Saturday 9 April 2016

We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners

Not literally, perhaps, because we didn't have the manpower for a street brawl or time for the Mercutio v Tybalt or Tybalt v Romeo showdowns but we did have a go at modified versions of the Dance of the Knights and Juliet's solo yesterday. Following the success of KNT's Swan Lake intensive last summer (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) Karen Sant arranged for Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet to return for two intensive workshops on Romeo and Juliet. Gita and I attended the beginners' intensive yesterday. A more advanced one takes place today.

Yesterday was something of a reunion for there were a lot of familiar faces from the Swan Lake intensive including a contingent from Liverpool who are among the jolliest and pleasantest people I know.  I had occasionally seen some of those dancers at KNT's Saturday class but this was the first time since August that we had seen them all and it was good to renew acquaintances. This time we had a small party from Yorkshire which would have been bigger had I mentioned this workshop sooner to my classmates on Jane's Wednesday evening improvers' class in Leeds. Several had expressed interest when I told them about Swan Lake and a few asked for details of this course which was why I published Dance Like A Knight - Romeo and Juliet Intensives on 24 March 2016, but by that time the course was fully subscribed.

The day began with a warm up session on our pilates mats starting gently with angels' wings and building up to more challenging floor exercises including full sit ups as well as some useful foot exercises. We then had a full 90 minute class which started with the Ichino style cardio exercise which all the teachers in Leeds employ in one form or another. Jane's starts with a walk, develops into a run with an about turn when the class least expects it, skipping facing out, skipping facing in, jumping Jacks, calf stretches and balancing on one foot which I can never accomplish on my right leg and seldom on the left. Class followed the sequence in Leeds with one or two modifications. We even had a go at the Descent into the Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadère which I would love to master. It looks easy enough from the stalls but I assure you it isn't. Especially not the arabesque penché or the 360 degree pivot in arabesque which I can't do for toffee. Having said that, I don't think I was quite as bad yesterday as I had been in Jane's last class in Leeds but she may well beg to differ.

Between the end of the class and lunch we learned a modified version of the Dance of the Knights. Jane divided us into two groups. As we were stage right I guess we must have been Capulets which is great because it put me on the same side as my heroine, Sarah Kundi, in English National's excellent staging of Nureyev's version of the ballet in November (see Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015). The piece started with the chaps, Simon and Tyson, who are both a pleasure to watch, and then we women proudly strode across the stage in our heavy brocades carrying our masques snarling silently at the Montagues who were approaching us. On reaching our destination we did some glissades, chassés, pivot turns and lunges including changing places with the row in front.

Bart Engelen, Full Moon
Photo Michel Schnater
(c) 2015 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company
I have seen lots of versions of Romeo and Juliet - Lavrosky's, MacMillan's, Deane's, Pastor's, Nureyev's, Maillot's. James's and Job's since I started this blog - but there is one other ballet which is set to Prokofiev's music that I just couldn't get out of my mind. That was Milena Siderova's Full Moon which had been danced by Norwegian National Ballet artist Bart Engelen when he was with the Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet. Here's a photo of Bart and here's what I wrote about his performance:

"Milena Siderova's Full Moon was such fun. The music to Romeo and Juliet boomed across the auditorium but there was no sword fight, crowd scene or bedroom pas de deux. Just Bart Engelen clutching a cushion. Engelen is a beautiful young man. Tall and muscular, blond and slender. He contorted himself into all kinds of shapes as Ed Watson did in the first act of Winter's Tale."This pillow has such a force" explained Siderova in the film. "You can't let it go". I wondered why the company had placed this work immediately after Swan Lake and then it dawned on me. Siegfied saw Odette by moonlight and she was also under a force, namely Siegfried's spell that she could not let go. And why Romeo and Juliet? Well it is a good tune but perhaps the lovers were sent to their fate by a force that they could not let go."
It was very hard to suppress a fit of the giggles as Jane gave us our directions and I had to apply all the powers of concentration to think Capulets and Montagues and keep a straight face. Bart and Madame Siderova you have a lot to answer for.

After lunch we polished that dance before exchanging our brocades for Juliet's chiffon ball gown. Jane set the scene.
"You are 12 years old. This is your first ball. You are so excited you can hardly contain yourself. All eyes are on you. You want everybody to be you."
Now, although I have no personal recollection of what it was like to be a teenage girl I am old enough to remember Hooray Henries and debs. As I went to school in London I even knew some. I remember Henley, Wimbledon and the season, all of which was recorded in Jennifer's Diary. I imagined myself as one of those giddy, giggly girls who used to rain cut flowers on stage from the balcony at Covent Garden.

Juliet's piece is fast and furious and no way could I keep up as I am old enough to have been Juliet's great grandmother. I saw Fonteyn dance Juliet towards the end of her career when she was close to my age but she had been dancing all her life and was an exceptional talent. We started on demi pointe literally shaking with excitement and shot into a temps levé followed by a balancé turn then another temps levé. There were soutenus and chaines. It was a glorious and exhilarating experience for me.

Jane coached Simon and Tyson on Romeo's variation and then gave us all a final run through before our show.

We performed in front of our dear colleague, Yoshie Kimura, and our teacher, Mark Hindle, who were a very discerning if somewhat over generous audience. I think all of us gave it our best shot and we were very, very happy with the day.

Jane gave us a final cool down on our mats plus some tips about hot baths and cold plunges and sent us on our way. Altogether it was a great day. I am very grateful to Jane for giving the course, Karen for organizing it, Mark for assisting Jane, Yoshie for watching and encouraging us and all my companions for their excellent company.

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