Friday, 27 May 2016

The Lowry CAT

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Opportunities not just for Dancers

Standard YouTube Licence

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

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

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

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


It is just over two years since Mel and I attended Chantry Dance's Dream Dance workshop and their performance of Sandman at the Drill Hall at Lincoln but the company seems to get stronger and stronger each time I hear from them. Yesterday they announced that the Council for Dance and Education Training had recognized the Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts with its certificate of good professional practice. Not bad progress for s school which was launched less than a year ago (see If only I were young again - Chantry School of Contemporary and Balletic Arts 27 July 2015). It says a lot for the prestige of an institution if it can attract to a small town in the East Midlands on a Sunday afternoon some of the biggest names in the performing arts as it did on 17 April 2016 (see What's in a Name 26 April 2016).

With such a meteoric rise it is not surprising that the company's newest work will be on rocketry. The title of the work is Ulysses Unbound. As the company celebrated the 160th anniversary of the birth of Oscar Wilde with the Happy Prince two years ago (see The Happy Prince in Halifax 23 Nov 2014) I had supposed that Ulysses Unbound might have something to do with another Irish literary giant but I couldn't have been more wrong. According to the company's website:
"The last astronaut has left a dying earth in search of a new home. In a thrilling cascade of stunning characters, costumes and imagery, he witnesses the birth of a new star and finds himself on an alien world, populated by very alien creatures!
This extraordinary ballet combines an exciting original soundtrack with contemporary ballet danced by an exceptional international cast. Through the fascinating choreography the dancers interpret cosmic events, from the evolution of a star to the formation of a deadly black hole."
The choreography for this new ballet is by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper to a score by Tim Mountain who wrote the music for Chasing the Eclipse which I reviewed in Gravity Fields - Chasing the Eclipse 28 Sept 2014.

Chasing the Eclipse was launched at the Gravity Fields science festival in 2014 and Ulysses Unbound will be launched during this year's festival at the Guidhall Arts Centre on 21 Sept 2016. It will then go on tour around England stopping at Stamford, Birmingham, Worcester and London. Science and the arts are said to be opposites but they needn't and shouldn't be. One of the reasons why I admire Sharon Watson's TearFall so much is that the piece combines science with s lot of humanity (see my reviews The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2016 and Phoenix in Huddersfield 27 Nov 2015). The programme for this year's Gravity Fields festival between 21 and 24 Sept 2016 promises all sorts of interesting talks, performances and other events.

Sadly I have to be in Geneva for a WIPO meeting at  CERN  of all places  between the 22 and 24 Sept 2016 but I do hope to see something of this festival. I also hope that as many of my readers as possible will hop into their cars, board a train or even a plane to see this beautiful little town and this fine company.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Crowdfunding for the Ballet

Melissa Chapski and Giovanni Princic
Photo Michel Schnater
Copyright 2016 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved
Reproduction licensed by kind permission of the company

I argued in Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers 13 March 2014 that more money could be raised for the arts by licensing, merchandising and sponsorship. The Dutch National Ballet have been particularly innovative in that regard.  One of its most imaginative initiatives has been its collaboration in the design and marketing of Bounden, an award winning dancing game for two players (see Bounden - Something that appeals to my Interests in Technology and Dance 17 Dec 2013, Bounden Part II - How it works 1 Feb 2014 and Bounden Launched 28 May 2014).

The company's latest fund raising method has been crowd funding. On 12 May it launched a campaign to raise scholarships for two outstanding young dancers, the Italian Giovanni Princic, and the American Melissa Chapski (see Crowdfunding Campaign for Juniors Melissa and Giovanni on the Dutch National Ballet's website). The above photo shows them in van Manen's Trois Gnossiennes which I covered on 9 March 2016.

Van Manen is one of the big names mentioned on the website who train the Junior Company's dancers. Others include its principals, Igone de Jongh and Marijn Rademaker. The aim is to give those dancers a "last little push to reach their final goal: getting to the top of the ballet world". Readers can do that using their debit or credit cards through the donations page of the company's website.

As I said in 70 Years of the London Ballet Circle 10 May 2016 Ernst Meisner's name cropped up more than once in my conversations with dancers, dance administrators and teachers in this company. That is largely because he spent 10 years with the Royal Ballet and we regard him with great affection as one of our own but also because of his work with the Junior Company providing a bridge between ballet school and the company. I asked whether any company here had thought of setting up a junior company and was told that it would be something that they would all like to do but that it would cost too much money. If that is the case, maybe the Dutch have shown us a way to raise that money.

Returning to Giovanni and Melissa I do hope a generous contribution to their scholarship comes from this country.  The rewards of giving will be not only the dancers' gratitude but also "great personal rewards" which I surmise to be great performances  some of which could be in London.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016


Giacomo Casanova
Author Francesco Giuseppe
Source Wikipedia

Yesterday's announcement of a new full length ballet on the life of Giacomo Casanova by Kenneth Tindall cheered me and perhaps a lot of other well wishers of Northern Ballet. With the exceptions of Jonathan Watkins 's 1984 and Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre which are about to appear in London there seem to have been rather a lot of revivals, and not always my favourite ones. I have often heard it said that narrative ballets are the company's strong suit but the performances that I have enjoyed the most have been the mixed programmes which are normally staged at the Stanley and Audrey Burton and Linbury at this time of the year. Two of the best ballets from those programmes have been  Luminous Junc*ture and The Architect both of which were created by Kenneth Tindall.

A ballet created on a biography rather than an English literature set book makes a refreshing change in itself. Tindll's collaborator on the scenario is Ian Kelly who has written a biography of the adventurer (see Kathryn Hughes's Naughty nuns and peeping Toms, Kathryn Hughes admires the energy and brio in a new life of Casanova 16 Aug 2016 The Guardian). For the score Tindall has chosen Kerry Muzzey who contributed The Architect of Mind to Tindall's Architect  (see Kerry Muzzey’s “The Making of: The Architect” on Vimeo). Christopher Oram will design the sets and costumes.

The ballet will open in Leeds on 11 March 2017 and then tour the country before finally reaching London on the 9 May 2016. Interestingly it will visit The Lowry rather than The Palace where the company usually perform when it passes through Greater Manchester. Parking is better there and the booking fees are much more reasonable. It is not clear who will dance the ballet but as Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt will be on leave of absence next year Javier Torres would be an obvious candidate for the the title role. There should also be a fair number of female roles too.  As and when I get more info about this work I shall let you know.

In the meantime, if you want to know more about the subject of the ballet Giacomo Casanova was a prodigious autobiographer, A translation of his autobiography can be downloaded from the Gutenberg Project.

Monday, 23 May 2016


One of the highlights of Northern Ballet's 40th anniversary gala last year was Javier Torres's Dying Swan (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). Here is what I wrote about it:
"So there was a lot of emotion welling up inside me before Torres took to the stage. At first I was in despair because the cello was almost drowned by sound effects but then it shone through and so did Torres. He was as beautiful and as moving as Glurdjidze. And indeed as Pavlova so far as I can tell from my mother's description and the film. Again I was moved to tears. Now I am a hard nosed barrister specializing in patents and I don't cry easily but I couldn't help myself yesterday. Some of those tears were prompted by my associations with Pavlova and my mother's story but most sprung from Torres's dancing. And when the auditorium exploded with applause at the end of his piece I felt sure it was the latter."
Torres is my favourite male dancer with Northern Ballet by a country mile and with Batley and Leebolt's recent announcement he appears to be the company's only remaining male premier dancer for the time being.

He trained in Havana and joined Northern Ballet after a glittering career in Cuba.  In the words of the London Ballet Circle:
"Javier joined Northern Ballet in 2010 as Premier Dancer. He has performed leading roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Ondine, Beauty & the Beast, Hamlet, Madame Butterfly, Cleopatra, The Great Gatsby and Hans van Manen's Concertante. His performance as Caesar in Cleopatra was voted one of the top hundred favourite performances by the UK dance critics in Dance Europe Magazine for the 2010-2011 season."
Tonight Torres will be the guest of the London Ballet Circle  at the Civil Service Club, 13-15 Great Scotland Yard, London, SW1A 2HJ 19:30 where he will be interviewed by Susan Johnson.  Members of the public will be admitted to his interview upon payment of an £8 admission fee (£5 for Circle members).

The Circle's next guest. Jonathan Watkins, also has a connection with Northern Ballet in that he created the delightful Northern Trilogy for the Sapphire gala as well as 1984 for the company. He will be interviewed by Allison Potts at the Civil Service Club at 19:30 on the 6 June 2016.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Inversedance casts a Spell

Inversedance  is a Hungarian Contemporary Dance company, with its headquarters in Budapest, founded by Artistic Director and Choreographer Zoltan Fodor in 2010. Originally a project-based ensemble that included Fodor, Assistant Director & Choreographer Kitty Balkanyi and rising talent Zsofia Szeki amongst its performers, the company has in recent years grown into a troupe of 5 full-time dancers* that openly collaborate with international freelance dancers, performers and choreographers. Inversedance possesses a diverse repertoire of engaging children’s performances and thought-provoking adult works, which combined with the calibre of its dancers and performers, gives it a strong reputation that stretches beyond the Central European dance scene.

Traviata ©Csaba Mezaros 2016

The first five months of 2016 has seen Inversedance perform 3 very distinct and different pieces of work in Budapest: the premiere performances of Traviata, a collaboration between Fodor and GG Dance Eger’s Tamas Topolanszky that will tour to Eger and Debrecen later this month; the immensely popular Vuk, the Little Fox based on Istvan Fekete’s classic Hungarian story, which the company also performed in Serbia in 2015; and most recently the Budapest premier of The Enchanted Castle at Mupa’s Festival Theatre.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

A wonderfully immersive and theatrical production, Enchanted Castle uses music, songs and Fodor’s unique movement language to tell the story of a reckless little boy, Gede, and his adventure into a magical world. Gede is a bit of a bully who, with his two equally unpleasant friends, delights in causing mayhem and mischief. One day he finds himself in possession of a book that contains within its pages the power to transport him into a fantastical realm (the enchanted castle of the title). Whilst on his adventure in the mysterious castle, Gede meets an array of characters and begins to learn the true value of kindness and friendship.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

This is a classic morality tale that is simple enough for the youngest of theatre audiences to digest, but is equally as heart-warming for adult viewers, too. The production makes good use of a classic proscenium stage set-up, enhanced with sets and costumes by long-term collaborator Arpad Ivanyi and lighting by Ferenc Stadler. Enchanted Castle also contains some musical surprises, amongst a montage of familiar tunes are original, atmospheric soundscapes from Attila Gergely. A dancer himself, Gergely has collaborated with Inversedance on a number of their productions including Fodor’s Esther and Home Sweet Home, Lorand Zachar’s After the Choice and his self-choreographed Alleluja.

The Enchanted Castle ©Csaba Mezaros 2014

Being a family-oriented production Enchanted Castle contains just the right amount of amusingly rowdy moments of audience participation, one of which is central to the plot! That’s not to say, however, that the piece is lacking in dance content. Having come to know it a little over the 6 months that I’ve been in Budapest, I was curious as to how Fodor’s sensual choreography would work in a family production. Prior to forming the company, Fodor had an extensive performance career with some of Hungary’s leading modern ballet companies (Budapest Dance Theatre, Ballet Pecs, Szegedi Kortars Balett and Ballet Debrecen) and this wealth of experience has served to inform his highly distinctive movement vocabulary. Paying homage to classical line and technique, Fodor’s choreography pushes his dancers to the limits of their range, emotionally and physically, and is grounded and spacious. In Enchanted Castle, Fodor (assisted by Balkanyi) uses simple movement patterns from the very beginning to convey a narrative, but amps things up stylistically and choreographically as Gede journeys through the castle.

It’s a unique thing to see an established contemporary dance company such as this invest as much creativity, time and commitment to performance into children’s productions as it does into what could be considered more artistically fulfilling endeavours like adult narrative works. Aside from Newcastle’s Ballet Lorent, I’m at a loss to find a UK contemporary dance company at this level that has such successful family pieces in its repertoire. The mission of Inversedance is to ‘help everyone, especially the younger generations open up to become more appreciative of the arts’ and it’s this openness and willingness to engage audiences of all generations that has contributed to the company’s success on an international scale. Alongside an extensive tour in Central Europe, in 2015 Inversedance were invited to perform at the International Bartok Music Festival & Symposium in Ankara, the 8th edition of the Kaay Fecc Festival in Dakar and the XVI Manta por la Danza and XIII Fragmentos de Junio international dance festivals in Ecuador. It is my pleasure and privilege to be able to introduce Terpsichore readers to this exciting company in 2016, and maybe 2017 will bring them to the shores and stages of the UK!

Inversedance are currently performing original choreographies in Beijing, China as part of the Hungarian Month festival. You can view future tour dates here and follow the company on Facebook 

*Bianca Bodi, Peter Bodor and Zsoka Lendvay comprise the rest of the company