Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A Good Old Fashioned Swan Lake without Gimmicks

Standard YouTube Licence

Swan Lake is special to me and it has become even more special since I tried to learn the cygnets' dance, Siegfried's solo and the swans' entry at KNT's Swan Lake intensive last year (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3). The last "Swan Lake" I saw had bikes, a whole load of new characters with names like Anthony and Odilia and a completely different story set somewhere where they vote for Bernie Sanders. I didn't like it the first time I saw it in 2004 even though it had a stellar cast (see  Don't Expect Petipa 5 Jan 2016) and I didn't like it any better when I saw it again in March (see Up the Swannee 17 March 2016).

So my tongue is hanging out for a real Swan Lake with a Siegfried, Odette-Odile and Rothbart with all the usual divertissements plus Legnani's 32 fouettés but minus the bikes and other gimmicks. And I am glad to see that English National Ballet have offered us  exactly that with Yonah Acosta as Siegfried, Erina Takahashi as Odette-Odile and Fabian Raimair as Rothbart. That would be more than enough to justify the somewhat steep - nay mountainous - ticket price and the return rail fare to London but my cup would run over were I to see Sarah Kundi and Natasha Watson on stage too.

Audiences in England already know Kundi well and my readers have read how much I admire her work but they may not have seen Watson before.   They should for she is a name to look out for. She is a graduate of Ballet West and I have mentioned her in this blog more than once (see Yet More Good News from Ballet West - Natasha Watson's Medal in the Genée 30 Sept 2013, Natasha Watson in Lausanne 15 Nov 2014, and A Cause for Double Celebration at the Robin's Nest 9 Feb 2016). You will find her picture here.

Watson is interviewed together with other young artists in yesterday's post to the English National Ballet's blog "It’s hard work being a swan!" 30 May 2016 ENB blog. You can say that again folks.  I KNOW. I'VE TRIED TO DO IT."

Monday, 30 May 2016

Somehow I have to get Vlad the Lad to Amsterdam Next April

If this video is anything to go by, the Dutch National Ballet's Little Big Chest is a delightful ballet. Vlad the Lad would love it. Choreographed by Ernst Meinser this work is created for young children between the ages of 4 and 6. Vlad has already seen Dogs don't do Ballet, Aladdin, My First Ballet Coppelia and two performances by his granny in Leeds (see The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014 29 June 2016 and
Northern Ballet Academy's End of Year Show 9 June 2015) but I think this will be special.

The synopsis is intriguing:
"A girl is sitting alone in the attic. She’s bored. She has nobody to play with. She leans against a big chest. Suddenly, she hears strange noises. Two fantasy friends jump out of the chest. At first, they find each other strange. Then they become friends and want to play and dance together. They think up a plan. Where can you play? Where can you dance? Where can you be everything you want to be? Together, they make something very big. They make a… You’ll find out what they make in the performance of The little big chest."
The ballet is danced by two young women and one young man from the Junior Company.

It will next be performed in Amsterdam on the 21 and 22 April 2017,. The 22 is a Saturday and there's a convenient flight from Southend Airport.

Tell Tale Steps #2

Charlotte Edmonds's Fuse danced by the Dutch National Ballet
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet
All rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the company

One of the more interesting events of last year was Northern Ballet's Tell Tale Steps. That was a day at the Stanley and Audrey Theatre which began with company class, continued with a discussion on the future of narrative dance and finally a performance of the works of several of the choreographers. I attended part of the event and reviewed it in My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015. There is also a film of the day on the "About the Lab" page of Northern Ballet's website.

The company has just announced a similar event for this year called Tell Tale Steps 2 Narrative in Ballet. It will take place in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre on 16 June at 18:00. The format for the event will be different from last year which is probably a good thing:

Tell Tale Steps 2

"First, hear a panel of leading arts professionals discuss the delights and difficulties of creating narrative in dance. Then share with five emerging choreographers the results of their research into how to create a narrative through dance. Following a three week residency at Northern Ballet, the choreographers demonstrate, with dancers from the company, how they have investigated the building blocks of dance narrative, creating characters, a sense of place and drama.
The five selected choreographers have been supported in their research by David Nixon OBE, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet and mentors from Dance, Theatre, Film and Literature.
The choreographers are Lucia Solari, First Soloist at Northern Ballet; Morgann Runacre-Temple, Freelance Choreographer and Choreographer in Residence at Ballet Ireland, National Ballet of Ireland; Tobias Batley, Premier Dancer at Northern Ballet; Charlotte Edmonds, Freelance Choreographer; and Carlos Pons Guerra, Choreographer and Artistic Director of Denada Dance."
Of course I know about Charlotte Edmonds and have seen the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company perform her Fuse in Ballet Bubbles quite recently (see Fuse 22 Feb 2016 and Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016) but this will be the first time I will have seen any work from Tobias Batley. I turned to The Choreographers page to learn more. There is plenty of info on his dancing but nothing on his choreography. I shall be interested to see what he will do. Lucia Solari is another Northern Ballet dancer whose work I look forward to seeing.

Tickets for the event cost £6 to £12 and can be booked on-line through the theatre's website.

Should we stay or should we go?

European Union
Source Wikipedia

A very interesting debate has taken place on BalletcoForum on "how is leaving or staying with the EU going to affect the arts?" The thread has now been locked by one of the moderators but before the discussion was closed down one of the subscribers referred to an article by the arts writer Jessica Duchen entitled I'm IN, and here's why you should be too 25 March 2016 Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog.

Duchen gave a number of compelling reasons for remaining in the EU:
  • British musicians will lose their treaty right to perform in other parts of the EU and EU musicians will lose their right to perform here with the result that "quality levels will most likely drop and career prospects for UK musicians will be unnecessarily hobbled";
  • If British artists had to obtain work permits or visas to perform in the Schengen area logistics will be more complicated and costs will rise;
  • many of our employment rights derive from EU legislation:  "Take those away and the pro-Brexiters left in charge will get rid of your rights faster than you can say Emmeline Pankhurst";
  • British students will lose their right to study in countries like Germany where there are no tuition fees; and
  • it will be harder and more expensive to travel to concerts and other performances in the EU if sterling falls and the advantages that have been achieved by the Commission's intervention such as cheap fares cease to be available to us.
And the advantages of leaving? 

"In the interests of 'balance'," writes Duchen "I've been trying to think of one advantage for the music industry of leaving.
"I've come up with....
Nothing. Null. Nix. Nada. Nul points. (Oh, right - perhaps if we exit Europe we would have to leave the Eurovision Song Contest. That would be an advantage because the British entries are usually so embarrassing.)"
Duchen's views are shared by 96% of the members of the Creative Industries Federation including Deborah Bull and Andrea Stark, chief executive of High House Production Park in Thurrock where the Royal Opera House's Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production Workshop is located (see David Cameron Meets the Fed as Members Vote Remain May 2016). Andrea Stark writes:
“Our new costume centre would not have been possible without support from the European Regional Development Fund - crucially it unlocked the other funds necessary to make this development happen. The Bob and Tamar Manoukian Costume Centre will house costumes for Royal Opera House productions, and a new BA (Hons.) degree course in costume construction will be delivered from the centre’s bespoke workrooms.”
Duchen mentioned a letter to The Guardian signed by 300 historians (see Lessons from history for the Brexiters 24 May 2016) although I have to say that I am more impressed by the views of 600 British economists:
"Poll shows 88% of 600 experts fear long-term fall in GDP if UK leaves single market, and 82% are alarmed over impact on household income" (see Economists overwhelmingly reject Brexit in boost for Cameron 28 May 2016).
Or, indeed, the view of The Economist itself (see The Brexit Delusion 27 Feb 2016).

There is a contrary argument (other than xenophobia) based on the contention that the EU is too inward looking, too bureaucratic and decreasingly important in a world in which trade will gravitate increasingly towards East Asia and that we can run our economy better and secure better access to the markets of China, India and other countries outside Europe through our own efforts than in concert with our continental neighbours.  I see some force in that argument but at the end of the day it is a matter of judgment and on the balance of probabilities I think it is wrong. Though I have formed my view independently, I draw comfort from the fact that it coincides with that of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Managing Director of the World Bank, the President of the United States and all the other luminaries from around the world who have weighed into the referendum debate on the side of Remain.

Nevertheless, I would vote Remain even if the economic arguments were stacked the other way. I have been inspired by the European ideal ever since I was a child. One of the sources of that inspiration is a common European culture. That culture is expressed through literature, music, painting and, of course, the performing arts. In particular the art of Terpsichore, which evolved in the courts of renaissance Italy, was codified in 17th century France, refined in Paris, Copenhagen and St Petersburg, conveyed to England by the Ballets Russes and now flourishes in theatres, opera houses, studios and even draughty gyms and church halls the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Want a class tomorrow?


Most dance teachers and students will take the day off tomorrow but Danceworks and Pineapple will be open.

You will find Danceworks's schedule here and Pineapple's here.

If you are a beginner or, like me, a show learner, I can strongly recommend Adam Pudney's class at Danceworks between 16:00 and 17:30. He has high standards and although he also has abundant patience he will expect the best from you and squeeze it out of you.   I have taken two of his classes (see Pineapple 20 Nov 2013 and Another Slice of Pineapple 12 July 2015) and enjoyed them both tremendously.

If you go to either studio you will need to buy at least temporary membership which entitles you to enter the building and then pay the instructor for his or her class. Fees vary but most seem to be about £8.

Dawson's Swan Lake comes to Liverpool

A typically generous tweet from one of my favourite dancers whose company has also been busy with its performances of 1984 at Sadler's Wells and Jane Eyre at Richmond.   The "fabulous ballet tradition" to which Hannah Bateman refers is probably the one referred to by Graham Watts:
I am personally delighted by both promotions because Bethany Kingsley-Garner delighted me with her performance as Cinderella last December (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015) and Constance Devernay with hers in Hansel and Gretel.  I might add in passing that I hope Hampson's renewal of the tradition spreads to other companies because I can think of at least one female leading soloist whose elevation to "premier" (or principal) dancer I should like to see very much indeed.

Yesterday I tipped Scottish Ballet's Swan Lake in What's On Tonight 28 May 2016 even though I have not yet seen it. I felt safe in doing so for two reasons.  The first is that I have seen David Dawson's work before and trust him to do a good job (see my reviews of Empire Noire and 5 in Going Dutch 29 June 2015 and Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016). The second is that I know and trust the company having followed them ever since they were in Bristol. I love them dearly and they have never disappointed me.  I can't say that of many other companies. Not even the Royal Ballet.

Dawson was commissioned to create a new Swan Lake and the synopsis suggests that is exactly what he has done. It is possible to be innovative without being gimicky and his story seems to be one that is believable and within human experience yet faithful to the classical tale.  However, it is not just Petipa that inspired Dawson. According to Scottish Ballet's website he also drew inspiration from Zbigniew Herbert's poem Study of the Object.

Does it work?  I shall find out on Friday when I see the ballet for myself at the Liverpool Empire. However, one Northern Irish ballet goer seems to think so:
And the conclusion was:

I have never met Friends Ballet NI and do not even know the author's gender but I know from his or her tweets that he or she is very knowledgeable and perceptive about ballet.  I remember tweeting to Friends Ballet NI from Leeds station last March about another company's Swan Lake which I did not like nearly as much as he or she seems to like Scottish Ballet's. If Friends Ballet NI who has had to take a flight or cross the sea to see it enjoyed last night's show, I don't think anybody who took my tip yesterday will be sharpening a claymore out for my blood for wasting his or her evening.

Changing the subject radically I do hope to see Matthew Broadbent on Friday. He used to be with Northern Ballet and he is greatly missed.  Not only is he a fine dancer as you will see from my review of Cinderella he is also something of a novelist. Check out The Boy from Colombo and The Girl from Bletchley Park (Dr Shaw Murder Mystery).

Saturday, 28 May 2016

What's on Tonight

The Coliseum
Author Mile Peel
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Want to see a ballet tonight?   Here's your choice:

Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Northern Ballet
Sadler’s Wells
Very limited
Ballet Black
Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Dogs don’t do Ballet
Don’t miss
Scottish Ballet
Festival Edinburgh
Some availability

Ballet Theatre UK
Hertford Theatre

If I could get to London in time my recommendations would be the Royal Ballet's triple bill or Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet.   If I were in Scotland I would make tracks for Edinburgh to see Swan Lake.

PS, How could I forget these dear people? Ballet Cymru are dancing Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs at the Blackwood Miners' Institute though I think they have sold out. If you can get there then go. Here's my review of last week's show. 

My Last Three Pictures from Budapest: Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty

Dimitry Timofeev and Aliya Tankpaveva
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

All good things must come to an end and I have finally come to the end of my stock of photos of the Hungarian National Ballet's opening night of Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty at the Budapest Opera House on Sunday 17 April 2016.   As you can see I have left some of the best till last.  My thanks to Mr. György Jávorszky, the company's press officer and to the photographer Atilla Nagy.

The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

You will find my review of the ballet and a short video at Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest 23 April 2016.

The other photos are at:
The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

You may also wish to read my article on the background to the ballet (The Hungarian National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 24 Feb 2016) and my account of the cast party (My Trip to Hungary 21 April 2016) and watch the delightful video of the Puss in Boots divertiseement.


Alicia Alonso
Source Wikipedia

Javier Torres's appearance at the London Ballet Circle last Monday reminded me of the extraordinary contribution of Cuban dancers to British ballet. Torrres is for the moment one of two male premier dancers at Northern Ballet  the other of whom has just announced that he is about to take leave of absence (see Batley and Leebolt 10 May 2016). Carlos Acosta may have retired as principal dancer with the Royal Ballet (see Au Revoir but not Adieu 19 Nov 2015) but he is still very busy. Yonah Acosta and Alejandro Virelles are principals of English National Ballet.

I could go on and I could also find Cubans as principal dancers in many other countries around the world. That is impressive for a country with a population of just over 11 million whose gross national income is US$7,301 per head which ranks 67 in the UN's human development index (see UN Development Programme Human Development Indicators).

Clearly one reason for such success is that it has directed considerable resources to the development of the the art which is only possible in a command economy (see Michael Voss Passion fuelling Cuban Ballet Boom 7 Nov 2008 BBC).  According to Wikipedia the Cuban National Ballet School is the biggest in the world with over 3,000 students and there are several other schools and classes throughout the island. Another reason, however, is the genius, drive and vision of Alicia Alonso, the founder of the National Ballet of Cuba. Alonso, who had a glittering career in the USA, established the National Ballet in the name of the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company some 11 years before the present government came to power.

This blog has acknowledged Alonso's genius in two articles. The first is the review by Joanna Goodman of the National Ballet's Swan Lake in Havana on 27 June 2014 (see "We are the dancers, we create the dreams": Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2016). Alonso took the curtain call and Joanna managed to snap that great dancer together with Viengsay Valdés who danced Odette-Odile that night. The second was my tribute to Alonso on her 95th birthday last December (see Alicia Alonso 22 Dec 2015).

For many years Cuba was isolated from its neighbours by diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed by the USA and other members of the Organization of American States. During that period Cuba depended heavily on aid from the former Soviet Union and its allies which would have increased Soviet influence in all areas of Cuban life including the performing arts. Happily there has been rapprochement between Cuba and the USA which means that Cuba will be open to other influences. Will ballet continue to flourish in ballet n changing times? I hope so and think there is every chance that it will if only because ballet is flourishing in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Lowry CAT

There are in England nine Centres for Advanced Training in Dance ("CAT") which identify children and young people with exceptional talent for dance and develop them through contact with leading dancers, teachers and choreographers. One of the Centres is in Leeds and Mel and I attended its 10th anniversary gala and "decadent afternoon tea" at Northern Ballet's studios and the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre just under two years ago (see Coming Down to Earth Gently 30 June 2014). It was a glorious afternoon and much if not all the credit belongs to Hannah Bateman who was in charge of it.

Just across the Pennines, however, is another CAT in the Lowry at Salford in Greater Manchester. As you can see from the film that Centre does great work too. Like the other schemes the Lowry is
"a part time, pre-vocational course, providing access to high quality training and nurturing in dance to young people who have a passion for the art form and who wish to progress toward full time training."
It is funded by the Department of Education and offers intensive training opportunities with professional dance teachers, choreographers and practitioners.  Anyone aged between 10 and 16 may apply for the scheme and those who are accepted may stay until they are 18.

Students are expected to take between 10 to 14 hours of class a week which should include ballet, contemporary dance and creative workshops of which 3 hours should be at the Lowry.  The instructors have glittering credentials.  Paul Bayes Kitcher was a soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet and Rob Bell spent 15 years with the Dutch National Ballet. Students have worked with Akram Khan, Christopher Marney, Hofesh Shechter and many other choreographers and companies during their training.

Those who complete their training successfully proceed to vocational training at schools like Ballet West and Central. One of the programme's graduates is Isaac Bowry who impressed me with his performances as Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker (see Ballet West's The Nutcracker 25 Feb 2013) Rothbart in Swan Lake (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014)  and Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (see Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015) when he was with Ballet West. I am not sure where he is now but I snatched a fragment of conversation at a recent London Ballet Circle event when his name was mentioned with a commendation.

Fees appear to be £3,649 per year and parents with household incomes under £65,840 can qualify for grants.  Those who want to find out more should call 0161 876 2018 or email CAT@thelowry.com.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Opportunities not just for Dancers

Standard YouTube Licence

When I visited Amsterdam in February I toured the studios and workshops of the Dutch National Ballet. The tour included the wardrobe department and I saw many of the costumes for Mata Hari shown in the film above (see Double Dutch Delights 17 Feb 2016). Later in the day I attended Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart Theatre which opened with a speech by Ernst Meisner in which he said that the Junior Company provided opportunities not just to outstanding young dancers but to technicians and support staff.

My ears pricked up because one of the members of my ballet class at Huddersfield University is a young fine arts and design student with a passion for ballet who happens to be half Dutch. She has already been accepted for a summer placement with the Royal Opera House and hopes to make her career in the theatre. On my return to Yorkshire I told her about Ernst's speech and my tour of the Stopera and she asked me to find out more about the programme for her.

Yesterday the company's press officer Richard Heideman sent me the requested information.  The company recruits its costume designers from the Stichting  Meesteropleiding Coupeur (Master Tailoring Institute) in Amsterdam. The Institute runs a three year training course in partnership with the Dutch National Ballet, the National Opera and other companies much in the way that the Junior Company provides a bridge between ballet school and the senior company.

Anyone who is interested in the programme should contact the institute at:
Stichting Meesteropleiding Coupeur
Jan Maijenstraat 11-15
T 020 820 1153
E info@meesteropleidingcoupeur.nl
Yesterday I wrote about the crowd funding intuitive for the young American dancer Melsissa Chapski and the Italian Giovanni Princic (see Crowdfunding for the Ballet 25 May 2016). The donations page is in Dutch which Nadja van Deursen who is in charge of fund raising for the National Ballet thought might be a problem for us Brits who are notorious monoglots. Actually I don't think it is because Dutch is the nearest relation to English and I can understand most of what is written or said to me in the Netherlands including Ernst's speech though that may be because I studied German which even more closely related to Dutch at secondary school. Be that as it may she has suggested that those of us who are not Dutch can donate to Melissa and Giovanni's scholarship fund through this page and I have just done so.


It is just over two years since Mel and I attended Chantry Dance's Dream Dance workshop and their performance of Sandman at the Drill Hall at Lincoln but the company seems to get stronger and stronger each time I hear from them. Yesterday they announced that the Council for Dance and Education Training had recognized the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts with its certificate of good professional practice. Not bad progress for s school which was launched less than a year ago (see If only I were young again - Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts 27 July 2015). It says a lot for the prestige of an institution if it can attract to a small town in the East Midlands on a Sunday afternoon some of the biggest names in the performing arts as it did on 17 April 2016 (see What's in a Name 26 April 2016).

With such a meteoric rise it is not surprising that the company's newest work will be on rocketry. The title of the work is Ulysses Unbound. As the company celebrated the 160th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde with the Happy Prince two years ago (see The Happy Prince in Halifax 23 Nov 2014) I had supposed that Ulysses Unbound might have something to do with another Irish literary giant but I couldn't have been more wrong. According to the company's website:
"The last astronaut has left a dying earth in search of a new home. In a thrilling cascade of stunning characters, costumes and imagery, he witnesses the birth of a new star and finds himself on an alien world, populated by very alien creatures!
This extraordinary ballet combines an exciting original soundtrack with contemporary ballet danced by an exceptional international cast. Through the fascinating choreography the dancers interpret cosmic events, from the evolution of a star to the formation of a deadly black hole."
The choreography for this new ballet is by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper to a score by Tim Mountain who wrote the music for Chasing the Eclipse which I reviewed in Gravity Fields - Chasing the Eclipse 28 Sept 2014.

Chasing the Eclipse was launched at the Gravity Fields science festival in 2014 and Ulysses Unbound will be launched during this year's festival at the Guidhall Arts Centre on 21 Sept 2016. It will then go on tour around England stopping at Stamford, Birmingham, Worcester and London. Science and the arts are said to be opposites but they needn't and shouldn't be. One of the reasons why I admire Sharon Watson's TearFall so much is that the piece combines science with s lot of humanity (see my reviews The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2016 and Phoenix in Huddersfield 27 Nov 2015). The programme for this year's Gravity Fields festival between 21 and 24 Sept 2016 promises all sorts of interesting talks, performances and other events.

Sadly I have to be in Geneva for a WIPO meeting at  CERN  of all places  between the 22 and 24 Sept 2016 but I do hope to see something of this festival. I also hope that as many of my readers as possible will hop into their cars, board a train or even a plane to see this beautiful little town and this fine company.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Crowdfunding for the Ballet

Melissa Chapski and Giovanni Princic
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by kind permission of the company

I argued in Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers 13 March 2014 that more money could be raised for the arts by licensing, merchandising and sponsorship. The Dutch National Ballet have been particularly innovative in that regard.  One of its most imaginative initiatives has been its collaboration in the design and marketing of Bounden, an award winning dancing game for two players (see Bounden - Something that appeals to my Interests in Technology and Dance 17 Dec 2013, Bounden Part II - How it works 1 Feb 2014 and Bounden Launched 28 May 2014).

The company's latest fund raising method has been crowd funding. On 12 May it launched a campaign to raise scholarships for two outstanding young dancers, the Italian Giovanni Princic, and the American Melissa Chapski (see Crowdfunding Campaign for Juniors Melissa and Giovanni on the Dutch National Ballet's website). The above photo shows them in van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes which I covered on 9 March 2016.

Van Manen is one of the big names mentioned on the website who train the Junior Company's dancers. Others include its principals, Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker. The aim is to give those dancers a "last little push to reach their final goal: getting to the top of the ballet world". Readers can do that using their debit or credit cards through the donations page of the company's website.

As I said in 70 Years of the London Ballet Circle 10 May 2016 Ernst Meisner's name cropped up more than once in my conversations with dancers, dance administrators and teachers in this company. That is largely because he spent 10 years with the Royal Ballet and we regard him with great affection as one of our own but also because of his work with the Junior Company providing a bridge between ballet school and the company. I asked whether any company here had thought of setting up a junior company and was told that it would be something that they would all like to do but that it would cost too much money. If that is the case, maybe the Dutch have shown us a way to raise that money.

Returning to Giovanni and Melissa I do hope a generous contribution to their scholarship comes from this country.  The rewards of giving will be not only the dancers' gratitude but also "great personal rewards" which I surmise to be great performances  some of which could be in London.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Giacomo Casanova
Author Francesco Giuseppe
Source Wikipedia

Yesterday's announcement of a new full length ballet on the life of Giacomo Casanova by Kenneth Tindall cheered me and perhaps a lot of other well wishers of Northern Ballet. With the exceptions of Jonathan Watkins 's 1984 and Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre which are about to appear in London there seem to have been rather a lot of revivals, and not always my favourite ones. I have often heard it said that narrative ballets are the company's strong suit but the performances that I have enjoyed the most have been the mixed programmes which are normally staged at the Stanley and Audrey Burton and Linbury at this time of the year. Two of the best ballets from those programmes have been  Luminous Junc*ture and The Architect both of which were created by Kenneth Tindall.

A ballet created on a biography rather than an English literature set book makes a refreshing change in itself. Tindll's collaborator on the scenario is Ian Kelly who has written a biography of the adventurer (see Kathryn Hughes's Naughty nuns and peeping Toms, Kathryn Hughes admires the energy and brio in a new life of Casanova 16 Aug 2016 The Guardian). For the score Tindall has chosen Kerry Muzzey who contributed The Architect of Mind to Tindall's Architect  (see Kerry Muzzey’s “The Making of: The Architect” on Vimeo). Christopher Oram will design the sets and costumes.

The ballet will open in Leeds on 11 March 2017 and then tour the country before finally reaching London on the 9 May 2016. Interestingly it will visit The Lowry rather than The Palace where the company usually perform when it passes through Greater Manchester. Parking is better there and the booking fees are much more reasonable. It is not clear who will dance the ballet but as Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt will be on leave of absence next year Javier Torres would be an obvious candidate for the the title role. There should also be a fair number of female roles too.  As and when I get more info about this work I shall let you know.

In the meantime, if you want to know more about the subject of the ballet Giacomo Casanova was a prodigious autobiographer, A translation of his autobiography can be downloaded from the Gutenberg Project.

Monday, 23 May 2016


One of the highlights of Northern Ballet's 40th anniversary gala last year was Javier Torres's Dying Swan (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). Here is what I wrote about it:
"So there was a lot of emotion welling up inside me before Torres took to the stage. At first I was in despair because the cello was almost drowned by sound effects but then it shone through and so did Torres. He was as beautiful and as moving as Glurdjidze. And indeed as Pavlova so far as I can tell from my mother's description and the film. Again I was moved to tears. Now I am a hard nosed barrister specializing in patents and I don't cry easily but I couldn't help myself yesterday. Some of those tears were prompted by my associations with Pavlova and my mother's story but most sprung from Torres's dancing. And when the auditorium exploded with applause at the end of his piece I felt sure it was the latter."
Torres is my favourite male dancer with Northern Ballet by a country mile and with Batley and Leebolt's recent announcement he appears to be the company's only remaining male premier dancer for the time being.

He trained in Havana and joined Northern Ballet after a glittering career in Cuba.  In the words of the London Ballet Circle:
"Javier joined Northern Ballet in 2010 as Premier Dancer. He has performed leading roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Ondine, Beauty & the Beast, Hamlet, Madame Butterfly, Cleopatra, The Great Gatsby and Hans van Manen's Concertante. His performance as Caesar in Cleopatra was voted one of the top hundred favourite performances by the UK dance critics in Dance Europe Magazine for the 2010-2011 season."
Tonight Torres will be the guest of the London Ballet Circle  at the Civil Service Club, 13-15 Great Scotland Yard, London, SW1A 2HJ 19:30 where he will be interviewed by Susan Johnson.  Members of the public will be admitted to his interview upon payment of an £8 admission fee (£5 for Circle members).

The Circle's next guest. Jonathan Watkins, also has a connection with Northern Ballet in that he created the delightful Northern Trilogy for the Sapphire gala as well as 1984 for the company. He will be interviewed by Allison Potts at the Civil Service Club at 19:30 on the 6 June 2016.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Inversedance casts a Spell

Inversedance  is a Hungarian Contemporary Dance company, with its headquarters in Budapest, founded by Artistic Director and Choreographer Zoltan Fodor in 2010. Originally a project-based ensemble that included Fodor, Assistant Director & Choreographer Kitty Balkanyi and rising talent Zsofia Szeki amongst its performers, the company has in recent years grown into a troupe of 5 full-time dancers* that openly collaborate with international freelance dancers, performers and choreographers. Inversedance possesses a diverse repertoire of engaging children’s performances and thought-provoking adult works, which combined with the calibre of its dancers and performers, gives it a strong reputation that stretches beyond the Central European dance scene.

Traviata ©Csaba Mezaros 2016

The first five months of 2016 has seen Inversedance perform 3 very distinct and different pieces of work in Budapest: the premiere performances of Traviata, a collaboration between Fodor and GG Dance Eger’s Tamas Topolanszky that will tour to Eger and Debrecen later this month; the immensely popular Vuk, the Little Fox based on Istvan Fekete’s classic Hungarian story, which the company also performed in Serbia in 2015; and most recently the Budapest premier of The Enchanted Castle at Mupa’s Festival Theatre.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

A wonderfully immersive and theatrical production, Enchanted Castle uses music, songs and Fodor’s unique movement language to tell the story of a reckless little boy, Gede, and his adventure into a magical world. Gede is a bit of a bully who, with his two equally unpleasant friends, delights in causing mayhem and mischief. One day he finds himself in possession of a book that contains within its pages the power to transport him into a fantastical realm (the enchanted castle of the title). Whilst on his adventure in the mysterious castle, Gede meets an array of characters and begins to learn the true value of kindness and friendship.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

This is a classic morality tale that is simple enough for the youngest of theatre audiences to digest, but is equally as heart-warming for adult viewers, too. The production makes good use of a classic proscenium stage set-up, enhanced with sets and costumes by long-term collaborator Arpad Ivanyi and lighting by Ferenc Stadler. Enchanted Castle also contains some musical surprises, amongst a montage of familiar tunes are original, atmospheric soundscapes from Attila Gergely. A dancer himself, Gergely has collaborated with Inversedance on a number of their productions including Fodor’s Esther and Home Sweet Home, Lorand Zachar’s After the Choice and his self-choreographed Alleluja.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

Being a family-oriented production Enchanted Castle contains just the right amount of amusingly rowdy moments of audience participation, one of which is central to the plot! That’s not to say, however, that the piece is lacking in dance content. Having come to know it a little over the 6 months that I’ve been in Budapest, I was curious as to how Fodor’s sensual choreography would work in a family production. Prior to forming the company, Fodor had an extensive performance career with some of Hungary’s leading modern ballet companies (Budapest Dance Theatre, Ballet Pecs, Szegedi Kortars Balett and Ballet Debrecen) and this wealth of experience has served to inform his highly distinctive movement vocabulary. Paying homage to classical line and technique, Fodor’s choreography pushes his dancers to the limits of their range, emotionally and physically, and is grounded and spacious. In Enchanted Castle, Fodor (assisted by Balkanyi) uses simple movement patterns from the very beginning to convey a narrative, but amps things up stylistically and choreographically as Gede journeys through the castle.

It’s a unique thing to see an established contemporary dance company such as this invest as much creativity, time and commitment to performance into children’s productions as it does into what could be considered more artistically fulfilling endeavours like adult narrative works. Aside from Newcastle’s Ballet Lorent, I’m at a loss to find a UK contemporary dance company at this level that has such successful family pieces in its repertoire. The mission of Inversedance is to ‘help everyone, especially the younger generations open up to become more appreciative of the arts’ and it’s this openness and willingness to engage audiences of all generations that has contributed to the company’s success on an international scale. Alongside an extensive tour in Central Europe, in 2015 Inversedance were invited to perform at the International Bartok Music Festival & Symposium in Ankara, the 8th edition of the Kaay Fecc Festival in Dakar and the XVI Manta por la Danza and XIII Fragmentos de Junio international dance festivals in Ecuador. It is my pleasure and privilege to be able to introduce Terpsichore readers to this exciting company in 2016, and maybe 2017 will bring them to the shores and stages of the UK!

Inversedance are currently performing original choreographies in Beijing, China as part of the Hungarian Month festival. You can view future tour dates here and follow the company on Facebook 

*Bianca Bodi, Peter Bodor and Zsoka Lendvay comprise the rest of the company

Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour

Darius James with Gwenllian Davies and Miguel Fernandes
Photo Gita Mistry
(c) 2016 Gita Mistry, all rights reserved

Ballet Cynru, Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, Riverfront Theatre, Newport 21 May 2016

Last night I attended the opening of Ballet Cymru's summer tour at the company's home theatre in Newport. The works which they are taking on tour are revivals of Roald Dahl's  Little Red Riding Hood & The Three Little Pigs to celebrate the centenary of the writer's birth and Romeo a Juliet to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.  Both ballets were created by Darius James and Amy Doughty whose work I admire very much indeed. Their Cinderella was outstanding. It was so good that it was my ballet of the year and their Tir was my number two (see Highlights of 2015 29 Dec 2915).

The work which the company performed last night was Lwhich I previewed in Hard not to have Favourites ...... Ballet Cymru's Little Red Riding Hood rides again 28 April 2016). These are dance dramas based on two of Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes which are connected by the appearance of Little Red Riding Hood as wolf slayer in both works. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf are act 1 and The Three Little Pigs are act 2. The ballet is very short which makes it suitable for young children of whom there were quite a few in the audience last night but those stories have an ironic twist epitomized by the line "Ah, Piglet, you must never trust Young ladies from the upper crust" which appeals to adults.

The central figure in the show (or as Gita would say "person of the match") was Little Red Riding Hood danced last night by Lydia Arnoux who displayed her usual virtuosity with charm and humour but she was supported strongly by Mark Griffiths who told the story and also by Andrea Battagia who danced the wolf and Robbie Moorcroft who danced the dissolute alcoholic grandma in act 1. Yesterday was an opportunity to see Ballet Cymru's latest recruits two of whom appear with Darius James in the photo above. Gwenllian Davies, who is actually Welsh, danced the virtuous grandmother yesterday. Her companion, Miguel Fernandes, was part of a cow in act 1 and a pig in act 2. Dylan Waddell was the other half of the cow. Anna Pujol was a pig in both acts. They all performed well as did the whole cast.

The recruitment of four new dancers with excellent credentials attests to the increasing strength and self confidence of the company. It is still relatively small in numbers but not in ambition for it will perform Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs to the accompaniment of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in the massive Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 4 Dec 2016. That will be a great day and a coming of age for a great little company. Wherever you are in the country, nay Europe or indeed the world, it will be worth a trip to Cardiff for it will be a day to remember.