Wednesday, 23 August 2017

KNT Coppelia Intensive

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I had a splendid day at the Dancehouse yesterday dancing in Jane Tucker's Coppelia Intensive with my classmates from KNT and Northern Ballet Academy plus two new friends from Birmingham and Harrogate with whom I have much in common.  As readers of this blog know, I have attended Jane's intensives on Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadère and The Nutcracker and have enjoyed them all but this was by far the best.

There were several reasons for that.  The first is that I know Coppelia very well and love the story. Unlike most other 19th century libretti, this story is years ahead of its time. It addresses issues of artificial intelligence and robotics which are now very much in the news with Elon Musk's call to ban killer robots (see Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots 20 Aug 2017 The Guardian). Secondly, I have seen some lovely productions of the ballet in the last few months at all levels from Manchester City Ballet's in The Dancehouse last December to Ted Brandsen's triumph in Amsterdam. Thirdly, I was dancing with people I know and like under the guidance of one of my favourite teachers.  I felt just so lucky and privileged.  Small wonder I wore the widest of wide grins for most of the day.

Jane's classes are never easy and the second day of the intensives are particularly hard because that is the day for consolidation and learning.  It began with floor exercises on our towels and Pilates mats.  We followed with a full 90-minute class which is very similar to the ones we do in Leeds.  I think everyone in Northern Ballet Academy and a lot of the regulars at the Dancehouse is used to Jane's warm up, particularly the abrupt turn on a sixpence half way through the run but she still manages to catch the odd punter out. It was a fun class with a brisk barre, lovely adagio, lots of chaînés and even some temps levés at the end,

After a 15 minute break which I regret to say I spent on the blower when I should have been stretching or at least relaxing we were into our first bit of repertoire.  That turned out to be Zwaantje's (or in most productions Swanhilde) dance after she and her ladette pals break into Dr Coppelius's den, discover that Coppelia is nothing more than a robot and Zwaantje swaps clothes with the android. As Jane had taught the dance to the others the day before she offered to coach me. However, on the first run through I found that I could keep up. Images of Celine Gittens and Anna Ol flooded back.

The next dance, Frans's (or Franz's) solo was much more difficult for me as it requires two tours en l'air from a standing start, a fouetté and more than a few grands jetés en tournant.  I had a go at one or two of these but they quite zonked me out and I had to sit out the last exercise.  Happily, we had two Franses - David and Sam from KNT - and they both did very well. At least in my eyes.

Finally, we rehearsed the village scene from Act I. Jane had also taught that dance to others the day before.  Again I was more or less able to pick it up though I made tons of mistakes. From time to time I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and I was grinning like the Cheshire cat.  I have had a lot on my plate lately and this day off for ballet was just so liberating.

The class continues today. I wish I could have joined it.  It will end with a show before Karen which I am sure she will applaud heartily.  Jane Tucker runs these courses during the Autumn half term, Easter vacation and the summer.  If you have never attended them, do yourselves a favour and sign up. It wasn't just I who had had a whale of a time yesterday.

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