Saturday, 24 June 2017

Northern Ballet says Goodbye to Takahashi, Solari and Curnier


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I am very sorry to say goodbye to Jeremy Curnier and Lucia Solari who are on their way to Germany's northern ballet at Kiel which is a few miles from the Danish border. I wish them well in their new company. Kiel is a very pleasant little town about the size of Hull. I went there once after driving all the way from Copenhagen to Esbjerg and finding that my hotel restaurant (and all the other restaurants in Esbjerg) were closed at not much later than afternoon teatime. Even though it was an extra hour's drive to Kiel everything was open. There is a history of the ballet company on the Kiel Theatre's website which starts off with the words: "Tanz hat in Kiel lange Tradition" ("There is a long tradition of dance in Kiel") though "long" in this context seems to be over 25 years. They seem to do Swan Lake and The Nutcracker regularly as well as a sprinkling of new work and there is a season for new choreographers.

I am also sorry that I will no longer be able to see Hironao Takahashi though he at least is remaining in the company with a new job as "Assistant Rehearsal Director & Assistant Artistic Director of Short Ballets for Small People". Now he really does have a lange Tradition in dance. I wish him every success in his new role too.

Also leaving are Naomi Bottomer, Isabelle Clough, Jenny Hackwell and Luke Francis. They will be missed too. I can't tell you where they are going or what they are doing but I am sure all my readers will join me in wishing them well in whatever they do and wherever they go.

Happily, Northern Ballet is recruiting new dancers.   They include
  • Ailen Ramos Betancourt who was a guest artist in Casanova and joins as a Soloist; 
  • Eneko Amorós Zaragoza (Estonian National Ballet); Thomas Holdsworth (English National Ballet School); Ommaira Kanga Perez (Escuela de Ballet Carmina Ocaña y Pablo Savoye); Heather Lehan (Canada’s National Ballet School) will join the corps; and 
  • Andrew Tomlinson, Archie James, Carlotta Pini and Mathilde Lambert (no relation) join as apprentices.
Welcome to each and every one of them.

Finally, I am delighted to see that Victoria Sibson is now a First Soloist, Mlindi Kulashe, Ayami Miyata, Kevin Poeung and Abigail Prudames are now Soloists, Sean Bates, Matthew Koon and Matthew Topliss Junior Soloists and Sarah Chun, Riku Ito and Jonathan Hanks are Coryphée.  Well done folks!

Friday, 23 June 2017

All Hail to the Lone Star Dancer


Texas is often called the "Lone Star State" because of the design of its state flag which harks back to the days when a number of English-speaking settlers adopted a flag that consisted of a single star for an insurrection that resulted in Texas's secession from Mexico in 1836 and its eventual absorption into the United States in 1846. Sadly when it joined the Union it did so as a slave state which prolonged one of the most egregious outrages of human history that ended only after a particularly tragic civil war and was followed by the systematic oppression and marginalization of former victims of that outrage and their descendants that have continued until our own times.

However, that is only part of the picture for that state of nearly 28 million people has contributed much to humanity in the arts, science, technology, government, industry and commerce. One of the more illustrious of those 28 million is the dancer Damien Johnson who celebrated his 10th anniversary with Ballet Black at the Nottingham Playhouse last night. We were alerted to the celebration by the cast sheet that urged the audience to
"celebrate our Senior Artist, Damien Johnson's 10-year anniversary with Ballet Black at the final curtain call after Red Riding Hood." 
We did indeed celebrate with a standing ovation for that fine dancer when the company's founder, Cassa Pancho, entered the stage and presented Damien with a massive bouquet of flowers. It was the first time in over 50 years of ballet going that I have seen such recognition for a premier danseur noble as opposed to a ballerina in this country (though it is often done in Russia and other countries) and, as a feminist, I hope it will not be the last.

Yesterday's performance was memorable for me not just for Damien's celebration or even the company's performance but because Cassa introduced me to Anabelle Lopez Ochoa as we were taking our seats for Little Red Riding Hood.  Annabelle had created that ballet for Ballet Black but she has also choreographed A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015), Reversible for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry 19 Feb 2017) and many other works. Earlier this year, she held a workshop at the Barbican in February which I was actually invited to attend and I was very tempted to do so. Had I been a stronger and more skilful dancer I would have accepted readily but I really did not feel up to the challenge. I am very grateful to David Murley for attending the event and reporting back to us in Red Riding Hood Workshop at the Barbican with Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa and Ballet Black.

As Is often the case, I enjoyed Ballet Black's mixed bill the second time even more than I did when I first saw the show (see Ballet Black Triumphant 7 March 2017). I think that is because I noticed details that I had missed before such as the humour in the show like the mewing of the wolf cubs as they harass Grandma, the swooning of the she-wolves as they encounter the Big Bad Wolf's, BBW's gestures such as the swinging of his pyjama string tail and Grandma's battering of BBW with the flowers that he had just given her, I also appreciated the other two works more, particularly Corder's House of Dreams as his Baiser de la Fée which I had seen in Birmingham the night before was still fresh in my memory (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia 22 June 2017). Indeed, I was going to compare and contrast the two works had it not been for Damien's celebration. I had even toyed with "Cordered" as a headline for today's post.

I look forward to seeing Ballet Black again in November when they will venture out of the Beautiful South for a night in Derby on the 15 and two in Leeds on the 17 and 18 where we shall ply them with Taddy Ales, Bradford naans (not all that different from Yorkshire puddings) and parkin. They won't get any of that in their other venues.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia

Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence in Ruth Brill's Arcadia
Photo Ty Singleton
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company




























Birmingham Royal Ballet Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia, Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 June 2017, 19:30

The strength of the Birmingham Royal Ballet was on display last night with important works from three generations of choreographers:
  • John Cranko's Pineapple Poll from the company's early days;
  • Michael Corder's Le Baiser de la fée from its recent past; and
  • Ruth Brill's Arcadia which may be a glimpse of its future.
The ballets were presented in reverse order.

By any measure, Arcadia is an important ballet and there are two reasons for its importance. 

First, its artistic quality with a powerful score by saxophonist John Harle, striking designs by Atena Ameri, ingenious lighting by Peter Teigen and of course inspired choreography by Ruth Brill beautifully executed by Brandon LawrenceCéline Gittens as the moon goddess Selene, Brooke RayYijing Zhang and Delia Mathews as the nymphs Pitys, Syrinx and Echo and a chorus that consisted of Laura Day, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Miki Mizutani, Anna Monleon, Alexander Bird, Feargus Campbell, Max Maslen, Lachlan Monaghan and Lewis Turner. 

Secondly, its timing. In the programme, Ruth Brill writes:
"The ballet opens as Pan watches over the nymphs Pitys, Syrinx and Echo from the shadows, In Pan's paradise he is worshipped by his subjects, the chorus. As night falls, Pan is left alone. Selene, the beautiful goddess of the moon appears. Through their interaction, Pan is transformed. Selene uplifts him to become both a better man and a better leader. Finally, we see an Arcadia, now harmonious, after Pan learns that to connect with his people he must respect them. The change in Pan is reflected by the emergence of a more loving and united society."
Now what could be apter than those sentiments after a bruising referendum and general election, the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the outrages at Finsbury Park, Borough Market, Westminster Bridge and Manchester?

In my preview, Ruth Brill's Arcadia, 16 Dec 2016 I tipped Arcadia as "one of the works to look out for in the coming year".  Having seen Matryoshka two years ago (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in High Wycombe 31 May 2015) I expected Arcadia to be good but my expectations were exceeded greatly. Arcadia was of quite a different order to Matryoshka. In the medieval guilds, the apprentice craftsman proved his readiness to join the masters with a masterpiece and that is exactly what Brill has done with Arcadia. It is no longer appropriate to refer to her as a "promising" or "up and coming" choreographer. With this work, she is undeniably an established choreographer and, in my humble opinion, she is likely to become a great one.

Jenna Roberts  and artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in
Le Baiser de la fée

Photo Bill Cooper
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company




























Michael Corder's Le Baiser de la fée is based on Hans Christian Andersen's Ice Maiden.  I watched this ballet with Gita who had previously seen Ratmansky's version for Miami City Ballet (see Gita Mistry Attending the Ballet in Florida: Miami City Ballet's Program Three 6 March 2017) and I had seen Donald MacLeary's reconstruction of part of Kenneth MacMillan's version with James Hay in Pavlova's sitting room (see A Minor Miracle - Bringing Le Baiser de la fée back to Life 2 June 2014). The synopsis of Corder's ballet is very much the same as Ratmansky's and he also uses Stravinsky's score. The ballet contains one strong male role (the young man) for Joseph Caley and three strong female ones for the young man's mother (Daria Stanciulescu), his fiancée  (Momoko Hirata) and the fairy who had selected him for her own (Jenna Roberts).

In the interval, I asked Gita which of the two versions of the ballet that she had seen recently she preferred. She replied that she enjoyed them both. Perhaps because this year is the 25th since his death I had driven to Birmingham expecting MacMillan. I found Corder instead but was not in the least disappointed. I am a big fan of Caley, Roberts and Hirata. I loved the sets and costumes. With Sir Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes, David Nixon's The Little Mermaid and Paul Chantry's The Sandman we shall see quite a lot of ballets based on Hans Christian Andersen this year. Last night's performance has whetted my appetite.

Pineapple Poll
Photo Roy Smiljanic
© 2017  Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the company

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The evening ended with a favourite work by my all-time favourite choreographer which has a personal as well as balletic significance for me as I explained in Doing the Splits 8 May 2016.  Since writing that preview I have seen the work performed by the company at York which I reviewed in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Northern Tour 2017 13 May 2017:
"Pineapple Poll with its synopsis based on W S Gilbert's ballad The Bumboat's Woman's Story, Charles Mackerras's arrangement of a selection of Gilbert and Sullivan's favourite tunes and Osbert Lancaster's intricate designs was a wonderful way to round off a wonderful evening. Yesterday it occurred to me that this work may well have inspired Ashton to create Fille and Balanchine to create Union Jack. There is certainly a link in Osbert Lancaster in that he created the designs for both Poll and Fille and the exuberance of Mackerras's arrangement finds resonance in Hershey Kay, Maybe my imagination but why not. Matthias Dingman was the gallant Captain (later Admiral) Belaye. Easy to see why the girls' hearts were aflutter. Laura Day (who had earlier delighted the audience as a playmate in Solitaire) danced his sweetheart Blanche. Laura Purkiss was her interfering aunt, Mrs Dimple, who doubles as Britania at the end. Nao Sakuma danced Blanche's rival, Pineapple Poll. Kit Holder was the hero of the piece rising from pot boy to naval officer and Poll's husband without even having time to remove his apron."
It was almost the same cast and an equally glorious ending to another great evening of ballet last night. I think the only important substitution was Daria Stanciulescu for Lau Purkis as Mrs Dimple. I believe there may have been some extra bits of choreography and a bit more scenery in Birmingham but maybe I just didn't take it all in last time.

After being reassured by Birmingham resident, Sarah Lambert, in a comment to my review of Coppelia that flowers are presented and even cut flowers thrown at the Hippodrome I had expected the stage to be ankle if not knee deep. It was a premiere of an important new work after all.  Yet another flower free reverence. My only disappoinment of the evening.  So here are digital blooms. First a van load of the choicest roses for Ruth Brill for Arcadia. She did get tumultuous applause when she stepped on stage for her curtain call and I was able to catch her in the bar to tell her in person how much I loved her show but I wish I could have given her flowers. Enormous bouquets also to Brill's leading ladies, Gittens, Ray, Zhang and Matthews, to Roberts and Hirata for their performances in Fée and a whole greenhouse full for the delightful Nao Sakuma for being such a spirited, comical and quite enchanting Poll.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"Mesmerizing!"


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"Mesmerizing!" Not my adjective but that of Leon London, a member of the audience who watched Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski dance at the Natalia Kremen Foundation gala on Sunday night and kindly commented on my preview of that event.  Ernst Meisner's Embers is one of my favourite ballets and if you watch the film you will see why. Short ballets can be as great as full-length ones (viz Fokine's Dying Swan per Wikipedia) and I think this masterpiece by one of the best choreographers I know will become a classic too. The dancers in the film are the ones who danced on Sunday night.

Another work that impressed Leon was the British premiere of a duet from La Scala Ballet's Progetto Handel which was performed for the first time in Milan on 20 May 2017. As you can see from La Scala's website this is a full-length work created by Mauro Bigonzetti to some beautiful music by George Frederick Handel. The website contains a detailed description of the ballet if you click on the "Synopsis" tab.

Leon thought that the gala was "superbly produced" with grand imperial showpieces interspersed with contemporary and some brilliant performances by the students of Natalia Kremen Ballet School.  Having seen some pictures that have been posted to Facebook by Graham Watts, I think one of those grand imperial pieces must have been the pas de deux from The Nutcracker danced by Yorkshire's very own Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Leon described the ballet as "a gem" but lamented that it was not fully attended with some 75% of the seats sold.  I feared that might happen which is why I did my best to promote the event on Sunday. Had I learned of it sooner I would have been there for a start and so might a lot of my readers. I only found out about it when I did because I follow Giovanni and Melissa on Facebook and Melissa posted a note about the show to her timeline.  If those in charge of the school ever contemplate a similar gala, I invite them to notify me well in advance so that I can drum up some support. Dance education is very dear to my heart.

Possibly because we are lucky enough to have as our capital one of the world's two ᾁ++ Weldstädte (see the table in Weltstadt in Wikipedia) those who live in that city tend to forget that there is culture outside. As I gently reminded dear, dear Cassa yesterday in Ballet Black's Tour 20 June 2017 conurbations like Greater Manchester, the West Midlands. West Yorkshire, Greater Glasgow, the Bristol-Cardiff corridor and Merseyside are as populous and as economically significant as most of the EU's capitals. Some of the institutions of those city regions, such as the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet and the Halle Orchestra, are world class. We travel to London for shows like this one that are worth seeing and causes like Ms Kremen's ballet school that are worth supporting.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ballet Black's Tour












Last year we were lucky enough to see Ballet Black for two days in Sale, one at the Lowry appropriately on Manchester Day, two days in Leeds and again in Doncaster. They also performed in Glasgow where they were much appreciated.

This year they have a particularly good programme which Joanna and I reviewed very favourably (see Joanna Goodman Sexy wolf stole the show 5 March 2017 and Jane Lambert Ballet Black Triumphant 7 March 2017). David Murley also covered Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa's workshop at the Barbican on 25 Feb 2017.

We shall see very much less of Ballet Black in the North this year. Nothing at all in the North West, a region of over 7 million people and only two days in Leeds on 17 and 18 Nov for the whole of Yorkshire and the North East with a combined population of over 8 million. However, Ballet Black are visiting Oxford, Enfield, Harlow, Canterbury, Watford, Stratford East and Pompey and they started their tour at the Barbican in London.

Save for their visit to the Stanley and Audrey Burton in November, the nearest they come to us will be the Nottingham Playhouse on 22 June 2017 and Derby on 15 Nov 2017. Ballet Black occupies a particularly warm spot in my affection but Heaven know's how I am going to make it to Nottingham on Thursday evening when I shall be at the Birmingham Royal Ballet's press night at the Hippodrome tomorrow and a breakfast meeting at Daresbury near Runcorn at 08:00 on Friday morning.

Ballet Black, you have a lot of fans in the Northern Powerhouse. Do come and see us a little more often.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sage Dance Company


















Yesterday @SageDanceCo1 started to follow me on Twitter so I looked them up. I found that they are  "a community dance company for people aged 55 years and over" with a mandate continually to "create new work for performance and improve the members’ technique and further their skills through the rehearsal and performing process" which "has led to increased abilities in learning skills and memory capacities as well as maintaining both the health and fitness of the dancers." The company is based in London and has performed at festivals in Barnes and Richmond and various other venues around the capital.

When I joined Northern Ballet's Over 55 class in Leeds, it was one of the few classes for dancers in my age group anywhere n the country (see Realizing a Dream 12 Sept 2013). Now there are loads such as Rambert's Mercury Movers in London, Scottish Ballet's Regenerate in Glasgow and Dance City's in Newcastle, Also, the Royal Academy of Dance plans to roll out its Silver Swans programme throughout the UK and USA.

Class is all very well but ballet is intended for the theatre. There is nothing like a performance in front of a living, breathing and paying audience to get the adrenalin running as I discovered when I stepped on to the stage of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds for the first time (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014). Timetabling constraints prevent the Northern Ballet from running shows for the Over 55 class but I have been able to perform at the Dancehouse in Manchester (see Show 14 May 2017 and "Show!" The Video 10 June 2017).

Sage Dance Company offers an opportunity for dancers of my age group in London to perform in public at an even higher level.  The company was founded in 2010 by Simon Rice of the Royal Ballet. It is a classical company and the standard appears to be very high. According to the company's home page there are in the repertoire:
"three classical works: a thirteen minute work to the music of Brahms, a sixteen minute work to Telemann and a twenty minute work to the music of Schumann, all choreographed by Simon Rice. Additionally they perform a ten minute Merce Cunningham style work choreographed by former Cunningham dancer Fionuala Power."
Richard Taylor made a delightful film about this company on YouTube which covers their classes, rehearsals and drinks in the pub afterwards. Just look at the expressions on the dancers' faces. Just like us in Leeds. Dance is a wonderful thing is it not.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Giovanni and Melissa to dance van Manen's 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



















I have just found out that the piece that Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski will dance at the Cadogan Hall tonight is Hans van Manen's Trois Gnosiennes (see Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala "I Have a Dream" 18 June 2017). They danced that work in Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart Theatre in Amsterdam on 14 Feb 2016 which I reviewed on 8 March 2016 in Trois Gnossiennes.  This is what I wrote in 2016:

"No performance by the Junior Company would be complete without a work by van Manen. In previous years the great man has come on stage to take a bow and the applause has exploded. Trois Gnossiennes with music by Erik Satie is of particular interest to British balletomanes because of its similarity to Ashton's Monotones. The music is sublime and so is van Manen's choreography executed sensitively by Chapski and Princic."
Since I found out about tonight's show in the early hours of this morning I have been consulting railway timetables to London but Sunday is the worst day of the week for a quick dash to London. I am trying to clear my desk in order to fly out to Amsterdam for Cristiano Principato's New Moves next week (see Principato moves to a Bigger Stage 30 May 2017).

For those who can make tonight's show, Princic and Chapski are two of the most promising young dancers I have ever seen. Van Manen is one of the world's greatest choreographers.  You are in for a treat.

Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala "I Have a Dream"

Giovanni Princic in Ballet 101
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet
All rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company




















In you are in, or can get to. London this evening, you may wish to see two fine young dancers. Giovanni Princic and Melissa Chapski of the Dutch National Ballet. They are taking part in the Natalia Kremen Ballet Foundation Gala, I Have a Dream at the Cadogan Hall at 19:00 this evening. I am a big fan of Giovanni and Melissa. I know it is short notice but I have only just learned about this gala from Facebook.  Had I known of it sooner I would have contrived to be there or would have arranged for someone to attend and review the show for this blog at the very least.

I googled "Natalia", "Kremen", "Ballet" and "Foundation" and found this page on the NK Ballet School website.  The author, whom I assume to be Ms Kremen, writes:
"NK Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides financial support to ballet students of exceptional talent but limited means. 
The principal goals of NK Foundation are:
  •  to assist children and young peopled with a talent for classical ballet and dance in their technical, artistic and creative development in the UK and abroad;
  • to preserve and develop cultural values and traditions of classical ballet, including through providing financial support to students with a potential for excelling in this art form.
Our scholarships and bursaries give students a chance to attend ballet classes as well as to perform in stage productions, participate in examinations, attend numerous ballet events organised by Natalia Kremen Ballet School (NKBS) and cover expenses for ballet uniforms and equipment."
The website lists the trustees one of whom is Ms Kremen who danced with the English National Ballet after several years with the Stanislavsky Ballet in Moscow while another describes herself as the co-founder of BalletCo Forum.

Giovanni and Melissa will appear with two more of my other favourite dancers, Brandon Lawrence from Bradford and Delia Mathews of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Other performers include Kristina KretovaMarianna Ryzhkina and  Andrei Merkuriev from the Bolshoi and Igor Kolb and Andrei Batalov of the Mariinsky and there will also be artists from the Vienna State Ballet, the Berlin City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala and  Kyiv Modern Ballet.

Ticket prices range from £15 to £70. If you think £70 is a bit steep for a Sunday night performance in a concert hall, please remember that the object of the exercise is to raise money to enable talented kids of limited means to learn ballet.

I wish Giovanni, Melissa, Brandon, Delia and all the other artists toi-toi and chookas for this evening. I also wish Ms Kremen and her staff and students well with their school and foundation. If anyone who attends tonight's show would like to review it for me, I shall be pleased to consider his or her review for publication.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Dame Beryl Grey

Insignia of the Companions of Honour
Author Robert Prummel
Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 licence  
























This blog tries to avoid obsequiousness (though we may not always succeed) but we happily make an exception for Dame Beryl Grey. Today the Prime Minister announced Dame Beryl's admission into the Order of the Companions of Honour of which there are only 65 members. Other members include Stephen Hawking, Janet Baker, David Hockney, Harrison Birtwistle, Judi Dench, Peter Higgs and Lord Woolf.

Dame Beryl is the President of the English National Ballet and was artistic director of the company when between 1968 and 1979 when I first took an interest in ballet. I had the good fortune to meet her at the 70th anniversary celebrations of the London Ballet Circle (see 70 Years of the London Ballet Circle 10 May 2016). I add my congratulations on Dame Beryl's latest honour to the many others that she will already have received or can expect in the next few days.

Other persons to have been honoured this year for services to dance include:
  • Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, former chief executive of The Place
  • Romayne Grigorova
  • Alexandra Clarke, and
  • Deborah Ann Holme.
Congratulations to them too.

Even more Sensational - Peter Wright's Coppelia

Nao Sakuma as Swanilda
Author Bill Cooper
© 2017 Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
 Reproduced with kind permission of the company





































Birmingham Royal Ballet. Coppelia, Hippodrome, 16 June 2017, 19:30


When I last reviewed a performance by the Birmingham Royal Ballet of Sir Peter Wright's Coppelia, I described it as "sensational" (see Sensational 6 March 2015). Having seen the ballet again on the company's home turf the only way I can describe the performance is "even more sensational." Maybe that should not be surprising for who better to perform one of Sir Peter's greatest productions than Sir Peter's company.

I made up my mind to attend the ballet last night at the very last moment after a pig of a journey home. I had driven to London the night before to take delivery of a massive set of instructions that could not be carried on the train. While down there, I attended a chambers' garden party that continued until after midnight and two conferences, one of which began with a volley of emails between 05:00 and 06:00 and a phone call shortly before 07:00. I left Plumstead where I had parked my car and cleared the river after an epochal wait for the Woolwich ferry.  There was heavy traffic on the North Circ and the M11. Congestion outside Cambridge on the A14.  As the A14 leads eventually to the M6 the idea of breaking my journey in Birmingham occurred to me. I called the Hippodrome on the off-chance that they might still have space and was told that they had one isolated seat in the centre of the rear stalls.  I grabbed it.  After battling with more traffic all the way into Birmingham, I rolled up at the theatre hot, bothered and exhausted with 15 minutes to spare.

Dropping by the Hippodrome was one of the best calls I have ever made. The performance was magic. It was just what I needed.  I had not had time to study the cast list but I knew we were in for a treat when I glimpsed the unmistakeable hair of Koen Kessels. He had conducted the orchestra of the Dutch National Ballet in Ted Brandsen's Coppelia last December. Nobody seems to understand Delibes's score better than Maestro Kessels. The curtain rose to Peter Farmer's village somewhere in Mitteleuropa. Nao Sakuma appeared.  I started to clap but nobody followed. Nor did anyone clap Joseph Caley when he entered the stage. Clearly, the balletic tradition of welcoming the male and female leads with a brief burst of applause that happens in almost every other theatre in the world is not followed in Birmingham. That is surprising because all of Birmingham Royal Ballet's principals are good.

Sakuma was a gorgeous Swanilda. I loved the way she threw her book at Caley after catching him making eyes at the humanoid on the balcony across the square. "Sukkel" hissed Swanilde in Het's animation. How she gave him the hardest of hard times when the ear of wheat did not appear to rattle. How she led her pals into Dr Coppelius's workshop while he was in the pub recovering from his mugging. How she dared the faintest of faint hearts to approach Coppelia.  How she coaxed the deluded doctor into believing his spell had worked as she sought to rescue her dopey (even at the best of times) boyfriend. And above all, I loved the final pas de deux in "Peace" which ends the ballet on a high. Whenever I see Coppelia I always wonder how long that marriage will last. Surely, such a brave, resourceful, spirited girl could surely have done so much better.

Of course, she falls for Franz because he is a hunk. The handsomest lad in a very small village in the middle of nowhere. Girls find him attractive and doesn't he just know it. After blowing kisses at a robot, he flirts with the leader of the czardas. Caley, whom I am sure is nothing like Franz in real life, fills the role perfectly. Even after nearly losing Swanilda he is silly enough to break into Coppelius's workshop. Good job there was no copper around (see R v Collins [1972] 2 All ER 1105, [1973] 3 WLR 243, [1972] EWCA Crim 1, 136 JP 605, 56 Cr App Rep 554, [1973] QB 100, a case that has entertained every law student in England for nearly 50 years). The silly twit deserved everything that happened to him. But Franz can dance. And how he can dance. All those great tours en l'air and entrechats and the final lift that left Swanilda dangling across his back in a curious sort of fish dive.

Dr Coppelius is a juicy character role and it was performed exquisitely by Michael O'Hare last night. Scorned as slightly screwy by the Burgermeister (Jonathan Payn) and the villagers when loud bangs and smoke erupt from his laboratory, he is surely more sinned against than sinning. Does he really deserve to be roughed up by the louts or have his home ransacked by girls on a hen night? I can quite see why he sought compensation from Swanilda's dowry.

We had a stellar cast last night. Many of my favourite dancers came on stage: Delia Mathews as Prayer and also one of Swanilda's friends along with Arancha Baselga, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami, Alys Shee and Yaoqian Shang; Rory Mackay as the publican and Old Father Time; Ruth Brill with Lewis Turner in Betrothal and earlier in the mazurka and czardas; William Bracewell in the call to arms with yet another favourite Brandon Lawrence from Bradford. Everyone in the cast was good and I congratulate them all whether I have mentioned them or not.

There was loud applause at the reverence but, sadly, no flowers. In another auditorium and perhaps at a different time the stage would have been ankle deep in cut flowers throw after a show like that.  A massive bouquet of my county's reddest roses, then, to Sakuma.  Flowers, too, for each and every lady soloist. Indeed, each and every lady who appeared on stage. And a resounding cheer for each and every one of the men who partnered them so gallantly. "You are so lucky to have this company in your city," I said to a lady who was at the ballet for the first time. "The Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the great companies of the world." How I wish it could have made its home in Manchester instead. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Bring on the Bollywood


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Gita Mistry

Phizzical Bring on the Bollywood, CAST in Doncaster, 2 June 2017, 19:30

"On 2 and 3 June 2017, I attended the Southbank Centre's Alchemy Doncaster South Asian Arts Festival at the CAST in Doncaster Theatre. A splendid venue only 4 years old.  I was there primarily for the musical, Bring on the Bollywood, but there were two other events associated with the show:
which took place on Friday afternoon. I opted for the dance workshop.

At the workshop, I introduced Jane to Bollywood. She said she enjoyed the experience even more than ballet and found everyone extremely friendly. I have to say I was pleasantly impressed with what we accomplished in the short time especially as we had missed the start owing to of an accident on the motorway. Happily, we had not missed much of the session itself. This was very engaging with good instruction and explanation- coaching with a clear definition of movement and meaning of mudras (hand gestures which are used to depict narrative in Indian storytelling influenced by the Kathak style of dance). We learnt rhythm and timing to moves and beats so that by the end of the 90 mins learnt a full routine. Hats off to the lead's facilitation skills and those of the other cast members as we were exposed to many moves to follow and copy. There was a range of age groups from 5 through to 70 with various abilities and backgrounds - some who had never done Bollywood dance and others who were returning after years of doing Indian dance. It was rather fun.

The play that we saw in the evening was directed by Sâmir Bhamra in association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry.  Bhamra was the creative director of the London Asian Film Festival and has been a mentor to emerging artists. He was the executive producer of an international dance festival and delivered three large-scale events during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games including a carnival procession across the East Midlands alongside the Olympic Torch Relay. He developed his skills at the National Theatre and was seconded to Royal Shakespeare Company where he worked on the World Shakespeare Festival under Deborah Shaw. 

Set in India but with plenty of references to London, the show had all the mix of a good Bollywood spectacular -  great dance and music, superb costumes with plenty of changes and good comedy too.  Fun, lively, colourful, family drama, romance, comedy - the cast engaged superbly well and were very in tune with each other.  Quite a feat to hold the audience's attention for some 90 minutes in the first act and another 60 in the second.

Turning to the dancing, there was a lot of traditional Indian styles including Kathak and Bharatanatyam as well as folk dances like Bhangra. We were reminded at the workshop that Bollywood is a fusion of many styles including Western ones."

Jane Lambert adds:

"The Hindi cinema, popularly known as “Bollywood”, is the biggest film industry in the world in terms of ticket sales and one of the biggest on every other measure. It is extraordinarily popular - not just in India and other countries where there is a big Hindi speaking population - but even in countries where Hindi is not spoken.

Sadly, even though there is a big audience for Hindi films in this country, very few folk of non-South Asian heritage take the trouble to see them. That is probably unfortunate because I suspect that we are missing out on a lot of fun. Phizzical Productions Ltd, which is touring the United Kingdom with a stage musical called Bring on the Bollywood, aspires to give those of us who do not speak Hindi a taste of that fun. Speaking as a complete ingenue in this genre I can certainly say that it was fun. However, I leave it to Gita, who knows a lot about South Asian art, to opine whether it was at all authentic.

The plot was a little convoluted. An “overworked, underpaid NHS doctor” flew home to India for her brother’s wedding. Her father is a retired army officer and her mother a lady of leisure. Neither her brother nor his intended bride is looking forward to their wedding. They were promised to each other by their parents but they really can’t stand to each other.

On the plane, the doctor sits opposite a handsome but rather mournful young man carrying an urn. The reason for his unhappiness was that he was jilted at the alter. The contents of the urn are ashes of photos and love letters but for the time being were led to believe that they are the ashes of his dead wife. The young man is on the way to meet his friend who is love with the woman who is engaged to the doctor’s brother.

The young man and his friend find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere. The brother offers to put them up at his parents’ home but only at an inflated price. On arrival, the young man meets the doctor with whom he had travelled on the plane. “Of the billion people in India how come I meet you?” He says. But they are attracted to each other and the attraction grows when the brother and sister, his intended bride, her lover and the young man take a hike in the idyllic Valley of the Flowers.
In the valley the last character turns up, namely the woman who had left the young man standing at the altar. She tries to win him back but he wants none of it. He sends her on her on her way. After a lot of parental resistance the young man married the doctor, his friend marries his love and the doctor’s brother joins the army much to his father’s delight.

This was quite a long play. The first act was 80 minutes long and the second 60. But for me, it passed very quickly largely because of some lusty singing and vivacious dancing. Most of the songs where in Hindi but the signature tune “Bring on the Bollywood” was in English. In the workshop which I described in Bollywood Beginner 3 June 2017, we tried the routine of one of the songs. According to Wikipedia
“the dancing in Bollywood films, especially older ones, is primarily modelled on Indian dance: classical dance styles, dances of historic northern Indian courtesans (tawaif), or folk dances. In modern films, Indian dance elements often blend with Western dance styles (as seen on MTV or in Broadway musicals), though it is usual to see Western pop and pure classical dance numbers side by side in the same film.”
In our workshop, we were taught the importance of hand movements and the symbolism of some of the gestures such as the drawing of a bow. At various points of the show Gita whispered some of the cultural allusions which would otherwise have been lost on me.

There were many strong character roles in the play and the actors performed them well. I particularly liked Rohit Gokani who played the retired colonel, Anthony Sahota his spoilt and somewhat wastrel son, Nisha Aaliya, the doctor and Sophie Kangola the intended fiancée who showed enormous patience to me in the workshop, but perhaps it is unfair to single any of them our for special praise because they were all good.

The show is in Hornchurch until the 17 and then Poole, London, York, Oldham, Truro, Oxford and Peterborough. If you live anywhere near those towns I unhesitatingly recommend it."

Monday, 12 June 2017

Saying goodbye to Zenaida


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The Royal Ballet  The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand encore, Leeds Showcase, 11 June 2017

Yesterday, I found a movie theatre that showed last Wednesday's performance of The Dream, Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand. I had missed the live transmission because I was in Preston that day watching Ballet Cymru dance Darius James's A Midsummer Night's Dream (see "A Most Rare Vision ...... A Dream" 8 June 2017).  I had intended to see Ballet Cymru on Saturday in Sale but that was the only day I could get to London to see Scottish Ballet's Emergence and MC 14/22. I had already dashed down to London to hear Christopher Hampson's interview with Gerald Dowler at the London Ballet Circle. There was also the little matter of a general election at which I like many other voters did my best to make sure that the blighters who had failed to stand up to their Eurosceptics last year and who had opportunistically sought to take advantage of a commanding lead in the opinion polls this year got their comeuppance.

Sir Frederick Ashton had created The Dream in 1964 to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth.  I remember that year well because it was the year I took my "O" levels one of which was English literature which included a compulsory Shakespeare play, Birmingham Royal Ballet revived The Dream last year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death. When I think of all the plays and sonnets that he crammed into that short life I admire that genius all the more. I love that ballet particularly because it was created for Dame Antoinette Sibley, my favourite ballerina of all time, and Sir Anthony Dowell, my favourite male dancer. I cannot hear Mendelssohn's music without memories of those two flooding back. It was wonderful to see footage of Sir Anthony coaching Steven McRae and Akane Takada. I nearly blubbed like a baby when I saw him again embracing Zenaida Yanowsky.

The other ballet with special memories was Marguerite and Armand. Ashton had created it for Fonteyn and Nureyev and they danced it at the gala for Sir Fred's retirement as director of the Royal Ballet on 24 July 1970. I know because I was there. You can see a picture of Sir Fred on stage with the company in the Royal Ballet's album on Flickr. Fonteyn's role was danced on Wednesday by Yanowsky and Nureyev's by Roberto Bolle. They are very different from Fonteyn and Nureyev but they seem to have conquered that ballet and made it their own. "Regal" was the adjective that sprang to mind several times as I watched Yanowsky trace the familiar steps. She is tall. She is graceful. She is grand. Bolle is much more believable as Armand than Nureyev ever was. He danced the role. Bolle lived it. Two other greats danced solo roles - Cristopher Saunders as Armand's father and Gary Avis as the duke.

I first saw Symphonic Variations 20 years after it was first performed and it already had a period feel. Perhaps the swirling isobars backdrop and the tennis dress tutus.  But many of the original cast - Pamela May, Moira Shearer, Margot Fonteyn, Brian Shaw and Michael Somes were still dancing. Only Henry Danton had retired. Ironically they were all survived by Danton who appeared in the recording still handsome and, seemingly, with all his faculties intact.  It was a joy to see this grand old man. He had retired before I started following ballet so I never saw him dance but I have seen his photos and what a dish he must have been.

However, the most memorable part of the performance was not the dancing but Zenaida Yanowsky;s curtain call. Flowers were everywhere. First from the House's flunkies (whatever happened to the powdered wings and knee breeches of my youth), then from the premiers danseurs nobles  (tears welled up when I saw Carlos Acosta), he was followed by Ed Watson (more tears) and they flowed like a New York fire hydrant when Anthony Dowell embraced her as a daughter and finally a floral blizzard from the balcony. Goodbyes are something the House does particularly well. I am sure there are goodbyes at The Stopera, the Palais Garnier, the Met but they can't be as they are at Covent Garden.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Scottish Ballet - Emergence and MC 14/22

Scottish Ballet Emergence
Photo Andy Ross
© 2017 Scottish Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company














Scottish Ballet, MC 14/22 (ceci est mon corps) and Emergence, Sadler's Wells. 10 June 2017, 19:30

I recently asked Christopher Hampson why he was content for Scottish Ballet to bring full-length ballets like his own Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel, Peter Darrell's The Nutcracker and David Dawson's Swan Lake that tour Scotland to the North of England but never to London.  He replied that he wanted the capital to see the sort of works that distinguish Scottish Ballet.

I did not understand his reply at first because it seemed to me that those ballets are flagship works. They attract crowds night after night in all the cities they visit. But then I reflected upon the history of Scottish Ballet. I reminded myself what it was like when I first knew it.  I think the first work I saw was Peter Darrell's Mods and Rockers which was performed to the music of The Beatles.  I also remember The Houseparty from the same era which was one of the first ballets to have been created especially for television. Scottish Ballet was known as Western Theatre Ballet in those days. It was not a national company nor even a regional one for the West of England. It attracted audiences because it was innovative and adventurous. One of its most daring early works (which I never saw because it was well before my time) was A Wedding Present.  According to the Peter Darrell Trust website, that work explored the impact on a marriage of a bridegroom's love for another man a full 5 years before the Sexual Offences Act 1967.  So it is entirely consistent with the company's tradition that it should bring to London in its diamond jubilee year works by Angelin Preljocaj and Crystal Pite.

Preljocaj's MC 14/22 (ceci est mon corps) came first.  I have not yet been able to work out the significance of "MC 14/22" but "ceci est mon corps" means "this is my body". They are the words that the vicar utters when distributing the host to his congregation at Holy Communion. Christians celebrate that sacrament in memory of Jesus's last supper with his disciples which most of us imagine from the painting in Milan by Leonardo da Vinci. That much was easy enough to follow because there were 12 dancers (though no Christ), a number of metal tables that were laid out as one long table at one point and a chant that sounded a little like Κύριε, ἐλέησον.

But this was in no sense a religious work.  The Kyrie was muffled and that muffling appeared to be paralleled later when one of the dancers used sticky tape to hobble the movements of another.  The programme describes the work as "a meeting of the spiritual and the carnal" and refers to the dancers as "Apostles of Movement". It opens with three dancers. One on stage left appearing to wash or massage the body of the other.  A third at stage right applying masking tape to the floor.  Slowly an image of bodies on tables begins to glow. The dancers, all male, appear on stage, one checking the body of the other. At various times they appear to fight.  At other times they show affection. Much of the action takes place in silence. The composer, Tedd Zahmal refers to his work as a "soundscape" rather than a score. Sound, when it comes, is deafening. One bout sounds like a gunfight. Another like a steelwork's rolling mill.

This work is to be appreciated rather than to be liked.  One viewing is probably not enough to do justice to it. I will have to see this work several times to come to terms with it. But even at the superficial level of a single viewing, it was an enthralling piece and one to be admired.

Emergence followed after the interval.  This was an elegant work and one that was much easier to follow. For a start. there was a score by Owen Belton.  There were female dancers as well as males with the women spending a lot of time on pointe.  The clue to understanding the ballet for me was that one of the characters is called "Bee-Man". A striking, swirling circular backcloth with an aperture and some very delicate lighting gave the impression of the interior of a hive or anthill. The ballet was arranged in the following movements:
The solos were punctuated by the ensemble.  There were some powerful moments such as the scene at the start of the trailer when the females arranged in a single file step out from stage left and appear to absorb the rush of oncoming men as a sea wall resists a storm.

This double bill received loud and sustained applause.  It was a performance that the company's founders, Elizabeth West and Peter Darrell, would have relished.  I don't know how many other companies could have carried off an evening like this.  I can count on one hand the companies that would even try.  By any measure, Scottish Ballet is magnificent.

Yesterday the London entertainment and hospitality industries raised money for the victims of the Manchester and London outrages. Hampson, who like me comes from Manchester, appeared on stage at the start of the show to announce donations by Sadler's Wells and to appeal for donations from the audience. The ushers had collecting boxes at the end of the show and judging by the sound of the rattling they must have received a lot of contributions.


Saturday, 10 June 2017

"Show!" - the Video


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In Show 14 May 2017 I wrote how it felt to dance in Move It o at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester on 13 May 2017. Our teacher and choreographer, Karen Sant, filmed our performance and she has recently uploaded her videos onto YouTube so you can now see how we did.

It was a memorable night. We all had a whale of a time. Here are links to some of the other performances:
Everybody who took part in those performances studies dance after a long day's work.  We are all ages. Some of us had taken up dance for the first time as adults. Our classes take place in the studios of the Northern Ballet School on Oxford Road of which the Dancehouse Theatre is an integral part. It is a really lovely place to learn dance. Karen once referred to us as "the KNT family". That is not a bad description.  If you want to join us, you will find all the information you need on the KNT website.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

"A Most Rare Vision ...... A Dream"


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Ballet Cymru A Midsummer Night's Dream 7 June 2017  19:30

Yesterday I had to make a tough choice between two ballet's derived from A Midsummer Night's Dream. In my local cinema was The Dream by Sir Frederick Ashton, one of my favourite ballets because I shall always associate it with Dame Antoinette Sibley and Sir Anthony Dowell, streamed live from Covent Garden. At the Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre was a live performance by Ballet Cymru of Darius James's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

What made the choice particularly hard was that The Dream was to be performed as part of a triple bill with Symphonic Variations and Marguerite and Armand.  Just as I associate The Dream with Sibley and Dowell I shall always associate Marguerite and Armand with Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn and Symphonic Variations. Making the choice even harder was the knowledge that Zenaida Yanowsky was due to make her last appearance yesterday.

Much as I love the Royal Ballet and Yanowsky I chose Ballet Cymru without hesitation. In my book, living breathing human beings on stage will always trump images flashed onto a screen. Also, there is a chance of seeing a recording of last night's transmission though, sadly, there are not many cinemas advertising the encore. I think I made the right call because last night's performance was outstanding.

Darius James first created the ballet for the company in 1997. It was an immediate success. The Sunday Telegraph described the dancers as "impressively able" and commended James for making use of "every gift they have." The Theatre Critics of Wales nominated it for the best dance production of 2013. It is not hard to see why for James is a skilled narrator with an exceptionally keen eye for detail and a superb gift for transposing Shakespeare's words into movement.

James understands Shakespeare better than most.  In A Romeo and Juliet for our Times 7 Nov 2016 I described his Romeo a Juliet as James and Doughty's best work yet which shows how a small company of young dancers with modest resources can stage a full-length ballet brilliantly. Other plays that have inspired James are The Tempest, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet which I should very much like to see.

Unlike Ashton, who focuses on the quarrel between Titania and Oberon and their reconciliation, James follows the play faithfully. That could not have been easy because the plot is complex. In addition to the quarrel there is the love affair between Hermia and Lysander and Helena's pursuit of Demetrius, Puck's mischief making, Titania's infatuation with Bottom, the mechanicals' performance of Pyramus and Thisbe and the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta. James's solution is to divide the ballet into three parts. The first part embraces everything except the merchanicals' play and Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding. The second part is that play.  The third is a Petipa style pas de deux with Hippolyta in a classical tutu. It may sound bitty when described in words on a page but, in fact, it works very well indeed.

One day Ballet Cymru may have principals, soloists, coryphées and a corps but at present it has twelve young, very able and very ambitious young dancers. All of them had important roles in the ballet that reflected their personalities as well as their respective technical skills. Each and every one of them performed his or her role brilliantly.

Oberon and Titania were performed by Adreamaria Battagia and Gwenllian Davies who had impressed me so much in Romeo a Juliet.  They do comedy as well as they do tragedy. They also doubled as Theseus and Hippolyta. For me, the pas de deux at the end was the high point of the show. Casting Miguel Fernandes was inspired. He is a talented character dancer as well as a splendid virtuoso. Anna Pujol was a delightful Hermia and Robbie Moorcroft a gallant Lysander but it was as Bottom where Moorcroft's brilliance shone through. The company's latest recruits, Miles Carrott and Beth Meadway, were each given two demanding roles which they performed magnificently. Medway touched our hearts as poor spurned Helena and our funny bones as Snug. Carrott excelled as Demetrius and Quince. Natalie Debono was a spirited Peasebottom. Ann Wall, who doubled as fairy and mechanical, was a hilarious man in the moon complete with lamp and dog.

The music for most of the ballet was Mendelssohn which James tells us in the programme is a delight to dance.  No wonder as the score has so many familiar tunes. For Pyramus and Thisbe, however, the dancers provided their own music on tin whistles and kazoo which virtually spoke the words of the play. I was amused by Pyramus's death throes and the Death March that the motley band managed to conjure from their assorted instruments.

As a small touring company Ballet Cymru has to travel light so it relies on projections to create scenery and atmosphere. Chris Illingworth's designs were inspired.  So, too, were Yvonne Greenleaf's costumes. The simple body hugging costumes for the fairies with their fluffy, white wigs worked well. So, too, did the mechanicals' working clothes and, of course, Bottom's ears.

The company will perform A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Saturday. A tip to all my classmates at KNT - if you are free on Saturday afternoon or evening. try to get down there.  After Sale the show moves on to Bangor on the 15 June followed by Tewkesbury, Poole, Taunton, Stvenage, Hereford, Basingstoke, Ayr, Porthcawl, Newbury and Lichfield.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Hampson! A Postcript

I am very glad I attended Christopher Hampson's conversation with Gerald Dowler at the London Ballet Circle last night.

It was a very good meeting. I learned a lot about choreography and running a major national company with a great heritage and I also enjoyed some interesting anecdotes. Dowler is a good interviewer. One of his techniques (which I shall try to remember next time I chair a meeting) is to pause at various stages to invite questions and comments from the floor. It prompted an interesting discussion.

Although I try not to have favourites Scottish Ballet has a very special place in my affections. I have followed it since the 1960s. I was acquainted with its founder Peter Darrell and several of his dancers. I remember ferrying several of them to their lodgings in my old Ford Popular and giving others a tour of St Andrews. It is good to know that this very special and very precious company is in such good hands.

Yesterday's visit was my first to the Circle since David Nixon's talk last year. It was good to exchange greetings with Susan Dalgetty Ezra and other members of the Circle. It was a very long day. I had to leave home at 14:20 to catch the 16:21 train from Donny and I did not return until just before 02:00 this morning but the talk was well worth the effort.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Hampson!


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Whenever the London Ballet Circle has a special guest such as Li-Cunxin or a special event such as the Circle's 70th anniversary celebrations last year, the Dancing Times's Gerald Dowler is asked to play a special role. Dowler has a profound knowledge of the ballet and a pleasant interviewing style that can coax the best from a guest. Dowler's services have been called upon tonight as he will interview Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet's artistic director and chief executive.

Hampson is a Mancunian like me and he is one of the artists I most admire in the performing arts. His work is also admired by my readers because my reviews of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Storyville and other works attract a lot of page hits. In February of this year, I actually met him in Newcastle and seized the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his work.

For those who would like to learn a little more about Hampson, the London Ballet Circle has published this potted biography on its website:
"Christopher joined Scottish Ballet as Artistic Director in August 2012 and was appointed Artistic Director / Chief Executive of Scottish Ballet in 2015. Christopher trained at the Royal Ballet Schools. His choreographic work began there and continued at English National Ballet (ENB), where he danced until 1999 and for whom he subsequently created numerous award-winning works, including Double Concerto, Perpetuum Mobile, Country Garden, Concerto Grosso and The Nutcracker. Christopher’s Romeo and Juliet, created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB), was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award (Best New Production 2005) and his production of Giselle for the National Theatre in Prague has been performed every year since its premiere in 2004. Christopher created Sinfonietta Giocosa for the Atlanta Ballet (USA) in 2006 and after a New York tour it received its UK premiere with ENB in 2007. He created Cinderella for RNZB in 2007, which was subsequently hailed as Best New Production by the New Zealand Herald and televised by TVNZ in 2009. His work has toured Australia, China, the USA and throughout Europe. Other commissions include, Dear Norman (Royal Ballet, 2009); Sextet (Ballet Black/ROH2, 2010); Silhouette (RNZB, 2010), Rite of Spring (Atlanta Ballet, 2011), Storyville (Ballet Black/ROH2, 2012) nominated for a National Dance Award 2012, and Hansel and Gretel (Scottish Ballet 2013). Christopher is co-founder of the International Ballet Masterclasses in Prague and has been a guest teacher for English National Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures and the Genée International Ballet Competition. Christopher’s work now forms part of the Solo Seal Award for the Royal Academy of Dance. Christopher most recently gave a talk on ‘Creative Thinking’ for TEDx Glasgow and developed and led the inaugural Young Rural Retreat for Aspiring Leaders, in association with Dance East last summer."
Even though I really do not have the time to swan off to London today I shall be on the 16:40 from Donny to London and the 22:57 back. I am traipsing down to the Smoke tonight mainly out of respect for Hampson but also partly out of love for Scottish Ballet which I followed even before they became Scottish and also partly as a minor act of defiance to those religious fanatics who have wrought so much harm to my native city and national capital.

Scottish Ballet is making one of its rare and highly valued visits south of the Tweed and Solway this week. Between Wednesday and Saturday, it will dance Emergence and MC 14/22 (ceci est mon corps) at Sadler's Wells. I will be there on Saturday evening.

If you are free tonight, the interview takes place between 19:30 and 20:30 tonight on the 1st floor of the Civil Service Club at 13 - 15 Great Scotland Yard, London SW1A 2HJ. The Club is next to the Nigerian embassy and on several bus routes. The nearest Underground stations are Charing Cross and Embankment.