Monday, 18 June 2018

Plato's Cave - the Live Transmission of the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake

Plato's Cave
Author Jan Sanraedam according to Cornelos van Harlaam
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Royal Ballet Swan Lake 12 June 2018 Live streaming to cinemas worldwide from Covent Garden

I was lucky enough to see the Royal Ballet's Swan Lake from the stalls of the Royal Opera House on 22 May 2018 and reviewed the performance in Scarlett's Swan Lake 23 May 2018. I saw it again last Tuesday at the Leeds Showcase against my better judgment and really wish I hadn't.

In Flowers for Dreda 9 June 2018 I wrote that ballet should never be a passive experience and that is the difference between watching ballet in the cinema and watching it live. You can marvel at Legnani's 32 fouettés from your local flicks just as much as you can in the theatre. Arguably you can even get a better view.  Certainly more than you would in rows L to Q of the amphitheatre. But however loudly you clap or cheer Nuñez or Nikulina can't hear you.  They are 200 or in the case of the Bolshoi 1,500 miles away and their dialogue is with the living, breathing, thinking audience a few feet away.  Not the hot dog munchers or cola quaffers of Birstall, Bergen or Brescia.

There are some advantages to ballet in the cinema.

You can see details that you might want to see such as the dancer's facial expressions, Rothbart's picking up the crown at the end of act III or Odette's mime in act IV when she breaks the news that they have to spend the rest of their lives floating around a slimy pond because Siegfried has blown it. On the other hand you also see some details that you don't like the brush strokes or bricks on the backdrop or loose threads on the costumes.

The other big advantage of cinema is that audiences can gain insight into the production or performance that they would never get in the theatre by interviewing the choreographers, composers or designers who created the work or the conductors and dancers who are about to perform it.  Generally, that is something that Pathé  Live and the Bolshoi do so much better than Covent Garden. One of the reasons the Bolshoi get it right is that they employ a multilingual journalist with good dress sense and an excellent knowledge of the ballet.

One feature of the Royal Ballet's transmissions that I wish they would drop are the gushing tweets.  Most seem to state the obvious - namely that ballet is a remarkable spectacle (it wouldn't be worth watching otherwise) plus their locations. Social media could have a role.  For example, it could be used to put questions to the creatives. I would love to have quizzed Liam Scarlett on why and how he developed  von Rothbart's role.  Covent Garden just seem to use it as a marketing tool or perhaps just simple vanity.

In watching the cinema transmission I was reminded of the story of Plato's cave.

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I first heard of it from my father long before I started to learn Greek.  Live transmissions of ballet are rather like the shadows of reality from the fire in the cave.  They may be better than nothing and they have their place but don't let anyone tell you that they are ballet because they are not.

The analogy works quite well with live transmissions because some things that look good in the theatre just so not show up well on screen. John Macfarlane's designs are a case in point.  The screen images did not do justice to them. Gita, who saw the transmission with me, actually thought the set designs were austere and dowdy.

I expressed these views on a ballet goers' website some years ago and got roasted. I was accused of elitism by a lady who makes her living from translating foreign  language patent specifications and was excoriated a man of the cloth.  I was reminded of the fate of the man who broke free of the cave and tried to warn the remaining troglodytes and gave that website a miss for many years. I am now very careful about what I post to that website confining myself to reviews of performances that most subscribers would not have seen lest I be offered a pint of hemlock.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Querencia

Author Benh Lieu SONG
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Studio 59 Querencia 16 June 2018, 19:30 Victoria Theatre, Halifax

Querencia is an unusual title for a Halifax dance studio's annual show. Look it up in a Spanish dictionary and one of the meanings is "haunt" as a noun in the sense of a place where living creatures as well as unquiet spirits like to go. Hemingway used the term as the bull's space in the bull ring. The show's programme shows a pride of lions under the words "a place from which one's strength is drawn, where one feels at home: the place where you are your most authentic self."

Hmmm! Well I guess the show's organizers had to call it something even if most of the audience (I included) had to google the name.  Student shows are very important because dance developed in the theatre and is intended for an audience.  As I said in my review of Hype Dance's Annual Show 13 May 2018:
"Every dance student from toddler to pensioner can and should feel that charge no matter how inexperienced or incompetent he or she may be. Most get that opportunity because almost every dance school worth its salt offers its students a chance to take part in its annual show. Training and rehearsing for that show is what distinguishes dance classes from dreary keep fit."
This was a particularly ambitious show because it took place in Halifax's main repertory theatre which seats over 1,500 patrons and consisted of almost 2 hours of continuous, vigorous dancing. Considering that Studio 59 opened its doors only 18 months ago and has just under 100 registered students this was an impressive undertaking.

I was there at the invitation of one of the dancers who attended Jane Tucker's class for Powerhouse Ballet on 26 May 2018 (see We have a Company 27 May 2018 Powerhouse Ballet).  She told us about this show when Amelia Sierevogel and I visited her Thursday evening ballet class at Ballet North on 31 May 2018 (see Class Review - Ballet North Halifax 2 June 2018).

The show consisted of 19 pieces in every style from ballet to tap.  It opened with a scene from Hairspray with the girls in flowing full length dresses performing a high octane routine.  Grace Allen as Corny Collins made a very convincing young man.  I could not fault the dancing.  It was exuberant and fun to watch.  The only part of that piece which could have been improved was in the dialogue. The Baltimore accent is particularly difficult to imitate as Maryland lies just south of the Mason-Dixon line but is influenced by the more nasal tones from New Jersey and New York and the nearest thing Americans have to a received pronunciation in Washington DC. I would have thought the girls' natural voices would have been good enough especially as the West Riding has quite a lot in common with Baltimore.  Also, the casting was a bit strange with the mother looking very much younger than her teenage daughters unless irony was intended by the producer.

Hairspray was followed by Milkshake by the intermediate commercial class, a tap number We both reached for the gun from Chicago, Ice Royalty (hip hop), Can Can (great dancing but no fin de siècle music), Wash & Set in heels, Bye Bye Blackbird (more tap this time by the intermediate class which was one of my favourites), Youth (lyrical), Gangland (more hip-hop), I just can't wait to be king (another favourite performed by two very talented young girls Elenya Coates and Grace Raine) and finally the ballet which wound up act 1.

The ballet was called Young & Beautiful and combined the junior, intermediate and senior classes in one piece.  The dancers performed in grey classical tutus and what appeared to be lemon coloured tops. The senior dancers wore eye masks and pointe shoes.  There seemed to be quite a lot of bourrées on full pointe and demi which must have required some stamina.  Even though ballet accommodates every type of music and none (even Bollywood as my old university dance club showed in Colour of Love) I wondered at the juxtaposition of classical tutus with anything but classical music. However, the piece was performed slickly. It was well rehearsed and thoughtfully choreographed.  I congratulate those who coached the artists as well as the artists who took part.

The second act began with Tribute, a jazz piece celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage.  It was followed by Black Magic (junior commercial), Pop Mania (more jazz and a very confident performance by two junior dancers), Chun Li (more hip hop), Flashmob  (break dance and acrobatics which was the only piece that included some boys), OTW (more commercial) and Tapathon that included another appearance by the talented Grace Raine).

Throughout the show there were breaks for speeches by a lady and gentleman who appeared to be in charge of Studio 59.  They presented small silver cups to students they wished to reward.  At the very end of the show they and each of the choreographers performed a party piece to prove that they had not forgotten their dance skills.

It goes without saying that a lot of work must have gone into the show. Not only with the dancing but also with the costumes, properties and lighting.  It was entertaining for the audience and must have been fun to rehearse and perform.  Studio 59 have every reason to be pleased with the result.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Huddersfield University's Graduate Costume Show


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University of Huddersfield  Graduate Costume Show 15 June 2018 17:00 Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

I am often asked by friends who regard balletomania as an addiction how I came to be hooked. Even  though I saw a lot of theatre, attended a lot of concerts and visited a lot of art galleries and museums as I was growing up, I never had much to do with ballet.  That was largely because my father, a kindly and erudite man of letters, regarded it as slightly disreputable owing to its association with the Soviet Union and the tendency of the classical tutu and male dancers' tights to reveal more than many considered decent.

My interest in ballet was sparked by an exhibition of early 20th century Russian art at the Victoria and Albert Museum or possibly Royal Academy when I was about 16 or 17.  There I saw some of the work of Leon Bakst and was quite bowled over. I learned of his work with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. I found that he was just one of many great artists who had been commissioned to design for the ballet.  When I should have been revising for "A" levels and Oxbridge scholarships in Hammersmith Library I was pouring over its massive collection of reference books on theatre design and ballet.  I watched what I could on television and became an early fan of Peter Darrell's Western Theatre Ballet. Eventually the London Festival Ballet staged a triple bill at The Coliseum that included the The Firebird, widely regarded as Bakst's masterpiece.

On the pretext of treating an elderly aunt I persuaded my parents to pay for me to see the show. It was better than I had ever imagined. The music, the colour, the movement and the drama absorbed all my senses.  It was the most thrilling experience that I had ever known.  The auditorium exploded at the curtain call.  The cheering, whooping and growling from the crowd, the thunderous applause, the mountains of flowers were theatre in themselves. Nobody with any soul could fail to have been moved by that experience.  Although I had to wait till I got to St Andrews with an independent income before I could afford another show or ballet lessons my passion for dance had been ignited.

I experienced a similar frisson  of excitement last night when I saw another costume for The Firebird .  That garment had been designed by Amelia Sierevogel who has just graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a bachelor's degree in Costume with Textiles. The costume was modelled by Erin Phillips who also reads Costume with Textiles at Huddersfield.  As soon as she came on stage I recognized her as a fellow adult ballet student. Erin did not simply display that costume. She danced in it.  Much of her performance was on pointe.  It was - or rather costume and dancing were - spell binding.

Amelia's costume was just one of several excellent works that I saw last night at the Graduate Costume Show at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.   The students on that course learn to design costumes for theatres around the world as can be seen from the placements.  Amelia's were with the Australian Ballet and the Australian Opera last year.  Students pick characters from theatre, literature, film or television and create costumes for them. Last night we saw costumes for Cinderella and Ophelia as well as The Firebird and many other characters.  There were several designs for the ballet. Erin was not the only model on pointe last night.  The show opened spectacularly with a scene from Midsummer Night's Dream with a splendid Bottom dressed as an ass.

Although last night's show was filmed, it is likely to be some time before any of it is posted to YouTube.  Happily one can get some idea of its format from the above recording of Rhianna Lister's designs for characters from A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from the 2016 show.

As I said above, I was led to ballet by Leon Bakst so I cannot stress too much the importance of theatre design. Over the years I have been impressed by other designers such as Nicholas Georgiadis, Osbert Lancaster and more recently Lez Brotherston   The course at Huddersfield is described in Costume with Textiles at the University of Huddersfield - Natalie Day. It is clearly an important resource for the theatre and thus for all of us.

Although it has nothing to do with costume design or fashion I must report another find.  On my way back to my car I passed an eatery called Rostyk Kitchen that advertised jollof rice. It is a delicacy from West Africa that my late spouse used to cook and I miss it so.  West African food requires a lot of preparation and the ingredients are not always readily available. I can cook simple dishes like plantains and sweet potatoes but not plasas, pepper chicken or groundnut stew. Now I no longer need to mither Vlad the Lad's mum and dad, my sisters in law in London or my relations by marriage in Freetown when I get a craving.  My feast of jollof rice and chicken completed a perfect day.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Nifty North Korean Footwork


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Prompted by the comings and goings in Singapore I googled "Ballet in North Korea" and this is what I found.  I am not sure that this counts as ballet but it certainly passes muster as tap.   Some very nifty footwork there.

There are plenty of dancers from South Korea in the world's ballet companies.  Kimin Kim, the first to spring to mind, actually dances in Russia.  He will be performing in London with the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre between 22 and 26 Aug 2018.  There is also Hyo-Jung Kang with the Stuttgart Ballet and I nearly forgot Young Gye Choi who is one of my favourites at the Dutch National Ballet.

I struggle to think to think of any from the North.  Given Pyongyang's adoption of other Stalinist practices I am surprises that there is not a strong North Korean Ballet or, if there is, that we in the West hear so little of it.  If any of my readers know otherwise then do say.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Inspiration in Bingley - Cinderella at Bingley Little Theatre

Bingley
Author: M G Spiller
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Sara Packham Theatre School and Ballet North Cinderella 10 June 2018 18:00 Bingley Little Theatre

Surprisingly, the most memorable moment of the weekend came not in the valedictory performances of Dreda Blow and Victoria Sibson on the last night of Jane Eyre (excellent though though the company was - see Jane Eyre at the Lowry 10 June 2018) or in David Nixon's speech when he presented to Dreda Blow a framed photo of what I am reliably informed was a framed photo of herself as Beatrice in Ondine (apt though it was) but in a speech by the mother of a former student of the Sara Packham Theatre School at the end of a performance of Cinderella by children and adult ballet students at Bingley Little Theatre last night.

The speaker introduced herself as a parent of an actor who had established himself in New York but had started his career at that very school in Bingley. Presenting the choreographers to a packed auditorium, she explained that they were teaching not just ballet but important life skills that would transform children into confident, poised, beautiful human beings. After her speech the instructors gave each of the dancers - children as well as adults, boys as well as girls - a single rose. "This may take some time" somebody said from the stage. It did but nobody minded a bit. It was a lovely gesture and a proper induction into the traditions of the ballet.

Bingley, for readers who may not know this area, is a small town just outside Bradford. In the 19th century it was a mill town specializing in the manufacture of worsted. Now it is one of the more sought after neighbourhoods of the metropolitan district of Bradford. One of its attractions is an Arts Centre which includes the Bingley Little Theatre. It was there that a cast selected from the School and Ballet North in Halifax gave four performances of Cinderella on 10 and 11 June 2018.

I learned about the production through attending a class by Charlotte Ingleson at Ballet North in the Dance Mill on 31 May 2018 (see Class Review - Ballet North Halifax 2 June 2018). I was introduced to the class by Elaine Berrill who was one of the dancers attending Jane Tucker's class in Huddersfield on 26 May 2018 (see We have a Company 27 May 2018 Powerhouse Ballet). I noticed in the programme that Charlotte was one of the choreographers of Cinderella and that another was Martin Dutton who had taught me in a special class at KNT (see And what a class we had Feb 2017) and workshops on The Nutcracker and La Bayadère (see KNT Nutcracker Intensive 21 Dec 2017 and KNT's One Day Workshop on La Bayadère 15 April 2018).

Charlotte also danced one of the leading roles as Cinderella's mother and fairy godmother. Her young daughter also had a role in the work as a cat. There was yet another name on the cast list that I thought I knew. That of Oscar Ward as the prince. The Oscar that I knew was one of the star pupils at Ballet West and a finalist in the BBC Young Dancer competition. Could it be the same? Oscar Ward is not a very common name and not every young man with that name will be an accomplished dancer. I messaged Gillian Barton of Ballet West to find out.
"Could be, but don’t really know. I’ll try and find out." she replied
As it happened it was a coincidence. The young man who danced before us is also very promising. When I congratulated him I told him about his namesake though Yorkshire Oscar had already heard of Scottish Oscar. If he is minded to train for the stage he could do a lot worse that follow in the footsteps of the other Oscar.

 As Gillian observed,
"Every one of our male graduates has gone on to do amazing things. BW is a great school for boys as they get so many opportunities."
Earlier today, Isaac Peter Bowry whom I had first seen as Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker in 2013 announced on Facebook:
"So I’ve got another big announcement to make!! 
I can now say that I am officially joining the Birmingham Royal Ballet to perform in Kennith Macmillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ 
I’ll be performing in all the Birmingham performances between the 26th- 30th June!"
But I digress. There were lots of other dancers who impressed me.

There were three Cinderellas - one as a child, another as a young person and the third as the belle of the ball. Young Cinderella was Alice Brocklesby, Clarice Keller-Bradbury and Sienna Brandolino alternated in the role of Cinderella as a young person and Leah Robinson and Sophie Talbot in the role of Cinderella at the ball. I am not sure which of the alternates I saw last night but I congratulate Alice and the other dancers who portrayed her in later life.

The show was basically the Cinderella we know to Prokofiev's score with a little bit of The Sleeping Beauty bolted on. The bolt on was a divertissement that enabled four talented soloists - Hollie Kate Smith, Harriet Berry, Katie Barber and Jess Leeming to dance Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter fairies and Lexie Meehan a dragonfly. Lots of roles were found for lots of dancers from mini-movers to the adult pointe class. It was good to see a few very talented young boys in the cast.

At the ball Oscar Ward showed that he can jump, turn and lift with the best of them. His Cinders in a classical tutu was lovely. Her stepmother, Catriona Ford, and step sisters, Ellen Richard and Grace Macdonald, amused us with their antics. One in an unsightly green wig and the other in pink. They also got a tiny bit tipsy towards the end giving an entirely new meaning to pas de bourée. There was humour too is the search for the owner of the missing slipper. One candidate barely broke her conversation on her mobile. Another nearly dropped a pile of precariously positioned pizzas. A hefty subject in a wig and a skirt had a go to a squall of derision.

This was tightly directed, well rehearsed with realistic sets and costumes. I saw a lot of happy mums and dads and siblings, even happier artists and a particularly proud and happy Charlotte Ingleson. The audience were appreciative and engaged. It was a treat to be there.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jane Eyre at the Lowry

The Lowry Theatre, Salford, Greater Manchester
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Northern Ballet Jane Eyre 9 June 2018, 19:30, The Lowry

Yesterday, Northern Ballet gave their last performance of Jane Eyre of the current run at the Lowry Theatre.  It was also the last opportunity to see Dreda Blow and Victoria Sibson dance with the company. I attended the show for two reasons.  The first is that although I had never met either dancer I had seen them on stage many times. I wished to express my appreciation for all the pleasure that they had given me over the years. The second reason is that a dancer's farewell performance is often one of his or her best for he or she wants to leave on a high with the public wanting more. That in turn lifts the rest of the cast who also give of their best.

That is what happened yesterday.  Northern Ballet gave one of the strongest performances that I have ever seen from them.  They did so on one of the most spacious stages upon which they regularly perform.  They fielded a cast that included many of my favourite dancers in the company.  And, as I have said many times, Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre is by far the best work in their current repertoire.

As I have described the work already in Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016 and Jane Eyre Second Time Round 18 April 2018 I shall avoid detail about the libretto, characters, designs and score. Edward Rochester was danced by Javier Torres who was my male dancer of the year last year (see 2017 in Retrospect 7 Jan 2018). Jane Eyre as an adult was, of course, danced by Dreda Blow who gave the strongest performance that I have ever seen her give in that role. Jane's younger self was danced by Antoinette Brooks-Daw and her tormenting cousins by Abigail Prudames, Abigail Cockrell and Matthew Koon. Mlindi Kulashe was a chilling Mr Brocklehurst (he plays baddies particularly well) and Ailen Ramos Betancourt an equally unpleasant Aunt Reed.

The novel, Jane Eyre, divides naturally into three parts yet the ballet splits into just two.  I think it would benefit from an interval immediately after the attempted bigamy scene.  Two much is funnelled into the second act. Valuable bits of the choreography such as the dance between Rochester and Blanche Ingram (Abigail Prudames) and Mr Rivers's proposal is overlooked even third time round.  That is because there is just so much going on and the senses can only take in so much.  Incidentally,  I have to congratulate Sean Bates for his role for his portrayal of Rivers as a kindly, sensitive but nevertheless lacking soul who would have driven Jane nuts.

The most important characters from the governess phase of Jane's life are the playful Adèle (danced charmingly by Rachael Gillespie) and the deranged Bertha.  Though her appearance is a short one it is probably the most important role in the ballet after Jane herself and it needs a fine dance actor.  The company had none better than Victoria Sibson. I had seen her in that role in Richmond and she had impressed me then but her performance last night was even stronger.  She threw herself into the last duet with Torres as the flames her flickered around her.  Strands of her hair - a gorgeous red - her whirling dress - merging in the flames. What a glorious way for her public to remember her!

The crowd clapped and cheered of course and quite a few of us rose to our feet but it was not quite the send off that I had expected when I penned Flowers for Dreda yesterday.  The Lowry's architecture does not lend itself to flower throws but I did expect massive bouquets for Blow and Sibson and possible one or two others. But then I reflected that this is a northern company and extravagance of that kind is not a northern thing to do. David Nixon entered the stage and gave a very good speech recalling some of her finest performances.  It clearly affected Dreda for she gave him a big, tight hug. Instead of flowers which would have faded in days he gave her a framed photo of herself.  From what I could glimpse from the centre of the stalls she was in red in full flight. "Something that will last" I thought. "She can hang it in her front parlour, perhaps." A sensible Northern gift from us no-nonsense northern folk.

Another thought that occurred to me as I stepped outside the theatre was that the company had come home.  Manchester was where it was born and it is sad that it ever felt it had to leave us. It now has a magnificent studio and theatre complex at Quarry Hill, of course, that it shares with Phoenix to their obvious, mutual, artistic benefit. But the Grand with its pillars and narrow creaky stairs and possibly raked stage never quite does it justice. The Lowry, on the other hand, certainly does. It is possible for a company to have more than one home as several American companies do.  I hope we shall see more of Northern here perhaps working with our CAT. The Lowry is not too far from Leeds. I spotted several of the great and good from Leeds sitting near me in the stalls.  Indeed, I chatted to one of my favourite artists from that city in the interval.  It is encouraging that Northern Ballet will return to the Lowry next year with Gatsby.  I hope it puts down some very deep roots there.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Flowers for Dreda?

Dread Blow is leaving Northern Ballet this evening and we shall miss her so. I tweeted last night:
Of course, there is unlikely to be one.  For a start the Lowry is not Covent Garden and there are good health and safety reasons why members of the public should be discouraged from emptying their gardens on to the stage. Leanne Benjamin described it as "pretty scary" to be bombarded with blooms in Roslyn Sulcas's Tiptoeing (on Point) Through the Tulips 20 Nov 2014 NY Times.

And yet.  What a lovely way to say goodbye as London did to Zenaida Yanowsky last year:


Or to Sir Fred when he retired from the Royal Opera House on 24 July 1970. I was in the audience that night. Yes folks I really am that old.  That photo was taken before the flower throwers got into their stride for by the time the last bouquet was tossed the stage was ankle deep in flowers.

In the 1970s, when I first became interested in ballet, flowers seemed to be thrown at the end of almost every show.   It was easy to get them in those days because the flower market was in what is now the Paul Hamlyn Hall.  Roslyn Sukcas writes:
"The floral tradition at the Royal Ballet is also probably a result of the opera house’s proximity to the Covent Garden flower market before it moved and the possibility of buying leftover or spoiled flowers cheaply.
'Back in the day, the fans used to queue overnight for tickets, and there was a very striking woman, dressed in a black velvet cloak, who used to run the queue, collect money for flowers and organize throws from the amphitheater,' Mr. Welford said, referring to the tradition of pelting dancers with loose flowers from the topmost part of the theater."
You know, I think I can remember that woman in black.  Rumour had it that she had been a Russian ballerina, noblewoman or even a princess who somehow survived the butchery at Ekaterinburg.

I certainly remember a lingering smell of vegetation everywhere in the House that remained long after the wholesale market moved to Nine Elms. Covent Garden was not quite so posh or pricey in those days. Remember that the Royal Opera House had been used as a cinema, palais de danse and even furniture store within living memory.  The smell only disappeared after the extensive renovations of the 1990s during which time the company performed in a circus tent in Battersea Park.

Nowadays flower throws in London are organized by the Ballet Association for extra special occasions (see "About Us" on the Ballet Association's website).  That's probably a good thing but it has taken away the spontaneity of the gesture.

I once discussed the custom of throwing cut flowers with Ernst Meisner of the Dutch National Ballet. He was familiar with the tradition having trained at the Royal Ballet School and having danced for many years with the Royal Ballet. "It's a lovely custom," said Ernst, "but we have never done it here."  Well, actually, according to Julia Farron, it was Ernst's compatriots who started the custom for she remembers showers of daffodils and tulips the day that Sadlers Wells Ballet performed in the Hague (see David Bintley How World War 2 made British Ballet BBC website).

Whatever is to be arranged for Dreda (and if anyone is collecting for flowers, do get in touch with me for I would love to contribute) it will be a bitter-sweet occasion.  In many ways the curtain call is the most important part of the performance for it is the audience's opportunity to perform. The ballet should never be a passive experience. And tonight we shall perform. With tears. With cries and yells and Russian style roars. With thunderous applause.  And hopefully flowers. Because we love dear Dreda so.