Sunday, 29 June 2014
The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014
On Saturday 28th June I was one of the few members of the public who was actually able to secure a ticket for the hotly anticipated 2014 Showing of the Northern Ballet Academy! The showing is a unique event, giving students from dinky toddlers to the 'silver swans' in the over 55s class a taster of professional performance in a purpose-built dance venue.
The programme kicked off with a lovely introduction from Academy teachers Jane Tucker and Cara O'Shea. Like Jane, I've often admired Cara's teaching style (I would watch the Saturday classes at Northern Ballet during downtime from Big Ballet filming, of which there would be a lot!) and her passion and love for teaching and her students really shone through in her introduction. Our attention was brought to a young CAT student at the Academy, Juliette Dumouchel, who due to an injury that kept her from dancing this year was asked to choreograph a piece for her peers to perform in the show. Entitled 'Chapter One', the piece was informed by Juliette's own experience of personal struggle and showed the nurturing power that can come from supportive communities. The piece had clarity, flow, momentum and moments of genuine feeling and it can safely be said that this young dance maker has a very bright future ahead of her.
The 16.00pm showing itself was a mixture of the aforementioned dinky toddlers, CAT students, Academy Associates, Jazz dancers and the Over -55s group (which was Jane's debut in a ballet performance). Within the younger members of the Academy I was particularly impressed with the presentation and delivery of Cara's CAT boys, the expansive port de bras of Fiona Beale's Ballet 3 group and the whole 'shebang' of Cara's Jazz dancers (who treated us to a very lively performance of 'Step in Time' complete with chimney sweep brushes!)
But I wasn't there merely to admire the future generations of dancers, I was also there to watch a dear friend have the time of her life as she danced on the same stage that many of her favourite dancers had possessed before her. In the months leading up to this performance, Jane had increased the number of classes she was attending and even put herself through an hour's coaching session with yours truly to ensure that she was 100% ready for it. I'd known since being on stage with her during the presentation of our Dream Dance improvisation with Chantry Dance Company that whatever she danced she would bring the stage to life with her smile and her presence, but like all dancers she wanted to ensure that she was as well prepared for her debut as possible.I was a little nervous for her, only because so much was invested in the moment, but as soon as she burst from the wings with her arms gracefully held and her face open and expressive any trepidation I felt on her behalf melted away!
The dance itself was beautifully choreographed by the Over-55s own teacher, Annemarie Donoghue, to a vibrant and triumphant Shostakovich waltz. With plenty of exits and entrances, that all the dancers handled with aplomb, the piece was exciting and energising to watch and beautifully delivered by the performers. Although there were some moments when gazes were dropped to the floor by some members of the group, Jane, Madeleine and Hilary had their projection down pat! I felt a genuine sense of triumph on Jane's behalf as she skillfully negotiated her way through that tricky 'balance, balance en tournant' section, never once dropping her radiant smile or losing the lift and expression through her port de bras. All too-quickly it was over, and as soon as my friends Jane and Madeleine had come on to the stage, they left with a cheeky dash of epaulement in the final pose (and to rapturous applause, might I add?!)
The showing closed with a surging finale from the members of the Academy's CAT programme, choreographed by Artistic Director David Nixon himself, Cara and the legendary Yoko Ichino (Associate Director of the Academy). With challenging pointework for the ladies, bravura allegro steps for the gentlemen and rushing, expressive port de bras for the CAT 'corps' this piece, set to music by Karl Czerny, really showed off these students to their best advantage.
Throughout the showing I was continually impressed by how well rehearsed each group of performers were and just how much skill and aptitude for movement the Academy's dancers have (that includes you, Jane!) During their introductory speech Jane and Cara spoke of the key fundamentals of the Ichino Technique - strength, control, placement - and it was clear to me that each student attending a class at the Northern Ballet is developed in these areas. From the academic plies of Pre Ballet 1 through to the use of the floor by members of the Over-55's group, the Northern Ballet Academy really is developing dancers who can move and hold your attention.