Author Philip Burne-Jones
KNTs Day of Dance at the Dancehouse was a great success. I got some valuable tips on arabesques and développés from Rachael Crocker that everyone else seems to know but had somehow eluded me these last 50 years and I got to dance a vampire in a scene that Karen Sant had created from David Hotchkiss's music for Daethon and Arundel. I would not have missed the day for the world. Judging by the comments on Facebook and twitter, neither would anyone else who was there.
I had booked just two classes: beginners and pre-intermediate ballet with Rachael from 14:00 to 15:30 and the repertoire class with Karen from 15:30 to 17:00. There was, of course, much more than that. There had been classes in jazz, PBT and contemporary in the morning. The prima ballerina, Harriet Mills gave a class for more advanced students at the same time as our beginners and pre-intermediate class and Rachael gave a repertoire class in musical theatre at the same time as Karen's class.
There were a lot of familiar faces from KNT but also several from Northern Ballet. Several students had travelled considerable distances. One from as far way as Anglesey which is where I plan to spend my long awaited and much anticipated summer holiday next week. While I have been beating the drum for KNT in Leeds my Yorkshire friends have been spreading the word for Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat next weekend which I would have been tempted to attend had I not arranged a holiday. Karen occasionally refers to us as the KNT family which sounds soppy but really isn't while a friend who attends the Ballet Retreat tells me that is how she feels about that workshop. One of the wonderful things about events like yesterday's are the friendships and connexions that they catalyze.
Rachael's class began with the usual barre exercises with a particular focus on relevés, retirés and balancing on demi with rapid turns. Clearly she was getting us used to the idea of pirouettes. We did plenty of those in the centre including chassé, pas de bourré and turns in fourth. I continue to find them difficult even though I had performed the exercise with two other teachers that week. Rachael spotted that several of us were struggling with arabesques and pivots and diagnosed the problem as the position of the right arm. Similarly, several of us were struggling with développés, "Imagine your leg connected to your arms by a piece of string", she suggested. "You raise your arms from bras bas to first at the same time as you lift your leg," I tried that and it really helped. "And as you unfold your right leg you raise your left arm," she added.
I was so pleased about what I had learned from Rachael that I mentioned it to Mark Hindle on the way into studio 1 for Karen's repertoire class. I suspect that he was surprised that I had not worked that out for myself or learned it from another teacher some time between yesterday and my first ballet class in 1969. Diplomatically he observed that it was one of the advantages of taking classes from different teachers. I had already learned that from Marion Pettet of the Chelmsford Ballet. That is why the Chelmsford Ballet invites different teachers for its company classes which is what I try to do with Powerhouse Ballet.
Mark was in the repertoire class because he was lead vampire in the scene that Karen had choreographed from David Hotchkiss's score. A recumbent Daethon (danced by Ruaridh Bisset) was ambushed by circling vampires. Most of us wore black as had been requested by Karen. We surrounded Daethon menacingly with our arms rippling like bat wings. We bourréd away to form several lines where we pivioted, pliéd, turned twice, joined hands, balancéd, pushed Daethon to the ground as he morphed into a vampire. Pretty chilling choreography and at least as impressive in my humble opinion as other choreographers' Dracula. There is only so much that can be accomplished in 90 minutes but I think Karen did justice to David's score.
We performed our piece before Rachael's musical theatre students who applauded us generously. Ruaridh and Mark and many of my fellow vampires were superb and deserved their clapping though I am not sure that I did. I was beginning to slow down after 90 minutes of hard exercise. Rachael invited us back to studio 1 to show us what her class had learned. They were very good indeed. Very slick, very polished and you could tell from the smiles on their faces that they were having a whale of a time.
I hope that Karen arranges another day of dance soon. Many others have said the said the same on Facebook. Having said that I also enjoyed the repertoire workshops with Jane Tucker and Martin Dutton. I hope that we shall have a few more of them too. Although I can attend Jane's class in Leeds throughout the year her repertoire classes were special. I learned more about Swan Lake and La Bayadère from her intensives than watching scores of performances from the stalls and reading libraries of books and programme notes.