Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Taking Flight" in more ways than one

Michaela DePrince, Dutch National Ballet
Photo Robin de Puy
(c) 2014 Dutch National Ballet
All rights reserved

According to Richard Heideman, press manager of the Dutch National Ballet, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela and Elaine DePrince is to be made into a film. He reports that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has acquired the film rights and will make a full length feature film with Alloy Entertainment. Elysa Dutton and Les Morgenstein of Alloy will produce the film with Matt Dines of MGM.

Closer to home, First Position, a film in which DePrince already appears, will be shown at Cafe 164 in Leeds on 2 April 2015 (see Cafe 164 to screen "First Position" 2 March 2015) and she will take a master class at Danceworks on 7 July 2015 (Dance with DePrince 20 Jan 2015).

DePrince joined the Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet in 2013 and the main company as an apprentice in 2014. She is expected to be promoted to coryphée shortly. One of our best young choreographers told me recently that he hopes to work with her.

I am a great fan of this remarkable young woman for two reasons. First,she is thrilling to watch. Secondly, I also have close connections with Sierra Leone.

If anyone wants to read more about her there is a list of links to my other posts in Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam 28 Nov 2014,

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Another Ballet Company in Essex

Harlow Playhouse
Photo Wikipedia

On 11 Oct 2014 I attended one of the first performances by Ballet Black of Christopher Marney's Dogs don't do Ballet at Harlow Playhouse (see Woof 12 Oct 2014). The theatre must have recorded my interest in dance against my email address in its database for I received an email from The Playhouse yesterday advertising a performance of The Nutcracker by the Harlow Ballet between 16 and 19 April 2015. Now I have never heard of the Harlow Ballet but then I had never heard of the Chelmsford Ballet either until the 14 Dec 2013 (see The Chelmsford Ballet 15 Dec 2913) and they turned out to be very good (see A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015).

According to its website The Harlow Ballet consists of two separate organizations:
"The Harlow Ballet Association is a democratic organisation that "exists to enable the presentation of dance performances in which those appearing shall principally (though not exclusively) be students of the Harlow Ballet School".
The Harlow Ballet School is a legally constituted Partnership that teaches children and adults to dance. The Harlow Ballet School has had its home in The Playhouse, Harlow since it opened in 1971.
The Harlow Ballet Association and Harlow Ballet School join forces from time to time to provide intensive courses culminating in special Gala performances at The Playhouse."
The "Performances, Special Courses, Workshops & Master Classes" page states that the Harlow Ballet performs a classical ballet every Easter. Its first production was The Sleeping Beauty in 2000 and it has performed Giselle "in a version close not only to the original choreography, but also to the original libretto by the Marquis de Saint Georges and Theophile Gautier."  Towards the end of that page there is a review by Rosemary Caswell of Les Sylphides and other ballets for the Harlow Star. Its News page reproduces a review by one Bridget McAlpine of a gala that seems to have taken place last November.

The School seems to teach adults as well as children (see Classes). Indeed, they seem to be encouraged (see Calling All Adult Dancers - and "would-be" dancers by Bridget McAlpine. Students are taught in the Cecchetti method and an interesting article entitled STILL VALID? An examination of whether the methodology of MAESTRO ENRICO CECCHETTI is suitable for teaching adult dance students in the twenty first century can be downloaded from its website. The Further Training page states that pupils from the school have continued their training at leading ballet schools and some of them have danced with the Royal Danish Ballet, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Harlow is not a big town. With a population of just over 82,000 it is about the same size as Halifax and much smaller than Chelmsford or Huddersfield. To sustain a show over 4 days in the very theatre where Ballet Black launched its popular children's ballet is no mean achievement. I am not sure that I will be able to see The Nutcracker but I will certainly get to one of Harlow Ballet's shows. Some folk are snooty about Essex. I don't know why. Two ballet companies (and for all I know there may well be more) in one county so close to London is something to celebrate.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Is Ballet really the same as Kung Fu?

Congratulations to Jinhao Zhang for his success in the Emerging Dancer Competition. According to this film his entry into ballet was serendipitous. His mum wanted him to take up Kung Fu but the class was full. An enterprising ballet teacher in the studio next door spotted him and invited him to join her class. She told her mum that ballet was the same as Kung Fu and luckily for us she and her son were persuaded.

I should also like to congratulate the other finalists including Isabelle Brouwers who worked with Northern Ballet's Kenneth Tindall. I believe that one of my other favourite choreographers, Christopher Marney, contributed to the event and as soon as I find out more I shall let you know.

Lastly, congratulations to Laurretta Summerscales who was the Peoples' Choice.

Last November I was fortunate enough to see all the dancers in class which brought home to me the breadth and depth of talent of this fine company (see Coppelia in Oxford 2 Nov 2014). I wish each and every one of them all the best.

Further Reading

24 March 2015   Jinhao Zhang wins Emerging Dancer 2015  English National Ballet

Monday, 23 March 2015

The Royal Ballet's Swan Lake - that's more like it

Huddersfield Odeon

I have not been too kind about HDTV transmissions of the Royal Ballet's performances from Covent Garden ("¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield" 13 Oct 2013, Good Quality Hamburger at the Very Least - Giselle streamed from Covent Garden 27 Jan 2014" and "Manon Encore at the Huddersfield Odeon" 20 Oct 2014) though I recanted slightly over The Winter's Tale ("The Winter's Tale - Time to eat my Hat" 29 April 2014). In general I have much preferred Pathe-Live's transmissions from Moscow. But yesterday I watched the recording of the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake which was broadcast on 17 March 2015 and it was all right. More than all right. It was good,

The performance itself must have been wonderful. I saw Golding and Osipova in Onegin last month and was bowled over by them. Avis, another favourite, danced Rothbart magnificently. The sets and costumes were sumptuous. The music is majestic. Although I had to miss the last season in order to have the time and money to see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights and the Sapphire gala, I am familiar with this production and enjoy it very much. It is in fact my favourite Swan Lake though I have yet to see more than extracts from van Dantzig's.

However, it was the recording that I want to commend today. I like to think that those responsible for the HDTV transmissions have been listening to moans from people like me or at least looked at the Bolshoi transmissions and learned from them. I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews with Anthony Dowell, Jonathan Cope and Cynthia Harvey. I now know why Swan Lake is set in 19th century Russia rather than medieval Germany despite the Teutonic names of the main characters. According to Dowell that was the suggestion of the designer, Yolanda Sonnabend, who was inspired by Fabergé. Dowell spoke warmly about his conversations with Sonnabend though he thought things might have been taken a little too far when an egg appeared in her studio one day.

In the past I have criticized Bussell as a presenter but her contribution yesterday was valuable.  She spoke about her coaching by Fonteyn. Fonteyn had told her always to remember than she was a woman and not a swan. Bussell referred to Acts II and III as "white" and "black" Acts referring to the colours of the ballerina's tutu - terminology I had never heard before - and she said that she like other ballerinas had never been entirely satisfied with her performance as Odette and Odile in the same performance. One was always stronger than the other.

I also enjoyed the clip of the rehearsals and coaching in the second interval. I recognized the studio in which Cope trained Golding. Sibley and Crisp had spoken there last year (see "Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School" 3 Feb 2014). So although I must have seen many performances of Swan Lake in my lifetime I learned something new yesterday.

Something of the magic of last Tuesday's performance filtered through to the audience of the Huddersfield Odeon yesterday. Everyone laughed when Osipova picked up the toy swan during her curtain call. Finally, I felt a twinge of pride when the credits mentioned additional choreography by David Bintley for Bintley was a local man. I wonder how many members of the audience picked up on that.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A Delight Indeed

On Wednesday Leanne Shipp tweeted
She was so right. Any company would have been proud of yesterday's double bill.  As it was performed largely by dancers who do not yet make their living from dance it was all the more remarkable.

Note my terminology. I did not say "amateur" deliberately. There was nothing amateurish about the show. Everything was polished. Not just the dancing (which was perhaps not so surprising since several members of the cast were either at, had been to, or were on their way to, top ballet schools) but the direction, stage management, sets, costumes, lighting - even the glossy programmes. All the more impressive when it is considered that the production was completed in a year on a limited budget and much of the set painting and costume making would have been done by the members themselves.

There were two one act ballets yesterday evening - Annette Potter's Pineapple Poll based on John Cranko's choreography and a new ballet by Christopher Marney called Carnival of the Animals. The works complemented each other perfectly for Marney has much in common with Cranko. Pineapple Poll was created early in Cranko's career and while Marney has created a string of successful ballets for Ballet Black, Ballet Central and others it has to to be remembered that he is still a very young man (see Christopher Marney 16 March 2014). If, as I fervently hope, he lives to a ripe old age and his career maintains its present trajectory Carnival will be regarded as an "early Marney". I can foresee school and university teachers yet unborn setting essay questions like "Pineapple Poll and Carnival - compare and contrast" to the grandchildren of yesterday's corps de ballet.

For those who do not know the Cranko ballet there is a good synopsis in Wikipedia. There are five key roles: Pineapple Poll, Jasper the pot boy, Captain Belaye, Blanche his bride and her aunt, Mrs Dimple. Jasper falls in love with Poll but she has eyes only for the captain. She steals on board his ship with her friends to attract his attention but he has eyes only for Blanche and she is so disappointed when the captain leads Blanche and Mrs Dimple on board HMS Hot Cross Bun. However when Jasper enlists as a midshipman Poll finally takes an interest in him and the ballet ends happily with Mrs Dimple representing Britannia. With music selected and arranged from the works of Sir Arthur Sullivan it was a great patriotic romp.

Captain Belaye was portrayed majestically by Andrew Potter. Readers of last year's review of The Nutcracker will remember that he was Drosselmeyer. Jasper was danced by Stephen Quildan whom Jessica Wilson has interviewed recently in Dance Direct (see Stephen Quildan – Educating Experiences 13 March 2015). He displayed great virtuosity - I couldn't help clapping one particularly difficult jump even though I shouldn't have done - but also he expressed loving, longing, disappointment and despair so eloquently. Scarlett Mann was a delightful Poll - coquettish, determined, devious but still delightful whether selling trinkets on the quayside or marshalling the crew of the Hot Cross Bun. Also attractive was Megan McLatchie as Blanche. However, for me the star of the show was Marion Pettet as Mrs Dimple - and Britannia. Last year she was Frau Stahlbaum. A wonderful actor as well as an accomplished dancer and a great chair of the Chelmsford Ballet Company.

The Carnival of the Animals was written by Saint-Saëns which is best known for The Swan. That piece upon which Fokine created The Dying Swan for Anna Pavlova never fails to move me even when I hear it on a DVD player or over the radio. There are many reasons for that - some personal - to which I alluded in my review of Northern Ballet's Sapphire gala last week (see Sapphire 16 March 2015). Last Saturday Javier Torres presented a new interpretation of Saint-Saëns's music and last night we got another. A pas de deux between Quildan and Jasmine Wallis which was also lovely. Typical Marney.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Marney did not create a new version of The Carnival of the Animals. He made a ballet about a company that was about to dance The Carnival of the Animals. A young stage hand longed to dance - perhaps because of his longing for its principal dancer performed beautifully by Wallis. But when he tried to lift her - dainty though she is - he found that pas de deux work was not quite as easy as it looked. According to Tim Tubbs's programme notes the ballet was set in the 1930s - the heroic early days of the English ballet after Diaghilev had died but before the Second World War when endless touring by the Vic-Wells Ballet won the hearts of the nation to this originally foreign art form. There were a few animals - foxes perhaps - and a yapping lap dog quite invisible to all but the dancers but clearly another dog like Bif which could do ballet (see Woof 12 Oct 2014 to understand the reference) - but the main characters were people. Quildan the stage hand, Wallis his sweetheart and principal dancer and Pettet her mother.

Again, Pettet stole the show for me as the bossy, fussy but affectionate mother but she was not the only star. Quildan with a foot in a bucket one moment and fumbling the ballerina the next - showed that he can amuse an audience as well as amaze it. Wallis was an adorable ballerina. Everybody in that show danced well. Jessica Wilson (the blogger who interviewed Wilson and danced Harlequin last year) and Jenni Stafford as the ballerina's friends, Georgia Otley and Amelia Wallis (Clara in last year's show) as playful school kids, Hannah Cotgrove, McLatchie again and Carly Parry as the domestics and Mann, April Goulding and Darci Willsher as the company's dancers. It must have been such a thrill for them to work with a dancer of the calibre of Marney and one which each and every one of them richly deserved.

I loved The Nutcracker but this double bill was even better. "What are you doing next year?" I asked Marion Pettet when I congratulated her after the show. "Not sure" was the answer. I suggested La Sylphide at first because ir is a ballet in a British setting which should be danced by a British company. But then I remembered their wonderful young women dancers (some of whom I have mentioned above) which is the company's strength. Wouldn't they be splendid in the entry of the shades in La Bayadère?

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Danceworks Academy

Photo Danceworks
All rights reserved

Danceworks is best known for its classes for adults. Particularly in ballet. It attracts outstanding teachers and performers from around the world to take its classes. One of them will be Michaela DePrince on 7 July 2014 (see Dance with DePrince 2 March 2015). I just wish I were young enough and good enough to benefit from that class. I urge all who are to do so while places are still available.

However, Danceworks latest initiative is an International Ballet Academy for younger dancers which will open on 14 Sept 2015. According to Danceworks's website, the "focus is to identify and develop young talent to work towards the highest level of classical ballet formation and to enable those who want to enter into a professional career in any of the various forms of dance or theatre arts." The academy is open to boys and girls aged 8 to 16. Classes will take place at Danceworks's premises at 16 Balderton Street just off Oxford Street near Bond Street tube.

The course Director will be Kim White of the  Vevey Youth Ballet School in Switzerland. White was the first American to compete in the Grand Prix of Lausanne and she studied under George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexandra Danilova, Melissa Hayden, Oleg and Mireille Briansky. The Artistic Director will be Antonia Franceschi who was one of the last dancers to be selected personally by George Balanchine to join the New York City Ballet. Classes will also be given by Celisa Diuana who danced with the Royal Ballet until 2012.

An original syllabus for the course known as the International Ballet Curriculum has been prepared by White and Franceschi. It will also be used in Danceworks's first International Ballet Summer Intensive for students aged between 8 and 16 which will take place at 16 Balderton Street between the 20 and 31 July 2015.

Applications for both the Academy and the summer school can be made through Danceworks's website and further particulars including information about fees and scholarships can be obtained on request. It appears to be possible to take classes at the Academy on a drop in basis at the cost of £22 for an hour's class and £26 for 90 minutes.

I hope everybody who takes these courses learns a lot and has fun. I shall be very grateful for any feedback from students or parents and relations.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Eh up!

Yesterday I wrote about Wuthering Heights. On Saturday we heard how the first Yorkshire pudding was made (see Sapphire 15 March 2015), Continuing the Yorkshire theme the Royal Academy of Dance has just announced the judges for the finals of the Genée and two of the three have very strong connections with Yorkshire.

David Bintley was actually born in God's own county:
"Huddersfield is not as famous in the world of classical dance as St Petersburg, Paris or London, but it was the birthplace of David Bintley - one of the most consistent and significant forces in British ballet."
Mr Bintley will be pleased to know that ballet is taught well in his home town (see  Team Hud Adult Ballet Class 22 Jan 2014 and The Base Studios, Huddersfield 13 March 2013) and that the Choral continues to flourish there (The Choral 19 Dec 2013).

David Nixon OBE was born in Canada but he is Artistic Director of the Northern Ballet which is based in Leeds. Nothing shows his feel for this county better than Wuthering Heights. As I said yesterday in my review of that ballet:
"I have lived in the Pennines for 30 years among the royds, below enormous skies and know the sudden and sometimes dramatic changes of colour of heath and sky. Rarely have I seen such faithful re-creation of nature on the stage."
The Genée is to return to London between the 10 and 19 Sept 2015. The programme is set out in the RAD's website. Both the semi-finals, which take place at Stratford Circus Arts Centre between the 16 and 17, and the finals, which take place at Sadler's Wells on the 19, will be open to the public. Although those events take place in London there will be associated events in other parts of the UK (see Creative Spaces on the RAD website). Applications to take part in the event will be open from the 1 May 2015. The RAD offers financial support to candidates through its Darcey Bussell bursary scheme and other initiatives.

Many of the greats of British ballet have launched their careers at The Genée - Doreen Wells, David Drew, David Edwards and Leanne Benjamin to name just a few and more recently Céline GittensXander Parish, Francesca HaywardSean Bates and Mlindi Kulashe. One school that has done well at The Genée over the years is Ballet West in Taynuilt (see Ballet West: - You Can't Argue With Success 2 Feb 2015).

The RAD appeals for funds to support the event and those who wish to do so can find out how on the Support The Genée page of the RAD's website.