Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Isabelle Brouwers in Kibera


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Over 4 years have elapsed since I first wrote about Mike Wamaya's ballet class in Kibera (see What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013). The world took an interest in that class towards the end of last year when The Guardian featured it on its Facebook page and other news outlets followed suit (see Recognition for the Kibera Ballet Class 9 Jan 2017).

Shortly after that feature appeared, dancers and companies in Britain offered help.  Birmingham Royal Ballet sent pointe shoes to the class (see Thank you Birmingham Royal Ballet 17 Jan 2017). Yesterday, after being reminded of its blog by Feedspot (see We hate to blow our own trumpet but .... 28 March 2017) I read that Isabelle Brouwers of English National Ballet had actually Kibera and given a class there (see Isabelle Brouwers teaches ballet to Kenyan children in Kibera slum 8 Feb 2017 ENB Blog).

I have always had a lot of affection for English National Ballet ever since I attended their Christmas performances of The Nutcracker at the Festival Hall. I have a high regard for that company and their artistic director, Tamara Rojo, not only for their work on stage but also for their work for the community, and in particular, their classes for patients with Parkinson's disease (see ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's 25 Nov 2016). It came as no surprise to read:
"Backed up by my ever supporting parents, and my wonderful colleagues and Artistic Director Tamara Rojo at the English National Ballet, who helped me gather an incredible amount of dancewear and shoe donations, I was all set for what I knew would be one of the most eye opening and life changing events of my life!"
The article on Brouwers's visit is a very good read and I commend it to my own readers.

I also commend the triple bill of ballets by Pina Bausch, William Forsythe and Hans van Manen at Sadler's Wells this week which I wish I could get to see.  If any of my readers wants to offer me a review I will be very pleased to publish it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

We hate to blow our own trumpet but ....

Author Achias
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................ We come in at number 36 of the Top 60 Ballet Blogs & Websites Every Ballet Dancer Must Follow.  Not only that but we are number 3 in the UK. The British blogs and websites that are ahead of us are The Guardian's blog on the Royal Ballet which is number 3 in the world and English National Ballet's  at number 4. Blog numero uno, incidentally, is Ballet Reddit of San Francisco which has nearly 1.1 million Facebook and 452,000 twitter followers and ranks number 24 on Alexa.

The top 60 ballet blogs are chosen from thousands of top Ballet blogs in Feedspot's index using search and social metrics which are refreshed once a week. The latest update was 8 Feb 2017 which was at the start of our best month ever. According to Anuj Agarwal who keeps the index, the Top Ballet Blogs list is the most comprehensive list of best ballet blogs on the internet. He writes:
"I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world."
Apparently, blogs and websites are ranked on the following criteria
  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.
I did not apply to be on this list and I paid nothing for the ranking. Indeed, I knew nothing about the listing or Mr Agarwal's website until this evening. But I am glad to be there and gladly return an electronic high-five to Feedspot. In acknowledging the ranking I need to thank my many contributors without whom this blog would be nothing.

We now have just under 300,000 page-hits, I expect the 300,000th this week or next. Our five top articles as of now are:
Out top audiences are the UK, USA, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Ukraine, Italy, Australia and Canada. This is a tremendous boost to morale. We hope to raise our game and eventually take the #1 slot.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Pacific Northwest Ballet experiments with Virtual Reality


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I have already mentioned experiments by the Royal Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet with virtual reality ("VR") in Virtual Reality in Ballet 13 Sept 2016. The latest company to try the technology is Pacific Northwest Ballet ("PNB") which has collaborated with Pixvana Inc ("Pixvana"), a Seattle software startup building a video creation and delivery platform for the emerging mediums of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality ("XR") to create Silent Resonance which appears above.

The video was directed by Scott Squires. Pixvana's CTO, Creative Director and Co-Founder who has a long and successful history in digital production technology (see the About page on Pixvana's website) and choreographed by Price Suddarth, one of the company's artists. The dancers in the video are Emma Love Suddarth and Miles Pertl. The music is Lost in Space by Max Richter.

According to the joint press release by PNB and Pixvana, this collaboration is the result of an effort by PNB's artistic director, Peter Boal, to leverage technology to reach new audiences. There is more information on the work including an interview with Suddarth in New Release: Silent Resonance and
Ballet Lovers Discover VR at Pointe to the Stars on Pixvana's website. Pointe to the Stars is a fundraising event for PNB Stars, a volunteer organization made up of energetic women who are dedicated to the support of PNB through special events, fundraising, scholarship support and member education. Moneys raised by that organization support talented young dancers from the United States and elsewhere through their studies at the PNB School. Readers anywhere in the world can contribute to that worthwhile project through the company's Donate page and I invite them to do so.

PNB describes itself as "one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States" It has 47 dancers (about the same size as Northern Ballet) and gives 100 performances every year. It is based in Seattle where the Microsoft Corporation and many other high-tech businesses are located and tours extensively within the USA and abroad.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

An Adventure Indeed

John Teniel's White Rabbit






































Chelmsford Ballet Company Alice's Adventures Chelmsford Civic Theatre, 25 March 2017, 19:30

I have been coming to the Chelmsford Civic Theatre for the Chelmsford Ballet Company's annual show since 2014 (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014, A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015 and A Real Beauty: Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty 25 March 2016). Every show has been excellent but Alice's Adventures which I saw last night was by far the best.

Although the company has staged ballets based on Alice in Wonderland twice before (see the list of productions on the company's website), this was an entirely new production with a new plot, new choreography and new designs with some amazing computer generated graphics and inspired dancing. Save for the score which was Carl Davis's arrangement of various works by Tchaikovsky for English National Ballet's 1995 production of Alice in Wonderland everything was created by members of the company. Annette Potter, the company's artistic director, contributed the story and choreography, Ann Starling the designs and Phil Rhodes the special effects.

The ballet began with a prologue where Alice and her sister took a stroll in a park. There they took tea at an open air café called Hatter's run by a rather eccentric proprietor of the same name. There they spotted a hurried and forgetful businessman with a predilection for carrots, a bossy schoolmistress with a party of children, a sleepy urchin, a street vendor selling carrots among other things and a pair of workmen manhandling a tree. Alice was drawn to a hole in which the workmen tried to plant the tree. She stood on the brink. Then a gauze curtain fell onto which images of Alice floating through space were projected. The curtain rose to show her recumbent on the floor of a strange land with food that made her grow and drink that made her shrink. All the individuals that Alice had seen in the park were transposed to this land. The businessman became a giant white rabbit, the café proprietor the Mad Hatter, the schoolmistress the Queen of Hearts, the urchin the dormouse and the vendor the duchess. Alice took tea with the Mad Hatter, met Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, played croquet with flamingos and hedgehogs and encountered all sorts of other characters narrowly escaping decapitation at the command of the Queen only through a rapid return to the real world where she emerged from what had become a rather disturbing dream.

Annette Potter had a cast that ranged in skill and experience from the company's guest artist, Andrei Teodor Iliescu, to some very young ballet students and she had to create dances for them all.  Her choreography was incredibly ingenious. Here are just two examples. The experience of growing after eating the food labelled "East Me" was achieved by Alice's stretches on pointe. The experience of shrinking by splits on the floor. Potter drew out Iliescu's virtuosity while allowing everyone in between from the youngest student to Alice and the other soloists to shine.

There were a lot of dancers in the show and each and every one excelled from the tiniest hedgehog upwards. Sadly I shall omit some names that deserve substantial credit. All I can say is that you were all stars. You must have felt that from the loud and sustained applause at the reverence and at many points throughout the show.

Iliescu was magnificent as the white rabbit and carrot crunching businessman. Tall and slender all eyes were drawn to him, particularly his graceful jumps and turns. I had last seen him in Leeds in Chris Marney's Scenes from a Wedding for Ballet Central (see Dazzled 3 May 2015). According to the programme, Iliescu came to Central after Sara Matthews spotted him in Lausanne (see his performance as Albrecht in the 2013 competition). He was offered a full scholarship and has been here ever since.

Iliescu was partnered delightfully by Darci Wilsher whom I had last seen in Marney's Carnival of the Animals for the 2015 show. She was the perfect Alice, a role that demanded not only a mastery of technique but also of mime and drama.

Andrew Potter was a splendid Hatter. A great character dancer, he had impressed me as Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker. I understand that Gary Avis was in the audience on Thursday night. I think he would have been reminded of himself. Samantha Ellis was a fearsome queen and schoolmarm but also occasionally a fetchingly flirtatious young woman whom we couldn't hate. Isabelle Fellows was a fine dormouse, Stacey Byrne an impressive duchess, Scarlett Man a beautiful bluebell, Megan Roberts and Alice Brecknell were a hilarious Dum and Dee and Lucy Abbot an equally amusing half stoned caterpillar.  No show by Chelmsford Ballet would be complete without an appearance by Marion Pettet. She entered in the prologue, a small role but one that she performed with her usual aplomb.

The sets and costumes deserve a special mention. They literally jumped out of Teniel's illustrations. I particularly liked the Cheshire cat which glided above the stage from a gantry. The company has a genius of a special effects designer in Phil Rhodes. I can think of at least one choreographer inspired by film not a million miles from Leeds but who is now in Germany who would have been mightily impressed had he seen those computer generated effects.

This is the company's 70th year and it has achieved a lot. It has launched more than a few careers in dance including that of Cara O'Shea, one of my favourite teachers at Northern Ballet Academy who is also a talented choreographer (see my review of Small Steps and Other Pieces - Leeds CAT End of Term Show 2 July 2016). Chelmsford Ballet will also have inspired three generations of kids to step up to the barre and created a considerable audience for dance in Essex. It is a great example of what dancers, teachers and other artists in a medium size town can do. We have the same building blocks in great profusion in the Northern Powerhouse. Would it not be wonderful to follow Chelmsford Ballet's example there.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

A New Interactive Resource: Royal Ballet School's Ballet History Timeline

Bridge of Aspiration between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House
Photo Edward
Source Wikipedia
Copyright released by the author






















The Royal Ballet School has recently compiled a magnificent resource for anyone who is interested in the history of dance in the United Kingdom called the Ballet History Timeline. It consists of nearly 750 images of items held in The Royal Ballet School Special Collections together with commentary written by the School’s Manager of Special Collections, Anna Meadmore. There is a useful introductory video on YouTube which states what is in the collection and how to use it.

At present. the Timeline covers the period between 1862 (the year in which Marius Petipa was appointed chief ballet master of the Maryinsky Ballet) and 1956 (the year in which the Royal Ballet received its royal charter and, also incidentally, the year in which the Bolshoi made its first appearance in the United Kingdom). However, the intention is to go back much further and also to advance to the present time.

Readers can access this resource at http://timeline.royalballetschool.org.uk/. There are at present 6 introductory chapters:
  • "Prologue: Marius Petipa and the Imperial Russian Ballet 1860–1897
  • The Birth of Modern Ballet: the Diaghilev Ballets Russes 1898–1919
  • Early British Ballet: foundations and pioneers 1920–30
  • Early British Ballet: building a repertoire 1931–38
  • World War Two: a national ballet for Britain 1939–46
  • Formative Years: The Royal Ballet 1947–56".
Users can either click on those or use the search facility.  

I have already had a lot of fun with this resource. I started by searching for "Petipa" and found references to him recurring in just about every chapter. The last of those references was:
"1862 – Marius PetipaBallet Master of Imperial Russia"
I clicked on the hypertext link and came across a page headed with that title bearing a splendid photo of Petipa in a costume from the ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter.  The introductory text states:
"Marius Petipa (1818–1910) was a French dancer and choreographer; he was chief Ballet Master of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg for more than 40 years (1862–1903). The repertoire and style of Imperial Russian Classicism is exemplified by the enduring ‘ballet classics’ that Marius Petipa and his assistant, Lev Ivanov, created to the glorious ballet scores of Pyotr Tchaikovsky."
More information can be obtained by clicking "Read More". There is also a short biography and a page of drawings, photos and an interesting lithograph of Arthur Saint-Leon's dance notation on a page headed "Gallery".

One of the pleasures of taking up ballet again very late in life is the awareness that one is participating albeit in a very small way in a glorious artistic tradition. It keeps me going when my legs ache and right foot screams out in agony. It motivates me to drive to Truro and back to see a youth ballet and, above all. to keep this publication going.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Au Revoir, Ailsa, and Good Luck

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Photo Donaldytong
Source Wikipedia
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Last night I joined many of my fellow adult dance students at KNT Danceworks to say au revoir to Ailsa Baker, a favourite teacher. She was my first teacher at KNT (see So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class 29 Aug 2014). We have all learned a lot from her and, just as importantly, we have all enjoyed her classes.

She had a pretty full class last night and its numbers were swollen by students from her other classes. When our principal, Karen Sant, presented her with an enormous card bearing all our names, the applause was as loud and as enthusiastic as could have been expected by any ballerina.  Afterwards, we made our way to a nearby pub and the party was still going strong when I left to catch my last train home.

Ailsa is going to Dubai where ballet is booming. A new opera house has opened recently (see The Dubai Opera House 11 June 2016) and there are lots of people who want to study dance of all ages and ability ranges. It should be a great adventure for her.

We won't forget her. There is an English language common law court there where I can appear. I will remember to pack a leotard and shoes as well as my wig and gown next time I have business there. She has also promised to visit us whenever she comes back to Manchester. So we wish her bon voyage and au revoir but definitely not goodbye.

Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet in Barcelona


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Last week, one of my friends visited Barcelona. While she was there she took a tour of The Liceu Theatre and attended a rehearsal of Rigoletto. The theatre has just announced its programme for 2017 and 2018 which includes performances of Joëlle Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet by the ballet of the Grand Theatre of Geneva, the Eifman Ballet's Anna Karenina. a triple bill by the youth company of the Theatre Institute of St Cujat and Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Dream by the Monte Carlo Ballet.

If I were a lady of leisure I would willingly see all four shows but if I had to select one it would be Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet.  I have already mentioned the Geneva Grand Theatre Ballet in Ballet in Switzerland on 27 Oct 2013 and Geneva Nutcracker on 25 Oct 2015. It was the company that premiered Christopher Bruce's Rooster which is now one of the most popular works in Rambert Dance's repertoire (see Rooster ................ :-) 4 Oct 2014). Its latest work is Philippe Cohen's Une Autre Passion based on Bach's St Matthew Passion which is about to open on 28 March at the Opera des Nations in Geneva.  The company will perform Romeo and Juliet at the Liceu between 3 and 7 Nov 2017.

Bouvier created Romeo and Juliet in 2009 for the 22 dancers of the Geneva Ballet (see the Romeo and Juliet web page on the choreographer's website). There is a feature on the ballet with comments by Bouvier on numeridanse.tv website. Although Bouvier retains Prokofiev's score the interpretation is completely original. The company has already taken this work on tour to France and South Africa where it has received very favourable reviews (see Raphaël de Gubernatis Danse : un "Roméo et Juliette" magistral! 8 April 2011 Le Nouvel Observateur).

The Geneva ballet tour extensively but I cannot remember their last trip to England if, indeed, they have ever performed here at all. They are never in Geneva when I am there for WIPO events. They are definitely not to be missed. As there are plenty of cheap flights to Barcelona it looks as though the 4 or 5 Nov at the Liceu is my best opportunity to see them.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Spark of Excellence

Alabama Seymour
(c) 2917 Fieldgrazer Productions
Reproduced with kind permission of Fielfgrazer Productions








































In The Importance of Performance 20 March 2017, I wrote that one of the rewards of watching shows by companies like Duchy Ballet well outside the big cities is that you sometimes spot a star in the making. The first time I saw Xander Parish was at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala at the Grand Opera House in York on 29 Oct 2007 (see Charles Hutchinson's Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday 31 July 2007 The Press). I saw many fine young dancers that night but he stood out from the rest.

There have been other times when a young dancer has stood out in the same way.  The last occasion was on Saturday when I saw The Sleeping Beauty by Duchy Ballet at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro on Saturday (see Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 19 March 2017). Many dancers impressed me that evening but the young woman who danced the Lilac Fairy stood out from the rest. I wrote: "I think I saw a spark of excellence in the lilac fairy on Saturday."

I was, therefore, delighted but not surprised to receive a press release from Charlie Fripp, the company's press officer, entitled Cornish Girl wins place at a prestigious ballet school which announced that the artist who had danced the Lilac Fairy had been accepted for training by the Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance. That "Cornish girl" was Alabama Seymour as I had guessed from the photo in the programme.

The press release stated that Ms Seymour comes from Chacewater which is a small village just outside Truro. She is studying dance at Truro College and has trained at Capitol School of Dance with Sian Strasberg.  Kay Jones, who is Principal at Capitol and Artistic Director of Duchy Ballet said:
“Alabama is one of the many talented dancers who have come through Duchy Ballet and gone on to dance as a career and we’re so excited to be able to offer so many dancers here in Cornwall the opportunity to dance on a stage like the Hall for Cornwall.”
Ms Seymour acknowledged the value of that experience:
"It is a real honour to win a place at Rambert School. Duchy Ballet has been an amazing start to my career and I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had with the company and I am looking forward to the thrill of performing in front of more than two thousand people at the Hall for Cornwall.”
Having seen her on stage I congratulate Ms Seymour for an excellent performance on Saturday and wish her well at the Rambert and beyond.  As I noted in The Importance of Performance, I don't want to embarrass her or tempt fate but I don't think I have been the last of her.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Introducing Amelia Sierevogel

Amelia Sierevogel when she first attended Fiona Noonan's ballet class
© 2017 Amelia Siervogel: all rights reserved
Reproduction kindly licensed by the copyright owner







































Amelia Sierevogel

As a new contributor to this blog, I should like to introduce myself. My name is Amelia Sierevogel and I’m currently on my placement year, studying BA (Hons) Costume with Textiles at the University of Huddersfield.

I’ve always been interested in the world of ballet but never took classes as a child as I studied gymnastics instead. My parents were able to finance only one hobby each for my siblings and me. I gave up gymnastics aged 16. For two years between then and starting university, I was rather unwell. I had contracted glandular fever and was beginning to suffer from severe migraines.

When I moved to university I wanted to find an activity that I could invest myself into both physically and mentally to help improve my health. Of course, I naturally chose ballet having always wanting to learn it.

I took my first ever ballet class aged 18 with Fiona Noonan in Huddersfield. A teacher who is most inspiring. This class was also where I first met the lovely Jane Lambert – a lady I find most knowledgeable and passionate about ballet.

When I first started ballet I used to sickle my feet, twist and sit in my hips and my jumps were awful – I was like a spring that couldn’t quite articulate through my feet! However, I still had flexibility from being a gymnast as a child and with strengthening exercises, sheer determination and the help of Fiona I corrected my errors and it’s safe to say I have progressed quickly.

As I am currently on my placement year, I’m not living in Huddersfield at the moment. Instead, I moved home and started to commute to my placements to save money. Of course, this meant I needed to find somewhere to continue taking ballet!

So I enrolled myself at Ripon Dance Academy. I first attended their adult class, which was taken at a steady pace and was enjoyable, but I didn’t find it particularly challenging. Instead, Miss Carole and Miss Laura, the wonderful teachers at RDA, suggested that I attend their intermediate ballet class. I started this class the following week. The age range in the class is from about 14 to 18 and now they have me aged 21. The girls in my class are lovely and so talented, Miss Laura works us hard and I feel that I am being pushed and challenged. I have learnt so many new steps over the last seven months and in November was allowed to start pointe work! – a truly magical experience.

Currently, in class, we are preparing for a Showcase, which will take place at Ripon Grammar School on 2 April 2017. I’m very excited but I’m also quite nervous, as I haven’t performed on a stage for about six years. This performance will be spectacular for Ripon Dance Academy and I’m sad that I will be saying goodbye to them after this performance.

This is because I shall be travelling to Australia for four months to undertake my placements in the costume departments with the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia. This will, of course,l be an amazing experience and I am looking forward to it! Naturally, I will also be looking to take class in Australia and watch performances.

Ever since I started two and a half years ago, I have found my stress relief, health fix, enjoyment and passion in ballet. I strive to improve and become the best dancer I possibly can. None of which would be possible without my amazing teachers or other classmates. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you as a young adult dancer, reflecting on classes, reviews of performances and dance products, and perhaps some insider costume knowledge.

Amelia x

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Esposito for the Junior Company


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In Prizes, Prizes, Prizes 7 Feb 2017 I congratulated the winners of the Prix de Lausanne.  The winner of the first scholarship was Michele Esposito who also won the Contemporary Dance Prize and Best Swiss Candidate award. The video shows him at the finals as Solor from La Bayadère. 

Michele has decided to join The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet (see The Prize winners 2017: their choices! 20 March 2017 Blog Prix de Lausanne).  Having followed the Junior Company almost from its inception I cannot think of a better place to launch his career.  As I said in Dutch National Ballet's New Season and a New Vlog from Tim and Salome 21 Feb 2017:
"there will be a lot of work for the Junior Company. They will begin their annual tour of the Netherlands with In the Future which will feature the work of the same name by Hans van Manen. According to the website, this work was created by Hans van Manen in 1986 for Scapino Ballet and it has also been danced by Stuttgarter Ballett and Introdans Ensemble for Youth. It is described as "an energetic, swinging, amusing and surprising work, with wonderfully inventive costumes by Keso Dekker." They will also dance Narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe in which Ernst Meisner collaborated with Marco Gerris to produce a work that is described as "Hiphop meets Ballet." I saw a scene from this work in the 2015 gala and loved it. Finally, the Junior Company will celebrate its 5th anniversary in Junior Company 5 Years with a special gala at the Stadsschouwburg. Having attended one of the first (if not the first) of those galas in 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013) this will be a special performance for me too - if I can only get a flight and ticket for it."
I am also glad to report that three of the prize winners are coming to London:  Taisuke Nakao of Japan to the Royal Ballet School where he will be joined by Lauren Hunter of the USA while Stanislaw Wegrzyn of Poland is on his way to the Royal Ballet.

Marina Fernandes da Costa Duarte of Brazil will go to the Bavarian State Ballet, Koyo Yamamoto to the Tanz Akademie in Zurich, Diana Georgia Ionescu to the Stuttgart Ballet and Fangqi Li of China to ABT's Studio Company.

I congratulate all the winners on their selections and I wish them all the best in their careers.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Importance of Performance


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I spent last weekend driving to Truro and back to see Duchy Ballet (see Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 19 March 2017).  I shall spend this weekend driving to Chelmsford to see my company dance Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I have emphasised the possessive adjective because I am proud to be a non-dancing associate member of the company and the only reason why I have never auditioned for dancing membership is that Chelmsford is just a tad too far for rehearsals.

It would have been cheaper and easier to have whizzed down to London and back by Hull Trains, Virgin or Grand Central to see Project Polunin at the Wells or even the Pite, Wheeldon and Dawson triple bill at the Royal Opera House and cheaper and easier still to have stayed in Leeds to see another performance of Northern Ballet's Casanova  (which I strongly recommend, by the way - 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) but I would have missed something important.

Performances like the one I saw in Truro on Saturday and the one I expect to see in Chelmsford are important because they give a purpose to all those years of exercises at the barre and in the centre.  Ballet, like Shakespeare, is intended for the stage. Without performance, class is just a workout - about as arid as cramming Romeo and Juliet for an exam.  Performances are important not just for children and young adults but for students of any age.  I shall never forget the thrill of my first performance at Northern Ballet Academy's end of term show in 2014 (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014).

However, students will take performances seriously only if audiences take them seriously.  Such audiences should include not just mums, dads and siblings but also regular ballet goers and even the occasional ballet blogger.  The attendance of a critical audience is particularly important when principals of leading companies perform in a student show as Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas of English National Ballet did in the Bristol Russian Ballet School's Romeo and Juliet (see Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport 19 Feb 2014) and Tom Thorne and Laura Bösenberg of the Cape Town City Ballet did on Saturday.

There is sometimes a reward for audiences who make it to civic theatres in remote parts of the country. Sometimes you see stars of the future as I did when I saw Xander Parish for the first time in York in 2007. Even as a student it was clear that he was going places.  I think I saw a spark of excellence in the lilac fairy on Saturday and also in Odette-Odile in Greenock last month (see Ballet West at the Beacon 13 Feb 2017). I don't want to embarrass or tempt fate for either of those two promising young women but I don't think I have seen the last of either of them.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty

Tom Thorne and Laua Bösenberg in The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Zoe Green Photography
(c) 2017 Duchy Ballet: a;; rights reserved 








































Duchy Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 18 March 19:30

Cornish folk are as different from Yorkshire folk as it is possible to be. Whereas denizens of my adopted county make exaggerated claims of excellence for everything even when it is quite ordinary, Cornish folk tend to hide their lights under a bushel even when they have something to be proud of. There seemed to be genuine surprise that anyone would drive from Holmfirth to see their show. "You mean to say you have driven nearly 400 miles just to see us" I heard more than once last night. "Well, yes," I replied, "it is a long way but not nearly as far as Cape Town from where your guest artists have flown." And how else am I to see a company that attracts the likes of Roberta Marquez and Laura Bösenberg. Nobody would say that in Yorkshire about the Huddersfield Choral Society which is indeed good. If you want to see the Choral sing The Messiah in Huddersfield Town Hall well you have to come to Huddersfield - if you can get a ticket, mind - and that's that.

Duchy Ballet is beginning to get some recognition outside Cornwall. Vanessa Roebuck wrote two and a half columns about them in the education section of this month's Dancing Times  (page 122 if you want to look it up) but that is not comparable with the attention that other youth ballets get and Duchy Ballet is at least as good. 

Why do I say it is good?  I offer two reasons.  It takes children, young people and those not so young from an enormous county and coaxes the best out of them but it never asked the impossible. Yesterday's production involved some tricky choreography - especially for the young soloists who carried it off magnificently - but it skipped the rose adagio for the obvious reason that the company would have to train up four strong male dancers and rehearse them for some time with Bösenberg which would have been asking far too much of them. Instead, several new divertissements were introduced for different age groups of children who were brilliant.  Secondly, it involves a wide section of the local community. Truro is not a big city but the Hall for Cornwall which seats well over 900 was not far short of full and there had been several other performances that weekend. There were deafening cheers for the corps. You could see families' involvement from the lovingly sewn costumes and the cleverly constructed forest to the slickness of the front of house.

Turning to the show itself I was impressed by the guest artists.  Rachael Gillespie of Northern Ballet, who had trained with Tom Thorne at Central, wrote: "Tom is a lovely guy and beautiful dancer." I did not get a chance to meet him though I am sure she is right but I can confirm that he is a beautiful dancer.  He is tall and very strong and commands the stage effortlessly.  Bösenberg is attractive in a different way. A winning smile combined with virtuosity, she follows in the tradition of Mason and Nerina.

Of course, the company had it's own stars. Terence Etheridge, who choreographed the show, was a magnificent Carabosse in the tradition of Robert Helpmann. The lilac fairy (danced, I think by Alabama Seymour) was delightful. Matthew Phillips was a great bluebird and he was partnered well by Amy Robinson. Jasmine Allen was a charming white cat.  I need to credit the wardrobe, those who made the sets, the lighting designer - I could go on but it's late and I have a long journey tomorrow.   The company won a standing ovation for its performance and that is all I need to say.

My congratulations to all involved - especially to the artistic director, Kay Jones, and Terence Etheridge whom I met briefly. I will follow the company and its talented young dancers with considerable interest.  I will write more about them by and by as I get to know this company better.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Micheala DePrince Inspiration Scholarship for the Danceworks International Ballet Academy Summer School


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The Danceworks International Ballet Academy Summer School is an intensive summer school for dancers under the age of 18 that runs from 17 to 28 July 2017 ending in a performance in the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler's Wells. According to the Academy's web page
"The day will start with a two hour technique class. A one hour lunch break. Afternoon classes will consist of boys/mens, pointe work or classes focusing on pirouettes, petit and grand allegro. A short 30 minute break . Lastly, a two hour performance class in preparation for the Danceworks performance on the final day for family and friends at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler's Wells.."
The normal fee for the programme is £750 though there is a 10% discount for students who have signed up for the termly class.

Not everyone's parents can afford that kind of money.  A scholarship has been established to enable one outstanding young dancer to attend the event. It is called the Micheala DePrince Inspiration Scholarship in honour of that fine soloist of the Dutch National Ballet. An audition will take place on 14 May 2017 to select the winner. Applications to take part in the audition should be made by email and addressed to  balletschool@danceworks.net.

I should like to wish all candidates every success in their studies and subsequent careers.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Ninette de Valois

























Today is St Patrick's day. Ireland has given the world many great artists in every medium and genre over the centuries.  I can think of no better way of celebrating Ireland's national day than by remembering one of the finest of those artists, Dame Ninette de Valois.

Dame Ninette was born in Blessington on 6 June 1898. Although she is best known for establishing the Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School, she contributed much to the arts in Dublin. At the request of W B Yeats, she helped to establish the Abbey Theatre School of Ballet and choreographed several ballets for the Abbey theatre to scores by contemporary Irish composers. She was honoured for her services to the arts in Ireland by the Irish Catholic Stage Guild in 1949 and by an honorary doctorate from the University of Dublin in 1957.

Yet another country that honours Dame Ninette is Turkey for she founded the Turkish State Ballet and the Turkish State Ballet School and created the first full-length ballet for the national company.

I should like to wish all my readers whether Irish or not, and, in particular, Fiona Noonan who led me back to ballet, a very happy St Patrick's Day.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

An American in Paris

Dominion Theatre
(c) 2917 David Murley: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the author





































David Murley

Dominion Theatre, London

During previews, I had the fortunate opportunity to see this new spectacle (thanks to a brilliant and super talented colleague who is in the cast) currently about to grace our beloved West End. The show opens officially on the 21st March 2017. So, I will keep this short and sweet, and leave the serious review writing to press night. However, it is imperative for me, as a professional dancer, artist and creative to voice my personal opinion and let you know how truly magical and truly beautiful this show is. Being artistic is certainly not a prerequisite to appreciating the show either.

The theme for the show is movement, flow and elegance. The show does not stop. It is continually moving, never creasing. This constant passage of action was present in the dialogue, the dancing, scene changes and overall motion of the story – sure to keep the spectator engaged. The opening scene commences with Adam Hochberg (David Seadon-Young) at the piano delivering a dialogue about the soon-to-be-unfolding story in his convincing American accent. Suddenly, the scene changes complete with dancers, striking of said piano, projection and a dramatic sweeping display of le drapeau français, or le tricolore, which is then seamlessly whisked away into the fly tower. It is this opening sequence which sets the pacey, yet clear, tone for the evening.

Complimenting Wheeldon’s timeless choreography, a mention must go to the scenic, lighting and projection designers – Bob Crowley, Natasha Katz and 59 Productions LTD – if I left anyone out, apologies! The bar, the cabinets in Les Galleries Lafayette, the scene by La Seine, Stairway to Paradise, etc. I could keep going were captivating. The use of projection was poignant and was effortlessly intertwined into the fabric of la mise en scène. Thank you.

The chemistry between the characters is totally believable. I am not just referring to the classic pairing of former Royal Ballet Leanne Cope and former New York City Ballet Robert Fairchild (Lise Dassin and Jerry Mulligan). The relationships between Mulligan (Fairchild) and Milo Davenport (Zoë Rainey) had depth and exhibited a definite journey – far from one dimensional, a trap Rainey’s character could have easily fallen into. Aside from her interactions with Mulligan (Fairchild), Rainey put a whole spectrum of light and shade into her character as Davenport. Personally, I was rooting for her by the end. Rainey as Davenport was my personal favourite. To add, the relationships between Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild), Adam Hochberg (David Seadon-Young) and Henri Baurel (Haydn Oakley) are a definite compliment to the casting team. However, it is their energies as individuals that breath the real-life rapport between these freshly post-war comrades. They laugh, they sing (obviously), they dance (with Wheeldon as choreographer, you better believe it), they bicker and bare cold hard truths to one another with authentic sensitivities and layers. A real sense of friendship exudes from the trio.

With such a talented cast, it is difficult to pick one individual who stood out as so many gave strong and solid performances. However, I would like to select Jerry Mulligan (Robert Fairchild). Filling such an iconic role played by Hollywood legend, Gene Kelly, Fairchild will no doubt be compared to Gene Kelly. However, I concur. Do let me finish, please. Fairchild is a tour de force when he dances, and he can sing, act and has comic timing. Indeed, this is all crying out Gene Kelly. However, Fairchild is his own entity in is his own right. Fairchild moves in his own way, and seeing Fairchild live compared to the celluloid I would stare at in awe when watching Gene Kelly – yes, make the complimentary comparison, but Fairchild makes Mulligan his own. This is something you will need to deduce for yourself. Not sure if this is because Fairchild is American, but he certainly embodies his own bit of Hollywood as the charming, eloquently roguish and that side of the Atlantic dashing when he is on that stage as Jerry Mulligan. To add, Fairchild can rock a large floppy pink hat with American G.I. cool.

What was refreshing to see, was the dancing – everything from the juicy and oozy scene changes, Stairway to Paradise and the Act II ballet. As enthralling and hands-in-the-air as conventional musical theatre (MT) T and A can be (if you have seen Chorus Line, then you will know what I am referring to here, if not, then ask someone), the style, class and elegance of Wheeldon’s choreography was the glue sealing the American and French styles of this tale.

Slick, technical and watchable, the dancers are the brick work of this production – probably some of the most beautiful brickwork I have seen in a MT production in a long time too.

Gorgeous.

An American in Paris opens officially on the 21st March 2017 at the Dominion Theatre in London. The closest tube is Tottenham Court Road. The show is true delight, the champagne of Theatreland. Book your tickets soon, and sit back and enjoy the spectacle, design and wonderment, and maybe have some champagne too!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tom Thorne in Truro



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In Thinking Big out West 11 Jan 2017 I introduced readers to Laura Bosenberg who is Senior Principal Dancer at the Cape Town City Ballet (see Meet the Company on the company's website). My article embedded a clip of a remarkable duet between Rosenberg and Tom Thorne.  If you scroll down the Meet the Company page you will see that Thorne is also a Senior Principal with the Cape Town City Ballet.

I mentioned Rosenberg because she will dance Princess Aurora this weekend in Duchy Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro.  What I did not appreciate until earlier this morning is that Duchy Ballet will host Thorne as well as Rosenberg. I learned that news from a picture of the two of them on Duchy Ballet's Facebook page which links to a feature in Cornwall Life.

There is not a lot of information about Thorne on the Cape Town City Ballet's website though it mentions that he trained at Central School of Ballet so I did a lot of furious Googling. I found this rather amusing clip of his pushing a journalist through floor exercises in Ballet Basics with Thomas Thorne and this preview of the Cape Town City Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty with took place in Cape Town last September (see Artsvark Presser Cape Town City Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty.

The Cape Town City Ballet proudly displays a roundel on its home page bearing the words "The South African National Ballet". That country has given the world John Cranko, Dame Monica Mason, Nadia Nerina and Phyllis Spira to name a few and it is still sending us promising young dancers such as Mthuthuzeli November and Mlindi Khulashe. I do not believe that Thorne and Bosenberg are dancing anywhere else in the UK on this trip. To my mind the most interesting place in the UK for ballet goers this weekend will not be Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Newport or even London but Glasgow.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Chantry Dance goes North

Sale, Greater Manchester
Photo Alan Halfpenny
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia






















When I first mentioned Chantry Dance Company's new full-length ballet in The Sandman Cometh - Chantry Dance's New Full Length Ballet 20 Nov 2016 I wrote:
"They have not yet published their venues but I hope that they will make at least one stop in the North next year. We were sorry not to see them in our region this year. They were missed."
When Chantry Dance did announce their list of venues they were all in the Midlands and South East (see The Sandman Tour 27 Jan 2017.

Yesterday the company announced that it would add the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale and the Victoria Theatre in Halifax to its list (see the "What's On" page on the company's website). The Waterside is a particularly good venue as it is close to the Metrolink station and a multi-storey car park in one of the more pleasant suburbs of Greater Manchester. I attended two performances of Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet last May and found it an excellent venue for dance (see As Fresh as Ever: Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet in Sale 7 May 2016 and I never tire of Dogs Don't Do Ballet 8 May 2016). Halifax is a town in which Chantry Dance has performed in the past though at a different venue. It is, incidentally, also the first place where Northern Ballet set up when it left Manchester.

Chantry Dance is more than just a dance company.  It also runs a number of educational and outreach programmes as well as the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts in Grantham. It was through one of those programmes that I first made the acquaintance of Paul Chantry, Rae Piper and Gail Gordon who are the prime movers of the company as well as Mel Wong who subsequently contributed several interesting articles to this publication (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014). Because of that work I tweeted:
They replied:
"YCC" stands for Young Choreographers Celebration which is described in detail on the company's website. A few years ago I looked into the possibility of bringing Chantry Dance to Manchester or Leeds for a day workshop and actually went so far as to find a venue but the costs and risks were daunting. However, if the company does offer some sort of workshop, class or other event in Manchester or Yorkshire I will publish details of it.

This company that can fill a venue in London as well as small towns in the East Midlands. It has a choreographer who trained at Christopher Gable's Central School of Ballet where two of my very favourite young British choreographers, Christopher Marney and Kenneth Tindall, and many of my favourite dancers such as Hannah Bateman, Rachael Gillespie, Dominic North and Sarah Kundi also studied. It has coached one of the finalists in the Youth America Grand Prix (a competition that boosted the career of Michaela DePrince). It is certainly worth seeing.

Monday, 13 March 2017

What can possibly follow Tindall? Nothing less than MacMillan


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I think everyone who was in the Leeds Grand Theatre on Saturday night would agree that Casanova was a great success (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). What could possibly follow a work like that? Nothing less than a master like Sir Kenneth MacMillan I would say.

Happily, that is exactly what we can expect for Northern Ballet will dance three of Sir Kenneth's works at the Bradford Alhambra between the 5 and 7 Oct 2017. An excellent venue for the Alhambra is arguably Yorkshire's finest theatre by a country mile. The ballets that the company will perform are:
Concerto and Las Hermanas were originally created for German companies though Las Hermanas found its way into the repertoires of Western Theatre Ballet (now Scottish Ballet) and The Royal Ballet where I first saw it.  Gloria was created for The Royal Ballet shortly after he had ceased to be that company's artistic director.

Nothern Ballet also plans to dance the triple bill in Leeds next year.

Excellence in Wales

Ballet Cymru "The Light Princess"
(c) 2017 Ballet Cymru: all rights reserved



























The Wales Theatre Awards recognize excellence in theatre, dance and opera created and presented in Wales. Nominations for the 2017 awards were made by 40 English and Welsh language critics working throughout Wales for print, broadcast and online platforms. They made 830 nominations for 281 artists and 157 shows from 89 companies (see Mike Smith Wales Theatre Awards - The Winners 25 Feb 2017 Art Scene in Wales).

I am delighted to report that two of the companies that we follow were among the winners.  Ballet Cymru won best dance production with Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs which David Murley reviewed brilliantly in Little Red Riding Hood comes to London 2 Dec 2016 and I covered in Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour 22 May 2016 and Ballet Cymru's "Sleeping Beauty Moment" 5 Dec 2016. Caroline Finn of the National Dance Company of Wales won the best female dance artist award with Folk which I reviewed in Cambriophilia on 18 March 2016.

The best male dance artist award was won by Phil Willians of Cascade Dance Theatre. I have not yet made the acquaintance of Mr Williams or his company but I hope to do so before long. His company describes itself as
"a repertory touring company working with the Creu Cymru dance touring network to provide ensemble dance that is artist-led with a Wales and international perspective, having high production values and with an equal emphasis on quality of the art and a passion to speak to a general public audience."
For the benefit of readers outside Wales, I should say that Creu Cymru is the development agency for theatres and arts centres in Wales. Its members include nearly all the professionally run theatres, arts centres and other venues in Wales.

Last year was a good year for Ballet Cymru having been nominated for the second year running for one of the National Dance Awards. It has recruited some fine young dancers one of whom was my outstanding young dancer for 2016 (see The Terpsichore Titles: Outstanding Young Dancers of 2016 28 Dec 2016). We hope to see more of them in Ballet Cymru's Spring Tour with its new production, The Light Princess which I previewed in Ballet Cymru's The Light Princess 25 Jan 2017 and A Midsummer Night;s Dream that I also mentioned in that post. Ballet Cymru has now supplied us with the photo for The Light Princess with its press release which I have posted above.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Casanova - "it has been a long time since I enjoyed a show by Northern Ballet as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night"


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Northern Ballet Casanova Grand Theatre, Leeds, 11 March 2017, 19:30

I started to take an interest in Northern Ballet when I first read about it in Dance and Dancers in 1969. I seem to remember that it was called Northern Dance Theatre in those days.  The first performance by that company that I actually saw was Gillian Lynn's A Simple Man in 1987 (see Northern Ballet's "A Simple Man" 14 Sep 2013). I have followed the company ever since - remaining loyal to it even after it moved to Halifax. I have therefore seen a lot of performances by Northern Ballet over the years. It is a very long time since I saw a show by Northern Ballet that I enjoyed as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night. It is certainly the best I have seen from Northern Ballet since the company crossed the Pennines.

Casanova is Kenneth Tindall's first full length ballet. He had already impressed the public and critics with his such works as The Architect and Luminous Junc•ture but as he agreed in his interview with me "the jump from one-act to full-length is an exponential and qualitative leap - not merely doubling or tripling of effort" (see "A Many Sided Genius" - Tindall on Casanova 4 March 2017). In my judgment Tindall has landed successfully in making that leap.  I liked every aspect of the production: Tindall's choreography, the story that he created with Casanova's biographer Ian Kelly, Kerry Muzzey's score, Christopher Oram's designs and, of course, the dancers.

The ballet focusses on two episodes of Casanova's life. The first is his youth in Venice where he is introduced by Father Balbi to the Kabbalah, a proscribed text, which brings him to the attention of the Inquisition or secret police. They imprison him in the Piombi. The second episode is his exile in France where he meets Madame de Pompadour and Voltaire. At various times women flit in and out of his life - two young girls Nanetta and Marta Savorgnan, a nun known as MM, Bellino and Henriette. Sex is in the story - it could hardly be avoided in view of the detail in which Casanova wrote about it and his popular reputation - but it is not the only story. The politics of the time, the repression of women of which Bellino and Henriette were victims, and other issues were also addressed.

Oram had cleverly projected Venice and Versailles in his set designs. I was reminded of the richness of St Mark's with a brief appearance of the Bridge of Sighs and the confines of the prison house crashing down on Casanova in the last scene of the first act. I was reminded of the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles in the second. Although it was not referred to as such in the programme, there was actually an epilogue representing his employment as a librarian in Prague, There he wrote his life story at the behest of his shrink as a therapy for depression. That episode was represented by a shower of falling paper and the entry of the characters he had encountered in his life.

Muzzey's score suited the story and decor well. It was rhythmic. I noticed several of those around me silently tapping out the beat with their fingers. I even caught myself doing it too at times. It was emphatic.  I particularly admired Muzzey's use of percussion. It was lyrical. In some of the softer scenes, he would repeat a refrain. Maybe not an earworm but nevertheless quite beautiful and memorable.

At the preview, Casanova Unmasked on 15 Feb, I realized that there was great depth and quite a lot of detail to Tindall's choreography. Not all of it is immediately obvious. The duet between Casanova and Bellino where Bellino tests Casanova and learns to trust him might well have escaped me had Tindall not explained it in the preview. However, there were some bits of the choreography that were eloquent. The binding of Bellino's breasts so that she could pose as a castrato and the joy of her womanhood that she expressed once those bandages had been removed. Of course, Bellino was not trans but it is a relief all trans-folk know.

Casanova was danced by Giuliano Contadini. A good choice, I thought. He is tall, athletic, muscular and, of course, Italian. I am not sure that he resembled the historical Casanova whose portrait accompanies my article but he was the right chap for Tindall's ballet. At the end of the performance, he was presented with flowers - a gesture that rarely happens in England but was entirely appropriate on this occasion. My only regret is that his leading ladies, Dreda Blow who danced Bellino, and Hannah Bateman, his Henriette, did not get any for they deserved flowers as well.  So, too, did the other women in Casanova's life such as Abigail Prudames and Minju Kang, Casanova's young initiators and Ailen Ramos Betancourt who danced the nun, MM. There were powerful performances by Javier Torres as Casanova's patron, Brigadin, and Mlindi Kulashe as his persecutor.  As I said earlier today in Facebook, at another time and in another place, yesterday's performance might well have earned a flower throw.

There has been a lot of hype for Casanova as there was last Autumn for Akram Khan's Giselle but in this case, the hype was entirely justified. All my expectations were met. All my hopes fulfilled. Northern Ballet danced in a way that I had not seen them dance for many years. I was not in the most receptive mood for ballet when the show started as I had run from Quarry Hill in my least comfortable but most fashionable heels over slippery pavements having languished for 45 minutes in a traffic jam caused, so far as I could see, quite gratuitously by appalling traffic management on the part of the local authority. It is to the artists' credit that I left the theatre on a high.