Friday, 22 July 2016

Background to La Byadere

Between the 15 and 20 Aug 2016 Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy will run two intensive workshops on La Bayadère for KNT Danceworks in Manchester.

The first one, which is suitable for beginners, will run from the 15 to the 17 Aug 2016. The second for more advanced students will run from the 18 to 20 Aug. Each course costs £200 though if you are fit and keen enough you can do the two for £350.

I did Jane Tucker's Swan Lake Intensive last year (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) and her Romeo and Juliet Intensive in April and although those experiences nearly killed me I would not have missed them for the world.

Although La Bayadère is one of the most beautiful romantic ballets it is not performed very often in this country.  I have only seen it once and that was a performance by The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre at the Coliseum last year with  Irina Kolesnikova and Denis Rodkin in the leading roles (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). As it is not so well known I shall be publishing a number of articles on as many aspects of the ballet as I can.

I will start with a treat which is a trailer for the Dutch National Ballet's production in 2009.

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The National Ballet will perform the ballet again in Amsterdam between the 8 Oct and 12 Nov 2016 which will be the first opportunity for most of us to see it.  Amsterdam's Stopera is actually cheaper and easier to visit than Covent Garden for many of us outside London despite the pound's fish dive. There's lots of information about the current production on the company's website (see La Bayadere Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa).

Here are some other articles about the ballet and its background.


Jane Lambert   Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015

Jane Lambert   La Bayadère - The Ninth Life 29 March 2015


Jane Lambert   La Bayadere  31 March 2015

Gita Mistry   A British Asian’s Perspective on La Bayadère 29 Aug 2015

Wikipedia   La Bayadere

Companies' Repertoire

Bolshoi Ballet

Dutch National Ballet

Royal Ballet

What Manchester Did Yesterday ......

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 If you are in London tomorrow you nay want to make your way to Canada Square Park at Canary Wharf between 12:30 and 14:00 for a pop-up performance of ballet, contemporary, modern and street dance promoted by the Royal Academy of Dance. There have already been pop-up performances at Finsbury Square this  month and there will be another at King's Cross in October.

These events build on the success of pop-up performances at Broadgate Circle and King's Cross in support of the Genée last September.

All good stuff but these are not the first pop-up dance performance in a major UK city.  Enjoy this video of KNT Manchester dancers in Piccadilly Gardens supporting Oxjam in 2013.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Another Class at Dance Studio Leeds

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A lot of things seem to happen on Monday evenings. It's the night that the London Ballet Circle meets for its talks.  Last Monday it was Ballet Black's first Friends evening (see Ballet Black's First Friends' Event: A Rehearsal with Chris Marney 14 July 2016). A few weeks earlier I was on my way to Trecate (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016). Before that I was travelling back from Hungary (see My Trip to Hungary 23 April 2016). For all those reasons and more I had got out of the habit of visiting The Dance Studio, Leeds for its Monday evening Beginners and Improvers Ballet Class.

That is a pity for the class is good.  It is held in a convenient location at Mabgate Mills less than a mile from Northern Ballet where there is plenty of free parking and at the very convenient time of 19:45 which enables me to do a full day's work before grands battements and ronds de jambe.  There is a nice bunch of students in the class and until a few weeks ago it was run by the studio's founder, Katie Geddes, who is lovely. Last Christmas she organized a trip to The Nutcracker at The Grand (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015) and a great party which raised funds for the NSPCC.

Katie is on maternity leave just now and one of the members of the class showed me some photos of her little boy who was born in May so huge congratulations to her and best wishes to the rest to her family. Since Katie went on leave her class has been taken by Sara Horner. According to the studio's website:
"Sara has been performing and teaching for over 11 years since completing her professional training at Performers College, Essex. During this time, she has worked in corporate shows, Pantomime, Cruise ships and Theatre tours of the UK and abroad, as a lead female vocalist, dancer and backing artist. Sara is also a freelance dance teacher teaching in numerous establishments in the West Yorkshire region. She is also Principal of Sara Horner School of Dance teaching ballet, tap, and modern to adults and children in Leeds."
Essex is the county of The Chelmsford Ballet Company and Just Ballet so anyone trained there must be good.

And so she was. Distracted by a passionate conversation about mobile phones I lost my turning and had to drive round acres of urban blight by the motorway before I found my way to Mabgate Mills by which time I had missed warm up and plies. However, I caught the rest of the barre which proceeded briskly with combined tendus and glisses, fondus and ronds de jambe, developpes, cloches and barre stretches. Embarrassingly I was the only member of the class who couldn't get a right leg on the barre and as they were travelling barres there was no lower rail. However, I could get my left leg up. Dunno what's gone wrong with my right leg. I could manage it OK this time last year. No doubt a sign of ageing. It's the only thing holding me back from putting my name down for Jane Tucker's Bayadere intensive in Manchester next month (see La Bayadère it is 2 July 2016).

Be that as it may I enjoyed the adagio, the pirouette exercise which Sara worked into a little enchainement, glissades and assembles and the temps leves and grands jetes at the end.  As I said in Dance Studio Leeds Beginners' Ballet Class 23 Oct 2015 the studio in which class takes place is not exactly cavernous so we have to apply the brakes after the second step hop let alone the step across the puddle which is how I was originally taught grand jetes but it was a lot of fun and the cool down and reverence came far too soon.

I thoroughly recommend this class especially while Northern Ballet is closed for the vacation.  It costs £6.50 for a 90 minute session which is about average for the North of England and well below the cost in London. There is a good teacher and nice atmosphere. Everyone makes an effort but it's not edgy or competitive.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake - Murphy won me over

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The Australian Ballet, Swan Lake, Coliseum, 16 July 2016, 14:00

The synopsis in the programme notes were ominous as were some of the reviews in the papers and on BalletcoForum. A lot of parallels had been drawn between the plot of Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake and Prince Charles and Lady Di though Judith Mackrell thought the story saw closer parallels to Giselle (see Australian Ballet: Swan Lake review – a royal tragedy lifted by its leads 14 July 2016 The Guardian). It all sounded very like change for change's sake which I don't like very much at all (see Up the Swannee 17 March 2016). To my great surprise and delight I enjoyed Murphy's version despite the liberties that he took with the story and the score.

I think the reason why I liked Murphy's Swan Lake  so much more than say David Nixon's is that it was a genuine variation upon a theme with some real innovation and not a completely different story with different characters albeit with some bits of Petipa and Ivannov's choreography such as the cygnets' dance bolted on. That was also true of David Dawson's Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet which I saw in Liverpool last month (see Empire Blanche: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016). I hesitate to use the expression "traditional Swan Lake" because ballets evolve over time and Geraldine Morris reminded us in Tell Tale Steps 2 that there wasn't much Petipa or Ivanov in the Swan Lake that she danced in the 1960s but if we take Anthony Dowell's production for the Royal Ballet as the meme Murphy did not stray all that far from it.

The plot of Dowell's Swan Lake and of every similar version is Siegfried's betrayal of Odette. Murphy explored that theme as did Dawson though their Odettes were very different. I have to say that I prefer Dawson's as his Odette is nobody's victim but Murphy's is interesting all the same.  She is head over heals in love with her husband but he still hankers after another (hence the parallels with Lady Di). When she realizes that her marriage is somewhat crowded she flirts with just about everything in trousers and creates a terrible scene which ends in her committal to a psychiatric hospital beside a lake staffed by nurses who appear to be members of a religious order with a scary swan like headgear (a bit like the Ursuline sisters though I had always thought they were a teaching order). I think it must be the mad scene that reminded Mackrell of Giselle though Siegfried's philandering reminded me more of James's two timing of Effie and the sylph in La Sylphide. During her stay in the hospital Odette imagines herself swimming on the waters of the lake with its swans and Siegfried coming to look for her.

Odette recovers her sanity. She gatecrashes a party given by Odile where Siegried sees Odette in a new light and falls in love with her. This time it is Odile who loses herself in a frenzy of jealousy. She summonses the psychiatrist and scary nurses but Odette scarpers with Siegfried and the whole court scouring the countryside for her.  I should point out that Odile is never referred to as such in the programme. She is called "Baroness von Rothbart" but that is not such a big departure as it sounds for Odile is Rothbart's daughter in the Dowell version. There is no Rothbart as such but his function is served by a lugubrious psychiatrist in charge of the psychiatric hospital.

There are some interesting transpositions.  It is Odette and not Odile who dances fouettés in the mad scene. The music that announces Rothbart and Odile's arrival in the black act of Dowell announces Odette's presence at the Baroness's party. Odile prowls outside the hospital looking pointedly at her watch as Siegfried visits his wife just as Odette flutters outside the palace as Siegfried declares his love for Odile in Dowell's version. Both Dowell and Murphy end with Odette jumping in the lake. There is a dramatic epaulement in Murphy when Odette and Siegfried spot each other for one last time before Odette is dragged down into the deep taking the draperies representing the water with her.

Several commentators talked about Murphy's use of contemporary dance. I didn't see all that much contemporary as opposed to classical vocabulary and what I did see seemed to work very well.  For instance, I liked some of the more unconventional lifts very much indeed as well as steps that gave the impression of skating.  Having nearly killed myself as a 66 year old Rumpole trying to learn the cygnets' and Hungarian dances and swans' entry at the KNT Swan Lake intensive last year I was pleased to find that they were all there and not too different from the versions that Jane Tucker had taught us unlike Dawson's where the cygnets became a pas de quatre.

For all its cleverness Murphy's Swan Lake would have been nothing without some excellent dancers. Robyn Hendricks was a perfect fit for Murphy's Odette. Tall and commanding but also delicate and vulnerable she was as great an actor as she was a dancer.  The expression "dance-actors" is often used by critics but except for Ed Watson I could think of very few people who merited the description. Ms. Hendricks is certainly one who does.  She was matched by Amy Harris as Baroness Rothbart who was captivating in the jealousy scene.  Earlier this year I saw Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari in Amsterdam (see Brandsen's Masterpiece 14 Feb 2016). That dance is how I imagine Mata Hari in real life. Partnering both Odette and Odile magnificently. Rudy Hawkes was a great Siegfried.  Murphy's Siegfried is a complex character. Not a complete bastard despite the way he treated Odette though someone who needed chastisement. Hawke understood his character well.  Every Swan Lake needs what the Bolshoi call an "evil genius" and that lot fell to Tristram Message as the psychiatrist. Not as big a role as Dowell's Rothbart but just as important to the story.

Looking through the dancers' bios I notice that nearly all of them come from Australia and many of them were trained at the Australian Ballet School. Given its relatively small population, the existence of two other fine companies in Brisbane and Perth and the fact that it continues to export fine dancers like Steven McRae and Jenna Roberts to us, Australia's contribution to dance is massive. I shall return to London for Cinderella next week and I am looking forward to it tremendously.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ballet Black's First Friends' Event: A Rehearsal with Chris Marney

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Last Monday I was lucky enough to watch Christopher Marney rehearse Damien Johnson, Isabela Coracy, Jacob Wye and Sayaka Ichikawa in To Begin Begin at the Barbican Centre.  That is a ballet which David Murley reviewed in Ballet Black at The Barbican on 22 March 2016 and I reviewed in Ballet Black made my Manchester Day on 20 June 2016.

Readers of this blog know that I have a particularly high regard for Marney (see my appreciation Christopher Marney 16 March 2016). When I first published my appreciation of Christopher this blog received more hits than it had ever done before. I tweeted about it and my tweet was noticed by Sir Matthew Bourne who replied that he was not surprised because Christopher Marney is a genius. Who am I to to argue with Sir Matthew even if I disagreed with him on this matter which I don't. The chance of seeing a genius at work with some of my very favourite dancers was compelling.

Chris rehearsed two pas de deux:  first Damien and Isabela and then Jacob and Sayaka.  I was aware of his sensitivity to music and had surmised that he would have a great eye for detail but I was still amazed by its extent. Points like the way Isabela fell into Damian's arms and his insistence on their keeping eye contact as she bent back or how Sayaka and Jacob rolled up towards each other in a length of blue silk were repeated until Chris and the dancers were happy that the effect was right. They did that energetically and enthusiastically for there is something in Chris's voice and manner that would inspire an artist. At the end of each session we saw a finished performance of the work on which Chris and the dancers had been working.

After the rehearsals of the two pas de deux Marney invited questions from the audience. One of the first questions was "What comes first the story and the music."  It was no surprise to me that Chirs replied that it was the music. He listens to a lot of music, he said, particularly on Classic FM. Someone asked Cassa which of Manrey's ballets she liked best. She replied "Dogs Don't Do Ballet". I asked about the transposition of War Letters which he had created for Ballet Black to the students of Ballet Central. I observed that although the students had not yet gained the same experience of life as the dancers of Ballet Black their production had a poignancy of its own as the students were the same age as the men sent to war and the girls who were left behind. Cassa mentioned that she sent one of her dancers to Ballet Central to help them prepare that show.

The reason I was invited to the rehearsal is that I am one of the Friends of Ballet Black and this was its first event (see Ballet Black's Friends Scheme 2 April 2016). I got the opportunity to meet some of the other Friends over tea and cake.  Some I already knew from the London Ballet Circle but others were just starting to follow ballet. It was a particular pleasure to meet Bill Boyd whom I had known through Facebook and BalletcoForum for a while but had never actually met. The tea party offered a chance to chat informally with Cassa, Christopher and the dancers. They probably already know that their public love them but it never hurts to tell them once in a while.

Post script

Ballet Black are performing at To Begin, Begin  and other works at the following venues in the Autumn:

ENFIELD, LONDON: 27th & 28th September

STRATFORD, LONDON: 6th - 8th October

NEWCASTLE: 11th & 12th October

LEEDS: 14th & 15th October

GLASGOW: 28th & 29th October

DONCASTER: 2nd November

EXETER: 9th & 10th November

WATFORD: 15th November

ESSEX: 16th NovemberLICHFIELD: 18th November

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Northern Ballet School's Showcase of Dance

Manchester City Ballet's Giselle
Photographer Caroline Holden
(c) Northern Ballet School 2011 all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the School

Northern Ballet School, A Showcase of Dance, The Dancehouse, Manchester 8 July 2016

Northern Ballet School is a national treasure and I say that without exaggeration for many reasons. It has talented young people of many nations some of whom will make their mark on stage in ballet or musical theatre while others who will share their gift of dance as teachers. It hosts The Dancehouse Theatre, one of the institutions of Manchester, and Manchester City Ballet, the only resident classical ballet company in our metropolis. I have particular reason to be glad of the School's existence as it trained two of my favourite teachers in Leeds as well as those in Manchester. I attend class in its studios and have performed on the Dancehouse stage.

Last week the School presented its students in A Showcase of Dance at The Dancehouse,  The show was a combination of ballet and musical theatre reflecting its twin focus on classical ballet and jazz theatre. It consisted of 20 works in three acts some of which were quite lengthy. It began at 19:30 and ended just after 22:00. Each and every performance was brilliant in its own way.  As I tweeted last night, it was not just a good students' show - it was a good show by any standards.

Act I  began with a large extract of the second act of Giselle though it had been adapted by the students' choreographer, Anton Alexandrov, for his almost entirely female cast.  Myrtha, danced by Sayaka Sugimoto, and what a friend aptly called Myrtha's sidekicks, Zulm (Meagan Hoare) and Mona (Sally Hind), had at least as much to do on stage as Giselle herself (Yukiho Kasai) and a great deal more than Albrecht danced by Carlos Felipe Oliviera. That was the cast that had performed Giselle in December (see Manchester City Ballet's Giselle 12 Dec 2015) and the the same woodland backdrop was used. As before they were all good but I was particularly impessed  by Oliveira. With his shock of heair, was one of the most noticeable dancers in the show. I was also impressed by the corps who had some tricky steps including the tricky progress across the stage in arabesque.

The next two works, Beat It, by Helen Vidotti to the music of Michael Jackson and GUY by Lee Lomas to the music of Lady Gaga, were exciting and exuberant. They were followed by Cell Block Tango, a scene from Chicago where each of prisoners explained how they had landed in gaol. More great dancing from Oliviera in Anthea Garrett's Final Dance to the music of John Kander. This time Oliveria's partner was Larissa King. Dani Winters's brilliant Diamonds to DjeeeeeKK completed the first act.

More ballet in Act II with Lisa Rowlands's Juliet - A Thousand Good Nights to the music of Abel Korzeniowski. This piece had been  created to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Alex Burrows who had danced the peasant pas de deux in Gisele appears to have been Romeo. I was not clear which of the girls was Juliet unless they all were which is possible as they were all good dancers. Although I enjoyed all the works in act II, two stood out for me in particular. There was the utterly charming Family Scene written and staged by Chris Helmsley where a mother (Annabelle Dawes) and father (Cameron Barclay) spoke about how they fell in love before their inquisitive children (Kezia Coulson and Emilia Miller). One of many opportunities for the students to show their ability to act with American accents which so few Brits can do well. I also loved You Gotta Get a Gimmick  by Emma Woods. The other works in act II were I've heard that Song before, Just in Time, The Secret, Sax and Gasp.

The final act opened with one of the early scenes from the musical Little Shop of Horrors which I have enjoyed ever since I first saw it at Pitlochry. Seymour was played by Joseph Foster and Audrey by Lucy Davies. Both acted, danced and sang well as did the rest of the cast. That was followed by Statera, a work created by Alexandrov to Philip Glass's music. Great dancing by the cast which included Burrows, Hird, Hoare, Kasai and Sugimoto. Nexr came Garrett's Runaround to Mopmop's music. Lonely Town, another ballet by Alexandrov to Leonard Bernstein's music mainly for the men. Darcey Ferguson danced the prostitute which was the only female role. The final piece was Times Square Ballet, a sparkling work by Lee Lomas to Bernstein. Set in Manhattan there were snatches from On the Town including New York, New York which I can never get out of my head when I visit that city. Maxwell Statham performed Gaby which was the role created by Gene Kelly, Jak Elmore Chip which was created  by Frank Sinatra and Harry Poswell as Ozzie which was created for Jules Munshin. I saw more than a little stardust in their performances.

The show ended with thunderous applause to the strains of Donna Summer as the artists took their bow. I had enjoyed last year's Showcase (see Serendipity 10 July 2015) but this was even better. The names of at least some of these performers will be up in lights in the West End.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Dancing, dreaming, dying

Source BBC Online (c) 2015 BBC, Reproduced under licence

EVEN if you have never heard of Adel Euro, chances are you’ll be aware of the manner of his death.

Adel was one of 280 (and counting) people killed when a shopping mall in Baghdad, Iraq, was bombed at the weekend.

Adel (his stage name) merits a mention on a blog about dance because he was making a name for himself as a hip hop/street dancer – despite all the risks that go with that in somewhere like Iraq.

I hadn’t heard of Adel until the other night, when the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme marked his murder by re-broadcasting an interview they did with him late last year:

What shines out through the interview (even through a translator) is Adel’s sheer love of and determination to dance. His first real encounter with dance was a video of Michael Jackson. “I felt like I was born then,” he says.

His family warned him off dancing because of the danger it put him in: it is seen as a sign of homosexuality, which is illegal in Iraq. (That’s in the parts under government control, of course – in areas held by Daesh/Islamic State, gay men have been thrown to their deaths from buildings because of their ‘sin’.) How lucky are we in places not like Iraq to be able to dance how we want, where we want, when we want (no matter how well or badly that may be)!

In the interview, Adel recounts how he was arrested by the police while dancing in a park; he was released when he managed to convince them he was practising martial arts! (Martial arts are ‘manly’, so OK for men to do.)

In the end Adel wasn’t killed because of his dancing; he died because he happened to be at a shopping mall when some murderous inadequates decided to detonate a lorry-load of explosives there.

Which is sadly ironic, given the hope for the future that he reveals at the end of the interview. “One day,” he says, “I’m going to leave Iraq and go to a place where people love dancing, not fighting.”

Adel Euro RIP.