Monday, 28 July 2014

Chantry Dance Associates: Lots of Promise

Sadler's Wells Theatre
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Both Mel and I have written about Chantry Dance recently (see Jane Lambert "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014 and Mel Wong "July News from Chantry Dance Company" 6 July 2014). One of the company's activities is an associate programme for "young dancers of a pre-vocational or pre-professional level, who aspire to have a career in dance." That programme
"exists to nurture, develop and inspire the country's most talented young dancers, and to encourage them to be courageous with their dancing in order to reach new levels in their technique and interpretative skills."
Yesterday, the associates (participants on the programme) showed what they could do in the Lilian Baylis Studio of Sadler's Wells.

Owing to the closure of the M1 between junctions 21 and 22 yesterday (see "M1 motorway closed between junctions 21 and 22 following serious accident" 27 July 2014 Leicester Mercury) my journey was delayed by nearly 2 hours and I arrived towards the end of the show.  Gail Gordon, who must have formed a terrible impression of me because I was also late for the Dream Dance workshop, ushered me into a rehearsal studio and perched me on a piano stool in order not to disturb the associates who were dancing to Vivaldi or Paul Chantry who was filming them on an iPad.  They were all young women and I spotted immediately one I knew: Fiona who had taught me the dance in the Dream Dance workshop. After the show, Rae Piper told me that the dancers ranged in age from 11 to 24. At least one was at Elmhurst and two others were on their way to Trinity Laban.

The steps that the associates danced were not easy and demanded a lot of energy and stamina. The choreography to which Gail told me she had contributed was intricate.  It was executed with lightness, precision and obvious joy. The movement of those artists lifted my spirits and helped me forget my terrible journey.

After the Vivaldi several of the associates performed their own short solos. I had to take notes on the back of a VAT receipt because I had left my notebook in my car in my rush to catch a train at Luton Parkway. Consequently I was able to record my impressions of only a few of those pieces with the result that I am unable to do justice to the others. They were all good and I congratulate all the artists. I enjoyed their work enormously. However, those that I did record made a particular impression on me. An associate whom I know only as Jessica explored steps and movements beyond the positions of classical ballet to create novel and ingenious body shapes. She reminded me of two performances that I had seen recently: first, Ed Watson in the first act of The Winter's Tale where his body contortions represented his jealousy and irrationality; secondly, Daniel Montero's Ballet 101 in the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's gala. Another dancer whose name I forget interpreted the story of Icarus and Daedalus. A human biology student represented heart beats and blood flows. Yet another one showed considerably dramatic promise in her improvisation.

The performance took place in a part of Sadler's Wells that I had not seen before. There was a plaque to Sir Frederick Ashton on the wall and busts of him as well as Fonteyn, Somes, Dolin, Lillian Baylis and Madam (I do hope real dancers will excuse my presumption in referring to Dane Ninette de Valois in this way) at the entrance. I had seen all of those great men and women except Baylis when they were alive and the flood of memories those busts triggered made my eyes water.

But I was also reminded that ballet is not all magic and involves hard work and sweat. I found myself in a lift with a troupe of Brazilian dancers including one who was naked except for a pair of sweaty underpants. They had obviously been dancing their socks off. Literally. That's about as up close and personal as most of us would care to get.

Talking about sweat, Chantry Dance is a company that works incredibly hard. On Saturday they had been performing The Sandman plus a new work in the Lincoln Drill Hall. Today they are starting a week long summer school in which Mel and Fiona are taking part. Later next month they are meeting local business. In October they will take their latest works which includes The Happy Prince on tour. One of the venues they will visit is The Square Chapel in Halifax on 20 Nov 2014.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Crystal Ballet's Associate Programme for Adults!



Crystal Ballet, who have already brought dance lovers the stunning Genesis film shown above (starring Steven McRae, Vadim Muntagirov, Daria Kilmentova and Alina Cojocaru no less!) and run incredibly popular Pas de Deux courses for adults, are starting up a unique Associates programme especially for adult dancers in September.

Despite the seeming boom in adult classes in the UK recently, we all know just how difficult it can be sometimes to get regular, high-quality ballet tuition as an adult (particularly if we have professional aspirations but lack access to company classes etc). There are plenty of associates programmes available for young dancers in the UK, but very few are welcoming or open to adults. Thankfully Henry St Clair, AD of Crystal Ballet and former ENB & Royal Ballet dancer, is set to change that!

The course itself will have three tiers to ensure that dancers get placed in the level that is best suited to them - Crystal Ballet Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced - and the classes will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 19.15pm and 20.45pm making them accessible to dancers who live outside of London. I have been reliably informed that the classes will be held in a studio at the English National Ballet School, accompanied by a pianist, and the teaching faculty for the course is something to really get excited about (if you want to find out who you'll have to contact Henry at henry.stclair@crystalballet.com!) Like most associate programmes Crystal Ballet Associates will run on a termly basis, with 3 12-week terms per year. In addition to classes, associates will also be able to take regular intensives weekends which will cover aspects such as Pas de Deux, Pointe & Female Rep, Allegro & Male Rep (I wonder if that's open to girls, too!) and Pilates, contemporary and stage craft. And there will be the opportunity for all associates to work towards a performance of a ballet classic at the end of the course year! 

Booking is now open for the course, but places are likely to go quickly due to its unique nature, so get in touch with Henry if you want to find out more asap! His email is henry.stclair@crystalballet.com and he can also be reached via Twitter (https://twitter.com/crystalballet). 

The UK adult ballet community is already buzzing with excitement about the course:


UPDATE: Crystal Ballet now has a Facebook page for the Associates course: https://www.facebook.com/crystalballetassociates don't forget to 'like' it to stay up to date!





Sunday, 20 July 2014

We still have some of the best dancers in Yorkshire



In IP Yorkshire, one of my other blogs, I was bemoaning Yorkshire's indifferent performance in the number of patent and trade mark applications and almost bottom of the list in registered design applications (see Jane Lambert "Well at least a Yorkshireman invented Cats' Eyes" 20 July 2014 IP Yorks). We are doing rather better in cricket which is just as well for they say that when Yorkshire's cricket is strong England is strong. But it is in ballet where Yorkshire folk are really doing well.

One of our best is Xander Parish who is with the Maryinsky Ballet in St Petersburg. Here he is dancing in the second act of Giselle.  His company is coming to London soon and I have booked to see him dance the title role in Romeo and Juliet on 29 July 2014.  I last saw him and his sister Demelza Parish at the Grand Opera House in York on my silver wedding anniversary on 30 July 2007 which was one of the most memorable performances of my life (see "Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York" 31 July 2007 The Press). This is a particularly precious memory because it was just before my late spouse began to show signs of fatigue that were eventually diagnosed as motor neurone disease.

As if seeing Parish on the stage again was not treat enough we all have the opportunity of meeting him at the Civil Service Club on 13-15 Great Scotland Yard at 19:30 on Monday 4 Aug 2014 for he is to be the guest of London Ballet Circle. In a reminder sent to all London Ballet Circle members Audrey Allen wrote:
"A reminder, if one is needed, that we are greatly looking forward to welcoming Xander on 4 August. Many of our members remember him and his sister, Demelza, as young students taking part in the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, now Summer Schools, and they were awarded a special bursary in 2005 at The Royal Ballet School’s Annual Prize-Giving ceremony to honour the memory of our former Patron and President, Dame Alicia Markova. Since the Mariinsky’s London season was announced Xander has received a great deal of media attention and there have been a number of very interesting articles on his career since joining the prestigious Russian company."
This event, like most London Ballet Circle events, is open to the public.  Visitors pay £8 at the door. Members of the Circle are admitted for £5.  As the annual sub is only £12 it is well worth joining even if you live nowhere near London.   As Audrey Allen mentioned the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School  I should add that it started yesterday at Askham Bryan College and continues until the 1 Aug 2014. As you can see from the Events page members of the Circle are allowed to attend part of the programme for a modest charge.

Another exceptionally promising young Yorkshire dancer with Russian connections is Tala Lee Turton of Barnsley. Ms Turton is at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow and she will be only the ninth Briton to train there. When I attended the Tenth Anniversary Gala at Northern Ballet last month I sat next to Laraine Penson for afternoon tea (see "Coming Down to Earth Gently" 30 June 2014). Over sandwiches and scones I told her about the compliment that Christopher Marney had paid to our dancers when he spoke to the London Ballet Circle. Ms Penson thought those talks were a great idea and offered to host something similar at Quarry Hill. On Friday I asked Ms Turton whether she would like to be guest of honour at one of those talks when she is next in Yorkshire and I am delighted to report that she would.

So while we may not be doing as well as we should in patents, trade marks and registered designs our county is doing very well at the two things for which I have a passion, namely ballet and cricket. And that's quite good enough for me.

Fat Chance - Rained Off!




Right now I should have been reviewing Hype Dance Company's contribution to Chance to Dance. It would have been my chance to reciprocate the support that Mel showed me and my classmates at Northern Ballet Academy when we performed in the end of year show three weeks ago (see "The Time of My Life" 28 June 2014 and Mel's generous review "The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014" 29 June 2014). It would have been a great show and I can say that with some conviction because I took part in the rehearsals for both Fiona Noonan's Sugar Plum Fairy and Lucy's Stay with Me. Fiona and Lucy and their students, Andrew, Blessing, Mel, Rose, Verity, and all the others whose names I can't recall just now worked so hard for the show.

The show was called off because the weather in Sheffield yesterday was like the storm scene in La Fille mal gardée - only worse.  The dancers were understandably disappointed. Andrew tweeted
Mel added
And it was a real cri de coeur because she plans to start her advanced training in London soon:
The organizers, who must be just as disappointed, have promised to do what they can:
I make no criticism of their decision to cancel the festival. There were probably public liability, health and safety or other considerations that left them with little choice. I did criticize them on twitter a few minutes ago for not making contingency plans for the weather because thunder storms in summer are by no means unusual in North West Europe - that's part of the plot of the oldest ballet in the modern repertoire for goodness sake - but, on reflection, that criticism was unkind and I withdraw it.  I have the advantage of hindsight which is always 20/20. But I do think that the organizers of Chance to Dance and other outdoor dance festivals can learn from yesterday by making wet weather contingency plans of some kind and I hope that they do.

If there is another chance to dance this year and Mel can't take part then I shall take her place if the choreographer and other dancers will have me.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christophi dancing in the same Ballet again



To my mind one of the most beautiful clips on the internet is this video of Depouillage danced by Sarah Kundi and Jade Hale-Christophi when they were at Ballet Black. Shortly after this clip was filmed they went their separate ways. Now they are both in English National Ballet and dancing in the same ballet.

Between the 24 July and the 9 Aug 2014 Kundi will dance Aphrodite and Hale-Christophi Paris in The Judgment of Paris, a work to be choreographed by James Streeter. The ballet is an interlude in the opera Adriana Lecouvreur which is to be performed by Opera Holland Park.  Tickets for the performance can be booked through Opera Holland Park's website,

I would not have learned of this performance had it not been for Janet McNulty who posted news of the performance to the BalletcoForum website and drew it to my attention on twitter earlier today. A tweet that was re-tweeted by Kundi herself. I am grateful to both of them.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Saved for the Nation




In "Bye Bye and All the Best" 10 June 2014 I wrote:
"Readers of this blog know that I am a Kundi fan. She started her career at Northern Ballet and I have followed her from there to Ballet Black and then on to MurleyDance. A journey that introduced me to new companies, new dancers and new choreographers who are now among my favourites. Kundi is on the move again this time to Victor Ullate in Spain."
Of course, I was delighted for her but sad to see her go so far.  On Tuesday I tweeted
I added
But you know what, I don't have to bother because Sarah Kundi has joined English National Ballet (see "English National Ballet Announces Promotions and New Joiners" 17 July 2014 ENB Blog) and her picture and profile are already on the company's website.

As you can imagine I am over the moon and so are many other people, particularly in the North where she started her career.  Meanwhile, enjoy this pas de deux.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ballet and Bollywood - why they don't meet more often

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of welcoming Raj and Mel to our adult ballet class at Team Hud. Raj had danced with Mel in Big Ballet and it was great to see them both. After the class the three of us together with another friend crossed the road for a coffee and a chat.

Raj has many interests one of which is Spice Entertainment with its Bollywood Dance Group. Over coffee we discussed Bollywood and ballet and one of us - almost certainly Mel - suggested a Bollywood version of La Bayadère. "Ooh! With Sarah Kundi as Nikiya!" I enthused. Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am one of Sarah Kundi's fans and I had just seen her for the last time in England for a while in English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in the Round.  We discussed ways in which we could make it happen and Mel and Raj decided that the first step might be a workshop exploring ballet and Bollywood.

Clearly great minds think alike for a few weeks later Mel and I attended the Tenth Anniversary CAT Gala at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre where David Nixon presented some of the Northern Ballet Academy's recent alumni.  One of them was Joseph Poulton who has already begun to make a name for himself as a dancer with Ballet Black and also as a choreographer. Nixon mentioned that Poulton had the idea of combining Bollywood with La Bayadère. Mel sat up bolt upright in her seat. "That's my idea" she whispered. After the show Mel introduced herself (and me to Poulton) and told him about her idea for a workshop.

Such a workshop is actually going to happen at Hype Dance Company in Sheffield on Sunday 10 Aug 2014 between 14:00 and 16:30. According to the Eventbrite web page Mel and Raj will give an introduction to classical ballet and Bollywood techniques between  14:00 and 15:00. After a short break delegates will use the rest of their time devising their own Bollywood inspired improvisation.  It sounds tremendous fun. Tickets cost £12 and can be booked here.

Considering that La Bayadère is set in India and there are several other ballets with Indian dances as divertissements I wondered why there were not more workshops like Raj and Mel's including some in India as well as in England. Part of the answer may be that ballet has not taken off in India in the way that it has in Japan and China. Considering that English is widely used in business, government and education in India and the many ties between India and the UK and other European countries that is surprising.

There are, however, signs that that may be changing. I googled "ballet" and "India" and discovered the National Ballet & Academy Trust of India in Delhi, a School of Classical Ballet and Western Dance in Mumbai and the Imperial Fernando Ballet Company in both cities which show that there is some interest in ballet in India. I also looked up theatres and found the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai which is a complex of auditoriums, rehearsal studios and outdoor performing spaces including the Godrej Dance Theatre. The Centre hosts The Symphony Orchestra of India, the country's first and so far only professional symphony orchestra whose repertoire includes Stravinsky's Firebird.  The performance of that suite was applauded warmly so there seems to be an audience for ballet and the National Centre certainly provides an infrastructure.