland, Gregory. Makarova and Plisetskaya, Alonso, Cuthbertson and so on.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Thanks George

George Osborne MP
Source HM Treasury
Open Government Licence

In his Spending review and autumn statement 2015 the Chancellor of the Exchequer made three funding announcements which should benefit the performing arts in general and dance in particular:
  • a £78 million capital investment in The Factory, Manchester plus £9 million per year revenue funding from 2018-2019;
  • a £4 million grant to the Birmingham Dance Hub; and 
  • support for the National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries at the Backstage Centre in Thurrock.
I have already discussed the Factory and its potential in The Factory begins to take Shape 26 Nov 2015 and Let's bring the Royal Ballet to The Factory Manchester 11 Dec 2014. Architects have been appointed and the first artist's impressions have been published in the Manchester Evening News. Work should start on the Quay Street site in the next few months. The location is particularly handy for Manchester's legal profession as it is not far from the Civil Justice Centre. It should be finished by 2018.

In Arts Council England’s analysis of its investment in large-scale opera and ballet which I mentioned in How Arts Council England supports Dance 10 Oct 2015 the Arts Council announced increased funding for Birmingham Royal Ballet. Although not expressed as a condition of the extra funding, the analysis added:
"We are proposing that, in addition, we ask the company to work with the City of Birmingham, Dance Xchange, the Hippodrome and other interested parties to make Birmingham into a regional dance centre, building a broad dance culture in the City, capable of increasing audiences and attracting and retaining talent in the city."
No specific announcement has been made as to the Birmingham Dance Hub unlike Leeds which published a consultancy brief for plans for a dance hub which should be delivered by January 2016. However, the Birmingham bub is likely to be based in the Hippodrome which houses Dance Xchange (DX). DX describes itself as
"a power house of dance with excellence, innovation, participation and inclusion at its heart – and, together with Birmingham Hippodrome and Birmingham Royal Ballet, is part of the largest dance partnership in Britain."
In its About Us page it refers to its performance programme, classes and its production facilities. It is safe to assume that Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst will be evolved and we look forward to hearing how the participants will use the Chancellor's £4 million.

The offer of support for the new National College for Creative and Cultural Industries is much vaguer than the other two projects and is said to subject to due diligence even though the plans for the College seem to be pretty advanced (see Jane Lambert National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries 7 Dec 2015 IP East). The College will be housed in the Backstage Centre where the Royal Opera House's production facilities are already located and it should receive its first students in September 2016 (see Creative and Cultural Trading Ltd.'s press release of 11 Dec 2015). The College will train the technical and management staff needed for ballet and the other performing arts.

Team Terpsichore will be watching all three projects like a hawk and will report any news on them and similar projects in other cities as and when it happens.