Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Northern Ballet's New Season

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Last September Northern Ballet opened their new season with Jonathan Watkins's 1984 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which they then took on tour They danced Wuthering Heights in Bradford and finished with a brilliant Nutcracker at Christmas.  Thus year they are reviving three works: Nixon's Wuthering Heights at the WYP. They are taking Jean-Pierre Maillot's Romeo and Juliet to Sheffield, Canterbury, Belfast, Woking and Bradford. The Christmas show at The Grand will be Nixon's Beauty and the Beast which they will also dance at Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton.

Of those three shows the one that I would recommend without hesitation is Romeo and Juliet.  I saw it twice in Leeds last tear and enjoyed both performances (see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - different but in a good way 8 March 2915 and Leebolt's Juliet 13 March 2015). I also saw the Bolshoi dance Maillot's Taming of the Shrew earlier in the month and was enchanted by it (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016).  I have become something of a Maillot fan and wrote a short appreciation of his work on 5 Aug 2016.

We saw quite a lot of Wuthering Heights in 2015. I watched it in Sheffield including a dress rehearsal in March and liked it a lot (see Wuthering Heights 19 March 2015). I also caught it in Bradford in November where I was somewhat less impressed (see Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). I wrote:
"Batley and Leeboilt were good too as they always are but their performance lacked fire. It was like watching World Ballet Day or even company class. Old ladies like me who sacrifice their widow's mite for ballet (now increased by 133% - see The Increasing Prince of Friendship 14 Oct 2015) expect to float when we leave the theatre as I did on Friday when I saw Ballet Black (see Ballet Black's Return to Leeds 21 Nov 2015) or on 12 Nov 2015 when I left the Linbury after seeing Phoenix (see The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015). The reason I floated was that Ballet Black and Phoenix danced as though they were inspired as did Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie yesterday. I swapped a ticket in the centre of row B of the Stanley and Audrey Burton for yesterday's performance of Ballet Black for one at the side of the top of the auditorium for Friday so that I could see the last performance of Wuthering Heights in Bradford. Had it not been for Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie I think I would have regretted the exchange."
If Northern Ballet wanted to open their 2016/2017 season with a work inspired by a Brontë novel, my choice would have been Cathy Martson's Jane Eyre which I saw in Richmond at the beginning of June (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016). That was a reminder of the old Manchester based Northern Ballet that welcomed me back to the North in 1985. The company offered real treats in those days such as Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man and Christopher Gable's Christmas Carol (see my review of its 2013 revival Christmas Carol - "A Fine Performance Filled with Joy" 19 Nov 2013). Save for the opening in Doncaster Jane Eyre has not been performed in Yorkshire and it would have suited the Quarry well as it is a more intimate auditorium than The Grand. I had to travel 200 miles to see a ballet based on a novel by a Yorkshire author. I do hope they bring it home soon.

Beauty and the Beast ought to be as popular as Cinderella for when you think about it de Villeneuve's story is simply Cinderella in reverse. Peter Darrell, Darius James and David Bintley have all had a go as I said in my review of David Nixon's 2011 production in IP Yorkshire over a year before I started this blog (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011). In that article I said:
"Beauty and the Beast is not an easy story to choreograph. Scottish Ballet had a go with Thea Musgrave's score many years ago. I reviewed for "Aien" (St Andrews University student newspaper) when it was premiered at The King's Theatre in Edinburgh in 1969. Ballet Cymru also seems to have had a version in its repertoire. Another link with IP, incidentally, since Ballet Cymru is based in Newport, the same town as the Intellectual Property Office. And, of course, there is the Birmingham Royal Ballet's version. But none of those versions has ever achieved the popularity of works like Coppelia, Giselle, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Will David Nixon's version do any better? The answer is that I am just not sure."
Since I saw Nixon's Beauty and the Beast I have seen and reviewed Bintley's and James's. Both Mel Wong and I reviewed James's Beauty but Mel's review is far better than mine (see Mel Wong For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast 24 June 2014). In my review of Bintley's Beauty I asked myself which was best.  Here is my reply:
"Well I like them all but in different ways. Musgrave's for the music. Birmingham's for the sets and costumes but also Bintley's choreography. Nixon's for the last Act. Ballet Cymru's for its spirit."
The one thing I remember most about Nixon's ballet is that the family piled into a derelict bus which I found risible but I also remember some great dancing from Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson and a sublime final act. Here is what I wrote at the time:
"As for Nixon's choreography the first two acts reminded me of early McMillan - works like Anastasia which are not performed very often nowadays for a reason. But the last Act reminded me of Balanchine and I think it was that Act which saved the ballet. The pas de deux between Beauty - danced exquisitely by Martha Leebolt - and the beast showed just what the choreographer can do. Also impressive were Victoria Sibson and Hannah Bateman who danced the fairies, Hironeo Takahashi, the beast's servant and the coryphées, Michela Paolacci, Ayana Kanda, Christie Duncan and Isabella Gasparini who were four sprites. The last Act of the ballet could well stand as a work in its own right. I hope to see that Act many times again but I would happily skip the first two acts with its old bus and bailiffs."
A curious choice for a Christmas show. I would have preferred G able's Christmas Carol or indeed his Cinderella but I will be in the audience for the final act.

Of course, the show that everybody is anticipating with relish is Kenneth Tindall's Gasanova which opens in Leeds on 11 March 2017. It will then tour Edinburgh, Sheffield, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, The Lowry and London. This is Tindall's first full length ballet. His shorter works such as Luminous Junc•ture and The Architect, have attracted favourable critical comment including some from me (see Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013 and A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014 23 June 2013). I like Tindall as you can see from my appreciation of 28 Feb 2015. I am therefore looking forward to this work very much indeed.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Why Terpsichore Yorkshire?

A few minutes ago I launched Terpsichore Yorkshire with an article about Planet Dance, a dancewear retailer and wholesaler in Baltley. By so doing I am looking after my core audience, the adult dance community in Yorkshire and the Humber.

I started this blog in a very small just over three years ago to write about my classes at Northern Ballet Academy, the University of HuddersfieldDance Studio Leeds and other studios and to review performances by Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and visiting companies to The Grand, Bradford Alhambra, Stanley and Audrey Burton and other theatres in Yorkshire.

This blog has been spectacularly successful with over 10,000 hits a month. It has massive audiences in the United States and Russia and significant followings in Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands as well as the United Kingdom. My overseas readers and indeed those from other parts of the UK cannot attend classes in Leeds or Huddersfield or indeed performances in our local theatres. They want to read about what is going on at Covent Garden, the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells which they do visit occasionally as well as theatres and opera houses abroad and in other parts of the country. Consequently, my focus has moved away from Yorkshire and the North to London and overseas.

That is a pity for Leeds remains an important dance hub.  One of the reasons for increasing funding to Northern Ballet is that Arts Council England believe that
"Leeds has the potential to become a major regional dance centre. We suggested that Northern Ballet should work with Phoenix, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Dance and others to explore how they might work collaboratively to build a broad dance culture in Leeds, capable of increasing audiences and attracting and retaining talent in the city"
(see How Arts Council England supports Dance 10 Oct 2015). I want to chronicle and if possible even to facilitate that development.

Terpsichore Yorkshire will focus on our great local companies, their talented artists, its great teachers and so on. We will give in depth previews and comprehensive analyses of their performances. We will write about dancers from Yorkshire with other companies such as David Biintley, Xander Parishm Brandon Lawrence and Dominic North. At the sane time, we will also try out adult dance classes in all parts of the county and report on them. We will check out local dancewear retailers and their merchandise.  We will report news and views on all aspects of dance from all parts of Yorkshire,

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Manchester's Link with English National Ballet

Manchester Opera House
Author: Mike Peel
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Source Wikipedia

As a Mancunian I am immensely proud that the company which is now England's national ballet company danced its first performance at the Opera House on 5 Feb 1951 (see Our History on English National Ballet's website). The company has chosen our city again to premiere Akram Khan's Giselle on 27 Sept 2016 before taking the work on a tour of the rest of the nation. There is enormous affection in this city for English National Ballet which I noted in Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015).

I was delighted to learn yesterday from Tamara Rojo herself that our pride and affection is reciprocated. She had tweeted:
To which I replied:
The company and its director signalled that they liked my tweet. Tamara Rojo quoted it and added:
A number of events will be held around the country in connection with this important new work including some in Manchester (see the Take Part page of the company's website). There is also a fascinating dialogue between Akram Khan and Tamara Rojo on Re-imagining Giselle and Ballet Meets Kathak: the traditions behind Akram Khan's Giselle.

Having just completed in Manchester as it happens a 3-day intensive workshop on La Bayadere which is set in Hyderabad (see La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: 16 Aug 2016 Day 2 17 Aug 2016 Day 3 17 Aug 2016) I should love to see how a choreographer from the Sub-Continent would reinterpret that work. I tentatively suggest that ballet which is not well known in this country as subject matter for a future collaboration between Akram Khan and our national company.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes

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Updated 24 Aug 2016

It was only on the train home that it occurred to me that there might have been more tactful ways of showing our appreciation to our excellent teacher, Jane Tucker, than flowers at the end of our workshop on La Bayadère in view of what had happened to Nikiya. But some sort of expression of our appreciation was appropriate as this workshop was special. Romeo and Juliet was good (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) as had been Swan Lake (see see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2915, Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and Day 3 20 Aug 2015) but this was even better. I for one learned so much over the last three days and not just about La Bayadère but ballet in general.

As on the other days the day started with floor exercises on our Pilates mats. There was then a 90 minute class which focused on some of the steps we would need for our rehearsals and performance. Jane had included some  jetés en tournant in the golden idol so we worked on those as well as our balancé turns.  After class we ran through each of the pieces that we had learned. We were far from perfect but Jane told us that she had been expecting carnage and we never got anywhere near that. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon we concentrated on the details that required most attention.

After lunch, Jane fashioned the dances that we had learned into a show. Each piece was to lead seamlessly into the next. We did a couple of rehearsals and then prepared for our audience which consisted of Karen Sant and Josh Moss who are beautiful dancers as well as outstanding instructors.  Although I have very little experience of performing I have already found that performances tend to lift a cast and it was no different today. There were glitches but everyone put her heart into the show. My favourite was the golden idol as I explained in Day 2 earlier today. Jane's adaptation included some échappés which I have always enjoyed.  It was over far too quickly. Karen clapped vigorously after each piece while Josh filmed us with a tablet or mobile. Both Jane and Karen told us that we had made progress since the start.

There were some very happy ladies who left The Dancehouse today - all fired up with enthusiasm for our classes and shows in the coming year. Tomorrow Jane starts a new course for the more advanced students which I hope and am sure that they will enjoy as much as we did ours.

La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades

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There is a mirror at the front of the studio where we train. I glanced at it yesterday as I entered our notional stage from the top of its imaginary ramp. Try as I could to incline towards the audience with my arms in fifth and my right leg extended there was just no way that I could pass as a disembodied shade.  I did my best to be ethereal and dainty but I am big boned and my frame is now upholstered with more than a generous accumulation of middle age spread despite my attempts to mitigate it through exercise and diet.

On the other hand I might just pass as an angular statue though I lack the strength and virtuosity of Ivan Vasilev in the YouTube clip. Because everyone else in the class is young and nimble Jane had prepared the workshop around the shades. That was sensible because my classmates can dance those roles so much more convincingly than I can. At the start of the programme I asked Jane whether we could do the golden idol which had been danced so impressively by Andrei Federkov in St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's production at the Coliseum last year (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). There is something very dramatic and chilling about a statue that comes to life. It is the statute that leads Dom Juan to hell at the end of Moliere's play.  She replied that she would see what she could do but I knew it would be a big ask because she would have to adapt the choreography considerably for us.

To my great delight and surprise she did just that and we learned it yesterday as well as another piece for the corps. Learning the idol was great fun for we had to move in a quite non-balletic way which is what I do anyway.  We did some assemblés and chaînés  though not the tours en l'air or multiple turns shown in the video clip in substitution of some of the tours en l'air that only a powerful dancer trained in the Russian style can do well.

Today is our last day and I can barely navigate to the bathroom let alone dance this morning but I will try. us This has been a great experience and I am grateful to Jane Tucker for teaching us and KNT for giving us the opportunity to learn the choreography of this beautiful but relatively little known work.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: There's Life in the Old Girl Yet

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I hesitated before signing up for Jane Tucker's La Bayadère intensive at KNT  even though I had voted for it when Karen Sant polled us on what we wanted to learn because I was not sure that I would be able to do it. Much as I had enjoyed last year's Swan Lake (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) and this April's Romeo and Juliet (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) they nearly killed me and now I am a year older, slower, stiffer and generally wonkier. Truth to tell, my anxiety that I might no longer be up to it is the only reason why I did not bite Hannah Bateman's hand off when she advertised her Ballet Retreat in Leeds earlier this year.

I am really glad that I did sign up for Jane's intensive because I had a whale of a time yesterday. Although I am as stiff as a board this morning with aches and pains in muscles and joints that I never knew existed despite soaking in a hot bath followed by a cold shower I am buoyed up by two news items.  The first was the 97 year old dentist and entrepreneur featured on How to Age. The second was the story on The World Tonight about Doreen Petchey from Reading who has just passed her RAD Grade 6 exams at age 71 (see Congratulations Doreen 12 Aug 2016 on the RAD website and the video clip on her (Britain's oldest ballerina: 71-year-old passes Grade 6 exam). I might add in passing that there are lots of ladies of that age or older in Annemarie Donoghue's Over 55 class at Northern Ballet in Leeds and that at least 4 members of that class regularly attend Jane Tucker's improvers' class in Leeds on Wednesday evenings which is definitely not for wimps.

Our intensive started with 30 minutes of floor exercises on Pilates mats at 10:00.  We then had 90 minutes of class which consisted of a full barre and the usual centre work which took us through to noon.  Between noon and lunch we learned our first bit of repertoire which was the second shade's solo dance from the last act of the ballet. The first and the last bits were easy enough but I got a bit lost in the middle but Jane seemed to be reasonably satisfied with our effort overall.

We broke for lunch at 13:30 and I found a Japanese restaurant behind The Dancehouse that Gita the Eater had discovered in April.  I really love Japanese cuisine having been to Japan three times but although there are lots of places that claim to be Japanese restaurants there are very few that would pass muster in Tokyo. This is one of the very few that would. I refuelled on tempura and rice with plenty of green tea.

After lunch we ran through the second shade's solo again and then started on the descent into the kingdom of the shades. Jane had already taught us a version of that dance which I had struggled to master in her improvers' class in Leeds and the Romeo and Juliet intensive in April.  It was a considerable relief to find that she required us to do the version that appears in the video. Yoshie led us out to the centre of the studio and we followed her in height order. The first bit consisted of a sequence of arabesques followed by a right tendu with our arms in 5th which was just about doable but then an almost interminable couru which we did on demi punctuated by a développé and two descents to the floor which I dared not risk for fear of never getting up again. I couldn't do them in cygnets last year either.

We repeated the dances that we had learned before Karen who filmed us with her tablet.  Our day finished with 20 minutes of floor exercises. I left the Dancehouse just after 16:15 to begin the trek back to Brockholes which turned out to be surprisingly smooth once I had caught a through train from Oxford Road to Huddersfleld.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was to run a hot bath. Jane's advice last year of a hot bath followed by a cold shower was the best tip I have ever picked up from a ballet class and it really works. I was going to give alcohol a miss last night but when I heard about Mrs. Petchey I felt compelled to drink her health in Argentine Malbec. If she can do grade 6 at age 71 I should be able to finish this course at age 67. And perhaps I should have a shot at the RAD exams too. If I passed them I might eventually be allowed to turn up to Chelmsford Ballet's company class. I am looking forward to another year of classes with Annemarie and Jane in Leeds and Karen and Ailsa in Manchester. Maybe there's life in the old girl yet.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Where can I get a Ballet Class in August?

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Not in Brum for a start!

"Classes are currently on Summer Break!" proclaims the DanceXchnage's website. "Our NEW autumn term starts Monday 19 September – Saturday 10 December 2016." And they try to make out they are the nation's second city.

No such problem in the real second city. Danceworks has classes through the summer as you can see from their timetable. Sodoes Pineapple.

Classes don't stop at Leeds, or Liverpool or indeed Newcastle-Under-Lyme according to Picturesinthefirelight

But in Manchesteour modern Ithaca, there are classes throughout the year at KNT in the Dancehouse Theatre's studios. And for the next few days something wonderful will happen.

I don't know whether there are still places on these intensives. I suspect not. But if you don't enquire on  Tel: 07783 103 037 you certainly won't be able to come.