Sunday, 23 July 2017

Citrus Arts Savage Hart


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Citrus Arts Savage Hart 22 July 2017, 19:00 Oakwell Hall, Birstall 

To stage an open air performance of a show combining aerial displays and dance in the grounds of an Elizabethan manor house using the building as a backdrop was an ambitious project and risky one given the uncertainties of the British climate. Most of yesterday was delightful in Yorkshire in contrast to the previous two days, but at 19:00, just as the artists in Citrus Arts's Savage Hart were mounting the stage a dark cloud appeared and refused to shift for the whole performance. To its credit, the cloud retained most of its moisture until the last few minutes of the show but then the heavens opened and the monsoon began.

Nobody moved throughout the performance despite the constant dripping even when those drips turned into drizzle. That says all you need to know about the quality of the show. The audience was charmed.  Our attention did not stray once until the performers took their bow.

The story was very simple. A bullet headed baron (Zeph Gould) was in the habit of hunting deer and sticking their heads above his mantelpiece much to the chagrin of his wife, Marianne, danced by Krystal Lowe. The spirits of those deer, danced by Luke Bradshaw (the stag), Hannah Darby (the doe) and Charlotte Dawson (the buck), revolted against this slaughter of their species and haunted tne baron. In that scene, the British weather actually assisted the artists because the flashing of the lights in Oakwell Hall combined with spooky music and a breeze that made the bare flames flicker under a threatening sky actually made my nerves tingle and my flesh creep. The haunting seemed to have worked for the baron and his wife donned deer heads in the last scene and danced with the spirits while moss, twigs and wild flowers enveloped the stage.

The show is not new as you can see from the video above. It was first staged for the theatre and it toured Wales to big audiences and critical acclaim as I mentioned in my preview, Juicyyesterday. The video suggests that there was a choir in the theatre. There were no singers yesterday but there was a live band consisting of Simon McCorry and James Minas Blight. I liked the music although I could only see one of the musicians from my position on the path a few yards to the left of the stage.

My only regret is that I did not get a chance to express my appreciation of the show to the performers in person. I particularly wanted to say hello to Krystal whom I have followed ever since I first saw her in Romeo a Juliet at Kendal over 4 years ago (see They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013). I was so pleased to see her in the cast list that I blurted out "Krystal Lowe is dancing tonight" and "Toi toi Krystal" on Facebook which drew an immediate "like" from Anna Pujol, another fine dancer who deserves to go far, and the chair of the London Ballet Circle who is at least as much a fan of Krystal as I am.

Incidentally, yesterday was not the first time that I had seen Krystal in an open air show. She danced with Ballet Cymru and Gloucestershire Dance in Mark Brew's Stuck in the Mud through the streets and on the beach of Llandudno which I reviewed in An Explosion of Joy 21 Sept 2014. That review contains a very precious photo of her dancing with Mandev Sokhi, another very special dancer whom I was lucky enough to meet a few days before he died.

Just like the storm at the end of the first act of La Fille mal gardée everyone including the Creative Scene and Oakwell Halls officials scattered in the rain. I couldn't find a stage door or anyone who could take a message to the artists so this blog post will have to do. Well done Citrus Arts. I knew you were good from your work with Ballet Cymru but I now see what you can achieve on your own. I will follow your website and attend more of your shows whenever I get the chance. I hope the weather did not spoil your visit, that you had (or will have) a comfortable and speedy journey back to Wales and that we may welcome you back very soon.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Juicy

Reproduction licensed by US government
Source Wikipedia



























In two of their most successful productions, The Light Princess and Cinderella, Ballet Cymru have collaborated with Citrus Arts. They are another Welsh company that contribute circus skills to dance and other performing arts. Right now they are in my neighbourhood - Oakwell Hall to be precise - where they are performing Savage Hart in the walled garden.

The show is staged by an organization called "Creative Scene" which describes itself as the Arts Council England Creative People and Places project for West Yorkshire. You can find out more about them from a report by Professor Steve Swindells of Huddersfield University. According to Creative Scene's website, Savage Hart is about some deer that have watched over the dining hall of a cruel man of his times and are now putting their antlers together to form a plan.

According to the blurb
"aerial artistry, ballet and circus combine to create this bewitching tale of a 19th century aristocrat, haunted by the ghosts of his past."
The production has been nominated for "Best Dance Production at the Wales Theatre Awards" which says a lot.

I learned of this show quite by chance from Krystal Lowe who announced it briefly on social media. Krystal is already one of my very favourite dancers and her career seems to be blossoming in akk directions. As well as dancing for Ballet Cymru, she teaches at the University of South Wales and is now branching into choreography. I believe she also teaches ballet to adults on Monday evenings.  I have been badgering my clerk for months to fix a hearing at the Patent Ofice or the Cardiff Business and Property Court on a Monday so that I can attend Krystal's class.

I don't know whether Krystal is dancing tonight but, if she is, it will be the icing on the cake. The week started out well with a brilliant class from Karen, gathered momentum with another great one from Fiona and coincided with my 1,000th post to Terpsichore. What better way to end a week than watching one of my favourite dancers!

Friday, 21 July 2017

My Thousandth Post

















A thousandth post is something of a milestone I think you will agree.  It deserves a special article to celebrate the occasion.  I have been thinking about the best way to do it and I think a retrospective of the most memorable performances of each of the last four and a bit years would be appropriate. So here goes.

Without a doubt, the most memorable performance of 2013 was the launch of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's tour of the Netherlands at the  Stadsshouwburg in Amsterdam on the 24 Nov 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013). I had come to Amsterdam to see Michaela DePrince who had joined the company a few months earlier. I had already heard of her because of her success at the Youth America Grand Prix in 2010 and the critical acclaims she had received in South Africa and New York but I was particularly fascinated by her Sierra Leonean origin as I had been married to a Sierra Leonean national for nearly 28 years.

When I saw DePrince dance I described her as "quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while." I have watched her progress in the Dutch National Ballet from élève to soloist with enormous satisfaction for I get the impression that she is a very likeable young woman as well as a fine artist.  I once had the pleasure of meeting her at the opening night gala of the 2015/2016 ballet season and "I left the Stopera thinking how that exceptionally talented young dancer was as gracious off stage as she is magnificent upon it" (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2013).

DePrince led me to the Junior Company and its remarkable artistic coordinator Ernst Meisner whom I featured a year later (see Meet Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers 6 Dec 2014) and he, in turn, led me to the Dutch National Ballet which is one of the best companies I have ever seen. That company performed the most memorable performance of the 4 1/2 years that I have been keeping this blog, namely Natalia Makarova's La Bayadère with the excellent Sasha Mukhamedov in the title role on the 13 Nov 2016 (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016). Once in a while, a ballerina shines in a role with such brilliance that she makes it her own. Fonteyn did that for me many years ago in Marguerite and Armand as did Sibley as Titania in Frederick Ashton's Dream.  For me, Nikiya will always be Mukhamedov.

Of course, Fonteyn might not have shone so brightly in that role had it not been for Nureyev. Sibley was always partnered magnificently by Sir Anthony Dowell. Similarly, Mukhamedov had the most gallant Solor in Jozef Varga. There were many other fine dancers in that matinee including Daniel Robert Silva who danced the bronze idol. He is a man to watch. He first came to my notice in Meisner's No Time Before Time on 14 Feb 2016 which is the best birthday treat I have ever had and he impressed me again on 26 June 2017 in Cristiano Principato's Purcell Variations (see New Moves 2017 27 June 2017).

The shows that impressed me most in 2014, 2015 and 2017 were all by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. They were Gillian Lynne's atmospheric reconstruction of Sir Robert Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals which I saw at Sadler's Wells on 18 Oct 2014 (see A Second Miracle 23 Oct 2014, David Bintley's The King Dances at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 June 2015 (see A Special Ballet for a Special Day 23 June 2015) and Ruth Brill's Arcadia also at the Hippodrome on 21 June 2017 (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia 22 June 2017).

The first two of those works were reconstructions though I suspect Miracle in the Gorbals would have been quite an accurate one as Dame Gillian had been in the original production even though she and Henry Danton have said that they cannot recall a single step. However, the score has survived as has the libretto and images of the sets and costumes. The ballet would have evolved had it remained continuously in the repertoire so I think we are as close to the original as we are to the original of any other ballet. We have Dame Gillian to thank for another great work, namely A Simple Man which marked the centenary of L S Lowry's birth.  It was the first work by Northern Ballet that I saw after I returned to the North in 1987 and it remains my favourite offering from that company. One of the reasons why I love it so is that it was the last time I saw Christopher Gable and Moira Shearer on stage. I hold both of them in the highest possible esteem. Shortly after I saw that ballet, Gable became artistic director of the company and his term of office was unquestionably its golden age.

Bintley's The King Dances was quite different. Less of a reconstruction because the original pageant lasted all night. More an homage. But an impressive one all the same. Several 17th-century conventions were observed in that nearly all the female roles were danced by men and the stage appeared to be lit at times by torches. But the score was new and, of course, so was the lighting at the end of the ballet that radiated Louis's majesty more effectively than anything available to the royal household at the time. The premiere of the show coincided with the 25th anniversary of the company's move to Birmingham and the 20th of David Bintley's appointment as artistic director. It was danced with Carmina Burana, one of Bintley's most popular ballets.

Brill's Arcadia is a masterpiece. I knew she was talented from Matryoshka but Arcadia reveals brilliance. It is a complex work full of historical, mythical and literary allusions. Any choreographer would be proud of such a work but when one takes into account Brill's youth it is nothing short of prodigious. I am impatient for Brill's next new ballet....... and the next ... and next.

These were the five best shows I have seen since I started the blog but they are not the only precious moments. I have met some lovely people through ballet - great teachers in Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, London and even Budapest, delightful classmates at all those venues and particularly those in Manchester, knowledgeable ballet lovers in person through the London Ballet Circle and the various friends groups to which I belong as well as many more online through Facebook, twitter and BalletcoForum. I have listened to some impressive presentations and interviews by dancers, choreographers, composers, designers and administrators many of whom I have interviewed for this blog. I have had the opportunity to dance before a living, breathing and paying audience in Leeds and Manchester (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014 and Show 14 May 2017) and thanks to the ever patient Jane Tucker I have had a go at dancing cygnets, Juliet, knights, shades, Siegfried, sugar plum, swans, guests at the Stahlbaums' party and even a golden idol.

All that within months of the expiration of my three score years and ten expiring. Could anyone wish for anything more?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Just as most Adult Ballet Classes are folding up for the Summer, here's one that's opening

Photo Huddersfield University~
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At a time of the year when many adult ballet classes are winding down for the summer, it is great to hear of one that is opening up. Today and for the next four Thursdays, Fiona Noonan will run an open adult class at Huddersfield University Sports Centre between 11:00 and 12:00.

Fiona is an excellent teacher. She trained at Queensland Ballet Academy in Brisbane which is the ballet school for Li Cunxin's company that made such a memorable impression on critics and audiences when it brought La Sylphide to London in 2015 (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). She then danced with a number of companies around the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She, therefore, brings two rare qualities to her teaching. A rigorous pursuit of excellence and an attention to detail which I have noticed in other Australian trained teachers such as Adam Pudney at Pineapple and more than a little stardust from the stage that some of my favourite teachers at Northern Ballet Academy and KNT also scatter.

I have attended Fiona's classes at The Base Studios and Team Hud in Huddersfield and at Hype Studios in Sheffield (see More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield 14 May 2014).  They are not easy.  She pushes her students to their limits and then some. But that is exactly what a ballet student needs whatever his or her age or natural ability. I have also learned some important lessons from her. "Ballet is a harsh mistress", I once heard her tell a promising young student " and she is wanting and waiting for you to fail."  Like most balletomanes, I had associated dance with tiaras and gravity defying leaps but the reality is graft, sweat, pain and on more than a few occasions physical danger. Something that requires will, determination and resilience even if you are just taking an adult ballet class. Transferable qualities, incidentally, if you are lucky enough to enjoy your job and have no plans to quit just because you have reached pensionable age.

So if you come to her class this morning you had better pack a towel with your leotard or sports kit because you can expect to sweat. If this is your first class you will be allowed to dance barefoot. However, if you plan to stay the course and invest in some shoes there is a dance shop in the Byrom Arcade called "Mr Frog Dancewear".

For those who do not know the campus, the Sports Centre is in a new building called "Student Central" where you will also find the students' shop and cafeteria. It is almost opposite Sainsbury's car park and there are two multi-storey car parks on the other side of Queensway. The Sports Centre is one floor down and you have to report at the front desk. I don't yet know how much Fiona will charge for her classes but it was £5 two years ago. Most other ballet schools in the North charge between £6 and £8. Well worth it for a fair dinkum touch of stardust, mate. Gooday.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Jumping for Joy


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I described Jump two years ago in Jump 11 July 2015. It's a fan club for young ballet fans with its own website but it is also an open day called Dansdag when kids take over the Stopera. This year it fell on 24 June and I am told by people who were there that it was particularly good this year.

Judging by this film it certainly seems to have been. Most ballet companies run special activities for children and young people but this must be one of the best.

Montpellier Danse

Hans van Manen by Bibi Neuray
Reproduced with permission of the Dutch National Ballet














Tonight, Hans van Manen will be created a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, France's highest distinction in the arts at the Montpellier Dance Festival. That festival, which runs from 23 June to 7 July 2017, is an annual festival of contemporary dance which started in 1981 by the Montpelier city council and the National Choreographic Centre which was then run by Dominique Bagouet (see Festival Montpellier Danse in Wikipedia).

The festival attracts some of the biggest names in dance such as Lucinda Childs who is coming to Manchester on Thursday (see Manchester International Festival 3 July 2017) and the Dutch National Ballet who are performing tonight. To coincide with the presentation to van Manen, Dutch National Ballet will dance several of his works.

The Company's artistic director, Ted Brandsen, paid warm tribute to van Manen in an interview in Ted Brandsen / Dutch National Ballet : Hommage à Hans van Manen - Programme 1 & 2. In that same interview Brandsen was asked to say a few words about his company and where the company recruited its dancers.

I have been following van Manen for as long as I have been following ballet. Of the greats of my youth - Ashton, MacMillan, Balachine, Cranko - he is the only one who remains, Fékicitations to the new Commandeur but also to the company who will be dancing as I type.

Congratulations to Delia Matthews

Delia Matthews
Photo Andrew Ross
© 2016 Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced wth kind permission of the company: 



























Ever since I saw have bravely and professionally she exited the stage of the Grand Opera House in York when she must have been in considerable pain or discomfort, I have been a fan of Delia Matthews (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in York 23 May 2015). I am therefore delighted that she and Tzu-Chao Chou, another favourite dancer, have become principals of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  I congratulate both of them and wish them all the best for the future.

Heartiest congratulations also to Arancha Baselga and Yasuo Atsuji who become first soloists, Miki Mizutani who is now a soloist and Laura Day and Alys Shee who are now first artists. Best wishes to them too.

Welcome to  Elisabetta Formento and Lynsey Sutherland who join the company from the Estonian and Polish National Ballets and also to Haoliang Feng, Augustus Payne, Harry Wright, Brogan McKelvey,
Hamish Scott, Claudia Nicholson and Jade Wallace who have recently graduated from their respective ballet schools. I congratulate each and every one of them on landing jobs with a great ballet company. I shall follow their careers with considerable interest.


Joseph Caley and William Bracewell will leave the company - Caley to join English National Ballet as a principal and Bracewell the Royal Ballet as a soloist. I congratulate them on their new appointments and wish them well with their new companies.  Sadly, we sat goodbye to Jamie Bond who retires from ballet to take up a new career in sport in which I wish him every success,  Lewis Turner and Alexander Bird who will join the Berlin State Ballet and Emily Smith and Johanne Monfret. Many thanks to each of them for the pleasure that they have given us and good luck for the future