Monday, 30 September 2013

Yet More Good News from Ballet West - Natasha Watson's Medal in the Genée

The Genée (or perhaps more properly The Genée International Ballet Competition) is an international ballet competition for dancers aged between 15 and 19 which is run by the Royal Academy of Dance. It was instituted by Dame Adeline Genée and the competition has been run every year since 1931 including wartime as you can see from the list of winners on the RAD's website.  The format of the competition is here.

For many years the event took place in London but it has recently been held in other cities around the world. This year the competition took place in Glasgow before a panel which consisted of Darcey Bussell, Kevin O’Hare and Christopher Hampson.

The winners of the 2013 competition have just been announced on the RAD's website and one of the bronze medallists is Ballet West's Natasha Watson. Warmest congratulations to Ms. Watson and to her school which is set in one of the most idyllic spots of the United Kingdom (see "Taynuilt - where better to create ballet?" 31 Aug 2013). 

Ballet West prompted me to start this blog with their performance of The Nutcracker in Pitlochry which I reviewed on the 25 Feb 2013 and I wrote about them again on 9 March 2013 when they sent me a lovely programme. I look forward to their new season and also to many performances of Natasha Watson. I am sure she will do very well.

I am also sure lots of sponge cake and other goodies will be consumed today in The Robin's Nest by the good folk of Taynuilt.

More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song

Star Studded Gala in aid of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School, Sadler's Wells, 29 Sept 2013

This elegant monogram stands for Yorkshire Ballet Summer School. It is a 2 week residential summer school at the York St John University where students between the ages of 9 and 19 and their teachers can learn from some of the best dancers in the world. To appreciate the value of this school just take a moment to watch this video. The enthusiasm of those students is infectious.  As I am sure that at least some of you will want to support this worthwhile cause here is a link to the Summer School's support page.

Every so often a gala of dance and song is held to raise funds for the Summer School.  In previous years it has been held at the York Grand Opera House and my late spouse and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary there in 2007. It was a great show as you can see from the review in The Press. This year the gala was held at Sadler's Wells and I followed it to London.  I have just returned after driving through the night. Hence the title "More Things that I do for my Art".

However, my journey was by no means the longest. Sergei Polunin had woken up at 05:00 to take a flight from Moscow to perform at the show and according to Sir Derek Jacobi who compèred the show with Sir Anthony Dowell a taxi was waiting to whisk him back to the airport for his return flight. Scottish Ballet's Sophie Martin and Christopher Harrison had come from Glasgow. And I had seen Birmingham Royal Ballet's Samara Downs dance Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty the night before in Salford (see "The Sleeping Beauty - a Review and why the Ballet is important" 29 Sept 2013).  The difference was that they danced - powerfully in Polunin's case  - whereas I had only to watch, clap until my palms stung, cheer until I was hoarse and, of course., drive to and from Luton Parkway,

The show was, to use the language of the Guide Rouge "vaut le voyage". Many of the stars I saw in York in 2007, such as Wayne Sleep, Samantha Bond and of course Sir Anthony and Sir Derek were there but there was plenty of new material:

There were songs from Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton and a lot of levity from Jim Carter who auctioned off a back stage pass to Covent Garden for a whopping £2,000.   All in a very good cause.   

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Sleeping Beauty - a Review and why the Ballet is important

Even though The Sleeping Beauty was premièred at St. Petersburg, its score was composed by Tchaikovsky and it was choreographed was by Petipa to Perrault's story,  it is also a very English ballet. It was the work that reopened the Royal Opera House on the 20 Feb 1946 after the House had been used as a dance hall and furniture store (see "The History of the Royal Opera House" on the Royal Opera House website).

To understand the importance of The Sleeping Beauty in our social as well as our cultural history you have to know that it entered the repertoire of the Vic-Wells Ballet just before the Second World War.  By all accounts the 1946 revival was a glittering occasion.  It must have been one of the rare great nights of ballet to which I referred "In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic" 18 Sept 2013. It was produced by Ninette de Valois, designed by Oliver Messel, Princess Aurora was danced by Margot Fonteyn and Petipa's choreography was supplemented by Frederick Ashton. There must have been a whiff of mothballs in the theatre as the audience had dusted off their pre-war dinner jackets, retrieved their best frocks and put on their jewellery for the first time after the Second World War.  The analogy of that evening after years of war and rationing with Aurora's wedding after a century of hibernation must have been obvious and compelling.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet is the direct descendant of de Valois's company and Peter Wright's production that I saw at The Lowry last night is derived directly from that 1946 revival.  "This is the gold standard" I thought to myself yesterday as gold confetti fluttered to the stage at the end of the last scene.  It is as much part of our heritage as the Book of Common Prayer. Like Cranmer's masterpiece one meddles with The Sleeping Beauty at one's peril.  The score for the divertissements in the last act, for example, was composed for Petipa's choreography to represent cats and bluebirds.  Any other choreography jars which was why I was irritated by Matthew Bourne's production despite its brilliant dancing (see "Why can't I be nicer to Matthew Bourne" of 6 April 2013). I have yet to see David Nixon's version of The Sleeping Beauty which I gather from Mark Skipper and Andy Waddington is set in the distant future and that is perhaps just as well for I do so love the Northern Ballet (see "The Things I do for my Art: Northern Ballet's Breakfast Meeting" 23 Sept 2013),
Returning to last night in Salford, it was a wonderful performance. Maybe not a magical one as Midsummer Night's Dream was two weeks ago but that was not the company's fault because such magic is spontaneous and is experienced only once or twice in a lifetime. A more superstitious age would have said it was in the gift of Terpsichore and that is not a bad way of looking at it.

The role of Aurora appears to me (as one who can barely pirouette) to require almost superhuman virtuosity which Elisha Willis demonstrated she possessed in abundance. Virtuosity is required also of Florimund which was danced admirably by Jamie Bond. Yet more virtuosity is required of the Bluebirds as you can see from the following short YouTube clip from the current production,

Yesterday's pas de deux was danced by Max Maslen (a Bradford lad) and Maureya Lebowitz from Malibu. Bluebird is danced by dancers who are on the way up so we can look forward to seeing a lot more from those two. Kit Holder and Yvette Knight made a charming Puss in Boots. I love the slap that she gives him as he touches her leg. Pure Ashton.  The juxtaposition of Samara Downs as Carabosse with Delia Matthews as the Lilac or good Fairy was inspired.  Everyone danced well and should be commended. Philip Prowse's designs dazzled the audience and Mark Jonathan's lighting thrilled us.  All in all it was a wonderful evening.

I am now about to set off for London to see "Star Studded Gala in aid of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School". In my last ballet class in Huddersfield my dear teacher Fiona warned a promising young student (albeit in a different context) that ballet can break you and I am aware that balletomania can easily become an obsession.   But this is very much a one-off. I live in Yorkshire. My mother was from Yorkshire. I value ballet.  I feel bound to support this Yorkshire institution.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Fantastic New Blog: Dave Tries Ballet

I have just added "Dave Tries Ballet" to my blogroll.

Dave describes himself as "a 23 year old graduate student in New Jersey, studying for a PhD in Mathematics" originally from the UK but in the USA for graduate School. He doesn't say which graduate school he attends but both Princeton and Rutgers are in New Jersey and they are outstanding universities. Like me he claims to be uncoordinated and was a portly 270 pounds (19 stone 4 lbs or 122.4 kg) at age 17. Remarkably he shed over 6 stones by giving up chocolates, sweets and crisps and taking up rowing. He rowed in the First VIII for his "college" which suggests that he was at a collegiate university here. As there are only a handful of collegiate universities here and they are all good I would venture to suggest that Dave has a pretty powerful intellect. His posts "Pythagoras and Pliés" reinforce that impression. I really love his Mathematical Beauty (5 March 2011) where he shows a connection between a sequence of numbers and choreography.

Dave reminds me of myself 40 years ago. I had my first ballet lesson at about the same age when I was an undergraduate. I also went to graduate school in the United States (UCLA in my case). And I got into ballet for very similar reasons to Dave (see "Why I'm Trying Ballet" 4 Aug 2011).

So I wish Dave every success in his research and lots of fun with his ballet.  If he ever comes back to Blighty I should very much like to meet him.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Ballet Black's New Dancers

I have just received a newsletter from Ballet Black announcing two new dancers: Isabela Coracy from Brazil and Christopher Renfurm from the Netherlands.

As there is nothing about those dancers on Ballet Black's website I tried googling them and came across the above clip of a pas de deux dated 3 Jun 2012 which appears to come from the Companhia Brasileira de Ballet. She looks good as does her partner. Brazil has already produced one superstar, Marcia Haydée. Perhaps Coracy will be another.

I have not been able to find a clip of Renfurm but I have found a site which indicates that he has enjoyed his first week with his new company.

I hope to see them both when Ballet Black visits the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre on 6 Nov.  I have booked my ticket and you can buy yours by clicking here

My only disappointment is that I won't see Sarah Kundi this time because she left the company at the end of last season.  She used to be with Northern Ballet and has many fans in the North f whom I am one (see "Why Ballet Black is Special" 20 May 2013 and "Dépouillement" - another beautiful Pas de Deux by Kundi and Christofi" 22 May 2013). I am not sure where she has gone but as soon as I find out I will let everybody know.

In the meantime ballet companies don't run on air so if you can spare a few bob here's their support page.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Things I do for my Art: Northern Ballet's Breakfast Meeting

Northern Ballet

This morning I rose while the wilis were still abroad and drove 26 miles to meet some of these lovely people. They are the staff of Northern Ballet and this morning they invited us to breakfast and a show at their magnificent premises at Quarry Hill in Leeds.
"Set the alarm at 05:30 for tomorrow morning. Better be worth it @northernballet". 
I had tweeted peevishly the night before.   Well I am glad to tell you that it was worth it.  Refreshments were waiting for us on arrival as we waited to be shepherded into the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre for the show.

As you have often been told, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well we learned from Leanne Kirkham that there is no such things as a free breakfast either. "You can't come to a ballet school and not expect to move" said Leanne, "especially after a free breakfast." So she had us sitting up straight in our seats, reaching for the ceiling and stretching our arms.  "Eight to the right! Eight to the left" "Then four and four." "Two and two," And finally "Four singles to right and left."  Just as in glissés.  "But I only had a bacon  butty and a cup of coffee" I said to myself.

Leanne was followed by Mark Skipper, the company's Chief Executive Officer. who belted out an impressive list of achievements. Taking London by storm with Gatsby. The best ballet centre in Europe with 7 studios.  Tours in every part of the UK and many overseas,. And a remarkable return on investment for  Ugly Duckling.

Next we had interviews with Pippa Moore and Matthew Topliss who demonstrated some of the lifts that we see in a pas de deux.  Moore is one of my favourite dancers and she was wonderful in Midsummer Night's Dream. I can't think of a better way to start the week than watching her and Topliss.

Last on the bill was the Technical Director Andy Waddington who took us through the 2 year long process of building a ballet in 10 minutes.

At the end of the presentations we got an opportunity for questions. In my review of Midsummer Night's Dream I mentioned a video in which the dancers acted one of the scenes that they were about to dance. As Moore was one of the dancers in that sequence I asked her whether that dialogue was a one off or whether they exchanged a dialogue in every ballet.  "Oh we do that all the time" said Moore.  "We act it first and then dance the steps."

Someone suggested that Leeds should seek to become European capital of culture on the proposition that it was the second cultural centre after London.  As a proud Mancunian I am not letting anyone get away with that.  Yes Leeds has Northern Ballet and Opera North but we have the Hallé, the Royal Exchange, Media City, The Lowry, The Royal Northern College of Music, Chethams and more museums and theatres than most can shake a stick at. I imagine that Glaswegians who host Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera and the people of Birmingham with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra might also have a thing or two to say about Leeds's pretensions.

The title of this company is not Leeds Ballet, nor even Yorkshire Ballet but Northern Ballet. It is an institution in which everyone north of the Trent and south of the Cheviots can take pride.   I have often argued that the communities along the M62 corridor should think of themselves as a regional city just as those along the San Diego Freeway do in Southern California. After all the Coastal Range is much higher than the Pennines. Cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Bradford should learn to integrate for that is the only way to counter the pull of London. In that regard it should never be forgotten that Northern Ballet started as Northern Dance Theatre in Manchester.

After the presentations we were invited to tour the building starting with the top floor with the familiar Studio 7.  We were taken from there to a board room with swan wallpaper and panoramic views of Leeds. Then to more studios on the floors below with wardrobes, meeting rooms and the technical department.

Finally, some of us had one to one interviews with Mark Skipper, Laraine Penson, head of communications or Jon Ingham, head of fundraising.   I was allocated 10 minutes with Mr. Ingham.  He told me about some of the ways to help the company such as sponsoring a dancer and becoming a friend or patron. Northern Ballet has given so many people so much pleasure over the last 44 years or so. Would it not be nice to do them a good deed in return?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew": Now's our chance to see one of the Ballets everyone should see before they die

The Stuttgart Ballet is coming to England. Yay! And it is performing John Cranko's "Taming of the Shrew". Yippee! The company will be at Sadler's Wells from the 18 to the 23 Nov 2013.

It is apt that Cranko's company should perform at the Wells because that is where he learnt his art. He was one of the great choreographers of all time. Born in South Africa in 1927 he choreographer Pineapple Poll in 1951 when he was only 23.  In 1961 he was placed in charge of the Stuttgart Ballet when only 34. There he created great full length ballets such as Onegin, Carmen and, of course. Shrew. Sadly he died on the way back from New York at the early age of 45.  Think what he would have achieved had he survived.

Even after 40 years there are many reminders of Cranko in Stuttgart. Possibly the most important is the John Cranko School which was the first ballet school in Germany and now regarded as one of the best in the world.

Seeing Taming of the Shrew is on my list of things still to do before I die. Visiting Theatre Street and attending a performance at the Mariinsky is another.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Yorkshire Talking Heads: Mark Skipper

Mark Skipper

My very good friend and client Ed Ryder who set up Biskit Ltd., has invited Mark Skipper, Chief Executive Officer of Northern Ballet, to speak at the Leeds Club on Tuesday 15 Oct 2013.  If you are free that evening I would urge you to attend and you can book on-line through Biskit's Eventbrite page.  You have to hurry because bookings close on 24 Sept 2013.

I am hopelessly torn.  I'm a big fan of Northern Ballet all the more so after being wowed by the company's performance on Saturday (see "Realizing Another Dream" 15 Sept 2013 and "In Leeds of all Places" today) and I really would like to meet the man behind this company but it clashes with my adult ballet class at The Base in Huddersfield (see "Adult Ballet Classes" 7 Sept 2013).

As I am not very good at ballet and as I am going to the "Business of Ballet" breakfast meeting on the 23 Sept 2013 where we are promised  an "inspiring and illuminating session" with Mr. Skipper (see "Business of Ballet: Northern Ballet's bid to educate us Philistines" 28 July 2013) I think I will opt for the class.  But if you don't have a class do go to the Leeds Club. Knowing Ed as I do I am sure he will make it a great evening.

PS. Before I forget, I have added the Northern Ballet blog to my bloggroll. I have read several of their articles and they are very good.

In Leeds of all Places - Pavlova, Ashton and Magic.

My mother told me that she had once seen Anna Pavlova on the stage. She said that it was a very special performance the like of which she had never seen before or since.  As Pavlova died when my mother was 21 and as my mother spent her childhood and adolescence in Leeds I could not see how that was possible especially as the First World War accounted for 4 of the years when my mother's life overlapped with Pavolva's.

But I now know more about Pavlova's life having read the report of a talk that Pavlova's biographer, Jane Pritchard, gave to the London Ballet Circle on 29 Oct 2012 which you can download from the "Reports" page of the Circle's website. Pavolva brought ballet to every corner of the British Isles, to small towns where ballet had never been performed and unless she was injured or ill, she danced at every performance. I googled "Pavlova" and "Leeds" and came up with a link to this advertisement for a special matinee at the Grand on the 17 Jan 1913,   As my mother would have been less than 3 on that day I doubt that that was the performance that she attended. Pavlova must have danced in Leeds again when my mother was older.

The reason I thought of Pavlova is that I came across this picture of Sir Frederick Ashton and the stars of the Royal Ballet when writing "Realizing Another Dream" 16 Sept 2913. Ashton, who was nearly 5 years older than my mother, had been inspired to dance after seeing Pavlova in Lima in 1917. That decision of Ashton's must have taken considerable courage for there were very few opportunities in the ballet for anybody at that time and dancing was not the sort of thing that well brought up English public schoolboys did.

That performance in Lima must have been special. One of those rare times in the theatre when audience and stage make magic. I have known only two such moments in my life. One was the show at which the picture of Ashton and the Royal Ballet was taken.  I was there standing throughout the entire performance in the upper slips of the Royal Opera House.  The other moment was on Saturday in Leeds of all places. I don't know what it is that produces such magic. I don't think it is in the gift of the performers. I have seen great performances since by many stars including Fonteyn and Nureyev and I have seen the stage of Covent Garden knee deep in flowers especially when there was a flower market next door to the House, but not the same magic as I saw on the 24 July 1970 and again last Saturday.

I wonder whether I shall live to see another.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Realizing Another Dream

Source Wikipedia
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Northern  Ballet A Midsummer Night's Dream  West Yorkshire Playhouse 14 Sept 2013

Perhaps the best way to start this review is at the end. I could not help rising to my feet as the cast took their bows. And I was not the only one.  The English, unlike Americans, are very slow to give standing ovations (except at party conferences) and I have only seen other in my lifetime.  That was a special evening for Sir Frederick Ashton at Covent Garden in July 1970 when he retired as director of the Royal Ballet.   It seems from the tweets and video that Northern Ballet's short season at West Yorkshire Playhouse (6 to 14 Sept 2013) has also been very special.

I was reminded of Ashton's farewell evening in other ways.  That was the last time I heard a dancer speak. Then it was Svetlana Beriosova. I can't remember exactly what she said except that she spoke in French and her voice was as pure and as elegant as her dance. Last night we heard Kevin Poeung who doubled as Puck, an irascible ballet master, and Puck as Robin Goodfellow. Poeung spoke twice in the ballet - in Act 1 in a rehearsal studio which looked remarkably similar  to Northern's own studios (see "Realizing a Dream" 12 Sept 2013 to see how I know) and then at the very end of Act 3.  Poeung uttered the lines we all learned at school. 
"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends."
It appears from a video of a rehearsal which was released at the time of the production that the choreographer, David Nixon, used voice a lot more in rehearsal. I should be interested to know whether he or other choreographers use that technique in rehearsing other works. In Giselle, perhaps, for when she is shown Albrecht's sword and goes mad and dies of humiliation.  Certainly, that technique proved very effective yesterday evening.

When I thought of Ashton I remembered that he had also choreographed Midsummer Night's Dream as had George Balanchine and several other choreographers.  Perhaps not surprisingly Nixon's Dream is very different from Ashton's and indeed Balanchine's as you can see from the synopsis.  It moves from the real to the ethereal and then back to reality again.  Something that ballet can do so much better than most other art forms including cinema if you think of Giselle, Swan Lake and even Nutcracker.   Nixon's version incorporates a chunk of Romeo and Juliet including Prokofiev's music not to mention Brahms (see John Pryce-Jones's video). I have to confess that I have been rather exasperated with Nixon in the past for taking liberties with familiar plots such as "Beauty and the Beast", "Ondine" and "Nutcracker". Even though I had bristled momentarily at Nixon's setting Romeo and Juliet in the 1940s which was nearly 20 years before Kenneth Macmillan staged that work for Nixon's compatriot Lynn Seymour his liberty taking yesterday succeeded brilliantly.

The transition from real to ethereal and back again - in this case, studio to station, a train, the land of dreams, back to another station and a stage in Edinburgh - was quite a challenge for a set designer. It was achieved seamlessly and imaginatively by Duncan Hayter. I loved the train particularly, as it pulled out of the station, and the cramped couchettes and WC.   I thought the sets in Gatsby had been good but yesterday's were even better.   So, also, were the costumes - both those of the mortals and those of the fairies - the best of all being Bottom's ass outfit.

Bottom, danced by Darren Goldsmith, had us in stitches as he pranced with Titania braying as she stroked his ears or gave him a carrot.  "Sounds like my central heating" whispered my companion who has had no end of problems with her plumbing.  Also as a carpenter hopelessly in love with a ballerina (Antoinette Brooks-Daw) - particularly poignant as the ballet was set in the late 1940s when class divisions were so much more rigid than they are today.  Matthew Broadbent as a tailor or dressmaker also made us laugh as he tried to retrieve his dignity when faced down by a supercilious choreographer (Hironao Takahashi) and bullying ballet master.

There was some brilliant choreography for some of my favourite dancers, Kenneth Tindall and Tobias Batley as Lysander and Demetrius and Pippa Moore and Martha Leebolt as Helena and Hermia.  The best bit for me was a pas de trois in Act 2 as Lysander and Demetrius competed to get rid of Hermia in order to pursue Helena.  But there was also brilliance from Takehashi as Theseus, Brookes-Daw as Hippolyta and. of course, Poeung as Robin Goodfellow.

This work is going to Newcastle, Woking and Nottingham this Autumn and in Spring to Edinburgh, Norwich, Milton Keynes and Southampton.  If you live anywhere near those cities and towns do go to see it. There is a charming note in the programme entitled "Tales from Touring". Quoting from Sarah Woodcock's history of the Birmingham Royal Ballet the note observes: "There was nothing like a long tour for welding the already close company into a company cohesive unit."  That must be particularly true of Northern Ballet.  It has matured so much since "A Simple Man", the first time I saw that company.

The programme note refers to "a huge if not totally discriminating audience" in the provinces and I suppose that must apply to me  as this post is less of a review than an encomium.  But I hope that those who know better will forgive me for I do so love Northern Ballet.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Northern Ballet's "A Simple Man"

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This is an except from "A Simple Man" a ballet about the life of LS Lowry which I saw in 1987 on the centenary of the painter's birth.   At that time Northern Ballet was based in Manchester and being a Mancunian I was very proud of it. And of course of LS Lowry.

The ballet was created by Gillian Lynne to music by Carl Davis. Northern Ballet has produced a great booklet about the ballet and the artist.  

If you want to see his works come to the arts complex in Salford that proudly bears his name.  It has the largest collection of Lowry's work in the world.

Post Script
31 Dec 2013

Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of this ballet was honoured for her services to musical theatre and dance in the 2014 New Year's Honours List.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Realizing a Dream

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Ever since I was a child I have tried to imagine what it would be like to be a dancer. A lot of hard work of course. And pain. And injury. And probably disappointment. But also, fleetingly, delight and beauty. Early in my life I had the good sense to realize that it was not for me but that did not stop me from wondering.

Well today at the grand old age of 64 I came as close as a member of the public possibly can to finding out. I attended Northern Ballet's over 55 class at their magnificent premises at Quarry Hill in Leeds. After registering - filling out a simple form and paying £5 - and then the £6.50 fee for the class I introduced myself to the half dozen or so other ladies who were taking the same class. Reassuringly they were all about my age and none more than 9 years younger than me. Though I try not to be downhearted there is nothing more dispiriting than dancing with teenagers with elastic limbs. Perhaps I was once supple like them but I am certainly not now.

Our teacher Annemarie Donoghue appeared and greeted us all individually. Although advertised as a beginners' class several had taken it before.  As this was my first class with Northern Ballet Annemarie welcomed me to the class.   She led us to the lift which took us to the top floor.   We were in Studio 7 which is supposedly a small one but it is the biggest space in which I have ever danced.

Then the pianist Alena entered and that was a treat. When I studied ballet at St Andrews over 40 years ago one of our fellow students played for us but during my more recent classes at The Base in Huddersfield we have had to make do with recorded music.

Annemarie started  by gathering us into the centre and getting us to stand with feet in parallel.  She told us to make sure our weight was properly distributed and to adjust our posture as though a thread passed through our bodies.  Ideally we would rise to our toes without wobbling.  Well I didn't quite get that but never mind.  Next we worked on our arms.   Then we moved in a circle, walking at first, then using our arms and finally a skip.

After warming up we worked at the barre.   Toe exercises first and then pliés in parallel, first and second, tendusglissés and cloches.

Finally, we moved to the centre with simple chassés. While doing the centre exercise Alena played a few bars of Adam's Giselle.   Me.  Dancing to real ballet music in a real studio in a real ballet school.   Imagine!

The class was over far too soon. It's a friendly class and I shall be back as often as I possibly can.   In the meantime I have  Northern Ballet's Midsummer Night's Dream at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Saturday to look forward to.   I shall review that performance next week.    Then it's going on tour to Newcastle, Woking and Nottingham.

PS. in a text my dear, long-suffering ballet teacher Fiona wrote:
"Oh Jane! You do of course realise you have done alllllll those with me & you caaaaaaaaaan do them! Enjoy your classes xxxxx Anne Marie is fab xxx"
Well Annemarie is indeed fab but then so too is Fiona who got me to this point in the first place.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Adult Ballet Classes

If they will have me (and it is a very big if) I will join Northern Ballet's over 55 class. Their adult classes start this week and they seem to have something for everyone.   I took my first ballet classes when I was an undergraduate at St Andrews over 40 years ago and I really loved them even though I have no natural aptitude whatsoever.

Last year I took up ballet again at the Base Studios in Huddersfield. Fiona Noonan takes the class.   She is a brilliant teacher with endless patience.   Adult ballet takes place between 20:00 and 21:00 on Tuesdays and costs £5.  For more info and photos of the class see the Base's Facebook class.

Finally, I mentioned Ballet West in Taynuilt and Yorkshire Dance last week.  Here is Ballet West's timetable and here is Yorkshire Dance's.  If anyone knows of any more classes please feel free to add them.