Saturday, 21 January 2017

How Nikiya must have felt when she saw a snake

I want to make clear that I have not been able to confirm this news. Nobody from the Birmingham Royal Ballet has been in touch with me about the cancellation of La Bayadѐre even though I encouraged readers to donate to The Big Give appeal to stage that ballet in A Birmingham Bayadere on 28 Nov. There is nothing about the cancellation on Birmingham Royal Ballet's website.  Indeed, the Big Give page on its website still bears a picture of the golden idol with the words
"La Bayadère to Birmingham, and beyond...
In autumn 2017 we will be performing Stanton Welch's amazing staging of La Bayadère. Featuring a fire god, fantastical dream sequences and a collapsing temple, La Bayadère is a classical ballet with a touch of Bollywood flair. This exciting ballet tells the story of Nikiya, a temple dancer, her lover Solor, and the terrible vengeance that keeps them apart. La Bayadère sits alongside Swan Lake and Giselle as one of the great 19th-century classics and one not so far performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet. This Christmas, please make a donation to help us bring this cornerstone of the repertory to Birmingham and our wonderful tour venues."
However, several subscribers to BaletcoForum seem to have received letters from the company advising them that La Bayadère has been cancelled owing to an unexpectedly large cut in Birmingham City Council's grant and that Birmingham Royal Ballet intends to revive Aladdin (which I reviewed in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Aladdin on 1 March 2013) instead.

If the story proves to be true I apologize to any reader who was persuaded to donate to BRB's Big Give appeal by my article. I am acutely aware that BRB competed for funds with English National Ballet and BalletBoyz who were raising money in the Big Give for their classes for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease (see ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's 25 Nov 2016) and also with Ballet Cymru which sought contributions for a new roof for its premises in Newport (see Ballet Cymru's Big Give Appeal 29 Nov 2016). Scottish Ballet was also appealing for funds for its young dancer mentoring scheme though not in the Big Give (see Scottish Ballet's Young Dancer Mentoring Scheme 10 Nov 2011). Northern Ballet had a Christmas appeal too.

I am glad to say that ENB, BalletBoyz and Ballet Cymru all met their targets as did BRB with a generous surplus so no harm would have been done. I contributed to ENB's appeal in the Big Give because it was the only cause that still had match funding just before the Big Give closed. I seem to remember from my classes at law school that gifts to a charity differ from contributions to other good causes in that they can be applied to the charity's other work by a doctrine known as cy près.  Such gifts do not have to be held on resulting trust for the contributors. I am sure that everybody in BRB acted with the best of intentions and in good faith. I will see and review Aladdin when it comes to the Lowry and BRB remains one of my favourite companies. But that does not stop me feeling very sad and not a little embarrassed about the cancellation of La Bayadѐre. I do wish the company would make a public announcement about the cancellation and not just write to some of its supporters. Above all, I do wish it would remove references to La Bayadere from the Big Give page of its website.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Toi Toi Toi Taynuilt

Standard YouTube Licence

Our good friends Ballet West are starting their tour of Scotland in Stirling tonight, We want them to know that we are thinking of them. Some dancers say "toi, toi, toi" at times like this. Others "chookas". Whatever works for them we wish it for them and send them all our love.

The company is giving three shows at the Macrobert Centre on the Stirling Unversity campus.  One tonight at 19:30 and two tomorrow at 14:30 and 19:30 respectively. If you live in central Scotland, hurry, for there are not too many tickets left.  The Macrobert Centre is a good venue offering free parking and a reasonably priced bar and restaurant.

Ballet West then move on to Helensburgh, Tower Digital Arts Centre 27 Jan, Paisley, Paisley Town Hall 28 Jan, Oban, Corran Halls 9 Feb, Glasgow, SECC 11 Feb, Greenock, Beacon Arts Centre 12 Feb, Livingston, Howden Park Centre 16 Feb and finish up triumphantly at Edinburgh, EICC on 18 Feb 2017.

I saw the company's 2014 Swan Lake in Pitlochry and very good it was too (see  Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014).  Most of the dancers are students this is the first opportunity to see some of the names to watch in the future.   Isaac Peter Bowry who danced the male lead in Ballet Theatre UK's Romeo and Juliet in Wakefield on 14 July 2017 was von Rothbart in Pitlochry on 1 March. Genée medallist Natasha Watson the only British dancer of her year to make the finals of Lausanne was in last year's show. Sarah Mortimer, who delighted me when she was at Ballet Theatre UK, trained at Ballet SWest some years earlier.

Ballet West have just celebrated their silver jubilee (see Congratulations to Ballet West - here's to the next 25 Years 23 Nov 2016). They may be on the edge of a small village in Argyll but they have turned out some very good dancers over the years.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Positioning Ballet - International Ballet Conference

The Dutch National Ballet will hold a private working conference at its studios in Amsterdam called Positioning Ballet between 10 and 12 Feb 2017 to coincide with the opening of Made in Amsterdam. The Purpose of the conference is to give artistic directors, choreographers and dance journalists from around the world an opportunity to exchange ideas about the future of ballet. The UK will be represented by the Royal Ballet's Director Kevin O'Hare (who also sits on the board of Northern Ballet), Tamara Rojo and Judith Mackrell of The Guardian.

The timetable for the conference is as follows:
Saturday 11th of February
09:30 – 10:15 Walk-in
10:15 – 10:30 Opening
10:30 – 11:45 Talk & discussion: Heritage
11:45 – 12:45 Lunch
12:45 – 14:00 Talk & discussion: Diversity
14:00 – 14:30 Break
14:30 – 16:00 Talk & discussion: Identity
16:00 – 16:20 Short Break
16:20 – 17:00 Wrap up

20:15 Premiere: Made in Amsterdam 1

Sunday 12th of February
11:30 – 14:00 The next step! (guest speakers and lunch)
14:00 Premiere: Made in Amsterdam 2
16:00 Reception

The discussion on "Heritage" covers "the art of programming", "ballet as re-enactment" and "heritage and innovation," There is only an hour and a quarter to cover all that ground - less than the time required for a typical ballet class - and it covers such interesting topics as "Which works are kept in the archive, based on which criteria? When is something still relevant? And when should it be revived?" I for one would just to know the decision-making process by which works like the Royal Ballet's Anastasia and Northern Ballet's Swan Lake are revived. As for "heritage and innovation" I should love to learn whetherTamara Rojo has more to say about shillelagh-wielding wilis.

"Diversity" is a topic very dear to my heart. Only 75 minutes to discuss:
"How can ballet companies better reflect the diversity of the metropolitan society in which they operate? Which steps must be taken in order to make the ballet world more inclusive? It is a fact that the stark differences in our society run along the lines of ethnicity, culture, gender and sexual orientation. During the working conference, we will focus primarily on ethnic and cultural diversity. We will also take a look at some good practices – projects that are successful in diversifying dancers, choreographers, organisation and audience."
On my very limited experience of two galas and half a dozen shows, the audience at the Amsterdam Music Theatre or Stopera seems a little more typical of the population at large than the audience of a ballet night at Covent Garden and certainly The Grand.  But it may be wishful thinking and I have no statistics to back it up. It would be interesting to find out what if any sociological research has been carried out.

Incidentally, it is encouraging that Corinne Vigreux who helped to found Tom Tom sits on the National Ballet's supervisory board.  It is rare for a tech entrepreneur to show such interest in the performing arts - at least in this country.

The last top is "Identity" and includes a discussion on whether it is still possible for ballet companies to reflect their geographical location. The company notes:
"Companies are increasingly engaging in co-production, and choreographers and dancers travel all over the world. This requires individual companies to position themselves clearly."
But was it not ever thus? Petipa was a Frenchman and Pavlova danced everywhere.  Why should a ballet company be like a football team? I am not Welsh but I am a Friend of Ballet Cymru. Too much emphasis on place reduces choice. When was the last time Northern Ballet danced in Birmingham or Birmingham Royal Ballet at The Grand or Alhambra?

I congratulated the National Ballet on this initiative.   I hope they will consider making the discussions available to the public.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Another way to help the Kids in Kibeira

Just spotted this on Danceworks' Facebook page:
!The students of our International Ballet Academy are collecting shoes and clothes to send. If you would like to contribute, please bring to Danceworks Reception."
Thanks kids and thank you Lesley.

For those interested in helping, Danceworks, is at  16 Balderton Street, London W1K 6TN.

Thank you Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Studios
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

As readers know, one of my interests is Africa.  Ever since I first heard of it, I have been beating the drum for Mike Wamaya's class in the Kibera district of Nairobi.  In Recognition for the Kibera Ballet Class 9 Jane 2017 I reported that the mainstream media had begun to take an interest in those students. The Guardian had posted a film about a film about them to its Facebook page and the Huffington Post had run a feature on them.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet saw this publicity and decided to help. Here's what they said in an email that they circulated earlier today:
"We have recently been inspired by an article from The Guardian about a ballet school in Kibera, Nairobi; a 'slum' home to 700,000 people. The young dancers there mainly learn to dance barefoot and rely on donated shoes to learn advanced techniques that can be used in performance. We were incredibly moved and inspired by their talent and hard work, so we rounded up as many pointe shoes as we could to send over via Anno's Africa with our best wishes and warmest compliments on their work."
I think that's lovely.  That news really cheered me up.  

I don't know whether Mike's students have all the pointe shoes they well need other things.  Scholarships to train abroad as Joel Kioko has done is one possibility,  I shall follow this story like a terrier and report anything new.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Danza Contemporánea de Cuba

 Standard YouTube Licence

In Double Latin  7 Jan 2017 I mentioned the forthcoming tour of the UK by Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. While writing Beautiful Ballet Black 14 Jan 2017 I remembered that Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who choreographed A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet and Little Red Riding Hood for Ballet Black, will also contribute Reversible to the Cuban tour.

The above trailer gives us a taste of what to expect from in the programme. There is a bit more detail including comments from each of the choreographers and two of the dancers in The Spirit of the Cubans | Danza Contemporánea de Cuba UK Tour 2017.

The tour starts at Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on 14 and 15 Feb and moves on to the Lowry 17 and 18 Feb, Theatre Royal Newcastle 21 and 22 Feb, Barbican 23 Feb, Millennium Stadium 28 Feb and 1 March, Theatre Royal Plymouth 3 and 4 March, Brighton Dome 7 and 8 March, Eden Court, Inverness 10 March, Festival Theatre Edinburgh 14 and 15 March and Marlowe Theatre Canterbury 17 and 18 March.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Ballet Theatre UK's Romeo and Juliet

Theatre Royal Wakefield
Photo Tim Green
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Ballet Theatre UK Romeo and Juliet Theatre Royal Wakefield, 14 Jan 2017, 19:30

I have been blogging about Ballet Theatre UK for nearly three years and have reported their performances of The Little Mermaid (see Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 Apr 2014), Swan Lake (see The Bedouin of Ballet 12 Dec 2014), Aladdin (see Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin 5 Apr 2015) and Pinnochio (see Pinnochio 6 June 2016).  It is a troupe of some 14 talented young dancers who create two full-length ballets a year which they perform in small and medium town and suburban auditoriums the length and breadth of the country. Each of those ballets is choreographed by their founder and artistic director, Christopher Moore and is either an adaptation of a well-known work such as last night's Romeo and Juliet or a folk or children's tale like last season's Pinnochio.

Through that work, Ballet Theatre UK introduces high-quality dance to audiences whose only other experience of ballet might be a show on BBC 2 or BBC 4 around Christmas or an end of term review by kids from a local ballet school. There is a complete absence of gimmickry in Moore's productions. His Romeo and Juliet, for example, is set firmly in renaissance Verona and his costume designer, Daniel Hope, has obviously spent time and trouble on researching the period in order to produce the most elaborate and what to my eyes at any rate are historically accurate representations of the elaborate headgear that might have been worn by Lady Capulet, Paris and Juliet's nurse. Phillip Moore's set consisted of a simple classical arch which, when combined with some imaginative lighting design by Russ Marquis, transported us effortlessly from the town square of Verona, to Juliet's boudoir, to her parents ballroom, to her balcony, to Friar Lawrence's chapel, the square again, the bedroom and finally to her tomb. All of those costumes and props will no doubt be dismantled and packed in the vehicle that will convey last night's show from the county town of the West Riding to Horsham in sunny Sussex.

The audience that saw last night's show got a lot for their money.  As the crowd included a fair sprinkling of children I should imagine ballet teachers and dancewear shops the length and breadth of the country owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Christopher Moore and his dancers for inspiring an endless supply of new pupils and customers all of whom will be in the market for tights, shoes and snazzy new leotards. Indeed, it may not just be children in the market for such kit as adult ballet classes are sprouting like mushrooms everywhere as I noted in Back to Class 8 Jan 2017. Those teachers, retailers, studios and theatres would probably be willing to advertise if Ballet Theatre UK would take advertising.

So Christopher Moore and his talented young dancers perform an important public service not just to dance itself but also to education, retailing and possibly even public health in getting kids and possibly some adults off their backsides and onto the barre. When the time comes for giving gongs I hope the powers that be remember him.

It is vital that this company keeps going but it is not obvious how they manage it. If they get anything from Arts Council England, which seems to have plenty of dosh for projects that seem to be much less worthy, Ballet Theatre UK don't mention it on their website or in their sumptuously designed and printed, but singularly uninformative, programmes at £5 each. They appeal for corporate giving and sponsorship on their website but if they get any they keep quiet about it. There is an acknowledgement of some 22 individual donors on the last page of the programme some of whom bear the names or at least the surnames of creatives and dancers in the company. The only advertisement in the programme is for The School of Ballet Theatre UK.

Ticket and programme sales will bring in some revenue but it can't be that much. The Theatre Royal Wakefield, which is a beautiful Victorian venue with a glorious history (see Theatre has a rich history 22 Aug 2097 Wakefield Express), seats only 499 punters. Although yesterday's turnout was not bad there was more than one empty seat.

Of the five shows by Ballet Theatre UK that I have seen since I started this blog, this was by far the best. I think it helped that I knew the story backwards.   By contrast, Aladdin and Pinnochio were not the easiest ballets to follow.

However, I think a lot of credit must go to the dancers and in particular to Isaac Peter Bowry who, like me, is a Mancunian (see Born to be a star: Wythenshawe dancer Isaac, 16, on the road to ballet success 12 Oct 2012 Manchester Evening News). Yesterday was not the first time I had seen Bowry in a major role. I mentioned him in my very first post for his performance as Drosselmeyer in Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" on 25 Feb 2013, again when he danced von Rothbart the following year (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014) and Paris the year after that in Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015. He impressed me when he was a student and again last night. I am delighted that he has found a home in Hinckley. He is a naturally talented actor as well as a strong dancer.
His glazed expression after seeing Juliet for the first time at her parents' ball was priceless.

Laia Ramon, his Juliet, also acted and danced well. Alistair Beatte handled a sword adroitly as Mercutio as did Lucien Vecchienelli who danced Tybalt. Claire Corruble, the only name I remember from the last time I saw the company, danced Lady Capulet with passion. Dominic Who portrayed her husband as not a very nice man threatening Lady Capulet as well as Juliet with a clout at one point. All danced well.

I can't tell you much about anyone in the cast except Bowry because there were no biographies in the £5 programme and the information on the dancers' page of the company's website is "coming soon" - and has been for several months. That's a pity because Gita likes to name "a man or woman of the match" but can't identify her nominee.  All she can say is that it was "that tall slender girl."

Ballet Theatre UK inspires a lot of loyalty. The mother of one of its former dancers describes the company as "fine". Another former dancer who is a Facebook friend wrote "enjoy" when I announced I was on the way to the theatre. A subscriber to Balletco Forum who identifies him or herself only as a Nottinghamshire ballet lover contributed a glowing review of the Chesterfield show to that website. As I said above, friends and family of the company, members as well as the dancers and creatives themselves have donated.  It is clearly a cause worth supporting.