Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Elena Glurdjidze - So Lovely, So Gracious

I have just nipped down to London and back to see Elena Glurdjidze. On the train back to Luton Parkway to pick up my car I tweeted:
"@DaveTriesBallet I have just seen and spoken to Elena Glurdjidze at @BalletCircle. So lovely and so gracious. Looking forward to Cinderella"
For those of you who don't already know, @DaveTriesBallet keeps the Dave Tries Ballet blog of which I am a great fan (see "Fantastic New Blog: Dave Tries Ballet" 28 Sep 2013). One reason I tweeted Dave about the talk is that he is a member of the Bristol Russian Youth Ballet Company which will dance Cinderella this Sunday at 16:00 at the Stockport Plaza to raise funds for Reuben's Retreat. Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas will be the guest principals (see "Remember Reuben - and see Vargas, Glurdjidze and Dave"  14 Jan 2014). Glurdjidze referred to Reuben's Retreat as a wonderful charity which indeed it is,

The other reason I tweeted Dave is that he alerted me to Glurdjidze's dancing The Dying Swan in the Gala for Ghana. I had intended to give this event a miss but I changed my mind after learning that Dying Swan was to be performed. As I said "In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic" 18 Sept 2013 my mother saw Pavlova dance the Dying Swan at The Grand in Leeds when my mother was a small girl and it made such an impression on her that I resolved to see a modern ballerina dance it one day. Last week at the Royal College of Music I fulfilled that resolution. I think Glurdjidze made on me a similar impression to the one that Pavlova had made upon my mother all those years ago (see "Gala for Ghana" 4 Feb 2014).

The meeting took place in the dining room of the Civil Service Club which is a few hundred yards from Charing Cross station.  I arrived just before the meeting was due to start.  I did not count the audience but there were about 7 or 8 rows of chairs of about 20 each and not many empty seats.  The room was big enough to require a public address system. Glurdjidze sat at a table with an interviewer facing the audience. She was dressed very simply but elegantly.

The speaker and interviewer were introduced by our chair, Susan Dalgetty-Ezra.  Speaking softly but very clearly from the table our guest answered questions put to her by the interviewer. 

She said that she had been born in Georgia. Her father was a scientist.  Though talented in  other ways, none of her family was in ballet. She was sent to a performing arts school where she took up ballet. She showed such promise that her teachers directed her to the Vaganova Ballet Academy where so many great dancers and choreographers were trained. Baller school was not easy.  Discipline was strict and classes were demanding.  Everything was in Russian which was a new language for her. She had to board.  She missed her family and her family missed her.  She said that she cried every night for the first few weeks at the school.

Nevertheless, she survived and graduated into one of the new companies that were established by former dancers of the Kirov after the fall of communism.  She came to the notice of the English National Ballet who recruited her as a principal in 2002. She said that at that time she spoke very little English and that even now she makes a few errors.  One of her personal ambitions is to perfect her knowledge of our language. I have to say that if she still makes errors I did not spot any last night. I could not help reflecting after hearing Eric  Pickles's performance in the House of Commons on the drive back home that Elena Glurdjidze could teach our Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government a thing or two in that regard.

While in London Elena Glurdjidze met her husband, also a dancer and also a Georgian. They have a 9 year old son who is very bright with a good voice and shows talent in many directions.  They are not pushing him into ballet though, of course, he could not have a better start in that career if that is what he wanted to do.

Glurdjidze talked about her roles. She has, of course, performed all the classics, Odette-Odile, Giselle, Juliet and so on.  She said she had never danced in Le Corsaire and would like to perform in that ballet.  She will be dancing just one matinee with Vargas in Romeo and Juliet at the Albert Hall in June.  As for the long term she hopes to teach dance and it was then that she mentioned her work with the Bristol Russian Ballet School.

The meeting was then opened to the floor, Remembering an earlier tweet from Dave that his teacher had trained with Glurdjidzke I asked her to say a little more about her connection with the Bristol School and her performance in Stockport on Sunday. She spoke about her friendship with the founder of that school from the days when they were both at the Vaganova Academy, about the impressive work that her friend was doing, about the request to dance in a charity show and commended the cause  The clip that is embedded in this post is a rehearsal for that ballet.  My admiration for Glurdjidze increased all the more. She is not simply a great dancer. She is also a lovely human being.

Others asked her about her pointe shoes; about the differences between the regime in the Royal Ballet School and the Vaganova Academy; whether she had considered choreography and her plans for the future including the performance at the Albert Hall that I mentioned above; how she returned to work after giving birth; the national dance companies in Georgia and lots of other matters that I cannot now remember.  

After we had asked her everything that could reasonably be asked of her our Chair presented her with a gift from the Circle.  However, she stayed for a few minutes to talk to her fans, sign programmes and pose for photographs.  Forming an orderly queue we each had a few words with her.  A gentleman in front of me said that he was a schoolmaster and he could tell that she had much to give her pupils.  That reminded me of Clement Crisp's conversation with Dame Antoinette Sibley and I told her about Dame Antoinette's affection for her teachers and her advice on teaching (see "Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School"  3 Feb 2014).  Glurdjidze replied that Sibley had taught her a lot particularly about the role of Manon which, of course, was created for Sibley.  When it came to my turn I told Glurdjidze how I had longed to see Dying Swan ever since I had heard about Pavlova in Leeds and how I had been moved by her performance. I added that I was looking forward to Cinderella this Sunday. Glurdjidze accepted everybody's compliments including mine with grace.

As soon as I could get a signal on the train to Luton I texted my teacher who, like Glurdjidze, leaned ballet in a sunnier clime and cheers me up and motivates me with her antipodean enthusiasm: 
"Oh Jane xXxX I can imagine how special the moment was sXsX ur  lucky woman to be given such as opportunty"
And indeed I am although any member of the public could have shared my good fortune by turning up at the Civil Service Club yesterday.  If you missed Glurdjidze you can still catch Tamara Rojo on the 3 March, Ruth Brill on the 24th and Peter Wright on the 14th April.  Ruth Brill has already tweeted that she is looking forward to her talk.

The Circle hopes to increase its membership outside London and our Chair sent me North with a stash of brochures which I am going to take to every class, every ballet and every ballet related event that I attend outside London until I have got rid of them all. So be warned.  Incidentally one can join the London Ballet Circle through its website. I would urge you to do so even if you can't get to London because the Circle supports financially young dancers from all parts of the nation with scholarships to events throughout the land including in particular the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School.

I shall give the last words about Glurdjidze to Dave. His response to my tweet was
"@nipclaw @BalletCircle So glad to hear! Was so sad to miss the talk. She's truly the loveliest dancer to rehearse with."
About her teaching, he added that although he could not take her class because of injury
"I still learned so much watching her teach class in the summer. And was amazing to see her coach the girls in the Raymonda Act III variation! Got goosebumps seeing her demonstrate even the simplest moves - sheer perfection!"
I can understand that. I got goosebumps watching her last week and I expect to get more when I see her, Vargas and Dave in Cinderella this Sunday.

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