Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"And what a class we had."

 Although I had blogged about Martin Dutton's class at KNT Danceworks this evening, I thought I knew better than actually to attend it. I wrote on Facebook:
"If I were young enough, good enough and strong enough I would be first in the queue for this class. I hope all those who can attend it enjoy it."
 I drew the class to the attention of Wendy McDermott who had taken part in Jane Tucker's intensive workshops on La Bayadere and The Nutcracker and who contributed an article on Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat  (see Ballet Retreat Revisited - Wendy McDermott's Experience 22 Jan 2017). She is preparing for her RAD grade 7 exams and she really is "young enough, good enough and strong enough" to benefit from a class with Martin yet she, like me, wondered whether she could keep up. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we dared each other to come and I found myself on the train to Manchester asking myself whether or not I had been just a little bit too rash.

Well, you see the result. It was a great class from the moment Martin introduced himself to the final curtsey.   He has a great eye for detail and he took us back to first principles from the way we held our arms in second making sure that we could just about see our fingers in our peripheral vision to the way we should carry our whole bodies while executing a balancé. He stressed the importance of the plié and tendu as the building blocks for just about everything else.

Wendy mentions her notebook in her tweet.  For a long time, I used to carry one too. It was a tip I picked up from Dave Wilson (see The Dance Journal – what is it and why should I have one? 14 Dec 2014 Dave Tries Ballet). It was a real treasure trove of tips and tricks and anecdotes that I had picked up from teachers from literally across the world from Annemarie in Leeds to Adam in London. Then I carelessly left my ballet bag with shoes, tights, leotards and notebook on a tram on the way to the Dancehouse while temporarily distracted by line closures in central Manchester. I was able to replace the leotards, tights and shoes easily enough from Mr Frog in Huddersfield and Planet Dance in Batley but I got out of the habit of keeping a journal after class because I never thought I would ever replace all that lost wisdom. My dancing has definitely suffered as a result.

But you know what. Wendy has prompted me to start again. I shall buy another notebook today on the way to Jane Tucker's class in Leeds and I shall write it up on the train back to Huddersfield because I always learn a lot from her. Three particularly important tips from Martin that are going down straight away are a balancing exercise, a coordination exercise and the importance of smiling. "You are all passionate about dance", he exhorted. "That's why you are here, Then show it in your faces." And so we tried.

Martin's class was hard work but also fun.  We did pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, frappés and grands battements and stretches on the barre, then an enchainement using everything that we had learned at the barre plus pirouettes dehors and dedans, some balancés and jumps finishing off with temps levés, glissades and assemblés. At the end of the class, he commended us on how hard we had worked. "Harder than some of my usual students he added." When I thanked him for the class he asked rhetorically whether we would have him back again. "As far as I'm concerned," I replied, "anytime you want."

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Dutch National Ballet's New Season and a New Vlog from Tim and Salome

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The Dutch National Ballet has announced its 2017 to 2018 season and there is a lot to look forward to.

First, there is the opening night gala on 17 Sept 2017. I have attended the 2015 and 2016 galas and have enjoyed them thoroughly (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 8 Sept 2016 and The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015). This is a black tie affair starting with the grand défilé of the first year ballet students, followed in turn by the more senior students, the junior company, the corps, coryphées, grands sujets, soloists and finally the principals.

Next, there is the presentation of the Alexandra Radius prize presented by the great ballerina. Last year it was awarded to Artur Shesterikov and the year before that to Maia Makhateli, Talking of which I am delighted to say that Ms Makhateli (who has been on leave this last year) tweeted today that she plans to be back for the gala:
To which I replied:
After the presentation, we see extracts of the company's work for the coming and previous seasons, This year the National Ballet will be joined by guest stars, Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Malakhov.  Then there will be a sumptuous reception to which the whole audience is invited.

The gala is a hard act to follow but this year it will be matched by an Ode to the Master, a celebration of Hans van Manen's career with the performance of a selection of his best-loved ballets:
  • On the Move;
  • 5 Tangos
  • Sarcasm, and
  • Symphonieën der Nederlanden.
This will be the year in which van Manen celebrates his 85th birthday.   "No choreographer has made such a big mark on dance in the Netherlands as Hans van Manen," says the website.  I would say that no living choreographer has made such a big mark on dance anywhere.  I will move heaven and earth to see that show,

In October the company will re-stage Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari which I described as Brandsen's Masterpiece in my review of 14 Feb 2016.  The Christmas ballet will be Sir Peter Wright's production of The Sleeping Beauty. It will be followed by Ratmansky's Don QuixoteDutch Doubles and Tristan and Isolde, a new ballet by David Dawson.  Finally, the work of the company's up and coming choreographers will be showcased in New Moves.

Dutch Doubles is not a double bill as its name suggests but a dialogue between choreographers living in the Netherlands with a number of renowned musicians.  The choreographers in question are Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the creator of Scottish Ballet's Streetcar named DesireDanza Contemporanea de Cuba's Reversible and Ballet Black's Little Red Riding Hood, Ernst Meisner and Hans van Manen. Ochoa's dialogue will be with Wende Snijders who is described by the company's website as "one of the best-known and most versatile singer-songwriters in the Netherlands." Meisner's is with Remy van Kesteren and van Manen's will be with a pianist still to be announced.  A similar collaboration in 2014 appears to have been one of the reasons why the New York Times ranked the Dutch National Ballet as one of the world's top five ballet companies.

This season 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.

Talking of the Junior Company, I introduced Timothy van Poucke and Salome Leverashvili in Missing Amsterdam on  18 Feb 2017. Tim and Salome have just released a fourth vlog entitled Life of a ballet dancer - VLOG#4 by Tim and Salome - Junior Company in which they discuss their life in the company, how it differs from ballet school, their hopes for the future including prospective careers after they give up dance. Salome would love to dance on stage for ever and ever but realizes that will not be possible. However, she already sees a career for herself as a fashion designer including, perhaps, fashion for the ballet. Tim would like to be a teacher. He would be good at that, muses Salome, for he is always correcting her. 

Tim is a fine young man. Salome a lovely young woman. They have all my betst wishes for the future as do all the other members of the Junior Company,

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dutton at the Dancehouse

The Dancehouse
Author Pit-Yacker
Source Wikipedia
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Tomorrow at 18:30 Martin Dutton will give a special class to students of advanced and pre-intermediate Level students at the Dancehouse Theatre on Oxford Road in Manchester.  The pre-intermediate starts at 18:30 and ends at 19:55.  The advanced class starts at 20:00 and ends at 21:15. The fee for both classes will be £10.  As Karen Sant, KNT's principal says:, "it will be amazing."

Dutton must have excelled in music as well as dance for he entered Chethams and became head chorister of Manchester Cathedral.  He trained at Central School of Ballet where "Christopher Marney, Hannah Bateman, Kenneth Tindall, Rachael Gillespie, Dominic North, Sarah Kundi, Paul Chantry and many more of my favourite dancers and choreographers trained" (see Ballet Central returns to Leeds 1 Feb 2017).

He began his career in the corps of Northern Ballet Theatre (now Northern Ballet) and danced for a while with Peter Schaufuss Balletten.  Readers will remember that Schaufuss created the production of La Sylphide that the Queensland Ballet brought to London in 2015 (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). This should be our national ballet because it is set in the Scottish highlands but try to getting a British company to dance it - even one that is actually based in the Scottish highlands (see Taynuilt - where better to create ballet 31 Aug 2013). I digress. The point is that Dutton must have impeccable credentials with exposure to the Danish tradition as well as the English and Russian ones.

For the last 10 years or so Dutton has taught at some of our most prestigious ballet schools including Northern Ballet School (see New Dance Teacher Martin Dutton Nov 2012), Ballet Theatre UK and the Hammond School.  It is not every day that adult dance students get a chance to learn from a teacher with this kind of experience and reputation. Even if you live some distance from Manchester this class will be well worth the journey.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry

Andrés Ascanio and Heriberto Meneses
in Reversible
Photo Johan Persson
Reproduced with kind permission of the Company 

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Triple Bill, The Lowry, 17 Feb 2017

"Every cloud has a silver lining" so they say.  Some compensation for missing Made in Amsterdam and Juniors Go Dutch (see Thinking of Amsterdam 18 Feb 2017) was the opportunity to see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry. We might well have missed them altogether had we not seen them this weekend for their tour takes them just about everywhere in the UK except where we live or can reach conveniently.  The circumstances that caused us to cancel our trip may actually have done us a favour.  The Netherlands are just across the North Sea and are as easy and often very much cheaper to reach as many parts of our own country. We can see the wonderful Dutch National Ballet more or less any time. Cuba, however, is several thousand miles away and quite a different country. We don't get a chance to see its national contemporary dance company quite so easily.

The company was quite different from any that I had ever seen before. They seemed to move quite differently. I couldn't put my finger on it until a question and answer session after the performance when Miguel Iglesias, the company's artistic director, explained that classical and classically trained dancers move from their solar plexuses whereas his dancers moved from their hips.  They were unbelievably daring, especially in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Reversible which explored gender differences and stereotypes and the relationships between the sexes with men wearing skirts and the women trousers and not all that much else.

The evening started with Reversible which was choreographed by Annabelle López Ochoa who had choreographed Scottish Ballet's Streetcar Named Desire (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015) and has contributed a new ballet called Little Red Riding Hood to Ballet Black which will be premiered at the Barbican nxt month (see Beautiful Ballet Black 14 Jan 2017). Reversible began with a man and a woman hoisted shoulder high with their supporters around. The man and woman try to dress but then discard their garments.  In a strange half lit scene, a sort of ritual is conducted between the two groups. It is a very short piece - barely 30 minutes - but a lot is squeezed into that time. The score consisting of music by the composers I listed in Double Latin.  Seventeen dancers performed that work. A great start to the show.

The Listening Room created by British dance maker Theo Clinkard had a score that was audible to the audience but each of the dancers heard very different ones through headphones.  I would not have guessed that had it not been for the Q and A which was chaired by Clinkard.  Asked by a member of the audience to explain his work, Clinkard replied that he wanted the dancers to communicate what they were hearing solely through the movements of their bodies. An interesting suggestion by Janet McNulty whom we sought out in the second interval was that it represented modern social life (or rather the lack of it) with people glaring into their 'phones and motioning incommunicado in their headphones. That interpretation worked for me just as well as Clinkard's. The music was Variations for Vibes, Pianos and Strings by Steve Reich who had composed Drumming III which had been used by Ballet Black (see Ballet Black made my Manchester Day 28 June 2016). The music that the artists heard was all sorts. There was a lot going in that piece - perhaps a little too much - but the work ended with a solitary figure moving ever closer to the front of the stage as the curtain descended and them lying on his side to give one last farewell.

In the questions and answers, a gentleman who introduced himself as a Cuban national and asked part of his question in Spanish asked why there was not more Cuban material.  "A fair point," I thought, given that the first two works had been contributed by an Amsterdam based and English choreographer. Having said that the dancers seemed to have naturalized both of those pieces and made them their own.  The Cuban contribution was Matria Etnocentra wby George Céspedes.  It started out rather with what appeared to be troops drilling on a parade ground with a red star on each of the dancer's uniform but it quickly transformed into a celebration.  A very exuberant work reminding me in its exuberance of Edward Lynch's NightLife at the Flamingo which I reviewed in There's a reason why Phoenix was my contemporary company of the year 11 Feb 2017. In the end, this was my favourite work though I liked the other two pieces very much too.

A lady in the audience who said she was Guatemalan told us how proud she was even though she was from another Latin American country. Several audience members expressed their appreciation of the work and asked for more Cuban content rather than less. This company has visited England twice before in the last 6 years but I had never seen them. I think the reason is that I could not quite associate contemporary dance with Cuba. That is because Cuba is a socialist and hence command society well suited to ballet but perhaps not quite so tolerant of a dance form that is inherently individualistic and self-expressive.

Yet this is a company that has existed since 1959, the year Dr Castro and his revolutionaries swept into Havana. One of the audience members, another Spanish speaker, asked Miguel Iglesias how he felt after the death of Castro. Visibly moved (so much that Laura Rios who was sitting next to him offered the director her support) Iglesias described Castro as the country's father figure who had underscored his parents' values. On Castro's death, I acknowledged the late president's contribution to ballet in his country (see Castro and Cuban Ballet 28 Nov 2016). It seemed he made a similar contribution to contemporary dance too. Before the Q & A I was going to ask whether there was an equivalent in contemporary dance of Alicia Alonso in ballet. Listening to Iglesias I realized that I had the answer to that question and he was talking to me. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Missing Amsterdam!

Sadly, I can't be at the Meervaart to see the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company today but I can learn something about two of the dancers from a vlog ("video blog") put together by Timothy van Poucke from Woerden and Salome Leverashvili from Tblisi.

So far, I have found the following three videos:
  • Vlog # 1 Q & A Time:  Tim and Salome introduce themselves while sitting on Pilates balls and ask each other questions. We learn, for example, that Salome identifies with flamingos because they are pink and skinny, that Tim once accomplished 10 pirouettes and Salome 7, that they both like cooking and Amsterdam is their favourite city.
  • Vlog #2  Tim's Warm Up Routine: here Tim displays and demonstrates what look to me like instruments of torture which he uses to soften the muscles of his body. I actually inherited some of those bits of kit but had no idea what to do with them. Now I wish I didn't know.
  • Vlog #3 Tim and Salome's Make-Up Session: Salome bravely lets Tim apply her stage make-up. "What is this?" she squeals at the end of the end of the session and awards Tim 4/10 for his efforts. But the truth of the matter is that she looks lovely and would still look lovely if she had been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Like everyone who has begun his or her career with the Junior Company, they are excellent young persons. Clearly, they know how to have fun but they are also very accomplished dancers. Under Ernst Meisner's leadership, they will evolve into superb young artists. 

I am particularly excited about Salome because she comes from the same country and trained in the same ballet school as Elena Glurdjidze whom I once had the good fortune to meet and whom I miss very much (see Elena Glurdjidze - So Lovely, So Gracious 11 Feb 2014).

As I said in Thinking of Amsterdam this morning, I plan to see the company while it is touring the Netherlands.  I look forward to seeing Tim, Salome and their fellow dancers on stage very soon and perhaps even making the acquaintance of some of them.

Thinking of Amsterdam

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A lot is happening in Amsterdam. Last weekend the Dutch National Ballet hosted the Positional Ballet International Ballet Conference which I previewed on 19 Jan 2017. The conference coincided with the premieres of Made in Amsterdam 1 and II which showcases the Dutch National Ballet's strengths. Today the Junior Company launches its tour of the Netherlands with Juniors Go Dutch at the Meervaart Theatre.

Team Terpsichore had intended to be there this weekend and we even bought return flights back in December but commitments here have prevented our departure.  I still hope to catch the Juniors at one of their other venues later in their tour and if I can't make Made in Amsterdam I should at least see Onegin. In the meantime, we wish the brilliant young dancers of the Junior Company chookas and toi, toi, toi for this weekend's performances and every success in their careers.

A film has been made of last week's conference and appears above.  There are voces populorum from directors of some of the world's leading companies including Ted Brandsen who indicated that this is the start of a worldwide conversation on the future of Ballet in which we all can share.

Friday, 17 February 2017

National Dance Company of Wales's Spring Tour

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When I saw the National Dance Company of Wales in Huddersfield last year, I wrote in Cambriophilia 19 March 2016:
"One of the reasons I am a Cambriohile is that Wales has a great ballet company in Ballet Cymru. I am delighted to say that it also has a fine contemporary dance company in the National Dance Company Wales."
The NDCW is on the move again with a double bill consisting of Caroline Finn's The Green House and Roy Assaf's Profundis (see Spring Tour 2017).

Caroline Finn is the company's artistic director and I have reviewed two of her works:
The company' website sets the scene on The Green House as follows:
"What happens when we prune ourselves to perfection? Caroline Finn takes us on a nostalgic journey, asking us to peer into The Green House. On a twisted TV set, characters discover the fine line between fantasy and reality."
It also has this to say about Profundis:
"Playful, vibrant and provocative. Profundis dares us to ask questions about what things are, and what they are not."
The Spring tour will cover just about every part of Wales but will make only two forays into England (Shrewsbury 21 Feb and Newcastle upon Tyne 18 March 2017) and one into Scotland (Dundee 13 May 2017).