When Karen Sant introduced Harriet Mills at KNT's Manchester studios last night, we gave her a spontaneous ripple of applause. Applause is expected at the reverence but at the beginning of a class it is very rare indeed. We applauded her because Harriet is a very special teacher. A principal of the Karlsruhe State Ballet no less which seems to have a gorgeous repertoire. Feast your eyes, ladies and gents, on these YouTube clips that I have managed to google: Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide and Anne Frank. There is something very special about a class from a teacher who has danced with a well known company and a class from a principal is particularly precious. I have been lucky enough to attend several classes by Chris Hinton-Lewis in Leeds who was one of my favourite dancers at Northern Ballet (see It's an Ill Wind - Review of Northern Ballet's Beginner's Class 8 Dec 2013) but this was my first class with a ballerina at the height of her career.
Directing us to face the barre Harriet showed us how to stand from our toes to our shoulders. She then conducted us through pliés in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, frappés and a combination of tendus, glissés and grands battements. Calling us into the centre she said that the secret of the port de bras is to keep the arms flowing and she gave us a delightful exercise that required us to do just that. Next came pirouettes - preparations, quarter turns, half and finally full turns. Then jumps starting with glissades and assemblés in preparation for a joyful combination of balancés, arabesques, pas de chats and temps levés. Usually our class lasts a little over an hour but Harriet gave us a full 90 minutes. The class was so good that Karen and Mark Hindle, who has just returned from a season of the Lion King at the Hague, joined in.
Because Harriet has given us some extra time she had to start the next one immediately afterwards. It was not possible for us to thank her for our class. I always try to do that because the relationship between teacher and student is very special as I explained in Le jour de gloire est arrivé - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School 3 Feb 2014:
"As Sibley spoke about her teachers I realized that every teacher represents to his or students every dancer, choreographer and teacher who has gone before. Sibley loved her teachers and I can relate to that because I love every one of mine. Those who have gently corrected my wobbling arabesques and feeble turns. I texted one of them yesterday after the talk .......So this blog post has to serve as my thank you to Harriet for a great class. We all left happy and inspired.
"Oh super jealousy" she replied.As indeed Dame Antoinette is. I learned so much from her yesterday for which I shall always be grateful."
"Don't be jealous" I responded "You are also part of the tradition. You live it, I just see it. And you pass on your gift to others."
"Awwwww Thanku xxxx"
"When I go to class you or Annemarie represent every dancer, choreographer and teacher who ever lived".
"Aw Jane! I won't be able to leave the room soon"
"I am only paraphrasing Sibley. She should know. Through you I am linked to your teacher who is probably linked to someone at Ballet Russes who is linked to Petipa."
"xxxxx wise woman!"
If anybody is interested, Karlsruhe is a pleasant medium size town in Baden-Württemberg which hosts the German Constitutional Court as well as a fine ballet company. Practitioners in my area of law have been taking a particular interest in the Court lately because it is determining a challenge to German ratification of the Unified Patent Court Agreement. That was the topic of a talk that I gave to Queen Mary University of London Law School on Monday night (see Jane Lambert Is British Ratification of the UPC Agreement even relevant now? 12 Feb 2018 NIPC News).