Saturday, 2 August 2014

Chantry Dance Summer School

In "Chantry Dance Associates: Lots of Promise" 28 July 2014 I mentioned that the company was about to start a week long summer school in Grantham. Yesterday was the last day and it ended with a performance and presentations. As Mel and the two other other young women, Yi Ann and Fiona, who had danced with us in May were taking part in the course I drove down from Holmfirth to support them.

Unfortunately, I missed the dancing, Even though I gave myself extra time for what Google maps had estimated would be a 1 hour and 38 minutes journey I found myself in heavy, slow moving traffic almost all the way while Grantham itself was gridlocked. After parking in a car park where the ticket machine gobbled my coins but refused me a ticket I slunk into the back of the Dance Pointe studio just as Paul Chantry and Rae Piper were handing out certificates.

It was good to see Fiona, Mel and Yi Ann again. Paul videoed the show and will no doubt post it to the company's website. To get some idea of what it must have been like I have embedded the YouTube video of Vincent last year's summer school performance.  According to the company's website:
"'Vincent' is a piece created for and by the CDC 2013 Summer School students. In the piece we see Vincent Van Gogh experiencing depression and a creative block. All around him things are falling down, until his muse arrives and brings him visions of three of his most famous paintings - Starry Night, Haystacks and Sunflowers. This gives Vincent the inspiration he needs. We see the paint dance over the canvas as he starts creating a new painting."
The students who performed that work ranged in age from 11-33 and in experience from improver to professional. The summer school gave them a taste of what it is like to work in a professional contemporary ballet company.

The summer school is just one of a number of educational and outreach activities that brings dance to everybody.  The following video summarizes the company's work:

Chantry Dance Company Education and Outreach work from Rae Piper on Vimeo.

I appear on that video and I can tell you that taking part in one of the company's workshops with Fiona, Mel and Yi Ann gave me enormous pleasure, self-confidence and pride. It was clear from the faces of the associates last Sunday and the summer school participants yesterday that they did too. The company goes everywhere - even prisons and care homes - and it does wonderful work. It deserves our support.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Reet Gradely: Romeo and Juliet, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House 29 July 2014

Mariinsky Theatre, St Perersburg
Photo Wkipedia

In Tuesday's Evening Standard Lyndsey Winship wrote:
"For Londoners used to Kenneth MacMillan’s masterful version for the Royal Ballet, this Romeo and Juliet seems flabbier and hammier — especially smugly arrogant Tybalt (Yuri Smekalov), seemingly modelled on Prince Charming from Shrek, and Vladimir Ponomarev’s theatrical Lord Capulet (even his eyebrows are up to something dastardly)."
Well that may be how Londoners see it but for this Northern lass Tuesday's performance of Romeo and Juliet by the very company that had created the ballet was reet gradely. Xander Parish who danced Romeo ought to know what that commendation means for he was born in God's own county. For those who weren't. here's a definition and etymology.

I am a bit of a connoisseuse of Romeo and Juliet having seen English National's, Scottish Ballet's and Ballet Cymru's in a little over a year. I also know the Royal Ballet's very well. Indeed, I have actually seen Seymour and Fonteyn dance Juliet. In my humble, provincial opinion the Mariinsky's  version towers above any I had previously seen.

I had expected a lot from this show. I had come to see Xander Parish whom I had last seen at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala in York on my silver wedding anniversary 7 years ago ("We still have some of the best dancers in Yorkshire" 20 July 2014). Even though he and his sister were very young they impressed me with their athleticism and grace  Xander Parish displayed those same qualities yesterday. That alone would have been enough to justify a 440 mile round trip at the height of summer with the motorways in a mess but there were two others who stood out.

First, Viktoria Tereshkina who danced Juliet. Even more than Parish, she was the star of the show. I was bowled over by her from her first few playful steps with her nurse. She is a powerful dancer with considerable elevation which she demonstrated frequently but she is also an accomplished actress projecting sensitivity and vulnerability. The crucial part of any production of Romeo and Juliet takes place in Juliet's bedroom. First, there is the newly weds' pas de deux. This is the most beautiful part of the ballet and it is on that sequence that the whole work hangs.  Parish and Tereshkina were magnificent. After Romeo leaves her parents enter with Paris in tow with news that she is to marry Paris. So many emotions are unleashed in this poor young woman which she has to project in dance.  Again, Tereshkina excelled. For the last 40 years Seymour had been my Juliet. From now on it will be Tereshkina

The other dancer who impressed me greatly was Kimin Kim. He danced Mercutio. He has a beautifully expressive face conveying every type of feeling. He interpreted the role brilliantly with boyish swagger as he provokes Tybalt (also danced well by Kamil Yangurazov). The sword fight with Tybalt was one of the most exciting and realistic I have ever seen on stage.  "It's as if they are fighting with real swords" whispered my daughter manquée. Though we all knew how this fight would end how our hopes soared when Romeo seemed to separate the swordsmen and how they were dashed after Tybalt's sword punctured Mercutio's body. I could barely restrain a tear as Kim staggered around the stage rising to his feel, slumping, getting up again and eventually collapsing. This is one of the great death scenes in ballet. It stings Romeo into action overcoming temporarily even his love for Juliet. How we clapped and cheered as Kim took his curtain call at the end of Act II so relieved by the assurance that he was indeed alive.

There were sterling performances by Elena Bazhenova as Lady Capulet, Valeria Karpina as the nurse, Yuri Smekalov as Paris and Andrei Yakovlev who danced Friar Lawrence and Lord Montague. The whole company danced well but the cast is so long that it would be impossible to do justice to them all.  The Martiinsky's orchestra conducted by Boris Gruzin played magnificently.

I need to say a few words about the sets and costumes. These were credited to Pyotr Williams whose biography in itself. Intrigued by the Welsh surname and Russian forename and found that he was the son of an American scientist who had become a Russian citizen in 1896. The very time that so many Russians were emigrating to the United States. Somehow this son of an American émigré survived Stalin's purges when so many other artists perished.  The sets we saw on Tuesday must be reproductions of Williams's sets for the original 1940 performance. They were impressive particularly the opening scene of Verona with an estuary in the background, the Capulets' balcony and the burial ground. An interesting feature was the use of a second gold curtain which was no doubt intended to simulate the historic stage of the Mariinsky theatre.

"What's so special about the Russians?" my daughter manquée asked me when I invited her to the show. It is a question I had often asked myself. After all there are so many other fine companies around the world - not least our own Royal Ballet. Well after Tuesday's performance both my daughter manquée know the answer to that question. Despite revolution, purges, war and crisis the Mariinsky - the successor to the Imperial Russian Ballet - continues to set the standard to which everybody else aspires.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chantry Dance Associates: Lots of Promise

Sadler's Wells Theatre
Source Wikipedia

Both Mel and I have written about Chantry Dance recently (see Jane Lambert "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014 and Mel Wong "July News from Chantry Dance Company" 6 July 2014). One of the company's activities is an associate programme for "young dancers of a pre-vocational or pre-professional level, who aspire to have a career in dance." That programme
"exists to nurture, develop and inspire the country's most talented young dancers, and to encourage them to be courageous with their dancing in order to reach new levels in their technique and interpretative skills."
Yesterday, the associates (participants on the programme) showed what they could do in the Lilian Baylis Studio of Sadler's Wells.

Owing to the closure of the M1 between junctions 21 and 22 yesterday (see "M1 motorway closed between junctions 21 and 22 following serious accident" 27 July 2014 Leicester Mercury) my journey was delayed by nearly 2 hours and I arrived towards the end of the show.  Gail Gordon, who must have formed a terrible impression of me because I was also late for the Dream Dance workshop, ushered me into a rehearsal studio and perched me on a piano stool in order not to disturb the associates who were dancing to Vivaldi or Paul Chantry who was filming them on an iPad.  They were all young women and I spotted immediately one I knew: Fiona who had taught me the dance in the Dream Dance workshop. After the show, Rae Piper told me that the dancers ranged in age from 11 to 24. At least one was at Elmhurst and two others were on their way to Trinity Laban.

The steps that the associates danced were not easy and demanded a lot of energy and stamina. The choreography to which Gail told me she had contributed was intricate.  It was executed with lightness, precision and obvious joy. The movement of those artists lifted my spirits and helped me forget my terrible journey.

After the Vivaldi several of the associates performed their own short solos. I had to take notes on the back of a VAT receipt because I had left my notebook in my car in my rush to catch a train at Luton Parkway. Consequently I was able to record my impressions of only a few of those pieces with the result that I am unable to do justice to the others. They were all good and I congratulate all the artists. I enjoyed their work enormously. However, those that I did record made a particular impression on me. An associate whom I know only as Jessica explored steps and movements beyond the positions of classical ballet to create novel and ingenious body shapes. She reminded me of two performances that I had seen recently: first, Ed Watson in the first act of The Winter's Tale where his body contortions represented his jealousy and irrationality; secondly, Daniel Montero's Ballet 101 in the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's gala. Another dancer whose name I forget interpreted the story of Icarus and Daedalus. A human biology student represented heart beats and blood flows. Yet another one showed considerably dramatic promise in her improvisation.

The performance took place in a part of Sadler's Wells that I had not seen before. There was a plaque to Sir Frederick Ashton on the wall and busts of him as well as Fonteyn, Somes, Dolin, Lillian Baylis and Madam (I do hope real dancers will excuse my presumption in referring to Dane Ninette de Valois in this way) at the entrance. I had seen all of those great men and women except Baylis when they were alive and the flood of memories those busts triggered made my eyes water.

But I was also reminded that ballet is not all magic and involves hard work and sweat. I found myself in a lift with a troupe of Brazilian dancers including one who was naked except for a pair of sweaty underpants. They had obviously been dancing their socks off. Literally. That's about as up close and personal as most of us would care to get.

Talking about sweat, Chantry Dance is a company that works incredibly hard. On Saturday they had been performing The Sandman plus a new work in the Lincoln Drill Hall. Today they are starting a week long summer school in which Mel and Fiona are taking part. Later next month they are meeting local business. In October they will take their latest works which includes The Happy Prince on tour. One of the venues they will visit is The Square Chapel in Halifax on 20 Nov 2014.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Crystal Ballet's Associate Programme for Adults!

Crystal Ballet, who have already brought dance lovers the stunning Genesis film shown above (starring Steven McRae, Vadim Muntagirov, Daria Kilmentova and Alina Cojocaru no less!) and run incredibly popular Pas de Deux courses for adults, are starting up a unique Associates programme especially for adult dancers in September.

Despite the seeming boom in adult classes in the UK recently, we all know just how difficult it can be sometimes to get regular, high-quality ballet tuition as an adult (particularly if we have professional aspirations but lack access to company classes etc). There are plenty of associates programmes available for young dancers in the UK, but very few are welcoming or open to adults. Thankfully Henry St Clair, AD of Crystal Ballet and former ENB & Royal Ballet dancer, is set to change that!

The course itself will have three tiers to ensure that dancers get placed in the level that is best suited to them - Crystal Ballet Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced - and the classes will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 19.15pm and 20.45pm making them accessible to dancers who live outside of London. I have been reliably informed that the classes will be held in a studio at the English National Ballet School, accompanied by a pianist, and the teaching faculty for the course is something to really get excited about (if you want to find out who you'll have to contact Henry at!) Like most associate programmes Crystal Ballet Associates will run on a termly basis, with 3 12-week terms per year. In addition to classes, associates will also be able to take regular intensives weekends which will cover aspects such as Pas de Deux, Pointe & Female Rep, Allegro & Male Rep (I wonder if that's open to girls, too!) and Pilates, contemporary and stage craft. And there will be the opportunity for all associates to work towards a performance of a ballet classic at the end of the course year! 

Booking is now open for the course, but places are likely to go quickly due to its unique nature, so get in touch with Henry if you want to find out more asap! His email is and he can also be reached via Twitter ( 

The UK adult ballet community is already buzzing with excitement about the course:

UPDATE: Crystal Ballet now has a Facebook page for the Associates course: don't forget to 'like' it to stay up to date!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

We still have some of the best dancers in Yorkshire

In IP Yorkshire, one of my other blogs, I was bemoaning Yorkshire's indifferent performance in the number of patent and trade mark applications and almost bottom of the list in registered design applications (see Jane Lambert "Well at least a Yorkshireman invented Cats' Eyes" 20 July 2014 IP Yorks). We are doing rather better in cricket which is just as well for they say that when Yorkshire's cricket is strong England is strong. But it is in ballet where Yorkshire folk are really doing well.

One of our best is Xander Parish who is with the Maryinsky Ballet in St Petersburg. Here he is dancing in the second act of Giselle.  His company is coming to London soon and I have booked to see him dance the title role in Romeo and Juliet on 29 July 2014.  I last saw him and his sister Demelza Parish at the Grand Opera House in York on my silver wedding anniversary on 30 July 2007 which was one of the most memorable performances of my life (see "Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York" 31 July 2007 The Press). This is a particularly precious memory because it was just before my late spouse began to show signs of fatigue that were eventually diagnosed as motor neurone disease.

As if seeing Parish on the stage again was not treat enough we all have the opportunity of meeting him at the Civil Service Club on 13-15 Great Scotland Yard at 19:30 on Monday 4 Aug 2014 for he is to be the guest of London Ballet Circle. In a reminder sent to all London Ballet Circle members Audrey Allen wrote:
"A reminder, if one is needed, that we are greatly looking forward to welcoming Xander on 4 August. Many of our members remember him and his sister, Demelza, as young students taking part in the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, now Summer Schools, and they were awarded a special bursary in 2005 at The Royal Ballet School’s Annual Prize-Giving ceremony to honour the memory of our former Patron and President, Dame Alicia Markova. Since the Mariinsky’s London season was announced Xander has received a great deal of media attention and there have been a number of very interesting articles on his career since joining the prestigious Russian company."
This event, like most London Ballet Circle events, is open to the public.  Visitors pay £8 at the door. Members of the Circle are admitted for £5.  As the annual sub is only £12 it is well worth joining even if you live nowhere near London.   As Audrey Allen mentioned the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School  I should add that it started yesterday at Askham Bryan College and continues until the 1 Aug 2014. As you can see from the Events page members of the Circle are allowed to attend part of the programme for a modest charge.

Another exceptionally promising young Yorkshire dancer with Russian connections is Tala Lee Turton of Barnsley. Ms Turton is at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and she will be only the ninth Briton to train there. When I attended the Tenth Anniversary Gala at Northern Ballet last month I sat next to Laraine Penson for afternoon tea (see "Coming Down to Earth Gently" 30 June 2014). Over sandwiches and scones I told her about the compliment that Christopher Marney had paid to our dancers when he spoke to the London Ballet Circle. Ms Penson thought those talks were a great idea and offered to host something similar at Quarry Hill. On Friday I asked Ms Turton whether she would like to be guest of honour at one of those talks when she is next in Yorkshire and I am delighted to report that she would.

So while we may not be doing as well as we should in patents, trade marks and registered designs our county is doing very well at the two things for which I have a passion, namely ballet and cricket. And that's quite good enough for me.

Fat Chance - Rained Off!

Right now I should have been reviewing Hype Dance Company's contribution to Chance to Dance. It would have been my chance to reciprocate the support that Mel showed me and my classmates at Northern Ballet Academy when we performed in the end of year show three weeks ago (see "The Time of My Life" 28 June 2014 and Mel's generous review "The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014" 29 June 2014). It would have been a great show and I can say that with some conviction because I took part in the rehearsals for both Fiona Noonan's Sugar Plum Fairy and Lucy's Stay with Me. Fiona and Lucy and their students, Andrew, Blessing, Mel, Rose, Verity, and all the others whose names I can't recall just now worked so hard for the show.

The show was called off because the weather in Sheffield yesterday was like the storm scene in La Fille mal gardée - only worse.  The dancers were understandably disappointed. Andrew tweeted
Mel added
And it was a real cri de coeur because she plans to start her advanced training in London soon:
The organizers, who must be just as disappointed, have promised to do what they can:
I make no criticism of their decision to cancel the festival. There were probably public liability, health and safety or other considerations that left them with little choice. I did criticize them on twitter a few minutes ago for not making contingency plans for the weather because thunder storms in summer are by no means unusual in North West Europe - that's part of the plot of the oldest ballet in the modern repertoire for goodness sake - but, on reflection, that criticism was unkind and I withdraw it.  I have the advantage of hindsight which is always 20/20. But I do think that the organizers of Chance to Dance and other outdoor dance festivals can learn from yesterday by making wet weather contingency plans of some kind and I hope that they do.

If there is another chance to dance this year and Mel can't take part then I shall take her place if the choreographer and other dancers will have me.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christophi dancing in the same Ballet again

To my mind one of the most beautiful clips on the internet is this video of Depouillage danced by Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christophi when they were at Ballet Black. Shortly after this clip was filmed they went their separate ways. Now they are both in English National Ballet and dancing in the same ballet.

Between the 24 July and the 9 Aug 2014 Kundi will dance Aphrodite and Hale-Christophi Paris in The Judgment of Paris, a work to be choreographed by James Streeter. The ballet is an interlude in the opera Adriana Lecouvreur which is to be performed by Opera Holland Park.  Tickets for the performance can be booked through Opera Holland Park's website,

I would not have learned of this performance had it not been for Janet McNulty who posted news of the performance to the BalletcoForum website and drew it to my attention on twitter earlier today. A tweet that was re-tweeted by Kundi herself. I am grateful to both of them.