Sunday, 17 September 2017

World Ballet Day is coming


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One of the compensations of Autumn is World Ballet Day in which five of the world's top companies present their offerings and those of their guests. This year it falls on 5 Oct 2017.

The day begins in Melbourne with the Australian Ballet. We have a special interest in that company as they hosted Amelia Sierevogel earlier this year.  She told us all about her experiences with that company in Melbourne City of Dance 23 May 2017.  The Australian Ballet is sharing its slot with three other companies with which we have a connection, namely the Queensland Ballet, the Hong Kong Ballet and the West Australian Ballet.

We welcomed the Queensland Ballet to London in 2015 (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015).  Gita and I also had the honour of meeting its legendary artistic director, Li Cunxin, when he visited the London Ballet Circle. Amelia and I have another connection with that company since our teacher, Fiona Noonan, trained and danced with them. Another favourite teacher, Jane Tucker, danced with the Hong Kong Ballet who are also guests of the Australian Ballet. The third guest that we follow with interest is the West Australian Ballet who are dancing David Nixon's The Great Gatsby in Perth this month.

The baton passes to the Bolshoi whose Taming of the Shrew delighted audiences in London last year (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2017). The choreographer of that work was Jean-Christophe Maillot whose company Les Ballets de Monte Carlo will share the Bolshoi's slot. The Bolshoi's other guests are the Netherlands Dance Theatre who are well known and greatly appreciated here.  The Bolshoi will rehearse for us Balanchine's Diamonds and The Golden Age and introduce us to The Moscow State Academy of Choreography.

Next comes London with the Royal Ballet and four of our other great companies all of whom I know well and admire greatly. The Royal Ballet will rehearse Anastasia, La Fille mal gardée, The Sleeping Beauty and a new ballet by Charlotte Edmonds. Students from the Royal Ballet School will dance Concerto and the company will dance Anastasia.  The Royal Ballet's guests include some of the world's greatest companies including The Dutch National Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, La Scala, the Stuttgart Ballet and the Vienna State Ballet. This should be the highpoint of the day.

Across the Atlantic to Toronto with the National Ballet of Canada. They will be rehearsing Cinderella and Onegin and interview the great Karen Kain. Wayne McGregor and Robert Binet.  Their guests include the Miami City Ballet whom Gita saw in February (see Gita Mistry Attending the Ballet in Florida: Miami City Ballet's Program Three 6 March 2017) and the Boston Ballet who were in London in 2013 (see High as a Flag on the 4th July 7 July 2917).

Finally to San Francisco, one of the oldest and finest companies in America who also promise rehearsals of Diamonds and Cinderella as well as Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein, Helgi Tomasson's Haffner Symphony and a new work by Yuri Possokhov. Their guests include the Houston Ballet which suffered badly from Hurricane Harvey (see Houston Ballet  30 Aug 2017). I take a special interest in that company partly because of its many connections with this country. partly because Li Cunxin started his career there but mainly because the outstanding young artist, Emilie Tassinari, has recently joined the corps.

Every year seems to be better than the last and this year promises to be the best of all. Nobody can watch the whole feast on one day but, happily, recordings remain on YouTube for months after the event.  It takes about a year to savour it all.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Bridgewater Hall's Birthday Party

Author Alan Stanton
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I thought of our 55+ class's talented pianist, Alena Panasenka, this weekend when I visited the Bridgewater Hall for its 21st birthday party on Sunday. There was a lot to see, do and, above all, hear that day as the concert hall opened its doors to its patrons and friends.

The high point of the day, and this is the bit that made me think of Alena, was a  concert by Noriko Ogawa, Graham Scott, Murray McLachlan and Martin Roscoe on the Bridgewater Hall's four Steinway pianos. The programme included works by Beethoven, Bernstein, Debussy, Holst, Mozart and Wagner some of which were arranged very ingeniously. Some of the works were arranged for four pianos and others for two. You will not be surprised to learn that my favourite piece was the prelude to L'Aprȅs Midi d'un Faune.

There was also music in the stalls café bar by the main entrance.  I heard guitar music from Emma Smith, saxophone music from four students of the Royal Northern College of Music known as the Cornelian Saxophone Quartet and clarinet music from another four who performed as the Arundo Clarinet Quartet.  My companion also had a free lesson on one of the Steinways.

We both heard a talk chaired by Peter Davidson, the Bridgewater Hall's artistic consultant, on "Playing the Bridgewater Hall."  The acoustics of the Bridgewater Hall are sometimes compared to a Stradivarius violin which sounds quite ordinary in the hands of an average player but extraordinary in the hands of an exceptionally talented violinist. We heard from Rob Harris, the hall's first acoustic consultant, the critic Robert Beale, the singer, Jacqui Dankworth, and the guitarist, Craig Ogden.  I learned a lot about the hall from that talk. For instance, the fact that it is mounted on springs like a vehicle. I also discovered that it is soundproofed so well that technicians assembling the organ were quite oblivious to a terrorist explosion in the Arndale Centre a few hundred yards away.

There was much that we did not see because the celebrations lasted the whole weekend.  The day after tomorrow I shall see the Bridgewater Hall in a different light when it hosts Venturefest. It is a source of great pride for the whole city and for everyone who is entitled to call him or herself a Mancunian.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - "an impressive work that was danced splendidly by Northern Ballet"


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Northern Ballet The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas 9 Sept 2017 19:30 West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds


Daniel de Andrade's ballet, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is an impressive work that was danced splendidly by Northern Ballet last night. I congratulate the choreographer, his fellow creatives, the dancers and everyone else who was involved in the show on an outstanding performance. It greatly exceeded my expectations and raised my admiration for the company to new heights.

Although  I had neither read John Boyne's novel nor seen the film and had been unable to catch the work in Doncaster or any of the other venues on this year's midscale tour, I had been aware of the story. I feared a descent into mawkish sentimentality and that this review would be an exercise in floccinaucinihilipilification. Instead, de Andrade explored the twin themes of corruption of decent men by poisonous ideology and love between children.  Watching that ballet was a moving, indeed harrowing, experience that tugged at every emotion.

Boyne's novel cannot have been easy to transpose to dance.  De Andrade responded to that challenge with considerable ingenuity.  For example, Hitler appears in the book and personally appoints the father of one of the children at the centre of the story as Commandant of Auschwitz. Easy enough, one would think, as Hitler is instantly recognizable with his half moustache and floppy forelock. But de Andrade resisted the temptation to do the obvious. He substituted a Fury for the Führer - an even more menacing Siegfried type character crouching, creeping and dripping with evil. For some reason or other, the Bolshoi refer to Siegfried as "the evil genius" in its version of Swan Lake (see Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Covent Garden 31 July 2016). Well, de Andrade's evil genius was spine chilling.

The strong libretto was just one reason for the show's success.

There was some pretty powerful choreography.  The duet between the boys on different sides of the fence - always harmonious but never symmetrical - the acts of violence - the cashiering of the arrogant and sadistic Lieutenant Kotler - and so much more of which space does not permit proper acknowledgement.

There was also an excellent score by Gaty Yeschon reminiscent of the compositions of the time - at least in this country, America and even Russia though not perhaps Nazi Germany.  It must have been difficult to play and seemed from the luxury of my chair particularly difficult to dance but it fitted the ballet exactly.

There were sets cleverly transporting us to the Reichs Chancery, the Commandant's home, the boundary of the concentration camp and even the train and gas chambers by Mark Bailey. The outline of that monstrous sign, "Arbeit macht frei" (as horrifying as the inscription on the gates of Hell "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate") made me shudder. Bailey's uniforms and civilians' costumes seemed authentic to the last detail.

Finally, there was some exquisite lighting by Tim Mitchell. The pool of red light around Kotler's body represented his death in combat eloquently and chillingly.

The dancers, as I said above, were splendid.

The boys, Matthew Koon who danced Bruno (the Commandant's son) and Filippo di Vilio who danced Shmuel (the prisoner), central to the story, were lyrical. The playful, loving, innocent Bruno with his cartwheels and jumps. The starving, beaten, almost dehumanized Schmuel with his arabesques. How I rejoiced as he sank his teeth into an apple, How I wept as the cloud destroyed them both.

Mlindi Kualshe, often cast as a villain even though he is a most affable young man, radiated evil as the Fury. He was an excellent choice for the role.  He emerged from his mask with a gleaming smile and special applause at the reverence.

Javier Torres, the company's remaining premier dancer, interpreted the Commandant's role with sensitivity and sophistication.  This was a man who would almost certainly have been hanged at Nuremberg for his crimes.  However, he was also a loving father and husband and even in the running of the camp he showed signs of humanity. A much more complex character than O'Brien in Jonathan Watkin's 1984.  Torres discharged that role magnificently.

Also magnificent was Hannah Bateman who danced his wife.  A vain and spoilt beauty - a model of Aryan womanhood - hollowed out by conscience and in the end the loss of her son in her husband's death machine.  A formidable dancer.  A superb actor.  I can think of few artists from any company who could have carried off that challenging role anything like as well.

Magnificence, too, from Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Bruno's sister who swallowed the Nazi message, perhaps because of the attentions of Lieutenant Kotler (Sean Bates) who delivered it, Mariana Rodrigues, the Commandant's mother who would have none of that message, Dominique Larose, the Commandant's maid, and indeed each and every other member of the cast.  I don't know whether anyone else joined me but I was compelled to rise to my feet after that performance.  That's not something I do every day.

Yesterday's was almost the last performance of the current run.  The show moves on to Hull next month and then that's it for the time being. I hope it stays in the company's repertoire for I would love to see it again.

Friday, 8 September 2017

The Ballet Couple


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There is a great overlap between film and dance. It started long before The Red Shoes.  Pavlova experimented with the camera as you can see from her clip of The Dying Swan In Leeds of All Places - Ashton Pavlova and Magic  18 Sept 2013.  So, too, did Nijinsky as you can see from Hommage au Faun 9 July 2013.

When I interviewed Kenny Tindall in "A Many Sided Genius" - Tindall on Casanova 4 March 2017 we talked about the cinema which he refers to as "church". Tindal compared the work of a choreographer to that of the director of a film:
"The roles were similar and maybe even converging as techniques and technology that had been developed for the cinema were increasingly used in ballet. I recalled the filming of The Architect to which project I had contributed (see Tindall's Architect - How to Get a Piece of the Action - Literally! 7 June 2014). I asked whether another film might result from Casanova. Tindall’s eyes sparkled. No concrete plans as yet, he said, but would it not be splendid to film Act I in Venice and Act II in Paris."
I was reminded of my conversation with Tindall when I saw New Moves on 24 June 2017.   As I said in my review:
"The most dramatic work of the evening was Thomas van Damme's Convergence which he created for Skyler Martin and Clara Superfine to music by Gorecki. Superfine is yet another dancer whose career I follow closely (see Thank You Ernst 17 March 2016). Through superb use of lighting reminiscent of cinema, he seemed to force the dancers together. They seemed to approach each other but not as lovers, more like predator and prey. It seemed like a gripping narrative though the programme notes suggest something gentler:
"1. Independent development of similar characters often associate with similarity of habits or environment.
2. Moving toward union or uniformity."
As he has mastered the technique of building suspense, I look forward to seeing whether van Damme will use that technique in his future work."
I have not had to wait very long. He used the same technique in Girls Night with Riho Sakamoto and Yuanyuan Zhang,  This is one of a number of short films that Thomas van Damme has made with Youanyuan Zhang as The Ballet Couple.  They have their own YouTube Channel, Facebook page and Twitter stream.  They describe themselves as:
"Professional ballet dancers in love enjoying life and youtube. 
Follow us in our life with our special jobs and crazy adventures! 
Tell us about your adventures and experiences with dance or other. 
Love, 
Yuanyuan & Thomas"
You have already seen enough of them to appreciate their talents.  Just imagine their potential.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Ann Maguire Gala 2017


On Sunday 3 Sept, my friend Erin and I attended the Ann Maguire Gala 2017 at Leeds Grand Theatre. The money raised by the ticket sales went towards the Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund less the essential running costs. All the performers and stage crew volunteered to be part of this event. 

But this event was not just any old dance gala.  No. It was an incredible opportunity for us to feast our eyes upon dancers from the Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet and Ballet Boyz. The repertoire consisted of choreography by Kenneth MacMillan, Frederick Ashton, Liam Scarlett, Will Tuckett, Alastair Marriott, Steven McRae and Christopher Wheeldon.

As one who does not have a lot of money, this was an opportunity for me to see some of my favourite dancers.

I was so incredibly excited!

Erin and I filled with excitement for the night's event. 
The show began with an introduction by Wayne Sleep.  I was surprised to see how small he is in real life

The first act included
  • the second movement pas de deux from Concerto,
  • a piece enitled simply New Work
  • the White Swan pas de deux, 
  • Quizas
  • Aeternum pas de deux and 
  • Voices of Spring.  
I shan't go into detail about every piece of the programme, but will instead talk about the pieces that have stuck in my mind since Sunday night.
Quizas was a new piece choreographed by Will Tuckett, to the track of the same name by Nat King Cole and Shigeru Umebayashi. It was performed by Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera. It has a very latin vibe to it but was still balletic.  I truly found myself falling in love with it. I just wanted to get up and dance with them. It looked so incredibly fun! And, of course, effortless, much to the credit of the dancers.

Ashton's Voices of Spring was performed by Yuhui Choe and recently promoted Alexander Campbell. It was so beautiful to watch. It left me feeling like I was dreaming at the end of the act!

The second act opened with a musical medley of songs from Les Miserables and West Side Story performed by Leeds Youth Opera.

Act two included
  • Debussy's Clair de Lune performed by Edward Watson,
  • Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour pas de deux,
  • Asphodel Meadows - second movement pas de deux
  • Northern Ballet's 1984 by Jonathan Watkins- the final pas de deux
  • Steven McRae's famous tap piece Czardas
  • Meditation from Thais pas de deux, and 
  • Le Corsaire - pas de deux.
Clair de Lune was one of my favourite performances of the whole night. It was very simple and elegant. Watson executed the most incredible attitude turns (believe me when I say from my own experience they're hard). His ending position which was a plié in second, left Erin and me breathless for he did not move at all - for what seemed like forever. Not even shaking!

Czardas by Steven McRae was so much fun. He was accompanied on the stage with violinist Vasko Vassilev. Both artists were truly incredible to watch.  I would love to watch this over again and again.*

Le Corsaire pas de deux was performed by Akane Takada and Benjamin Ella. Akane did all 32 fouette turns perfectly and Benjamin flew across the stage with his incredible jumps. It was a truly a delight to watch. It left the audience on such a high note!

Finally, the night concluded with a thank you from Wayne Sleep and Emma Maguire (the daughter of the late Ann Maguire and event organiser) followed by, of course. the curtain call. each of the performers was given a single red rose.  I was left feeling overwhelmed and happy to have watched such a wonderful night of performances.

Myself with Edward Watson
Erin with Alexander Campbell

The night, however, did not end there for Erin and I decided to go to the stage door after the performance. We were fortunate enough to meet Alexander Campbell, Steven McRae, Fumi Kaneko and Edward Watson. All of whom were lovely, and we had enjoyable conversations with them. We found out that the stage was raked, which made us gasp even more. We sadly did not meet any of the other artists due to having to catch a train back to Huddersfield from Leeds and it was quite late. But I still cannot believe we met some of our absolute favourite dancers, let alone watched them perform. It will be a night I will remember for the rest of my life!

Amelia x

* You can.  He performed it on World Ballet Day and a video of his performance is right here (Ed).

Monday, 4 September 2017

Shanghai Ballet - "The Greatest Swan Lake in the World"


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Shanghai Ballet Swan Lake, Theater Carré, Amsterdam, Wed 30 Aug 2017.

Remco Van Grevenstein 

Last Wednesday. I saw Swan Lake for the first time on stage. I had seen it a couple of times before on YouTube and other sites with performances by the Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. This was also the first time I had sees a ballet company from China. It was fabulous. It was billed as the ''Greatest Swan Lake in the World'' and with 48 swan's it was pretty big. If you have ever been to the Carré Theatre you will know that the stage is not as big as those of most Opera Houses, but they somehow made it work.

With 48 swans as well as Princess Odette and Baron von Rothbart on stage, there were a lot of people. Choreographer Derek Deane made it possible. Perhaps they should have called this ballet Swan Sea - but who is counting?

The role of Odette/Odile was danced by Qi Bingxue. According to an interview on Dutch TV, this was the first time that she had danced in this ballet as a principal dancer. She did a great job. The role of Siegfried was danced by Wu Husheng. While I think he is a good dancer, I did not like his hesitation in the PDD.  His dance did not seem to flow. The rhythm was staccato: move - break - move - break. I did not appreciate that.*

What I did like at the end was the standing ovation for the corps de ballet. It was the first time that I had seen that in a ballet or indeed any other show. After the whole company had appeared on stage the principals stepped aside so that the corps could receive their own standing ovation.  Indeed the public clapped even harder for them.

According to their website the Shanghai Ballet have been touring the globe for a year, so perhaps they will show up some day at an auditorium near you.

Rothbart was performed by a chap called Wu. I can't remember his family name or find it on the Internet, but he was great in that role both as the baron and as the sorcerer.

What I missed was the lovers' sacrifice at the end. In this ballet, both Siegfried and Odette got into a small barque and sailed away into the future. A bit too tame for my taste

* Readers may like to see Graham Watts's interview with Wu Husheng and Qi Bingxue on DanceTabs on 14 Aug 2016 (Ed).

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Welcome Silver Swans

Author Marek Szczepanek
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The top item of my RAD newsletter features Angela Ripon in a dance studio above the headline "Silver Swans Take Flight". The article announces that the RAD is piloting ballet classes for the over-55s in the UK and elsewhere to be taught by specially trained instructors under the SILVER SWANS trade mark and that Angela Ripon is promoting them.  No classes have been arranged just yet but the RAD's website shows a map of the UK where those instructors are located. The most northerly is in Billingham and the most southerly in Helston unless you count Jersey which also has a teacher at Saint-Ouen. The RAD map complements Sophie Rebecca's more comprehensive map of adult ballet classes in the UK some of which also cater for the over 55s.

The RAD's initiative seems to have been a long time in the making.  I reported on three taster classes in Haslingden, Richmond and Glossop marketed by the RAD under the SILVER SWANS sign as long ago as 12 Feb 2014 (see Migrating Swans - Dance Classes for the Over 50s in the North 12 Feb 2014). Interestingly, the first use of the words SILVER SWANS to refer to dancers of a certain age appears to have been by the BBC.   Those words appeared in the headline for an article about a Scottish Ballet class for older dancers by Emma Ailes as long ago as 18 Oct 2013 (see 'Silver Swans' taking to the barre later in life for ballet lessons 18 Oct 2013 BBC).

If you are over 55 and want to return to dance after a gap of many years or even take up ballet for the first time, you do not have to wait for the RAD.  Northern Ballet Academy has been running several beginners and improvers classes a week for dancers over the age of 55 in Leeds for many years.  As you can see from the class timetable, it now runs classes for beginners and improvers over the age of 55 at its studios in Leeds on Tuesdays and Fridays as well as two classes in Gomersal on Monday mornings. I started the beginners' class in Leeds almost exactly 4 years ago. If you are wondering what to expect on your first day. I wrote about my first experiences in Realizing a Dream on 12 Sept 2013. You can actually watch a video of our class in action and find links to lots of other articles on dancing in later life in We're in the Paper 15 April 2013.

I know for a fact that there are similar classes in London run by Rambert which seem to attract royal patronage (see Mercury Movers 60+ on the Rambert website), Birmingham (see Move into Ballet on the Dance Exchange website), Newcastle (see Ballet Beginners on the Dance City website) and Glasgow (see Regenerate on the Scottish Ballet website). For the more ambitious or extrovert there are elder companies in Glasgow and London which perform before a paying public (see Caledonian Cousins 9 June 2015 and Sage Dance Company 19 June 2017) and indeed Canberra (see Growing Old Disgracefully in Morley 28 Sept 2015).

One other thing to note. I have found out that there is not much difference between an over 55 improvers class in Leeds and any other adult ballet class.  We do exactly the same barre and centre exercises and the teacher expects exactly the same degree of effort and commitment from us as she does from her other students.  I discovered that by accident when I strayed into Christopher Hinton-Lewis's class after I was prevented from attending my over 55 class by a fallen tree on the A1 (see It's an Ill Wind - Review of Northern Ballet's Beginner's Class 8 Dec 2013). So if there is no over 55 class in your town, don't be afraid to join an all age class as you will not feel out of place.  I discovered KNT in my home town of Manchester three years ago and have never looked back. I do not know a more congenial group of classmates or more encouraging teachers on the planet (see So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class 29 Aug 2014).

So I wish RAD and their students every success with their SILVER SWANS venture. I shall be very pleased to assist them in any way I can. If anyone who takes a SILVER SWANS class would care to review it for me I shall be very glad to publish it. I encourage everyone of every age who loves ballet to check out their local dance school for an adult ballet class.  I remember a poster a few years ago with the words "You can't buy happiness but you can buy a ballet class which is kinda the same thing." That is just so true.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Bank Holiday Ballet: Wendy McDermott's Reflections on the latest Ballet Retreat

Wendy McDermott















The Ballet Retreat, Leeds, 26-26 Aug 2017

The August bank holiday was quite a special time for UK adult ballet dancers as the fourth Ballet Retreat of 2017 took place at Northern Ballet’s studios in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I think there have been five retreats altogether since emerging on the adult ballet scene around this time last year. I think all the ‘retreaters’ would agree that we are a pretty lucky bunch of adult dancers. We have the good fortune of using the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre for all three days, which is a studio space of around 30 metres in length (great for leaps, not so good for turns – oh the dizziness ), we are taught by professional dancers and have the added bonus of dancing to music performed by a live pianist.

As with other retreats, the day always starts with a warm up, led by the event’s organiser and producer Hannah Bateman (she’s also a Leading Soloist for Northern Ballet). There are plenty of standing and seated stretches, warming up of the spine, body and hip alignments, ports de bras and leg rotations to loosen the hips and prepare the muscles for the day’s dancing ahead. After a short loo/ballet bun/water break, we went straight into our 90 min technique class taken by David Kierce and musically accompanied by Northern Ballet’s company pianist, Andrew Dunlop.

Classes are always challenging but also injected with David’s humour and positivity. He does this in such a way that we’re able to keep the focus and concentration, particularly when giving group corrections. He has a very good knack of explaining the kinesiology, how the body works logically to stay aligned when performing everyday activities and what should (or shouldn’t) happen when rising onto demi pointe or standing with the working leg in retiré position for example.

Following class and before lunch we always start work on the repertoire and this time the female variation was Gamzatti’s Act 2 solo in La Bayadère. The men’s variation was Solor’s Act 2 coda. For days one and two the ladies had extra help in learning the rep from Dreda Blow another Leading Soloist at Northern. The men were not left out either and heartily welcomed back Gavin McCaig, now a third-year corps de ballet member after starting with the company as an apprentice (see Meet Gavin McCaig of Northern Ballet 3 Sept 2014).
Gamzatti’s variation is, I think, the longest that we have danced so far though it is less than a minute in length. That doesn’t sound long in the normal scheme of things and granted, some of the steps were modified to suit our abilities. But when you’re performing développés to relevé in retiré whilst also turning, then chassés into grands jetés, turning waltzes, turns in attitude to arabesque, posé turns into chaînés and then more grands jetés around the studio, with attitude on demi pointe to finish, this is no mean feat. Everyone did brilliantly.

As the August retreats are three days instead of two, we’re given the chance to experience a different kind of dance or movement on the second day. This year’s surprise taster class was no exception. We were given a sneaky hint when, a few days before the retreat, Hannah suggested that we follow Amaury Lebrun on Twitter. 
He is a contemporary dance teacher and choreographer, and new to Leeds. Whilst some of us may have guessed the connection I don’t think anyone was prepared for the hour long session ahead. I referred to the session on Twitter as the "Gaga Technique", but that is incorrect as it is a style created by Ohad Naharin. It is described as a ‘movement language’ that does not have a particular technique as we might think; ballet being the obvious one here. It is the antithesis, the renegade you might say. 
Amaury took our class, remarking that all that was required was our imaginations and to keep moving. Even on the spot, we did not stand still but very gently sway from side to side, shifting our weight from one leg to the other. He gave us mental images of water running through the fingers, snakes, balloons deflating in our bodies, walking through crowded streets of people without collision. With these thoughts, we moved either within our own space or around the studio imagining how we might move, or react, to that image. There was no right or wrong – just move. 
One of the last exercises was to lay in our own space, to think of something funny – a joke perhaps, and laugh out loud. We were all a little tentative, to begin with, but once the embarrassment subsided and encouraged by one or two more confident voices, we were able to release our inner reserved selves and release the laughter. Judging by people’s immediate reaction when the session ended I think it was a very successful class though perhaps a little avant-garde for some but most left feeling lifted and exhilarated.

The third and final day came around and again, following the morning class we had roughly an hour or so to put the whole variation together. This was easier for some to remember than others, partly I suspect (and confess) as nerves set in and the realisation that we’d shortly be performing to all the other dancers. We split into pairs and threes and each group performed the solo to all the other retreaters and everyone received rapturous applause.

Our final goodbyes were said, but not before a lovely lunch, vintage style with cut sandwiches, mini cream scones and an assortment of cakes and tea or coffee to drink. The tables were laid out beautifully and it was such a lovely end to what had been an amazing three days, and one which I am eager to repeat again.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Dutch National Ballet: Congratulations All Round

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It's always a pleasure to announce promotions.

First, congratulations to both the Dutch National Ballet and Rachel Beaujean on the latter's appointment as Associate Artistic Director of the company. It is the culmination of a stellar career as a dancer, ballet mistress, choreographer and head of the company's artistic staff.  Here she is talking about her production of Les Sylphides or Chopiniana.  She will strengthen considerably an already great company.  This year Beajean will celebrate her 40 years with the company, an anniversary that will be celebrated at the opening night gala on the 12 Sept 2017.

Beginning their careers in the main company are two outstanding young dancers I know personally and two more whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting but whom I feel I know very well from their Vlog. The two dancers I know are Melissa Chapski and Priscylla Gallo. I first saw them in Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart Theatre on my birthday last year and I later saw Priscylla at Trecate in Cristiano Principato's Gala for Alessia (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016). The vloggers are Salome Leverashvili and Timothy van Poucke and I have mentioned their vlogs in Missing Amsterdam 18 Feb 2017 and Dutch National Ballet's New Season and a New Vlog from Tim and Salome 21 Feb 2017. Last but not least is Rafael Valdez. I don't think I have not yet had the pleasure of making his acquaintance but I am sure he will impress me with his dancing. Congratulations and very best wishes to each and every one of those five young dancers.

Finally, it gives me enormous pleasure to see one of my compatriots in the Junior Company. Conor Walmsley is one of the Junior Company's  new recruits and he comes from  Yorkshire. To be more precise he comes from East Yorkshire.  Xander Parish also comes from that part of the world as does Kevin O' Hare. Great local heroes to inspire this talented young dancer.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet's Centre for Dance
Author Marshall Strabala
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Although I sympathize with everybody in the USA who has been bereaved, injured, displaced, inconvenienced or in any way affected adversely by Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding, I have a particular concern for Houston Ballet, its dancers and other staff. There are two reasons for my concern: the first is that this is an important company with close links to this country through its former artistic director Ben Stevenson; and, secondly, one of my favourite young dancers, Emilie Tassinari, has recently joined the company's corps de ballet. 

The pictures and press reports from Houston are horrendous.  According to the Houston Press, Houston's theatre district had taken a serious hit from the hurricane (see Natalie de la Garza Houston's Theater District Takes Serious Hit From Harvey 29 Aug 2017 Houston Press). One of the photos to Ms de la Garza's report shows flood waters lapping the walls of the company's studios. I see from the company's website that the company suffered a power outage and water damage and that its offices will be closed until after Labour Day which is a public holiday that falls on the first Monday of September and that it has had to cancel its opening performances of Poetry in Motion that was scheduled to start the new ballet season (see Hurricane Updatea message from Jim Nelson and Staunton Welch).

Although we have been spared weather as intemperate as Hurricane Harvey, we in Yorkshire know the damage that water can do to a ballet company's costumes and properties. On 26 Dec 2015, the River Aire burst its banks and flooded the warehouse where our regional ballet company, Northern Ballet, stored many of its sets and costumes (see Northern Ballet's press release Flood Update 21 Jan 2016). Northern Ballet is a company to which I am particularly close as it was formed in Manchester, my home town, and is now based in Leeds which is my nearest big city. I have followed its productions for many years and support both the company and the academy (of which I am an adult ballet student) financially. Many of the productions were salvaged but some were lost, including Peter Pan which I enjoyed very much (see Not too sure about Fairies but I certainly believe in Rachael Gillespie 21 Dec 2014).

Happily, Messrs Nelson and Welch have reported that the dancers, artists, and staff are safe, although many have been displaced and otherwise affected by this terrible storm.  I was in touch with Emilie through Facebook on Sunday morning. She replied that her district was unaffected and that she was safe and well. She responded very quickly indicating that she still had electricity and access to the internet.  I wondered whether that was still the case but I am very glad to report that she marked herself safe on Facebook 21 minutes ago.

Northern Ballet recovered from the flood and is now as strong as ever. This year it will have created three new ballets including Kenneth Tindall's excellent Casanova (see Casanova - "it has been a long time since I enjoyed a show by Northern Ballet as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night" 12 March 2017). I am sure Houston Ballet will do the same.  They will probably need a little bit of extra help from ballet fans around the world.  If you want to lend them a hand they have a donations page though it is not open yet. I am sure it will be very soon.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Zest Dance Studios




















Donna Hargreaves

In the beginning, there was Big Ballet, I auditioned to be part of the successful Channel 4 programme, I think for all the ballerinas this was the hardest but most enjoyable experience ever.

When the programme was aired for some of the ballerinas, we did not want the journey to end, so Zest Adult Ballet Company began.

I have been part of this class from the beginning, 3 years of joyful dance.

We are a group of ladies and gentlemen, brought together with a passion to dance.

The class is open to all ages, our current ballerinas are aged between 20 and 52. 

We also collaborate with the established dance school, bringing the opportunity to dance alongside young talent. 

All abilities are welcome, no previous dance experience is necessary.

Our ballet mistress is Shona Stringer, the most patient and encouraging teachers you could ever meet.

We are taught the IDTA syllabus in class, which progresses to Adult Ballet Exams, if the ballerinas, wish to do so. 

We also experience the most wonderful choreography, as Shona creates stories that we are lucky enough to perform, fully costumed, #BalletLioness #BalletBowie

The classes are on a Wednesday at 7 pm, and the website is http://www.zestdance.co.uk/  
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/bigballetuk/

All you have to do now is find those ballet shoes and come and join our #BalletFamily.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

KNT Coppelia Intensive


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I had a splendid day at the Dancehouse yesterday dancing in Jane Tucker's Coppelia Intensive with my classmates from KNT and Northern Ballet Academy plus two new friends from Birmingham and Harrogate with whom I have much in common.  As readers of this blog know, I have attended Jane's intensives on Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadère and The Nutcracker and have enjoyed them all but this was by far the best.

There were several reasons for that.  The first is that I know Coppelia very well and love the story. Unlike most other 19th century libretti, this story is years ahead of its time. It addresses issues of artificial intelligence and robotics which are now very much in the news with Elon Musk's call to ban killer robots (see Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots 20 Aug 2017 The Guardian). Secondly, I have seen some lovely productions of the ballet in the last few months at all levels from Manchester City Ballet's in The Dancehouse last December to Ted Brandsen's triumph in Amsterdam. Thirdly, I was dancing with people I know and like under the guidance of one of my favourite teachers.  I felt just so lucky and privileged.  Small wonder I wore the widest of wide grins for most of the day.

Jane's classes are never easy and the second day of the intensives are particularly hard because that is the day for consolidation and learning.  It began with floor exercises on our towels and Pilates mats.  We followed with a full 90-minute class which is very similar to the ones we do in Leeds.  I think everyone in Northern Ballet Academy and a lot of the regulars at the Dancehouse is used to Jane's warm up, particularly the abrupt turn on a sixpence half way through the run but she still manages to catch the odd punter out. It was a fun class with a brisk barre, lovely adagio, lots of chaînés and even some temps levés at the end,

After a 15 minute break which I regret to say I spent on the blower when I should have been stretching or at least relaxing we were into our first bit of repertoire.  That turned out to be Zwaantje's (or in most productions Swanhilde) dance after she and her ladette pals break into Dr Coppelius's den, discover that Coppelia is nothing more than a robot and Zwaantje swaps clothes with the android. As Jane had taught the dance to the others the day before she offered to coach me. However, on the first run through I found that I could keep up. Images of Celine Gittens and Anna Ol flooded back.

The next dance, Frans's (or Franz's) solo was much more difficult for me as it requires two tours en l'air from a standing start, a fouetté and more than a few grands jetés en tournant.  I had a go at one or two of these but they quite zonked me out and I had to sit out the last exercise.  Happily, we had two Franses - David and Sam from KNT - and they both did very well. At least in my eyes.

Finally, we rehearsed the village scene from Act I. Jane had also taught that dance to others the day before.  Again I was more or less able to pick it up though I made tons of mistakes. From time to time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and I was grinning like the Cheshire cat.  I have had a lot on my plate lately and this day off for ballet was just so liberating.

The class continues today. I wish I could have joined it.  It will end with a show before Karen which I am sure she will applaud heartily.  Jane Tucker runs these courses during the Autumn half term, Easter vacation and the summer.  If you have never attended them, do yourselves a favour and sign up. It wasn't just I who had had a whale of a time yesterday.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Ballet, Bodywork and Bits in Cambridge


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I'm having a simply wonderful time in Cambridge. I'me here to give a talk on bilateral investment treaties or "bits" at the Cambridge IP Law Summer School and intellectual property at Downing College. As a week without ballet is like a week without sunshine I asked all my friends and followers on Twitter whether there were any adult ballet drop in classes in or near Cambridge that I could attend this week. Wendy McDermott and KidarWolf suggested Bodywork Company at Glisson Road so I gave them a call in my coffee break. I found out that there was an improvers' class at 19:30 last night. Though it clashed with a slap up dinner and quiz night in hall that the conference organizers had arranged for us, I decided to give it a go.

The Bodywork Company is quite literally in premises that must once have been a car body repair shop. The studios surround an enclosure with space for 12 vehicles where mechanics must once have mended bent fenders.  I know we say mudguards in this country but the transatlantic term has a certain assonance don't you think. The space is now used for customer parking which is as rare as hens' teeth in Cambridge.

As I don't know Cambridge very well, I got hopelessly lost and arrived at the studios with just minutes to spare.  Precious seconds from those minutes were lost when the chap at reception showed me the gents' changing room even though I was in a dress. Consequently, I arrived at class in the middle of pliés which meant that I missed the warm up and an opportunity to introduce myself to the instructor. The class took place in a medium size studio - not quite as big as those at the Dancehouse in Manchester or Northern Ballet in Leeds but considerably larger than those at Dance Studio Leeds. There was plenty of room for each of us at a fixed barre. I didn't count the numbers but I think there must have over 20 of us. All of us were female and some members of the class seemed quite young.

I learned from a copy of the timetable that I picked up after class from reception that our teacher was called Louise Howarth. Like Jane in Leeds and Fiona in Huddersfield, Louise expects a lot from her students and she made us repeat some of the exercises until she was satisfied with us. That is just the sort of instructor that I like. The emphasis was on pirouettes and Louise worked them, or preparation for pirouettes, into every exercise.  For instance, we finished every plié on relevé with our legs in retiré. We did every possible type of pirouette from first and fourth dehors as well as dedans. That was exactly the sort of class that I needed.  As everyone who has ever taught me or attended class with me knows, pirouettes are not my strongest suit.

We did a very brisk barre with the usual pliés, tendus and glissés followed by ronds de jambe and grands battements. We followed it up with a nice adagio in the centre with some much-appreciated développés and ports de bras. Then some very serious pirouette training with quarter, half, three-quarter and full turns alternating in each direction at quite a pace. Louise even worked a turn into our jumps which began not with sautés but with changements.

As always happens when one's having fun, the class ended far too quickly.  The class was in two parts - the first 60 minutes for everybody and the last 30 for the pointe work students.  The first 60 minutes cost £8 which is slightly more than the North but a lot less than London.  There is a beginners' class on Wednesday which I should like to attend and also an intermediate class on Thursday which is likely to be way beyond me. If I lived in Cambridge I would certainly attend class regularly at Bodywork and I have no hesitation in recommending the studios to denizens of that city.

If you are wondering about bilateral investment treaties, they are international agreements by which governments promise each other not to expropriate the investments of the other party's nationals. If they do, the government of the expropriating state has to compensate the expropriated investor generously. A disappointed investor has the right to bring proceedings against the expropriating state through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes without any intervention from his home government,

"Kippers" (members and supporters of the UK Independence Party) and lefties (Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP and his acolytes, such as the lovely-lady-from-Liverpool who shares my love of ballet but whom I just can't resist teasing) would be irate if they only knew the limits that bilateral investment treaties impose on national sovereignty. In the leading case, a US waste disposal company won millions of dollars from the Mexican government because a local authority refused to let it dump hazardous waste near a public watercourse a few yards away from human habitations. Indeed, some on the left, such as the distinguished journalist George Monbiot, do know about BITs which is why he campaigned so assiduously against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership before Mr Donald Trumo scuppered the negotiations. Her Majesty's Government has made 110 such treaties mainly with third world governments which wicked British rentiers enforce mercilessly with the best of them.

If you want to know more about the subject matter of my talk on Thursday, see my article Can a business recover compensation if a state fails to protect its intellectual assets? The decision in Eli Lilly & Co. v Canada suggests "maybe" 25 July 2017.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Mariinsky's Bayadère

Bolshoi Theatre, St Petersburg

















Mariinsky Ballet, La Bayadère, Royal Opera House, 12 Aug 2017, 14:00

Yesterday afternoon's performance of La Bayadère by the Mariinsky Ballet met all my hopes and expectations. As I have had to cut out ballet for the last few weeks I had promised to treat myself to something nice once I had done all that I was supposed to do. And what a treat La Bayadere turned out to be.  It was an enchanting performance. A dramatic story. Awesome choreography. Thrilling dancing. Lavish sets and costumes. And, of course, Minkus's magnificent score.

I have often wondered why La Bayadère is not performed more often, particularly by companies outside Russia.  I think that at least part of the answer must be that it cannot be easy to stage or at least to stage well.  It requires considerable dramatic skills on the part of the lead dancers as well as technical virtuosity because they have to communicate powerful emotions to the audience. These include love as it subsists between Solor and Nikiya in the first and last acts, jealousy on the part of the brahmin and Gamzatti (a jealousy in the case of the latter that is so strong that it induces her to commit murder), the conflict between love and duty on the part of Solor when forced to choose between his ruler's daughter and his lover and despair and perhaps a sense of betrayal on the part of Nikiya when she refuses the brahmin's antidote to the serpent's venom because she can't see the point of living if she can't have Solor. The success of a performance of this ballet depends to a large extent on the ability of the dancers to communicate those emotions and especially the conflicts inside the heads of Solor and Nikiya.

I think Yekaterina Chebykina who danced Nikiya, Timur Askerov who was her Solor, Nadezhda Batoeva who danced Gamzatti and Soslan Kulaev, the brahmin, did pretty well. Chebykina impressed me particularly because of her expressive countenance and especially her doe like eyes. At times she seemed to dance with her eyes much in the way that Antoinette Sibley used to do. It was in that regard and for that reason that I admired Sibley even more than Margot Fonteyn though I loved Fonteyn too. Askerov is a fine dance-actor too though I was thrilled most by his mighty leaps. Batoeva also impressed me with her virtuosity. As for the brahmin, Kulaev communicated his jealousy, his cunning, his malevolence to the entire house.

In the Mariinsky's version of La Bayadère the golden idol is just one of several divertissements at Solor and Gamzatti's wedding celebrations whereas in other versions the idol seems to central to the story. So great is the offence of Nikiya's betrayal in the eyes of the gods that they cause a statue to come to life rather like the Commendatore in Don Giovanni. It was my favourite dance when I was learning the choreography last year (see La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades 17 Aug 2016).  Nothing like that yesterday but it was still a very popular dance which earned Vasily Tkachencko some loud cheers as well as sustained clapping. Tamara Gimadieva, one of the members of the corps who performed another of the divertissements with a jug, also received a resounding cheer.

Although I have not heard anybody mention it, this year marks the 140th anniversary of the first performance of La Bayadère.  According to our cast sheet, it was first danced at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg on 23 Jan 1877.  "The Bolshoi Theatre where?" I hear you say.  "I have heard of a Bolshoi in Moscow but not St Petersburg. Well, apparently there was a "bolshoi" in St Petersburg too but the authorities closed it down for health and safety reasons and the company moved to the Mariinsky Theatre where it has remained to this day. There is an engraving of the St Petersburg bolshoi at the top of this blog. I have never got round to studying Russian (though it is on my "to do" list to stop me losing my marbles should I ever retire) but I think "bolshoi" just means "big" hence "bolshevik" which has somehow become "bolshie" (troublemaker) in our language.

I should just say a few words about the sets and costumes.  The sets were gorgeous.  I particularly liked the stuffed elephant and the palanquins for the wedding ceremony.  The costumes were also lavish, particularly the rajah and the brahmin's outfits. Evgeny Ponomarev has to be congratulated. Also, there was some ingenious lighting particularly of Nikiya and the shades in the last act.  In every regard, it was a very polished production.

There was just one disappointment about yesterday's show and that was the lukewarm response from the audience. There's usually a ripple of applause to welcome the principals. Not yesterday. There should have been flowers all round for all the leading ladies. Not a single petal.  And the curtain calls should have lasted and lasted. Those dancers gave us their all yesterday and we should have thanked them properly. I know London sees a lot of ballet and it takes a lot to impress a Cockney but yesterday's matinee was a great deal better than a lot of shows that have earned more rapturous applause. I watched the ballet with a fellow Mancunian and we agreed that the Lowry or Palace would have risen as one. I think so too would New Yorkers who also see a lot of ballet or even maungy old Yorkers in the Alhambra or Grand. Londoners are spoilt. Too damn snooty for their own good. 

So it is up to me to do justice to the artists.  Well, here are some digital roses for Chebykina, Batoeva and each of the other super talented women dancers:
Author Jebulon
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And a very special single malt for each of the men:

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Xander Parish will tell you all about malt whisky if you don't already know.

Have a good trip back to Russia, folks, and come back soon.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Welcoming the Mariinsky: Looking Forward to the Original Bayadere


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The Mariinsky have been in London since the 24 July but this afternoon's matinee performance of La Bayadere will be the only time I shall get to see them on this visit. I usually get to the ballet at least once a week and sometimes much more often, but, unless you count Citrus Arts' Savage Hart and Northern Ballet's preview of The Little Mermaid, today's performance of La Bayadere will be the first show that I will have attended since the Dutch National Ballet's New Moves in Amsterdam at the end of June. I have gone to a few classes but that has been just about it.

The reason I have seen and done so little ballet for the last few weeks is that I have been invited to address the Cambridge IP Law Summer School on Thursday. I don't get a fee but I do get a chance to attend the week's conference which normally costs £3,498 to hear some of the leading practitioners in my field. The topic on which I have been asked to speak is a controversial one on a jurisdiction that allows companies and other private investors to claim compensation from foreign governments in certain circumstances.  There have been two big arbitration decisions on claims brought under this jurisdiction, one of which was decided just a few months ago. As I want to do a good job I have focused all my time and energies on legal research over the last 6 weeks.

I have now written my hand out and sent my Powerpoint to the conference organizer.  I can now concentrate on today's performance.  It should be good. The Mariinsky are the successors to the Imperial Russian Ballet which first performed the work in St Petersburg just over 140 years ago. I will get the chance to see three of the company's rising stars, namely Nadezhda Batoeva, Timur Askerov and Yekaterina Chebykina. I shall watch the ballet with my classmate and friend, Yoshie, who also attended Jane Tucker's La Bayadere intensive at KNT last year (see La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: There's Life in the Old Girl Yet 16 Aug 2016,  La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades 17 Aug 2016 and La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016). We shall watch and learn what we should have done from the experts.

La Bayadere is not performed very often in this country.  Most of the versions that we see trace their origins to the Mariinsky by one route or another. One big exception is Stanton Welch's for the Houston Ballet. There was an appeal last year for funds to bring that ballet to Birmingham (see A Birmingham Bayadere 24 Nov 2016). Alas, that project was scuppered when the local authority's reduced its subvention to the company (see How Nikiya must have felt when she saw a snake 21 Jan 2017). I have  seen the trailer for Welch's ballet and several extracts but it is the following parody that really whets my appetite for his show:


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And I used to think Americans lacked a sense of humour.

Jane Tucker will offer another intensive on Coppelia the week after next for which I have to get back into shape quickly. I am packing my ballet bag in the hope of finding some drop in adult ballet classes in or around Cambridge next week.  Do any of my readers have any suggestions?  I should like to take a class in the East of England but if there are none London is not too far away.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Sophie Rebecca's Adult Ballet Class Map



Adult ballet students everywhere owe a great debt of gratitude to Sophie Rebecca for compiling this map of adult dance classes around Britain. We move heaven and earth each week to attend our usual class but sometimes work gets in the way or we go on holiday or maybe the teacher has flu.  If we had to miss a class for any of those or other reasons there was very little we could do about it until now. Disappointing because a day without ballet is like a day without sunshine.

Now, thanks to Sophie, if we miss a class or find ourselves away from home maybe there is something we can do about it.  Perhaps we can find another class elsewhere.  Experiencing another studio, meeting new people, observing how another teacher works, picking up a useful tip, perhaps even having a previously undiagnosed fault pointed out and corrected is always worthwhile.

Sophie's map shows just how popular adult ballet has become.  There is hardly a town of any size without a thriving class.  But there are sure to be many that we have missed and that is where you can help.  If you are a teacher, school proprietor or student drop Sophie or me a line. If you contact me I shall make sure she gets the message. Also, if you have attended any of those classes and are willing to write a short review I should be very glad to publish it. Especially if you could tell us stuff that will not be on the teacher's website such as the nearest parking, bus stop, tube or railway station, whether there is a pianist, where you can change and how much the classes costs.

There are great swathes of the country such as the whole of the south coast where I know there are plenty of classes but I don't know where. And I can't believe there are no classes in Northern Ireland or the East of Scotland. So lets help Sophie complete the map.

Changing the subject every so slightly, one of the things I love about about ballet is its universality. Tp show you what I mean, there is a school in Moscow called Dance Secret. Why it has an English name I really don't know but it has an adult ballet class as you can see from this YouTube video. This film appears to be an exhibition by the members of the Beginners Class.  They are performing to their kids, husbands and boyfriends. They must have been full of nerves before the show.  Look at their satisfaction with a job well done. I have never met those women but I do what they do and it makes me feel so proud of them.

Returning to the map, so long as Sophie allows me to do so I will always link to it. You can access it by clicking the "Adult Ballet Classes" button.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Best News All Day!

York Grand Opera House
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A lot of anniversaries fall on 29 July. It was my father's birthday. It was the day I was called to the Bar. It was the day I was married.  And it was also the day almost 10 years ago that I first saw two outstanding young students from Hull who turned out to be brother and sister at the Yorkshire Ballet Seminar Gala at the Grand Old Opera House in York.

I am talking, of course, about Xander and Demelza Parish.  I did not blog about dance in those days so I have to rely on Charles Hutchinson's Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday 31 July 2007 The Press to remind me who else was there. Samara Downs, Marianela Nunez, Wayne Sleep, Anthony Dowell, Lauren Cuthbertson. Big names! But the two that stick out in my memory are still Xander Parish and his sister Demelza.

"Those two will go far," said my late spouse who was an even bigger ballet fan than I am. "Especially the lad. In 10 years time, he will be topping the bill at Covent Garden".  Today I read Zoe Anderson's review in The Independent:

Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, London, review: Xander Parish reaches stardom

The first British dancer to join the Mariinsky Ballet was promoted to principal after his performance on the opening night of the St Petersburg company's 'Swan Lake'
Well, how about that! 
Sadly, my spouse did not survive long enough for that prophesy come true. Very shortly afterwards symptoms of a disease developed which was later diagnosed as motor neurone or Lou Gehrig's disease and my spouse died in March 2010. But I have lived to see it and while I am not in the least surprised by Xander Parish's elevation I could not possibly be more delighted.
The 29 July used to be a day of joy. After many of the people associated with the good times died it became an anniversary of sadness. And what with missile tests in Korea, the US government practically tearing itself apart, the Russians imposing sanctions, the Chinese building fortresses in the South China Sea not to mention Brexit there's precious little joy about.
But Xander Parish's news made me smile and not for the first time. I once had the pleasure of meeting him at the London Ballet Circle and I hope to do so again at 19:30 on Wednesday 2 Aug at the Civil Service Club at New Scotland Yard next door to the Nigerian embassy, The meeting is open to the public and only costs £5 for members and £8 for the rest. See you there.