Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Anniversary Post

I started this blog a year ago today with a review of Ballet West's performance of The Nutcracker in Pitlochry. That was one of the highlights of the year and I am looking forward to returning to Pitlochry on Saturday for their Swan Lake. Last August I spent a very pleasant afternoon in Taynuilt on the way to Oban to catch the ferry to Mull (see "Taynuilt - where better to create ballet?" 31 Aug 2013). No wonder one of the students at the ballet school attached to the company won a medal in the Genée.

Here are some of the other highlights in no particular order:

1.  Dutch National Ballet Junior Company

I was in the Staddshouwburg in Amsterdam on the 24 Nov 2013 when Ernst Meisner's amazing young dancers began their tour of the Netherlands. I had come to the Netherlands to see Michaela DePrince. She was magnificent with Sho Yamade in the pas de deux from Diana and Actaeon. But in the same performance I saw the others and they were all as beautiful. It was a wonderful night. The crowd went wild. Every single member of the audience rose to his or her feet. One of the very few occasions in my life that has happened.  The Junior Company are coming to the Linbury on 28 and 29 May 2014. If tickets are still available - go!

2.  MurleyDance

Much the same thing happened a week later. I had come to Leeds to see Sarah Kundi who is one of my favourite dancers. On a particularly terrible day in May I drew solace from watching her dance "Dépouillement". But then I saw all the other wonderful dancers of MurleyDance.  I can't wait to see them all again in their Spring tour.

3.  Ballet Black

I was so sad when Kundi left Ballet Black. I had loved her performances in "Dopamine (you make my levels go silly)" and Chris Marney's "War Letters" when I saw the company at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham.  But just look whom Ballet Black have recruited now!

I shall see Isabela Coracy together with all my other favourites, including Cira Robinson, Sayaka Ichikawa, Damien Johnson and Joseph Alves, at the Linbury tomorrow (see "Ballet Black's Tour" 22 Feb 2014). Yippee!

4.    Scottish Ballet  Hansel and Gretel

Scottish Ballet was my first love  (see "Scottish Ballet" 20 Dec 2013).  It is still one of my favourite companies.  Christopher Hampson's Hansel and Gretel which I saw in Glasgow just before Christmas was outstanding (see "Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel" 23 Dec 2013).  Hampson reworked the story masterfully involving the public in the process with writing competitions, forest tours and many other events.   I first got to know the company when Peter Darrell was its artistic director and Elaine McDonald was his ballerina. I am looking forward to seeing Scottish Ballet again in Romeo and Juliet in May.

5.   Antoinette Sibley

There were great ballerinas in the early 1970s when I first took an interest in ballet - Fracci, Seymour and, of course, Foteyn. But my favourite was (and remains) Antoinette Sibley. I saw Dame Antoinette at the Royal Ballet School in conversation with Clement Crisp earlier this month (see "Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School" 3 Feb 2014).  Here is a clip of the great ballerina in Manon.

6.   Gala for Ghana

That same afternoon, thanks to the good people of BallertcoForum, I got to get a ticket to see Edward Watson, Lauren Cuthbertson and other great dancers at the Royal College of Music in a  Gala for Ghana. That evening I saw the wonderful Elena Glurdjidze dance The Dying Swan thus fulfilling a lifelong ambition that had been sparked by my mother's account of Pavolva to see a modern ballerina perform it on the stage. Glurdjidze is another dancer whom I greatly admire. There were many other memorable performances that evening including Ashton's Rhapsody pas de deux by Yuhui Choe and Valentino Zucchetti, Volver, Volver by Watson, Avant La Haine by Camille Bracher and Thomas Whitehead but the work that stands out in my memory is Requiem Pie Jesu by Lauren Cuthbertson.

7.    Northern Ballet, Midsummer Night's Dream

Something remarkable happened at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 14 Sept 2013 when Yorkshire Ballet danced David Nixon's Midsummer Night's Dream (see "Realizing Another Dream" 15 Sept 2013). This was one of only three occasions that I have witnessed a standing ovation  in the ballet. Somehow the chemistry was right. A lovely, intimate theatre.  An inspired cast who gave that little bit extra. A receptive crowd.

8.  Northern Ballet's Open Day

I had not intended to stay long at Northern Ballet's open day on the 15 Feb 2014 but I sat transfixed by a succession of the Academy wonderful teachers: Yoko Ichino, Cara O'Shea, Chris Hinton-Lewis and my own teacher, Annemarie Donoghue. I learned more about ballet in one afternoon from watching them than from reading a shelf of books or a week of performances.  A few weeks earlier Dame Antoinette had spoken fondly about Tamara Karsavina who had been her teacher.  Watching Yoko Ichino lovingly pass on her skills and knowledge to the young dancers of the Academy reminded me of Dame Antoinette's words. I love the Academy. I was already a Friend of the Company but today I have become a Friend of the Academy as well.

9.   Birmingham Royal Ballet, Prince of the Pagodas

I was so excited about the first performance in the UK of the Prince of the Pagodas at The Lowry on the 30 Jan 2014 that I had to write the review that very night. Great choreography, great sets, great score and great dancing  (see "Lear with a Happy Ending - Birmingham Royal Ballet's Prince of the Pagodas 30 Jan 2014" 31 Jan 2014). The Birmingham Royal Ballet brought two other great works to Salford - Aladdin on 28 Feb 2013 and The Sleeping Beauty on the 29 Sept 2014 - but Pagodas was my favourite.

10.  Royal Ballet. Giselle

The Royal Ballet is the gold standard and Giselle is in the repertoire of all the world's great companies. I have seen many of the world's finest ballerinas dance Giselle - Fracci, Sibley, Fonteyn and now Osipova. I have also seen many great Albrechts including Nureyev at the height of his career but I don't think I have ever seen anyone dance the role better than Carlos Acosta on the 18 Jan 2014 (see "Giselle - Royal Ballet 18 Jan 2014"  20 Jan 2014).

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