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:

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.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Branding and Ballet - Ten Top Tips

Whenever possible I try to get the company's T-shirt when I watch them performing in a ballet. So far I have T-shirts from
  • Ballet Black
  • Ballet Cymru
  • Rambert
  • The Dutch National Ballet
  • The Royal Ballet, and
  • The Stuttgart Ballet.
I also have a ballet bag from the Bristol Russian Ballet School and I'be bought English National Ballet's My First Coppelia t-shirts for Vlad the Lad and my Huddersfield ballet teacher's younger daughter. It is a way of supporting those companies and one that I much prefer to the doling out of public money by the Arts Council of England

The reason I feel uncomfortable about it is that I can't really think of an answer to my fellow citizens who see opera and ballet as all right for those who like that sort of thing but it shouldn't be their brass that pays for it. Now don't get me wrong. I love opera, ballet and all the other performing arts. I am delighted that my beloved Northern Ballet was favoured in the Arts Council's latest round of investment in opera and ballet. But I am not sure that Arts Council funding is particularly fair to those who prefer their money to be spent in other ways and when I look across the Atlantic where just about every town of any size has its own company that is supported strongly by its local community (some of which such as the Sarasota Ballet seem to be rather good) I have to ask whether this form of subsidy is even god for the performing arts. The Arts Council was promoted by one of its first chairmen Lord Keynes (see "John Maynard Keynes and English Ballet" 3 March 2013). Like a lot of Lord Keynes's ideas that wilted under the scrutiny of Thatcherism in the 1980s direct funding for the performing arts may have to be reconsidered.

Even if the Arts Council can be justified the funds available to it for investment are unlikely to grow by much and there is also a limit to the amount of money that the hard pressed public can afford to pay for tickets or donations.  As I said in "Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers" 13 March 2014 companies, theatres, dancers (at least principals) and possibly even schools and dancers will have to exploit their goodwill a little more in the way that sports stars and artists in the other performing arts have done. To that end I wrote three further articles to show how that could be done:
This is a summary of the advice that I gave in those articles. It applies to everyone in dance - individual artists and teachers as well as institutions.
  1. Register your business name and any logo as trade marks: You can do it yourself on-line for the UK from as little as £170 though I would advise you to last out a few hundred pounds more and get a trade mark or patent agent to do it for you. He or she will make a search to make sure there are no conflicting registrations, prepare a specification that covers all your needs, file it and correspond with the Intellectual Property Office or other registry until you have your grant. There are two advantages of registration, First it is easier to protect and license branded merchandise. Secondly, it trumps anything a cyber-squatter can say in a domain name dispute. If you do it yourself make sure you cover all the countries in which you want to perform or sell your merchandise and that your registration covers clothing, printed matter and anything else you can see yourself selling in the next five years.
  2. Subscribe to a good watch service. A watch service scours the IPO and other patent office websites for applications that could conflict with your registrations and reports back to you if it finds any.  Most patent and trade mark agents can set up such a subscription for you though they tend to be on the pricey side. Leeds Business and IP Centre runs a good service. Call Ged or Stef on 0113 247 8266 for more info.
  3. Keep an audit trail of all your artistic, choreographic, literary and musical works. As I said in "Branding and Ballet - Copyright and Rights in Performances" copyright and rights in performances are not registered rights. They come to being when a qualified person creates an original artistic, dramatic, literary or musical work or, in the case of dancers and musicians, takes part in live performances.  The best way of proving your title is by means of contemporaneous notes and logs with references back to the stave on which the choreology or music is recorded.
  4. Review and keep under review all your licences and other agreements. This applies both to people who serve you such as your choreographers, dancers and musicians and also to those who want to take licences from you. Make sure these are drawn up professionally and that you enforce them.
  5. Take out adequate insurance to cover claims by you and against you.   IP litigation is expensive and is usually excluded from most legal risk indemnity programs. There are some specialist companies that provide such a service and it is worth looking out for them (see my article "IP Insurance Five Years on" 23 Oct 2010 Inventors Club blog).
  6. Be sure to talk to a lawyer first if you think someone has infringed your IPR. That is because some statutes such as the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Trade Marks Act 1994 provide a cause of action against those who threaten litigation without justification (see "If you think someone has infringed your patent talk to a lawyer first" 11 July 2014 Inventors Club biog).
  7. Carry out periodic IP audits. You are creating new works all the time and also licensing in and out other peoples' work. Make sure that everything is covered.
  8. If someone infringes your rights don't ignore it. There's an expression in the law that delay defeats equity. At the very least delay in enforcing your rights could prevent your getting an interim injunction. At the worst it could be seen as acquiescence.
  9. Make others aware of your IP rights.  Use the copyright symbol (c) and the registered trade mark symbol to make the public aware of your rights. That way they can't use the defence of ignorance.
  10. Get your audiences on your side. Folk who have paid a lot of money for their tickets are understandably annoyed when the first thing they hear is an order not to use cameras or mobile phones. But if you explain why they will co-operate with you even to the point of stopping their neighbours from surreptitiously photographing or taping your show.
This is the last of my articles on ballet and branding. It is my gift back to the artists and impresarios who have given me so much pleasure over the years. I hope that at least some of you will find my tips useful.