Tuesday, 31 March 2015

La Bayadère

On Saturday I saw Shobana Jeyasingh's Bayadère - Ninth Life and you will see my report (I can't call it a review because I am still digesting it) at La Bayadère - The Ninth Life 29 March 2015. Jeyasingh suggested a connection between a visit by temple dancers from Pondicherry to Paris in 1838 and Petipa's ballet in St. Petersburg in 1877. While I was sceptical at first I think there may well have been through Théophile Gautier,

The reason for my scepticism is that there was a 39 year time lapse and a thousand miles of distance between the visit of the temple dancers to Paris in 1838 and the premiere of La Bayadère in St Petersburg in 1877. But then I remembered that Gautier was the librettist of Giselle.  Marius Petipa who created La Bayadère knew Giselle well and staged his own version in St Petersburg in 1884. When you compare the two ballets you notice similarities. For instance the heroine dies a pretty horrible death in both ballets.  Giselle in a fit or by a heart attack upon learning of Albrecht's deception; and Nikiya by a bite from a snake concealed in a basket of flowers. Both have visions of the afterlife: the vengeful wilis on the prowl in the forests and the shades in the mountains, Both visions provide great roles for the corps. 

Except for the entry of the shades which is sometimes shown at galas, La Bayadère is not well known in this country. Natalia Makarova has staged a version for the Royal Ballet which was last danced two years ago (see La Bayadère on the Royal Opera House's website) and it has been performed by visiting companies from Russia. A performance of the whole ballet in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg can be seen on YouTube. There is a pretty good entry on the ballet in Wikipedia. The Royal Ballet website has a great interview with Nehemiah Kish who danced Solor and an interesting article by Paul Kilbey entitled Eastern Promises: The allure of the Orient in opera and ballet with a clip of the dance of the bronze idol.

The reason I have compiled these resources is that Marion Pettet of the Chelmsford Ballet Company who tweeted yesterday
Anyone who watched her in Pineapple Poll and Carnival of the Animals two weeks ago will agree that Marion  knows a lot about ballet. I mentioned it as a possible project for the company because they have a lot of good female dancers who could dance the shades well. I would love to see someone dance this ballet again.

I know who would be the perfect Nikiya -  not because she is of South Asian heritage but because she reminds me so much of the first English dancer to dance that role. But I can imagine others such as Leebolt, Gittens and Mutso in the role. Rojo, Nixon, Bintley, Hampson - are you listening?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Another Beautiful Photo of Michaela DePrince

Michaela DePrince in Swan Lake
Photo Angela Sterling
(c) Dutch National Ballet 2015
All rights reserved

As promised, another beautiful picture of Michaela DePrince in the Dutch National Ballet's recent production of Swan Lake. I am grateful to Richard Heideman of the Dutch National Ballet for sending me this photo and to the company for authorizing its reproduction.

If you are in Leeds on 2 April 2015 you can watch First Position at Cafe 164 (see Cafe 164 to screen "First Position" 20 Jan 2015). If you are intermediate level or above you can take her master class at Danceworks on 7 July 2015 (see Dance with DePrince 2 March 2015).

You can find other articles about DePrince at Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam 28 Nov 2014,

I shall be reviewing DePrince's autobiography Hope in a Ballet Shoe shortly,

Sunday, 29 March 2015

La Bayadère - The Ninth Life

Théophile Gautier
Photo M. Berthali Wikipedia

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance's La Bayadère - The Ninth Life at the Linbury yesterday lasted about an hour but it was one of the most intense hours that I have ever spent in the theatre. I had come to the performance expecting a transposition of the story of the ballet into bharatha natyam or some other Indian dance idiom but it was nothing like that. That would have been too easy and it is clear from the list of her works on her company's website that Jeyasingh doesn't do easy. Instead, it compared and contrasted a modern Indian's perception of one of the classics of Western dance with Théophile Gautier's perception of Indian classical dance.

At least I think that is what it was about. My friend and colleague Gita Mistry understood it much better than I did. She has studied bharatha natyam (see Our Three Hundredth Post - Now we are a Team 21 Feb 2015) and picked up on cues like the counting of time and the sharp heel movements that had passed me by. She explained her understanding of this work to me patiently over dinner (a curry as it happens) and the long drive back to Yorkshire. I admired the virtuosity of the dancers and I came reasonably prepared for the show having read everything I could about it but without Gita's commentary it would have been very much harder for me to appreciate the show.

The performance opens straightforwardly enough with a blogger and his computer. He is an Indian man in a check shirt sitting on the floor as the audience arrives and takes their places. The lights dimmed. He began to type and words appeared on the screen. On a visit to London, he explains, a friend had taken him to the ballet to see La Bayadère. He found it a remarkable experience. He set out the story noting that it set near modern Hyderabad. He listed the characters - Nikiya, Gamzatti, Solor, the holy man - each of whom appeared behind the screen. "I've never seen a holy man move like that" he mused to the audience's laughter. The plot he described as "pure Bollywood" the only authentic bit being the protracted Indian wedding. And finally the entry of the shades.

The next scene focused on the words of Gautier who saw real bayadères or temple dancers from Pondicherry when they visited Paris in 1838.  At first came wonder and appreciation for the dancers - their wonderful soft skin and teeth - but then disdain - blue gums, the ears riddled with holes, the gifts of tobacco, the dancer's feet one toe separated from the others like a bird's foot - and this refrain was repeated with the temple dancer manhandled on stage.

Gita told me that much of the dancing in that scene had been bharatha natyam which I might have worked out for myself had Indian instruments been played but there were no hints of that in Gabriel Prokofiev's score. This was a combination of voice with percussion and other sound. The soundtrack from this trailer will give some idea. As I say above, Jeyasingh does not do easy.

Listening to Gauthier's words which were repeated several times, it dawned on me why India unlike China, Japan and Korea appears relatively unmoved and uninfluenced by Western ballet or for that matter classical music. I had considered that conundrum several times in this blog (see, for example, More on Ballet in India 4 Sept 2014). Gauthier, the author of Giselle, never really understood or appreciated an Indian dance form that has subsisted for more than two millennia. Why should an Indian pay regard for an art form which in its modern embodiment is barely two centuries old!

As I said above I found the show intense. Gita felt it too.  Both of us would have preferred a different score. I would have liked Indian instruments and rhythms. But we are both glad to have seen the show. Armed with the knowledge that I now have I should like to see it again. It is going on tour but only in places like Eastleigh, Exeter and Watford. "Why not bring it North?" I asked the choreographer whom I approached after the show. She replied that she would love to do so.

Further Reading
31 March 2015   La Bayadère  

Saturday, 28 March 2015

More Ballet in Essex

Photo Jane Lambert
All rights reserves

Sheila Beelam who keeps the wonderful Just Ballet shop in Thorpe Bay just outside Southend has just posted the following announcement on Facebook:
"We have just managed to book in a photo shoot for next Wednesday 1st April 10.30am - 1.30 pm at the Palace Theatre in Southend. We are looking for the following to help model our beautiful collection of leotards:
  • 3 x adult dancers (UK 6-8, UK 8-10 & UK 10-12) 
  • 3 x 8 - 11 year old dancers 
  • 1 x 4 - 5 year old dancer 
Each dancer will receive a Just Ballet gift voucher, goody bag and a complimentary image from their photo shoot.:-)
Casting closes this Sunday 29th March at 10 pm".
I visited Sheila in her shop last month on the way back from Amsterdam and was very impressed.It was just like Aladdin's cave and she was running a recording of Giselle on her monitor. I had previously bought two leotards from her (she stocks all sizes even for hippos like me) and I bought another really pretty one for me plus something for a friend in Sheffield.

The shop is just round the corner from the sea front and you can park outside. There are no restrictions.

If I were an Essex girl I would love to take part in this shoot. As I have written quite a lot about ballet in Chelmsford and Harlow this week I thought that some of them might like to apply to take part.

Cuballett Hamburg 2015

Last year Joanna watched and very kindly reviewed a performance of Swan Lake by the National Ballet of Cuba in Havana (see Joanna Goodman We are the dancers, we create the dreams: Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s El Lago de los Cisnes in Havana 8 July 2015). At the end of the show Alicia Alonso appeared for a standing ovation. "It was a privilege" wrote Joanna," to have the opportunity to see her in the flesh."

This year the daughter of that great dancer is coming to us. Or at least next door. Laura Alonso and other teachers from Cuba will hold a series of classes in Hamburg in May. The highlight promises to be a master class by Laura Alonso herself on 23 May 2015. Judging by this video of her rehearsing dancers for Les Sylphdes it should be quite an experience. Also teaching will be Reynaldo Muniz Delgado. Here he is coaching a dancer for The Sleeping Beauty. The visit will end with a gala by Cuballet Hamburg on 31 May 2015.

Further information about the classes and a link for online registration can be obtained from the home page of Cuballett Hamburg's blog. It will be a good time to come to Hamburg. The euro is lower than it has been for a while. We will have had our election and our politicos and civil servants will be busy horse trading. What better time to take a breather. And what could be better than dancing,

Friday, 27 March 2015

Chelmsford Ballet - the Magnificent Marion as Britannia in Pineapple Poll

Marion Pettet as Britannia (and Mrs Dimple)
Photo Amelia Potter
Reproduced with kind permission of the Chelmsford Ballet

Last Sunday I reviewed Chelmsford Ballet's Pineapple Poll and Carnival of the Animals (A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015).Marion Pettet has kindly sent me 4 photos all by Amelia Potter which I shall publish individually.

Here is the magnificent Marion as Britannia in the closing scene of Pineapple Poll To the right stands Andrew Potter as Admiral Belaye.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Taking Flight" in more ways than one

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

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

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

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

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

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