Sunday, 29 May 2016

Want a class tomorrow?


Most dance teachers and students will take the day off tomorrow but Danceworks and Pineapple will be open.

You will find Danceworks's schedule here and Pineapple's here.

If you are a beginner or, like me, a show learner, I can strongly recommend Adam Pudney's class at Danceworks between 16:00 and 17:30. He has high standards and although he also has abundant patience he will expect the best from you and squeeze it out of you.   I have taken two of his classes (see Pineapple 20 Nov 2013 and Another Slice of Pineapple 12 July 2015) and enjoyed them both tremendously.

If you go to either studio you will need to buy at least temporary membership which entitles you to enter the building and then pay the instructor for his or her class. Fees vary but most seem to be about £8.

Dawson's Swan Lake comes to Liverpool

A typically generous tweet from one of my favourite dancers whose company has also been busy with its performances of 1984 at Sadler's Wells and Jane Eyre at Richmond.   The "fabulous ballet tradition" to which Hannah Bateman refers is probably the one referred to by Graham Watts:
I am personally delighted by both promotions because Bethany Kingsley-Garner delighted me with her performance as Cinderella last December (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015) and Constance Devernay with hers in Hansel and Gretel.  I might add in passing that I hope Hampson's renewal of the tradition spreads to other companies because I can think of at least one female leading soloist whose elevation to "premier" (or principal) dancer I should like to see very much indeed.

Yesterday I tipped Scottish Ballet's Swan Lake in What's On Tonight 28 May 2016 even though I have not yet seen it. I felt safe in doing so for two reasons.  The first is that I have seen David Dawson's work before and trust him to do a good job (see my reviews of Empire Noire and 5 in Going Dutch 29 June 2015 and Ballet Bubbles 16 Feb 2016). The second is that I know and trust the company having followed them ever since they were in Bristol. I love them dearly and they have never disappointed me.  I can't say that of many other companies. Not even the Royal Ballet.

Dawson was commissioned to create a new Swan Lake and the synopsis suggests that is exactly what he has done. It is possible to be innovative without being gimicky and his story seems to be one that is believable and within human experience yet faithful to the classical tale.  However, it is not just Petipa that inspired Dawson. According to Scottish Ballet's website he also drew inspiration from Zbigniew Herbert's poem Study of the Object.

Does it work?  I shall find out on Friday when I see the ballet for myself at the Liverpool Empire. However, one Northern Irish ballet goer seems to think so:
And the conclusion was:

I have never met Friends Ballet NI and do not even know the author's gender but I know from his or her tweets that he or she is very knowledgeable and perceptive about ballet.  I remember tweeting to Friends Ballet NI from Leeds station last March about another company's Swan Lake which I did not like nearly as much as he or she seems to like Scottish Ballet's. If Friends Ballet NI who has had to take a flight or cross the sea to see it enjoyed last night's show, I don't think anybody who took my tip yesterday will be sharpening a claymore out for my blood for wasting his or her evening.

Changing the subject radically I do hope to see Matthew Broadbent on Friday. He used to be with Northern Ballet and he is greatly missed.  Not only is he a fine dancer as you will see from my review of Cinderella he is also something of a novelist. Check out The Boy from Colombo and The Girl from Bletchley Park (Dr Shaw Murder Mystery).

Saturday, 28 May 2016

What's on Tonight

The Coliseum
Author Mile Peel
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Want to see a ballet tonight?   Here's your choice:

Royal Ballet
Royal Opera House Covent Garden

Northern Ballet
Sadler’s Wells
Very limited
Ballet Black
Fairfield Halls, Croydon
Dogs don’t do Ballet
Don’t miss
Scottish Ballet
Festival Edinburgh
Some availability

Ballet Theatre UK
Hertford Theatre

If I could get to London in time my recommendations would be the Royal Ballet's triple bill or Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet.   If I were in Scotland I would make tracks for Edinburgh to see Swan Lake.

PS, How could I forget these dear people? Ballet Cymru are dancing Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs at the Blackwood Miners' Institute though I think they have sold out. If you can get there then go. Here's my review of last week's show. 

My Last Three Pictures from Budapest: Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty

Dimitry Timofeev and Aliya Tankpaveva
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

All good things must come to an end and I have finally come to the end of my stock of photos of the Hungarian National Ballet's opening night of Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty at the Budapest Opera House on Sunday 17 April 2016.   As you can see I have left some of the best till last.  My thanks to Mr. György Jávorszky, the company's press officer and to the photographer Atilla Nagy.

The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

You will find my review of the ballet and a short video at Sir Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty in Budapest 23 April 2016.

The other photos are at:
The Sleeping Beauty
Photo Atilla Nagy
(c) Hungarian National Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by the Company

You may also wish to read my article on the background to the ballet (The Hungarian National Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 24 Feb 2016) and my account of the cast party (My Trip to Hungary 21 April 2016) and watch the delightful video of the Puss in Boots divertiseement.


Alicia Alonso
Source Wikipedia

Javier Torres's appearance at the London Ballet Circle last Monday reminded me of the extraordinary contribution of Cuban dancers to British ballet. Torrres is for the moment one of two male premier dancers at Northern Ballet  the other of whom has just announced that he is about to take leave of absence (see Batley and Leebolt 10 May 2016). Carlos Acosta may have retired as principal dancer with the Royal Ballet (see Au Revoir but not Adieu 19 Nov 2015) but he is still very busy. Yonah Acosta and Alejandro Virelles are principals of English National Ballet.

I could go on and I could also find Cubans as principal dancers in many other countries around the world. That is impressive for a country with a population of just over 11 million whose gross national income is US$7,301 per head which ranks 67 in the UN's human development index (see UN Development Programme Human Development Indicators).

Clearly one reason for such success is that it has directed considerable resources to the development of the the art which is only possible in a command economy (see Michael Voss Passion fuelling Cuban Ballet Boom 7 Nov 2008 BBC).  According to Wikipedia the Cuban National Ballet School is the biggest in the world with over 3,000 students and there are several other schools and classes throughout the island. Another reason, however, is the genius, drive and vision of Alicia Alonso, the founder of the National Ballet of Cuba. Alonso, who had a glittering career in the USA, established the National Ballet in the name of the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company some 11 years before the present government came to power.

This blog has acknowledged Alonso's genius in two articles. The first is the review by Joanna Goodman of the National Ballet's Swan Lake in Havana on 27 June 2014 (see "We are the dancers, we create the dreams": Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2016). Alonso took the curtain call and Joanna managed to snap that great dancer together with Viengsay Valdés who danced Odette-Odile that night. The second was my tribute to Alonso on her 95th birthday last December (see Alicia Alonso 22 Dec 2015).

For many years Cuba was isolated from its neighbours by diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed by the USA and other members of the Organization of American States. During that period Cuba depended heavily on aid from the former Soviet Union and its allies which would have increased Soviet influence in all areas of Cuban life including the performing arts. Happily there has been rapprochement between Cuba and the USA which means that Cuba will be open to other influences. Will ballet continue to flourish in ballet n changing times? I hope so and think there is every chance that it will if only because ballet is flourishing in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America.

Friday, 27 May 2016

The Lowry CAT

There are in England nine Centres for Advanced Training in Dance ("CAT") which identify children and young people with exceptional talent for dance and develop them through contact with leading dancers, teachers and choreographers. One of the Centres is in Leeds and Mel and I attended its 10th anniversary gala and "decadent afternoon tea" at Northern Ballet's studios and the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre just under two years ago (see Coming Down to Earth Gently 30 June 2014). It was a glorious afternoon and much if not all the credit belongs to Hannah Bateman who was in charge of it.

Just across the Pennines, however, is another CAT in the Lowry at Salford in Greater Manchester. As you can see from the film that Centre does great work too. Like the other schemes the Lowry is
"a part time, pre-vocational course, providing access to high quality training and nurturing in dance to young people who have a passion for the art form and who wish to progress toward full time training."
It is funded by the Department of Education and offers intensive training opportunities with professional dance teachers, choreographers and practitioners.  Anyone aged between 10 and 16 may apply for the scheme and those who are accepted may stay until they are 18.

Students are expected to take between 10 to 14 hours of class a week which should include ballet, contemporary dance and creative workshops of which 3 hours should be at the Lowry.  The instructors have glittering credentials.  Paul Bayes Kitcher was a soloist with Birmingham Royal Ballet and Rob Bell spent 15 years with the Dutch National Ballet. Students have worked with Akram Khan, Christopher Marney, Hofesh Shechter and many other choreographers and companies during their training.

Those who complete their training successfully proceed to vocational training at schools like Ballet West and Central. One of the programme's graduates is Isaac Bowry who impressed me with his performances as Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker (see Ballet West's The Nutcracker 25 Feb 2013) Rothbart in Swan Lake (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014)  and Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet (see Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015) when he was with Ballet West. I am not sure where he is now but I snatched a fragment of conversation at a recent London Ballet Circle event when his name was mentioned with a commendation.

Fees appear to be £3,649 per year and parents with household incomes under £65,840 can qualify for grants.  Those who want to find out more should call 0161 876 2018 or email

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Opportunities not just for Dancers

Standard YouTube Licence

When I visited Amsterdam in February I toured the studios and workshops of the Dutch National Ballet. The tour included the wardrobe department and I saw many of the costumes for Mata Hari shown in the film above (see Double Dutch Delights 17 Feb 2016). Later in the day I attended Ballet Bubbles at the Meervaart Theatre which opened with a speech by Ernst Meisner in which he said that the Junior Company provided opportunities not just to outstanding young dancers but to technicians and support staff.

My ears pricked up because one of the members of my ballet class at Huddersfield University is a young fine arts and design student with a passion for ballet who happens to be half Dutch. She has already been accepted for a summer placement with the Royal Opera House and hopes to make her career in the theatre. On my return to Yorkshire I told her about Ernst's speech and my tour of the Stopera and she asked me to find out more about the programme for her.

Yesterday the company's press officer Richard Heideman sent me the requested information.  The company recruits its costume designers from the Stichting  Meesteropleiding Coupeur (Master Tailoring Institute) in Amsterdam. The Institute runs a three year training course in partnership with the Dutch National Ballet, the National Opera and other companies much in the way that the Junior Company provides a bridge between ballet school and the senior company.

Anyone who is interested in the programme should contact the institute at:
Stichting Meesteropleiding Coupeur
Jan Maijenstraat 11-15
T 020 820 1153
Yesterday I wrote about the crowd funding intuitive for the young American dancer Melsissa Chapski and the Italian Giovanni Princic (see Crowdfunding for the Ballet 25 May 2016). The donations page is in Dutch which Nadja van Deursen who is in charge of fund raising for the National Ballet thought might be a problem for us Brits who are notorious monoglots. Actually I don't think it is because Dutch is the nearest relation to English and I can understand most of what is written or said to me in the Netherlands including Ernst's speech though that may be because I studied German which even more closely related to Dutch at secondary school. Be that as it may she has suggested that those of us who are not Dutch can donate to Melissa and Giovanni's scholarship fund through this page and I have just done so.