Monday, 30 June 2014

Coming Down to Earth Gently

After Saturday's performance another member of the cast wrote:
"For me I was a little disappointed, it was a lovely moment dancing on that stage with such lovely people but it all ended so quickly, I almost felt robbed. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning and dancing that enchainement to “Return of the Maxim” with you and the other ladies of Northern ,,,,,,,,,,,,"
I know what she means. I also experienced a tinge of sadness as I scuttled off the stage after the reverence and mounted the stairs to the landing where we had left our clothes. But it was short lived for there were so many delights and diversions afterwards: flowers from Mel and another bunch yesterday from Vlad the Lad and his Mum and Dad yesterday, hugs from my friends and family, lovely texts, tweets and emails from all over the world (especially after Mel's review appeared), a scrumptious meal at the Wardrobe with Vlad the Lad, his Mum and Dad and Mel, the delight on Vlad's face when I presented him with Anna Kemp's "Dogs Don't Do Ballet", a house full of guests and a child's laughter and, perhaps best of all yesterday's 10th Anniversary CAT Gala at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre,

The afternoon began with the thrill of meeting Kenneth Tindall who approached me as I was waiting for Mel in the foyer. I recognized him because I had seen him on stage many times but he seemed to know who I was for he greeted me very cordially. "How are you doing?" he asked "Were you dancing yesterday? How did you find it?" I told him that I enjoyed performing very much and that it was very different from a rehearsal even in the theatre. "Yes" he agreed. The thrill of being in the presence of an audience always raises one's performance and one never loses that thrill however often one performs.

Shortly afterwards we were led upstairs to one of the rehearsal studios where there were tables groaning with sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes.  Kenneth Tindall invited Mel to sit next to him on his table and I sat next to her. Also next to Tindall was Natalie Russell who was one of my favourite dancers and whose little boy Charlie made friends with Vlad the Lad while waiting to see our show. I was joined by Laraine Penson whom I had met at Northern Ballet's business breakfast on 23 Sept 2013 (see "The Things I do for my Art: Northern Ballet's Breakfast Meeting" 23 Sept 2013). Connexions of Matthew Topliss who had also danced at that event were on the other side of our table. Last but by no means least, Cara O'Shea sat with us for a little while. I can attest that she is a fine teacher for I have actually had the pleasure of attending one of her classes (see "A Treat For Us Old Ladies" 27 Feb 2014).

We were each offered a flute of champagne with which our table toasted the CAT and looked forward to the next 10 years. While we were tucking into our cakes and scones we were joined briefly by David Nixon (whom I had met briefly the day before on the landing after the show) and later the wonderful Yoko Ichino who sat on our table for a few minutes. It is always a thrill to meet a ballerina but Ichino is special. I must be one of the few people in England to have seen her dance in the USA and I remember her appearance to this day. I blurted out how much I loved her performance, a compliment that she had accepted with the utmost grace. But I had also seen Ichino in February (see "Northern Ballet Open Day" 16 Feb 2014) and it was the thrill of seeing her and Cara teach that prompted me to become a Friend of the Academy as well as the company.

After the meal we took our seats for the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre for the show. Passing the stage which was illuminated faintly by a gentle blue light I marvelled that I had actually danced there the day before. The show was introduced by David Nixon who outlined the history of the CAT programme. It began with students on the current programme and continued with some of its recent graduates who had returned as special guest performers. They were all outstanding and it would be unfair to single any of them out for special praise but I did like Courtney George very much indeed. She danced her solo with remarkable grace, power and speed.  Mel, who knows far more about dance than me, will write a proper review in due course. Each of the returning guests was presented with a big bouquet by one of the junior students which was a nice touch but an even nicer touch was a single Yorkshire white rose that was presented to each of the graduating students by Ichino herself.

The afternoon had been arranged by Hannah Bateman who is one of my favourite dancers at Northern Ballet. Here she is talking about the event. We all owe her a great debt of gratitude for a splendid day.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014



On Saturday 28th June I was one of the few members of the public who was actually able to secure a ticket for the hotly anticipated 2014 Showing of the Northern Ballet Academy! The showing is a unique event, giving students from dinky toddlers to the 'silver swans' in the over 55s class a taster of professional performance in a purpose-built dance venue.

The programme kicked off with a lovely introduction from Academy teachers Jane Tucker and Cara O'Shea. Like Jane, I've often admired Cara's teaching style (I would watch the Saturday classes at Northern Ballet during downtime from Big Ballet filming, of which there would be a lot!) and her passion and love for teaching and her students really shone through in her introduction. Our attention was brought to a young CAT student at the Academy, Juliette Dumouchel, who due to an injury that kept her from dancing this year was asked to choreograph a piece for her peers to perform in the show. Entitled 'Chapter One', the piece was informed by Juliette's own experience of personal struggle and showed the nurturing power that can come from supportive communities. The piece had clarity, flow, momentum and moments of genuine feeling and it can safely be said that this young dance maker has a very bright future ahead of her.

The 16.00pm showing itself was a mixture of the aforementioned dinky toddlers, CAT students, Academy Associates, Jazz dancers and the Over -55s group (which was Jane's debut in a ballet performance). Within the younger members of the Academy I was particularly impressed with the presentation and delivery of Cara's CAT boys, the expansive port de bras of Fiona Beale's Ballet 3 group and the whole 'shebang' of Cara's Jazz dancers (who treated us to a very lively performance of 'Step in Time' complete with chimney sweep brushes!) 

But I wasn't there merely to admire the future generations of dancers, I was also there to watch a dear friend have the time of her life as she danced on the same stage that many of her favourite dancers had possessed before her. In the months leading up to this performance, Jane had increased the number of classes she was attending and even put herself through an hour's coaching session with yours truly to ensure that she was 100% ready for it. I'd known since being on stage with her during the presentation of our Dream Dance improvisation with Chantry Dance Company that whatever she danced she would bring the stage to life with her smile and her presence, but like all dancers she wanted to ensure that she was as well prepared for her debut as possible.I was a little nervous for her, only because so much was invested in the moment, but as soon as she burst from the wings with her arms gracefully held and her face open and expressive any trepidation I felt on her behalf melted away! 

The dance itself was beautifully choreographed by the Over-55s own teacher, Annemarie Donoghue, to a vibrant and triumphant Shostakovich waltz. With plenty of exits and entrances, that all the dancers handled with aplomb, the piece was exciting and energising to watch and beautifully delivered by the performers. Although there were some moments when gazes were dropped to the floor by some members of the group, Jane, Madeleine and Hilary had their projection down pat! I felt a genuine sense of triumph on Jane's behalf as she skillfully negotiated her way through that tricky 'balance, balance en tournant' section, never once dropping her radiant smile or losing the lift and expression through her port de bras. All too-quickly it was over, and as soon as my friends Jane and Madeleine had come on to the stage, they left with a cheeky dash of epaulement in the final pose (and to rapturous applause, might I add?!)


The showing closed with a surging finale from the members of the Academy's CAT programme, choreographed by Artistic Director David Nixon himself, Cara and the legendary Yoko Ichino (Associate Director of the Academy). With challenging pointework for the ladies, bravura allegro steps for the gentlemen and rushing, expressive port de bras for the CAT 'corps' this piece, set to music by Karl Czerny, really showed off these students to their best advantage. 

Throughout the showing I was continually impressed by how well rehearsed each group of performers were and just how much skill and aptitude for movement the Academy's dancers have (that includes you, Jane!) During their introductory speech Jane and Cara spoke of the key fundamentals of the Ichino Technique - strength, control, placement - and it was clear to me that each student attending a class at the Northern Ballet is developed in these areas. From the academic plies of Pre Ballet 1 through to the use of the floor by members of the Over-55's group, the Northern Ballet Academy really is developing dancers who can move and hold your attention.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Time of My Life



I have just danced in my first ballet and I am over the moon. I don't have a programme but I think it is called something like "And the Dance Goes On".  I danced it as part of the Over 55 class's contribution to the Northern Ballet Academy's end of year show. We performed in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre which is where I have seen Northern Ballet, Ballet Black and MurleyDance

Our music was Shostakovich's Waltz for Flute, Clarinet and Piano "The Return of Maxim" 1937 Op 45. If anyone is interested, it forms part of the soundtrack of a film by the same name which I have tried to watch. Our choreographer was our instructor Annemarie Donoghue.

Annemarie had asked us to meet her in the foyer of Northern Ballet at 14:15.  It was very crowded and I sat with my guests who had just arrived from London until she appeared.  She led us up to a rehearsal studio where we did some pliés, tendus and ronds de jambe at the barre.  We then rehearsed the ballet twice from  the top before we were led down to the stage for a final rehearsal.  After that rehearsal we were led back to a waiting area on one of the landings where we applied our make up and adjusted our hair and costumes.

After a wait that seemed to last for hours we were summoned to the stage. We piled into a goods lift which afforded the only anxious moment because the doors shut but the lift refused to move.  Happily it juddered back to life and we crept by the back entrance into the wings.  Some young women were on stage as we came in. The music stopped.  We heard applause.  The lights went out.  The girls slid past us and we heard the first few bars of our tune.

The ballet began with pairs of dancers running across the stage.  I was one of the second pair on the right.  I saw the second pair prepare to set off from the left and followed them.  Another pair joined us from behind. At the count of 7 we started swaying.  My teacher in Huddersfield had coached me in swaying a few days earlier.  She told me to imagine that I was stroking a delicate and precious fabric. Her voice came back to me as if in a recording.  

Next we broke out of line and began a movement that had been taught in the one rehearsal that I had to miss.  It consisted of a curtsy, balancé, turn, hop, chassé, pas de bourrée, soutenu and scarper.  I know I missed some steps and was flat footed but hell's bells who was counting.

Next I had to run across the stage with another lady. Originally that was to have been a temps levé but the choreographer wisely turned it into a run.

Then the final movement.  Four of us dashed across the stage from the left and stood with our arms in open fifth. One of our colleagues wove round us and we turned in the same direction as her run. Then the lady in front of me and I circled each other and set off in opposite directions.  One temps levé  to the right, a turn, two to the left, turns dehors and dedans and then back to our original positions.

In the last movement my partner led me to the front of the stage where she knelt.  I ran round her from the left and right.  We got up, more swaying each row in opposite directions, a soutenu, more swaying, another soutenu and eye contact.  

The music stopped.  We curtsied. And again we scarpered, ecstatic and excited but quite exhausted.

Waiting for me on my return to the waiting area was a beautiful bouquet from Mel.  

Being on stage in front on a paying audience in a commercial theatre of a major city was delicious.  It was altogether different from rehearsal and very different from class. Strangely it was very like advocacy and the part of my brain that switches on when I go to court kicked in on stage. Just as you can never betray lack of confidence to a judge or opponent however weak your case or however appalling your witness you can't let your smile slip on stage. But I wasn't acting. I really did want to be there. The same buzz that I get in court was there on stage. I was as happy as Larry.

I have no idea what the audience thought of us. I don't think anyone threw a tomato or egg at us or if they did they missed. Mel was there and she has offered to review us for this blog. Somehow I don't think she will encourage me to give up my day job.  I hope she will be kind.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Introducing Mel


















I'm not sure that Mel needs an introduction, Her first two posts for Tepsichore - "Kenneth Tindall - The Architect of Ballet"  21 June 2014 and "For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast" 24 June 2014 - have been extraordinarily popular. That's not just because she can write well. It is because she is a dancer and knows what she is talking about.

Mel came to my notice when she was in Channel 4's Big Ballet. As I said in my review "No Excuses! If the Dancers in Big Ballet can do it so can I" 21 Feb 2014 I did not watch the series because I don't like reality TV but I did watch the film of the performance on Channel 4's website and was impressed. She signed up to BalletcoForum of which I was already a member shortly after the show and we swapped a few pleasantries now and again.  We started to correspond because she appealed for a dance teacher on BalletcoForum and I happened to know a good one.  In the course of correspondence Mel told me something of her career in dance and shared links to some videos of her on YouTube.

We actually met for the first time in May when I gave her a lift to Lincoln to see Chantry Dance (see "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014). On the way down to Lincoln we got on like a house on fire. Ballet is a lifetime passion for me but it is not for everyone so I have to be careful who I share it with. No such problems with Mel. It was so good to meet someone who was as enthusiastic about dance as I was. That trip to Lincoln was a first for me for we ended up dancing on stage. There was no audience for our performance but Gail Gordon of Chantry Dance filmed us on her iPad,

The teacher that I had recommended applied for and got the job and she invited me to take her class in Sheffield. Mel took that class too and I saw her dance. She dances quite differently from most women. She is strong and really soars in her sautés and jetés.  She's not called Skydancer for nothing. She's got just about as far as she can taking class in the evenings and now wants to take professional training while she still can. She has appealed for funding through gofundme and she has already made quite a good start.

Some styles of dancing have been atrophied by tradition until they are reduced to a few dedicated practitioners. Ballet is a long way from that fate so long as it evolves but there are purists who like to keep things just the way they are. One of the ways in which it has to evolve to avoid atrophy is to recognize that women do not have to be petite and princess-like. In the real world they come in all shapes and sizes and do all sorts of jobs from architects to zoo keepers some of which require enormous physical strength and endurance. As we saw in the Olympics and other sport women brandishing bats and boxing gloves can be just as beautiful to watch as ballerinas. Mel may never look right as Lise or Giselle but she is just right for the roles that just need the right choreographer. Maybe Mel will even be that choreographer.

Fille bien gardée - Nottingham 26 June 2014


Birmingham Royal Ballet - La Fille mal gardée trailer from Rob Lindsay on Vimeo.

La Fille mal gardée is the oldest ballet that is still performed regularly. It was first staged in the Grand Theatre of Bordeaux two weeks before the storming of the Bastille, the event that precipitated the French Revolution. In another sense it is a very modern ballet. It has no shades or wilis, no wicked magicians who transform girls into swans, no kings or queens, princes or princesses. It takes place not in some mythical or exotic land but in rural France. Normandy judging by Osbert Lancaster's backdrops, It is about a young man and a young woman in love who find a way to be together despite the best efforts of the young woman's mother to marry her off to the wealthy but in every other way unsuitable village idiot. For those who have yet to see the ballet, here's the story guide,

The version of the ballet with which British audiences are most familiar was choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton in 1960 to an arrangement of the music of Ferdinand Hérold by John Lanchbery with sets and costumes by Lancaster. He created powerful roles for the lovers in which he cast Nadia Nerina and David Blair but he also created amusing character roles for Stanley Holden as the social climbing mother and Alexander Grant as the halfwitted suitor. I never saw Nerina but I did see Merle Park and Doreen Wells in the title role as well as Holden and Grant.  Ashton's ballet contains some of the best known and best loved scenes such as the clog dance and the "Fanny Elssler pas de duex".

The Birmingham Royal Ballet has taken La Fille mal gardée on a summer tour which David Bintley describes as part of a "small celebration" of the work of the Royal Ballet's founder Frederick Ashton. I caught it at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham which is a delightful building with a more than passing resemblance to the Grand Theatre in Bordeaux. The lovers were danced by Maureya Lebowitz and Chi Cao, the mother by Rory Mackay, the halfwit by Kit Holder and his dad by Jonathan Payn.

Lebowitz was a delightful Lise - witty and pretty - just like Park as I remember her.  It took me longer to warm to Chi Cao.  He is a powerful dancer and I loved his turns and jumps. But Colas has a funny side. For example he likes his drink and he's also a  bit cheeky. Chi Cao played it very straight which is by no means wrong as there are some who would like that interpretation. As for the character dancers I loved them all, particularly MacKay as widow Simone.

Leaving the theatre, everyone seemed to smile or grin. It's a feel good ballet that I have already seen many times and hope to see many times again. Nobody - not even the London Royal Ballet does Ashton as well as Birmingham. They are Ashton's heirs and they have kept their Fille very well indeed. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ballet West meets Gaming in FantasyCon!


McGrath in George Balanchine's 'Rubies' ©The George Balanchine Trust

I spotted this little piece of news via my Twitter feed and felt compelled to share it with dear Terpsichore readers since it does have a tenuous link with Jane's recent coverage of the Bounden game. I also though it quite an interesting collaboration and very in keeping with my own interest in bringing classical ballet to a wider audience...

Elizabeth McGrath, First Soloist with Ballet West, is bringing her 'immersive, creative and beautiful' dance apparel and performance company Red Pirouette to Salt Lake City's FantasyCon Convention this July.

In its own words, FantasyCon is
the first convention of its kind to open the world of fantasy to all and create an interactive, immersive experience that celebrates pop fantasy culture.
and aims to
bring together the world of fantasy to celebrate the Medieval Renaissance culture and fantasy genres in games, films, artwork, and literary works.
The piece that McGrath and her company (including talented Ballet West Soloist Sayaka Ohtaki, Demi-Soloist Katlyn Addison, Artists Zachary Prentice of Breaking Pointe fame and Kimberly Ballard and Second Company member Lucas Horns) will bring to the convention is entitled 'A Magical Misadventure'. It promises to be"an exciting tale of what can happen when sorcery falls into dangerous hands" and will feature music from popular international video games Elder Scrolls (even I've heard of that one!) and Castelvania. Performances of the piece will be given on July 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th and interested readers can find out more about it here.

Ballet West (not to be confused with our own Ballet West in Scotland) is based in Salt Lake City and is considered to be the premier ballet company in the Western region of the country. It was also the subject of a unique Reality TV series 'Breaking Pointe', which went behind the scenes of the company and brought ballet to the audience of the CW Network! As a dancer and dance fan I was naturally hooked on both seasons of the show and I have been keeping a close eye on what the dancers that I admired during the show have been up to since. It's encouraging to see that McGrath is  passionate about bringing the art form of ballet to a new audience, and hopefully this collaboration will be the start of many between different creative minds across the globe.


Readers who are familiar with 'Breaking Pointe' will also no doubt be as excited to find out about Soloist Allison DeBona's new project Art With Alli (https://twitter.com/artwithalli search #artwithalli) as I was. I will leave it to the lady herself to describe it, and I encourage you to read more on her blog Allison's Pointe of View:  

Over the next 12 months, I am going to challenge you.  Ask yourself questions you’ve never asked before and push your mind and body to places you’ve never taken it before.  The great part about it is, you will not be alone!  This month I want you to explore your motivation for dancing and your contribution to our art form.  How are you planning on moving an audience to tears or make them jump to their feet with applause?  What will make you stand out on stage so people can’t take their eyes off you?  
I've already contributed my thoughts to her forum, and I hope you will all join me and share yours! 



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Legal Ballerina




















The Inns of Court the Royal Opera House are a few hundred yards apart but ballet dancers and barristers don't have a lot to do with each other even though (as I said in From Bar to Barre 30 March 2013) they have far more in common than one might think. There are, of course, notable exceptions like Professor Webley and Tracey Summerell who share my passion and profession but they are few and far between.

It may be different in the USA. A few weeks ago I found the blog of The Legal Ballerina, a personal injuries lawyer and dancer. She is married and, judging by the holiday snaps that she posted to her blog, she has two delightful children (see "Disney Vacation Part 2" 13 May 2014). The Legal Ballerina is about half my age but has been dancing for a little bit longer:
"I started ballet in November, 2011, after a friend asked me to join her in a class. I always wanted to try ballet, but I thought (like most people) I was too old. After a few months and a few bad lessons, I realized that if I really wanted to be good at dancing I had to approach it like any other venture – Practice, Practice, and MORE Practice."
She is so right about that. She adds:
"I want to SHOUT TO THE WORLD that, no matter what your age, you can achieve your dream of becoming a ballet dancer. All you need is to do is put in a little “can do” attitude and MAJOR elbow grease."
And it seems to work.  She writes about her sense of triumph at mastering a fouetté, double pirouette.("Fouetté, Double Pirouette… Really?!?!" 25 June 2014). We can almost feel a glow of satisfaction radiating from the other side of the Atlantic.  Legal Ballerina's blog is a joy to read. It's very funny but it does pass on some useful tips such as Allison DeBona's stretching video that appears in today's issue.

I don't know whether The Legal Ballerina has plans to visit London but if she does I should love to show her the Inns of Court and Covent Garden. Maybe we could take a class together at Pineapple or perhaps see a ballet at the House, Wells or Coliseum.

"Stuck in the Mud" doesn't mean you're stuck



I came across Ballet Cymru's collaboration with Gloucestershire Dance while writing my review of Beauty and the Beast (see "Diolch yn Fawr - Ballet Cymru's Beauty and the Beast" 24 June 2014). Gloucester Dance (GDance) describes itself on its website as a "production and training company specialist in inclusive practice" which aims "to effect real change and to address barriers to participation in, and progress through, the arts sector".

The collaboration shown in the YouTube video above is called "Stuck in the Mud". As GDance says:
"Mud is sticky and mucky and icky. But it’s fun to jump in, play with, and grows and makes beautiful things."
There is certainly beauty in the dance that the two companies have created.  Ballet Cymru and GDance are bringing Stuck in the Mud to the Llandudno Arts Weekend on the 20 and 21 Sept and I hope to be there to see it for myself.

Stuck in the Mud is not the only inclusive dance project in the UK. I am proud to say that Northern Ballet has an accessible dance programme and it supported Big Ballet. As it said in its press release "The door is always open with Northern Ballet"
"The Company has been pioneering accessible ballet since it was founded nearly 45 years ago and works hard to ensure the joy of dance is available to everyone to experience."
 My collaborator Mel  danced in Big Ballet and she is perfecting her art. So inclusive ballet is worth supporting. And I speak as a 65 year old overweight badly coordinated transsexual woman who has the nerve to strut out onto the stage of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre next Saturday.  If that is not an example of inclusive ballet I don't know what is. One that includes canines perhaps? Everyone knows that Dogs don't Do Ballet but perhaps Christopher Marney and Ballet Black know different.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Nervous? Shhhhh...... Northern Ballet's Over 55 Class End of Term Show

Today I went behind the scenes of the Stanley and Audrey Theatre for the first time. It was the technical rehearsal for the our class's turn in the Academy of Northern Ballet - End of Year Show 2014 and I am one of the dancers would you believe. Only last week I saw Tobias Batley, Martha Leebolt and all the other great dancers on that stage. And I am going to be following them. You have no idea how proud that makes me feel.

Proud but apprehensive because this is a first for me. When I was at prep school I dreamed of being Perry Mason, winning the Nobel Prize, opening the batting for England, even of being Prime Minister but never in my wildest dreams did I dare to believe that I would ever dance in a ballet in a major theatre in a great city before a paying audience. I didn't even dream of it last September when I took my first lessons with Annemarie (see "Realizing a Dream" 12 Sept 2013).

So what made me so have a go? Well I saw David Wilson of Dave Tries Ballet in Stockport in February (see "Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport"  19 Feb 2014). He and the other members of his company were having so much fun. Ballet is a performing art and while we can't all be as good as Antoinette Sibley or Anthony Dowell we can all perform. I was tempted again when I saw the wonderful Chelmsford Ballet especially after I met Annette Potter, Marion Pettet and Jessica Wilson. I'm an associate member of that company and I can hardly let the side down. The tipping point was when Gail Gordon of Chantry Dance hauled me on stage and filmed me and the camera didn't protest (see "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance"  10 May 2014).

So I have been working very hard with my teachers Annemarie at Northern Ballet, Fiona at Team Hud and Lucy at Hype. I'm 65 years old. I've got no coordination. I'm overweight. But I'm passionate about dance and will give it my best shot. Mel will be in the audience to review the show - not just our contribution but the whole Academy's. Though she is my friend I respect her integrity and trust her not to pull her punches. So I think the consensus on Sunday morning will be don't give up the day job. Just as well that my clerk always has something for me to do on Monday morning.

For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast


 Photo: Janire Najeera

A little bit of Welsh indulgence
On Sunday 22nd June I embarked on a last minute trip to Lincoln with Jane to see the beautiful Ballet Cymru perform their take on the 'Beauty & The Beast' fable. The company themselves are based just 45 minutes away from my hometown of Bridgend, in a new home set in an unassuming building in an industrial estate in Newport, Gwent. 

Yes, this Newport:


(I can't believe that Ballet Cymru didn't get a mention in this little ditty!)

Anyway, to say that I am proud of this small touring classical ballet company with exceptionally high standards goes without saying! Although currently lacking any Welsh dancers, Artistic Director Darius James is a Newport boy born and bred, and for this evocative production a new score was commissioned from Cardiff University graduate David Westcott. So, despite being far away from my hometown in a modern Performing Arts Centre in the city of Lincoln I still got to see the the pinnacle of Welsh ballet! Ballet Cymru are very much an ensemble, from my brief communications with Assistant Artistic Director Amy Doughty and from observing the dancers and technical staff you get the feeling that they are all collaborating and sharing their skills and talents to make their company a success. They have real heart and soul, and this was no better shown than in their performance.

On with the show...
With the opening strains of Westcott's haunting score cascading through our ears the curtains opened to the full dance company on stage, introducing us to and inviting us in to watch their interpretation of Jean Cocteau’sublime La Belle et la Bête. And invite us in they did! The combination of James' and Doughty's swooping choreography and the rustic screen projections and crisp lighting design gave an intimate feel to the performance, as if we were watching a travelling show of unique, esoteric beings who appear briefly overnight only to disappear the next morning. And all of this was magically pulled together by the bewitching, elegant and dramatic Ballet Cymru dancers.

We're all familiar with the tale, and Cocteau's 'Beauty' is filled with themes of friendship, family, romance and redemption. I believe that Ballet Cymru really managed to convey these themes and ideas within their piece. Nicolas Capelle gave a truly heart-breaking performance as Beauty's father, who upon learning of his son's (Andrea Battaggia) selfishness and greed embarked on a desperate journey to the Beast's castle. At times his desperation made me feel that this journey was more of a suicide mission, as if he couldn't face the shame of returning home empty-handed to a family, who without the presence of a matriarch placed high demands and expectations upon him. After battling through the bewitched Castle (brilliantly brought to life by members of the company) he sights a single red rose and with that remembers his youngest daughter and his promise to her, effectively bringing him back to life. It wasn't the last time that Ballet Cymru's Beauty would have this effect on the men in her life, either.

A cacophony of noise announced the arrival of the Beast onto the stage, and it was a Beast unlike any I had ever seen before. Brilliantly brought to life by Mandev Sokhi (who managed to convey a sense of pathos despite his alien form), this creature was literally skin and bone. I applaud Ballet Cymru for creating a truly physically repellent character that was at times reminiscent of Max Shreck's Count Orlok and Harrison Birtwistle's Minotaur. Sokhi's Beast carried a great burden, shaking, stumbling and contorting his way across the stage during the introductory scenes before re-coiling into an insectoid like form when faced with the purity and honesty of Lydia Arnoux's Beauty. As a fellow dancer I couldn't help but admire Sokhi's stamina and dance talent when, after his unveiling as a handsome prince, he bounded into a serious of bravura steps and pas de deux. This was no mean feat after bending over double for 75% of the production, especially when partnering the petite Arnoux.

Unfortunately, although I was incredibly 'taken' with Capelle, Sokhi and the exceptional Krystal Lowe (who as well as dancing the 'clever sister' role made good use of her strength, fluidity and footwork as part of the Beast's living castle) I wasn't quite as enamoured of Arnoux's Beauty as I needed to be. I like spacious dancers who extend and reach through movement, and Arnoux's petite frame meant that at times the gorgeous choreography was a bit lost on her. And her childlike appearance also brought to mind a sullen Shirley Temple, which made the subsequent romantic duets with a very dashing Daniel Morrison as Avenant a little uncomfortable to watch. I suppose I would also say that I was a little disappointed by the generic casting of a blonde, petite, cherubic dancer as Beauty. I was craving something a little less obvious than that, and at times I found myself imagining what Lowe would be like as Beauty instead. There's no doubt that Arnoux is a very talented dancer and actress, however, and her stage presence and dramatic ability more than made up for her lack of stature amongst some of the ensemble pieces with her taller peers. I look forward to seeing her perform other roles, her lightness and quick feet would make her an ideal Puck if Ballet Cymru would re-cast their version of '...Dream'!

Photographer: Sian Trenberth
Arnoux & Sokhi in rehearsals 

So without giving any more of the ending away, although I'm sure readers will guess that they all lived happily ever after, it just leaves me to say rhydw'yn hoffi Ballet Cymru! I'd also like to give a special mention to Robbie Moorcroft, who brought a sense of vivaciousness and genuine friendship to his performance as friend and companion to Beauty's siblings (he was also kind enough to indulge in a little chat with me after the show!).

Train with the company

Although Ballet Cymru's website (www.welshballet.co.uk) is still under development they are currently taking bookings for their 2014 Summer School via the contact details on the holding page. I'm sure many of my fellow dancers will take advantage of the opportunity to spend a week with this marvelous company! The company are also carrying out an ambitious programme of outreach work within the local community in South Wales, and again contact details for this are displayed on the website.

Diolch yn Fawr - Ballet Cymru's Beauty and the Beast

No not the Beast but the Lincoln Imp
Source Wikipedia
























When I saw Ballet Cymru's Romeo a Juliet last year I wrote:
"I would really like to see more of James's choreography. I have seen a lot of ballet over the last 40 years or so. I rarely get as excited about a company as I did on Saturday."
(See "They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport" 14 May 2014). On Sunday I got my chance. I saw Ballet Cymru's Beauty and the Beast at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre ("LPAC").

LPAC is a complex of studios and auditorium that houses the School of Performing Arts of the University of Lincoln. The university campus stands a few hundred yards from Brayford Pool, a massive expanse of water caused by the broadening of the River Witham in the city centre. It is a wonderful feature that reminds me very much of Perth in Western Australia where there is a similar broadening of the Swan River. Like Edinburgh Lincoln has an old town and a new town though I am not sure that the locals use that terminology. As in Edinburgh the new town has the department stores and offices while the old town has a cathedral and castle. And again like Edinburgh there is a steep hill leading up to the castle and cathedral which is actually called "Steep Hill".

If you mount Steep Hill and enter the cathedral you will find a mischievous wee beastie called the Lincoln Imp who seems to have caused quite a lot of havoc in the East of England in times gone by. The mention of the imp brings me very neatly to Darius James and Amy Doughty's production of Beauty and the Beast. The ballet opened with the company standing still on stage. Then words appeared on the backdrop about children and myth and a quotation from Jean Cocteau who is of course the author of the screenplay and director of La Belle et la Bête.

The ballet follows Cocteau's film somewhat more closely than the de Villeneuve story which makes for strong roles for the beast Mandev Sokhi and Beauty Lydia Arnoux. The beast's costume is a wonderful concoction which looks like something from outer space. The head looks like a cow's skull with horns and his feat are rails. How Sokhi managed to dance in that beats me. Ballet Cymru has very kindly provided me with some pictures of him which Mel will use in her critique of the ballet but if you want to get an idea of his appearance take a butcher's at the holding page of Ballet Cymru's temporary website.  Though a small company it is a pretty good one with some talented dancers. The dancers had to double as Beauty's family and the Beast's attendants. All performed well, Nicholas Capelle as Beauty's father, Daniel Morrison as her suitor, Andrea Battaggia as her spendthrift brother, Robbie Moorcroft as his friend and Krystal Lowe, Natalie Debono and Annette Antal as Beauty's sisters.

As in Romeo a Juliet the designer Steve Denton made skillful use of the projector to effect scene changes from the happy homestead where Beauty lives with her family to the entrance and the interior of the beast's castle. I also loved David Westcott's score. I have reviewed three productions of Beauty and the Beast over the years: Peter Darrell's for Scottish Ballet in Aien (the St Andrews University student newspaper in 1970), David Nixon's for Northern Ballet in 2011 in IP Yorkshire and finally this production. Of the three I liked Ballet Cymru's the most and I think that is largely because I enjoyed Westcott's composition so much.

As soon as the show was over I tweeted
It was picked up immediately by Chantry Dance who gave me my first taste of performing also at Lincoln (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014):
Neither Mel nor I wanted to go home straight after the show so we bounded up Steep Hill as though the Beast was behind us. There we were rewarded with a view of the floodlit cathedral in the twilight. So Diolch yn fawr Ballet Cymru for a lovely day.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014




I am very grateful to Mel for her excellent review of Northern Ballet's Mixed Programme (see Mel Wong "Kenneth Tindall - The Architect of Ballet" 21 June 2014). She saw the show on Wednesday at the start of the company's short season at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre.  I saw it on Saturday night at the end of the run and loved it too. It was a wonderful evening. For me Concerto 622 was the most joyful of the three works, Concertante the most elegant and The Architect the most thrilling.  

I think I am more of a Lubovitch fan than Mel. Concerto 622 was just my cup of tea. I was close to tears for most of that performance, partly because of the intrinsic beauty of the ballet and partly because of the connotations in that it reminded me of Jerome Robbins's Dances at a Gathering which I will always associate with Antoinette Sibley.  In my view the most beautiful part of the ballet was the Adagio. This was a pas de deux by Giuliano Contadini and Matthew Koon. I don't have a video of those dancers but you can appreciate the choreography from this video which has been uploaded by Lubovitch. I particularly liked the butterfly sequence.  Others may have had other relationships in mind but the tenderness between those dancers put me in mind of my 3 year old grandson manqué and his doting dad.

Like Mel I am a van Manen fan and have been for many years. Almost a contemporary of Maurice Béjart, John Cranko, Peter Darrell and Kenneth MacMillan he is the last of the great choreographers of my youth. I had the good fortune of seeing him take a curtain call at the first performance of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company last November. A van Manen ballet is rather like Palladian architecture. There is order and proportion in the choreography, costumes and score. For this work Northern Ballet deployed its stars, Martha Leebolt and Tobias Batley, who were well supported by Giuliano Contadini, Hannah Bateman, Jessica Morgan, Nicola Gervasi, Abigail Prudames and Isaac Lee-Baker.

The tour de force was The Architect by Kenneth Tindall. This is the third of his works that I have seen this year and it is by far the best (see my review of Luminous Jun*cture  in Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013 and mention of Bitter Earth in More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song 30 Sept 2013). It is a multi layered ballet that has to be seen more than once to be understood fully. It can best be described as a creation myth that somehow combines Genesis with genetics. There was the story of the forbidden fruit and the fall of man but there was also a double helix and 4 sets of characters on each male dancer left breast which seemed to me to be DNA sequences from where I was sitting. The choreography was spectacular as was the dancing and Christopher Giles's set was out of this world. There were what appeared to be three bamboo canes each with a living being inside it and a lattice structure like the Eiffel tower through which the dancers crashed and dived towards the end.

As I said above The Architect is a ballet that has to be seen more than once and probably many times to be understood properly. Happily we will all get the chance to see the ballet and study it as often as we need because it is to be filmed. Two weeks before the première of The Architect Tindall and Bateman appealed for funding for the filming on Kickstarter (see "Tindall's Architect - How to Get a Piece of the Action - Literally" 7 June 2014) and I am glad to say that they met their target with just hours to spare ("They made it" 20 June 2014). I an proud to say that both Mel and I put £10 each into the pot and I for one am looking forward to the result.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Kenneth Tindall - The Architect of Ballet



Well, this is certainly exciting! My first contribution for this blog will be a review of the most impactful ballets I have seen so far this year, danced by one of my favourite companies!  I was one of the privileged audience members at Northern Ballet's Company HQ on Wednesday 18th July 2014 to watch the first cast of the 'Mixed Programme 2014/15'. It was also the premier of Kenneth Tindall's 'The Architect' (more on that in a second!) and turned out to be one of the most special and memorable nights of my life.

Before I get on to reviewing the three pieces in the programme (Lar Lubovitch's Concerto Six Twenty-Two, Hans van Manen's Concertante and Tindall's The Architect) I have to say that the company are in superb athletic form right now. It was a real thrill to be able to see them up close in the intimate setting of the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, and its stripped back atmosphere added extra impact to the lighting and set designs used so cleverly in the 3 pieces. This programme really highlights the gifts and strengths of the Northern Ballet and gives them access to work that is beyond the usual boundaries of narrative classical ballet. It also provided moments of real maturity for the younger dancers, particularly Kevin Poeung who clearly put so much GRAFT into his performance in The Architect. The performances I saw last night were just as thought-provoking as dance theatre but lost no amount of classicism or emotion. I feel incedibly proud of  this Yorkshire-based company, they really do belong on the world's stage and this programme will hopefully be their launchpad onto it (they will be bringing the programme to the ROH Linbury in 2015)

Concerto Six Twenty-Two

I'm not personally much of a Lar Lubovitch fan, I find his movement language just a little too on the safe, bland side and many elements of this piece don't really grab and sustain a hold on my attention. It didn't generate in me much of a response above critical appreciation of his work, the mental assimilation of the techniques he used and of course the appreciation for the dancers.

However, even though this piece isn't to my taste the company performed it with such lightness and carefree exuberance. It genuinely was a joy to see them dance and they all managed to convey a sense of true joy at dancing with each other. Hannah Bateman (aka Mrs Tindall!) and Dreda Blow in particular were visions of springtime loveliness. Concerto is a natural fit for the elvish and sprightly Rachael Gillespie, she looked like she was having the time of her life dancing it. Matthew Topliss deserves credit for maintaing the energy and elevation in the Allegro/Rondo pieces and the Adagio PDD between Guiliano Contadini and Matthew Koon was my highlight from this piece.

Concertante

I'm a big fan of Hans van Manen, Nederlands Dance Theatre and Het National Ballet, so I had very high expectations for the performance of this piece. Which, as it turns out were actually exceeded! Contemporary pieces like these that are the lifeblood of European companies can be hard for British ballet companies to master. Not only is the movement itself more extreme than typical classical ballet repertoire, it also requires a subtle intensity, as apposed to 'mannered' performance. Mastering these elements make the diffference between a piece that is well presented to a piece that is performed authentically and hits the mark.

Watching the Northern Ballet dancers performing Concertante I found myself being pulled in, so that I no longer had any awareness of where I was or even WHO these dancers were. It was a prime example of ability of art to be a catalyst for complete transcendence, and the company carried this all the way into and beyond Tindall's Architect. The movement language in this piece is gorgeous, and very 'me', and my favourite moments were 'That' duet between Tobias Batley and Hannah Bateman and Martha Leebolt's duet with Giuliano Contadini. Bateman mesmorised me with her challenging, questioning eyes. Batley was everything that you love and everything that you hate about intense relationships. Leebolt, for me, is so much more than a dance actress and in Contadini she had the perfect partner to really express her true artistic ability.

The Architect

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I have been raving on and on about this piece for weeks!  Kenneth Tindall is a true creative, his ideas and movement language are incredibly unique in the UK and the sheer facility of the Northern Ballet dancers gives him full reign for making his creativity a reality. In Architect, I was given everything I wanted and more! I spoke about being pulled into Concertante, well with The Architect Tindall and the 9 dancers performing it reached out with their own hands and pulled me in to the piece from my insides. They didn't let go, either, I'm still having random conversations with myself about some of the themes and ideas that I've seen in the piece and I still feel that I was privy to a very great 'Becoming' (to borrow from Thomas Harris!).

Movement-wise Tindall threw so many contrasting but highly effective influences into the piece and I've never seen the company dance, interact and perform anything like it before. He gave them a truly 'meaty' piece of work, pushing them to their limits as atheltic dancers and as emotional creatures. The set and the lighting design (Chrisopher Giles and Alastair West, respectively) were spectacular, carving out space and increasing the intensity, and perfectly integrated with the movement language to holistically make this piece gobsmacking. Costume-wise, who knew a unitard could be so impactful and emotive?! The spinal designs on the backs of the male dancers really connected with me, and the visceral red 'wounds' or wombs on the backs of the female dancers' costumes provocatively hinted at what was to become clear in the piece.

Brutal, ravishingly beautiful and completley immersive, Architect has really cemented Tindall's position as my favourite British choreographer and I hope that one day I will create and dance in works that have a fraction of his impact. This piece was a genuinely collabrative effort, TIndall sculpted his dancers into a new kind of living, breathing organism. All 9 dancers (Hannah Bateman, Martha Leebolt, Tobias Batley, Kevin Poeung, Dreda Blow, Guiliano Contadini, Joseph Taylor, Jessica Morgan, Nicola Gervasi) deserve special mentions, without them all it wouldn't have been what it was!

Friday, 20 June 2014

They Made It!

Kenneth Tindall

























Over the last few days I have been beating the drum for Hannah Bateman and Kenneth Tindall who have been raising funds on Kickstarter for the filming of Tindall's new ballet The Architect. (see  "Tindall's Architect - How to Get a Piece of the Action - Literally!" 7 June 2014 and "Ballets beginning with "N" and a Bright Patriotic Romp for a Monday Morning" 9 June 2014).

Mel Wong and I have each contributed £10 to this project and were two of the first backers.  I am delighted to say that Bateman and Tindall exceeded their target with 5 hours to spare and that the film will  now be made.

In making this film Tindall will collaborate director Stephen T Lally and designer Christopher Giles.

Mel has already seen the ballet and reviewed it for BalletcoForum. I am looking forward to seeing it tomorrow.  As I have greatly admired Tindall's other work I have high hopes for The Architect.

I should like to congratulate everyone involved in this project and to thank Janet McNulty for bringing it to Mel's and my attention.

Romeo and Juliet in the Round - Saturday 14 June 2014

Ford Madox Brown Romeo and Juliet
Source Wikipedia


Ballet in the round is a very different experience from ballet on a proscenium stage. For a start there is so much space allowing dancers to build up momentum and elevation. The orchestra is not confined to a pit but occupies a platform above the dancers. The arena can accommodate scores of dancers for crowd scenes. At the same time it is also intimate. The dancers access the arena from different parts of the auditorium literally within inches of the audience.

English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet is massive involving the whole company plus many artists who had been recruited especially for this production. According to the website, the cast is 120 strong and the list of names fills five columns of small print in the programme. Many of those who have been recruited for this show are considerable artists in their own right such as Sarah Kundi (see "Bye Bye and All the Best" 10 June 2013). Crowd scenes really did have crowds. The sheer number of combatants made the fights seem not only realistic but menacing. Quite a contrast to Ballet Cymru's Romeo a Juliet which I saw in Kendal just over a year ago ("They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport" 14 May 2013).

Although Romeo and Juliet is set against a background of inter family rivalry it is a love story and the focus is on the lovers. Those roles demand much from the principals who have to grow up before our eyes.   English National Ballet has very special dancers for Romeo and Juliet such as Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, Vadim Muntagirov and Daria Klimentová, Arionel Vargas and Elena Glurdjdze, Friedemann Vogel and Alina Cojocaru.   If I had unlimited time and resources I would have seen them all but being obliged to make a choice I chose Vogel and Cojocaru.

I chose Vogel because he is from the Stuttgart Ballet which was founded by John Cranko. Cranko's Romeo and Juliet was the inspiration for Kenneth MacMillan's which is the version with which British audiences are most familiar. Cranko's artists were Richard Cragun and Marcia Haydée. I never saw them dance Romeo and Juliet but this YouTube clip gives an indication of the beauty of that production. English National Ballet's rehearsal video reminded me of that clip and suggested that Vogel with Cojocaru might be the next best thing. 

It was a good choice. They were excellent.  From the moment she entered the arena as a playful teenager teasing her nurse Cojocaru delighted her audience. She projected the excitement of a débutante at a first dance, the conflict of emotions on first seeing Romeo, her joy at the balcony scene and her determination to marry him come what may. Vogel was the perfect Romeo, ardent in love but also in anger after Tybault had despatched Mercutio. 

There were fine performances too from Arionel Vargas as Paris, a decent man who did not deserve to meet his end in the Capulet crypt at the hands of Romeo, Max Westwell as Tybalt, Fernando Bufalá as Mercutio, Luke Haydon as Friar Lawrence and Jane Howarth as a powerful Lady Capulet. All beautifully choreographed by Derek Deane.

Having seen this production I wondered why all ballets are not staged in the round. There are challenges for the designer, of course, because the focus is not on the stage but Roberta Guidi di Bagno's met them by projecting portraits and other scenes from renaissance Italy that complemented the more substantial edifices for the town scenes and balcony.  Coming from Holmfirth I am always proud to see Gavin Sutherland who trained at the University of Huddersfield and because the orchestra was resplendent on a platform I really could see him and them any time time I wanted to do so throughout the show. It is good to see the musicians from time to time for, as Christopher Wheeldon reminded us in The Winter's Tale, they perform too.

I have seen three productions of Romeo and Juliet in the last year from the Welsh, the Scots and now the English national companies. Each was very different from the others but I liked them all. My next performance will be Russian though with yet another Yorkshireman, Xander Parish, in the title role. I can barely wait.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

All Het Up - Why I am a Friend of The Dutch National Ballet

Amsterdam City Hall and Opera House


















I am now a Friend of the Dutch National Ballet (Het Nationale Ballet in Dutch hence the terrible pun). The National Ballet is the largest ballet company of the Netherlands and is one of the great companies of Europe. I was led to them for three very good reasons.

First, I fell in love with their Junior Company when I saw them in Amsterdam on 24 Nov 2013 (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013" 25 Nov 2013). I had come to see the Sierra Leonean born dancer Michaela DePrince but when I saw the other 11 dancers I loved them too.

At the performance at the Staddshouwburg I saw Hans van Manen. I have been a van Manen fan for over 4 decades and I am thrilled that he has brought Concertante to Leeds (see "Tempestuous Choice - Amsterdam or Leeds?" 31 May 2014). I saw that ballet last year and loved it (see "Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill" 9 June 2013). If you watch the video you will hear all the lovely things that van Manen has to say about Northern Ballet and its dancers. I like that.

Van Manen is one of the resident choreographers (Vaaste choreograaf) of the Dutch National Ballet. The other is Krzysztof Pastor whose Romeo and Juliet I saw last month (see "Scottish Ballet's Timeless Romeo and Juliet" 18 May 2014). Like everyone else whose mother tongue us English I was introduced to  Shakespeare almost as soon as I could talk. I remember my father chuntering
"I go, I go. Look how I go,
Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow."
whenever my mother had a little job for him. And my mother's admonition "Lend me your ears" when she wanted to tick me off.  Now I know Romeo and Juliet like the back of my hand but I learned something new about the play from Pastor. The Dutch National Ballet are launching The Tempest  and I can't wait to see it. I'll miss the opening in Amsterdam because I have tickets for other shows but I am sure it will come to this country soon.

My Friends magazine arrived on Monday and though it is in Dutch an intelligent English reader can make out just about 50% without recourse to a dictionary. If you read German too then I would say 75%. There are also quite a few loan words from French and other Romance languages.   Google translate is there for the rest. It is not quite as long as "About the House" but it is more substantial than my Friends magazines from Northern and Scottish Ballets. On the front page there is a photo of a scene from Dutch Doubles. I would have seen the show just for the square tutus. The main article is a feature on that ballet with a summary of an interview with the choreographer.  Then there is a page entitled "Bits and Pieces". Though the title is in English the content is in Dutch. These are short articles the most interesting of which was that van Manen's ballets are to be performed in St Petersburg. The centre spread features Larissa Lezhnina (Lof voor Larissa) with quotations from Ted Bransen, Guillaume Graffin and others who have worked with the ballerina. On the back page there is a list of upcoming events of which the most interesting is a trip to China with the company.

So the company is worth supporting. If you want to become a Friend call Koos Schrijen on +31 20 551 8231 or send him an email.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bye Bye and All the Best
















This Saturday evening I shall be at the Albert Hall to see English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in the Round. I would be there anyway to see the company and this production and, of course, the wonderful Alina Cojocaru and Friedemann Vogel. But there is someone else I want to see and that is Sarah Kundi.

Readers of this blog know that I am a Kundi fan. She started her career at Northern Ballet and I have followed her from there to Ballet Black and then on to MurleyDance. A journey that introduced me to new companies, new dancers and new choreographers who are now among my favourites. Kundi is on the move again this time to Victor Ullate in Spain.

That is, of course, great news and I wish her well but it does mean that it will be difficult for her British fans to see her. She brings a particular quality to the dance which is demonstrated so well in Depouillage. I watch this clip a lot whenever I need an emotional boost. However, there is one last chance to see her in England before she sets off for Madrid and that is in the Albert Hall this Saturday. 

On Saturday I shall be cheering and clapping the company, its principals, its artistic director, its choreographer, the company but also Sarah Kundi whose career I shall continue to follow with interest.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Ballets beginning with "N" and a Bright Patriotic Romp for a Monday Morning

Bronislava Nijinska

























Last night my dear ballet teacher texted me for the names of ballets beginning with "N". Why she asked me Lord knows because I am the most useless ballet student who ever shuffled up to a barre as she will be reminded when I turn up to her class in Sheffield tonight. However, she did and I came up The Nutcracker, Napoli, Noctambules, Les Noces (hence the photo of Bronislava Nijinska) and London Children's Ballet's Nanny McPhee but then I ran out of ideas.

Not even my friend Mel who has forgotten more about ballet than I will ever learn could add to the list. No doubt one of those bright sparks in London who put me in my place for daring to praise Christopher Marney and Kenneth Tundall could help but, as I say, they are in London.  So if anyone can think of any other ballet beginning with "n" please tweet me or send me an email and I will pass it on to Fiona.

I had a look at the George Balanchine Foundation website because he was so prolific and if anyone had choreographed a ballet beginning with "n" it would have been him. I didn't find any but I did find "Who Cares" danced by the glorious Dutch National Ballet of whom I am now a Friend.

I also found this lovely patriotic romp Union Jack which was one of Balanchine's last works. It did not get a particularly good press from the critics at the time but as you can see from the applause the crowd in the auditorium loved it. When the flags came down at the end of the ballet a patriotic lump stuck in my throat.

And talking about lumps in the throat the magnificent Janet McNulty reported one when thanked by Kenneth Tindall for supporting his Kickstarter campaign to raise £3,000 to film The Architect:
 They are nearly half way there with 18 backers and £1,441 in the pot including £10 each from me and Mel. So ONE MORE HEAVE like Balanchine's Jolly Jack Tars in Union Jack.