Saturday, 30 May 2015

Over 50s Ballet Classes at Danceworks

For the last two years I have been taking Annemarie Donoghue's classes for the Over 55s at Northern Ballet in Leeds. I love those classes and I have written a lot of articles about them in We're in the Paper 15 April 2015. I am therefore delighted to read in Danceworks' June newsletter that that studio is to start similar classes in London (see Over 50s Ballet Classes at Danceworks)

Under "Benefits of Ballet" Danceworks claims:
"There is no age barrier to learn to dance and the long-term flexibility benefits of ballet are excellent. Ballet classes will help to:
  • Develop and maintain your flexibility. The combination of strength and flexibility is what keeps a body healthier and stronger for longer, and more resilient to injury.
  • Work both your body and your mind. The physical and mental challenges of ballet can improve vitality
  • Gain confidence in your body You will feel more supple and poised
  • Learn musicality Ballet is practised in harmony with music. You will learn to draw energy from it, count it and live.
  • Feel a new energy and forget your problems in a relaxed and quiet environment."
I can attest from my own experience that each and every one of those claims is true.

Danceworks is holding a free taster class on 14 July between 18:00 and 19:30.  The website states:
"These classes aim to teach what a regular class would, but at a pace more suited to older dancers, in a private studio in our Mayfair location a few minutes from Bond Street tube."
They sound exactly like my classes in Leeds.  All I would add is that very few concessions are made or indeed required for age. I take classes with young people in Huddersfield, Manchester and Sheffield and these are no more demanding than the classes for the Over 55s. I would also say that several of the members of my Over 55 class could give any of the teenagers and twenty or thirty somethings a run for their money. Several of the members of my class are older than me but they are as slim as any supermodel and as sleek as any greyhound and are delightful to watch.

If you want to book a place on the course email  You will find Danceworks at 16 Balderton Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6TN. Balderton Street is on the Southern side of Oxford Street which is almost opposite Selfridges.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Ballet Black Back in Nottingham

I embedded this film of Ballet Black in My Personal Ballet Highlights of 2014 because they are a particularly beautiful company. I have also met some of them and they are delightful people. Last year they came to the Nottingham Playhouse where they were magnificent (see Best Ever - Ballet Black at the Nottingham Playhouse 3 July 2014. They are returning to that theatre on the the 26 June 2015 for one night only.

Ballet Black are bringing two new works to Nottingham as well as one old favourite. The new works are Kit Holder's To Fetch A Pail of Water and Mark Bruce's Second Coming. The old favourite is Will Tuckett's Depouillement. I saw the show at The Linbury in February and loved it (see Ballet Black's Best Performance Yet 17 Feb 2015).

Since that show I have seen Holder's Hopper danced by Ballet Central and I have become quite a fan of that choreographer   Indeed. one of the reasons I am traipsing down to High Wycombe and back tomorrow is to see his Quatrain (see It takes Three to Tango 19 May 2015).

I am not sure when Ballet Black will next be in the North so this may be our only chance to see the triple bill this year. You can access the Playhouse's box office by clicking this link.

More Clips from KNT Danceworks

In Better than Eurovision 24 May 2015 I wrote:
"But once again it was the ballet that delighted me. ....... The evening was rounded off with the advanced ballet class who were delightful. They wore lovely flowing dresses which emphasised their elegance."
I make no apologies for mentioning the show again because that dance was so lovely that I am sure you would like to see it. I have embedded a film of the advanced ballet class above.

I also mentioned the pointe class's Putting on the Ritz.   You can see their dance on YouTube too.

In my review I embedded a film from last year's show which shows three of the teachers at KNT Danceworks: Karen Sant, Ailsa Baker and Josh Moss. I wrote about my first class with Ailsa in Manchester in So Proud of Manchester on 29 Aug 2014 and my class in Liverpool with Karen in It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014. Yesterday I had my first class with Josh and I enjoyed that too. There was the usual barre (pliés, tendus, glissés, fondus and grands battements), a lovely port de bras, chaînés, various jumps. glissades, chassés and temps levés. As this will be my only class this week  I made the most of it. I met several of the cast in Move It and I told them how much I liked the show.

It will be some weeks before I can return to KNT because term begins in Leeds on Tuesday and our Over 55 class has a show to rehearse.  Once that show is over Leeds takes a break for a couple of months. During that vacation  I plan to take at least one class a week from Karen, Ailsa or Josh,

A Post Script from New Zealand

In The All Blacks of the Art World are coming to Leeds I wrote that the Royal New Zealand Ballet will visit the UK in the Autumn and they are bringing two of their works to this country: Giselle which they are dancing in Edinburgh, High Wycombe and Canterbury and a mixed bill entitled The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud which they will perform at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds and the Linbury in Covent Garden.

The mixed bill will contain several ballets from Salute which opened in Wellington on 22 May and is now in Christchurch on the second leg of the company's tour of New Zealand. @tweeting_nik who lives in New Zealand kindly brought the following video by the Royal New Zealand Ballet to my attention:

Check out some footage of our premiere in Wellington and make sure you get your tickets
Posted by Royal New Zealand Ballet on Wednesday, 27 May 2015
She also kindly offered to identify the individual works shown in the clip which offer I gratefully accepted:
Clearly, we in this country are in for a treat. I am grateful to the company for publishing this clip and providing an embed code and to @tweeting_nik for her commentary.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Vaut le Voyage - Birmingham Royal Ballet in Shrewsbury

Theatre Severn Shrewsbury
Photo Jane Lambert
All rights reserved

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Les Rendezvous, Kin and Elite Syncopations, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury 27 Sept 2015

Last Wednesday I went to York to see Birmingham Royal Ballet's triple bill (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in York 21 May 2015). I had expected to see Ashton's Les Rendezvous, MacMillan's Elite Syncopations and Kin a new ballet by Alexander Whitley. I saw Les Rendezvous and Elite Syncopations but, sadly, not Kin because Delia Mathews who was due to dance the leading female role in that ballet had sustained an injury in Les Rendezvous and it was not possible to stage the work without her. As it was Kin that I had most wanted to see I resolved to see the work in another theatre at another time.

I caught up with the company last night at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury which is one of the most beautiful theatres I have ever seen.  Only the Festival Theatre at Pitlochry beats it in my humble opinion and that is only because I prefer hills to towns.  It is right up there with the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, the Lowry, the Liverpool Playhouse, the Stephen Joseph in Scarborough and Covent Garden in my pantheon of favourite venues. As you can see from the photo it is built on the banks of the River Severn. It is a very new building with every modern facility for the performers and audience.  I explored it before and after the show and found a main auditorium on three levels, a second, smaller auditorium, a restaurant area and several bars.  It is next door to a massive car park the use of which the council (like metropolitan Westminster and Camden but unlike provincial York and Leeds) does not charge after 18:00.  The glass panels which you can see in the picture command awesome views of the town.  As I booked late I had to choose between side or back seats in the stalls and circle or front and centre seats in the upper circle. I chose the latter as I have good eyesight and I found it afforded a magnificent view of the stage but (unlike the amphitheatre in the House) it was still close enough to make out the dancers' features and the expressions on their faces.

Kin was well worth the 200 mile return journey which took three hours each way. It began with a low, almost inaudible, hum like an electric motor which I think must have been a cello as the curtain began slowly to rise. The stage was dimly lit and I could just about make out a solitary female dancer dressed in black. As she began to move I think I recognized Yijing Zhang. She then danced the most beautiful solo. Had it been poetry of words rather than dance I would have described as elegiac. The other dancers entered also in black. The music changed to a persistent throbbing. I wrote a lot of notes on my cast list not all of which I can decipher now as I had to scribble in the dark. I can just about make out "gyrations" and "chaînés".  I remember the most hauntingly beautiful pas de deux by Yijing Zhang and William Bracewell. I also remember some great turns by the males towards the end. This morning, I can also make out the noun "virtuosity."

I apologize for the superficiality of this description but yesterday was the first time I had seen a very beautiful, multi-layered work which I think will require more than one viewing to appreciate properly. Marion Tait referred to the work's beauty when she had to announce its cancellation last week. I seem to remember that she also used the adjective "special". If she did she was right. The music was by Phil Kline and I think this was the first time I had heard his work. It is not a pretty score but it sets the mood perfectly and it allowed plenty of scope for interpretation. The set (very plain with just two features) and the austere black costumes were by Jean-Marc Puissant. The lighting which cleverly matched the atmospheric score was by Peter Teigen. Whitley assembled those elements ingeniously.

As I had arrived at York last week flustered because my satnav had led my companion on a circuitous tour of the city's traffic jams before I decided to ditch it and follow my memory, bothered because I had no small change for the meter and I couldn't find my phone and uncomfortable because I had to run in heels from Clifford's Tower to the Grand Opera House and then had to run a gauntlet of glares as I scurried to my seat as the house lights dimmed I didn't take Les Rendezvous in properly. My recollection of the performance was of course marred by Mathews's slip though I barely noticed it at the time because she was back on her feet instantly. This time I savoured the ballet like a fine Mondavi wine. I followed its patterns and its intricacies. I see that I wrote the words "Rubik's cube" on my cast list. I marvelled at the choreography though my heart missed a beat as the orchestra played the bit where Mathews fell. It is not an easy piece to perform as it was created for Markova and Idzikowsky and it is associated in my mind with Fonteyn and Helpmann. Yesterday the woman in yellow was danced by Yijing Zhang and the woman in mauve (I am referring to the colour of the spots on their dresses) by Elisha Willis. Both were lovely. Brandon Lawrence was also there and he stood out again as he did last week. The role that Lawrence danced in York, however, was danced by Bracewell and he was also magnificent.

I also relished seeing Elite Syncopations again. It may be because I was in the gallery but the stage in Shrewsbury seemed bigger than the one in York. Certainly the dancers seemed to more more fluently and the orchestra looked more comfortable. The show was as delightful as ever with all my favourite bits. Arancha Baselga, Samara Downs and Yijing Zhang danced The Cascades, Downs her sexy, sultry Calliope Rag, Baselga and Fergus Campbell The Golden Hours and Yvette Knight a delightful Stoptime Rag, Yijing Zhang and Tzu-Chao Chou were hilarious in The Alaskan Rag. Lawrence and Knight were magnificent in the Bethena Concert Waltz. Once again Chi Cao thrilled us with his jumps. It was over far too soon. The crowd loved it. We clapped and cheered until our hands were sore and our throats were sore.

As I had a long journey back to Yorkshire I lingered for a while. There was an exhibition of drawings and water colours of landscapes of South Shropshire. I picked up a leaflet which I now find is a flyer for a firm of solicitors offering such services as business crime, debt recovery and family matters so I can tell you nothing about the artist. I know and love that part of the county for I spent the first few months of my life at Much Wenlock in a cottage miles from anywhere without gas, electricity and running water. I might have been a Salopian like Houseman - except that he was  born in Worcestershire despite the title of his best known work. I owe the happy accident of being born in the greatest city in the nation. Bintley as a Northerner should know that the second city is London and not Birmingham as he claims in the programme. My mother insisted on returning to Manchester because there was no way she was giving birth in that cottage.

I may have made my first and so far only appearance in the movies in Much Wenlock. The town was the location for the shooting of Gone to Earth with Jennifer Jones in the leading role. Everyone in the town was recruited as extras. I once saw the film on telly and there is a shot of a baby in a pram. Of course, I have no personal recollection but my mother told me that she received a visit from her brother who had motored down from Bramhope for the day. My uncle was bemused by the town in Victorian dress. His first words to my mother were:
"Eeeh lass! Why have you come to live here? I had heard they were a bit backward in these parts but I didn't think they were that far behind the times."
If any of my readers has not yet seen Shropshire with the Wrekin and Long Mynd he or she should do so because it is one of the loveliest counties in the whole United Kingdom. "England! thy beauties are tame and domestic" did you say? The poet would not have said that had he visited Shropshire.

All of which is a digression. Birmingham Royal Ballet were as good as ever. I look forward to catching the southern tour in High Wycombe on Saturday and The King Dances in Birmingham on 20 June 2015.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Didn't they do well!

On Sunday I reviewed Move It (KNT Danceworks evening class show) at the Dancehouse in Better than Eurovision. In my review I wrote:
"My main interest was, of course, in the ballet. Both classes did well. Both had challenging choreography with music that I would not have found easy to dance to. .......... The beginners had some tricky temps levés which they executed well. I am very proud to have done class with them and I have to congratulate Ailsa and Karen on a very creditable show."
Karen has uploaded videos of the show to YouTube. I want you to see the film of the Beginners' Ballet class show because they are the people with whom I dance when I go to Manchester.

This would not have been an easy piece to dance. You can see what I mean by the tricky temps levés. Seeing the piece a second time I am even more impressed with those folks and think that they have really done well.

I only hope that I can do as well when I dance in the Over 55 class contribution  to the Northern Ballet Academy end of year show on 4 July 2015 (see Not just Americans who will celebrate the 4th July this year 23 April 2015),

A Chance to see Kathakali

A close-up of a Kathakali artist
Author Prathyush Thomas
Source Wikipedia

According to Yorkshire Dance the Kala Chethena Kathakali Company will perform Hima Sundari at Kala Sangam arts centre in Bradford on Sunday 7 June 2015 at 14:00.  Hima Sundari is described as the Kathakali version of Snow White. It is a story about "a young Princess, Hima Sundari who wins the heart of a Prince, but her evil stepmother, who is also the Queen, being jealous of Hima Sundari’s beauty and grace destroys her. Hima Sundari is eventually revived by the dedicated love of the Prince to prove that love conquers evil."

Kathakali is an art form that began in Kerala in the South of India. It is characterized by stylized movement and gestures, percussive music and elaborate costumes and make up with men playing both male and female parts. There is a good introductory video on the company's website with supplementary information on the site's Background page.

The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company was founded in 1987 and has toured the UK extensively to introduce Kathakali to the British public.  There is a timeline on the History page. In addition to its performances the company holds workshops and demonstrations on every aspect of the art form to folk of all cultures, ages and backgrounds. The video Workshops for all ages and abilities  shows classes for performing arts students in Lincoln, primary school pupils in the Scilly Islands, secondary school children in London and senior citizens in a community centre.

Kala Sangam describes itself as "a leading south Asian and collaborative arts organisation based at the Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford."   There is an introduction to its work in the video Kala Sangam - South Asian Arts Centre, UK and the About Kala Sangam page of the centre's website. Kala Sangam is in St Peter' s House at 1 Forster Square in the city centre. It is close to the railway and bus stations and there is usually plenty of street parking on Sunday afternoons. Tickets cost £7.50 (£5.00 concessions) and can be booked through the centre's website.