Sunday, 10 January 2021

Ballet Rising

Standard YouTube Licence

One of my favourite principals at the Dutch National Ballet was Casey Herd.  He impressed me in Dawson's Empire Noir. Brandsen's Mata Hari and many other works. He continues to impress me now with his latest enterprise, Ballet Rising.

Ballet Rising is the standard-bearer of a movement with the following vision:
"The stars of the ballet world used to be born and trained in Europe and North America or sometimes Japan, Cuba and Argentina. Today the talent pool has grown. More major dancers are coming out of China, Mexico, Brazil, South Korea and elsewhere. Dancers have a wider range of ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds than ever before. Globalization is expanding the ballet world, fueling international exposure to and passion for ballet—and transforming the art form. Ballet Rising takes an in-depth look at the communities reshaping ballet and brings their stories to global audiences. Although ballet has always spoken to people on a profound level, imagine how engagement would grow if people all over the world felt like ballet represented them. What if ballet were accessible to dancers everywhere? Ballet Rising is joining the movement to make ballet a truly global art form that welcomes all to take part."

Now if those sentiments sound familiar you are quite right. Though my background and experience have been from the other side of the footlights, I have shared Herd's vision ever since I helped to establish a dance club at my university over 50 years ago. It has been one of the focuses of Terpsichore  and it is one of the reasons why I set up Powerhouse Ballet and The Stage Door,

Some idea of the breadth of Herd's vision can be gleaned from its recent articles:

Now all of those countries have a long and rich tradition of dance. Many in those countries regard ballet which developed in the imperial and royal courts of the former colonial powers with understandable suspicion.  Herd acknowledges that  possibility and accommodates it:
"We want to highlight communities where there is already an interest in ballet. We are careful to visit places where the drive to build ballet communities has originated within the local communities themselves. We pay close attention to the sensitive nature of cultural encounters, and we strive to build positive relationships with local arts organizations so that the global ballet community grows in harmony with local customs. While we encourage the exposure of ballet to people in all walks of life, we hope that classical ballet expands only in places where a community expresses its own interest."

In fact, as the South African dancer, Dada Masilo has shown, ballet can be the medium through which African dance tradition can be communicated to audiences outside that continent (see A Brace of Giselles 13 Oct 2019).

For many years the best and the brightest students from Africa, Asia and other countries have won scholarships to Europe and North America where they have been hired by the world's leading companies.  That's fine for the dancers as it provides them with an opportunity to perform but not so good for audiences and other students in their countries of origin,  That is understood by Ballet Rising and it is for that reason that Herd and others encourage the development of schools and companies in those countries.

This will not be the last time I shall mention Ballet Rising and if there is any way that I can further its objectives I shall certainly do so.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Dutch National Ballet's Christmas Gala

Artur Shesterikov in Hans van Manen's 5 Tangos
Photo Hans Geritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet

 

Dutch National Ballet Christmas Gala 19 Dec 2020 19:15 GMT

Even though it was performed without an audience and I watched it on a tiny laptop, I think I shall remember the Dutch National Ballet's Christmas Gala for as long as I live.  It will stand out in my memory like Scottish Ballet's performance of David Dawson's Swan Lake at the Liverpool Empire on 3 June 2016 (see Empire Blanc: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016) or the first time I saw the Junior Company at the Stadsshouwburg in 2013.

Although there was no grand defilé, Radius Prize or reception after the show, it was very similar to the opening night gala in September which is always one of the highlights of my year.  The show took place in the National Opera and Ballet's auditorium. The company's Director of Music and Principal Conductor, Matthew Rowe conducted the National Ballet Orchestra.   The artists performed the following: short ballets or extracts from longer ballets:

  • Balanchine's Who  Cares?
  • Echoes of Tomorrow by Wubkje Kuindersma to the music of Valentin Silvestrov 
  • Wayne McGregor's Chroma
  • Grand Pas Classique by Valentin Silvestrov 
  • David Dawson's Metamorphosis I to the music of Philip Glass
  • 5 Tangos by Hans van Manen to the music of Astor Piazzolla
  • Rudi van Dantzig's Romeo and Juliet
  • Ted Brandsen's Classical Symphony 
  • Christopher Wheeldon's  Duet 
  • Hans van Manen's Solo 
  • John Cranko's Onegin, and
  • The Nutcracker and The Mouse King.
I enjoyed all the works in the programme. It was very well balanced and must have satisfied every possible balletic preference: Broadway razzamatazz in Who Cares?, modern masterpieces such as van Manen's 5 Tangos and McGregor's Chroma, twentieth-century classics like  Romeo and Juliet and Onegin, works that had never been heard before and The Nutcracker.

The evening was introduced by Milouska Meulens who is a presenter on Dutch television. She interviewed Ted Brandsen, Maia Makhateli Floor Eimers and members of the children's choir who provide the vocals for the snowflakes scene. That was a lovely touch because the children are usually hidden in most productions. Though the conversation was in Dutch it was clear that the children appreciated the attention.  

Rafael Valdez, Edo Wijnen, Sho Yamada
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet










The last time that I saw the National Ballet live on stage was at the Zuiderstrandtheater, a seaside theatre just outside The Hague on 17 Nov 2019.  They performed a triple bill entitled Best of Balanchine which included Who Cares?  (see Balanchine by the Beach 20 Nov 2019).   Who Cares? is a favourite of American companies. but very few companies outside the United States can carry it off as well as the Americans.  The Dutch National Ballet is one that can.  This was the third time that I have seen the company dance the work and last Saturday's performance was the best,   They danced Somebody Loves You with Salome Leverashvili, Khayla Fitzpatrick, Naira Agvanean, Erica Horwood and Floor Eimers, Bidin' My Time with Edo Wijnen, Giovanni Princic, Sho Yamada, Rafael Valdez and  Dustin True, The Man I Love with Jessica Xuan and Martin ten Kortenaar, Stairway to Paradise with Nina Tonoli, My One and Only with Riho Sakamoto, Liza by Ten Kortenaar and I've Git Rhythm by the cast of that piece.

Salome Leverashvili and Timothy van Poucke.in Echoes
of Tomorrow
Photo  Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet









The first of two works that were premiered at the gala was Echoes of Tomorrow by Wubkje Kuindersma.  Kuindersma is one of three choreographers who have recently been appointed as young creative associates of the company.  Set to the music of Valentin Silvestrov's In Memory of Tchaikovsky for violin and piano the work represented a dialogue of two souls reliving an event in the past that they once shared.  It was performed eloquently by Salome Leverashvili and Timothy van Poucke.  Readers will remember the banter between Leverashvili and van Pouck in their blog which I mentioned in Missing Amsterdam! on 18 Feb 2018.  Van Poucke is a remarkable young man.  He has been in the company only since 2916 and he has already risen to grand sujet.  In 2018 he won the Radius Prize which is normally awarded to principals.

Maia Makhateli and Vito Mazzeo in Chroma
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballert










The next work was the pas de deux from Wayne McGregor's Chroma.   I had seen the Dutch National Ballet perform the whole ballet in 2015 when they included it in their  Cool Britannia. mixed bill.  I had also seen performances of the work by Alvin Ailey and the Royal Ballet.  Maia Makhateli and Vito Mazzeo danced it exquisitely.  Even though they could not have heard me on the other side of the North Sea I clapped and cheered until my voice was hoarse and my palms were raw.  My only reservation was that I am not sure that the pas de deux succeeds as a standalone work.  The ballet's appeal lies in the combination of McGregor's choreography with Talbot's score and Pawson's architectural set designs.  That did not quite come across in the extract.

Photo Hans Geritrsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet  All rights reserved

Victor Gsovsky's Grand Pas Classique was new to me.  The reason why I had not seen it before it that it is an exhibition piece to display the dancers' virtuosity.  It had been created for Yvette Chauviré and Vladimir Skouratoff at the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in 1949.  It could be regarded as a mid-twentieth century hommage to the Imperial Russian Ballet perhaps in the same way as the third act of Jewels.  The ballerina is resplendent in a blue and white classical tutu.  With spectacular jumps for the man and lots of fouettés for them both, it cannot be easy.   Jessica Xuan and Jakob Feyferlik performed it with great flair and precision.

Anna Öl and James Stout
Photo  Hans Gerritsen ©2020 Dutch National Ballet





















The second work to be premiered on 19 Dec was David Dawson's Metamorphis I.  He is an Associate Artist of the Dutch National Ballet and he has created a lot of pieces for that company though my favourite of his works is his Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet.  Metamorphosis I reminded me a little of Swan Lake possibly because Swan Lake is also about metamorphosis.  The choreography and even the costumes seemed to echo that work.  However, Philip Glass's music was different,  A piano piece played by Olga Khoziainova. The dancers were Anna Öl and James Stout.  Immediately after seeing this piece, I tweeted:

That just about sums up my impression of the work. 

Hans van Manen was an important influence when I first took an interest in dance at the end of the 1960s. He has created a vast body of work over the years.   Many - and I include myself in that number - regard him as the world's greatest living choreographer.  One of his most popular works is 5 Tangos to the following pieces by Astor PizzollaTodo Buenos Aires, Mort, Vayamos al diablo, Resurrección del angel and Buenos Áires hora cero. In this context it is important to remember that tango is more than a style of social dancing. It is an art form in its own right in Argentina. Pizzolla helped to elevate tango music from something that was played on the streets of the immigrant neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires to the world's concert halls.  The tango as it is performed around the River Plate is a swaggering dance for alpha males and vampish females which van Manen captured in his work. For the gala, Artur Shesterikov danced the solo Vayamos al diablo (literally "Let's Go to the Devil") with energy, flair and machismo.  It was one of the highlights of my evening which is why Shesterikov's photo is at the top of this review.

Qian Liu and Semyon Velichko in Romeo and Juliet
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Vallet












The other great Dutch choreographer of our time is Rudi van Dantzig.  He created the Dutch National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet which I have yet to see. I have however seen productions of Romeo and Juliet by MacMillan, Lavrovsky, Maillot, Pastor, James and others.  Having seen the balcony scene danced by Qian Liu and Semyon Velichko it is now a personal priority to see the complete work.  The leading roles must be the most difficult for any principal to perform because they have to imagine themselves as impulsive teenagers even though they are expected to be mature adults in nearly every other role they dance. A good test of a Romeo and Juliet is whether the audience can imagine them as kids despite their 'life and stage experience.   Qian Liu and Velichko passed that test in my eyes.

Jared Wright, Martin ten Kortenaar, Vito Mazzeo and Daniel Robert Silva
in Classical Symphony
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballwr


  









More Prokoviev in Brandsen's Classical Symphony and a chance to review his male dancers:  Martin ten Kortenaar, Sem Sjouke, Joseph Massarelli, Daniel Montero Real, Dingkai Bai, Michele EspositoManu Kumar, Alejandro Zwartendijk, Isaac Mueller, James Stout, Daniel Robert Silva, Pascal Johnson. Giovanni Princic, Leo Hepler, Bela Erlandson, Giorgi Potskhishvili, Vito Mazzeo, Nathan BrhaneRémy Catalan, Fabio Rinieri, Bastiaan Stoopm Dustin True, Rafael Valdez, Conor Walmsley and Sander Baaij.  With their jumps and turns, the virtuosity and athleticism of those artists were impressive.  Balanchine is reported to have said that ballet is "a purely female thing" but this piece showed the fallacy of his remark.

Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen in "Duet"
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet










As its title suggests this gem of a work by Christopher Wheeldom to a piano piece by Ravel is a duet.  This was yet another ba;let that I had not seen before but long to see again.  According to the programme, Duet was created in 2012 but I have not yet found out for whom it was created and when it was first performed.  It could well have been made for Anna Tsygankova and Constantine Allen for they made it their own.  This is a work that was particularly well suited for Tsygankova because she is an accomplished pianist. Having seen her performance as Cinderella in London I thnk she has a special understanding of Wheeldon's work (see Wheeldon's Conderella 13 July 2015).  I imagine she would be a great Hermione in his Winter's Tale and I hope that she may be cast in that role one day.


Sho Yamada in Solo
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet





















Solo was the second van Manen masterpiece in the programme.  Originally created for the Netherlands Dance Theatre Junior Company in 1997, this is a work for three male dancers. to the music of  Johann Sebastian Bach. It was performed on 19 Dec 2020 by Sho Yamada, Daniel Silva and Remi Wörtmeyer.  This was another highlight of my evening.

Anna Ol and Jozef Varga in Onegin
Photo  Han Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballt


The last full-length ballet that I saw before the lockdown was the Royal Ballet's Onegin with  Thiago Soares in the title role, Itziar Mendizabal in the lead roles. The penultimate scene from  John Cranko's Onegin was a poignant reminder of a lost year.  It is the denouement where Onegin shows up after years of exile to look up his old flame Tatiana.  Earlier in the story, Tatiana had declared her love for Onegin in a letter which he heartlessly destroys in front of her.  That led to a duel in which he killed his best friend and was forced into exile. Tatiana would have been heartbroken but she found a good man to marry and was living very happily until Onegin returned to seduce her.   In the final duet, Tatiana is still attracted to the cad and for a second we fear that she will throw her new life away.  But she doesn't.  Instead, she screws up Onegin's love letter in front of him and sends him on his way.   A dramatic scene danced passionately by Anna Ol and Jozef Varga.  Although the ballet was created by a South African it was based on a poem by Pushkin which Ol will have known well.   Like Osipova who danced Tatiana in London in 2015, she seemed to have injected a je ne sais quoi which only a Russian could do.

Snowflakes
Photo Hans Geritsen © 2020 Dutch Narional Ballet

The gala ended with scenes from Wayne Eagling's The Nutcracker and The Mouse King.  The first was the Snowflakes scene which the members of Powerhouse Ballet had intended to learn on 14 March.  We had booked Mark Hindle to teach it to us but we had to abandon the workshop at the last minute to avoid the risk of infection. The first thing we shall do once this virus is eradicated will be to fix a new date for the workshop.  I was delighted to see that the lead dancers in the Snowflakes scene were Maria Chugai and Jingjing Mao. I am a very big fan of both dancers but particularly Chugai who impressed me with her performance as Myrthe in Heerlen in 2018. During the lockdown, she has given us two unforgettable online classes and been our guest at The Stage Door,

The other scenes in the gala were the Chinese, Russian and Greek divertissements and the grand pas de deux of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier.   The Chinese dance was performed by Kira Hilli, Fabio Rinieril Dustin True, Rémy Catalan and Dingkai Bai.  I had noticed Hilli when the Junior Company visited Covent Garden and it is good to see that talented young artist has made the main company. The soloists in the Russian dance were Sandra Quintyn and Pascal Johnson.   

 Floor Eimers and Nathan Brhane in the Greek scene
Photo Gabs Gerritseb © 2020 Dutch National Ballet



If anyone is wondering, the Greek dance was what other companies call the mirlitons.  With a ruined temple as a backdrop with mythical beasts, it was danced superbly by Floor Eimers Sem Sjouke, Nathan Brhane and Daniel Montero Real.  Wayne Eagling also produced The Nutcracker for English National Ballet when he was its Artistic Director but I do not recall that scene.

Maia Makhateli  and Young Gyu Choi
Photo Hans Gerritsen © 2020 Dutch National Ballet


The evening was perfected by the final pas de deux.   Makhateli was a delightful Sugar Plum.   Seldom have I seen her solo danced so beautifully.  Young Gyu Choi, a powerful athletic dancer, who gas impressed me in everything that he has performed, was a worthy cavalier.

This has been a miserable year for balletgoers but this gala is a positive memory.   Many who lived through the Spanish flu pandemic blocked 1918 from their recollection and we may do the same.  Whatever else I remember or choose not to remember of 2020  I shall never forget that outstanding gala. My congratulations to all the dancers, musicians, technicians and other staff who made it happen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Scottish Ballet's Secret Theatre

Standard YouTube Licence

Scottish Ballet's Feature Film The Secret Theatre 21 Dec 2020

A little boy (Leo Tetten) bounces his football off a soot-stained wall in Victorian Glasgow. He dribbles it across a footbridge into the West End.  He bounces it against a door which creaks open.  His curiosity gets the better of him and he goes in.   He finds himself in an auditorium but the stage is lit.  Evading the watchman's torch he finds himself in the props department.  A basket heaves and creaks and out jumps Lexi.

Now you would have to have visited Scotland at the beginning of the year and seen The Snow Queen in order to know about Lexi.  As I said in my review, Hampson's Masterpiece: The Snow Queen on 7 March 2020, she is the Snow Queen's sister in Christopher Hampson's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale which can fairly be described as his best work yet.  When I saw the ballet the role was danced by Grace Horler but in Scottish Ballet's first full-length film, The Secret Theatre, she is danced by Alice Kawalek.

Around the stage are the snow wolves' heads, the shattered ice backdrop of the Snow Queen's palace and many other components of Lez Brotherston's magnificent sets and costumes.   Many of the characters in Hampson's ballet were in the film including the Snow Queen performed by the wonderful Constance Devernay, the Ringmaster (Bruno Micchiardi), the Strongman (Nicholas Shoesmith) and the ballerina (Kayla-Maree Tarantolo), 

However, The Secret Theatre is not a screen version of The Snow Queen.  If anything it has more in common with The Nutcracker as you can see from the synopsis The one big difference is that there is no Clara, Marie or Princess Masha.   In their place is the little boy who shows in one scene that he knows how to head a football.   The Snow Wolf characters rub shoulders with the Sugar Plum Fairy (Sophie Martin) and the snowflakes led by Marge Hendrick. Hendrick will always have a special place in my affection for reminding me so much of Elaine McDonald at Northern Ballet's 50th-anniversary celebration in Leeds on 4 Jan 2020.  She danced Peter Darrell's Five Rückert Songs which was my highlight of that evening (see Northern Ballet's 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala  5 Jan 2020).

The climax of the film was the final pas de deux from The Nutcracker.   Just as Clara morphs into the Sugar Plum Fairy in some productions of The Nutcracker the little boy morphs into the handsome cavalier (Jerome Anthony Barnes).  Having studied the Sugar Plum Fairy's solo  I follow it particularly closely.  Martin performed it exquisitely and had I been in a theatre I would have thrown flowers on stage.  Indeed the whole pas de deux was a delight.

I have to congratulate Hampson and Brotherston who co-directed the film.  The only film of this genre that I have enjoyed as much as has been Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes.   I believe that The Secret Theatre will be watched and enjoyed in 70 years time just as our generation appreciates The Red Shoes now.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Meet Amedeo Giunta of the Plovdiv Opera House Ballet

Amadeo Giunta
© 2020 Amadeo Giunta 

 









 



A few weeks ago I joined KNT's Saturday online intermediate class and met a new teacher, He asked us to bear with him because it was the first time that he had taught in English.  He had no need to seek our indulgence. He had a love of dance which he communicated to us eloquently.  It came as no surprise to learn at the end of the class that he was a professional dancer. He is a member of the ballet troupe of the Plovdiv Opera House.

A few weeks later, he taught us again on the Day of Dance.  This time for a full 90 minutes.  There are many good teachers who have never been members of a company but those who have bring something very special to their classes.  I am not sure what it is but they make us want to jump that little bit higher or make a bit more of an effort at something else.  I don't know whether we jumped a fraction of an inch higher or whether our pirouettes were tighter and straighter but we definitely felt lifted by our teacher's manner.  

Immediately after the class, I contacted Karen Sant, the Principal of KNT, for the teacher's contact details so that I could ask him for this interview.  Karen sent me a short bio from which I learnt that his name was Amedeo Giunta.  I transmitted the invitation through a mutual friend and, almost immediately afterwards, I received his acceptance.

Amedeo told me that he was born in Barrafranca, a small, inland cathedral city in the province of Enna in Sicily.  He has a younger brother and two older sisters. The older of his sisters, Rosamaria, has two daughters of whom he is particularly fond. He says that the days on which his nieces were born were among the happiest of his life. He is justifiably proud of his region which is distinguished for its history, architecture, cuisine and traditions.  

He comes from a family of dancers.  His mother attended dance classes until she learned that she was pregnant with Amedeo.  Rosamaria teaches ballet to children and young people. It was she who took Amedeo to his first dance class at the tender age of 3.  He was the only boy in a class of girls.  He remembers being the centre of their attention sitting on the floor in his sister's dancing shoes. He felt at home in the studio right from the start despite being the only boy.

He studied hard under his first teacher Cettina Averna.   He describes her as almost a second mother.   After a few months of classes, he was invited to perform in public for the first time.  His piece was a Michael Jackson solo.  From that moment he knew that he was destined for the stage.

As there are no theatres near his home, Amedeo did not see ballet live on stage until his student days in Rome.  However, he had DVDs of the great classical works including Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire.  I asked him about his first live ballet.  It turned out to have been a dress rehearsal of Roland Petit's Coppelia.  That must have made quite an impression on Amedeo because Petit's version is particularly dramatic as can be seen from this clip in which Sergei Polunin danced Franz.  I asked Amedeo whether he was inspired by any of the artists that appeared in his DVDs. He replied:

"Of course as dancers, we all have our idols (Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and the more recents like Roberto Bolle, Carlos Acosta, Federico Bonelli, Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel) but what most inspires me is the desire to improve myself not to be like my idols, but to be the best version of myself everyday."

 He said that he took advantage of every opportunity he could get to attend workshops with the leading Italian and international masters.  

Amedeo's big break came in 2012 when he won the best soloist title in the Mentana Danza Life competition.  This is the video for the 2013 competition.  His prize included a scholarship to the MAS professional school in Milan.

Between 2013 and 2015 Amedeo trained at the Balletto di Roma School, As it is attached to the Rome Ballet and directed by the distinguished choreographer, Paola Jorio, it is very prestigious.  I asked Amedeo whether he had any favourite teachers at the Rome Ballet School. He mentioned Alexandre Stepkine who taught ballet, Mauro Murri, another of his ballet teachers and his contemporary teacher, Paolo Mangiola.  Stepkine helped him to understand how to develop the power needed for jumps and tours en l'air.  Murri showed him how to work on his body with intelligence and awareness. Mangiola opened his eyes to new possibilities of movement and to explore new ways to find expression through the human body.  

As end of term shows often provide the first opportunity for artistic directors, critics and audiences to spot up and coming dancers, I asked Amedeo about his performances at ballet school.   He mentioned, in particular, dancing  Brighella in Alexandre Stepkin’s Commedia Dell’arte.  He also had the chance to dance with the Rome Ballet. That was his first experience of working in a studio with different choreographers.  He danced in Futura, a piece by  Milena Zullo who also taught at his school.  He took part in the premiere of Tefer by Itamar Serussi Sahar a the Belgrade Dance Festival.  Other performances included Tourning by Alessandro Sciarroni and Reveals which was created by the dancers themselves.

Amedeo seems to have enjoyed his time in Rome.  I asked him what was the most important lesson that he had learned there.  He replied:

"The best advice that I received was to focus on my limits, accept them and make them my quality,"

His first job was with the Sienna Ballet (Balleto di Siena),  One of the works in the company's repertoire is entitled in English The Great Pas de Deux which includes extracts from Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty and many more.  Amedeo had the chance to dance in the pas de deux from Le Corsaire. Diana and Acteon, and Esmeralda. He also learned some of the technical skills of staging a ballet such as lighting design and scenography. 

I asked him where he had acquired his teaching skills.  He replied that he had always assisted his sister and his first teacher Cettina Averna.  He would give classes to their students and choreograph pieces for their shows.  His bio mentions the "Snoopy School" so I asked him about that.  He told me that Cettina's classes are known as "The Snoopy School" because the sports and leisure centre where she gives her classes is named after Snoopy in Peanuts.  He is passionate about dance education not just for the talented but also for the public as a whole.  He said:

"Our mission is to make dance, culture and art more accessible to the people of our city and to destroy the prejudice that the ‘unknown’ takes within society."

That is identical to the mission of this blog and indeed Powerhouse Ballet which grew out of the blog.  I shall make it my business to keep in touch with those artists in Sicily.  Who knows? Maybe we can find a way of working together. 

As I said in the first paragraph, Amedeo is now with the Plovdiv ballet.  Plovdiv, like Manchester, is the second city of its country and it also has a long history.  It used to be known as Φιλιππούπολη because it was founded by Philip of Macedon.  Also like Manchester, Plovdiv is a big manufacturing and commercial centre with lots of theatres, concert halls and other places of entertainment, museums, universities and plenty of arts festivals.  The opera house was founded in 1953 and the auditorium now hoists operas, musicals and concerts as well as ballets.

Amedeo is very glad to be in Plovdiv:

"I enjoy every single day, emotion, show, moment. It’s amazing how much this country believes in culture and theatres, and I’m really happy to dance in such a beautiful city like Plovdiv."

While he has been there he has danced the Rat King in The Nutcracker and Magdavaya in La Bayadere.  He has also danced Siegfried in a performance of Swan Lake for children.  I asked him about roles that he would like to dance in future.  He replied  Birbanto in Le Corsaire and Rothbart in Swan Lake.

I learned that Amedeo had created some ballets of his own so I asked about them.  He replied:

"The piece that I created for State Opera Plovdiv is a pas de deux called  The Opposite Pole that talks about the attraction, relation and complementation of everything. For example, day and night are completely opposite from each other, but they compliment each other because they are attached together. It is inspired a lot by the symbol of Yin-Yang (That I actually have tattooed on my arm because it is a very special symbol that always appears in my life). It is choreographed to a beautiful music by an Italian composer, Andrea Farri and danced by myself and my colleague from State Opera Plovdiv, Mara Salvaggio. Now I am starting to choreograph a new piece for the company, under invitation by the artistic director Mariana Krancheva, with only male dancers! Which is a big challenge for me, and I cannot wait to develop it in the studio and hopefully on stage."

I guessed that Wayne McGregor might have been one of his inspirations and so it turned out.  Other favourite choreographers include Alexander Ekman, Marco Goecke, Akram Khan and Ohad Naharin.

I asked Amedeo whether he had any unfulfilled ambitions and this is what he said:

"The only ambition that I have right now is to dance all over the world, and why not create new choreographies and inspire people with them."

I asked him whether that might include the UK  "Living in the UK?" he replied,  "Why not? Who knows, maybe my next adventure is there!"

As for the future, he said that he has always loved teaching:

"So yes, later in life I would like to teach as well as choreograph in professional schools and pass all of my love for this art form to the new younger generations."
"In that case," I replied, "your students will ask you for advice,  What are you going to tell them?"

He said:

"The only advice that I want to give young aspiring dancers is to accept themselves with their limitations and their qualities and work on them. Only by working in that way, can they improve every day and maybe become someone that they never imagined to be. At least that is what happened to me. I started my career certain that the only way for me to dance was in modern or contemporary because of my body limitations for ballet; and I see now that I’m living a dream that I never even imagined, to dance in an Opera House."

How many others who have grabbed a barre can say that? 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Dance in Nigeria

Standard YouTube Licence

Yesterday I took part in a webinar entitled "The Business of Dance" which was organized by the Intellectual Property Lawyers Association of Nigeria.   My fellow panellists were Jemima Angulu, Artistic Director of Krump Studios, Victor Nwejinaka of Blackbones Theatre Kompany, Basorun Aderoju of Hyeres Elite Athletes and Talents and the distinguished Nigerian IP lawyer Folarin Aluko. I set out my reflections as a lawyer in Intellectual Property Lawyers Association of Nigeria Webinar - The Business of Dance 27 Nov 2020 NIPC News.  Here I set out some thoughts as a dance blogger.

As I said in my other article, speaker after speaker - lawyers as well as creatives - stressed the importance of dance in Nigeria.  It may be important to us but it is vital to Nigerians. Some idea of the diversity and energy of Nigerian dance can be gained from the videos and photos on the Blackbones Theatre Kompany Facebook page.  The company describes itself as "an entertainment outfit of youths that seeks to promote our rich African cultural heritage through dance, drama and music."

While Nigeria has a rich heritage of indigenous dance genres it is making its mark in other art forms.  It would appear from the costumes and hand links in this photo from Blackbones's Facebook page that those dancers are rehearsing the cygnets' dance from the second act of Swan Lake.  There are students of enormous talent in Nigeria Anthony Mmesoma Madu and he is by no means unique as can be seen in Lindsay Alissa King's articles  Ballet in Nigeria and Imagining the Future of Ballet from Nigeria in Ballet Rising.

Now that I have learned a little more about dance in Nigeria and established links with some of the leaders in the sector I shall follow the sector with great interest.

Further Reading

The Hon Ehusani Abel Simpa The Role of the Customary Court in protecting Nigerian Cultural Expressions and Dance 28 Nov 2020 Eruditepark

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

So what is the Dutch Style?

Standard YouTube Licence


That was a question that I put to Ernst Meisner in the Q&A following his interview by Graham Watts in the London Ballet Circle's Zoom call last night.  I asked Ernst that question because the Dutch National Ballet will perform a mixed bill entitled The Dutch School between 12 and 26 June 2021 to which he is one of the contributors.  Thinking also of Balanchine's Jewels in which emeralds were attributed to the French, rubies to the Americans and diamonds to the Russians, I wondered what would be the Dutch jewel if Mr B could plan a sequel.

Ernst replied "simplicity" when Graham Watts read out my question.  That is certainly true of Embers and No Time before Time, two of the most beautiful short pieces that have ever been created for the stage.  It is quite impossible to watch either of those works dry-eyed.  But what about the others?  Van Dantzig, van Manen, van Schayk, Ochoa and Brandsen?  To name just a few?  "Simplicity" is not the first word that comes to my mind when contemplating Mata Hari or In the Future.

Yet there is undoubtedly a quality of Dutch dance that makes it recognizable anywhere and that is its fluidity. That is the characteristic that I think all the works that I have seen in Amsterdam have in common.  It is the je ne sais quoi of Embers and No Time that tugs at my emotions. But it is the one quality that I think the maker of abstract historical ballets shares with the creator of moving architecture.  I might also add another word that is close to fluidity, namely fluency.

Don't all successful works of choreography have that quality? Many will ask.  Yes, but in the same way as all male dancers jump spectacularly but perhaps not quite in the same way as the Russians.  Similarly, there is a certain lyrical softness to say Lise's solo as she is locked up with the sheaves of corn that all dancers display but perhaps not to the same extent which perhaps explains why I have never seen Ashton performed outside England quite as well as his work is danced here. 

If I were thinking of awarding the Dutch a jewel I think it would be mercury, the only metal that exists as a liquid at room temperature.  Not a gem that can be worn on a ring or in the hair but something equally rare, just as beautiful and much more elusive.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Swan

Standard YouRuve Licence


Scottish Ballet Swan 19 Nov 2020

My most popular post by far has been Empire Blanc: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016, my review of Scottish Ballet's performance of David Dawson's Swan Lake at the Liverpool Empire on 3 June 2016. I received tens of thousands of hits at the time and I am still getting a lot even now. I loved that show and I think readers must have sensed something of my passion behind my words.

Dawson's ballet was to have been revived for a tour of Scotland this Spring but sadly the pandemic got in the way. Scottish Ballet plans to reschedule it just as soon as Covid 19 is under control. To assuage the audience's disappointment at the postponement of the tour, Eve McConnachie has transposed part of the last act to film. It was premiered over the internet at 19:00 last night and I have already watched it three times. It is a work of art of considerable value in its own right. From the film, I have seen details of the choreography, lighting, costumes that my senses failed to take in the first time around. The camera takes the audience into the performance. It really is the next best thing to performing onstage.

There are 10 dancers in the film - Constance Duverney, Aisling Brangan, Claire Souet, Grace Horler, Roseanna Leney, Grace Paulley, Alice Kawalek, Amy McEntee, Melissa Parsons and Anna Williams. According to the filmmaker, Dawson's choreography was left unchanged. However, he was in contact with the artists throughout the making of the film.

After the film, there were short interviews with Eve McConnachie and Roseanna Leney. Leney was asked about differences between dancing before a lens and dancing on stage. An important difference was the absence of an audience. She described the experience of sensing its presence, The chatter before the lights go down and then the lull. Theatre is a collaborative art and the audience are as much part of the creative process as the artists though their participation is limited to the applause. That is particularly true of dance and maybe especially so in ballet.

Yesterday's performance was for Friends of Scottish Ballet. Scottish Ballet was the first company that I got to know and love. I was a fan even before it was Scottish largely for the sparky choreography of its founder Peter Darrell. I relished such works as Mods and Rockers and Houseparty. The company has grown and prospered over the years and as it has grown so has my affection and admiration.