Saturday, 25 March 2017

A New Interactive Resource: Royal Ballet School's Ballet History Timeline

Bridge of Aspiration between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House
Photo Edward
Source Wikipedia
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The Royal Ballet School has recently compiled a magnificent resource for anyone who is interested in the history of dance in the United Kingdom called the Ballet History Timeline. It consists of nearly 750 images of items held in The Royal Ballet School Special Collections together with commentary written by the School’s Manager of Special Collections, Anna Meadmore. There is a useful introductory video on YouTube which states what is in the collection and how to use it.

At present. the Timeline covers the period between 1862 (the year in which Marius Petipa was appointed chief ballet master of the Maryinsky Ballet) and 1956 (the year in which the Royal Ballet received its royal charter and, also incidentally, the year in which the Bolshoi made its first appearance in the United Kingdom). However, the intention is to go back much further and also to advance to the present time.

Readers can access this resource at http://timeline.royalballetschool.org.uk/. There are at present 6 introductory chapters:
  • "Prologue: Marius Petipa and the Imperial Russian Ballet 1860–1897
  • The Birth of Modern Ballet: the Diaghilev Ballets Russes 1898–1919
  • Early British Ballet: foundations and pioneers 1920–30
  • Early British Ballet: building a repertoire 1931–38
  • World War Two: a national ballet for Britain 1939–46
  • Formative Years: The Royal Ballet 1947–56".
Users can either click on those or use the search facility.  

I have already had a lot of fun with this resource. I started by searching for "Petipa" and found references to him recurring in just about every chapter. The last of those references was:
"1862 – Marius PetipaBallet Master of Imperial Russia"
I clicked on the hypertext link and came across a page headed with that title bearing a splendid photo of Petipa in a costume from the ballet The Pharaoh's Daughter.  The introductory text states:
"Marius Petipa (1818–1910) was a French dancer and choreographer; he was chief Ballet Master of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg for more than 40 years (1862–1903). The repertoire and style of Imperial Russian Classicism is exemplified by the enduring ‘ballet classics’ that Marius Petipa and his assistant, Lev Ivanov, created to the glorious ballet scores of Pyotr Tchaikovsky."
More information can be obtained by clicking "Read More". There is also a short biography and a page of drawings, photos and an interesting lithograph of Arthur Saint-Leon's dance notation on a page headed "Gallery".

One of the pleasures of taking up ballet again very late in life is the awareness that one is participating albeit in a very small way in a glorious artistic tradition. It keeps me going when my legs ache and right foot screams out in agony. It motivates me to drive to Truro and back to see a youth ballet and, above all. to keep this publication going.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Au Revoir, Ailsa, and Good Luck

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Photo Donaldytong
Source Wikipedia
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Last night I joined many of my fellow adult dance students at KNT Danceworks to say au revoir to Ailsa Baker, a favourite teacher. She was my first teacher at KNT (see So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class 29 Aug 2014). We have all learned a lot from her and, just as importantly, we have all enjoyed her classes.

She had a pretty full class last night and its numbers were swollen by students from her other classes. When our principal, Karen Sant, presented her with an enormous card bearing all our names, the applause was as loud and as enthusiastic as could have been expected by any ballerina.  Afterwards, we made our way to a nearby pub and the party was still going strong when I left to catch my last train home.

Ailsa is going to Dubai where ballet is booming. A new opera house has opened recently (see The Dubai Opera House 11 June 2016) and there are lots of people who want to study dance of all ages and ability ranges. It should be a great adventure for her.

We won't forget her. There is an English language common law court there where I can appear. I will remember to pack a leotard and shoes as well as my wig and gown next time I have business there. She has also promised to visit us whenever she comes back to Manchester. So we wish her bon voyage and au revoir but definitely not goodbye.

Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet in Barcelona


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Last week, one of my friends visited Barcelona. While she was there she took a tour of The Liceu Theatre and attended a rehearsal of Rigoletto. The theatre has just announced its programme for 2017 and 2018 which includes performances of Joëlle Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet by the ballet of the Grand Theatre of Geneva, the Eifman Ballet's Anna Karenina. a triple bill by the youth company of the Theatre Institute of St Cujat and Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Dream by the Monte Carlo Ballet.

If I were a lady of leisure I would willingly see all four shows but if I had to select one it would be Bouvier's Romeo and Juliet.  I have already mentioned the Geneva Grand Theatre Ballet in Ballet in Switzerland on 27 Oct 2013 and Geneva Nutcracker on 25 Oct 2015. It was the company that premiered Christopher Bruce's Rooster which is now one of the most popular works in Rambert Dance's repertoire (see Rooster ................ :-) 4 Oct 2014). Its latest work is Philippe Cohen's Une Autre Passion based on Bach's St Matthew Passion which is about to open on 28 March at the Opera des Nations in Geneva.  The company will perform Romeo and Juliet at the Liceu between 3 and 7 Nov 2017.

Bouvier created Romeo and Juliet in 2009 for the 22 dancers of the Geneva Ballet (see the Romeo and Juliet web page on the choreographer's website). There is a feature on the ballet with comments by Bouvier on numeridanse.tv website. Although Bouvier retains Prokofiev's score the interpretation is completely original. The company has already taken this work on tour to France and South Africa where it has received very favourable reviews (see Raphaël de Gubernatis Danse : un "Roméo et Juliette" magistral! 8 April 2011 Le Nouvel Observateur).

The Geneva ballet tour extensively but I cannot remember their last trip to England if, indeed, they have ever performed here at all. They are never in Geneva when I am there for WIPO events. They are definitely not to be missed. As there are plenty of cheap flights to Barcelona it looks as though the 4 or 5 Nov at the Liceu is my best opportunity to see them.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Spark of Excellence

Alabama Seymour
(c) 2917 Fieldgrazer Productions
Reproduced with kind permission of Fielfgrazer Productions








































In The Importance of Performance 20 March 2017, I wrote that one of the rewards of watching shows by companies like Duchy Ballet well outside the big cities is that you sometimes spot a star in the making. The first time I saw Xander Parish was at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala at the Grand Opera House in York on 29 Oct 2007 (see Charles Hutchinson's Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday 31 July 2007 The Press). I saw many fine young dancers that night but he stood out from the rest.

There have been other times when a young dancer has stood out in the same way.  The last occasion was on Saturday when I saw The Sleeping Beauty by Duchy Ballet at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro on Saturday (see Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 19 March 2017). Many dancers impressed me that evening but the young woman who danced the Lilac Fairy stood out from the rest. I wrote: "I think I saw a spark of excellence in the lilac fairy on Saturday."

I was, therefore, delighted but not surprised to receive a press release from Charlie Fripp, the company's press officer, entitled Cornish Girl wins place at a prestigious ballet school which announced that the artist who had danced the Lilac Fairy had been accepted for training by the Rambert School of Ballet & Contemporary Dance. That "Cornish girl" was Alabama Seymour as I had guessed from the photo in the programme.

The press release stated that Ms Seymour comes from Chacewater which is a small village just outside Truro. She is studying dance at Truro College and has trained at Capitol School of Dance with Sian Strasberg.  Kay Jones, who is Principal at Capitol and Artistic Director of Duchy Ballet said:
“Alabama is one of the many talented dancers who have come through Duchy Ballet and gone on to dance as a career and we’re so excited to be able to offer so many dancers here in Cornwall the opportunity to dance on a stage like the Hall for Cornwall.”
Ms Seymour acknowledged the value of that experience:
"It is a real honour to win a place at Rambert School. Duchy Ballet has been an amazing start to my career and I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had with the company and I am looking forward to the thrill of performing in front of more than two thousand people at the Hall for Cornwall.”
Having seen her on stage I congratulate Ms Seymour for an excellent performance on Saturday and wish her well at the Rambert and beyond.  As I noted in The Importance of Performance, I don't want to embarrass her or tempt fate but I don't think I have been the last of her.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Introducing Amelia Sierevogel

Amelia Sierevogel when she first attended Fiona Noonan's ballet class
© 2017 Amelia Siervogel: all rights reserved
Reproduction kindly licensed by the copyright owner






































Amelia Siervogel

As a new contributor to this blog, I should like to introduce myself. My name is Amelia Sierevogel and I’m currently on my placement year, studying BA (Hons) Costume with Textiles at the University of Huddersfield.

I’ve always been interested in the world of ballet but never took classes as a child as I studied gymnastics instead. My parents were able to finance only one hobby each for my siblings and me. I gave up gymnastics aged 16. For two years between then and starting university, I was rather unwell. I had contracted glandular fever and was beginning to suffer from severe migraines.

When I moved to university I wanted to find an activity that I could invest myself into both physically and mentally to help improve my health. Of course, I naturally chose ballet having always wanting to learn it.

I took my first ever ballet class aged 18 with Fiona Noonan in Huddersfield. A teacher who is most inspiring. This class was also where I first met the lovely Jane Lambert – a lady I find most knowledgeable and passionate about ballet.

When I first started ballet I used to sickle my feet, twist and sit in my hips and my jumps were awful – I was like a spring that couldn’t quite articulate through my feet! However, I still had flexibility from being a gymnast as a child and with strengthening exercises, sheer determination and the help of Fiona I corrected my errors and it’s safe to say I have progressed quickly.

As I am currently on my placement year, I’m not living in Huddersfield at the moment. Instead, I moved home and started to commute to my placements to save money. Of course, this meant I needed to find somewhere to continue taking ballet!

So I enrolled myself at Ripon Dance Academy. I first attended their adult class, which was taken at a steady pace and was enjoyable, but I didn’t find it particularly challenging. Instead, Miss Carole and Miss Laura, the wonderful teachers at RDA, suggested that I attend their intermediate ballet class. I started this class the following week. The age range in the class is from about 14 to 18 and now they have me aged 21. The girls in my class are lovely and so talented, Miss Laura works us hard and I feel that I am being pushed and challenged. I have learnt so many new steps over the last seven months and in November was allowed to start pointe work! – a truly magical experience.

Currently, in class, we are preparing for a Showcase, which will take place at Ripon Grammar School on 2 April 2017. I’m very excited but I’m also quite nervous, as I haven’t performed on a stage for about six years. This performance will be spectacular for Ripon Dance Academy and I’m sad that I will be saying goodbye to them after this performance.

This is because I shall be travelling to Australia for four months to undertake my placements in the costume departments with the Australian Ballet and Opera Australia. This will, of course,l be an amazing experience and I am looking forward to it! Naturally, I will also be looking to take class in Australia and watch performances.

Ever since I started two and a half years ago, I have found my stress relief, health fix, enjoyment and passion in ballet. I strive to improve and become the best dancer I possibly can. None of which would be possible without my amazing teachers or other classmates. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you as a young adult dancer, reflecting on classes, reviews of performances and dance products, and perhaps some insider costume knowledge.

Amelia x

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Esposito for the Junior Company


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In Prizes, Prizes, Prizes 7 Feb 2017 I congratulated the winners of the Prix de Lausanne.  The winner of the first scholarship was Michele Esposito who also won the Contemporary Dance Prize and Best Swiss Candidate award. The video shows him at the finals as Solor from La Bayadère. 

Michele has decided to join The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet (see The Prize winners 2017: their choices! 20 March 2017 Blog Prix de Lausanne).  Having followed the Junior Company almost from its inception I cannot think of a better place to launch his career.  As I said in Dutch National Ballet's New Season and a New Vlog from Tim and Salome 21 Feb 2017:
"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."
I am also glad to report that three of the prize winners are coming to London:  Taisuke Nakao of Japan to the Royal Ballet School where he will be joined by Lauren Hunter of the USA while Stanislaw Wegrzyn of Poland is on his way to the Royal Ballet.

Marina Fernandes da Costa Duarte of Brazil will go to the Bavarian State Ballet, Koyo Yamamoto to the Tanz Akademie in Zurich, Diana Georgia Ionescu to the Stuttgart Ballet and Fangqi Li of China to ABT's Studio Company.

I congratulate all the winners on their selections and I wish them all the best in their careers.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Importance of Performance


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I spent last weekend driving to Truro and back to see Duchy Ballet (see Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 19 March 2017).  I shall spend this weekend driving to Chelmsford to see my company dance Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I have emphasised the possessive adjective because I am proud to be a non-dancing associate member of the company and the only reason why I have never auditioned for dancing membership is that Chelmsford is just a tad too far for rehearsals.

It would have been cheaper and easier to have whizzed down to London and back by Hull Trains, Virgin or Grand Central to see Project Polunin at the Wells or even the Pite, Wheeldon and Dawson triple bill at the Royal Opera House and cheaper and easier still to have stayed in Leeds to see another performance of Northern Ballet's Casanova  (which I strongly recommend, by the way - see Casanova - "it has been a long time since I enjoyed a show by Northern Ballet as much as I enjoyed Casanova last night" 12 March 2017) but I would have missed something important.

Performances like the one I saw in Truro on Saturday and the one I expect to see in Chelmsford are important because they give a purpose to all those years of exercises at the barre and in the centre.  Ballet, like Shakespeare, is intended for the stage. Without performance, class is just a workout - about as arid as cramming Romeo and Juliet for an exam.  Performances are important not just for children and young adults but for students of any age.  I shall never forget the thrill of my first performance at Northern Ballet Academy's end of term show in 2014 (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014).

However, students will take performances seriously only if audiences take them seriously.  Such audiences should include not just mums, dads and siblings but also regular ballet goers and even the occasional ballet blogger.  The attendance of a critical audience is particularly important when principals of leading companies perform in a student show as Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas of English National Ballet did in the Bristol Russian Ballet School's Romeo and Juliet (see Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport 19 Feb 2014) and Tom Thorne and Laura Bösenberg of the Cape Town City Ballet did on Saturday.

There is sometimes a reward for audiences who make it to civic theatres in remote parts of the country. Sometimes you see stars of the future as I did when I saw Xander Parish for the first time in York in 2007. Even as a student it was clear that he was going places.  I think I saw a spark of excellence in the lilac fairy on Saturday and also in Odette-Odile in Greenock last month (see Ballet West at the Beacon 13 Feb 2017). I don't want to embarrass or tempt fate for either of those two promising young women but I don't think I have seen the last of either of them.