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I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen Swan Lake or Romeo and Juliet over the years. I thought I knew both ballets intimately but I was wrong. The only way to appreciate a work fully is to try to dance it. My knowledge and appreciation of both works increased exponentially through taking Jane Tucker's intensives with KNT that take place in the rehearsal studios of Northern Ballet School in Manchester.
I have now been to three of those intensives and, believe me, they are tough. You arrive before 10:00 with your Pilates mat or towel, change into your leotard and do what start out as gentle floor exercises but end up as contortions. And that's the easy bit. Class starts next. OK pliés and tendus aren't too bad but Jane somehow inserts a variation or refinement into every exercise. Those exercises get progressively demanding through the barre and centre work so that you are well and truly knackered by cool down and you just want to crawl to Oxford Road station after the reverence. But you're not done yet. Indeed, you have barely started. The rest of the day consists of wall-to-wall rehearsals. Then at the very end of the process you have to do a show. Read La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: There's Life in the Old Girl Yet 16 Aug 2016, La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades 17 Aug 2016 and La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016 to understand exactly what is involved.
"So why do you put yourself through all that pain?" folk ask. "You some kind of masochist?" The answer is an emphatic "no". "I just love ballet and want to understand it better." There is no better way to appreciate the entry into the kingdom of the shades than by becoming a shade. To allow Minkus's mesmeric music to run through your body while attempting those arabesques (they should really be penchés) alternating with tendus and arms in 5th and a slight turn towards the audience. These are the building blocks of the ballet and through lining them up into a sequence you understand how the ballet is constructed.
A word of caution now. You can't expect to learn everything about Swan Lake or La Bayadere in a 3 day workshop. You need to have started ballet at an early age, to have attended schools like White Lodge and the Upper School, entered a professional company, danced in the corps, made your way up through the ranks and danced Solor or Nikiya before you can say that. But you do get some insight that you would never have got in any other way. When I saw the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Lowry or English National Ballet at the Albert Hall last year I could live every step of the swans' entry, the cygnets, the Hungarian divertissement and a bit of Siegfried's solo because I had done those dances. Not very well, perhaps, but I had done them.
And you really do live them.
"Remember when you were 13 years. You're at your first adult ball. You are so excited."said Jane as she taught us Juliet's solo last April. Or
"You are a proud Hungarian princess in your heavy brocades"as we rehearsed the Hungarian dance with its stately développés and arm movements. Now despite the pain and effort I would not have missed that for the world.
That is why I have put my name down for Jane Tucker's beginners' intensive for The Nutcracker on 29 Oct 2016. Here's the bumf:
"** 1 DAY BALLET WORKSHOP! *** PLACES GOING FAST!
Beginners: Saturday 29th October (ONLY 8 SPACES LEFT!)
Advanced: Friday 28th October
£60 (£20 deposit included in the price payable ASAP)
10am - 4pm
The Dancehouse Theatre
Teacher Jane Tucker (Northern Ballet Theatre)
Repertoire NutcrackerIf you want to grab one of those last 8 places you need to contact Karen Sant of KNT through her Facebook page fast. You can also call her on 07783 103037.
We need 20 students to be able to hold the workshop.
Please comment below if you'd like me to book you in. You will receive a registration form and info pack shortly after.
Here's an idea of what your day will consist of:
On the morning of your intensive, you will be able to enter The Dancehouse Theatre from around 9:45am. You can wait in the café/coffee shop on the first floor, where you can get to know other students on the intensive, or you can get changed so you are ready for class! You will be able to sign yourself in once we are in the studio, and we’ll have a short briefing about the course so you know what to expect.
The days will start at 10:00am with a 45 minute warm-up session, so please make sure to bring either a yoga mat or a towel with you! We will have a short 15 minute break after the warm-up session, and then the morning ballet class will begin at 11:00am. Class will be 90 minutes long, and we’ll have a short break in the middle so you can get some water and rest. We will have another 15 minute break afterwards, and then at 12:45pm we will start our technique/repertoire class.
Lunch will be at 1:30pm for one hour, and you will be able to eat it in the café/coffee shop on the first floor (no food or drink, except for water, is allowed in the studios). There are lots of shops, cafés, and other food places around The Dancehouse Theatre, so there will be plenty of choice if you are not bringing food with you!
The afternoon will be filled with rehearsals for the short performance at the end of the day.
Hope to see lots of you there, it's always been great fun!"