Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Ballet, Bodywork and Bits in Cambridge


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I'm having a simply wonderful time in Cambridge. I'me here to give a talk on bilateral investment treaties or "bits" at the Cambridge IP Law Summer School and intellectual property at Downing College. As a week without ballet is like a week without sunshine I asked all my friends and followers on Twitter whether there were any adult ballet drop in classes in or near Cambridge that I could attend this week. Wendy McDermott and KidarWolf suggested Bodywork Company at Glisson Road so I gave them a call in my coffee break. I found out that there was an improvers' class at 19:30 last night. Though it clashed with a slap up dinner and quiz night in hall that the conference organizers had arranged for us, I decided to give it a go.

The Bodywork Company is quite literally in premises that must once have been a car body repair shop. The studios surround an enclosure with space for 12 vehicles where mechanics must once have mended bent fenders.  I know we say mudguards in this country but the transatlantic term has a certain assonance don't you think. The space is now used for customer parking which is as rare as hens' teeth in Cambridge.

As I don't know Cambridge very well, I got hopelessly lost and arrived at the studios with just minutes to spare.  Precious seconds from those minutes were lost when the chap at reception showed me the gents' changing room even though I was in a dress. Consequently, I arrived at class in the middle of pliés which meant that I missed the warm up and an opportunity to introduce myself to the instructor. The class took place in a medium size studio - not quite as big as those at the Dancehouse in Manchester or Northern Ballet in Leeds but considerably larger than those at Dance Studio Leeds. There was plenty of room for each of us at a fixed barre. I didn't count the numbers but I think there must have over 20 of us. All of us were female and some members of the class seemed quite young.

I learned from a copy of the timetable that I picked up after class from reception that our teacher was called Louise Howarth. Like Jane in Leeds and Fiona in Huddersfield, Louise expects a lot from her students and she made us repeat some of the exercises until she was satisfied with us. That is just the sort of instructor that I like. The emphasis was on pirouettes and Louise worked them, or preparation for pirouettes, into every exercise.  For instance, we finished every plié on relevé with our legs in retiré. We did every possible type of pirouette from first and fourth dehors as well as dedans. That was exactly the sort of class that I needed.  As everyone who has ever taught me or attended class with me knows, pirouettes are not my strongest suit.

We did a very brisk barre with the usual pliés, tendus and glissés followed by ronds de jambe and grands battements. We followed it up with a nice adagio in the centre with some much-appreciated développés and ports de bras. Then some very serious pirouette training with quarter, half, three-quarter and full turns alternating in each direction at quite a pace. Louise even worked a turn into our jumps which began not with sautés but with changements.

As always happens when one's having fun, the class ended far too quickly.  The class was in two parts - the first 60 minutes for everybody and the last 30 for the pointe work students.  The first 60 minutes cost £8 which is slightly more than the North but a lot less than London.  There is a beginners' class on Wednesday which I should like to attend and also an intermediate class on Thursday which is likely to be way beyond me. If I lived in Cambridge I would certainly attend class regularly at Bodywork and I have no hesitation in recommending the studios to denizens of that city.

If you are wondering about bilateral investment treaties, they are international agreements by which governments promise each other not to expropriate the investments of the other party's nationals. If they do, the government of the expropriating state has to compensate the expropriated investor generously. A disappointed investor has the right to bring proceedings against the expropriating state through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes without any intervention from his home government,

"Kippers" (members and supporters of the UK Independence Party) and lefties (Mr Jeremy Corbyn MP and his acolytes, such as the lovely-lady-from-Liverpool who shares my love of ballet but whom I just can't resist teasing) would be irate if they only knew the limits that bilateral investment treaties impose on national sovereignty. In the leading case, a US waste disposal company won millions of dollars from the Mexican government because a local authority refused to let it dump hazardous waste near a public watercourse a few yards away from human habitations. Indeed, some on the left, such as the distinguished journalist George Monbiot, do know about BITs which is why he campaigned so assiduously against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership before Mr Donald Trumo scuppered the negotiations. Her Majesty's Government has made 110 such treaties mainly with third world governments which wicked British rentiers enforce mercilessly with the best of them.

If you want to know more about the subject matter of my talk on Thursday, see my article Can a business recover compensation if a state fails to protect its intellectual assets? The decision in Eli Lilly & Co. v Canada suggests "maybe" 25 July 2017.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Mariinsky's Bayadère

Bolshoi Theatre, St Petersburg

















Mariinsky Ballet, La Bayadère, Royal Opera House, 12 Aug 2017, 14:00

Yesterday afternoon's performance of La Bayadère by the Mariinsky Ballet met all my hopes and expectations. As I have had to cut out ballet for the last few weeks I had promised to treat myself to something nice once I had done all that I was supposed to do. And what a treat La Bayadere turned out to be.  It was an enchanting performance. A dramatic story. Awesome choreography. Thrilling dancing. Lavish sets and costumes. And, of course, Minkus's magnificent score.

I have often wondered why La Bayadère is not performed more often, particularly by companies outside Russia.  I think that at least part of the answer must be that it cannot be easy to stage or at least to stage well.  It requires considerable dramatic skills on the part of the lead dancers as well as technical virtuosity because they have to communicate powerful emotions to the audience. These include love as it subsists between Solor and Nikiya in the first and last acts, jealousy on the part of the brahmin and Gamzatti (a jealousy in the case of the latter that is so strong that it induces her to commit murder), the conflict between love and duty on the part of Solor when forced to choose between his ruler's daughter and his lover and despair and perhaps a sense of betrayal on the part of Nikiya when she refuses the brahmin's antidote to the serpent's venom because she can't see the point of living if she can't have Solor. The success of a performance of this ballet depends to a large extent on the ability of the dancers to communicate those emotions and especially the conflicts inside the heads of Solor and Nikiya.

I think Yekaterina Chebykina who danced Nikiya, Timur Askerov who was her Solor, Nadezhda Batoeva who danced Gamzatti and Soslan Kulaev, the brahmin, did pretty well. Chebykina impressed me particularly because of her expressive countenance and especially her doe like eyes. At times she seemed to dance with her eyes much in the way that Antoinette Sibley used to do. It was in that regard and for that reason that I admired Sibley even more than Margot Fonteyn though I loved Fonteyn too. Askerov is a fine dance-actor too though I was thrilled most by his mighty leaps. Batoeva also impressed me with her virtuosity. As for the brahmin, Kulaev communicated his jealousy, his cunning, his malevolence to the entire house.

In the Mariinsky's version of La Bayadère the golden idol is just one of several divertissements at Solor and Gamzatti's wedding celebrations whereas in other versions the idol seems to central to the story. So great is the offence of Nikiya's betrayal in the eyes of the gods that they cause a statue to come to life rather like the Commendatore in Don Giovanni. It was my favourite dance when I was learning the choreography last year (see La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades 17 Aug 2016).  Nothing like that yesterday but it was still a very popular dance which earned Vasily Tkachencko some loud cheers as well as sustained clapping. Tamara Gimadieva, one of the members of the corps who performed another of the divertissements with a jug, also received a resounding cheer.

Although I have not heard anybody mention it, this year marks the 140th anniversary of the first performance of La Bayadère.  According to our cast sheet, it was first danced at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg on 23 Jan 1877.  "The Bolshoi Theatre where?" I hear you say.  "I have heard of a Bolshoi in Moscow but not St Petersburg. Well, apparently there was a "bolshoi" in St Petersburg too but the authorities closed it down for health and safety reasons and the company moved to the Mariinsky Theatre where it has remained to this day. There is an engraving of the St Petersburg bolshoi at the top of this blog. I have never got round to studying Russian (though it is on my "to do" list to stop me losing my marbles should I ever retire) but I think "bolshoi" just means "big" hence "bolshevik" which has somehow become "bolshie" (troublemaker) in our language.

I should just say a few words about the sets and costumes.  The sets were gorgeous.  I particularly liked the stuffed elephant and the palanquins for the wedding ceremony.  The costumes were also lavish, particularly the rajah and the brahmin's outfits. Evgeny Ponomarev has to be congratulated. Also, there was some ingenious lighting particularly of Nikiya and the shades in the last act.  In every regard, it was a very polished production.

There was just one disappointment about yesterday's show and that was the lukewarm response from the audience. There's usually a ripple of applause to welcome the principals. Not yesterday. There should have been flowers all round for all the leading ladies. Not a single petal.  And the curtain calls should have lasted and lasted. Those dancers gave us their all yesterday and we should have thanked them properly. I know London sees a lot of ballet and it takes a lot to impress a Cockney but yesterday's matinee was a great deal better than a lot of shows that have earned more rapturous applause. I watched the ballet with a fellow Mancunian and we agreed that the Lowry or Palace would have risen as one. I think so too would New Yorkers who also see a lot of ballet or even maungy old Yorkers in the Alhambra or Grand. Londoners are spoilt. Too damn snooty for their own good. 

So it is up to me to do justice to the artists.  Well, here are some digital roses for Chebykina, Batoeva and each of the other super talented women dancers:
Author Jebulon
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And a very special single malt for each of the men:

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Xander Parish will tell you all about malt whisky if you don't already know.

Have a good trip back to Russia, folks, and come back soon.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Welcoming the Mariinsky: Looking Forward to the Original Bayadere


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The Mariinsky have been in London since the 24 July but this afternoon's matinee performance of La Bayadere will be the only time I shall get to see them on this visit. I usually get to the ballet at least once a week and sometimes much more often, but, unless you count Citrus Arts' Savage Hart and Northern Ballet's preview of The Little Mermaid, today's performance of La Bayadere will be the first show that I will have attended since the Dutch National Ballet's New Moves in Amsterdam at the end of June. I have gone to a few classes but that has been just about it.

The reason I have seen and done so little ballet for the last few weeks is that I have been invited to address the Cambridge IP Law Summer School on Thursday. I don't get a fee but I do get a chance to attend the week's conference which normally costs £3,498 to hear some of the leading practitioners in my field. The topic on which I have been asked to speak is a controversial one on a jurisdiction that allows companies and other private investors to claim compensation from foreign governments in certain circumstances.  There have been two big arbitration decisions on claims brought under this jurisdiction, one of which was decided just a few months ago. As I want to do a good job I have focused all my time and energies on legal research over the last 6 weeks.

I have now written my hand out and sent my Powerpoint to the conference organizer.  I can now concentrate on today's performance.  It should be good. The Mariinsky are the successors to the Imperial Russian Ballet which first performed the work in St Petersburg just over 140 years ago. I will get the chance to see three of the company's rising stars, namely Nadezhda Batoeva, Timur Askerov and Yekaterina Chebykina. I shall watch the ballet with my classmate and friend, Yoshie, who also attended Jane Tucker's La Bayadere intensive at KNT last year (see 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). We shall watch and learn what we should have done from the experts.

La Bayadere is not performed very often in this country.  Most of the versions that we see trace their origins to the Mariinsky by one route or another. One big exception is Stanton Welch's for the Houston Ballet. There was an appeal last year for funds to bring that ballet to Birmingham (see A Birmingham Bayadere 24 Nov 2016). Alas, that project was scuppered when the local authority's reduced its subvention to the company (see How Nikiya must have felt when she saw a snake 21 Jan 2017). I have  seen the trailer for Welch's ballet and several extracts but it is the following parody that really whets my appetite for his show:


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And I used to think Americans lacked a sense of humour.

Jane Tucker will offer another intensive on Coppelia the week after next for which I have to get back into shape quickly. I am packing my ballet bag in the hope of finding some drop in adult ballet classes in or around Cambridge next week.  Do any of my readers have any suggestions?  I should like to take a class in the East of England but if there are none London is not too far away.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Sophie Rebecca's Adult Ballet Class Map



Adult ballet students everywhere owe a great debt of gratitude to Sophie Rebecca for compiling this map of adult dance classes around Britain. We move heaven and earth each week to attend our usual class but sometimes work gets in the way or we go on holiday or maybe the teacher has flu.  If we had to miss a class for any of those or other reasons there was very little we could do about it until now. Disappointing because a day without ballet is like a day without sunshine.

Now, thanks to Sophie, if we miss a class or find ourselves away from home maybe there is something we can do about it.  Perhaps we can find another class elsewhere.  Experiencing another studio, meeting new people, observing how another teacher works, picking up a useful tip, perhaps even having a previously undiagnosed fault pointed out and corrected is always worthwhile.

Sophie's map shows just how popular adult ballet has become.  There is hardly a town of any size without a thriving class.  But there are sure to be many that we have missed and that is where you can help.  If you are a teacher, school proprietor or student drop Sophie or me a line. If you contact me I shall make sure she gets the message. Also, if you have attended any of those classes and are willing to write a short review I should be very glad to publish it. Especially if you could tell us stuff that will not be on the teacher's website such as the nearest parking, bus stop, tube or railway station, whether there is a pianist, where you can change and how much the classes costs.

There are great swathes of the country such as the whole of the south coast where I know there are plenty of classes but I don't know where. And I can't believe there are no classes in Northern Ireland or the East of Scotland. So lets help Sophie complete the map.

Changing the subject every so slightly, one of the things I love about about ballet is its universality. Tp show you what I mean, there is a school in Moscow called Dance Secret. Why it has an English name I really don't know but it has an adult ballet class as you can see from this YouTube video. This film appears to be an exhibition by the members of the Beginners Class.  They are performing to their kids, husbands and boyfriends. They must have been full of nerves before the show.  Look at their satisfaction with a job well done. I have never met those women but I do what they do and it makes me feel so proud of them.

Returning to the map, so long as Sophie allows me to do so I will always link to it. You can access it by clicking the "Adult Ballet Classes" button.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Best News All Day!

York Grand Opera House
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A lot of anniversaries fall on 29 July. It was my father's birthday. It was the day I was called to the Bar. It was the day I was married.  And it was also the day almost 10 years ago that I first saw two outstanding young students from Hull who turned out to be brother and sister at the Yorkshire Ballet Seminar Gala at the Grand Old Opera House in York.

I am talking, of course, about Xander and Demelza Parish.  I did not blog about dance in those days so I have to rely on Charles Hutchinson's Review: A Summer Gala of Dance and Song, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday 31 July 2007 The Press to remind me who else was there. Samara Downs, Marianela Nunez, Wayne Sleep, Anthony Dowell, Lauren Cuthbertson. Big names! But the two that stick out in my memory are still Xander Parish and his sister Demelza.

"Those two will go far," said my late spouse who was an even bigger ballet fan than I am. "Especially the lad. In 10 years time, he will be topping the bill at Covent Garden".  Today I read Zoe Anderson's review in The Independent:

Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, London, review: Xander Parish reaches stardom

The first British dancer to join the Mariinsky Ballet was promoted to principal after his performance on the opening night of the St Petersburg company's 'Swan Lake'
Well, how about that! 
Sadly, my spouse did not survive long enough for that prophesy come true. Very shortly afterwards symptoms of a disease developed which was later diagnosed as motor neurone or Lou Gehrig's disease and my spouse died in March 2010. But I have lived to see it and while I am not in the least surprised by Xander Parish's elevation I could not possibly be more delighted.
The 29 July used to be a day of joy. After many of the people associated with the good times died it became an anniversary of sadness. And what with missile tests in Korea, the US government practically tearing itself apart, the Russians imposing sanctions, the Chinese building fortresses in the South China Sea not to mention Brexit there's precious little joy about.
But Xander Parish's news made me smile and not for the first time. I once had the pleasure of meeting him at the London Ballet Circle and I hope to do so again at 19:30 on Wednesday 2 Aug at the Civil Service Club at New Scotland Yard next door to the Nigerian embassy, The meeting is open to the public and only costs £5 for members and £8 for the rest. See you there.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

First Impressions of The Little Mermaid


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Northern Ballet  Beneath the Surface  26 July 2017 18:00 Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre

I attended David Nixon's presentation of extracts from his new ballet, The Little Mermaid, which, ironically, Northern Ballet will premiere at one of the most southern venues in the United Kingdom on 21 Sept 2017. From the little bits on show last night, it looks quite promising.  The presentation was recorded and is available on Northern Ballet's YouTube channel which I have embedded above so you can make up your own minds about the show.

What I enjoyed particularly last night was the music which is by Sally Beamish. As Nixon said. she wrote the score for David Bintley's The Tempest which I described as "enchanting" in my review of the 8 Oct 2016, I also liked some of the extracts, particularly the solo when the mermaid. danced by Abigail Prudames, discovers her new legs. Stranded on the shore she experiences pain for the first time. Prudames communicated that sensation chillingly. Much as Edvard Munch does in The Scream.

Yesterday's presentation was very different from Casanova Unmasked in Feb when Kenneth Tindall appeared with Nixon and his dramaturge, John Kelly., with Kerry Muzzey listening in from Los Angeles. Except for the dancers and the Q & A at the end, it was very much a one man show. I guess that is because Nixon is his own librettist as well as his own costume designer.

Hans Christian Andersen's stories have inspired at least two other works this year: Sir Matthew Bourne's Red Shoes which has recently finished its UK tour and Paul Chantry's Sandman for his own company which will launch in September.  I know of at least one other version of The Little Mermaid, namely Christopher Moore's for Ballet Theatre UK which I reviewed in Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 April 2014. This is not a happy story but then not all ballets are. La Bayadère is not exactly a bundle of laughs and nor is Giselle, Romeo and Juliet or Swan Lake.

I was intrigued by at least one aspect of the scenario which Nixon did mention in his speech and I was surprised that nobody asked it in the Q & A.  I did get the chance to put it to Nixon at the reception which followed the presentation. The questions that were asked were not all that probing. Patsy-patsy stuff about whether dancers really do feel pain - try one of the Academy's adult ballet classes, madam, then you'll know. Another question seemed to be about the health and safety issues of doing Macmillan and some other choreographer.  Nixon responded by discussing the artistic challenges in shifting from one choreographer to another which was much more interesting, The questioner intervened to say that he had answered the question that she had intended to ask. "I know you so well," he replied kindly.

The Little Mermaid will snake its way round the country between opening night and Leicester on 8 May 2018. No plans to open in London or Manchester (or even Salford) and it will not hit Yorkshire until the 26 Nov when it will open in Sheffield followed by a stint in Leeds.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Dance and Diplomacy: Britain's IP Attaché to China will visit Northern Ballet


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Ever since Northern Ballet moved from West Park to Quarry Hill I have been looking for an opportunity to introduce the company to my connections in intellectual property (see Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" IP Yorkshire 31 Dec 2011).

The opportunity arose when Mr Tom Duke, our IP attaché in Beijing, asked me to recommend a venue for a talk that he plans to give in Leeds on 19 Sept to business owners and their professional advisers entitled Succeeding in China - Mitigating the IP Risk. I could think of no better place than Northern Ballet' boardroom in its premises at Quarry Hill.

I suggested that venue for several reasons.

First, the building is magnificent, one of the finest new structures in the city. The view of Leeds from the boardroom is breathtaking.

Secondly, Northern Ballet creates a lot of intellectual assets such as choreography, costumes, musical scores, performances, properties and set designs which are protected by copyrights, rights in performances and unregistered design rights and the Northern Ballet brand is a valuable trade mark for all kinds of merchandise. The company performs regularly in China where it uses all those intellectual assets. It, therefore, exemplifies the topic of Mr Duke's talk.

The third reason for my suggestion is that letting fees and catering services are a source of revenue for the company. It helps to fund dazzling new productions.

Finally, I hope that some of the business owners, lawyers, patent and trade mark attorneys and other professionals may be tempted to return for a show at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre or even a class at the Academy which I am sure they would enjoy enormously.

If any of my readers would like to attend the talk on 19 Sept it is free. Give me a ring on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.  The event starts at 09:30 with registration and networking.  Mr Duke will deliver his speech at 10:00. I will also speak briefly about the things you should do here before you leave for China. There will be opportunities for one-to-one discussions with all sorts of business and professional advisors. The event will end at midday so that Mr Duke can grab some lunch before his next appointment in Barnsley.

I have also written about the event in NIPC News and IP Yorkshire if anybody is interested.

23 July 2017
Jane Lambert
NIPC News
21 July 2017
Jane Lambert
IP Yorks

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Citrus Arts Savage Hart


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Citrus Arts Savage Hart 22 July 2017, 19:00 Oakwell Hall, Birstall 

To stage an open air performance of a show combining aerial displays and dance in the grounds of an Elizabethan manor house using the building as a backdrop was an ambitious project and risky one given the uncertainties of the British climate. Most of yesterday was delightful in Yorkshire in contrast to the previous two days, but at 19:00, just as the artists in Citrus Arts's Savage Hart were mounting the stage a dark cloud appeared and refused to shift for the whole performance. To its credit, the cloud retained most of its moisture until the last few minutes of the show but then the heavens opened and the monsoon began.

Nobody moved throughout the performance despite the constant dripping even when those drips turned into drizzle. That says all you need to know about the quality of the show. The audience was charmed.  Our attention did not stray once until the performers took their bow.

The story was very simple. A bullet headed baron (Zeph Gould) was in the habit of hunting deer and sticking their heads above his mantelpiece much to the chagrin of his wife, Marianne, danced by Krystal Lowe. The spirits of those deer, danced by Luke Bradshaw (the stag), Hannah Darby (the doe) and Charlotte Dawson (the buck), revolted against this slaughter of their species and haunted tne baron. In that scene, the British weather actually assisted the artists because the flashing of the lights in Oakwell Hall combined with spooky music and a breeze that made the bare flames flicker under a threatening sky actually made my nerves tingle and my flesh creep. The haunting seemed to have worked for the baron and his wife donned deer heads in the last scene and danced with the spirits while moss, twigs and wild flowers enveloped the stage.

The show is not new as you can see from the video above. It was first staged for the theatre and it toured Wales to big audiences and critical acclaim as I mentioned in my preview, Juicyyesterday. The video suggests that there was a choir in the theatre. There were no singers yesterday but there was a live band consisting of Simon McCorry and James Minas Blight. I liked the music although I could only see one of the musicians from my position on the path a few yards to the left of the stage.

My only regret is that I did not get a chance to express my appreciation of the show to the performers in person. I particularly wanted to say hello to Krystal whom I have followed ever since I first saw her in Romeo a Juliet at Kendal over 4 years ago (see They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013). I was so pleased to see her in the cast list that I blurted out "Krystal Lowe is dancing tonight" and "Toi toi Krystal" on Facebook which drew an immediate "like" from Anna Pujol, another fine dancer who deserves to go far, and the chair of the London Ballet Circle who is at least as much a fan of Krystal as I am.

Incidentally, yesterday was not the first time that I had seen Krystal in an open air show. She danced with Ballet Cymru and Gloucestershire Dance in Mark Brew's Stuck in the Mud through the streets and on the beach of Llandudno which I reviewed in An Explosion of Joy 21 Sept 2014. That review contains a very precious photo of her dancing with Mandev Sokhi, another very special dancer whom I was lucky enough to meet a few days before he died.

Just like the storm at the end of the first act of La Fille mal gardée everyone including the Creative Scene and Oakwell Halls officials scattered in the rain. I couldn't find a stage door or anyone who could take a message to the artists so this blog post will have to do. Well done Citrus Arts. I knew you were good from your work with Ballet Cymru but I now see what you can achieve on your own. I will follow your website and attend more of your shows whenever I get the chance. I hope the weather did not spoil your visit, that you had (or will have) a comfortable and speedy journey back to Wales and that we may welcome you back very soon.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Juicy

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In two of their most successful productions, The Light Princess and Cinderella, Ballet Cymru have collaborated with Citrus Arts. They are another Welsh company that contribute circus skills to dance and other performing arts. Right now they are in my neighbourhood - Oakwell Hall to be precise - where they are performing Savage Hart in the walled garden.

The show is staged by an organization called "Creative Scene" which describes itself as the Arts Council England Creative People and Places project for West Yorkshire. You can find out more about them from a report by Professor Steve Swindells of Huddersfield University. According to Creative Scene's website, Savage Hart is about some deer that have watched over the dining hall of a cruel man of his times and are now putting their antlers together to form a plan.

According to the blurb
"aerial artistry, ballet and circus combine to create this bewitching tale of a 19th century aristocrat, haunted by the ghosts of his past."
The production has been nominated for "Best Dance Production at the Wales Theatre Awards" which says a lot.

I learned of this show quite by chance from Krystal Lowe who announced it briefly on social media. Krystal is already one of my very favourite dancers and her career seems to be blossoming in akk directions. As well as dancing for Ballet Cymru, she teaches at the University of South Wales and is now branching into choreography. I believe she also teaches ballet to adults on Monday evenings.  I have been badgering my clerk for months to fix a hearing at the Patent Ofice or the Cardiff Business and Property Court on a Monday so that I can attend Krystal's class.

I don't know whether Krystal is dancing tonight but, if she is, it will be the icing on the cake. The week started out well with a brilliant class from Karen, gathered momentum with another great one from Fiona and coincided with my 1,000th post to Terpsichore. What better way to end a week than watching one of my favourite dancers!

Friday, 21 July 2017

My Thousandth Post

















A thousandth post is something of a milestone I think you will agree.  It deserves a special article to celebrate the occasion.  I have been thinking about the best way to do it and I think a retrospective of the most memorable performances of each of the last four and a bit years would be appropriate. So here goes.

Without a doubt, the most memorable performance of 2013 was the launch of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's tour of the Netherlands at the  Stadsshouwburg in Amsterdam on the 24 Nov 2013 (see The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013 25 Nov 2013). I had come to Amsterdam to see Michaela DePrince who had joined the company a few months earlier. I had already heard of her because of her success at the Youth America Grand Prix in 2010 and the critical acclaims she had received in South Africa and New York but I was particularly fascinated by her Sierra Leonean origin as I had been married to a Sierra Leonean national for nearly 28 years.

When I saw DePrince dance I described her as "quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while." I have watched her progress in the Dutch National Ballet from élève to soloist with enormous satisfaction for I get the impression that she is a very likeable young woman as well as a fine artist.  I once had the pleasure of meeting her at the opening night gala of the 2015/2016 ballet season and "I left the Stopera thinking how that exceptionally talented young dancer was as gracious off stage as she is magnificent upon it" (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2013).

DePrince led me to the Junior Company and its remarkable artistic coordinator Ernst Meisner whom I featured a year later (see Meet Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers 6 Dec 2014) and he, in turn, led me to the Dutch National Ballet which is one of the best companies I have ever seen. That company performed the most memorable performance of the 4 1/2 years that I have been keeping this blog, namely Natalia Makarova's La Bayadère with the excellent Sasha Mukhamedov in the title role on the 13 Nov 2016 (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016). Once in a while, a ballerina shines in a role with such brilliance that she makes it her own. Fonteyn did that for me many years ago in Marguerite and Armand as did Sibley as Titania in Frederick Ashton's Dream.  For me, Nikiya will always be Mukhamedov.

Of course, Fonteyn might not have shone so brightly in that role had it not been for Nureyev. Sibley was always partnered magnificently by Sir Anthony Dowell. Similarly, Mukhamedov had the most gallant Solor in Jozef Varga. There were many other fine dancers in that matinee including Daniel Robert Silva who danced the bronze idol. He is a man to watch. He first came to my notice in Meisner's No Time Before Time on 14 Feb 2016 which is the best birthday treat I have ever had and he impressed me again on 26 June 2017 in Cristiano Principato's Purcell Variations (see New Moves 2017 27 June 2017).

The shows that impressed me most in 2014, 2015 and 2017 were all by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. They were Gillian Lynne's atmospheric reconstruction of Sir Robert Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals which I saw at Sadler's Wells on 18 Oct 2014 (see A Second Miracle 23 Oct 2014, David Bintley's The King Dances at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 20 June 2015 (see A Special Ballet for a Special Day 23 June 2015) and Ruth Brill's Arcadia also at the Hippodrome on 21 June 2017 (see Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three Short Ballets: Le Baiser de la fée, Pineapple Poll and Arcadia 22 June 2017).

The first two of those works were reconstructions though I suspect Miracle in the Gorbals would have been quite an accurate one as Dame Gillian had been in the original production even though she and Henry Danton have said that they cannot recall a single step. However, the score has survived as has the libretto and images of the sets and costumes. The ballet would have evolved had it remained continuously in the repertoire so I think we are as close to the original as we are to the original of any other ballet. We have Dame Gillian to thank for another great work, namely A Simple Man which marked the centenary of L S Lowry's birth.  It was the first work by Northern Ballet that I saw after I returned to the North in 1987 and it remains my favourite offering from that company. One of the reasons why I love it so is that it was the last time I saw Christopher Gable and Moira Shearer on stage. I hold both of them in the highest possible esteem. Shortly after I saw that ballet, Gable became artistic director of the company and his term of office was unquestionably its golden age.

Bintley's The King Dances was quite different. Less of a reconstruction because the original pageant lasted all night. More an homage. But an impressive one all the same. Several 17th-century conventions were observed in that nearly all the female roles were danced by men and the stage appeared to be lit at times by torches. But the score was new and, of course, so was the lighting at the end of the ballet that radiated Louis's majesty more effectively than anything available to the royal household at the time. The premiere of the show coincided with the 25th anniversary of the company's move to Birmingham and the 20th of David Bintley's appointment as artistic director. It was danced with Carmina Burana, one of Bintley's most popular ballets.

Brill's Arcadia is a masterpiece. I knew she was talented from Matryoshka but Arcadia reveals brilliance. It is a complex work full of historical, mythical and literary allusions. Any choreographer would be proud of such a work but when one takes into account Brill's youth it is nothing short of prodigious. I am impatient for Brill's next new ballet....... and the next ... and next.

These were the five best shows I have seen since I started the blog but they are not the only precious moments. I have met some lovely people through ballet - great teachers in Manchester, Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, London and even Budapest, delightful classmates at all those venues and particularly those in Manchester, knowledgeable ballet lovers in person through the London Ballet Circle and the various friends groups to which I belong as well as many more online through Facebook, twitter and BalletcoForum. I have listened to some impressive presentations and interviews by dancers, choreographers, composers, designers and administrators many of whom I have interviewed for this blog. I have had the opportunity to dance before a living, breathing and paying audience in Leeds and Manchester (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014 and Show 14 May 2017) and thanks to the ever patient Jane Tucker I have had a go at dancing cygnets, Juliet, knights, shades, Siegfried, sugar plum, swans, guests at the Stahlbaums' party and even a golden idol.

All that within months of the expiration of my three score years and ten expiring. Could anyone wish for anything more?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Just as most Adult Ballet Classes are folding up for the Summer, here's one that's opening

Photo Huddersfield University~
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence


















At a time of the year when many adult ballet classes are winding down for the summer, it is great to hear of one that is opening up. Today and for the next four Thursdays, Fiona Noonan will run an open adult class at Huddersfield University Sports Centre between 11:00 and 12:00.

Fiona is an excellent teacher. She trained at Queensland Ballet Academy in Brisbane which is the ballet school for Li Cunxin's company that made such a memorable impression on critics and audiences when it brought La Sylphide to London in 2015 (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). She then danced with a number of companies around the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She, therefore, brings two rare qualities to her teaching. A rigorous pursuit of excellence and an attention to detail which I have noticed in other Australian trained teachers such as Adam Pudney at Pineapple and more than a little stardust from the stage that some of my favourite teachers at Northern Ballet Academy and KNT also scatter.

I have attended Fiona's classes at The Base Studios and Team Hud in Huddersfield and at Hype Studios in Sheffield (see More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield 14 May 2014).  They are not easy.  She pushes her students to their limits and then some. But that is exactly what a ballet student needs whatever his or her age or natural ability. I have also learned some important lessons from her. "Ballet is a harsh mistress", I once heard her tell a promising young student " and she is wanting and waiting for you to fail."  Like most balletomanes, I had associated dance with tiaras and gravity defying leaps but the reality is graft, sweat, pain and on more than a few occasions physical danger. Something that requires will, determination and resilience even if you are just taking an adult ballet class. Transferable qualities, incidentally, if you are lucky enough to enjoy your job and have no plans to quit just because you have reached pensionable age.

So if you come to her class this morning you had better pack a towel with your leotard or sports kit because you can expect to sweat. If this is your first class you will be allowed to dance barefoot. However, if you plan to stay the course and invest in some shoes there is a dance shop in the Byrom Arcade called "Mr Frog Dancewear".

For those who do not know the campus, the Sports Centre is in a new building called "Student Central" where you will also find the students' shop and cafeteria. It is almost opposite Sainsbury's car park and there are two multi-storey car parks on the other side of Queensway. The Sports Centre is one floor down and you have to report at the front desk. I don't yet know how much Fiona will charge for her classes but it was £5 two years ago. Most other ballet schools in the North charge between £6 and £8. Well worth it for a fair dinkum touch of stardust, mate. Gooday.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Jumping for Joy


Standard YouTube Licence

I described Jump two years ago in Jump 11 July 2015. It's a fan club for young ballet fans with its own website but it is also an open day called Dansdag when kids take over the Stopera. This year it fell on 24 June and I am told by people who were there that it was particularly good this year.

Judging by this film it certainly seems to have been. Most ballet companies run special activities for children and young people but this must be one of the best.

Montpellier Danse

Hans van Manen by Bibi Neuray
Reproduced with permission of the Dutch National Ballet














Tonight, Hans van Manen will be created a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, France's highest distinction in the arts at the Montpellier Dance Festival. That festival, which runs from 23 June to 7 July 2017, is an annual festival of contemporary dance which started in 1981 by the Montpelier city council and the National Choreographic Centre which was then run by Dominique Bagouet (see Festival Montpellier Danse in Wikipedia).

The festival attracts some of the biggest names in dance such as Lucinda Childs who is coming to Manchester on Thursday (see Manchester International Festival 3 July 2017) and the Dutch National Ballet who are performing tonight. To coincide with the presentation to van Manen, Dutch National Ballet will dance several of his works.

The Company's artistic director, Ted Brandsen, paid warm tribute to van Manen in an interview in Ted Brandsen / Dutch National Ballet : Hommage à Hans van Manen - Programme 1 & 2. In that same interview Brandsen was asked to say a few words about his company and where the company recruited its dancers.

I have been following van Manen for as long as I have been following ballet. Of the greats of my youth - Ashton, MacMillan, Balachine, Cranko - he is the only one who remains, Fékicitations to the new Commandeur but also to the company who will be dancing as I type.

Congratulations to Delia Matthews

Delia Matthews
Photo Andrew Ross
© 2016 Birmingham Royal Ballet: all rights reserved
Reproduced wth kind permission of the company: 



























Ever since I saw have bravely and professionally she exited the stage of the Grand Opera House in York when she must have been in considerable pain or discomfort, I have been a fan of Delia Matthews (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in York 23 May 2015). I am therefore delighted that she and Tzu-Chao Chou, another favourite dancer, have become principals of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.  I congratulate both of them and wish them all the best for the future.

Heartiest congratulations also to Arancha Baselga and Yasuo Atsuji who become first soloists, Miki Mizutani who is now a soloist and Laura Day and Alys Shee who are now first artists. Best wishes to them too.

Welcome to  Elisabetta Formento and Lynsey Sutherland who join the company from the Estonian and Polish National Ballets and also to Haoliang Feng, Augustus Payne, Harry Wright, Brogan McKelvey,
Hamish Scott, Claudia Nicholson and Jade Wallace who have recently graduated from their respective ballet schools. I congratulate each and every one of them on landing jobs with a great ballet company. I shall follow their careers with considerable interest.


Joseph Caley and William Bracewell will leave the company - Caley to join English National Ballet as a principal and Bracewell the Royal Ballet as a soloist. I congratulate them on their new appointments and wish them well with their new companies.  Sadly, we sat goodbye to Jamie Bond who retires from ballet to take up a new career in sport in which I wish him every success,  Lewis Turner and Alexander Bird who will join the Berlin State Ballet and Emily Smith and Johanne Monfret. Many thanks to each of them for the pleasure that they have given us and good luck for the future

Monday, 3 July 2017

New Moves - The Photos No. 2

Dutch National Ballet, New Moves 26 June 2017 Amsterdam
Photo Michael Schnater |(c) 2017 Dutch National Ballet All Rights ReservedReproduced with kind permission of the company 




















Another great photo by Michael Schnater from last Monday's New Moves by the Dutch National Ballet.  More to come in the course of the week

Manchester International Festival


Available Light                                                       Standard YouTube Licence


Manchester International Festival, our city's biennial arts festival, is in full swing. Between the 29 June and 16 July 2017, there will be a massive choice of events in the following fields:
Albert Square has been transformed into a village of tents, pavilions and other temporary buildings and has been renamed "Festival Square" where almost every type of street food was on offer.  Gita and I checked out Festival Square last night and I can recommend Heathcote & Co. and Life Bakery (see  Five foodie questions: Heathcote & Co and Staff of Life Bakery on the Festival website).

One of several dance events is Available Light which takes place at The Palace between 6 and 8 July. This is a collaboration between the choreographer Lucinda Childs, the composer John Adams and architect, Frank Gehry. The work is described as "a perfect fusion of music, movement and art," and as "a landmark in American dance." According to the website:
"Available Light beautifully unites the distinct visions of its three creators. Gehry’s designs playfully subvert convention, setting a backdrop of chain-link fencing against a stage split over two levels. Adams’ hypnotic soundtrack pulses out in waves, subtly blending acoustic brass with synthesisers and electronics as it anchors the movements of a dozen dancers. And Childs’ intricate, mesmerising choreography, playing with notions of space and time, is a brilliant distillation of the minimalist aesthetic that has long kept her work at the cutting edge."
I found the clip of the work on  YouTube which appears above.

Wikipedia describes Childs as a post-modern dancer and choreographer whose compositions are known for their minimalistic movements yet complex transitions.  It adds:
"Childs is most famous for being able to turn the slightest movements into an intricate choreographic masterpiece. Her use of patterns, repetition, and dialect has caused her to have a unique style of choreography that is often imitated for its ability to experiment."
Adams's work includes Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer which has been the subject of considerable controversy because of its subject matter.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Duchy Ballet's Auditions for the Anniversary Nutcracker


















Later today Duchy Ballet, Cornwall's classical ballet company, will hold auditions for its annual show at Poltair School in St Austell. The timetable and other particulars of the auditions appear on the Info page of the company's website. I hope everyone who takes part has a good day.

The company will dance The Nutcracker in March which it first performed in 1998.  According to the Performances page
"Duchy Ballet was formed to celebrate the opening of a long awaited theatre in Cornwall in November 1997. Our first production just three months later, with a live orchestra, and professional soloists was 'The Nutcracker'."
As it will be the 20th anniversary of that first performance, next year's show is likely to be special. I shall make every effort to attend and review it.

I wrote about the company in Ballet in Cornwall 17 Sept 2017 when I was on holiday near Looe last year. In that article, I discussed Cornwall's cultural identity based on a strong literary and musical tradition upon which the company has drawn from time to time for the subject matter of its ballets. At that time I had not actually seen the company but I took an interest in it because I have connections with Cornwall having spent two significant periods of my life there as well as many holidays.

I saw Duchy Ballet for the first time last March when it performrd The Sleeping Beauty.  I was very impressed as you can see from my review, Cornwall's Coup: Duchy Ballet's Sleeping Beauty 19 March 2017.  The lead roles were danced by Tom Thorne and Laura Bosenberg of the Cape Town City Ballet but, as I noted in my review
"....... the company had its own stars. Terence Etheridge, who choreographed the show, was a magnificent Carabosse in the tradition of Robert Helpmann. The lilac fairy (danced, I think by Alabama Seymour) was delightful. Matthew Phillips was a great bluebird and he was partnered well by Amy Robinson. Jasmine Allen was a charming white cat. I need to credit the wardrobe, those who made the sets, the lighting designer - I could go on but it's late and I have a long journey tomorrow. The company won a standing ovation for its performance and that is all I need to say."
I later learned that Seymour had been offered a place at Rambert's school which delighted but did not surprise me at all (see A Spark of Excellence 23 March 2017).

Even though Truro is not a big city and Cornwall does not have a large population, the performance that I saw was well attended and there had already been others earlier in the day and the day before.  I mention that because the info page mentions sponsorship and advertising opportunities which must be worth considering for businesses based in, or doing a lot of business, in Cornwall.

Finally, the company relies on volunteers for technical, wardrobe, chaperoning, front of house and other jobs. I can say from experience that preparing for a performance is always great fun.  If you live in Cornwall this is your opportunity to experience the excitement of the theatre.