Sunday, 26 February 2017

Miami City Ballet


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With any luck, a member of Team Terpsichore will be in her seat at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach to watch Program 3 of the Miami City Ballet's repertoire by the time this post appears.

Program 3 is a triple bill consisting of:
Christopher Wheeldon is, of course, English and Polyphonia has been performed at Covent Garden. Walpurgisnacht Ballet was premiered by New York City Ballet in 1980. I have been searching the internet like mad to see whether this piece has ever been performed in England. I can find no evidence that it has. Outside interest in Program 3, therefore, focuses on The Fairy's Kiss which was premiered in Miami on 10 Feb 2017. The New York Times sent the eminent ballet critic Alastair Macauley to Florida for its first performance. In Review: An Old Ballet Is Kissed Into New Life 12 Feb 2017 Mr Macaulay detects weaknesses in the ballet but concludes:
"My guess is that any flaws in “The Fairy’s Kiss” will fade. Already, it proves grippingly imaginative."
Balletomanes in England of a certain vintage will remember Sir Kenneth MacMillan's Le Baiser de la fée which was premiered at the Royal Opera House on 12 April 1960. Svetlana Beriosova, Meriel Evans. Donald MacLeary, Lynn Seymour and Jacqueline Daryl danced in that performance. I can't remember seeing it first time round or when it was re-staged in 1986.  However, I did see an attempt to reconstruct a bit of it in Anna Pavlova's former sitting room by Donald MacLeary for James Hay with the assistance of choreologist Diana Curry on 1 June 2014 (see A Minor Miracle - Bringing Le Baiser de la fée back to Life 2 June 2014.

Miami City Ballet was formed in 1985 with a mission to:
"produce and present the highest level of dance performances throughout Florida, the United States and abroad, train young aspiring dancers, and develop Miami City Ballet School into a leader of dance education."
According to Wikipedia the company has 45 dancers which makes it roughly the same size as Northern Ballet. Its artistic director is Lourdes Lopez who danced with the New York City Ballet.  Miami City Ballet has toured extensively in the USA but appears to have made only two trips here. These were to the Edinburgh Festival in 1994 and 1995.  Its school seems to offer very much the same sort of training to local kids as Northern Ballet Academy offers to our children in Leeds.

Like Northern Ballet Miami City Ballet has Drop-in classes for adult ballet students though it does not seem to cater for the Over 55s unlike Northern Ballet (see Realizing a Dream 12 Sept 2016). Since a lot of people from the North-Eastern seaboard retire in Florida it may be that the Miami City Ballet is missing a trick. North Americans, like us, are living up to 30 years after retirement age nowadays and they need to keep active and busy. A silver swans class could be a nice little earner for the Miami City Ballet.

In the 4 years and a day that this blog has existed, we have posted nearly 900 articles.  We have reviewed performances by the Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi, the Mariinsky, the Dutch National Ballet, the Hungarian National Ballet and the Ballet of the Paris Opera and many other companies but this will be the first time that we will have reviewed a performance by an American classical company in the USA itself. We are very excited about this evening on both sides of the Atlantic.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Happy Birthday Terpsichore! My Best Memories of the Last Four Years

Photo Pushinka
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I started this blog with a review of Ballet West's performance of The Nutcracker at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre on 25 Feb 2013 so Terpsichore is four years old today. Many happy returns, old girl.  Long may you flourish. She has certainly grown a bit since then. When I started her Terpsichore received 269 page views in the whole of February 2013. Admittedly it was a very short month though one in which I wrote 5 articles. This month she has already received 23,222 hits and there are still three more days to run.

I thought I would celebrate Terpsichore's birthday by recalling some of the highlights of the last 4 years. These are events that mean a lot to me though perhaps maybe not so much to you.  It has taken me a long time to compile this list because there have been 887 posts since 2013. Eventually. I drew up a long list of 37 posts. It has been painfully difficult to decide what to include and what to leave out.

Memory #10:  My First Performance

I will get rid of the personal stuff first.  One of the most exciting things that happened to me was to dance on the stage of the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in the studios of Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre before a capacity audience on the 28 June 2014 (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014). My daughter manquée and her son and husband were in the audience. The many weeks of rehearsals, the wait in the wings, the first notes of the music, leaping into the lights and the explosion of applause.  So delicious!  I have danced in a couple of shows since then but nothing beats the first performance. I don't know how we did. Mel reviewed our performance in The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014  29 June 2014 but I think she was too kind.

Memory #9:  Jane Eyre

I have been following Northern Ballet from the day of their first performance.  I can't claim to have been there because I was at university in St Andrews in 1969 but I felt a distinct sense of pride as a Mancunian when I read about them in Dance and Dancers. It was only when I came back to the North in the 1980s that I got a chance to see them regularly. And I think that was their golden age because it was the time when they were directed by Christopher Gable. I was reminded of that time when I saw Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre at the Richmond Theatre in June (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016).

Memory #8:  Miracle in the Gorbals

My favourite work from Northern Ballet is Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man in which Christopher Gable danced with Moira Shearer. Gillian Lynne had danced in Sir Robert Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals during the second world war.  In 2014 she was commissioned to recreate it for the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  I saw it in Sadler's Wells as part of the Shadows of War triple bill and reviewed it in A Second Miracle 23 Oct 2014. Really gripping stuff.  Great performances by César Morales as the Christ-like stranger, Iain Mackay as the minister, Elisha Willis as the prostitute and Delia Matthews as the suicide victim,

Memory #7:  Li Cunxin's La Sylphide

La Sylphide ought to be our national ballet as it is set in Scotland A place rather like Taynuilt I would have thought. First performed in 1832 it is one of the oldest ballets in the repertoire.  It has a lovely score by Løvenskiold. Its plot that is far less spooky than Giselle - indeed, it is timeless as it is based on male inconstancy. It is performed quite frequently on the Continent but how often do we see it here. Scottish Ballet has Sir Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling which Ballet Central is about to take on tour (see Ballet Central returns to Leeds but it's not really the same thing. We had to wait for a company on the other side of the world to bring this work to London (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015).

Memory #6: Cuthbertson's Giselle

I have seen some great Giselle's in the last four years by English National Ballet (Mary Skeaping's rather than Akram Khan's), the Royal New Zealand National Ballet and, of course, the Royal Ballet with Natalia Osipova and Lauren Cuthbertson in the title roles.  It was the latter that really spoke to me last year, That is why I chose that great ballerina as my outstanding female dancer of 2016.  I once heard her speak to the London Ballet Circle after which I had the opportunity to tell her how much I admired her work. One can blog away till the cows come home but nothing beats telling an artist to his or her face how much you enjoy his or her performance.

Memory #5: Mukhamedov's Nikiya

Another ballet that ought to be performed much more frequently in England is La Bayadḕre. I love that ballet. I have even tried to learn a little bit of the choreography without much success despite the heroic efforts of my splendid teacher, Jane Tucker, and an enormous effort by me (see La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016),  A few weeks ago I was able to visit Amsterdam to see how the ballet should be performed (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016). The title role was danced by Sasha Mukhamedov and she was outstanding. I wrote:
"Mukhamedov had danced Nikiya with Daniel Camargo in an extract from La Bayadere at the opening night gala on 7 Sept 2016 (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 8 Sept 2016) and she had impressed me with her grace and sensitivity. She showed those qualities again yesterday and I became an even bigger fan."
Nobody could be happier than I when I learned of her elevation to principal a few weeks later. I wrote in Sasha Mukhamedov's Elevation to Principal 10 Jan 2017 "just as Fonteyn is my Marguerite and Sibley my Titania she will always be my Nikiya."

Memory #4: Sibley with Crisp

And talking of Sibley who is my all time favourite ballerina bar none - even more than Fonteyn, Fracci and Seymour whom I also had the great honour of watching in my youth - I got the chance to hear her speak and recall her triumphs with Clement Crisp on 2 Feb 2014 (see Le jour de gloire est arrivé- Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School 3 Feb 2014), The event was organized by the London Jewish Cultural Centre which later staged a recreation of MacMillan's Le Baiser de la fée in Pavlova;s sitting room (see A Minor Miracle - Bringing Le Baiser de la fée back to Life 2 June 2014). My mother saw Pavlova dance in Leeds in 1912 and although she must have been a very little girl the impression made by that great dancer never left her and that story has been handed downs to me (see In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic 18 Sept 2013),

Memory #3: Stars of the Future

I like to look forward as well as back which is why I like to see shows by Ballet Central, Manchester City Ballet and Ballet West but possibly the best concentration of young talent in the world is the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company.  I remember when I first saw them for the first time at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam on 24 Nov 2013. I had come to see Michaela DePrince about whom I had already written a lot of articles. When she actually appeared on stage I was overwhelmed. As I wrote at the time: "She is quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while." DePrince has risen through the ranks of the Dutch National Ballet like a rocket and she us already a soloist.

However, DePrince is not the only outstanding young dancer in Amsterdam. Each and every one of Ernst Meisner's recruits is impressive. Cristiano Principato, for instance, shows enormous promise as a choreographer. His compatriot, Emilie Tassinari, combines strength with grace. I have the good fortune to have met some of those artists on a few occasions and  I follow some of them on twitter and Facebook and they are as gracious off-stage as they are on the boards. Last Summer I attended a charity show at Trecate in North West Italy in which Cristiano had recruited several of his chums from Amsterdam as well as contemporaries from Milan and Vienna.  It was a magnificent gala and I got to know several of the artists slightly better (see From Italy with Love 1 Jul 2017).

There are, of course, outstanding young dancers in this country and I saw something very special in Gwenllian Davies's performance as Juliet in Newport last bonfire night (see A Romeo and Juliet for our Times 7  Nov 2016). Her company, Ballet Cymru, is very fortunate to have a whole company of young stars. I saw another sterling performance by Anna Pujol a few weeks later in Ballet Cymru's "Sleeping Beauty Moment". It goes without saying that talent is not confined to Wales. I got the same goosebumps that I had when I first saw Michaela DePrince when I saw Uyu Hiromoto in Ballet West's Swan Lake earlier this month (see Ballet West at the Beacon 13 Feb 2017). Hiromoto is from a school that has trained more than a few Genée medallists and the only British finalist at Lausanne in recent years.

Memory #2: The  Mighty Scots

Scottish Ballet was the first ballet company that I got to know and love and it occupies a special place in my affections. I think it would occupy such a place even if I had got to know Scottish Ballet very recently because its director, Christopher Hampson, is a choreographer I particularly admire. I also admire its dancers of the present as well as those of the recent and more recent past.  Scottish Ballet has contributed by far the greatest proportion of memories to my long list. It is a dilemma to know what to include and what to leave out. Hampson's Hansel & Gretel which I saw in 2013 and 2017? How about Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Streetcar Named Desire?  Pastor's Romeo and Juliet perhaps? Hampson's Cinderella with the magnificent Bethany Kingsley-Garner in the title role.  If I have to make a choice for favourite Scottish ballet I think it must be David Dawson's Swan Lake which I saw in Liverpool (see Empire Blanc: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016). Peter Darrell would have been proud of them.

Memory #1: The Bolshoi's Shrew

On a warm August evening in my favourite theatre I experienced something magical in the Bolshoi's performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016). I enjoyed it so much that it was my ballet of the year last year. I wrote in The Terpsichore Titles: Ballet of 2016 30 Dec 2016 I wrote:
"There have been so many fine new ballets this year. The Tempest by David Bintley, David Dawson's Swan Lake, Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari and Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre not to mention shorter works such as Chris Marney's To Begin, Begin, Wayne McGregor's Multiverse and Carbon Life. In any other year I would have chosen any of them as my ballet of the year. But Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew made a special impression on me and it would have been unjust not to recognize it."
I think that says it all.

I have had a lovely time reminiscing about ballet over the last 4 years. I hope my readers have enjoyed reading about the memories as I have enjoyed writing about them. But there is plenty more to come.  An exclusive interview with Kenny Tindall on Casanova, David Murley's report on Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's workshop at the Barbican, Joanne Goodman on Ballet Black's new season and maybe even a special report from Miami as we have a team member out there.  So come back soon,

Friday, 24 February 2017

MOVE IT 2017

(c) 2017 Chantry Dance Company
Reproduced with kind permission of the company


























Move It, which takes place at the Excel Centre between the 10 and 12 March 2017, is billed as the UK's biggest dance event with "over 24,500 dancers – three days – performances, classes, career advice, celebrities, interviews and shopping!!"

I was there last year and described the day in MOVE IT 2016. My verdict on the day was:
"There are worse ways of spending a Sunday afternoon and I did pick up a free copy of The Stage and Dancing Times with a great article by Gavin McCaig in Talking Point which I read over an overpriced burrito but it was not a cheap afternoon out."
This may sound like damnation by faint praise but it is not really.  There was a lot to see and do.  The trouble was that almost everything I had most wanted to see had already happened by the time I arrived. Also, the open ballet class which was the only one that I felt able to do was fully booked.

Clearly, Friday and Saturday are the best days to come to MOVE IT.  Friday is out for me because it is a working day and even balletomanes have to eat.   I could not make Saturday last year because I was on my way to see the Chelmsford Ballet Company's The Sleeping Beauty. I regret that I won't be there on 11 March this year because that is the day Kenny Tindall's Casanova opens in Leeds.

One of the performances that I missed last year was a piece by Chantry Dance Company and Chantry Dance School.  I am a friend of the company and I like its work. A video of its performance appears in A Good Month for Chantry Dance 26 March 2016.  The company and school will be there again this year. Rae Piper will conduct a contemporary ballet workshop at 15:45 and members of the school and company will also be on the main stage at some time during that day. We wish them chookas, toi, toi, toi and anything else that does not offend theatrical superstition.

One person that I did get to meet at Move IT last year was Christopher Moore who directs Ballet Theatre UK. I am a big fan of his company for two reasons. First, I take my hat off to them for producing two or three full-length ballets every year and taking them to small town and suburban venues the length and breadth of the kingdom.  They provide a first taste of ballet for many people, including a lot of children.  I like to think that at least a few of those kids will find their way onto the stage one day.  The company has just finished Romeo and Juliet which I reviewed in Ballet Theatre UK's Romei and Juliet 15 Jan 2017 and it has already started another tour with a new production of Giselle.  Alice in Wonderland follows Giselle and The Nutcracker will follow Alice. The second reason I like Mr Moore is that he has given work to several graduates of Ballet West and any friend of Ballet West is a friend of mine.

Ballet Theatre UK now has a school and its students were also on stage at MOVE IT last year.  You will find a video of their performance on thefamousbelgian's YouTube channel. Wishing them all the best too.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Varna

Stoyan Bacharov Dramatic Theatre, Varna
Photo Mark Ahsmann
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Cornishman Owen Morris is one of the artists of the State Ballet of Varna. Owen comes from Liskeard which is very close to Looe where I have spent many holidays as a child and adult over the last 60 years (see Ballet in Cornwall 17 Sept 2016). In response to a message that I was coming to Truro to see Duchy Ballet's production of The Sleeping Beauty on 18 March 2017, he wrote:
"Terence Etheridge first introduced me to ballet and coached me And taught me for a while and encouraged me to train at ballet west and he used to teach sara and Jonathan at ballet west 👍small world !! Come out to Bulgaria next where I am working with ballet of the State Opera Varna doing some cool ballets I think you would enjoy, plus it's a holiday destination 😜"
He added:
"I have only been here three weeks but I'm out here till the summer recently did Don Quixote last week ! Big dance culture out hear in Bulgaria !! ......"
Owen has done well to find work at Varna because audiences there are likely to know a thing or two about ballet as the city holds a biennial International Ballet Competition whose winners include Ekaterina MaximovaMikhail Baryshnikov, Sylvie Guillem and Chi Cao.

Varna is the third largest city in Bulgaria.  It is situated on the Black Sea coast some 250 miles east of the capital, Sofia. It is a major port, naval base, university town and seaside resort. Nearly 420,000 people live in the Greater Varna area. Its twin town in the United Kingdom is Liverpool which is another city where audiences know a thing or two about ballet (see Dawson's Swan Lake comes to Liverpool 29 May 2016) including, most particularly, one of this blog's valued contributors.

According to its website. Owen's company has recently performed The Nutcracker, Don Quixote in which Owen had a role and Giselle.  I think they were performed between the 5 and 10 Jan 2017 as the Ballet in Bansko season, an event promoted by the city's mayor. The website does not announce any forthcoming performances but it lists some of those presented last year which include The Sleeping Beauty in October, a gala in July with dancers from the Bolshoi, as well as the works performed in January.

According to Wikipedia, the Bulgarian National Ballet was founded in 1928. It now occupies an impressive building with a doric colonnade in Sofia.  Forthcoming performances include a children's version of Cinderella this Friday and Saturday, Lilly and the Magic Pearl (another ballet for children choreographed by Masha Ilieva) on Sunday, La Bayadère on 11 March, Carmen and Rhapsody in Blue on the 19 and 31 March, Giselle on 26 March, La Dame aux Camélias on 2 April and Petrushka and The Firebird on the 7 and 8 April 2017.

While researching Bulgaria's dance culture I came across a company called the Sofia Ballet which describes itself as "the first private classical ballet company formed in Bulgaria, created mainly for realization of tours abroad."  its dancers come from the Sofia National Opera and Ballet, Bucharest National Opera and Ballet, Chisinau National Opera and Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Macedonian Opera and Ballet and other companies. Its repertoire appears to include the usual 19th-century Russian classics.  The website does not list its previous or future engagements but if they ever come to the UK I shall make a point of watching them.

As I always like to feature up and coming dancers, Owen has very kindly agreed to give me an interview and I shall now go away and think of some sensible questions to ask him.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"And what a class we had."

 Although I had blogged about Martin Dutton's class at KNT Danceworks this evening, I thought I knew better than actually to attend it. I wrote on Facebook:
"If I were young enough, good enough and strong enough I would be first in the queue for this class. I hope all those who can attend it enjoy it."
 I drew the class to the attention of Wendy McDermott who had taken part in Jane Tucker's intensive workshops on La Bayadere and The Nutcracker and who contributed an article on Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat  (see Ballet Retreat Revisited - Wendy McDermott's Experience 22 Jan 2017). She is preparing for her RAD grade 7 exams and she really is "young enough, good enough and strong enough" to benefit from a class with Martin yet she, like me, wondered whether she could keep up. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we dared each other to come and I found myself on the train to Manchester asking myself whether or not I had been just a little bit too rash.

Well, you see the result. It was a great class from the moment Martin introduced himself to the final curtsey.   He has a great eye for detail and he took us back to first principles from the way we held our arms in second making sure that we could just about see our fingers in our peripheral vision to the way we should carry our whole bodies while executing a balancé. He stressed the importance of the plié and tendu as the building blocks for just about everything else.

Wendy mentions her notebook in her tweet.  For a long time, I used to carry one too. It was a tip I picked up from Dave Wilson (see The Dance Journal – what is it and why should I have one? 14 Dec 2014 Dave Tries Ballet). It was a real treasure trove of tips and tricks and anecdotes that I had picked up from teachers from literally across the world from Annemarie in Leeds to Adam in London. Then I carelessly left my ballet bag with shoes, tights, leotards and notebook on a tram on the way to the Dancehouse while temporarily distracted by line closures in central Manchester. I was able to replace the leotards, tights and shoes easily enough from Mr Frog in Huddersfield and Planet Dance in Batley but I got out of the habit of keeping a journal after class because I never thought I would ever replace all that lost wisdom. My dancing has definitely suffered as a result.

But you know what. Wendy has prompted me to start again. I shall buy another notebook today on the way to Jane Tucker's class in Leeds and I shall write it up on the train back to Huddersfield because I always learn a lot from her. Three particularly important tips from Martin that are going down straight away are a balancing exercise, a coordination exercise and the importance of smiling. "You are all passionate about dance", he exhorted. "That's why you are here, Then show it in your faces." And so we tried.

Martin's class was hard work but also fun.  We did pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, frappés and grands battements and stretches on the barre, then an enchainement using everything that we had learned at the barre plus pirouettes dehors and dedans, some balancés and jumps finishing off with temps levés, glissades and assemblés. At the end of the class, he commended us on how hard we had worked. "Harder than some of my usual students he added." When I thanked him for the class he asked rhetorically whether we would have him back again. "As far as I'm concerned," I replied, "anytime you want."

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Dutch National Ballet's New Season and a New Vlog from Tim and Salome


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The Dutch National Ballet has announced its 2017 to 2018 season and there is a lot to look forward to.

First, there is the opening night gala on 17 Sept 2017. I have attended the 2015 and 2016 galas and have enjoyed them thoroughly (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 8 Sept 2016 and The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015). This is a black tie affair starting with the grand défilé of the first year ballet students, followed in turn by the more senior students, the junior company, the corps, coryphées, grands sujets, soloists and finally the principals.

Next, there is the presentation of the Alexandra Radius prize presented by the great ballerina. Last year it was awarded to Artur Shesterikov and the year before that to Maia Makhateli, Talking of which I am delighted to say that Ms Makhateli (who has been on leave this last year) tweeted today that she plans to be back for the gala:
To which I replied:
After the presentation, we see extracts of the company's work for the coming and previous seasons, This year the National Ballet will be joined by guest stars, Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Malakhov.  Then there will be a sumptuous reception to which the whole audience is invited.

The gala is a hard act to follow but this year it will be matched by an Ode to the Master, a celebration of Hans van Manen's career with the performance of a selection of his best-loved ballets:
  • On the Move;
  • 5 Tangos
  • Sarcasm, and
  • Symphonieën der Nederlanden.
This will be the year in which van Manen celebrates his 85th birthday.   "No choreographer has made such a big mark on dance in the Netherlands as Hans van Manen," says the website.  I would say that no living choreographer has made such a big mark on dance anywhere.  I will move heaven and earth to see that show,

In October the company will re-stage Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari which I described as Brandsen's Masterpiece in my review of 14 Feb 2016.  The Christmas ballet will be Sir Peter Wright's production of The Sleeping Beauty. It will be followed by Ratmansky's Don QuixoteDutch Doubles and Tristan and Isolde, a new ballet by David Dawson.  Finally, the work of the company's up and coming choreographers will be showcased in New Moves.

Dutch Doubles is not a double bill as its name suggests but a dialogue between choreographers living in the Netherlands with a number of renowned musicians.  The choreographers in question are Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the creator of Scottish Ballet's Streetcar named DesireDanza Contemporanea de Cuba's Reversible and Ballet Black's Little Red Riding Hood, Ernst Meisner and Hans van Manen. Ochoa's dialogue will be with Wende Snijders who is described by the company's website as "one of the best-known and most versatile singer-songwriters in the Netherlands." Meisner's is with Remy van Kesteren and van Manen's will be with a pianist still to be announced.  A similar collaboration in 2014 appears to have been one of the reasons why the New York Times ranked the Dutch National Ballet as one of the world's top five ballet companies.

This season there will be a lot of work for the Junior Company. They will begin their annual tour of the Netherlands with In the Future which will feature the work of the same name by Hans van Manen. According to the website, this work was created by Hans van Manen in 1986 for Scapino Ballet and it has also been danced by Stuttgarter Ballett and Introdans Ensemble for Youth. It is described as "an energetic, swinging, amusing and surprising work, with wonderfully inventive costumes by Keso Dekker."  They will also dance Narnia: the lion, the witch and the wardrobe in which Ernst Meisner collaborated with Marco Gerris to produce a work that is described as "Hiphop meets Ballet." I saw a scene from this work in the 2015 gala and loved it.  Finally, the Junior Company will celebrate its 5th anniversary in Junior Company 5 Years with a special gala at the Stadsschouwburg. Having attended one of the first (if not the first) of those galas in 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013) this will be a special performance for me too - if I can only get a flight and ticket for it.

Talking of the Junior Company, I introduced Timothy van Poucke and Salome Leverashvili in Missing Amsterdam on  18 Feb 2017. Tim and Salome have just released a fourth vlog entitled Life of a ballet dancer - VLOG#4 by Tim and Salome - Junior Company in which they discuss their life in the company, how it differs from ballet school, their hopes for the future including prospective careers after they give up dance. Salome would love to dance on stage for ever and ever but realizes that will not be possible. However, she already sees a career for herself as a fashion designer including, perhaps, fashion for the ballet. Tim would like to be a teacher. He would be good at that, muses Salome, for he is always correcting her. 

Tim is a fine young man. Salome a lovely young woman. They have all my betst wishes for the future as do all the other members of the Junior Company,

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dutton at the Dancehouse

The Dancehouse
Author Pit-Yacker
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Tomorrow at 18:30 Martin Dutton will give a special class to students of advanced and pre-intermediate Level students at the Dancehouse Theatre on Oxford Road in Manchester.  The pre-intermediate starts at 18:30 and ends at 19:55.  The advanced class starts at 20:00 and ends at 21:15. The fee for both classes will be £10.  As Karen Sant, KNT's principal says:, "it will be amazing."

Dutton must have excelled in music as well as dance for he entered Chethams and became head chorister of Manchester Cathedral.  He trained at Central School of Ballet where "Christopher Marney, Hannah Bateman, Kenneth Tindall, Rachael Gillespie, Dominic North, Sarah Kundi, Paul Chantry and many more of my favourite dancers and choreographers trained" (see Ballet Central returns to Leeds 1 Feb 2017).

He began his career in the corps of Northern Ballet Theatre (now Northern Ballet) and danced for a while with Peter Schaufuss Balletten.  Readers will remember that Schaufuss created the production of La Sylphide that the Queensland Ballet brought to London in 2015 (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). This should be our national ballet because it is set in the Scottish highlands but try to getting a British company to dance it - even one that is actually based in the Scottish highlands (see Taynuilt - where better to create ballet 31 Aug 2013). I digress. The point is that Dutton must have impeccable credentials with exposure to the Danish tradition as well as the English and Russian ones.

For the last 10 years or so Dutton has taught at some of our most prestigious ballet schools including Northern Ballet School (see New Dance Teacher Martin Dutton Nov 2012), Ballet Theatre UK and the Hammond School.  It is not every day that adult dance students get a chance to learn from a teacher with this kind of experience and reputation. Even if you live some distance from Manchester this class will be well worth the journey.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry

Andrés Ascanio and Heriberto Meneses
in Reversible
Photo Johan Persson
Reproduced with kind permission of the Company 




























Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Triple Bill, The Lowry, 17 Feb 2017

"Every cloud has a silver lining" so they say.  Some compensation for missing Made in Amsterdam and Juniors Go Dutch (see Thinking of Amsterdam 18 Feb 2017) was the opportunity to see Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at the Lowry. We might well have missed them altogether had we not seen them this weekend for their tour takes them just about everywhere in the UK except where we live or can reach conveniently.  The circumstances that caused us to cancel our trip may actually have done us a favour.  The Netherlands are just across the North Sea and are as easy and often very much cheaper to reach as many parts of our own country. We can see the wonderful Dutch National Ballet more or less any time. Cuba, however, is several thousand miles away and quite a different country. We don't get a chance to see its national contemporary dance company quite so easily.

The company was quite different from any that I had ever seen before. They seemed to move quite differently. I couldn't put my finger on it until a question and answer session after the performance when Miguel Iglesias, the company's artistic director, explained that classical and classically trained dancers move from their solar plexuses whereas his dancers moved from their hips.  They were unbelievably daring, especially in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Reversible which explored gender differences and stereotypes and the relationships between the sexes with men wearing skirts and the women trousers and not all that much else.

The evening started with Reversible which was choreographed by Annabelle López Ochoa who had choreographed Scottish Ballet's Streetcar Named Desire (see Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015) and has contributed a new ballet called Little Red Riding Hood to Ballet Black which will be premiered at the Barbican nxt month (see Beautiful Ballet Black 14 Jan 2017). Reversible began with a man and a woman hoisted shoulder high with their supporters around. The man and woman try to dress but then discard their garments.  In a strange half lit scene, a sort of ritual is conducted between the two groups. It is a very short piece - barely 30 minutes - but a lot is squeezed into that time. The score consisting of music by the composers I listed in Double Latin.  Seventeen dancers performed that work. A great start to the show.

The Listening Room created by British dance maker Theo Clinkard had a score that was audible to the audience but each of the dancers heard very different ones through headphones.  I would not have guessed that had it not been for the Q and A which was chaired by Clinkard.  Asked by a member of the audience to explain his work, Clinkard replied that he wanted the dancers to communicate what they were hearing solely through the movements of their bodies. An interesting suggestion by Janet McNulty whom we sought out in the second interval was that it represented modern social life (or rather the lack of it) with people glaring into their 'phones and motioning incommunicado in their headphones. That interpretation worked for me just as well as Clinkard's. The music was Variations for Vibes, Pianos and Strings by Steve Reich who had composed Drumming III which had been used by Ballet Black (see Ballet Black made my Manchester Day 28 June 2016). The music that the artists heard was all sorts. There was a lot going in that piece - perhaps a little too much - but the work ended with a solitary figure moving ever closer to the front of the stage as the curtain descended and them lying on his side to give one last farewell.

In the questions and answers, a gentleman who introduced himself as a Cuban national and asked part of his question in Spanish asked why there was not more Cuban material.  "A fair point," I thought, given that the first two works had been contributed by an Amsterdam based and English choreographer. Having said that the dancers seemed to have naturalized both of those pieces and made them their own.  The Cuban contribution was Matria Etnocentra wby George Céspedes.  It started out rather with what appeared to be troops drilling on a parade ground with a red star on each of the dancer's uniform but it quickly transformed into a celebration.  A very exuberant work reminding me in its exuberance of Edward Lynch's NightLife at the Flamingo which I reviewed in There's a reason why Phoenix was my contemporary company of the year 11 Feb 2017. In the end, this was my favourite work though I liked the other two pieces very much too.

A lady in the audience who said she was Guatemalan told us how proud she was even though she was from another Latin American country. Several audience members expressed their appreciation of the work and asked for more Cuban content rather than less. This company has visited England twice before in the last 6 years but I had never seen them. I think the reason is that I could not quite associate contemporary dance with Cuba. That is because Cuba is a socialist and hence command society well suited to ballet but perhaps not quite so tolerant of a dance form that is inherently individualistic and self-expressive.

Yet this is a company that has existed since 1959, the year Dr Castro and his revolutionaries swept into Havana. One of the audience members, another Spanish speaker, asked Miguel Iglesias how he felt after the death of Castro. Visibly moved (so much that Laura Rios who was sitting next to him offered the director her support) Iglesias described Castro as the country's father figure who had underscored his parents' values. On Castro's death, I acknowledged the late president's contribution to ballet in his country (see Castro and Cuban Ballet 28 Nov 2016). It seemed he made a similar contribution to contemporary dance too. Before the Q & A I was going to ask whether there was an equivalent in contemporary dance of Alicia Alonso in ballet. Listening to Iglesias I realized that I had the answer to that question and he was talking to me. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Missing Amsterdam!

















Sadly, I can't be at the Meervaart to see the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company today but I can learn something about two of the dancers from a vlog ("video blog") put together by Timothy van Poucke from Woerden and Salome Leverashvili from Tblisi.

So far, I have found the following three videos:
  • Vlog # 1 Q & A Time:  Tim and Salome introduce themselves while sitting on Pilates balls and ask each other questions. We learn, for example, that Salome identifies with flamingos because they are pink and skinny, that Tim once accomplished 10 pirouettes and Salome 7, that they both like cooking and Amsterdam is their favourite city.
  • Vlog #2  Tim's Warm Up Routine: here Tim displays and demonstrates what look to me like instruments of torture which he uses to soften the muscles of his body. I actually inherited some of those bits of kit but had no idea what to do with them. Now I wish I didn't know.
  • Vlog #3 Tim and Salome's Make-Up Session: Salome bravely lets Tim apply her stage make-up. "What is this?" she squeals at the end of the end of the session and awards Tim 4/10 for his efforts. But the truth of the matter is that she looks lovely and would still look lovely if she had been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Like everyone who has begun his or her career with the Junior Company, they are excellent young persons. Clearly, they know how to have fun but they are also very accomplished dancers. Under Ernst Meisner's leadership, they will evolve into superb young artists. 

I am particularly excited about Salome because she comes from the same country and trained in the same ballet school as Elena Glurdjidze whom I once had the good fortune to meet and whom I miss very much (see Elena Glurdjidze - So Lovely, So Gracious 11 Feb 2014).

As I said in Thinking of Amsterdam this morning, I plan to see the company while it is touring the Netherlands.  I look forward to seeing Tim, Salome and their fellow dancers on stage very soon and perhaps even making the acquaintance of some of them.

Thinking of Amsterdam


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A lot is happening in Amsterdam. Last weekend the Dutch National Ballet hosted the Positional Ballet International Ballet Conference which I previewed on 19 Jan 2017. The conference coincided with the premieres of Made in Amsterdam 1 and II which showcases the Dutch National Ballet's strengths. Today the Junior Company launches its tour of the Netherlands with Juniors Go Dutch at the Meervaart Theatre.

Team Terpsichore had intended to be there this weekend and we even bought return flights back in December but commitments here have prevented our departure.  I still hope to catch the Juniors at one of their other venues later in their tour and if I can't make Made in Amsterdam I should at least see Onegin. In the meantime, we wish the brilliant young dancers of the Junior Company chookas and toi, toi, toi for this weekend's performances and every success in their careers.

A film has been made of last week's conference and appears above.  There are voces populorum from directors of some of the world's leading companies including Ted Brandsen who indicated that this is the start of a worldwide conversation on the future of Ballet in which we all can share.

Friday, 17 February 2017

National Dance Company of Wales's Spring Tour


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When I saw the National Dance Company of Wales in Huddersfield last year, I wrote in Cambriophilia 19 March 2016:
"One of the reasons I am a Cambriohile is that Wales has a great ballet company in Ballet Cymru. I am delighted to say that it also has a fine contemporary dance company in the National Dance Company Wales."
The NDCW is on the move again with a double bill consisting of Caroline Finn's The Green House and Roy Assaf's Profundis (see Spring Tour 2017).

Caroline Finn is the company's artistic director and I have reviewed two of her works:
The company' website sets the scene on The Green House as follows:
"What happens when we prune ourselves to perfection? Caroline Finn takes us on a nostalgic journey, asking us to peer into The Green House. On a twisted TV set, characters discover the fine line between fantasy and reality."
It also has this to say about Profundis:
"Playful, vibrant and provocative. Profundis dares us to ask questions about what things are, and what they are not."
The Spring tour will cover just about every part of Wales but will make only two forays into England (Shrewsbury 21 Feb and Newcastle upon Tyne 18 March 2017) and one into Scotland (Dundee 13 May 2017).

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Casanova Unmasked

Venice, Birthplace of Giacomo Casanova
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Northern Ballet, Casanova Unmasked Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds, 15 Feb 2017, 18:00 - 19:30

In my capacity as a Friend of Northern Ballet, I attended Casanova Unmasked last night. It was a preview of the work by the choreographer, Kenneth Tindall, and two of his collaborators, Ian Kelly his dramaturge and David Nixon his ballet master.  They were assisted by Giuliano Contadini, Dreda Blow, Hannah Bateman, Gavin McCaig and other dancers of the company.

The proceedings were streamed live over the internet and have been recorded at Northern Ballet - Casanova Unmasked on the company's YouTube channel. Unfortunately, the sound quality is not perfect. The sound is very faint throughout the video and appears to have been lost altogether at several points. However, the video is still worth watching. This article is intended to help those who were not in the theatre to appreciate that film. I have also written a brief introduction to the subject matter of Tindall's ballet and provided links to some of his source materials in Casanova, 24 May 2016.

The company's artistic director, David Nixon, made a short speech in which he introduced Kenneth Tindall. He spoke of his early recognition of Tindall's choreographic talent and how he had fostered it. Tindall had been a principal of the company and knew it well. It was, therefore, fitting that Northern Ballet should commission Tindall's first full-length ballet.

Tindall, in turn, introduced Ian Kelly. Tindall explained that Kelly had written the definitive biography of Casanova. He had approached Kelly for a licence but Kelly showed such interest in the project that Tindall invited Kelly to collaborate with him instead. In a fascinating presentation delivered without notes, Kelly brought to life the historical Casanova. Casanova is remembered nowadays as a libertine but he was so much more. He was a polymath with interests ranging from mathematics to gastronomy. He is remembered for his sexual exploits because he described them in minute detail (together with a lot of other things) in his autobiography which he wrote for therapy rather than publication. Kelly told us that Casanova's relationship with women was not as exploitative as might be thought. Intriguingly, Kelly said that Casanova had helped the women he knew "along their way". That gave me the impression that in some respects Casanova was a proto-feminist.

Among Casanova's relationships that Kelly discussed was the one with Bellino,  She is described on Northern Ballet's website as a "woman masquerading as a man in order to work as a castrato (castrated male) singer." Casanova and Bellino were represented on stage by Giuliano Costadini and Dreda Blow. In an exceptionally clever piece of choreography that I might never have interpreted without Tindall's commentary, the dancers recreated the couple's meeting, the tentative relaxing of their masks and the creation of trust between them. The development of trust was demonstrated by some rather scary looking tombés (I use that term in the loosest possible sense because I do not know how else to describe her fall) by Blow into the arms of Costadini. In the questions and answers that followed, Blow was asked how she felt when she performed that step. She replied that it was not easy at first but she had worked with Costadini before and gradually perfected it.

After the Q and A in which Bateman and McCaig joined Contadini and Blow. we were shown another extract from the ballet. This was by members of the corps representing Casanova's fellow seminarians when he was studying for the priesthood. There followed a fencing exercise which somehow transformed itself into a music lesson, the foils becoming violin bows. Altogether very ingenious and very attractive choreography.

There was another Q & A, this time with Tindall, Kelly and Nixon.  I asked Tindall about the mechanics of his collaboration with the composer Kerry Muzzey who was following the event in the United States. I asked him whether he worked as Petipa had with his composers specifying the phrases he needed for particular steps. Tindall replied that the collaboration went both ways. Having written music for film, Muzzey could envisage the interpretation of his work which Tindall had found useful.

After the presentations, Nixon invited the audience to drinks.  In some ways, this was the most valuable part of the evening because it afforded an opportunity to meet the collaborators and dancers informally and explore the work in greater depth. I had a particularly rewarding conversation with Ian Kelly about his methodology as history is forensic but theatre is expressive. Kelly well understood the difference having read history as a first degree.  I expect his work to be scholarly as well as entertaining.

The drinks were served in the atrium of Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre's studios at Quarry Hill. Those who have entered the building will remember a landing where costumes are occasionally exhibited. Last night costumes from Casanova were arranged along that landing. Nixon reminded us that these come at a cost and that there is an appeal for wigs and costumes to which I invite all my readers to contribute.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Move in Manchester

Manchester's Northern Quarter
Author Michael Ashton
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For reasons that I am sure that my readers don't want to hear I have not been able to attend many ballet classes lately.  All but one of my classes in Leeds take place during the day which is just when I need to be available to my clients. My classes in Manchester take place at 18:30 but as extensive roadworks are taking place in Oxford Road the only way I can be sure of reaching The Dancehouse on time is by train and that requires me to leave home at 16:15 which is just when solicitors and patent and trade mark agents are most likely to want to talk to their barrister. True, there are such things as mobile 'phones but I don't like to give legal advice at the top of my voice in a crowded carriage as the "Pacer" train lumbers through the Standedge tunnel.

However, yesterday was my birthday and, as a treat to myself, I resolved to slope off early and attend Karen Sant's class at KNT. I set off in good time and caught the train to Huddersfield which arrived 25 minutes before my Manchester connection. And then I got distracted by a text on my mobile 'phone.  I put down my ballet bag which contained my shoes.  I was so engrossed in the message that I mounted the train without the bag.

In the middle of said Standedge tunnel I realized what I had done. I was devastated.  I had been looking forward to that class so much.  It was to be the highlight of my day.  The thought of catching the next train back without a class appalled me.  And then I had a brainwave.  I googled "ballet" and "shops" and "Manchester". Google regurgitated many but they were all in Manchester, New Hampshire. I also appealed to my friends on Facebook for suggestions. Ryan Davies, whom I had met in Greenock on Sunday, replied with a link to Move's website. So, too, did Google, eventually, when I re-entered the search terms with the addition of "UK". I called Move's number and, to my great delight, my call was answered. The lady who answered the 'phone told me that the store closed at 18:00 sharp and gave me directions from Piccadilly station.

The train shuddered into Piccadilly station at 17:48.  I was in the rearmost carriage and I shot out of the train like a bat out of hell. I darted along the platform.  The ticket collector conscientiously scrutinized every aspect of my return ticket before allowing me on my way.  I sprinted down the ramp onto London Road, sped first along Ducie Street, then Dale Street and eventually found Port Street. At number 58 I found Move Dancewear opposite what seemed to be a rather interesting pub. My native city is full of such ancient watering holes. To my great relief they were open, but would they stock my size?

I have exceptionally large feet that would not disgrace a penguin.  Freeds can usually fit me out but I have had to order shoes at other stores. The assistant produced a pair that fitted my flippers like a glove.  The only problem was that the elastic straps were loose. She advised me to tie them for class which I did.

I made another dash to Oxford Road and reached the Dancehouse just a few minutes before we were called up to the studio. All my classes in Leeds start with a run.  I think it is part of the Ichino method.  If that is the case I had the perfect warm up. I met our instructor, Karen, who wished me happy birthday with a great hug, and a fair number of my classmates who greeted me similarly cordially.

It was a lovely class from warm up to reverence. We started with foot exercises facing the barre and continued through pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe and grands battements.  I was a bit stiff but was pleased to find that I could raise both legs to the top rail of the barre for stretching exercises.  After a short break, we started glissés in the centre which I guess is intended to improve our balance and coordination. Jane starts her centre work with a similar exercise too.  We proceeded to pirouettes which seemed to go better than usual this time. I think one of my pirouettes actually worked yesterday and the others were sort of half-way there.   We followed with an enchainment and finally jumps which are my favourite part of the class. Yesterday, Tyson Collins managed a wonderful assemblé with real elevation winning Karen's commendation and our applause. We finished with a joyous temps levé, one of my favourites, from stage left and stage right. Then, far too soon, cool down and curtsies.

I caught my usual chugger back to Huddersfield which arrived just before 9 pm. While waiting for my branch line I checked the lost property office and, to my great surprise and delight, my little red ballet bag was there. Not only that but my trusty Freeds and copy of Alexander McCall Smith's Espresso Tales were inside. Quite restored my faith in human nature.

I am so grateful to Move Dancewear. They saved my evening.  I would have been close to tears had I missed that class as I don't know when I will get to Manchester again.  I will return to 58 Port Street anon to have a proper look at their stock for I have promised them a write-up in this blog soon.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Ballet West at the Beacon


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Ballet West, Swan Lake. Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, 12 Feb 2017


I have been coming to Scotland at this time of the year to see Ballet West's winter show for the last four years (see Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" 25 Feb 2013, Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 Marh 2014, Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015 and  Thinking out Loud about Ballet West 8 Feb 2016). Each and every production has been a little better than the last. The current production of Swan Lake  is no exception.  Accordingly, it is the company's best show yet.

I saw Swan Lake last night at Greenock, a small town on the southern bank of the Clyde estuary about 25 miles from Glasgow, in the main auditorium of its magnificent Beacon Arts Centre, which is just over 4 years old.  That auditorium has a fair size stage and seats about 500 with an uninterrupted view from every point. The building is near the river and I would expect its location to command spectacular views of the river. Obviously, there was not much to see as I wandered down from Greenock Central station with my phone on Google maps at 18:00 on a cold, dark and drizzly Sunday evening.

I was welcomed to the Beacon by Ballet West's principal and artisic director, Gillian Barton, who staffed a concession stall with programmes and merchandise. She told me that the previous night's performance at the Armadillo (SECC) had been excellent and wondered how her company could possibly match that success. She added that Natasha Watson, whom I had mentioned in so many reviews and featured in A Cause for Double Celebration at the Robin's Nest 8 Feb 2016 and who had been cast as Odette-Odile, had fallen ill. Her place was taken by Uyu Hiromoto who is a second year student at the school. An exceptionally talented student it has to be said who had impressed me in last year's performance of The Nutracker and who had been selected to tour Malaysia (see Ballet West in Malaysia 18 June 2016) but Odette-Odile is a demanding role even for a principal ballerina of a major company.

If Gillian Barton really did worry about the performance, she need not have done.  I did not see the show at the Armadillo so I am in no position to compare the two, but I should be very surprised to learn that last night's performance fell short of Saturday's in any way. Last night's show was a triumph for two many reasons and here are just too. First, Hiromoto rose to the occasion magnificently. The second was casting Rothbart as a woman and the inspired execution of that role by Miranda Hamili.

Hiromoto and Hamili in their different ways are super talented young women. As my wise first ballet teacher (a seasoned performer who had once danced with the Queensland Ballet as well as a wonderful teacher) once warned, "ballet is a jealous mistress and a tough task master out to break you" so I will not tempt fate by forecasting a golden future for either of them. All I will say is that I sensed the same feeling that I had when I first saw Michaela DePrince in Amsterdam in 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Jan 2013) or Xander Parish at the York Summer School gala in July 2007 andjust  look at both of them both now. I knew I was looking at something special then and I saw something special again last night.

The reason why Swan Lake is so compelling is that it reveals two faces of humanity in the same dancer.  The sweet, loving, tragic Odette and the brassy, brazen Odile. I have seen many performances in my time and many of the world's leading ballerinas in  the role.  Some are the perfect Odette.  More are the perfect Odile. Few can dance both roles equally well (Scottish Ballet's Bethany Kingsley-Garner being one who can). Hiromoto, despite her youth, is another,  She was a perfect Odette - delicate, lyrical, willowy.  Could she transform herself into what Mr Trump would call "a nasty woman" I asked Daniel Job, the company's choreographer and artistic advisor during the interval. "You'd be surprised" he replied with a smile.  Job was right. Her head raised and somehow holding her arms and upper body in quite a different way Hiromoto transformed herself.  Haughty and heartless, she executed Legnani's 32 fouettés splendidly.  I was counting as I always do and ready to break into applause at number 28.

Hamili has a mastery of character. In Acts 2 and 4 she is of course the evil magician and danced the role largely as a man would have done but in Act 3 she came into her own. She dominated that Act as she slouched over the throne one leg slung over the arm of the chair.  Yawning first, then filing her nails much to the discomfort of Mary Anderson who danced the Queen. It was hard to take my eyes off her even for the divertissements which were beautifully danced.  She assumed centre of stage as Odile began the seduction scene whispering into Odile's shell-like not to accept anything less from Siegfried that betrothal. Ballet West had a brilliant Rothbart in Isaac Peter Bowry who is now dancing lead roles for Ballet Theatre UK. Hamili was every bit as good. Whoever cast her in that role, coached her and dressed her deserves a medal. She added a whole new dimension to the work.

However, they were not the only stars. As in 2014 Siegfried was danced by Jonathan Barton, a graduate of the school who is now its Vice-Principal and yet another Genée medallist. Even though I had seen Anthony Dowell and Rudolf Nureyev in that role I had always regarded Siegfrield as a secondary role because of the focus on Odette-Odile. But I have begun to understand his role better over the years and Barton has helped with that understanding. He is transformed in the ballet every bit as much as Odette. We see him as a callow and not a particularly nice teenager mad for gadgets and unwilling to grow up. "Gee, Ma, that crossbow is really cool." "Don't even mention marriage to me, ma" he gestures extravagantly when his mum suggests he has regal responsibilities.  He meets Odette and begins to grow, Reluctantly he becomes a hero.  He has to jump in the lake to do it but he liberates all those girls who would have been condemned as swans to scrub about bulrushes for stale bread from humans.

Oscar Ward, who accompanied Hiromoto to Malaysia, danced Benno. Ballet West's Benno is not quite as pivotal as David Dawson's but I could detect a little of Dawson's influence in the way Ward danced that role. He came into his own in the pas de trois supported delightfully by Sarah Nolan and Storm Norris. Later Ward danced the Neapolitan divertissement with Abigail Drew with the exuberance and charm.  It was good to see two familar faces, Dylan Waddell whom I had previously seen in MurleyDance and Ballet Cymru and Mark Griffiths who is also from Ballet Cymru. Those chaps danced several roles - guests at the party and Siegfried's mates on the swan shoot.  Later Waddell was also in the Spanish dance.

Other highlights included the cygnets (Alice Flinton, Perihan Gulen, Lucy Malin and Rebecca Strain), the divertissements (particularly the kids from Glasgow who were lovely and came close to stealing the show) and of course the swans in Act 2 and 4. I've had a go at learning the cygnets, Hungarian dance, prince's solo and swans' entry and know just how demanding those dances are (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3).

The current Swan Lake is a new production with new sets and, I think, new costumes.  The designs that I saw at Pitlochry in 2014 had been good but last night's were even better.  I instinctively drew breath as the curtain rose on the opening scene as the guests arrived for Siegfried's coming of age party. My only criticism of the whole evening was the excessive use of the yellow and blue filters in the lighting design. Swans are supposed to be white, not birds of Paradise, yet for long stretches of the evening they were yellow and blue. There were hitches. The arch of someone's cross-bow fell off, there was the occasional stumble, acts did not follow quite as fast as they might have done and the curtain came down slightly too late at the end of Act 2 and too soon early at the end of Act 4. But this was a tour and I have seen far worse from far more famous companies in far bigger theatres.

So Gillian Barton, Daniel Job and their cast can congratulate themselves on an excellent performance. Next year they will dance Giselle. I had hoped for La Sylphide as Gurn, James and Effie used to haunt Ichrachan House but I guess Madge must have put a spell on them.  I would love to see a Scottish company dance La Sylphide on their home turf but the nearest any of them have got is Sir Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling which Ballet Central (another ballet school's performance company) are taking on tour this year.

There is one more show before the dancers return to Taynuilt and that is at Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 18 Feb. If you are free that day and can get a ticket you should be there. Since I have been following them, this really is Ballet West's best show yet.