Monday, 29 August 2016

Now that we have had a go at La Bayadere let's see the Experts do it properly

Standard YouTube Licence

Earlier this month a dozen adult ballet students at KNT Danceworks in Manchester took part in a three-day workshop on La Bayadère. We did a little show at the end which you can see in La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016. While I don't think I would be wise to give up the day job just yet I enjoyed the workshop enormously.

I think the main benefit of the workshop will be the insight into the ballet that I have gained from attempting the shades and golden idol dances.  I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Swan Lake in Covent Garden and other theatres around the world over the last 55 years or so but I learned so much more about the ballet from Jane Tucker in her three day intensive last year that I did in a lifetime of watching performances of it from the stalls or reading about it in the books.

The next opportunity for most of us in the UK to see La Bayadère will be the Dutch National Ballet's production in Amsterdam between 8 Oct and 13 Nov 2016. That is Makarova's version which must be similar to the one she did for the Royal Ballet that was last performed in 2013. We in Team Terpsichore have already got our tickets. We are flying out from Ringway on 12 Nov and returning in the evening of the 13. We shall see the matinee on the 13. If Floor, Cristiano, Emilie, Thomas, Giovanni or any of our other Facebook friends will be in  that show do let us know.

As there are still plenty of tickets for the matinee it would be super duper if some of our classmates could meet us in Amsterdam.  The above video shows two of the dances we learned in Manchester, namely the golden idol and the entry into the kingdom of the shades. It would be a wonderful opportunity to see the experts do those dances properly.

We could also perhaps make a side trip to the Hague to see our dear teacher, Mark Hindle, lead the gazelles in the Lion King at the AFAS Circustheater.  The only problem is that the ticket prices for this musical which has been running in London since Adam was a boy start at 29 euro and go up to 100 euro. That is far more than the cost of the equivalent seats in the Stopera to see one of the greatest ballet companies in the world with some of its biggest stars and a full orchestra. And that is for a show in the Hague - not Amsterdam. However, it may be possible to negotiate a discount if we could organize a party.

Whether or not we get to see Mark on this occasion the ballet is a must.  If you have not seen the Dutch National Ballet it is very like our own English National Ballet. It has many connections with this country.  One of its leading ballerinas, Igone de Jongh trained in London.  Its magnificent choreographer and artistic co-ordinator of the Junior Company, Ernst Meinser, danced with the Royal Ballet for many years and is one of out own (see Meet Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers 6 Dec 2014). Matthew Rowe, the company's musical director and principal conductor, comes from London. Indeed, he may even have attended my old secondary school for there is a tantalizingly oblique reference to him in the latest issue of our alumnus magazine.

The company performs in the Stopera which is a lovely theatre. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the building on my last visit to Amsterdam (see Double Dutch Delights 17 Feb 2016). It is one of the most modern auditoriums in the world with a good view of the stage from every seat.  There is a terrace on every floor which overlooks the square and canal below. There is no better way of spending an interval than standing on the terrace and reflecting on the show.

Amsterdam has become a little more expensive for us since the recent fish dive of the pound after the referendum but it is still cheaper than London. There are lots of reasonably priced restaurants offering a wide range of national cuisines. My favourite is rijjsttafel which comes from Indonesia, a country that used to be administered by the Netherlands. It seems to be as popular in Amsterdam as curry in Rusholme and for very similar reasons. There are convenient flights from Ringway and Speke by easyJet. Transport around Amsterdam is very easy. Nearly everyone seems to speak at least some English and Dutch is the closest relation to our language.

I admire the Dutch National Ballet very much for many reasons not least of which is the opportunity that the Junior Company gives to outstanding young dancers from many parts of the world.  There is a Friends' scheme of which I am a member.  If you come with me to Amsterdam and fall in love with these beautiful artists as most do, I do hope you will consider joining it.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ballet West's 2017 Tour

Standard YouTube Licence

Ballet West is a ballet school not far from Oban in the Western Highlands. It must be a very good school for several of my favourite young dancers trained there.  Sarah Mortimer is one.  Isaac Bowry is another.  Natasha Watson is yet another.  Some of the staff and students from Ballet West have recently toured Malaysia as I mentioned in Ballet West in Malaysia on 18 June 2016. You can download a video of two of the students with one of their Malaysian hosts from the Ballet West home page.

The school has a company which tours Scotland at the beginning of each year to give its students stage experience. A performance of The Nutcacker by that company in Pitlochry on 23 Feb 2013 was my very first post to this blog. The show was so good that I returned for Swan Lake the next year (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March  2014) the subsequent year, Romeo and Juliet the year after that (see Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet  1 Feb 2015) and The Nutcracker again this year (see Thinking out Loud about Ballet West 8 Feb 2016).

Ballet West have announced their tour for 2017. They will dance Swan Lake again and they will dance it just the way I like it. No Simon. No Anthony. No Odilia. The same ballerina dancing Odette and Odile. No evil genius but a proper von Rothbart danced so impressively last time by my fellow Mancunian Isaac Bowry. And above all there will be no bikes. To get a flavour of their performance I have found this YouTube clip which shows Sara-Maria Barton's brilliance in the black act. That is my favourite part of the ballet for it is the act that contains all those fouettés not to mention the divertissements at the beginning.

The tour will start on 20 and 21 Jan 2017 at The McRobert Arts Centre on the campus of Stirling University. The McRobert Centre has a fair sized auditorium with what appears from the stalls to be a fairly danceable stage. There is a reasonably priced restaurant with a licensed bar and coffee shop in the lobby and plenty of free parking near the auditorium. It might be awkward to reach by public transport as the campus is a mile or so outside the town centre and I have never seen a bus there but there are probably taxis to be hired somewhere in the vicinity.

The company's itinerary is as follows:

  • Stirling, Macrobert 20th & 21st January 2017
  • Helensburgh, Tower Digital Arts Centre 27th January 2017
  • Paisley, Paisley Town Hall 28th January 2017
  • Oban, Corran Halls 9th February 2017
  • Glasgow, SECC 11th February 2017
  • Greenock, Beacon Arts Centre 12th February 2017
  • Livingston, Howden Park Centre 16th February 2017
  • Edinburgh, EICC, 18th February 2017

If Cinderella's fairy godmother were to appear right now and grant me three balletic wishes, one of them would be for Ballet West to make at least one appearance in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am pretty confident that audiences here would love them. I happen to know from conversations with members of the audience and posts to a ballet fans' forum to which I subscribe that I am by no means the only Sassenach who ventures North at the coldest time of the year to see these fine young artists.

And my second wish? Why it would be to see those same young dancers perform the purest and most beautiful of the Romantic ballets which like them is set in the Highlands.  Please, Mr Job, pretty please! Do consider La Sylphide one year. I have seen Danes dance it. Australians. Even an Italian in Trecate earlier this year. Why not Scots?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Ulysses Unbound

Yesterday, scientists from Queen Mary University of London reported evidence of an exoplanet slightly heavier than the earth orbiting our nearest star at a distance that could sustain life. Nature, a publication not given to hyperbole, described the discovery as fulfilling "a longstanding dream of science-fiction writers — a potentially habitable world that is close enough for humans to send their first interstellar spacecraft" (see Alexandra Witze "Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true" 24 Aug 2016 Nature).

Witze quoted the lead researcher, Guillem Anglada-Escudé: “The search for life starts now.”  What better timing for the premiere next month of Chantry Dance's Ulysses Unbound at Grantham's Gravity Fields science fair, Despite its title, Ulysses Unbound owes nothing to James Joyce:
"The last astronaut has left a dying earth in search of a new home. In a thrilling cascade of stunning characters, costumes and imagery, he witnesses the birth of a new star and finds himself on an alien world, populated by very alien creatures!
This extraordinary ballet combines an exciting original soundtrack with contemporary ballet danced by an exceptional international cast. Through the fascinating choreography the dancers interpret cosmic events, from the evolution of a star to the formation of a deadly black hole."
A few days ago I would have called that plot science fiction but after yesterday's discovery I would suggest that it now has a possible basis in science.

This is not the first work by Chantry Dance that has been inspired  by the heavens. Their contribution to the 2014 festival, Chasing the Eclipse, starring Dominic North and Rae Piper had an astronomical theme. A number of journalists have already speculated that the discovery of this exoplanet could be the discovery of the century. If they are correct it would be appropriate for this year coincides with the 350th anniversary of the annus mirabilis in which Sir Isaac Newton carried out not far from Grantham some of his best work (see About Us on the Gravity Fields website).

Ulysses Unbound was created by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper to an original score by Tim Mountain who wrote the music for Chasing the Eclipse. Rae Piper has also created the designs for Ulysses Unbound.

The work will be performed with The Stacked Deck, another work by Piper and Chantry based on game theory:
"Life is a harsh game - sometimes it’s difficult to win with the hand you’re dealt. But is it actually about howwe play the game?
Inspired by the concept of Game Theory and the theme of equality, ‘The Stacked Deck’ is based on a combative game of cards which four players are all desperate to win. Each time a hand is dealt, the players are given a different scenario to face. How they chose to play their hand will determine the final prize.
Intense, raw and gripping, with the dancers radiating primal physicality, this ballet challenges us to look at how we all play the ‘game’"
The double bill open at the Guildhall Arts Centre on 21 Sept 2016 before going on to Stamford,  Birmingham, Worcester and Woolwich.  Sadly they won't be in the North this year. We have got to do something to tempt them here

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Northern Ballet's New Season

Standard YouTube Licence

Last September Northern Ballet opened their new season with Jonathan Watkins's 1984 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which they then took on tour They danced Wuthering Heights in Bradford and finished with a brilliant Nutcracker at Christmas.  Thus year they are reviving three works: Nixon's Wuthering Heights at the WYP. They are taking Jean-Pierre Maillot's Romeo and Juliet to Sheffield, Canterbury, Belfast, Woking and Bradford. The Christmas show at The Grand will be Nixon's Beauty and the Beast which they will also dance at Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton.

Of those three shows the one that I would recommend without hesitation is Romeo and Juliet.  I saw it twice in Leeds last tear and enjoyed both performances (see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - different but in a good way 8 March 2915 and Leebolt's Juliet 13 March 2015). I also saw the Bolshoi dance Maillot's Taming of the Shrew earlier in the month and was enchanted by it (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016).  I have become something of a Maillot fan and wrote a short appreciation of his work on 5 Aug 2016.

We saw quite a lot of Wuthering Heights in 2015. I watched it in Sheffield including a dress rehearsal in March and liked it a lot (see Wuthering Heights 19 March 2015). I also caught it in Bradford in November where I was somewhat less impressed (see Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). I wrote:
"Batley and Leeboilt were good too as they always are but their performance lacked fire. It was like watching World Ballet Day or even company class. Old ladies like me who sacrifice their widow's mite for ballet (now increased by 133% - see The Increasing Prince of Friendship 14 Oct 2015) expect to float when we leave the theatre as I did on Friday when I saw Ballet Black (see Ballet Black's Return to Leeds 21 Nov 2015) or on 12 Nov 2015 when I left the Linbury after seeing Phoenix (see The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015). The reason I floated was that Ballet Black and Phoenix danced as though they were inspired as did Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie yesterday. I swapped a ticket in the centre of row B of the Stanley and Audrey Burton for yesterday's performance of Ballet Black for one at the side of the top of the auditorium for Friday so that I could see the last performance of Wuthering Heights in Bradford. Had it not been for Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie I think I would have regretted the exchange."
If Northern Ballet wanted to open their 2016/2017 season with a work inspired by a Brontë novel, my choice would have been Cathy Martson's Jane Eyre which I saw in Richmond at the beginning of June (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016). That was a reminder of the old Manchester based Northern Ballet that welcomed me back to the North in 1985. The company offered real treats in those days such as Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man and Christopher Gable's Christmas Carol (see my review of its 2013 revival Christmas Carol - "A Fine Performance Filled with Joy" 19 Nov 2013). Save for the opening in Doncaster Jane Eyre has not been performed in Yorkshire and it would have suited the Quarry well as it is a more intimate auditorium than The Grand. I had to travel 200 miles to see a ballet based on a novel by a Yorkshire author. I do hope they bring it home soon.

Beauty and the Beast ought to be as popular as Cinderella for when you think about it de Villeneuve's story is simply Cinderella in reverse. Peter Darrell, Darius James and David Bintley have all had a go as I said in my review of David Nixon's 2011 production in IP Yorkshire over a year before I started this blog (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011). In that article I said:
"Beauty and the Beast is not an easy story to choreograph. Scottish Ballet had a go with Thea Musgrave's score many years ago. I reviewed for "Aien" (St Andrews University student newspaper) when it was premiered at The King's Theatre in Edinburgh in 1969. Ballet Cymru also seems to have had a version in its repertoire. Another link with IP, incidentally, since Ballet Cymru is based in Newport, the same town as the Intellectual Property Office. And, of course, there is the Birmingham Royal Ballet's version. But none of those versions has ever achieved the popularity of works like Coppelia, Giselle, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Will David Nixon's version do any better? The answer is that I am just not sure."
Since I saw Nixon's Beauty and the Beast I have seen and reviewed Bintley's and James's. Both Mel Wong and I reviewed James's Beauty but Mel's review is far better than mine (see Mel Wong For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast 24 June 2014). In my review of Bintley's Beauty I asked myself which was best.  Here is my reply:
"Well I like them all but in different ways. Musgrave's for the music. Birmingham's for the sets and costumes but also Bintley's choreography. Nixon's for the last Act. Ballet Cymru's for its spirit."
The one thing I remember most about Nixon's ballet is that the family piled into a derelict bus which I found risible but I also remember some great dancing from Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson and a sublime final act. Here is what I wrote at the time:
"As for Nixon's choreography the first two acts reminded me of early McMillan - works like Anastasia which are not performed very often nowadays for a reason. But the last Act reminded me of Balanchine and I think it was that Act which saved the ballet. The pas de deux between Beauty - danced exquisitely by Martha Leebolt - and the beast showed just what the choreographer can do. Also impressive were Victoria Sibson and Hannah Bateman who danced the fairies, Hironeo Takahashi, the beast's servant and the coryphées, Michela Paolacci, Ayana Kanda, Christie Duncan and Isabella Gasparini who were four sprites. The last Act of the ballet could well stand as a work in its own right. I hope to see that Act many times again but I would happily skip the first two acts with its old bus and bailiffs."
A curious choice for a Christmas show. I would have preferred G able's Christmas Carol or indeed his Cinderella but I will be in the audience for the final act.

Of course, the show that everybody is anticipating with relish is Kenneth Tindall's Gasanova which opens in Leeds on 11 March 2017. It will then tour Edinburgh, Sheffield, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, The Lowry and London. This is Tindall's first full length ballet. His shorter works such as Luminous Junc•ture and The Architect, have attracted favourable critical comment including some from me (see Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013 and A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014 23 June 2013). I like Tindall as you can see from my appreciation of 28 Feb 2015. I am therefore looking forward to this work very much indeed.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Why Terpsichore Yorkshire?

A few minutes ago I launched Terpsichore Yorkshire with an article about Planet Dance, a dancewear retailer and wholesaler in Baltley. By so doing I am looking after my core audience, the adult dance community in Yorkshire and the Humber.

I started this blog in a very small just over three years ago to write about my classes at Northern Ballet Academy, the University of HuddersfieldDance Studio Leeds and other studios and to review performances by Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and visiting companies to The Grand, Bradford Alhambra, Stanley and Audrey Burton and other theatres in Yorkshire.

This blog has been spectacularly successful with over 10,000 hits a month. It has massive audiences in the United States and Russia and significant followings in Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands as well as the United Kingdom. My overseas readers and indeed those from other parts of the UK cannot attend classes in Leeds or Huddersfield or indeed performances in our local theatres. They want to read about what is going on at Covent Garden, the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells which they do visit occasionally as well as theatres and opera houses abroad and in other parts of the country. Consequently, my focus has moved away from Yorkshire and the North to London and overseas.

That is a pity for Leeds remains an important dance hub.  One of the reasons for increasing funding to Northern Ballet is that Arts Council England believe that
"Leeds has the potential to become a major regional dance centre. We suggested that Northern Ballet should work with Phoenix, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Dance and others to explore how they might work collaboratively to build a broad dance culture in Leeds, capable of increasing audiences and attracting and retaining talent in the city"
(see How Arts Council England supports Dance 10 Oct 2015). I want to chronicle and if possible even to facilitate that development.

Terpsichore Yorkshire will focus on our great local companies, their talented artists, its great teachers and so on. We will give in depth previews and comprehensive analyses of their performances. We will write about dancers from Yorkshire with other companies such as David Biintley, Xander Parishm Brandon Lawrence and Dominic North. At the sane time, we will also try out adult dance classes in all parts of the county and report on them. We will check out local dancewear retailers and their merchandise.  We will report news and views on all aspects of dance from all parts of Yorkshire,

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Manchester's Link with English National Ballet

Manchester Opera House
Author: Mike Peel
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia

As a Mancunian I am immensely proud that the company which is now England's national ballet company danced its first performance at the Opera House on 5 Feb 1951 (see Our History on English National Ballet's website). The company has chosen our city again to premiere Akram Khan's Giselle on 27 Sept 2016 before taking the work on a tour of the rest of the nation. There is enormous affection in this city for English National Ballet which I noted in Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015).

I was delighted to learn yesterday from Tamara Rojo herself that our pride and affection is reciprocated. She had tweeted:
To which I replied:
The company and its director signalled that they liked my tweet. Tamara Rojo quoted it and added:
A number of events will be held around the country in connection with this important new work including some in Manchester (see the Take Part page of the company's website). There is also a fascinating dialogue between Akram Khan and Tamara Rojo on Re-imagining Giselle and Ballet Meets Kathak: the traditions behind Akram Khan's Giselle.

Having just completed in Manchester as it happens a 3-day intensive workshop on La Bayadere which is set in Hyderabad (see La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: 16 Aug 2016 Day 2 17 Aug 2016 Day 3 17 Aug 2016) I should love to see how a choreographer from the Sub-Continent would reinterpret that work. I tentatively suggest that ballet which is not well known in this country as subject matter for a future collaboration between Akram Khan and our national company.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes

Standard YouTube Licence 

Updated 24 Aug 2016

It was only on the train home that it occurred to me that there might have been more tactful ways of showing our appreciation to our excellent teacher, Jane Tucker, than flowers at the end of our workshop on La Bayadère in view of what had happened to Nikiya. But some sort of expression of our appreciation was appropriate as this workshop was special. Romeo and Juliet was good (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) as had been Swan Lake (see see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2915, Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and Day 3 20 Aug 2015) but this was even better. I for one learned so much over the last three days and not just about La Bayadère but ballet in general.

As on the other days the day started with floor exercises on our Pilates mats. There was then a 90 minute class which focused on some of the steps we would need for our rehearsals and performance. Jane had included some  jetés en tournant in the golden idol so we worked on those as well as our balancé turns.  After class we ran through each of the pieces that we had learned. We were far from perfect but Jane told us that she had been expecting carnage and we never got anywhere near that. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon we concentrated on the details that required most attention.

After lunch, Jane fashioned the dances that we had learned into a show. Each piece was to lead seamlessly into the next. We did a couple of rehearsals and then prepared for our audience which consisted of Karen Sant and Josh Moss who are beautiful dancers as well as outstanding instructors.  Although I have very little experience of performing I have already found that performances tend to lift a cast and it was no different today. There were glitches but everyone put her heart into the show. My favourite was the golden idol as I explained in Day 2 earlier today. Jane's adaptation included some échappés which I have always enjoyed.  It was over far too quickly. Karen clapped vigorously after each piece while Josh filmed us with a tablet or mobile. Both Jane and Karen told us that we had made progress since the start.

There were some very happy ladies who left The Dancehouse today - all fired up with enthusiasm for our classes and shows in the coming year. Tomorrow Jane starts a new course for the more advanced students which I hope and am sure that they will enjoy as much as we did ours.