Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Mariinsky Theatre's Primorsky Stage

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Vladivostok is 4,067 miles from St Petersburg as the crow flies yet it appears to host an outpost of the Mariinsky Theatre known as the Primorsky Stage. I understand that Primorsky means "Maritime" in Russian and the portion of the map coloured red on the above map is the Primorsky Krai of which the principal city is Vladivostok.

According to the Mariinsky's website, The State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theatre is the most modern theatre in the Far East and one of the newest in Russia. It was built for the APEC summit in 2012. The theatre has its own resident company which includes several foreign dancers including the American Joseph Phillips whom Cheryl Angear interviewed in Ballet News some years ago (see Cupcakes & Conversation with Joseph Phillips, Corps de Ballet, American Ballet Theatre Ballet News 12 Feb 2012).

Its repertoire includes Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Le Corsaire and The Firebird which we have all seen plus The Fourteenth which appears to take its name from Shostakovich's Fourteenth Symphony setting to music several poems by various authors. The Fourteenth had its première on the Primorsky stage on 19 Jan 2014.

Maybe not everybody's cup of tea (personally I prefer the composer's Tea for Two which is incorporated into Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew) but the fact that there is a modern opera house with what appears to be a first class company in this naval town at the far extremities of the Russian Federation is remarkable. I am not sure that I shall ever get to see this theatre or its dancers but I'm curious and I have been to Japan three times which is even further away.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland


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One of the stands for which I was looking out when I visited MOVE IT 2016 last week last week was that of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. There were several reasons for that.

One is that the RCS is the destination for several of the students who have graduated from the Academy of Northern Ballet (see the Academy Graduates page on the Northern Ballet website).

Another is that it is linked with my own university which has just celebrated its 600th anniversary and where I first learned about dance and took my first ballet lessons. St. Andrews validates the higher degrees of the RCS (see the 2015 prospectus) and collaborates with the RCS in the Institute for Capitalising on Creativity which I shall discuss in another article.

Yet another is that it delivers its undergraduate dance course in partnership with Scottish Ballet which is another Scottish institution with which I have enjoyed a long association (see Scottish Ballet 20 Dec 2013).

Perhaps the most important reason for my interest is that the list of the RCS's alumni that appears in Wikipedia contains many of the biggest names on stage and screen. The RCS is justified in describing itself as "a national and international centre of excellence for performing arts education."

The RCS's stand at the ExCel Centre was staffed by the student recruitment manager and two of the students on the BA Modern Ballet course. According to the RCS's website this is a three year course in which the first year focuses on developing a sound technical and artistic basis in both classical ballet and contemporary dance, the second on building on those skills and learning choreography and the third on refining individual strengths and preparing for auditions. Several of the teaching staff danced with Scottish Ballet and masterclasses are given regularly by members of the company. From time to time students are invited to dance with the company or fill temporary placements. The student I met on the stand was a young man called Connor but his experience seems very similar to that of Amy Cobb whose student profile appears on the website.

I visit Scotland several times a year for work and holidays as well as shows by Scottish Ballet, Ballet West and other Scottish companies. At MOVE IT 2016 I exchanged business cards with those on the stand with a view to visiting the RCS on one of those excursions in order to write a more detailed article about its work.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A Good Month for Chantry Dance


Chantry Dance at Move It 2016   Standard YouTube Licence


Move It 2016 was billed as "The UK's Biggest Dance Event ...... with 22,000 dancers - three days - performances, classes, career advice, celebrities, interviews and shopping!"  I visited the show on Sunday and described it in MOVE IT 2016 24 March 2016. One of the events that took place the previous day was a performance on the main stage by Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts. To share that stage with the likes of Darcey Bussell, Elena Glurdjidze and BalletBoyz is a singular distinction and one that reflects the growing reputation of the School.

Even more significant in my book is the patronage that the School has received from Sarah Kundi (see the Patrons page). I have been following her ever since she was at Northern Ballet and it was she who led me to Ballet Black (see Why Ballet Black is special 20 May 2013) and MurleyDance (see  Something to brighten up your Friday - MurleyDance is coming to the North 8 Nov 2013). I was almost heartbroken when I feared that we would have to travel to Madrid to see her again (see Bye Bye and All the Best 10 June 2014) and overjoyed when I learned that she was staying after all (see
Saved for the Nation 17 July 2014). The last time I saw her was as Lady Capulet in English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in Manchester where she was magnificent (see Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015). Kundi is one of three young British women dancers who move my spirit in a very special way (the others if you are interested are Birmingham's Ruth Brill and Northern's Rachael Gillespie). As I have said, before when Kundi dances I float.

Kundi is not the only fine dancer to be a patron of the Chantry School. Dominic North is another. He, like Kundi, trained with Paul Chantry at Central School of Ballet. North will attend a special studio naming ceremony on 17 April 2016 at DancePointe in Grantham where Chantry Dance are based. The great ballerina, Deborah Bull, who is now Director of Cultural Partnerships at King's College, London, and Robert Parker, Artistic Director of Elmhurst who also flies aeroplanes, will be there too. I last saw Parker on stage at the Hippodrome at the double bill to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sadler's Well Royal Ballet's move to Birmingham and the 20th anniversary of David Bintley's appointment as that company's Artistic Director (see In Praise of Bintley 21 June 2015).

One of the reasons why the Chantry School attracts such support is that it is attached to the Chantry Dance Company. Last autumn the company toured England with its Duology double bill which I caught at Halifax (see my review Duology 29 Sept 2015). One of the works that comprised that programme was Vincent - a stranger to himself which Paul Chantry created. The company's other contribution to MOVE IT 2016 was a class based on that piece.  That took place at the LSC studio by the double decker London bus on Friday and it must have been a wonderful experience for everyone who took part.

The company is planning another Autumn tour of the Midlands and London this Autumn featuring two new works Ulysses Unbound and The Stacked Deck. Sadly they will not make it to the North this time but perhaps we can tempt them to Leeds or Manchester for a workshop or other event one of these days.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Real Beauty: Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty

Marion Pettet as Carabosse
(c) 2016 Chelmsford Ballet Company, all rights reserved
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Chelmsford Ballet Company, The Sleeping Beauty, Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 19 March 2016


Some would say that I am not the best person to write this review on the ground that I am far from unbiased. It is true that I am more than a Friend or well wisher of the Chelmsford Ballet Company as I am an associate member of the company and if I lived nearer I would audition for dancing membership. My membership of this remarkable company, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its origins next year, is a source of enormous pride. Never have I been more proud of my membership of the Chelmsford Ballet Company than I was on Saturday evening when I saw its performance of The Sleeping Beauty.

The Sleeping Ballet is not an easy ballet to stage because it is very long and has an enormous cast.  It is also associated in the minds of us Brits with the re-opening of the Royal Opera House on the 20 Feb 1946 with a cast that included Moira Shearer, Leslie Edwards. Gillian Lynne, Henry Danton, Beryl Gray, Michael Somes, Robert Halpmann, Jean Bedells, Harold Turner, Gerd Larsen, Stanley Holden, Pamela May and, of course, Margot Fonteyn. It is therefore a challenge to any company, particularly one that is composed largely of men and women with full time careers outside dance.

Our company responded to that challenge admirably.

First, our choreographer and artistic director, Annette Potter, pruned Petipa's choreography to manageable lengths adapting the work to the capabilities of her dancers who ranged widely in age and experience without sacrificing any of the important and often difficult bits such as the rose adagio or bluebird pas de deux.

Secondly, she had an excellent cast: Scarlett Mann as Aurora who had danced the title role in Pineapple Poll so enchantingly last year (see A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015), Lucy Abbott as the lilac fairy (quite a challenge as the company's co-patron dances Count Lilac in Sir Matthew Bourne's production of The Sleeping Beauty). guest artists Andrei Iliescu as Prince Florimund, Emily Starling as the fairy in the vision and Matthew Powell as one of the princes in the rose adagio, Morgan Wren who has advanced tremendously since I saw him as Fritz in The Nutcracker two years ago (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014) and of course the magnificent Marion Petter as Carabosse. Everybody in the show performed well and the only reason why I have not mentioned them all individually is that this review is long enough already.

The third ingredient of the show's success was its special effects. There were indoor fireworks as Carabosse made her entrances and exits. A menacing image projected onto the backdrop presaged her arrival at Aurora's christening and birthday party. An ingenious animation represented a century's growth of vegetation around Aurora and her family. The programme credited Phil Rhodes with special effects. Clearly he is a talented young man and I hope to see more of his work in future.

There is in fact a lot of talent in Chelmsford.  For me, Marion Pettett stole the show as she did last year as Mrs Dimple and Britannia in Pineapple Poll and the mother in Carnival of the Animals.  She positively exuded evil with her rodent like acolytes. Gita, the other member of Team Terpsichore, likes to choose a man or woman of the match when she attends the ballet as she is an accomplished sportswoman. Her choice for this show was Morgan Wren and I can quite see why. But there is also talent bubbling up from below. The smallest of Carabosse's acolytes had real stage presence as she took her leave of the audience before scurrying off with her evil mistress. I don't know that child's name but I do hope she carries on with her dance and theatre studies because she has great aptitude for the performing arts.  It is worth adding that that young girl was by no means the only young person to show promise.

It is rare for ballet companies to receive a standing ovation in this country but there were more than a few members of the audience who rose to their feet at the end of Saturday evening's show. The audience in the Chelmsford Civic was not unsophisticated. It knew when to clap - for instance the entrance of the principals and difficult bits of the choreography. I don't think that they would rise for anyone or anything without good reason and the fact that so many did on Saturday night speaks volumes for the show.

I do not know what Annette Potter and Marion Pettett are planning for next year's show but as it was in 1947 that Joan Weston organized a troupe of dancers at Broomfield YMCA which became Chelmsford Ballet I am sure that it will be good. Having achieved a lot over the years the company has a lot to celebrate. Though the March show is the highlight of the year the company holds other events such as Let's Make a Ballet for children in the Autumn and the Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society's Christmas show. Occasionally, they arrange coach trips to West End shows. I know we have the Choral but I wish we had a something like the Chelmsford Ballet in Huddersfield.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Dance Like A Knight - Romeo and Juliet Intensives




















Every time I hear Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet my spine tingles and I come out in goose bumps. Whenever I ask a young male dancer what would be his favourite rule it is almost always Romeo and a fair number of young women want to dance Juliet or at least one of the other strong female roles such as Lady Capulet danced so memorably by the magnificent Sarah Kundi in Manchester last year (see Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015).

Well now we can all have our chance since KNT Danceworks are running beginners and advanced intensives on Romeo and Juliet at the Dancehouse at 10 Oxford Road in Manchester on 8 and 9 April 2016. Those intensives will be taken by Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet who taught us Swan Lake in April (KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015).

Jane Tucker is a wonderful teacher and, as I have said before, I think the world of her but don't expect this programme to be easy. For Swan Lake we did a warm up on pilates mats, then a 90 minute class, then wall to wall rehearsals for the rest of the day until cool down at the end.  It nearly killed me. Nearly, but not quite. If I can survive this intensive, folks, then so can you.

I am really glad I did Swan Lake for lots of reasons. It was good fun and I got a great sense of achievement at the end. Everyone on the course got to know each other a little better and we developed a great camaraderie. I got to know and appreciate the choreography so much more. Whenever I watch cygnets, the swans' entry, the Hungarian dance or Siegfried's solo I smile and say to myself I had a go at that.

If you want to do this intensive call Karen Sant on 07783 103 037, email her at info@kntdanceworks.co.uk or contact her through Facebook you had better get your skates on. Tickets are selling like hot cakes.

By the way Dance of the Knights was used for another ballet  by Milena Siderova of the Dutch National Ballet. She created a hilarious dance called Full Moon for Bart Engelen who is now with the Norwegian Ballet. Read my review in The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015.

MOVE IT 2016

Excel Centre, London
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Having been billed as "The UK's Biggest Dance Event ...... with 22,000 dancers - three days - performances, classes, career advice, celebrities, interviews and shopping!" Team Terpsichore decided to find out what all the fuss was about. As it was taking place at the ExCel Centre at the base of the M11 and as we were in Essex on  Saturday night for Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty anyway Move It 2016 was not too far out of our way.

We were not sure what to expect because the event website was not too easy to navigate and not particularly informative. We wondered whether we would see anything at all as two of the companies we know well, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Chantry Dance, had already visited the show. However, we rang the event marketing manager to find out whether there would be anything left by Sunday and were assured that it would be as busy as Friday or Saturday.

The first thing we found when we arrived at the ExCel Centre car park was that it would be expensive. "£15 flat rate pay and display" said a sign. As you would expect for a car containing two Yorkshire residents it rumbled and virtually levitated.
"By 'eck" said I "I'm not paying that."
"They're having a laugh" said my companion.
"I could get 3 ballet lessons for that from Karen or Ailsa at KNT or Fiona at Team Hud" I fumed.
"Aye or two from Jane Tucker at Northern Ballet with a pound to spare for the meter" added my friend.
We cruised around Plaistow looking for a quite residential street with no yellow lines or resident parking restrictions and eventually found one in Britannia Village on the other side of the Royal Victoria Dock. The ExCel is connected to the village by a footbridge with several flights of stairs and no lift at each end.

Having crossed that bridge we found ourselves walking almost as far in the giant ExCel Centre which resembles an airport terminal or railway station with tables and fast food outlets on each side. At the far end of the building we found a booth with a massive but orderly queue on one side and masses of people milling around on the other. We eventually attracted someone's attention who told us we had to pay £19 simply to get in
........*@^~@*! .......
and anything from £4 to £8.50 for a class.
"Are people happy to pay all that", I wondered, and clearly the answer was "yes" for the place was heaving. "More brass than sense" thought I.

We studied the event catalogue and found we had missed Catalyst Dance's Entrance of the Swans by a few minutes. That was an open class and the only one I really wanted to do having taken Jane Tucker's Swan Lake workshop last summer. I scoured the catalogue for a light blue diamond indicating "Beginner" but other than Flamenco and belly dancing there were none.

There was a big stage at the far end of the exhibition hall and curtained off areas where the classes took place.  Someone had managed to drive a double decker bus into the exhibition hall. There was also a VIP area next to the stage. The rest of the room was occupied by exhibitors which included the RAD and ISTD, a few companies, rather more schools and suppliers of clothing, footwear and sundry equipment such as travelling barres and flooring.

The only ballet company we could find among the exhibitors was Ballet Theatre UK. Its stand was staffed by Christopher Moore. He gave us flyers for Pinocchio which is about to start a gruelling nationwide tour from Coventry tomorrow.
"Will you give out cast lists?" I asked timidly as that had been something of a bug bear for me.
"Yes we will" assured Moore.
He then gave us leaflets for the School of Ballet Theatre UK and its Wizard of Oz Build a Ballet project for young people. I have been a bit of a fan of BTUK for some time and I wish its Pinnochio tour and School all the best.

Middlesex University, Trinity Laban, The Urdang Academy, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland were all there and we stopped to chat with all of them. We also picked up literature from most if not all of the other schools that were exhibiting at the show but did not have time to speak to all. Some of the schools had students on the stands and it was good to talk to them about their courses, why they had chosen them and their aspirations for the future.

We also chatted to the RAD and ISTD and watched some talented young students demonstrating tendus. classical and jazz pirouettes and other exercises. There was dance wear and footwear galore on display a well as Jon Applegate Photography which has uploaded some great photos of the show to its website. Of all the products on display two that caught my eye were Ballet Is Fun's Turnboard (maybe I could use one of those as I still struggle to pirouette) and Hoop Hop's hula hoops.

I had been looking forward to seeing Elena Glurdjidgze at the show as she is one of my all  favourites (see Elena Glurdjidze - So Lovely, So Gracious 11 Feb 2014) but somehow managed to miss her. However, I did see Darcey Bussell on the main stage and also marvelled at Boadacea.

There are worse ways of spending a Sunday afternoon and I did pick up a free copy of The Stage and Dancing Times with a great article by Gavin McCaig in Talking Point which I read over an overpriced burrito  but it was not a cheap afternoon out.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Ballet Black at the Barbican

Barbican Centre
Author Tom Morris (Talk)
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Ballet Black, Triple Bill, Barbican, 19 March 2016

Since 2008, I have followed Ballet Black. Every year since then, I have attended their Linbury season at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Without fail, Ballet Black always continue to amaze, inspire and leave me with an effortless feeling of elation when I leave the auditorium post-performance. This year marks Ballet Black’s first season at the Barbican in The City, London while the Linbury undergoes refurbishment. The company executed a programme from commendable and accomplished choreographers, Arthur Pita, Christopher Marney and Christopher Hampson – each choreographer bringing something unique and palatable to the table.

Pita’s piece, Cristaux, began the show. After the curtain went up, Ballet Black company Senior Artist, Cira Robinson, melted across the stage with her fluid bourées. Robinson, adorned in a blinged-out eye-catching tutu designed by Yann Seabra, was the star of Pita’s choreographic celebration. Noticeable Balanchine influences ran throughout the piece, which were utterly beautiful to watch. Unfortunately, I, personally, feel Pita’s creation needed to bake a bit more. All the necessary ingredients are there for success, choreographic and dance talent. However, Pita’s goal by not always having the dancers match the music to Steve Reich’s Drumming Part III needed tightening up. For the fresh observer, this did not always translate. Crisper transitions, which can still be done subtlety, from rhythmic footwork to intentionally off-beat attack (which is much more difficult to rehearse than one would imagine) would help the metamorphosis of this piece into the jewel it is meant to be.

Next on the programme was To Begin, Begin by Christopher Marney. Telling a clear story throughout of which begins with a woman walking under a wave to later be found by her soul mate who transcends from above is satisfying to watch. Ballet Black Senior Company Artist, Sayaka Ichikawa, has attack, tenderness, elegance and overall artistry from top to bottom. Her partner, fellow company member and Senior Artist, Jacob Wye, was strong and a compliment to Ichikawa from beginning to end. Seeing many of Marney’s works on Ballet Black and Ballet Central here in London and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, he has a gift to tell a story that is effortless to follow letting you get lost in the moment and enjoy the theatrical experience at hand. Marney has a craft for creating beauty. One suggestion I have would be to see this talent, Marney, begin to take a few more risks. He has a powerhouse of technicians at his disposal in Ballet Black. Clean and elegant are Marney’s forté. Going beyond what Marney is naturally good at and pushing to that next level would be intriguing and a must see.

Concluding the Barbican programme was Storyville by Scottish Ballet Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson. Storyville was first created on Ballet Black in 2012. Since then, Hampson has expanded the piece. This has worked and was just as enjoyable to watch in 2016 as it was in 2012. It is difficult to pin point particular character’s in Hampson’s choreography as every company member on stage brought their talents to the table and delivered. Each company member standing out in their own right in their own character, shining like the soloists they are. I would like to point out the pairing of Senior Artists Cira Robinson and Damien Johnson was pure magic. Both dancers are originally American with American training behind them. Their American technique became more pronounced as they whirled and dazzled through Hampson’s enchaînements and partnerwork in unison. This is absolutely a good thing. For a brief moment, I thought I was in New York City at Lincoln Centre when Robinson and Johnson would take the stage together. Thank you Cassa Pancho and Christohper Hampson for brining these two artists together.

Overall, the programme is strong and very enjoyable to watch. Ballet Black is a company of eight strong links where not a single one falters with each pulling its own weight bringing their technical and artistic delights to each choreographic creation. Lighting design by David Plater complimented all three pieces in the company’s triple bill, simply beautiful and tasteful. I would also like to mention First Year Company Apprentice, Joshua Harriette, is definitely one to watch. Keep up the good work, Harriette. Your charisma shines through. I look forward to the company’s next performance, and hope all involved have received a well deserved break before the next show! Go and see this fantastic company and support them. Well done!           

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Cambriophilia

"We have Anglophile and Francophile, but what do we call someone who is a lover of the Americas - particularly North America?" asked The Guardian on its Semantic Enigma page. "Mad" was one ungracious reply which not unnaturally ruffled more than a few Transatlantic feathers. A more serious reply was Americophile which I googled and, yes, the word does seem to exist.

But the English language doesn't seem to have a word for a lover of Welsh culture which is strange because there is so much to admire in that beautiful peninsula just a short drive away for most of us. So I'm going to coin one which I hope will one day find its way into the OED. "Cambriophile" and its noun "Cambriophilia".  That adjective certainly applies to me. As I said in Ballet Cymru in London 1 Dec 2015:
"To the best of my knowledge and belief there is not a millilitre of Welsh blood in my veins. Such Celtic heritage as I can claim is Irish and Scottish yet I love Wales as much as anyone who was lucky enough to have been born in the principality."
One of the reasons I am a Cambriohile is that Wales has a great ballet company in Ballet Cymru. I am delighted to say that it also has a fine contemporary dance company in the National Dance Company Wales.

The National Dance Company Wales spent a day in Huddersfield on 10 March 2016 and we got to know them well. They invited us to their company class over cakes at lunch time before performing three of their works on their current Spring tour and then finally sticking around in the meeting room afterwards for a Q & A. I should say for the benefit of those readers who have never been to Wales or Huddersfield that we share quite a bit in common. We also live in a hilly, gritty landscape which once had mines and mills and we share a love of singing with one of the best choral societies in the world. A language close to Welsh was once spoken in Yorkshire and quite a bit of it remains in names of geographic features such as Pen-y-ghent for one of the highest points in our county.

Company class was taken by Lee Johnston, the company's rehearsal director, and it was entirely classical starting with warm ups on the floor, barre work, and the usual centre exercises albeit to slightly different music than would normally accompany a ballet class. While the dance these artists perform on stage may not be ballet they are clearly ballet trained and they are as supple and graceful as any ballet dancer. Gita and I ran into Johnston on the way from the auditorium to the cafe.
 "Thanks for coming" she said.
"On the contrary. we thank you for letting us watch your company class" was our reply.
We introduced ourselves as Team Terpsichore and expressed our delight at meeting another Welsh dance company.
"We are good friends of Ballet Cymru", we were told, "who are just down the road from us."

The NCDW is based in the Dance House in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff which is indeed not far from Rogerstone which is the suburb of Newport where Ballet Cymru is based. The facilities of the Dance House sound magnificent: "a world-class production facility and performance and rehearsal space for local artists, youth groups and touring companies across the UK and beyond." They share that space with a roll call of some of the best and the brightest in Wales Welsh National Opera, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Touch Trust, Ty Cerdd, Literature Wales, Hijinx and Urdd. Facilities include "two dance studios, a lounge area and office space. The main production studio, the Blue Room, has the highest quality technical specification for producing and presenting dance, including 100 tiered and retractable seats. The second studio, Man Gwyn, is a simple square rehearsal studio complete with ballet barres, mirrors and full circle grey drapes for rehearsal, auditions or intimate presentations." Apparently the Dance House is always buzzing with activity.

The company has 9 dancers of whom only Josie Sinnadurai seems to be Welsh. The rest come from England and the Continent.
"You call yourself the National Company of Wales" I asked in the Q & A after the show, "so what's so Welsh about you?"
"Good question" replied David Pallant, their latest recruit, "well we go to all parts of the country and interact with schools of community groups."
"Our dancers are actually learning Welsh to work with children" added Lee Johnstone.
"Would you like to say something in Welsh?" said our Canadian master or rather mistress of ceremonies to Angela Boix Duran who is a strikingly beautiful young woman from Barcelona.
"Yr wyf o Sbaen" ("I'm from Spain") came the fluent reply.

The company performed three works for us:
I liked all three works enormously but the one I enjoyed the most was Verbruggen's Mighty Wind. It was exciting as the men tossed one of the women between them as though she were a sack of potatoes and also innovative in the way he used four mobile fans with powerful lighting to flare the dancers hair as though they were on fire. Verbruggen had created The Nutcracker for the Geneva Ballet which I mentioned in Geneva Nutcracker on 25 Oct 2015. I would love to see that work one day but for now A Mighty Wind will do.

The National Dance Company of Wales's next stop on their Spring tour is The Place in London on 12 April and then on to Aberystwyth, Milford Haven and Mold.  If you live anywhere near those places they are worth a visit.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Thank you Ernst!

Dutch National Ballet, Junior Company, "No Time Before Time"
Photo Michel Schnater
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company




















I hate panning a show because I know how much work goes into it. Especially when I know and love the company. So now I am going to write something nice. Not than just nice. I'm going to 

ENTHUSE 

just like the chaps in the photo who are members of Ernst Meisner's Junior Company.

Here they are dancing in Ernst Meisner's No Time Before Time which I saw on my birthday (see Ballet Bubbles  16 Feb 2016). Takes my mind off another ballet that I first saw on my birthday in 2004.

No Time Before Time was premièred at the finals of the Grand Prix of Lausanne. If you click on this link and run the cursor to 1:43:52 / 2:37:55 and you will find a recording of that first performance. It is worth looking at the reverence at the end of the show where each of the dancers is presented with a flower and Ernst get's a bouquet. Regard the grin on his face. He looks so proud and he has every right to be because his young dancers are brilliant.

The surname of one of his dancers is Superfine. Now isn't that an appropriate name for such a talented artist.

Clara Suerfine in No Time Before Time
Photo Michel Schnater
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company




























However, all those dancers are super and they are all fine.

Up the Swannee

The Swannee River, USA
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Northern Ballet, "Swan Lake", Leeds Grand Theatre, 12 March 19:30

The Leeds Grand Theatre was packed to the gunnels for the last performance of Northern Baller's Swan Lake on Saturday night and the applause at the end was deafening. Cheers, roars, ululations. The audience was almost delirious with excitement. I am sorry to say that I didn't join in with them. I clapped gently at the end of the performance out of respect for the dancers who gave their all.

Had this ballet been called something like Simon and Anthony I might have been a bit more tolerant but it was billed as Swan Lake for goodness sake and it bore as much resemblance to Petipa's masterpiece as the River Medlock does to the mighty Mississippi. Now David Nixon is a fine choreographer and I admire many of his works. I have called his Madame Butterfly a masterpiece and his Cinderella a triumph but I am afraid that his Swan Lake does nothing for me. I have now given it two chances. The first when it came out on 14 Feb 2004 which happened to be my birthday (see Don't Expect Petipa 5 Jan 2015) and the second last Saturday. I am not inclined to give it a third.

"But what didn't you like about it?" asked a classmate from my Over 55 ballet class this morning. "Oh it was so boring" I replied. "Where were Legnani's 32 fouettes?" I replied. "And the divertissements?" The Hungarian seemed to have morphed into a tango and the Neapolitan into a party piece. I found myself looking at my watch almost for the first time ever in over 50 years of ballet going. I didn't like the libretto, the orchestration or arrangement, the sets or even the costumes. It reminded me of the eighties fashions of erecting a Doric arch on a right-to-buy Thatcher house or installing a Rolls Royce grill on a beetle.

The evening was saved for me by the dancers who were good. Many of my favourite dancers were on stage. Jeremy Curnier as Anthony, Antoinette Brooks-Daw as Odette, Ashley Dixon as Simon, Ayami Miyata as Odilia, the magnificent Pippa Moore as Anthony's mother and the equally magnificent Hironaeo Takahashi as his father. There were some good albeit brief performances further down the batting order by Kevin Poeung as young Anthony and Gavin McCaig foundering on his bike.  Their performances would have excited the audience which would be why the show had such a good reception, For many in the audience Northern Ballet's production will have been the first Swan Lake they may have seen in a while. For some it may be the only one they know.

Tchaikovsky's music is of course uplifting and there is only so much one can do to spoil it. Though someone had a pretty good try with the outsize floaty blue textile thingee which you see in the trailer that reminded me of the bear in Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale. The last time I saw Nixon's Swan Lake I had to skedaddle down to Covent Garden to see the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake to get the former out of my system.  The Royal Ballet are not doing Swan Lake this year but English National are at the Albert Hall in the round in June and of course my beloved Scottish Ballet are bringing David Dawson's to Liverpool. The rehearsal on World Ballet Day looks really exciting.

Just because I don't like Northern's Swan Lake doesn't mean you won't. It's running in Sheffield until Saturday and then on to Norwich and Milton Keynes.  And then there's Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre to which I am looking forward very much. They usually run a triple bill in the Stanley and Audrey Burton in Spring which they take to the Linbury but of course the Linbury is closed this year and that is a pity because that is the best show they do. I'll probably give 1984 and Beauty and the Beast a miss this year (it's the bus that get's me) but I can recommend Jean-Christopher Maillot's Romeo and Juliet (see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - Different but in a Good Way 8 March 2015).

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Trois Gnossiennes

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




















Hans van Manen has delighted audiences around the world and inspired dancers and choreographers for as long as I can remember. I have seen the great man  at the Stadschouwburg in Amsterdam on 24 Nov 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013) and 6 Feb 2015 (see The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's best Performance yet 8 Feb 2015). He got a standing ovation each time and no wonder for he is a national treasure whom the Dutch revere.

Van Manen appeared at those performances because the Junior Company include one of his works in their tour each year. This time it was was Trois Gnossiennes which he created for the Dutch National Ballet on 20 Oct 1982. The music that he used for this ballet is by Erik Satie, the same composer who inspired Sir Frederick Ashton to create Monotones. That is another ballet I love very much.

The dancers in the photos are Giovanni Princic from Italy and Melissa Chapski of the USA. I admire them both enormously.
Melissa Chapski and Giovanni Princic
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by kind permission of the company




















They work very well together.  Earlier in the performance Princic had danced a masterly Ballet 101 and Chapski had charmed us in the Pas de Six.  My review of the whole show is Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016.

Audiences in this country will gain an opportunity to see more of van Manen's work when the Netherlands Dance Theatre tours the UK next month. I hope to catch NDT2 in Bradford and at The Lowry. 

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Wie Lange Noch

Thomas van Damme and Emilie Tassinari
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet
Reproduction licensed with kind permission of the company
All rights reserved





















Dutch National Ballet Junior Company, Meervaart Theatre, 14 Feb 2016


One of the most thrilling parts of the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company's Ballet Bubbles programme on 14 Feb 2016 was Krzysztof Pastor's Wie Lange Noch to the music of Kurt Weill. Pastor is probably best known in this country for his Romeo and Juliet for Scottish Ballet which I reviewed in Scottish Ballet's Timeless Romeo and Juliet 18 May 2014.

This work featured two of my favourite young dancers: Thomas van Damme who had delighted me the previous year with his performance of Ernst Meisner's Embers with Nancy Burer in 2015 (see Junior Company's New Season 6 Feb 2015) earning Meisner my personal choreographer of the year award for 2015 (see Highlights of 2015 29 Dec 2015) and Emilie Tassinari who had impressed me and many others in Cinderella at the Coliseum (see Wheeldon's Cinderella 13 July 2015). Those two have really blossomed since I first met them just over a year ago and I am sure that they can both look forward to a glittering future.

So, too, can Joseph Massarelli and Daniel Robert Silva who appear below.


Joseph Massarelli and Daniel Robert Silva, 
Photo Michel Schnater, Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet. Reproduction licensed with kind permission of the company,All rights reserved






















Those chaps were also in that piece. As they have only just joined the company this was the first time I had seen them. I am very impressed and will follow their careers with interest.

You will find my review of the show in Ballet Bubbles on 16 Feb 2016.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Mata Hari as an Exotic Dancer

Anna Tsygankova as Mata Hari
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by kind permission of the company








































After her marriage ended, Margaretha MacLeod moved to Paris where she performed in various music halls including the Moulin Rouge shown below

Moulin Rouge
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed with the kind consent of the company





















I can't recognize all the dancers but I think one is the talented Floor Eimers who is one of my favourites. I also seem to remember that Michaela DaPrince danced in that episode too but I don't think she is in this picture.  

In Paris MacLeod found her niche as an exotic dancer under the stage name Mata Hari (Dawn or Sunrise). The photo at the top of this column shows Anna Tsygankova dancing that role. Although she enjoyed some success she was eventually overshadowed by other dancers including Isadora Duncan who was two years her junior.

MacLeod's career as a dancer ended abruptly with the first world war.  As a citizen of a neutral country she was able to travel between the belligerents which made her useful to the intelligence services of both sides.  The photo below shows her with her German controller, Major Roepell, danced by Jozef Varga.

Anna Tsygankova and Jozef Varga
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed with the kind consent of the company





























A particularly handsome officer as this photo shows.

Jozef Varga
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed with the kind consent of the company




























And of course she was also courted by the other side.

Anna Tsygankova and Artur Shestrikov
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed with the kind consent of the company


Which, of course, led to her arrest and execution at Vincennes on 15 Oct 1917. 

Anna Tsygankova
Photo Marc Haegeman
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed with the kind consent of the company




















This last photo shows her between the ranks of the Zouave firing party which shot her.

My review of the show appears here. See also Anna Tsygankova as Mata Hari 23 Feb 2016 and More Photos of Mata Hari 29 Feb 2016.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A Good Outcome from an Unhappy Event - Singleton's Fine Performance


Romeo and Juliet 2016 tour trailer from Birmingham Royal Ballet on Vimeo.
 The Birmingham Royal Ballet, Romeo and Juliet, The Lowry Theatre, 5 March 2016

Sometimes a good outcome can result from an unhappy event. There are countless tales of actors and sportsmen as well as dancers stepping into a role at the last minute and rendering a magnificent performance. That happened last night when Tyrone Singleton danced Romeo in Birmingham Royal Ballet's performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Lowry Theatre in Salford.

Singleton stepped in because Jamie Bond was indisposed. Apparently he sustained an injury minutes before the curtain rose. That came as a blow because Bond is one of my favourite dancers. I enjoyed his performance as Beliaev in A Month in the Country on 20 Feb 2016 and I had been looking forward to seeing him as Romeo ever since.  But of course that is secondary to the welfare of a dancer.  The company gave no details of the injury and I am sure that I speak for everyone in wishing him all the best.

However, although I was disappointed not to see Bond, Singleton made up for it.  He is another of my favourites and I may be wrong but I think yesterday was the first time that he danced Romeo.  He had danced Benvolio and Paris in Romeo and Juliet before so he would have known the ballet well but Romeo is a very demanding role requiring considerable dramatic as well as virtuosity. With four pas de deux - particularly the last one as Romeo carries Juliet's seemingly lifeless body around the stage - several big sword fights and lots of ecstatic solo jumping - there is more than enough demand for technical skills. All I can say is that he carried it off very well indeed and I congratulate him on his performance.

Of course a great Romeo needs an excellent Juliet and we had a particularly good one in Nao Sakuma. This is another challenging role for the dancer has to grow before the audience's eyes from playful infant into an adult with capacity for all consuming love and considerable courage and determination. This is one of the great theatrical roles not just in ballet but in any media and it is big challenge for any ballerina. I have seen Lynn Seymour and Margot Fonteyn dance those roles but I don't think either of them thrilled me more than Sakuma did last night. She has a real understanding of the character. The acid test of a great Juliet is her solo in her bedroom as she contemplates her options after the double shock of Romeo's departure and her parents' order to marry Paris sinks in. Sakuma emerged from it as pure gold.

There were lots of other fine performances last night.

Valentin Olovyannikov was a great Tybalt. Why do my fellow Mancunians boo fine artists after magnificent performances just because they dance the villain's role? Too many pantomimes, I guess. We all admired his performance. I hope he takes those boos as compliments for I am sure that was the intention. Also, is Tybalt really any worse than the other young hooligans in the Montague or Capulet families.  I suppose he did stab Mercutio in  the back but wouldn't Benvolio, Mercutio or even Romeo have done the same given the chance?

Talking of Mercutio and Benvolio, Mathias Dingman and Jonathan Caguioa gave fine performances of these roles.

So, too, did Steven Monteith as Paris. According to his twitter feed he is about to retire.  He will be missed. In the first interval I bumped into Janet McNulty of BalletCo Forum and her companion. "I don't know why she bothered with Romeo when she had such a good looking Paris" Janet said. In view of Singleton's striking good looks, his height and slender, athletic frame that is quite a compliment. Again, I am sure I speak for everyone in wishing Monteith well in the next phase of his career.

As for the women, it is always a pleasure to see Delia Matthews. I was so sad to learn that she had been injured in Les Rendzvous (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in York 21 May 2015). It was lovely to see her back in top form as Rosaline. Ana Albutashvili was a fine nurse. I particularly loved her dance with Romeo and his mates as she tried to deliver Juliet's letter fending off the groping and bottom pinching but palpably relishing the kiss from Romeo. Yijing Zhang was a passionate Lady Capulet: spitting blood at Romeo after he had despatched Tybalt but still capable of at least some empathy for Juliet as her dad laid down the law. And although they were not on stage for long it was great to see Maureya Lebowitz who had impressed me as Lise (see Fille bien gardée - Nottingham 26 June 2014 26 Jan 2014) and Céline Gittens who was an adorable Swanilde (see Sensational 6 March 2015) again.

All danced well and this review would rival a telephone directory in length and turgidity if I were to give every dancer his or her due. I really wish I had brought flowers to throw on stage in the Covent Garden tradition even though I would probably have been bundled out of the Lowry and banned from ever returning. But it would have been worth it for all the artists danced so well. Maybe flower throws are a London practice we should import for shows like last night's as well as clapping when the principal appears. I clapped as Singleton and Sakuma appeared in scenes one and two but inaudibly. So frustrating!

This was the first time I had seen MacMillan's ballet without Nicholas Georgiadis's sets. They are so rich and add so much to the show. But although I prefer Georgiadis's designs simply because I associate them with some great productions in the past, Paul Andrew's worked well too.

The other great ingredient of this ballet is the music and Koen Kessels interpreted Prokofiev's difficult score magnificently.

Having moaned about my fellow Mancunians for booing Tybalt and not clapping the principals or throwing flowers I must commend them for turning out in force last night. I couldn't see a single empty seat. So different from the Hippodrome two weeks ago.  In my review of the Ashton's Double Bill 21 Feb 2016 I wrote:
"For some reason or other the theatre was far from full which is disappointing for a performance by a company of the calibre of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Although there were some cheers and bravos - mainly from me - and one or two people on their feet - there were not all that many curtain calls. It was a good show and BRB deserved more appreciation. I am sure they will do better when they bring Romeo and Juliet to the Lowry."
I am so relieved that was the case. My birthplace is the second city of the United Kingdom not simply by dint of numbers but also in its appreciation of excellence.