Wednesday, 4 November 2020

World Ballet Day Highlights #1: The Royal Academy of Dance

World Ballet Day Trailer  -  Standard YouTube Licence

World Ballet Day came just as theatres and studios across the UK were emerging from a 7-month hibernation.  It was a day of optimism.  Sadly that optimism has been dampened by the announcement on Saturday of another lockdown in England.  The sudden closure of studios and theatres is devastating; It is therefore all the more vital to hang on to that optimism. One way to do that is to remember the highlights of World Ballet Day. Over the next few days, I shall recall some of my most memorable moments.  

I begin with the Royal Academy of Dance.  The RAD is an institution that educates students at all levels, of all ages in all parts of the world.  Its contribution to World Ballet Day summarized its work exactly.  The Academy's Artistic Director, Gerard Charles, and its President, Darcey Bussell, opened the clip. The first half featured the work of three RAD teachers in Peru, Kenya and Australia while in the second Dame Darcy coached Anya Mercer, a student at the English National Ballet School and a finalist in last year's Genée in the second female solo of the pas de trois in Act 1 of Swan Lake.

When I first started blogging about dance I mentioned the work of Mike Wamaya who teaches ballet in Kibera, one of the most impoverished neighbourhoods of Nairobi (see What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013). In Recognition for the Kibera Ballet Class  9 Jan 2017 I noted that some of those students had been accepted for training at the Dance Centre Kenya with Ms Cooper Rust.  In the video, Ms Rust taught a class of boys who showed considerable enthusiasm as well as aptitude for their art.

Nairobi is a conurbation of over 9 million people where there is the possibility of exposure to the performing arts through the press and broadcasting.  Such a possibility is much less in the upper reaches of the Amazon where the Nevada Building Hope Foundation operates.  One of its teachers is Barbara Land.  In the video, Ms Land explains how she introduced ballet to local children. They were enchanted and wanted to learn. 

As an RAD teacher, Ms Land was able to train the Peruvian kids to the same exacting standards as the young  Sydneysiders in Hilary Kaplan's class at the Alegria Dance Studios in Australia.  Australia has given the world some of its greatest dancers from Sir Robert Helpmann and Elaine Fifield to Alexander Campbell who was my male dancer of the year for 2019.  After watching Ms Kappan's class for a few minutes, I think we can understand why.  Excellence is baked into ballet at the very earliest opportunity.

Dame Darcey's session with Anya Mercer was a masterclass for her audience as well as for that promising young dancer.   It is a thrilling solo particularly the turns at the end.   Dame Darcey discerned details that I had never noticed before. Her pupil has shown considerable promise to reach this point.  I wish her well with her studies and subsequent career.

My next article will feature the Royal New Zealand Ballet's company class and preparation for the opening performance of The Sleeping Beauty in an apparently coronavirus fee Wellington.

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