Saturday, 30 April 2016

Some More Information on Alessia

Ernst Meisner's Embers

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Last year I was lucky enough to see Ernst Meisner's Embers twice: once in Amsterdam on 6 Feb 2015 (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015) and again in London (Junior Company in London - even more polished but as fresh and exuberant as ever 7 June 2015). When I first saw it I wrote:
"Quite simply, it is one of the most beautiful ballets I have ever seen. Its beauty had me close to tears."
When I saw it again at Covent Garden I wrote:
"The next work was Ernst Meisner's Embers danced by Nancy Burer and Thomas van Damme. In my previous review I described it as "quite simply ....... one of the most beautiful ballets I have ever seen." It moved me the first time I saw it on film - a performance on the concourse of Amsterdam railway station which I embedded into Junior Company's New Season 6 Feb 2015. It moved me again last night. "
I loved it so much that I named Meisner my choreographer of the year for 2015 (see Highlights of 2015 29 Dec 2015) and I might add that right now he is on course for being choreographer of the year for 2016 for his No Time Before Time (see Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016).

I will have (and you too gentle readers can all have) the opportunity to see this masterpiece again if you come to Trecate near Novara in North West Italy on 28 June 2016 at 21:00 for the Gala for Alessia which I mentioned in Principato's Project on 7 April 2016 and Update on the Trecate Gala 28 April 2016. Embers will round off a brilliant evening of dance from the most promising young dancers in some of the world's greatest ballet companies which is being directed by Cristiano Principato of the Dutch National Ballet. Cristiano explains that he has chosen Embers to end his gala because it is "all about the sunset of a great love and that reminds me of a stunning but very dramatic sunset."

The love that the gala is celebrating is that of a family for a remarkable young woman called Alessia Mairati. She came from Novara (a town just a little bit bigger than Barnsley and about the same distance from Milan as Barnsley is from Manchester). Cristiano explained that:
"Alessia was the daughter of a colleague of my father so our families were always really close. Alessia died twelve years ago when she was only eighteen year old. She was on a school exchange spending her last year of secondary school at a school in Ecuador. She was telling her family about how poor people were in Latin America and saying that she really wanted to do something concrete to help those people once she returned to Italy. Unfortunately her plane crushed on her way back. So ten years ago her father founded the charity, Casa Alessia, to make her dream of helping to alleviate poverty come true."
 If you can read Italian you will find her life story here, her emails here and some lovely photos of her here.

As they were very close to Alessia's family, Cristiano's was very distressed by the tragedy. That was particularly true of his father who fell ill and he has still not recovered. Because of that illness, he has not been able to travel long distances to see his son on stage. Since it takes place very close to home, the Gala for Alessia will be Mr Principato senior's first opportunity in 7 years to see what his son can do. I am sure he will be a very proud man indeed. No wonder Cristiano is so excited.

Every year Casa Alessia holds a concert to raise money for its work.  Because his heart is very close to Casa Alessia and Alessia's father, Cristiano always wanted to take part in that event but he was not allowed to do so while at ballet school. He was also very busy with his academic work - not to mention driving lessons. He started to think about the project last year and this year he has finally made it a reality.

The gala will be divided into two parts. The first is an introduction to ballet and will consist of various pieces from the modern and classical repertoire. Cristiano will open the show with a solo called Tempo which he is choreographing for himself. There will be some classical favourites, the white swan pas de deux and an extract from Coppélia finishing with another of his works called "Palladio", which he is creating for the Dutch National's productions New Moves.
"The second part will be a sort of trip through Casa Alessia's work in Africa made through the choice of pieces that are related to it. It will start in Egypt with a suite from The Pharaoh's Daughter (pas de deux, solos and coda)".  
Cristiano will dance that piece with a dancer from the Wiener Staatsballet.
"Then again some other connections with African diamonds (the diamond solo from The Sleeping Beauty). One contemporary solo about the lack of water and rain, a two boys duet about two orphans, a pas de deux set the night before a soldier would have to leave for the war (Elegie by Ernet Meisner) and a lot of other pieces related to Alessia's life like her love for sunflowers (with an extract from The Flower Festival pas de deux). Every piece of the second part will be explained and introduced by an announcer. "
Finally, Ernst's Meisner Embers.
"It is such a very demanding and challenging event but I will do my best to make that happen and I hope in a great help to Casa Alessia." 
Admission is free but there will be a collection at the end of the show which will enable the audience to show their appreciation for the artists as well as the work of the charity. "We'll dance our hearts out" said Cristiano  "to encourage folk to dig deep. I hope we'll manage to raise a good amount to help Casa Alessia in its amazing work. We're all dancing for free so all the money will go to the charity."

Even if it wasn't for a good cause I would still come to Trecate to see the show. Ernst Meisner has scoured the world to find the world's best young dancers and they will be there to entertain us. Unless I am very much mistaken they are the stars who will be filling Covent Garden, the Met, Palais Garnier, the Bolshoi, the Scala and Stopera in 10 to 15 years time. On our 25th wedding anniversary in 2007 I saw a young lad called Xander Parish in York and I said to my late spouse "In 10 years he will be a big star," Less than 9 years on, was I right or was I right?

I might add that I would also support Casa Alessia and projects like it even if there were no show. I was married to an African and I know its human potential is like a tightly coiled spring. Once it is freed from poverty there will be no stopping its people in every field of human endeavour including the performing arts. Cristiano's colleague, Michaela DePrince, is proof of that.

Ballet in Sub-Saharan Africa

Author: Benji Robertson
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

In 13 Prominent Ballet Dancers and Choreographers Born in Southern Africa 3 May 2009 Ross Dix-Peek wrote:
"Most people would not dare to proffer southern Africa as an example of a prolific breeding ground of ballet dancers and choreographers, but, that she is. South Africa, and what was then Rhodesia, has for many decades now been a veritable nursery for ballet dancers, and her progeny have, after receiving expert local tutelage , often ventured abroad, performing for the Royal Ballet and other stellar ballet companies, some accruing universal acclaim. Listed below are thirteen southern African-born men and women who have distinguished themselves in the ballet fraternity, most notably abroad."
Dix-Peek listed some of the greatest names in dance: John Cranko, Monica Mason, Nadia Nerina and Merle Park. They were, of course, white dancers who made their careers in the United Kingdom and other advanced countries.

One of the most remarkable features of the art form has been its resilience to political change. It might easily have suffered from its association with the ancien regime in Russia and disappeared without trace but instead it was adopted by the Soviets and received considerable support from them. Later it survived the fall of the Soviet Union and continues to prosper in the current political and economic climate.

A similar transition seems to have occurred in Southern Africa. There was an audience for ballet in the apartheid period and it might have been feared that ballet would have been tainted by association with that system but that does not appear to have happened. South Africans of all races have trained in the art though many continue to make their careers in Europe and North America.

There are however signs that a market for dance is developing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yesterday the BBC posted the video"Ballet: 'Every dancer should have this background'" 29 April 2016 about ballet in Nigeria to its website. The film featured Sarah Boulos, Chairperson of the Society for Performing Arts in Nigeria ("SPAN"), which describes itself as "a registered NGO offering unprecedented opportunities in dance, music, theatre and visual arts to Nigeria's talented citizens."  A Google search of ballet in Nigeria revealed this YouTube video of children having fun and correspondence between a number of young Nigerian women who sought ballet training and a US website (see Career Development Plan - Ballet in Nigeria on Ballet Dancers

Elsewhere I have written about Mike Wamaya's class in one of the toughest neighbourhoods of Nairobi (see What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013) which I followed up last year with Back to Africa 7 Jan 2015 and Revisiting Kenya with Obama 25 July 2015. One development that I should very much like to see would be a ballet school in Freetown (see A Ballet School for Freetown 20 May 2014) as it is the capital of the country where Michaela DePrince was born (see Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam 28 Nov 2014) and also a country with which I have many connections.

Though these developments are encouraging there is still a long way to go. Lagos has had a 5,000 seater National Arts Theatre for the last 40 years but I struggle to find evidence of any kind of performance there, much less a ballet one. With any luck that may change as Africa celebrates the achievements of dancers like DePrince and Mthuthuzeli November who are making a name for themselves abroad.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Images of War: Ballet Central's "War Letters" and other Works

The Green Howards at the Battle of Anzio
Author Sgt. Radford, No. 2 Film and Photographoc Unit
Source Wikipedia

Ballet Central, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, 28 April 2016

When I first saw Chris Marney's War Letters for Ballet Black nearly three years ago I wrote:
"War Letters, which took up the whole of the second act, brought all the dancers together. It opened with the voice of Kwame Kwei Amah reading the words of a soldier's letter to his sweetheart rejoicing at their love. The mood changed with a poignant pas de deux between a wounded, gassed or shell shocked soldier in pyjamas and his lover who arrived with smiles and left with a broken. Next came a dance to the music of Glenn Miller. Four soldiers met four girls on the dance floor. Three of the girls were asked to dance but the fourth was ignored. She tried to attract the boys' attention but to no avail. The second reading came from Thandie Newton comparing throwing off a lover to the loss of a heavy coat - but then regretting the loss of warmth. This analogy was taken up by the choreographer as the boys tried to lend her their overcoats. The scene ended with the girl shrouded with the soldiers' coats. Finally, there was the voice of the wartime radio presenter John Snagge announcing "Victory in Europe". The last scene is of the artists together which I reproduced in my previous post. Home came the boys nursing their injuries. This was not the first ballet on the horror of war but I still found it a very moving work."
I saw the same company dance that work again in the Stanley and Aubrey Burton Theatre six months later:
"Christopher Marney's War Letters is a very moving piece and it resonated with the audience in Leeds last night even more than it had done in London. Possibly because it was danced in poppy season. Two movements brought many including me close to tears. The hospital visit to a seriously wounded soldier and the Winter coat. Beautiful choreography giving every dancer an opportunity to show what he or she can do."
 Yesterday I saw the young dancers of Ballet Central dance that work and found the work even more poignant than before. I think it is because the dancers are so young - exactly the age of so many of the boys who were called up and the girls who were left behind - and the painstaking attention to detail. The boys wore British uniforms and the girls wore their hair exactly as their grandmothers (or even their great grandmothers) would have done. I was born well after then end of the second world war but remember bomb sites, amputees and even some rationing. I was reminded of my parents' reminiscences of war. This performance spoke to me in a way that previous ones had not done.

All credit then to the artists: Holly Girdham, Emma Hancox, Mai Ito, Mia Lambuschagne, Seren Williams, Valerie Yeo, Jaspar Arran, Cian Hughes, James Parratt, James Roxby-Brwn, Mark Samaras and Joseph Vaughan. I particularly enjoyed Mai Ito's performance of the girl on the side, a role that Kanika Carr created for Ballet Black. Mai Ito danced that charmingly - playful at one moment, petulant the next, and always flirtatious.

Although it was the chance to see War Letters again that excited me it was not the only work that delighted me. I enjoyed all the works that the company danced last night but three impressed me in particular: Christopher Gable's Celebration which opened the show, Sharon Watson's Repetition (2) Change and the Pas de Trois from Paquita which rounded off the first part of the show.  Of those three works it was Celebration that I enjoyed the best, possibly because it had been created by Gable.

I first saw Christopher Gable when he was with the Royal Ballet. Many years later I saw him in Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man for Northern Ballet. He was artistic director when I started to follow Northern Ballet and created my favourite ballets for that company.  Celebration, a gorgeous classical work reminded me of all that.  After the dancers had presented themselves there was a delightful pas de deux, a virtuoso piece by the men, a joyful succession of duets and so on.  The music was provided by the composer, Philip Feeney, in person. The work was staged by Carole Gable who is Central's ladies' ballet tutor and rehearsal coach.

Carole Gable also staged the Pas de Trois which was performed skilfully by Mai Ito, Kanami Dano and Mark Samaras to Minkus's music.  This requires virtuosity and grace from each of those three young dancers which they displayed in abundance.

Like her TearFall which I reviewed in The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015 Watson's Repetition (2) Change was a science lesson as well as dance. Two sets of dancers, some male others female, clad in almost identical red and black gowns, wove around each other in seemingly random patterns. According to the programme notes "the fascinating intricate world of DNA is placed under the microscope" in this work. I could not quite work out was whether the red and black dancers were supposed to be different letters of a sequence, DNA and RNA or something else. Watson was in the auditorium but I did not get a chance to ask her. I was however gratified to find that the piece had been sponsored by Susan Dalgetty-Ezra of the London Ballet Circle. The work was staged by our very own Sandrine Monon of Phoenix.

The other works that I enjoyed were Leanne King's duet Insinuare danced by Elizabeth Medway and Joseph Vaughan to Feeney's music and Sara Matthews's energetic Superstruct, also to a score by Feeney.

It was a very good programme though perhaps a little less ambitious than last year (see Dazzled 3 May 2015). Also, while there were many impressive young dancers nobody stood out in the way that Mthuthuzeli November did last year. On the other hand War Letters was wonderful. In performing that work think I saw Central at its very best last night. The company will move on to Uppingham, Newbury, Chipping Norton, the Royal Automobile Club, Bridport, Eastleigh, Margate, Wedmor, Bristol and the Stratford Arts Centre.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Update on the Trecate Gala

Earlier this month I wrote about a gala that Cristiano Primcipato is organizing in Trecate near Novara at 9 pm on 28 June 2016 to raise funds for Casa Alessia to carry out relief work in Burundi (see Principato's Project 7 April 2016).

I have now spotted this splendid poster for the Gala for Alessia which states that Cristiano will be the Artistic Director and that his dancers come not only from the Dutch National Ballet but also La Scala Theatre of Milan, the Jas Art Ballet and the Vienna State Ballet.

I would very much like to see the show and I had sent several emails to the box office to try to get a ticket but I have not yet received an answer.  Now I know why.  Admission is free (Ingresso libero) but you have to call the number at the base of the poster before 24 June to let them know you are coming.  As the object f the exercise is to raise funds for the relief work I am sure that someone will be passing a hat round.

The address of the theatre appears to be 24 Piazza Riccardo Cattaneo which is not far from the railway station. Milan seems to be the nearest airport but it does not seem to be easy to get a train to Trecate.  If I can get some folks from England to join me we could hire a car.

Hard not to have Favourites ...... Ballet Cymru's Little Red Riding Hood rides again

While much of the ballet world has been commemorating the fourth centenary of the death of William Shakespeare (see Opera, Ballet and the Bard - Shakespeare Lives 23 Apr 2016) Ballet Cymru will be celebrating another literary anniversary, namely the centenary of the birth in Llandaff of the novelist, poet and screenplay writer Roald Dahl.

One of Dahl's most popular works is his Revolting Rhymes which is a re-working in verse of a number of traditional children's stories.  Here is an example.  Everyone knows the traditional story of the three little pigs and their respective construction technologies which Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson have made into a charming children's ballet for Northern Ballet.  Well Dahl took the story one step forward by enlisting the help of Little Red Riding Hood who had already dispatched another wolf in an earlier story:
"The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ``Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolf skin coat.''
Little Red Riding Hood disposes of the pigs' predator sure enough but there is a twist:
"Ah, Piglet, you must never trust Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolf skin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,
Now I try not to have favourites among ballet companies but who could not love one that creates a ballet from such delicious materials?

Darius James and Amy Doughty have done just that to a score by Paul Patterson and sets and costumes by Steve Denton. The work, Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, opens at The Riverfront theatre in Newport on 20 May 2016 before visiting Blackwood, Abergavenny, Lincoln, Stevenage, King's Lynn, Tewkesbury, Porthcawl, Basingstoke, Burnham on Sea, Newcastle under Lyme, Milford Havon, Bury St. Edmunds, Hereford, Bangor and Lichfield.

Ballet Cymru are not ignoring the anniversary of Shakespeare's death altogether. They are reviving their Romeo a Juliet which I reviewed in They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013 which they are taking to Portsmouth, Llanelli and Stevenage. I have seen a lot of Romeo and Juliets in my time and even tried to dance some of it with very little success (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016 and Romeo and Juliet Intensive - the awful proof as the camera does not lie 21 April 2016) but James and Doughty's version is one of my favourites. If I can find an excuse to get to Pompey or Stevenage I will. As I say, I try not to have favourites among ballet companies but sometimes it's hard.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Jane Eyre Update

Brontë Parsonage
Author SpaceMonkey
Source Wikipedia
Licensed with the kind permission of the author

On 20 Sept 2015 I wrote about Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre. I based my article on the press release of 17 Sept 2015 so did not have a lot to go on. I mentioned the career of the choreographer, Cathy Marston, the theatres where the ballet would be performed and a little bit about the novel.

We knew nothing about the casting at the time, so I wrote:
"No casting has been announced yet. I guess Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt must be favourites for Jane and Mr Rochester. Blow and Bateman are also obvious alternates for Jane and maybe Takahashi for Rochester. I can only speculate who will be unfortunate enough to dance poor, mad Mrs Rochester. I can see a nice role for one of the younger dancers in Helen and two horrible ones in Aunt Reed and the Rev Brocklehurst."
We now have a lot more information thanks to the short film Jane Eyre/ by Cathy Marston for Northern Ballet - preview and interviews with Marston and Bateman which indicates that Hannah Bateman will dance Jane. I am delighted to hear that because I am a big fan of Bateman. The rehearsal photos show Javier Torres whom I believe to be an excellent choice. I am glad to see Abigail Prudames, Gavin McCaig, Antoinette Brooks-Daw and Sean Bates in those photographs too.

In the film Marston gives some details about the score. I had said in September that it had been composed by Philip Feeney but Marston explains that he had arranged music by Fanny Mendelssohn (1805 - 1847) who was a near contemporary of Charlotte Brontë (1816 - 1855) with insertions from Felix Mendelssohn and Schubert.

I am looking forward to this work for a number of reasons.  I like the story, the characters, the film and photos which I have discussed above. I think it will be the best that Northern will have done all year and a lot of people seem to agree because the performances in Doncaster are sold out. Given this show's likely popularity the choice of venues is odd. Richmond at the end of the District Line is not the easiest place to reach for balletomanes in say Hampstead or Woolwich or even Wimbledon and there are no performances in Manchester, Mliton Keynes, Nottingham, Southampton, Edinburgh, Sheffield or even Leeds where the company has an audience. No doubt there is a reason.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Happy World Intellectual Property Day

Today is World Intellectual Property Day and I wish everybody in the dance world a happy World Intellectual Property Day, "Thank you very much" I hear you say "but what's that got to do with me or dance?"

Well everything actually. If you are a dancer you are a performer and performers have the exclusive right to object to the filming, taping or broadcasting of their performances. That's why someone tells the audience to switch off their mobiles and that filming and recording is not allowed just before the curtain rises.

The same goes for the orchestra in the pit or the maestro with his baton.

If you are a choreographer your work is protected against unlicensed performance or copying for the rest of your life plus 70 years. The same for your libretto if you are the dramaturge, your score if you are the composer, your backdrop if you are the artist who painted it and so on.

The sets and costumes may be protected from unlicensed reproduction by unregistered design right or even unregistered Community design.

If you are the Artistic Director or in charge of the company's business you should think about registering the company's name and logo as trade marks if you want to sell branded goods like T-shrts and ballet bags. You make a lot of money from doing that sort of thing.

I've written a lot of stuff about IP and ballet over the years.  Here are some of them:

Monday, 25 April 2016


This news couldn't have been timed better. I write about the Ballet Central's tour only this morning (Ballet Central's Only Performance in the North 25 April 2016).

Congratulations to Chris upon his appointment which must be one of the best jobs in British ballet and congratulations to Ballet Central on its excellent artistic director. I really can't think of a better man for the job.

Looking forward to welcoming the company to my stamping ground (literally) all the more.

Ballet Central's Only Performance in the North

Yesterday I wrote about Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (see NDT2 at the Lowry 24 April 2016) and I have written a lot over the years about the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company. None of our leading companies has a junior company as such but Ballet West, the Central School of Ballet and the Northern Ballet School all have performance companies. It is a thrill to watch those excellent young men and women on stage and through this blog I try to encourage them all.

Central's performance company is called Ballet Central which consists of the final year students on its BA (Hons) Degree course. Its website claims that
"Central School of Ballet is the only classical vocational school to offer an Honours Degree and pre-professional touring experience on such a scale. It has been a springboard for hundreds of dancers into the dance profession."
The School was founded by Christopher Gable who was the artistic director of Northern Ballet during its golden age and it has produced many of my favourite dancers including Hannah Bateman, Sarah Kundi, Dominic North and Rachael Gillespie as well as several of my favourite choreographers such as Paul Chantry. Christopher Marney and Kenneth Tindall. Two of the artistic directors that I respect the most, Sharon Watson of Phoenix Dance Theatre and Cassa Pancho of Ballet Black are associated with the School, Watson as an artistic advisor and Pancho as one of its patrons.

Ballet Central is now making its annual tour with an interesting programme which will include works by Gable, Marney and Watson. This year is special because it is the company's 30th anniversary and the work that I am looking forward to seeing most is Marney's War Letters which featured on the cover of this month's Dancing Times. I loved that work when it was performed by Ballet Black three years ago and it will be interesting to see another company's interpretation. One obvious difference from the cover photo is that Ballet Central will be using British uniforms instead of American ones for its male dancers.

One of the dancers on tour is Jasmine Wallis who impressed me in Marney's Carnival of the Animals for the Chelmsford Ballet Company last year (see A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015). Marion Pettet, the Chair of Chelmsford Ballet, saw Ballet Central when it came to Chelmsford a few weeks ago and tipped Wallis as someone to look out for.

Despite their connections with Phoenix and Northern Ballet, Ballet Central's touring schedule allows only one stop in the North and that is at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds on Thursday, 28 April 2016. There are still one or two seats left towards the back of the auditorium. Last year's show was dazzling (see Dazzled 3 May 2016). The thirtieth anniversary tour can hardly be less exciting.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

NDT2 at the Lowry

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Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Mixed Programme, Salford, 19 April 2016

Last Sunday I saw the Hungarian National Ballet perform The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest (see Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest 23 April 2016). The next day I saw the Royal Ballet dance The Winter's Tale at Covent Garden (see The Winter's Tale Revisited - Some Ballets are better Second Time Round 20 April 2016). The day after that, I saw The Nederalmds Dans Theater 2's mixed programme at The Lowry. Three excellent but very different performances by three great companies in three great cities on three consecutive nights, I enjoyed them all equally.

The Nederlands Dans Theater ("NDT") describes itself over modestly as "one of the most productive dance companies in the Netherlands, if not in the world."  It is certainly one of the most celebrated. It was founded in 1959 by Benjamin Harkarvy, Aart Verstegen, Carel Birnie and some 18 dancers from the Dutch National Ballet to focus on experimentation with new forms and techniques of dance. It has taken its direction from some of the world's biggest names in dance including:
  • Hans van Manen who has been associated with the company almost from its formation first as a dancer, then as a choreographer and finally as its artistic director between 1961 and 1971 which was when I first became aware of van Manen's works and started to follow them;
  • Jiří Kylián who was the company's artistic director between 1975 and 2004; and
  • Paul Lightfoot who has directed the company since 2011.
The NDT is based not in Amsterdam, the Netherlands's cultural and commercial centre but in the smaller and much more sedate political capital of The Hague.

NDT2 is the NDT's junior company consisting of some of the world's best classically trained young contemporary dancers. Those dancers, who are in their late teens and early twenties and recruited from all parts of the world, spend three years in the junior company before graduating into the main company NDT1. For a number of years there was also a third division of the company known as NDT3 for dancers over 40 but that was discontinued in 2005 (see Harris Green Dance: Where Age 40 Doesn't Mean the End of Everything 20 Aug 2000 NY Times). I had not noticed that the elder company had been discontinued and asked about in a question and answer session with two of the English speaking dancers after the show.

We were treated to six works at the Lowry last Tuesday:
  • Schubert choreographed by Sol León and Paul Lightfoot to Schubert's String quintet in C - Adagio;
  • Sad Case by the same choreographers to the music of  Perez Prado Mambo no. 8, Perez Prado Muchachita, Alberto Domínguez Frenesí, Ernesto Lecuona Always in my heart, Perez Prado Caballo Negro, Ray Barretto Watusi, Trio Los Panchos Perfidia and Perez Prado Maria Bonita;
  • Some Other Time also by those choreographers to Max Richter's Thermodynamics; I was just thinking; Broken Symmetries for Y; When the northern lights / Jasper and Louise; A sudden Manhattan of the mind; This Picture of us. P.; Found song for P.; H thinks a journey; Lullaby from the Westcoast sleepers ans So long Orpheus;
  • Edward Clug's mutual comfort to Milko Lazar's PErpeTuumOVIA;
  • van Manen's Solo to Johann Sebastian Bach's Violin suite no. 1 in D minor Correnta and Double; and
  • Alexander Ekman's Cacti to music by Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler.
I enjoyed all those works but my favourite by a country mile was van Manen's Solo. I have said many times that van Manen is my favourite living choreographer and it was his work that I had come to see. It did not disappoint. A powerful work by three magnificent young dancers, Gregory LauHelias Tur-Dorvault and Paxton Ricketts.

Lau opened the show and was part of the closing piece. For me he stood out even among his exceptionally talented colleagues. In praising him in this way I do not infer that he towers above the others in any regard but the programme allowed him an opportunity to shine and he was dazzling. None of the women eclipsed the others. Each had a different style and contribution to the choreography and I admired them all equally.

The company has just performed in Scotland and is moving on to Newcastle, Bradford, Birmingham, Plymouth, Brighton, Nottingham and London. If you live anywhere near those cities you should try to see them. Of a great three day feast of dance van Manen's Solo was the pièce de résistance.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest

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Hungarian National Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, Budapest Opera House, 17 April 2016

Last Sunday I attended the opening night of Sir Peter Wright's production of The Sleeping Beauty for the Hungarian National Ballet at the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest. I came to Budapest as a member of the London Ballet Circle of which Sir Peter is patron. Towards the end of last year the Circle newsletter carried a news item about this production together with an invitation from Sir Peter for members to join him on the first night. The newsletter arrived just before the departure of my friend Mel Wong to take up an offer of training and employment in Hungary. I told her about Sir Peter's invitation and asked her whether she would like me to visit her to which she said she would.

I arrived on Saturday evening and spent much of Sunday with Mel taking a class with her teacher Imre Andrási followed by a sumptuous lunch and the performance of The Sleeping Beauty at the Opera House in the evening (see My Trip to Hungary 21 April 2016). I did not know much about the Hungarian National Ballet before my visit and I wrote just about everything I could find out about it in The Hungarian National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 24 Feb 2016. Having seen one of its performances and having met its director and several of its dancers and other staff at the cast party after the show I am very impressed. I asked some of them whether the company had any plans to visit the UK. I was told that it had not but that they would very much like to dance here. One of the dancers I met was British although he had trained abroad. I think they would do very well here. In the meantime, I hope that this and my other articles will encourage British and other foreign ballet goers to visit Budapest and see the company for themselves.

The Budapest Opera House is a very beautiful late 19th century building which must have been erected during the reign of Francis Joseph I (1848 - 1916) when Hungary was part of the Dual Monarchy or Austro-Hungarian Empire. As you can see from this photograph the auditorium is sumptuously decorated with a magnificent ceiling and chandelier as indeed are the other rooms. However, it is not a large theatre. It seats 1,300 spectators which is slightly smaller than the capacity of the Leeds Grand Theatre built a few years earlier and just over half that of Covent Garden. Mel and I had seats in the centre of the fifth row of the stalls and so had a perfect view of the stage.

The ballet was very much the same as the Birmingham Royal Ballet's which I had last seen at the Lowry on 27 Sept 2013 (see The Sleeping Beauty - a Review and why the Ballet is important 27 Sept 2013). Sir Peter had brought Denis Bonner and Miyako Yoshida to help him with the choreography. The sets and costumes had been designed by Philip Prowse, the lighting by Peter Teigen and technical support was provided by Doug Nicholson.

Dimitry Timofeev and Aliya Tankpaveva
Budapest Opera House, 17 April 2016
Photographer Gita Mistry
(c) 2016 Team Terpsichore: all rights reserved
The dancers and musicians, however, came from the company.

Aurora was danced by Aliya Tanykpayeva who appears in the photo to the left. According to the Hungarian National Ballet's website Tankpaveva trained at the Almaty National Ballet Academy in Kazakhstan and danced in the Almaty State Ballet for a number of years before joining the Imperial Russian Ballet Company (which despite its name appears to be based in New Zealand) and the ballet companies of the Vienna State Opera and the Zurich Opera and the Hungarian National Ballet. There appears to be a rather good documentary on her entitled Алия Таныкпаева. Жизнь на кончиках пальцев but, unfortunately, it is not dubbed or subtitled.

Tankpaveva's partner on stage was Dmitry Timofeev who also appears in the photograph. According to his entry in Network Dance (now a little out of date) he is Russian. He was born on 14 July 1989 and trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg. Before joining the Hungarian National Ballet Timofeev danced with the Israeli Ballet and the Croatian National Theatre.

Tankpaveva and Timofeev danced well together. They are clearly very talented dancers but they danced the leading roles differently from the way I remembered Elisha Willis and Jamie Bond at the Lowry three years ago. Both Tankpaveva and Timofeev were impressive - particularly Timofeev in his jumps - but the roles - especially Aurora's - require acting as well as virtuosity. It was hard to imagine Tankpaveva as a 16 year old Act II (or Act 1 if you count her birth as a prologue) or the mix of emotions upon being woken up from a 100 year sleep by the love of her life which I have seen in other Auroras. But Tankpaveva, who was utterly charming, fitted the role in every other respect very well indeed.

Danielle Gould
17 April 2016
Photographer  Gita Mistry
(c) 2016 Team Terpsichore
As for the other major roles, the Lilac Fairy was danced by Zsuzsanna Papp, Carabosse by Karina Sarkissova and Bluebird by Maksym Kovtun who also doubled as Puss in Boots. In that latter role he was partnered by the young Canadian dancer Danielle Gould who danced the white cat. It is not an easy character role particularly with a heavy cat mask. She has to be both human and feline: flirtatiousness at one moment, they playful slapping her partner at the next. It is one of my favourite divertissements of any ballet and she danced it well winning the hearts of the audience. Having been trained at the National Ballet School of Canada and the John Cranko Academy it is clear that this young woman is going places. She has very kindly agreed to supply material for a feature of her which will appear very soon.

Audiences seem to applaud differently in Budapest than in London. When they like something they fall into a slow hand clap which is disconcerting to English ears as we tend to regard it as a sign of boredom rather than pleasure. There were plenty of shouts of "bravo" and "brava" throughout the performance, particularly after something spectacular. At the curtain call Karina Sarkissova called on István Dénes to take a bow and he in turn brought the orchestra to their feet. Then someone called on the director who in turn invited Sir Peter himself to take a bow.

Sir Peter was magnificent. He is not a young man. According to the Royal Opera House's website this Christmas's production of The Nutcracker will celebrate his 90th birthday but nobody would have guessed that by looking at him on stage. He bowed. He clapped his artists. He joined in the reverence. He took several curtain calls and I couldn't help but rise to my feet in admiration for the man.

To make him and us from the London Ballet Circle feel at home someone in a box to the right of the stage was raining bouquets of flowers on the dancers. Not quite as spontaneous as in Covent Garden for the chap seemed to be wearing a badge and the flowers were bound but a flower throw none the less.

It was a great night not least because I was lucky enough to be invited back stage with my compatriots to meet Sir Peter and members of the company which I have mentioned in more detail in My Trip to Hungary 21 April 2016. I missed a lot of good things in England, not least the chance to shake hands with Deborah Bull, Robert Parker, Dominic North and Sarah Kundi at Chantry Dance's studio naming ceremony (see What's in a Name 22 April 2916), and I can't be sure that I will ever get another. But even if I don't this visit to Hungary will have been worth it.

Friday, 22 April 2016

What's in a Name?

Deborah Bull with Dominic North and Robert Parker
(c) 2016 Chantry Dance Company: all rights reserved

Reproduction licensed by the company

As I said in "My Trip to Hungary" 21 April 2016, I met Mel at Chantry Dance's workshop in Lincoln in May 2014. Ironically, on the very day that I had arranged to visit her in Hungary Chantry Dance held an event at DancePointe Studios in Grantham which attracted four of the people that I most admire in dance.

They were:
The occasion was the naming of three of the studios at Dance Pointe as the "Deborah Bull Studio", "Robert Parker Studio" and "Dominic North Studio" by each of those distinguished visitors respectively. Sarah Kundi attended the event in her capacity as a patron of the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts.

As a Friend of the Chantry Dance Company I had been invited to the event and I dithered for several days between abandoning my trip to Hungary notwithstanding my prepayment of fares, accommodation and theatre tickets. It was only my regard for Sir Peter Wright and my friendship with Mel that tipped the balance.

As I did not attend the event I quote from the Company's press release:
"The event saw students from DancePointe and Chantry School perform a showcase for the three guests of honour and an invited audience of solo and group routines in the different styles of dance they study which included contemporary ballet and acro-dance. Afterwards the guests were introduced to the audience and they presented name-plaques and signed pictures that are now displayed at the studios. The students were evidently delighted to be able to dance in front their dance heroes, with many asking for photographs and autographs afterwards. One student even had her pointe shoes signed by the three VIPs! Mr Parker said of Chantry and DancePointe that 'the level of energy and passion they bring to all of the wonderful work they do is so encouraging for the young people'. Mr North said he was 'absolutely thrilled' to have a studio named after him and Ms Bull said 'I so admire the work that Chantry Dance and DancePointe are doing here, making a real difference to young people – you see it on their faces when we saw them perform today – they were fantastic!”
Videos of extracts from the speeches by Deborah Bull, Robert Parker and Dominic North are available on YouTube.

Deborah Bull and Robert Parker are carving glittering careers for themselves off the stage but Dominic North and Sarah Kundi still delight us regularly with their performances. I had the pleasure of meeting Dominic North after he danced with Rae Piper in Chasing the Eclipse at the Gravity Fields science festival (see Gravity Fields - Chasing the Eclipse 28 Sept 2014) but I have never met Sarah Kundi even though I have followed her since she was with Northern Ballet and have written a lot about her. She has recently been interviewed by Desiblitz on her career and culture (see Sarah Kundi ~ An Enchanting British Asian Ballet Dancer Desiblitz).

In its press release the Company notes that the event was highly significant not just for Chantry School and DancePointe but for dance in Lincolnshire in general
"as dance students in the region will undoubtedly find it highly motivating to have received support from such respected and high profile dance celebrities."
Grantham, a beautiful little market town with its magnificent parish church and live beehive pub sign, has already produced one of the world's greatest scientists and (whether you like her politics or not) one of the most influential British Prime Ministers since Robert Peel and now has every chance of producing a succession of great dancers.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Romeo and Juliet Intensive - the awful proof as the camera does not lie

(c) KNT Danceworks 2016

On 9 April 2016 I wrote about Jane Tucker's intensive workshop at KNT (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 Apr 2016). We had a great day and at the end of the course we gave a performance.  We did two works:

  • Dance of the Knights which you can see above; and
  • The Juliet variation which you can see below.

(c) 2016 Danceworks 2016

In both films I am struggling to keep up. Clearly, I should not give up my day job.  But you know what? It's not too bad for a badly co-ordinated, overweight old lady, is it.

My Trip to Hungary

Zero Ballet Contemporary Dance Studio, Budapest, Standard YouTube Licence

Just under two years ago I met a dancer called Mel Wong (see Introducing Mel 27 June 2014). I met her in Sheffield and gave her a lift to Lincoln where we attended Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance workshop (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014). That was a memorable day for me because I made the acquaintance not just of Mel Wong but also of the organizers of the workshop, Paul Chantry, Rae Piper and Gail Gordon. It was also the first time I danced on stage in an improvisation. Gail made a film of us which encouraged me to put my name forward for Northern Ballet Academy's end of year show when I had the time of my life.

Mel shares my passion for dance but knows far more about it than I do. She has a real prospect of making a career in the art even though she has come to it late. She was offered training at some of the leading contemporary dance schools in the UK but had to raise vast sums of money for her fees at very short notice which proved to be impractical. Last year she received an offer of training and employment in Hungary which she accepted. On our last trip back to Yorkshire together from KNT's Saturday class where we both trained I told her that the London Ballet Circle was planning a trip to Budapest to attend the première of Sir Peter Wright's production of The Sleeping Beauty for the Hungarian National Ballet at the Budapest Opera House and that I would join that trip to visit her in April if she liked and we could see the performance together (see The Hungarian National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 24 Feb 2016). Mel said that she would like that very much so I made arrangements to keep that promise as soon as details of the show appeared in the Circle newsletter.

I must admit that the prospect of visiting Hungary filled me with some trepidation. I had been there in 1987 when the Communist Party was still in power and I did not like it one little bit. My late spouse and I had boarded a coach in Vienna early in the morning and drove the few miles to the Hungarian border where we crossed yards and yards of razor wire and watch towers till we reached a customs post. There we had to surrender our passports while officials checked our luggage and paperwork refusing admission to several members of our group for no apparent reason. That process took hours and we had to wait in a dreary, overpriced cafeteria where we could buy the most unappetising refreshments for US dollars. When we were eventually allowed on our way we passed through a flat and dusty landscape punctuated by the occasional moribund looking village until we reached the equally depressing capital.

There we were housed in an uncomfortable overpriced hotel where the food was awful, the floor show was worse and the plumbing didn't work. We were escorted on a boat trip by a minder who took every opportunity to remind us of the supposed superiority of her country's economic system ("every Saturday afternoon is a holiday here except for essential workers" she crowed). There was nothing to buy except in dollar shops where we would have been fleeced mercilessly. I was fleeced once in a restaurant for ordering some Hungarian brandy for my late spouse who fancied a digestif. Everyone we met had been surly and some, like several bus loads of Soviet conscripts at Buda castle, were downright offensive.  One lot nearly capsized their bus gawping and pointing at my spouse. Clearly the first time they had ever seen a black person. I hated Budapest with a passion and was never more relieved to get out of a country when our coach eventually pulled away from the Austrian border after another long wait at the customs post where our remaining tatty Hungarian bank notes had to be surrendered.

Although I surmised that things must have changed since Perestroika I couldn't help thinking that I was giving up a lot to visit Hungary. Had I stayed in England I would have seen English National Ballet's She Said and Reimagining Giselle at the Royal Opera House and the Chantry Dance studio naming ceremony in Grantham (see What's in a Name? 22 Apr 2016).  However, I was buoyed up by Mel's invitation to attend her adult ballet class with Imre Andrási which was to take place between 10:00 and 11:30 on the day after our arrival. As you can see from his CV, Imre trained at the Hungarian National Dance Academy and has had a distinguished career as dancer, teacher and choreographer. The list of pieces that he has choreographed is truly impressive and he has worked abroad as well as in Hungary.

The flight from Luton with Wizzair had been OK - a notch or two above easyJet certainly - but I was reminded of the old order more than once when the transfer bus showed up late and the receptionist on the front desk of our hotel told me that the deal that I thought I had made through was not in fact available. There were more reminders of the ancien regime the next morning when a text from Mel warned me that she was running late because buses had been diverted for a half marathon. Then I got a call that she could not make it at all and could I find my way to the studio. She directed me to an intersection called Octagon where I was to take a tram to a stop called Mechwart liget. Not knowing a word of Hungarian and not finding anyone who could speak a word of English, French, German, Spanish or Italian, Silly Me got on the wrong tram and ended up outside the synagogue before realizing that I was going in the wrong direction.

When I eventually reached Mechwart liget, Mel fetched me from the tram stop and led me to the dance studio. I had missed the warm up and pliés though I was very well exercised by the stiff walk and climb up several flights of stairs to the dance studio which, I think, is the the same as in the video. I changed into my leotard, tights and shoes, shook hands with Imre and took my place at the barre in time for tendus. Mel stood next to me and guided me through Imre's instructions which were very much the same as I would have expected in Leeds or Manchester except that there was a lot more work on demi-pointe. Mel explained to me that was a feature of training in Hungary which had been influenced heavily by Agrippina Vaganova. The idea was to build up strength in preparation for pointe work but it was also useful for jumping. The centre work included a nice adagio, some balancés, a soutenu and then a pirouette from fourth. We then did some chaînés and posés, a few warm up jumps followed by some changements and glissades.  All too soon it was time for the reverence.

There were some six or seven of us including me. All were very pleasant young women, very like the members of Karen and Ailsa's classes in Manchester or Jane Tucker's in Leeds. I had bought some sweets in a union jack tin with a photo of Buck House at the duty free shop in Luton to share with my fellow students. I am glad to say they seemed to like them. I also bought some Scotch for Imre because I remembered from my previous trip that whisky had been like gold dust in Hungary. Imre charged 1,500 florins for his 90 minute class which is £3.82 at current rates of exchange. The class took place in an incubator called Inkubator Ház which houses a number of interesting dance companies including Zéró Balett in whose studio we trained. Mel has drawn my attention in particular to Eva Duda, the Workshop Foundation and Inversedance/Zoltan Fodor Company. Clearly, some good work takes place in that incubator as you can see from the video above. Mel told me that she had gained much from working with those organizations.

After class Mel guided me to the Déryné Bistro near her home where we consumed a most delicious meal alfresco. I ordered Wiener Schitzel and was served the largest that I have ever seen in my life together with some lettuce and lime sauce while Mel had an enormous freshwater fish.  The bus to the restaurant took us past the castle and I noticed for the first time just how beautiful Budapest had become. The city had blossomed since my first visit. Folk were smart and relaxed. There were panhandlers sleeping rough but no more than in Leeds or Manchester. I found much less surliness than I had found before and although the restaurant meals and seats in the Opera House were not exactly cheap nobody tried to fleece me. Above all the dollar shops had gone as well as the apparatchiks who had been so tedious last time.

The meal left very little time for us to get ready for The Sleeping Beauty which started at 18:00. Fortunately, my hotel was almost next door to the Opera House so I didn't need long. The Budapest Opera House is tiny compared to Covent Garden but it is decorated beautifully. It reminded me a lot of the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam.  Mel and I were in the centre of the fifth row of the stalls so enjoyed the best view in the house. The performance was very good and I shall review it soon. During the intervals I explored the theatre and found a shop where I bought a t-shirt and Degas fridge magnets for one of my ballet teacher's daughters and a theatre bar.

Ten of us from the United Kingdom including Mel had come to see the show and Sir Peter Wright is the London Ballet Circle's patron. He had invited us to meet him back stage after the show. We arrived to find a party in progress. Sir Peter introduced us to the Artistic Director who invited us to join in. After speeches by the Director and Sir Peter and photographs we all tucked into the food and drink.
Sir Peter Wright and Jane Lambert
(c) 2016 Mel Wong: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the author

As you can see from the photo I got to talk to one of the great names of British ballet as well as Denis BonnerAliya Tanykpayeva who danced Aurora, Dmitry Timofeev who was Prince Florimund, the talented young Canadian dancer Danielle Gould who danced the white cat and will be featured in a future article and many of the other dancers and staff of the theatre.

Sadly, I did not meet Ryosuke Morimoto who used to be a member of Ernst Meisner's Junior Company, as he was not in The Sleeping Beauty but he seems to be doing very well for he is dancing in Space Fantasy (Planet in Turmoil; The Martian Chronicles) which is opening tonight. I am sure all his chums in Amsterdam and elsewhere will join me in wishing him chukkas for the show. If the YouTube trailer is anything to go by it should be quite a performance.

It was good to see Mel again and see her doing so well. A lot of friends including her teachers at KNT, Hype and Northern Ballet had sent their love and she returned it to them. My visit to Hungary was a very fleeting one but my impression of the country had made a complete about turn. Budapest is a fine city, the Opera House is a beautiful theatre and the National Ballet is definitely one to watch. I hope it comes to the UK soon but in any event I look forward to returning to Budapest and seeing it there again soon.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Winter's Tale Revisited - Some Ballets are better Second Time Round

Antigonus and the Bear from The Winter's Tale 
Author: Thomas Bragg (printmaker)
Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

The Royal Ballet, The Winter's Tale, Royal Opera House, 16 April 2016

Sometimes a dish tastes better second time round. That may be because the meat has a chance to marinate. Or it may be because of a mood change. If you've set your heart on fish and chips and that's no longer on the menu nothing on earth is going to make you enjoy Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy in the same way however tasty that may be.

Theatre can be a bit like that. You see a performance one day and it washes over you. You  see the same show again some time later perhaps with a different cast and it really speaks to you. That has happened to me with Christopher Wheeldon's adaptation of The Winter's Tale.  When I saw it for the first time just over two years ago I thought it was sort of OK but nowt to write home about as we say in Yorkshire and I regret that I damned it with faint praise (see Royal Ballet "The Winter's Tale" 14 April 2014). I wrote:
"I expected so much of The Winter's Tale. I had been looking forward to it for months. A new work by Christopher Wheeldon based on Shakespeare by a fine choreographer for our national company with a stellar cast. It should have blown me off my feet. Well I quite liked the show but blown off my feet? I wasn't."
I saw it again on Monday and loved it unreservedly.

Why the change? I think the reason I didn't get The Winter's Tale the first time round was that I had just not been in the mood for it.  As I wrote at the time:
"Now I have to say that I was not in the most receptive frame of mind when I entered the Royal Opera House. I had a horrible journey down to London and I had been working late throughout the previous night. I had skipped breakfast and had only a light lunch. Consequently I was tired and hungry. Had I not paid a lot of money for my ticket I would have gone straight to bed. Moreover, the reason that I had to work through the night was that I had spent a couple of hours in Huddersfield town hall listening to the Choral's performing one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended or am ever likely to attend. It may be that anything after that concert was going to be an anticlimax."
In fact, I began to appreciate the ballet when I saw it on screen a few days later (see The Winter's Tale - Time to eat my Hat 29 April 2014).  I enjoyed it all the more when I saw it again on on telly on Christmas day.

On Monday I was in the mood for Wheeldon's ballet even though I had been up since 04:00 our time in order to catch my flight home from Budapest after a memorable experience the night before and a hard day's work in London. It is a very satisfying work, architectural in its symmetry with recurring features such as the colour coding of the courts of Bohemia and Sicilia, the bands on stage in all three acts, the moving statues, the trees and galleons .... I could go on. There is much drama in his choreography such as Leontes's contortions to denote his jealousy in act 1 and the symbolic reconciliation of the laying on of hands in act III first by Perdita and Florizel and later by her father. That moment and also the reunion of Perdita with her parents a few moments later had me close to tears. There are moments of great joy such as the folk dancing in act II that I have always liked:
"Act II is very different. Set around a gnarled moss covered tree there is a festival with exuberant dancing accompanied by the most infectiously vibrant music. Perdita danced by Sarah Lamb and Florizel by Stephen McRae fall in love. They are spied on and discovered by Polixenes, king of Bohemia, who threatens to kill them but they set sail to Sicily with the king of Bohemia in hot pursuit. Little details like the fact that Bohenia is landlocked don't seem to have bothered Shakespeare or even Wheeldon. However there is such a thing as poetic licence and this is a case where it applies. Nevertheless, this is is the best bit of the ballet and that is possibly because it is the part that owes least to Shakespeare."
This time I loved it. Similarly, I have always  enjoyed Joby Talbot's score: "Valiant Talbot" as he is described by Nigel Bates in the programme notes. And the special effects - especially the ships and even the bear with its ghostly muzzle - were outstanding.

Did I like this cast more than the last one?  I don't think that could have been possible as I admire Cuthbertson, Lamb, McRae and Watson enormously. But Marianela Nuñez was a magnificent Hermione, Beatriz Stix-Brunell a delightful Perdita, Vadim Muntagirov a charming Florizel and Bennet Gartside reflected the torrent of emotions in Leontes's head brilliantly. Monday was the first time I had noticed Itziar Mendizabal. She danced Paulina, loyal to Hermione and Leontes, and the agent of their reunion and reconciliation which is one of the most moving scenes in any ballet. As he comes from Bradford it is always a pleasure to see Thomas Whitehead. He danced the old shepherd on Monday.

I would love to see this ballet again and I think I owe it to the dancers to see the same cast as I saw in 2014. There will be performances of the work between now and the 10 June.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

...... and they sounded great

The Album Notes for the recording of Richard Bonynge's Giselle
(c) 2016 Gita Mistry, all rights reserved

On Sunday I mentioned my collection of student LPs which I have just discovered (see Look what I've found! 10 April 2016). After as we had seen the Bolshoi's Don Quixote at the National Media Museum Gita and I returned to her home to try out the records on her sound system.

It took a minute or so to adjust the system for these antique recordings but sure enough the overture and morning sounds of the opening scene of Lanchberry's orchestration of Herold's fee emerged loud and strong. There was some hissing and static but quality of the sound was extraordinary. Better that I was able to produce on my portable record player which had been my 21st birthday present from my parents.

As we had done Jane Tucker's intensive a few days earlier Gita placed Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet on the turntable. When the Dance of the Knights came on we counted the beats to the girls' entrance. We were tempted to stride across the room and start our glissades but movement might have destabilized the system. Instead we rehearsed the steps in our minds and metaphorically flew with Juliet when the orchestra played her variation.

After Romeo and Juliet we played side 1 of Swan Lake and then side 1 of The Nutcracker. We could have listened to them all night had we not had jobs to do in the morning.