Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Ballet Cymru's Big Give Appeal

Ballet Cymru
(c) 2015 Gita Mistry: all rights reserved

I have already asked you to dig deep for English National Ballet's Dance for Parkinson in ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's 25 Nov 2016 and Birmingham Royal Ballet to stage La Bayadere in A Birmingham Bayadere 26 Nov 2016 . I urge you to support those causes once again. I also ask you to add Balletboyz Parkinson's can dance. But there is one other appeal I should like you to consider.  It is smaller than the others but no less deserving.

Ballet Cymru, some of the sweetest people I know in dance, hope to raise £1,000 in the Big Give for a new roof with solar panels. They need it because their existing roof is beginning to leak in several places putting props and costumes at risk. Responsibly they also want to reduce their carbon footprint.  They have already arranged £1,000 match funding and another £1,000 from the public is not too much to ask - is it?

We are very lucky in this country to have strong regional companies in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Newport as well as world class companies like the Royal Ballet and ENB and we must cherish them all.

Leeds Dance Partnership

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On the very day that Northern Ballet's Artistic Director, David Nixon, addressed the London Ballet Circle, Arts Council England announced that it had granted £750,000 to Northern Ballet out of its "Ambition for Excellence" fund "to support the creation of the Leeds Dance Partnership." This is a £35.2 million fund to support
"Audio-visual, broadcast and transmission, commissioning, digital creation, exhibition, festival, original work, performance, production."
It is a rolling programme from 28 May 2015 to 27 Oct 2017 which is open to National Portfolio Organizations. museums and consortiums.

Northern Ballet is a National PortfolioOrganization as I mentioned in How Arts Council England supports Dance 10 Oct 2015. In that article, I noted that the Arts Council had recommended "dance hubs" to be developed in Birmingham and Leeds. As regards Leeds the Arts Council observed:
"Leeds has the potential to become a major regional dance centre. We suggested that Northern Ballet should work with Phoenix, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Dance and others to explore how they might work collaboratively to build a broad dance culture in Leeds, capable of increasing audiences and attracting and retaining talent in the city."
Northern Ballet seems to have acted upon that recommendation for it held the event that was recorded in the video on 12 April 2016.

In conjunction with Burns Associates, a steering committee which included Mark Skipper of Northern Ballet and Sharon Watson of Phoenix applied for funding for the partnership. The committee set out its objectives in Leeds Dance Partnership A step change for dance in the north Update September 2016:
  • "Better and more work made in Leeds and the north and toured elsewhere; 
  • Better and more work toured into Leeds and the north; 
  • More diverse audiences and participants watching, owning, co-curating and taking part in dance."
Will it work?  I fervently hope so but it will not be easy.  Leeds's population is significantly smaller than Birmingham's.

One of the problems of state funding for the arts in the way that it exists in the UK is that the funding agency looks at the arts from the producer's point of view rather than the audience's. That is entirely the wrong end of the telescope.  If you want to create a market for an art form you start where the market actually is and not where the creators would like it to be.  It is, after all, the public that pays for the arts whether as patrons or taxpayers and public generosity is not unlimited.  As the economy enters post-Brexit uncertainty how much longer an organization created by Lord Keynes can continue in a post-Keynesian age.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Castro and Cuban Ballet

Fidel Castro 1926-2916
Author Antônio Milena
Source Wikipedia

Whether your opinion of him is closer to that of Mr Jeremy Corbyn or that of President Elect Trump, it would appear that the late Fidel Castro was personally responsible for the phenomenal development of ballet in Cuba. Acknowledging that achievement is not to endorse or excuse the former leader any more than admiration for the German motorway system can be a justification of Adolf Hitler, but the construction of those highways in the 1930s like the success of Cuban dancers are historical facts that cannot be denied.

In her article in The Guardian We owe it all to Castro 3 Aug 2015,  Judith Mackrell quoted Alicia Alonso:
"before Castro, "professional ballet just didn't exist in Cuba, not at all". She had tried to do what she could, returning from a stellar career abroad to run a small company in Havana, which she subsidised with her earnings and cast with imported dancers."
After he came to power, Castro offered Alonso US$250,000 to set up a state ballet company in Cuba. Mackrell continues:
"When Castro came to her with his remarkable appeal Alonso was ready. Her first imperative was to begin training local dancers and her second was to train local audiences. "In the beginning the people knew nothing, so we went into the factories and into the military centres to teach the ballet to them."
As a result of those efforts Cuba established regional ballet schools around the island as well as the National Ballet School that trained artists like Javier Torres and Carlos Acosta and developed "one of the most devoted dance audiences in the world,"

Joanna noted that devotion  in her review of the National Ballet of Cuba's Swan Lake when Alicia Alonso herself came on stage to take a curtain call (see We are the dancers, we create the dreams: Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2014). I have never visited Havana but I have seen the National Ballet when it has danced in London and I know the talent and enthusiasm of the dancers. The Cuban people may well have paid a terrible price in terms of political oppression and economic stagnation but it is hard to see how that success could have been achieved without Castro.

I am no fan of Fidel Castro or the political and economic system that he created but I am a fan of Javier Torres, Carlos Acosta, all the other dancers from Cuba in the companies of the world and, above all, Alicia Alonso.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Peony Pavilion

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The National Ballet of China The Peony Pavilion, The Lowry, 26 Nov 2016. 19:30

With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, an estimated GDP of US$9.24 trillion in 2013 and a brilliant civilization thousands of years old, I expected a lot from the National Ballet of China's version of The Peony Pavillion. In many ways, we got a lot: a beautiful libretto based on a love story that is said to be a classic of Chinese literature, some fine choreography from Fei Bo, some excellent dancing and some breathtaking designs. However, I had been expecting even more -something commensurate with China's status as a superpower - a work that would stand comparison with the best of the Bolshoi. American Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet and the other great national ballet companies of the world. In its present form, it was good but not great - but I think it has the potential for greatness and the company certainly does.

The weakest element of The Peony Pavillion as it stands is the score. Basically, there isn't one or at least not an original one.  Guo Wenjing, who has created such beautiful orchestral work as Riding on the Wind, combined bits of Debussy, Ravel and other work from the late 19th and early 20th centuries with some Kunqu singing.  As the story was performed in Kunqu opera for several hundred years I should have preferred to have heard something derived from the original score or, better still, an entirely new composition by Guo Wenjing. As it was, when I heard L’après-midi d’un faune my thoughts turned to Nijinsky's ballet which I just could not get out of my head.

Turning from the ballet's weaknesses, let's consider its many strengths.  As I said, the ballet has a beautiful story based on the play by The Peony Pavillion by Tang Xianzu who lived between 1550 and 1616.  Published in 1598 (just one year after Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) the programme notes stated that the two works were often compared with each other. Save that they were written at almost the same time I could see very little basis for comparison. The ballet follows the play as summarized in Wikipedia except that the  scene in which Liu Mengmei is accused of grave robbing in an attempt to rescue Du Liniang is omitted. In so far as this is a story about love that survives the grave it seemed to have more in common with Giselle than Romeo and Juliet.  It is a lot less violent than Romeo and Juliet where at least five characters die or even Giselle where the heroine and Hilarion kick the bucket. It has a happy ending in that Liu Mengmei and Du Liniang get married in a shower of peony petals which lie several inches deep at the end of the performance.

The story gives scope for some powerful roles.  The female lead, Du Liniang, was danced by Wang Qimin, a principal who seems to have performed all of Petipa's great roles as well as several that have been created especially for her.  The male lead, Liu Mengmei, was danced by Sun Ruichon who is also one of the company's principals. Just before the show began the choreographer came on stage to introduce the characters in costume and he told us that Du Liniang had two alter egos - the flower goddess who was danced by Lu Di and the Kunqu singer, Jia Pengfei, whom I mentioned above. She wore the most gorgeous costumes and entered the stage and even allowed herself to be hoisted on a platform several feet into the air but her principal role was to sing which she did very well. The other characters whom Fei Bo introduced included ghosts which were danced by Yu Bo and Hu Dayong. I was not sure of their role by that stage and the programme notes did not exactly help but they also danced well. Finally, there was the judge of the underworld who was danced by Li Ke.

Each of those dancers and indeed each and every member of the corps displayed impeccable technique. Most if not all of the principals seem to have trained at the Beijing Dance Academy and it is obvious they have been taught very well. The scenes in which they corps participated were the most impressive of the whole ballet. I would love to see them as swans or as wilis. I don't know whether La Bayadere is in the National Ballet of China's repertory but if it is their descent into the kingdom of the shades would be mesmerizing. These extraordinarily gifted young and women must the very best of a massive population. Their potential is enormous.

 I should say a special work for Michael Simon who designed the sets and lighting and Emi Wada who designed the costumes. I described the designs as "breathtaking" above and so they were.  The last scene where the cast circle Lin Mengmei and Du Liniang to a shower of peony metals is one of the most impressive I have ever seen in the theatre.  The backdrop of the tree branch was one of the most beautiful.  The underworld scene with its black peonies that eventually fell from the ceiling was one of the most chilling. This was total theatre.

Ballets evolve in time and become great in their evolution. I hope that happens to The Peony Pavillion because the story is worth telling. Perhaps the National Ballet will commission an original score from Guo Wenjing or some other composer. Perhaps this work will inspire another company (maybe one outside China) to make its own version.

This was a rare opportunity to see an impressive company and to learn about an important work of Chinese literature and I am very glad that I did so.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

A Birmingham Bayadere

It goes against the grain for a Mancunian to say anything nice about Birmingham but I gladly make an exception for the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It is a great national institution that deserves generous support from every part of the UK including the North of England (in which regard it helps that that company's artistic director hails from Honley (see My Home and Bintley's 12 May 2015)).

This year Birmingham Royal Ballet is appealing for funds in The Big Give for a new production of La Bayadere. A Birmingham Bayadere!  How could I possibly resist that?  How could anyone? Less than two weeks ago I flew to Amsterdam to see the Dutch National Ballet's brilliant production (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016) and a few weeks before that I endured 3 days of relentless pain to learn some of the choreography (see La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016).

BRB needs £450,000 to stage the ballet (see Budget Project Costs on the Big Give website) and the Big Give Christmas Challenge is an excellent opportunity to raise some of those funds because every penny that is contributed by members of the public between 29 Nov and 2 Dec is matched by a similar amount from the Big Give's philanthropists.  The company seeks to raise £45,000 in this week's Big Give campaign.

Now there are a lot of other charities appealing for funds in this year's Christmas Challenge including Balletboyz, who like English National Ballet, are appealing for support for its classes for people suffering from Parkinson's Disease (see Parkinson's CAN dance and ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's 25 Nov 2016) and Ballet Cymru, which is appealing for funds for a new roof and solar panels for its premises. They are all worth supporting and I hope the public will support those appeals just as generously as it would have done anyway.

However, La Bayadere is very special,  As the company says in its "Need" statement
"In world ballet, the presentation of a handful of the most popular classical works has become the norm, with two hazardous effects. Dancers, creatives and audiences alike can stagnate, losing interest in the art form they care about leading to dwindling attendances and an unsustainable Company."
Investing in La Bayadere is part of the solution. It will further expand Birmingham Royal Ballet's repertory and further its reputation for maintaining the heritage of the ballet tradition. The plan is to launch the ballet at The Hippodrome next Autumn and then take it on tour to the Lowry, London, Sunderland and Plymouth. We shall benefit from this appeal and not just the company:
"All ballet enthusiasts will benefit from a classical ballet being restored to its original glory.
The maintenance of the classical ballet canon will also ensure new audiences are encouraged into the auditoriums and classrooms, keeping ballet truly alive."
Will the company invite Natalia Makarova to stage the version that she created for Amercian Ballet Theatre, the Royal Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet or will Bintley do his own?  Will the great Celine Gittens dance Nikiya and Tyrone Singleton  be her Solor?  And who will be Gamzatti, the Brahmin and the Golden Idol? I will make discreet enquiries and let you know what I find out.



Since I started this blog on 25 Feb 2016 I have posted 804 articles and received over 200,000 page hits. Our 10 most popular articles have been as follows:
  1. A Romeo and Juliet for our Times 7 Nov 2016
  2. Meet Gavin McCaig of Northern Ballet 3 Sep 2014
  3. The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015
  4. Thinking out Loud about Ballet West 8 Feb 2016 
  5. Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015 
  6. The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 Mar 2014
  7. Michaela's Masterclass 8 July 2015 
  8. Mandev Sokhi 10 Oct 2015
  9. Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour 22 May 2016 
  10. A Unique Opportunity to learn a Bit of The Nutcracker 12 Oct 2016
Readers seem to be most interested in Ballet Cymru with three articles in the top 10. That may be because the company is about to start a short season in London and dance Darius James and Amy Doughty's Little Red Riding Hood at the Cardiff Millennium Centre on 4 Dec 2016. Sadly one of the articles in the top ten mourned the loss of the talented Mandev Sokhi.

The Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company is also very popular with readers who enjoyed my review of the opening night of the Junior Company's tour of the Netherlands in 2015.  There was also a lot of interest in one of my very favourite young dancers, Michaela DePrince, who visited London last year and this to deliver master classes at Danceworks. 

In fact, there was considerable interest in the young. I was delighted to see Northern Ballet's Gavin McCaig listed at number 2.  Actually, he led the field for well over two years until Ballet Cymru claimed the number one spot a few days ago. Reviews of Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker by Ballet West were also very popular as was my review of the same ballet by Chelmsford Ballet.  And still talking about The Nutcracker I am delighted that my preview of Jane Tucker's workshop on the ballet for KNT at the Dancehouse Theatre (which I attended) was also in the top 10.

For only the third month ever we have received more than 10,000 hits in one month and we still have a few days of November to run. My main audiences outside the UK seem to be the USA, Russia, Germany, France and the Netherlands in that order.  Once again, I should like to thank all my contributors, Joanne Goodman, Peter Groves, Janet McNulty, Gita Mistry, David Murley, Alison Winward and Mel Wong for all their posts. The blog would have been much less interesting without your articles. I should also like to thank all who have supplied photos and other content especially Richard Heideman of the Dutch National Ballet,  György Jávorszky of the Hungarian National Ballet, Rae Piper of Chantry Dance and Jenny Isaacs and Patricia Vallis of Ballet Cymru.

Friday, 25 November 2016

ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's

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Every year English National Ballet holds a Big Give to raise funds for its Dance for Parkinson's programme. I mentioned the event last year in English National Ballet's Appeal for Funds for its Parkinson's Classes 14 Dec 2015, which appeared just at the tail end of the fundraising drive.

This year I am on time.   The target is to raise £20,000 for Dance for Parkinson's. This is a programme of high-quality dance classes and activities based on ENB’s repertoire for people living with Parkinson’s. The company explains:
"By giving during the Big Give Christmas Challenge , 29 November – 2 December, your donation will be matched by gifts already pledged to English National Ballet. This means your donation will be worth twice as much."
Here's what contributors need to know:
  • "The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2016 takes place on Tuesday 29 November, 12pm – Friday 2 December, 12pm.
  • Start the donation process at 12pm on Tuesday 29 November when you will see a clear message to indicate the Challenge has started. If you start the donation process before 12pm and pre-fill the donation form, your donation will not be matched.
  • You may donate any amount from £5 to £5,000.
  • All major debit and credit cards (including American Express) are accepted.
  • If you are a UK tax payer we would be very grateful if you tick the gift aid box so that we also receive the tax paid on your donation.
  • Remember: your gift, whatever the size, will make a difference, and we are very grateful whatever you give.
  • We will share the link to donate on 29 November."
ENB holds Dance for Parkinson's classes at its studios in London and also in Cardiff, Ipswich, Liverpool and Oxford with local partners.

These are part of a national network of dance classes for persons suffering from Parkinson's disease known as Dane for Parkinson's in the UK. That organization lists classes for sufferers in every part of Great Britain from Cornwall to Scotland.  In Yorkshire, for instance. there is a class in Shelley village hall which is the next village to mine and others in Halifax and Sheffield.

Dance for Parkinson's in the UK is part of a global network that started in the USA in 2001 when a body known as the Brooklyn Parkinson Group started to work with the Mark Morris Dance Group (see "Our History" on the Dance for Parkinson's website). It is the Brooklyn Parkinson Group and the Mark Morris Dance Group's video that appears above. The US national network is Dance for PD. Let's wish all those folks a belated Happy Thanksgiving and a happy Black Friday.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Sarah Mortimer

Yesterday I mentioned Ballet West and its touring company (see Congratulations to Ballet West - here's to the next 25 Years 23 Nov 2016). One of my favourite dancers, Sarah Mortimer, is a graduate of Ballet West. I first noticed her as the mermaid in Christopher Moore's version of The Little Mermaid for Ballet Theatre UK (see Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 April 2014). I looked out for her in that company's other shows.  She was one of the reasons why I followed BTUK.

Sarah has now left BTUK and has become a freelance teacher and performer.  She has put together an impressive associates programme with some excellent guest teachers, some of whom such as David Brewer and Inês Ferriera, danced with her in BTUK. She also gives private coaching at various levels and workshops on popular ballets such as The Nutcracker.

Having seen a large part of the world including a lot of Scotland with Ballet West and every nook and cranny of the UK with BTUK whom I once described as the Bedouin of Ballet, Sarah has based herself in Maidstone where she was born and brought up.  Apart from the associates, coaching and workshops which she offers through her website, Sarah teaches at Masters Performing Arts College in Rayleigh, 360 Dance in Tunbridge Wells and Tenterden Ballet Studios and as a guest teacher on various associate programmes and courses including Ballet West Edinburgh Associates and South East Ballet Scholars.

As ballet is intended for the stage, the best type of teacher is one who has enthralled an audience.  Sarah has done that in countless repertory theatres, arts centres and other auditoriums the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. Without doubt, she will already have inspired hundreds of little boys and girls (not to mention many adults including, perhaps, a few pensioners) across the land to study ballet. Now she has an opportunity to guide many of those students to the next level.  Very few of them (if any) of those studemts will emulate Carlos Acosta or Lauren Cuthbertson, but they should all develop a love for the art as theatregoers as well as dancers that will never leave them. I am sure that all my readers will join me in wishing Sarah well in this latest phase of her career.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Congratulations to Ballet West - here's to the next 25 Years

Loch Etive
Author: Jamie Campbell
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

According to Gillian Barton's Facebook page, yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Ballet West's first public performance. It is not clear from the cast's costumes what they were dancing but I am sure it must have been a very good show. Over those 25 years Ballet West has established itself as a successful vocational school in one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom (see Taynuilt - where better to create ballet? 31 Aug 2013).

Our very first post was a review of Ballet West's performance of The Nutcracker in Pitlochry on 23 Feb 2013 (see Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" 25 Feb 2013) and it attracted a lot of page views. We have seen and reviewed three other shows since then - Swan Lake in 2014, Romeo and Juliet in 2015 and The Nutcracker again earlier this year. In January they will tour Scotland with Swan Lake again (see Ballet West's 2017 Tour 27 Aug 2016). At the end of that last post I wrote:
"If Cinderella's fairy godmother were to appear right now and grant me three balletic wishes, one of them would be for Ballet West to make at least one appearance in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am pretty confident that audiences here would love them. I happen to know from conversations with members of the audience and posts to a ballet fans' forum to which I subscribe that I am by no means the only Sassenach who ventures North at the coldest time of the year to see these fine young artists.
And my second wish? Why it would be to see those same young dancers perform the purest and most beautiful of the Romantic ballets which like them is set in the Highlands. Please, Mr Job, pretty please! Do consider La Sylphide one year. I have seen Danes dance it. Australians. Even an Italian in Trecate earlier this year. Why not Scots?"
Shortly afterwards, Gillian Barton replied on Facebook that the company will indeed dance  La Sylphide in 2018 - just for me.

Ballet West has turned out some impressive dancers in its time including Natasha Watson who was the only British contestant in Lausanne in 2015 (see Natasha Watson in Lausanne 15 Nov 2015), We jumped for joy (with entrechats, grands jetes and tours en l'air) when she received a medal in the Genée (see Yet More Good News from Ballet West - Natasha Watson's Medal in the Genée 26 Sept 2013). As we said last year, you can't argue with success.

We offer hearty congratulations to Ballet West on its first 25 years and wish it every success in the next.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Red Shoes Rebounding

Standard YouTube Lowry

Just over a year ago the BBC made the film The Red Shoes available on the iPlayer. I watched it and reviewed it in The Red Shoes 15 Nov 2015. Today a new stage version of The Red Shoes created by Sir Matthew Bourne opened in Plymouth.

The production's second port of call will be The Lowry and there will certainly be a review from there. Bourne has acquired a new score from Terry Davies and Lez Brotherson has created the designs. The young ballerina, Vicky Page, who was played by Moira Shearer in the film will be danced by Cordelia Braithwaite and the young composer Julian Craster who was played by Marius Goring will be danced by Dominic North.

If you have never seen the film the plot is summarized in Wikipedia.  Although the complete ballet has been removed from the BBC's website there are fragments of the ballet scenes on YouTube There is also this beautiful trailer which I can't resist displaying:

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Also, you can still review Deborah Bull's talk which I mentioned in my previous article (see  The Red Shoes The Essay,Praising Powell and Pressburger BBC).

I love this film and I think Sir Matthew must do so too.  If he has done a good job in transposing it to the stage I shall be deliriously happy and will never say an unkind word about him again.  But if I find that he has mucked it up ....................

We will all know soon enough.

Postscript 25 Nov 2016

We now have some reviews.


Roger Malone Review: Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes at the Theatre Royal Plymouth 24 Nov 2016 Plymouth Herald

David Marston Review: The Red Shoes at Plymouth Theatre Royal 23 Nov 2016 Exeter Express & Echo



Friends attended the opening night in Plymouth and seems to have enjoyed it very much.  You can find that subscriber's report here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Calling all Northerners and Fans of Northern Ballet

Civil Service Club, Venue for London Ballet Circle Meetings
Author Google

David Nixon, one of the Vice Presidents of the London Ballet Circle and Artistic Director of Northern Ballet will be interviewed by Esme Chandler on the first floor of the Civil Service Club at 13-15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ from 19:30 on Monday, 28 Nov 2016, The event is open to the public for a fee of £5 for members of the Circle and £8 for everybody else.

In case anyone from the North of England wants to attend that event, the venue is easy to reach by tube from King's Cross, St Pancras and Euston Stations and the Victoria coach station.  Embankment, which is served by the District Line and Charing Cross are not far away.  Great Scotland Yard leads off from Northumberland Avenue which runs from Trafalgar Square to the river. Look out for the green and white flags of the Nigerian embassy which abuts Northumberland Avenue as the venue is right next door.  If you are driving from the North a good place to park is Luton Parkway. The station multi-storey is very cheap even by Northern standards and you can make the rest of your way into town by Thameslink. You can change to the District line at Blackfriars.

Those coming to the London Ballet Circle can order meals and drinks before and after the talk. Again, at Northern prices. I can particularly recommend the fish and chips and the roast dinner. If you want to combine Nixon's talk with a spot of Christmas shopping, Harrods and Harvey Nicks are within walking distance and Fortnums is even closer. There is, of course, also the whole of the West End to entertain you if you want to stay for any length of time.

Of course, you will have come mainly to hear about Northern Ballet. The season began with revivals of Nixon's Wuthering Heights (see Janet McNulty's review Northern Ballet's "Wuthering Heights" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse 9 Sept 2016 and my Northern Ballet's "Wuthering Heights" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse - about as good as it can get 10 Sept 2016) and Jean-Christophe Maillot's Romeo and Juliet (see Romeo and Juliet after the Shrew 15 Oct 2016) and will continue with Nixon's Beauty and the Beast which I reviewed in my law blog IP Yorkshire (see Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011 IP Yorks).

Happily, some new work is promised for the new year.  There is, of course. Kenneth Tindall's first full-length ballet Casanova as I mentioned on 24 May 2016. I will try to get an interview with Kenny before the premiere on 11 March. There will also be Daniel de Andrade's The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas that opens in Doncaster in May and will tour the rest of the country before finding its way back to Yorkshire and Nixon's own Little Mermaid  which opens in Southampton in September and trundles into Sheffield in November and Leeds in December.

There should be a lot to discuss with our company's artistic director. We don't get a chance to talk to him very often. It will be worth making the long trek south just this once.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Sandman Cometh - Chantry Dance's New Full Length Ballet

Rae Piper and Paul Chantry
(c) 2014 Chantry Dane Company: all rights reserved

A tantalizingly short announcement:
"CDC presents a NEW, full length contemporary ballet for a 2017 UK Tour:
Links for ticket bookings coming soon..."
But a redolent one. I first met Paul Chantry, Rae Piper and Gail Gordon of Chantry Dance at the Lincoln Drill Hall on 9 May 2014. It was a very special day for me for several reasons. I made the acquaintance not just of Paul, Rae and Gail but also of Mel Wong. I also danced in public for the first time which gave me the confidence to put my name forward for the Northern Ballet Academy end of term show (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014). Chantry Dance was running a workshop at the Drill Hall in the morning and a performance of two short one act ballets called The Sandman and Dream Dance in the afternoonI wrote about the workshop and reviewed the show in Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance on 10 May 2014.

I don't know whether the full length ballet that the company will present next year has anything to do with the work that I saw in Lincoln but, if it does, it will be beautiful. I suspect it may be related for the umbrella and costumes in the above photo look very much like those in the pictures that Mel took two and a half years ago. If so, the ballet will be based on the tale of Ole Lukøie by Hans Christian Andersen which I summarized in my article. My recollection of the ballet is as follows:
"Choreographed by Gail Gordon the Sandman was danced by Paul Chantry who entered in front of the stage in the shadows. He mounted the stage which had a single prop: a hat stand and the sandman's two umbrellas. Paul is a tall, elegant dancer and he circled the stage magisterially with his wide ronds de jambe and battements. From the left entered his subject, Rae Piper, clad in a simple navy print shift. Rae has the most expressive face and she expressed joy under the multicoloured umbrella but with utter dismay to the plain one. Producing from his pocket a medicine bottle Paul sprinkled the sleep inducing drops over Rae's eyes. In the absence of programme notes I cannot recall the score but it was beautiful and Gail Gordon's choreography interpreted in perfectly."
Of course, there will have to be at least a second act and roles for many other characters but Chantry Dance are good at narrative dance as they showed not just in the work they danced in Lincoln but also in the works they danced at Gravity Fields or took on tour (see Gravity Fields - Chasing the Eclipse 28 Sept 2014, The Happy Prince in Halifax 21 Nov 2014 and Duology 29 Sept 2016).

Paul, Rae and Gail are not just simply performers, they are also educators. They ran a Young Choreographers Celebration 2016 Award Winners’ workshop earlier this year which they recorded in this video and they will include curtain raiser performances from young choreographers around the country as part of the Young Choreographers Celebration 2017 in the programme that they will take on tour.

They have not yet published their venues but I hope that they will make at least one stop in the North next year. We were sorry not to see them in our region this year. They were missed.

Saturday, 19 November 2016


Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts
Author Chemical Engineer
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

DIBA stands for Danceworks International Ballet Academy. It is the facility through which Darnceworks trains dancers under the age of 18. I featured it in Danceworks Academy  on 21 March 2015. As readers know, dance education is one of my special interests whether for the young and gifted, those such as I who take up dancing for fun at any age and everyone in between.

Towards the end of the year, DIBA students put on a show. Last year it took place in one of Danceworks's studios in Balderton Street (see Danceworks International Ballet Academy Christmas Show 3 Dec 2015). Demand for tickets was so high that DIBA had to run three separate shows. The Academy will stage another show this year but this time it will take place in the theatre where RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) trains its own students (see Join us for DIBA's Christmas Nutcracker Suite on DIBA's website).

The performance will take place at 17:00 on Saturday, 10 Dec 2016 at RADA Studio Theatre, 16 Chenies Street, London WC1E 7EY. Tickets cost £20  for adults and £12 for children of 12 years or under.  There is also a £2 booking fee if you book online.

Ballet is not just a good way of improving deportment and keeping fit. It is intended to be performed in the theatre which is a place of magic and excitement.  If the link with the stage is ever lost or never there in the first place children will quickly tire of ronds de jambes and grands battements - and who can blame them? How many times have you heard well-rounded, well-educated adults say "I've never actually been to a ballet but I was made to take lessons as a kid and hated them." "Made to take ballet" indeed. It should be a treat!

One of the reasons why I write a lot about DIBA and (Danceworks in general) is that it keeps that link.  It is one of the features that distinguishes DIBA from so many other ballet schools up and down the country. The remarkable young dancer, Michaela DePrince, grand sujet with the Dutch National Ballet, taught some of the children on her last visit to Danceworks (see Michaela DePrince revisits Danceworks 7 Aug 2016). Most of those who attended Michaela's class will decide not to become dancers for one reason or another but they will all benefit from working with her. Their love of theatre will be enhanced for a start and many more will be inspired by her life story to jump their own hurdles which may lie in quite different fields.

However, Danceworks is not just for kids. I took one of its adult ballet classes earlier in the year and had a great time (see Hendrick's Class at Danceworks 19 Jan 2016).  I am delighted that the studio offers classes for my age group (see Over 50s Ballet Classes at Danceworks 30 May 2015). Tasha Bertram will teach a new over 50 class at Danceworks from 13 Jan 2017 between 18:00 and 19:15 (see New Over 50’s Ballet Class at Danceworks on Danceworks's website).

The following passage appears at the bottom of the web page:
"Benefits of balletThere is no age barrier to learn to dance and the long-term flexibility benefits of ballet are excellent. Ballet classes will help to:
Develop and maintain your flexibility. The combination of strength and flexibility is what keeps a body healthier and stronger for longer, and more resilient to injury.
  • Work both your body and your mind. The physical and mental challenges of ballet can improve vitality
  • Gain confidence in your body You will feel more supple and poised
  • Learn musicality Ballet is practiced in harmony with music. You will learn to draw energy from it, count it and live. 
  • Feel a new energy and forget your problems in a relaxed and quiet environment.
Come and experience our ballet class and enjoy this graceful and timeless form of dance."
I have been taking ballet classes now for several years first in Huddersfield and more recently with the Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds and KNT in Manchester as well as the occasional class in London and other cities. I can attest to all those benefits from my personal experience. There are adult ballet classes in every part of the country (even in towns and remote villages in the West of Scotland thanks to Ballet West (see the Outreach and Short Courses page on its website)). Everyone can have a go and I hope that a few of my readers will be promoted by this article to do just that.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Dutch National Ballet Junior Company Auditions

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If I were a talented young dancer (or the mother, father, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, cousin, friend or teacher of such a dancer) I would be thrilled by the opportunity of joining the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company.  This is a half way house between ballet school and the professional stage which I discussed in an interview with Ernst Meisner in The Junior Company on 3 Dec 2014.

The Junior Company has already been the springboard for some brilliant careers.  I saw Michaela DePrince in Nov 2013 just after she had joined the Junior Company (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013) and she is already a grand subjet with the National Ballet. DePrince has been particularly successful but there are others who have done very well too. The outstanding young Italian dancer, Cristiano Principato, for instance, has already had a chance to show his talent for choreography by staging his own ballet (see Palagio 4 June 2016). Many of them have been recruited to the main company or been offered contracts with other fine companies such as the Stuttgart Ballet, the Norwegian National Ballet and the Hungarian National Ballet.

Such an opportunity has arisen because the Dutch National Ballet is holding auditions for next year's Junior Company at Amsterdam on 21 Jan 2017 (see Audition Junior Company on the Dutch National Ballet's website). Candidates can apply online so long as they meet the following requirements:
  • strong classical ballet technique;
  • minimums height of 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 metres) for ladies and 5 feet 11 inches (1.8 metres) for gents; and
  • graduating this year or next.
I hope that there will be at least a few applications from the UK and that some may actually be good enough to get in but I wish all candidates from all countries all the very best. Whether or not he or she is accepted I wish each and every candidate who is good enough to try every success in his or her training and subsequent career.

McGregor Triple Bill

Wayne McGegor
Author Deborah Hustic
Source Wikipedia/Random Dance Company
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Royal Ballet Chroma, Multiverse and Carbon Life Royal Opera House 17 Nov 2016. 19:30

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of his appointment as resident choreographer at Covent Garden, the Royal Ballet has staged a short season of Wayne McGegor's works. These include two of his most popular creations, Chroma and Carbon Life, and a new work, Multiverse, which was performed for the first time just over a week ago. McGregor is remarkable for the volume of work that he has created, for the awards and distinctions that he has achieved for such work and for being the first contemporary choreographer to become a resident choreographer at Covent Garden.

Chroma is a work that I already know quite well having seen it several times, most recently by the Dutch National Ballet as part of their Cool Britannia programme (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015). The Dutch National Ballet is not the only company to perform that work. According to McGregor's website it has been danced by many other leading companies including the Australian Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet and the Bolshoi. One company that dances it particularly well is Alvin Ailey's American Dance Theatre as can be seen from the YouTube video below.

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No doubt that was why Luca Acri, Federico Bonelli, Lauren Cuthbertson, Sarah Lamb and Calvin Richardson of the Royal Ballet were joined on stage by Jeroboam BozemanJacqueline GreenYannick LebrunRachael McLaren and Jamar Roberts of Alvin Ailey. The latter company has just completed a tour of the UK visiting the Bradford Alhambra and the Lowry where I caught them (see Alvin Ailey in Bradford  29 Sept 2016 and Alvin Ailey in Salford 8 Oct 2016).  It was good to see them again, particularly Roberts who earned an especially loud applause at the end. He is tall, strong and commands the stage in the way few other dancers can.

In all three works that we saw last night, McGregor offered not just choreography (thrilling though it was) but total theatre particularly in the set designs and lighting. In Chroma, for instance, John Pawson's simple geometric shapes were bathed in subtly changing lights beautifully engineered by Lucy Carter. The importance of lighting - another principal in the show - is obvious from the title. The programme notes began with the dictionary definition:
  1. "The purity of a colour or its freedom from white or grey
  2. Intensity of distinctive hue, saturation of a colour"
When combined with Moritz Junge's costumes and Joby Talbot and Jack White III's score, this work excites all the senses. Clearly, that explains why the work is loved so much by audiences as well as admired.

Multiverse was more challenging, at least for me, even though similar techniques were used and Junge and Carter contributed the costume designs and lighting. The performance began quite unexpectedly with the curtain rising on a set with two figures against a plain geometric set of two high walls while the house lights were still on. The hubbub from the audience continued for a few seconds after the curtain rose until the realization that the show had started sank in. The house lights dimmed gradually and the words of a street preacher in San Francisco from over 50 years ago began to fill the auditorium:
"After a while - it's gonna rain after a while! For forty days and for forty nights! And the people didn't believe him. And they began to laugh at him! And they began to mock him! And the began to say 'It aint gonna rain.'"
In his famous work from 1965, It's Gonna Rain, which was written at the height of the cold war when the risk of thermonuclear war threatened to wipe out life on earth in the way that environmental catastrophe had threatened the world at the time of Noah, Steve Reich chops up that recording until it becomes percussive and repetitive. Not easy listening as anyone who plays the YouTube Steve Reich - It's gonna rain  will probably agree. But although the movements against the stark towering walls seem angular in the beginning the piece begins to soften. The walls break down into slabs of colour like the sides of a Rubik cube and eventually elements of a painting. It's Gonna Rain ends and the more soothing Runner takes its place. Reich is said to be America's greatest living composer. I have not heard enough of his work to judge but I have heard his Drumming several times which was used by Arthur Pita in Ballet Black's Cristaux (see Ballet Black in Doncaster 3 Nov 2016) and that work has definitely grown on me.

My favourite work of the evening was Carbon Life which began almost magically with the artists behind a gauze screen lit only by what appeared to be fairy lights. Music was provided by a live band on stage including a rapper called Dave who earned an enormous titter from the audience with his dig at President-elect Trump. Each scene presented something exciting and something new. The dancing was vigorous and exuberant. Carter provided the lighting once again and Gareth Pugh's costumes bordered on the fantastic. I particularly liked the colour combination such as the green stripes against the black.  Sadly, it came to an end all too soon. I felt compelled to rise to my feet as first the dancers and then the musicians appeared on stage to take their bow. Standing ovations do not happen every day at Covent Garden but these folks deserved it and I am glad to say one or two people in the stalls and more in the slips and circles seemed to follow my example.

I floated out of the Opera House on a cloud which carried me off to Holborn tube, followed me down the escalator onto the Piccadilly line and even on to the 23:30 train back to Doncaster.  Not even the exorbitant £20.90 parking charge (£5 more than my train fare from London) which the Frenchgate Centre extracted because all the spaces in the section reserved for rail passengers had bee full spoilt my evening. On the train back I read in the programme that McGregor came from Stockport which is just across the Mersey from Didsbury where I was born. Yet another reason to like him, I'd say.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

“No clothes, no arrests, no regrets” Jordan Matter's Book Launch of Dancers After Dark

Jordan Matter and David Murley, 12 Nov 2016
(c) 2016 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by Mr Murley

David Murley

On Friday the 11th November 2016, I had the opportunity to attend the European Book Launch of Dancers After Dark by international dance photographer, Jordan Matter. The event took place at Danceworks studios in London near Bond Street in Mayfair. Photographing dancers for the last seven years, Matter’s most recent project (Dancers After Dark) took three years to complete. The photographic journey took Matter around the USA and Europe, including the UK. The finished product, in my opinion, is exquisite – full of beautiful healthy and ethnically diverse dancer’s bodies. The determination and dedication it took Matter and the dancers he collaborated with during the shoots, on location around the world, to achieve the final image is equally intriguing.

(c) 2016 David Murley: all rights reserved
“No clothes, no arrests, no regrets” was projected onto a screen in one of Danceworks studios before the launch took place. Indeed, the current book by Matter is of dancers in the nude in an array of public places around the USA and Europe. However, the naked shots are some of the most alluring, artistic, captivating and striking images I have personally seen. Having a brief glimpse of the behind the scenes really helped to appreciate and sketch out the stories behind the images. This compounded more depth to the final black and white, or colour, still I looked upon. During the shooting process, Matter himself said he would began by working with the dancer’s strength, e.g. a balance or a jump, and that is how the collaborative team work of the image between Matter and the dancers would begin to take shape.

Het Nationale Ballet dancer, Michaela DePrince, graces the cover of Matter’s newest work. In a short film the attendees of the launch watched, we were able to obtain insight into what happened behind the scenes. Before the actual nude picture taking would occur, practising the intended poses fully clothed wherever the dancers could would take place. From there, Matter and the dancer(s) would then scout for locations in the city they were in. Stumbling upon that serendipitous location could sometimes take up to four hours. In this particular instance, DePrince describes the immense intensity building up in her chest and heart before she had to disrobe for the camera and the passing New Yorker public. At first, it seemed unfortunate Matter didn’t choose a secluded spot in a private unknown corner of Manhattan. Instead, Matter opted for, and suggested, DePrince bare all to New York City’s 7th Avenue strutting across the pedestrian crossing en pointe. Heart racing, DePrince leapt into the shoot with style and elegance shedding her flowing wrap around in one fell and seamless movement. That in itself was a piece of innate choreography executed by DePrince – from the behind the scenes footage. One of Matter’s finished images of DePrince adorns the cover of the completed edition. DePrince said in an interview in the short film at the launch, that part of the nerves and gut-wrenching intensity she was experiencing paralleled to many of the past times she has contended with being a black ballerina. “It’s not easy”, said DePrince. However, after DePrince did the naked shoot on the streets of New York City, she stated it was a chance for her to show it is ok to go out there and be proud of yourself and your body and that you are beautiful.

During the three years Matter was compiling the images from the various photographic shoots in the USA and Europe for Dancers After Dark, he decided to document how many times he came close to arrest. It was 43. There were times Matter said he would engage in long chats with the Police and was often dealing with areas that were heavily guarded with security and surveillance. In the short behind the scenes documentary viewed at the launch, security and Police presence was evident, e.g. when shooting with Houston Ballet dancer Harper Watters and two other dancers around Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station in New York City. Interestingly, Matter mentioned the locations when arrests were the closest, and they were in the assumingly more liberal cities, e.g. Amsterdam and Paris and not in Texas! – where one might expect. Matter did say quickly (with regard to being in the Southern United States), “If you can get a courtesy card, get one!”

Often, the dancers involved in couple or group shots had never met one another before the shoot. One young male dancer in particular from famed American dance company, Alvin Ailey, posed naked with a young female dancer in front of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral. In the short film, he was explaining how he was going through the intended poses fully clothed with the young female dancer not exactly realising he was about to have to embrace her completely nude in close proximity. However, the dancers unanimously, on film and at the launch that evening, said the nudity really wasn’t the issue when in came down to the crunch. What was important was getting the shot right, holding it as long as possible, or sometimes not falling off the top of a telephone box and face planting on the concrete below. Matter made sure things ran smoothly as possible too with portable lighting. Other hurdles arose, like boyfriends (heterosexual and homosexual) having difficulty with their significant other posing nude. Matter even witnessed a break-up of one couple real time during this photographic expedition. There were also some recounts of drunk passersby. However, the inebriated observers soon lost interest when they realised what they were looking at was simply another human body that just happened to be completely naked – in some cases clad ankle below in only pointe shoes.

Jordan Matter's European Book Launch
(c) 2016 David Murley: all rights reserved
The energy in the studio that evening at Matter’s European Book Launch couldn’t have been more uplifting and positive. Much of the upbeat vibe comes from Matter himself. He radiates acceptance, endearment, empathy, passion and sheer undeniable positivism. It almost makes anyone in his presence, dancer, or not, want to leap in front of the camera and pose for Matter – not to be immortalised in one of his celebrated final images, but quite frankly just to have the opportunity to collaborate and spend some time around a genuine and appreciative individual. Without a doubt, it was an absolute pleasure to meet Matter. I was even lucky enough to snag the last two copies of each available edition that night, Dancers Among Us and Dancers After Dark. Matter, without hesitation, posed with me for a photo too, as he did with many of those present at the launch that evening. Matter exemplified unhurried generosity with his time that evening – just as all the dancers who volunteered their efforts, talent and time when collaborating with him on his photographic projects.

Matter chooses to work with dancers because of their dedication. He associates fearlessness with dancers. Matter said at the event on the 11th November at Danceworks London, that his admiration for dancers stems from their pursuit to dance with no guarantee of monetary gain. They dance purely because they need to.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Lesley Osman, General Manger of Danceworks London, for reaching out to Jordan Matter and getting him to the UK and Europe. Without Osman’s motivation to contact Matter, many of us might have missed out on a truly special evening at Danceworks that night, and the images Matter and his team of dedicated dancers worked together to produce this side of the Atlantic.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Music Theatre

Sinterklaas close to the Stopera
(c) 2016 Team Terpsichore: all rights reserved

Only 126 miles separate the Hook of Holland from Harwich. English is spoken very widely in the Netherlands. Their own language is a first cousin of English, appreciably closer  than either German or French. Their climate is very much the same as ours. They share our maritime heritage. They are a constitutional monarchy just like us. The colours of their flag are red, white and blue. According to Wikipedia the Dutch even play cricket (see Cricket in the Netherlands Wikipedia). The Dutch are just like us, aren't they!

Well no! Not exactly! And certainly not in every respect as I found out for myself on the way to the Muziektheater or Stopera, the home of the Dutch National Ballet. I usually take the tube to the Stopera but the nearest exit to the theatre was closed for some reason or other on Sunday. I had to leave from another exit on the other side of the Waterlooplein. Last Sunday, however, my way was blocked by a big parade. There were scores of floats and marching bands with men and women in 17th-century costume doling out sweets and biscuits to children and other passers-by. Many of them had blackened their faces with makeup. In the centre of the parade on a milk-white horse rode a man in a mitre with a false white beard and a wig of white curls who was waving to the crowd. He turned out to be Sinterklaas and his black-faced assistants represented his companion, Zvarte Piet ("Black Piet").

I felt a little uneasy at seeing all those blacked up faces but the Black and Asian folk in the crowd did not seem to mind at all. They appeared to be having just as much fun as everyone else. Sinterklaas sounds almost the same as Santa Claus but he is nothing like our Father Christmas. We tell our kids that Santa lives in Lapland where he is attended by elves and reindeer. When he wants to deliver presents on Christmas eve he travels by sleigh. Sinterklaas, by contrast, lives in Spain, travels by boat or on horseback and is attended by Black Piet. Instead of a red hood, he dons a bishop's mitre. Sinterklaas's story is told by the Sint in Amsterdam website and the video Intocht Sinterklaas Amsterdam 14 Nov 2010 gives you the flavour of the parade.

After the procession had snaked its way along the Waterlooplein we crossed the road and made our way to the Stopera. We enjoyed a superb performance of La Bayadere which I reviewed yesterday in Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016.  After reading my review Richard Heideman, the National Ballet's press manager kindly sent us the following pictures By Marc Haegeman.

Dutch National Ballet, La Bayadere
Photo Marc Haeeman
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company 

Dutch National Ballet, La Bayadere
Photo Marc Haeeman
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Dutch National Ballet, La Bayadere
Photo Marc Haeeman
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Although we had come to Amsterdam primarily to see ballet that was not the only thing we did there. The Philips Symphony Orchestra gave a concert at the Concertgebouw which we attended on Saturday evening. They played Brahms's Violin Concerto and Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony in their main auditorium which was an experience in itself. Excellent acoustics, beautiful chandeliers, the walls bearing the names of many of the world's greatest composers. Each piece was introduced by a short lecture of which I fear I understood only the gist as it was delivered in Dutch. In the interval free drinks were served in the bar. "A very civilized touch and typically Dutch", I thought.

Earlier in the day we had spent our afternoon across the road in the Stedelijk Museum which displays a small but precious part of its collection of paintings and sculpture from the last 150 years and a massive display of every aspect  of design. There were several special exhibitions on Saturday of which a retrospective on Jean Tinguely absorbed most of our time. I have to confess that I had never heard of Tinguely before I visited the exhibition but I was fascinated by his moving machines. They were like Heath Robinson come to life.

All good times come to an end, of course, but I was sadder than usual to board my plane back to Manchester on Sunday night. The Dutch appear on average to be about 6 inches taller than us Brits but they also seem to be gentler in their dealings with one another and certainly with foreigners. A land of Big Friendly Giants with arguably the best ballet company in Europe if not the world. I could get used to living in Amsterdam.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere

Sasha Mukhamedov and Jozef Varga
(c) 2016 Team Terpsichore: all rights reserved

Dutch National Ballet, La Bayadere, Stopera, 13 Nov 2016, 14:00

There were gasps, sighs and murmurs from members of the audience as the image of Nikiya appeared momentarily before a disconsolate Solor. Nobody tried to shush them. They could not help themselves. The scene was just so beautiful. I've seen a lot of ballet in my time but I can't (for the moment at any rate) think of a more beautiful production than the Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere. 

The version of the ballet that the company performed was by Natalia Makarova.  She had created it for American Ballet Theatre in 1980. It is the version that the Royal Ballet danced in 2013 (see La Bayadere on the Royal Opera House's website). The story in Makarova's production differed in several important respects from that of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre which is the only other performance that I have ever seen (see the synopsis on the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's website and my review Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). In Makarova's version, Solor is killed (presumably by falling masonry) when the temple collapses just as he is about to marry Gamzatti. In the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's, he actually marries her but kills himself in a fit of remorse. St Petersburg Ballet Theatre transposes Solor's dream of the kingdom of the shades to the last act whereas in Makarova's that scene occurs in the second.

Yesterday Sasha Mukhamedov danced Nikiya, Jozef Varga Solor, Vera Tsyganova Gamzatti and Nicolas Rapaic the Brahmin. Mukhamedov had danced Nikiya with Daniel Camargo in an extract from La Bayadere at the opening night gala on 7 Sept 2016 (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 8 Sept 2016) and she had impressed me with her grace and sensitivity. She showed those qualities again yesterday and I became an even bigger fan. Varga partnered Mukhamedov brilliantly. He also dances with great sensitivity but shows strength and Speed in the solo roles. Consequently, he is thrilling to watch. I had not followed Vera Tsyganova until yesterday but I shall do so from now on. Another exciting dancer but also an accomplished actor expressing eloquently the wide range of emotions that her role demanded. The young Brazilian dancer, Daniel Silva, who had impressed me in the Junior Company's Ballet Bubbles on 14 Feb 2016 (see Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016) and who has recently joined the main company as an "eleve" danced the bronze idol. It was good to see him in that role and, indeed, good to see so many of the other young dancers whom I have tried to promote in this blog on stage. We saw several of the company's rising stars such as Michaela DePrince and Floor Eimers as well as many recent and current members of the Junior Company. I congratulate each and every one of those beautiful young dancers on their contribution to a magnificent performance.

The performance was magnificent not just for its choreography and dancing but also for its scenery, costumes, lighting and special effects. As in the Royal Ballet's production, the sets were designed by Pier Luigi Samaritani, costumes by Yolanda Sonnabend and lighting by John B. Read. Some of Read's lighting effects were very clever. By way of example, immediately after Nikiya had been bitten by a snake she appeared in a bluish light giving her an ashen appearance. I do not know who designed the special effects but he or she deserves special commendation. The images of falling debris in the destruction of the temple and Nikiya's fleeting appearance in Solor's dream were spectacular.

The Dutch seem to cherish their National Ballet in a way that few other countries do and the company responds by making its dancers accessible to the public.  Immediately after a gruelling performance Mukhamedov and Varga, still in full costume, sat at a desk at the bottom of the stairs to sign autographs and shake hands with their fans. In other cities members of the audience have to queue up outside the stage door in the rain to glimpse the stars but in Amsterdam the stars welcome the fans.  "So sweet and so typically Dutch", I thought.

Having recently attended a three-day workshop in Manchester to learn bits of the choreography from Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy I had a personal interest in this ballet (see La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016). As the experts performed the steps that Jane had taught us my fingers traced the steps.  It was like the icing on the cake, the fulfilment of last August's intensive. I felt even more chuffed with myself for attending the intensive than I did in August,