Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Making it easier to dance in London - Danceworks's Parking Concessions

One Sunday afternoon I arranged to meet Joanna at Danceworks to take a class with Franziska Rosenzweig. Joanna very sensibly took public transport and arrived on time. But we don't do that in the North because we don't have a tube except for a few stations in Liverpool and Birkenhead unless you count the Newcastle metro. We drive to class and park in Quarry Hill if we want to attend Northern Ballet or in front of the Manchester Met students union if we are going to KNT. I knew that Londoners spend large chunks of their working day in a hole in the ground but as it was a Sunday I thought street parking would be easy peasy lemon squeezy. I could not have been more wrong. It took me ages to park and by the time I arrived at Danceworks Joanna was doing ronds de jambe and grands battements and reception wouldn't let me in.

It is likely that this debacle has happened to others because Danceworks has now negotiated a deal with APCOA for up to 4 hours parking at its Oxford Street West car park for just £5. As the usual tariff for that duration is £34 that's an enormous saving. To get that discount motorists should collect a validation voucher from Danceworks and insert it into the ticket machines when they leave the car park. Four houses allows enough time for a couple of classes and a good natter in one of the many cafes and bars in that part of London.

Information about this discount arrived in Danceworks newsletter which also contained details of a new 8 weeks improvers' course for beginners between 22 Sept and 17 Nov between 19:00 and 20:30 on Tuesdays which will be taught by Christina-Maria Mittelmaier, a professional level class by David Kierce of the Queensland Ballet and the opening of the Ballet Academy for children that I mentioned in Danceworks Academy of 21 March 2015.

Danceworks are also running draws for tickets for West End Shows like Bend It Like Beckham which Gita saw in July and thoroughly enjoyed and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance's Materiall Men and Strange Blooms which is starting its nationwide tour from the Southbank on 15 June 2015. Also, if anyone is interested the studio has 20 tickets for Birchbox Beauty events at Selfridges where champagne will be served and products may be tried.

Monday, 31 August 2015

1984 and All That - Northern Ballet's New Season

Sellar and Yeatman's 1066 and All That is one of the books that we all read at school.  George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is another. Jonathan Watkins's arrangement of Orwell's novel for Northern Ballet opens to a full house at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 5 Sept 2015 is the company's big ticket production for the new season. Northern Ballet has released this hour long video on YouTube with talks by Watkins, David Nixon, rehearsals, a pas de deux by Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt and more.

After Leeds the production tours Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Southampton culminating in a season at Sadler's Wells between 24 and 28 May 2016. My favourite venue for anything in Northern Ballet's repertoire is West Yorkshire Playhouse because it feels like the company's home. It is a stone's throw from Quarry Hill and the auditorium is so intimate. I have seen some lovely shows there in the past, notably A Midsummer Night's Dream on 14 Sept 2013 (see Realizing Another Dream 15 Sept 2013). Unfortunately, the West Yorkshire Playhouse season clashes with the Dutch National Ballet's opening gala in Amsterdam and professional commitments in London (see Triple Dutch 4 July 2015). If any of my readers would like to review the opening night I should be very grateful.  I will catch the ballet in Manchester or Sheffield with my Swiss friend who first dew it to my attention even though she does not go a bundle on ballet (see 1984 28 Feb 2015 and Für Andrea - more Information on 1984 26 July 2015).

Another new ballet in Northern Ballet's repertoire is the children's ballet Tortoise and the Hare which is choreographed by Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe. Blow spoke briefly about her work for children in the panel discussion on narrative dance in ballet on 20 June 2015 (My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015). She told a delightful story about one child's reaction to one of her ballets. Although I had already admired her as a dancer I warmed to her ever more. Tortoise and the Hare opens at The Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds on 22 Oct 2015. It will also be performed in Southampton on 6 May 2015.

Elves and The Shoemaker another children's ballet choreographed by Daniel de Andrade to music by Philip Feeney is touring Hull, Nottingham, Canterbury, Manchester, Woking, Newcastle and Bradford. I saw it in Huddersfield on 11 April 2015 and reviewed it in The Ballet comes to me 12 April 2015.

Also coming to Hull is Madame Butterfly which I described as Nixon's Masterpiece in my review of the opening night in Doncaster. Another popular Nixon ballet Wuthering Heights which I saw in Sheffield on 18 March 2015 is coming to Canterbury in October and Bradford in November. Northern Ballet's take on The Nutcracker where the Stahlbaums become the Edwardses is coming to The Grand between 16 Dec 2015 and 2 Jan 2016 after touring Woking, Newcastle and Norwich. I saw it twice and sort of half reviewed it in my IP law blog for solicitors and patent agents in Manchester and Liverpool (Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography 24 Nov 2011 IP North West). Even more liberties are taken with Swan Lake which is coming to Leeds, Norwich and Milton Keynes in the new year. I saw it in Leeds with my late spouse first time round. We both regarded it as interesting in the sense of "May you live in interesting times".

Sunday, 30 August 2015

US National Centres for Choreography

A great resource that I have discovered recently is NetworkDance which is a cornucopia of information about dance: news, photo, videos, courses and a whole lot more. I have not been able to find out anything about its location from its contact page or corporate structure from its terms but I would guess from the language and style in which those terms are written and its preponderance of US news that it is based in the United States.

Even so, it carries a lot of news and information about the UK including a link to PregDance which offers dance classes in London to pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies. I shall be exploring this service in another article.

However, I digress. This article is about US National Centres for Choreography and it is about two institutions at the University of Akron in Ohio and Florida State University in Tallahassee. I learned about the centre in Akron from the news item National Center for Choreography launches in an email from NetworkDance on 25 Aug 2015. I clicked the link and found myself on a page of Dance Informa dated 24 Aug 2015 with the same headline. Dance Informa linked to National Center for Choreography to launch in Akron on the University of Akron website which announced:
"The University of Akron and DANCECleveland announced today that they will launch a new center for choreography — only the second in the nation — where the country’s finest dance professionals will create new work."
The article embeds videos of the announcement and a lot of other information about the Centre and dance at the University but it does not say which was the first centre for choreography in the USA.

I did some googling and came up with MANCC which describes itself as
"the only national center for choreography in the world located in a major research institution, and operates from one of the premiere dance facilities in the United States. The Center is embedded within The Florida State University School of Dance, and offers unparalleled opportunities for contemporary choreographers to hone their artistic practice and develop new work inside a creative community."
From a distance of over 4,000 miles it is impossible to compare the two centres but they seem to have much in common. Both seem to have lavish rehearsal studios, theatres and other performing spaces and close links with local dance companies. I wish both institutions well and hope to visit them when next in their respective neighbourhoods.

Though there are several universities in the UK that teach dance and many dance schools offer degrees or other tertiary qualifications I can think of no institution in this country that claims to be a national centre for choreography. Do we need one here? I suppose the answer must depend on the contribution that the institutions in Florida and Ohio actually make to dance in the USA, whether they advance anybody's career and in particular on whether there is a stream of British students to those centres seeking teaching or facilities that are not available in the UK.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A British Asian’s Perspective on La Bayadère

In March I saw Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life at The Linbury. Jane reviewed the show for Terpsichore in La Bayadère - The Ninth Life 29 March 2015. The piece started with an Indian blogger writing about a performance of La Bayadère the night before. He wasn’t too impressed by the ballet and I got the impression from her video that neither was Shobana Jeyasingh. So I didn’t expect much when I turned up at The Coliseum last Sunday to see St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s performance of the ballet.

I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the score, costumes, sets and choreography. It was not a very pleasant story but not so very far out that one could say that sort of thing could never happen in India. The drumming dance in the divertissements was spot on as was the way some of the women moved. The set for the rajah's palace in the second scene of Act 1 reminded me of some of the palaces and maharajahs' homes that I had seen on a recent visit to Rajasthan. There were some things that the company did not get right. The brahmin's costume for example. Brahmins rarely wear red which is a bridal colour. They are more likely to wear white and only very occasionally a red scarf. 

There was some great dancing by Denis Rodkin as Solor but that was to be expected from a principal of the Bolshoi. I was also impressed by the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s dancers, particularly Irina Kolesnikova as Nikiya, Natalia Matsak as Gamzatti, Andrei Federkov who danced the bronze idol and Miho Naotsuko who was one of the lead shades. Naotsuko was the woman of the match so far as I was concerned.

I thought the ballet took its time to get going but it certainly had some action in Act III. I was mesmerized by the descent of the shades, thrilled by Rodin and Kolesnikova’s pas de deux and the lead shades’ solos at the end and the bronze idol divertissement. I don’t know why we don't see this ballet more often because it is one of the most exciting I have ever seen.

The audience loved the show. One chap threw some carnations on to the stage which were gathered up by Rodkin and presented to Kolesnikova. These were followed by the more formal bouquets for the principals from the management. Then more flowers from the flower thrower. Rodkin picked up one of those bouquets and tossed it deep into the auditorium. I clapped vigorously but from my seat. I wish I had stood up and given them a standing ovation.

I was uplifted as I entered St Martin’s Laine in the late summer sunshine.

Here is a heavenly recipe collection for potato and cashew nuts with a cool cucumber raita to honour the shades which you may like to try .

Potato with cashew nuts and lime leaves, served with cucumber raita

(Serves 4)


500g/1lb Potatoes part boiled
60g/2oz cashew nuts
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 Tsp paprika
1⁄2 Tsp chilli powder
1 Isp onion seeds & a handful of lime leaves
2 Tsp dried coriander
1⁄2 Tsp turmeric
1 1/2 Tsp of ginger pulp
1 Medium dry whole chilli
Salt to taste
Ground nut oil
1 Tbsp chives
Juice of a Large Lemon
Zest of a lime

For the raita

1⁄2 Cucumber grated
250g Plain yoghurt
1 Clove garlic
1 Small rocket chilli
1⁄2 Tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1⁄4 Tsp mustard seeds crushed

Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks and part boil in salty water for 15 mins. Set aside. 

For the raita 
Prepare the grated cucumber and remove the water by squeezing it in your hands 

For the raita 
Crush the garlic, finely chop the green chilli and grind the mustard seeds in a pestle and mortar.


Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Lowu or shallow level pan, lightly fry the cashew nuts, cumin seeds and add the limes leaves and stir.  Now add in the ginger and whole green chilli.

Add the potatoes and sprinkle in the onion seeds, paprika, chilli powder, dried coriander, salt and turmeric. Give it all a good stir and cook on a medium heat for 2-3 mins, add in the lime zest and lemon juice. This brings out all the flavours. Finally, after a good stir sprinkle over the chives.

For the raita 
Add to grated cucumber: the yoghurt, garlic, chilli, and turmeric and give it stir. Add salt to taste and mix in the crushed mustard seeds.

Finally enjoy this video of Kolesnikova's solo towards the end of Act II.

And talking of Pirouettes .......

English National Ballet's newsletter Ready to Dance arrived earlier today with with a link to Osiel Gouneo's pirouettes in Don Quixote which the newsletter described as "jaw dropping". He will be joining the company as a guest artist this season.

The newsletter also has details of ENB's latest productions: Lest We Forget, Romeo and Juliet  and Le Corsaire, They are bringing Lest We Forget to Manchester on 24 Nov for one night only and also Romeo and Juliet from the 26 to 28. Le Corsaire is coming to Liverpool between 18 and 21 November.  Interestingly, Le Corsaire is also to be staged in Oman, one of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, next year.

The newsletter links to Liam Scarlett's video on No Man's Land and the article What you didn’t know about Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet in the company's blog.

Finally there are full details on the company's adult ballet classes which seem very similar to Northern Ballet's. Good to know that I shall be able to keep up my ballet if my work takes me permanently to London.

Friday, 28 August 2015

A Pint for Josh

For Josh when I next see him in the pub
Author Silk Tork
Source:  Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

"Ballet is a very hard taskmaster" said one of my ballet teachers. "If you are not careful it will break you." I have had a very short and not at all glorious career in ballet but I know from personal experience just how right my teacher was.  I nearly abandoned ballet when I fell flat on my back trying to do posé pirouettes (see Class 27 Nov 2014). Another occasion was the Sunday before last week when I panicked over the Swan Lake summer intensive (KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015). The problem is pirouettes. Try as I might I just can't do them. Whenever we do them in class I shudder inwardly until we move on to jumps.

I hate to be defeated by anything so at the Swan Lake intensive I asked Karen whether she could arrange some private lessons for me to diagnose what I have been doing wrong and what (if anything) I can do to get pirouettes right.  On Tuesday Karen wrote:
"hey Jane, have you had Josh before? I can see if he's available on Thursday 8:30pm if that suits you."
Of course I knew Josh. I had taken one of his classes and had got on with him like a house on fire.

Just before class I posted the following to my Facebook page:
"Looking forward to my hour's private lesson with Josh Moss at KNT in Manchester to learn pirouettes which have defeated me for so long as I have attempted to learn ballet. Josh is a great teacher and if anybody can get me rotating it is he. Josh, if I can do at least a 360 degree turn with my other leg in retire by the end of this evening I will buy you a pint. In fact, I think we will both be in need of the amber nectar after this evening's effort regardless of the outcome. I am going to give it all I've got."
That post attracted a few comments including this one from Simon who is one of the regulars in my class:
"Remember if they can put a man on the moon, you can turn on one leg!!!"
Now Simon does know how to pirouette as well as a lot of other things in ballet but he did not know the enormity of the challenge. I replied:
"Simon, you have seen me dance. Getting a man on the moon is a decidedly easier proposition. :-)"
Josh was more realistic:
"We shall try our best to crack the pirouette! One thing I can promise is that you will be a lot more confident with them after our class. :-)"
I turned up yesterday just after 18:30 for Ailsa's beginners' class.  Always a pleasure because she is so jolly. Especially when she is getting us to do stretches or other difficult things. She has a great sense of humour. "Think of a pas de deux" she said "when you are about to be turned by Prince Charming."  "In tights" she added in a deadpan voice prompting mirth all round the studio. It was a great class: a thorough barre, a delightful port de bras, jumps and temps levés, runs and sautés. There were a lot of chattering happy faces at the end of class.

As I was leaving the class a lady asked me whether I was the blogger of "Terpsichore".  I admitted that I was she.
"Oh you've inspired me to come back to ballet after a gap of two years" she said.
"And are you enjoying it?" I asked 
"Immensely" she replied.
 That's a lovely thing to hear. Even if she is the only one it makes me feel useful.

While Ailsa was taking the beginners Josh was teaching the advanced class which one of my Yorkshire friends was attending. His class started at 19:00 and was due to run for 90 minutes so I did some breathing exercises while it was going on. As soon as I heard applause I entered the studio and presented myself to Josh.

Josh asked me how I wanted to use the hour. I asked him to analyse my turn and tell me where I was going wrong.  I demonstrated an exercise that I had attempted the night before: starting off in second, snapping up twice in relevé with my other leg in retiré. a plié and then a feeble, wobbly 60 degree turn.

Josh told me not to upset myself over pirouettes. "Even professionals have off days" he assured me. "You'll never get them right if you stress yourself."

He took me to the barre and asked me to rise several times in demi. He immediately saw that I was not placing any weight on my big toe of either foot and that was because my ankle was out of alignment. "Try pushing it forward" he suggested and it worked. I found I could rise up on demi so much more easily, Even on my right foot which has given me so much trouble over the last year or so. I also found it easier to balance. Josh suggested some foot strengthening exercises with resistance bands which I started this morning.

Next he brought me into the centre where we repeated the rises and balances and then some tendus.
"Now keep your weight on your supporting leg and touch the floor gently with your other foot, You get your power by pushing off with that foot."
We started with quarter turns, then half turns and finally full turns. I was getting round 300 degrees.
"Throw your right arm more" said Josh "and pull your left arm round to meet it,"
I couldn't do that properly at first but then suddenly it clicked. We tried turns on my right foot and I accomplished a few complete revolutions.

We repeated that exercise from second.  Ragged and scrappy at first but it improved slowly.  While all this was going on my friend was at the other end of the studio doing stretches and other floor exercises. Occasionally she looked up and smiled or gave me a thumbs up. Eventually, I accomplished complete revolutions from second.

Finally we attempted complete turns from a lunge and these seemed to be easier,

The hour passed far too quickly and Josh asked me how I wanted to spend the last 10 minutes. I asked him to recap all that he had taught me so we returned to the barre, then centre, then turns from each position.  Finally, Josh gave me a spotting exercise.   He made me focus on a speaker and turn until it was outside my vision and then snap round again.

I still haven't got everything right by a long chalk but I am no longer afraid of pirouettes. I will practise all the exercises over the next few week and then return to Manchester for another hour.

On Facbook Josh wrote:
"A big well done, you should be very proud! :-)"
A tad over generous perhaps but I am proud. "Josh, mate, I owe you a pint."

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dance Bradford

Dance Bradford is a network bringing together Bradford Theatres,  Dance for LifeDance United, Deana Morgan AcademyKala Sangam, Northern Ballet, Yorkshire Dance and other organizations with the aims of
  • making high quality dance more accessible to all, 
  • coordinating the provision of development, training and support for aspiring professional dancers, and 
  • ensuring opportunities for community dancing as a tool for empowerment, fun and well-being.
Members of the network meet on a regular basis to exchange information and opportunities, cross-promote each other’s work and also to participate in large scale dance events.

The events page advertises Rambert's visit to The Alhamnbra between the 21 and 23 Oct 2015 and Christmas Dreams at St George's Hall on 12 Dec 2015 but, surprisingly, it does not mention Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights at the Alhambra between the 17 and 21 Nov or Elves and the Shoemaker at the same theatre on the 20 Nov 2015 or Time to Shine  at Morley Town Hall on 26 Sept 2015 in which I am dancing.

Dance Bradford appears to be based at Deana Morgan's studios on Briggate in Shipley and can be contacted on 01274585317 and info@dancebradford.org.