The National Dance Awards were announced yesterday and I congratulate all the winners and indeed all the nominees.
I had been rooting quietly for Xander Parish and English National Ballet and am delighted that they had won in their respective categories.
I first saw Xander Parish dance at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School and I have been following his career ever since. I saw him dance the leading role in Romeo and Juliet when his company visited London in the summer. I also had the pleasure of shaking his hand when he spoke to the London Ballet Circle a few days later. Not only is he a magnificent dancer he is also a thoroughly nice chap. He signed a birthday card that I bought from Northern Ballet for my ballet teacher's younger daughter. She and her hum (and of course her mum's student) were over the moon. He also made a lot of other people in the audience very happy.
English National Ballet was the first company I ever saw. For kids growing up in London and the Home Counties in the 1960s a trip to the Festival Hall to see The Nutcracker was always a great treat. The company had lovely dancers then such as Peter Schaufuss and Dagmar Kessler and of course it has lovely dancers now. I was lucky enough to see all my favourites in class when they visited Oxford in November. Last year I saw their Coppelia, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet in the Round and Le Corsaire and enjoyed them all. On a personal note I was delighted that Sarah Kundi, one of the dancers who makes my spirits soar, joined the company.
I had my fingers crossed for Ballet Black, Arthur Pita and Kevin Poeung and am delighted they came so far.
Finally, the Royal Ballet's Giselle with Carlos Acosta and Natalia Osipova in the leading roles was one of my highlights of 2014. Acosta's outstanding achievement award and Osipova's two awards were richly deserved.