Sunday, 27 October 2013

Ballet in Switzerland

Images if Geneva   Courtesy Wikipedia

One of my day jobs is sitting an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a bit like a judge in that he or she decides disputes after considering the evidence and the parties' arguments. Unlike a judge who is appointed by a state an arbitrator is chosen by the parties and his or her jurisdiction to decide the dispute arises from their agreement to refer their dispute to a trusted third party for adjudication. Arbitrations are particularly useful in resolving disputes between parties in different countries where neither party trusts the legal system of the other.  I sit on an arbitration panel run by the World Intellectual Property Organization ("WIPO") which is the UN Agency for intellectual property.   Every October the WIPO holds a conference for its panellists in Geneva which it encourages us to attend.

I was thinking of giving the conference a miss this year because the Sao Paulo State Symphony is performing at the Bridgewater Hall this evening, that is to say the 27 Oct. It is under the baton of Marin Alsop who was the first woman to conduct the last night of the proms. I was cursing all the more on the way here when one of the jobsworths at John Lennon International Airport forced me to discard about £40 worth of unopened bottles of toiletries because they were in a stiff plastic container that met the regulations and most other airports let through rather than one of the flimsy plastic bags that the airport flogs from vending machines at either 50p or a £1 a throw.

However, once I arrived at Geneva I was welcomed by warm sunshine (22C) and lovely clear air that revealed the mountains and hills that surround this beautiful city. I don't think I have ever seen the city look lovelier than it did at sunset with the sun radiating off the mountain peaks and the jet d'eau (a fountain that shoots water from Lake Geneva hundreds of feel into the air} shimmering in the last rays if the day. Crossing a bridge that divides the lake from the Rhone I spotted a flock of swans in exactly the numbers and formation of Petipa's choreography proceeding from stage left.  Finally I treated myself to one of the best meals of my life at Cafe Papon.

Seeing the swans on the lake made me contemplate ballet.  Sadly there was nothing doing tonight at the Grand Theatre but there seems to be lots happening at other times of the year.  Right now the Theatre's ballet company is touring Asia with Romeo and Juliet and Giselle but they are returning to Switzerland with Spectre de la Rose.  They seem to have some really interesting new works in their repertoire.

Another company I should like to see is the Basel Ballet. Just look at the power and precision of the dancers in Absolut Dansa in this video.

There are also companies in Zurich, Bern and St Gallen and Maurice Bejart's company is in Lausanne.  Bejart is performing in Senegal in November. In view of the interest in ballet that is developing in Africa it would be nice to see a British company following them.  Many of us tend to overlook Switzerland when we think of ballet and that is probably a mistake because there is a lot going on there.

PS, I have just added Bejart Ballet Lausanne and Geneva Grand Theatre Ballet to my blogroll.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Spartacus - streamed live to Wakefield

Scene from the Bolshoi's Spartacus        Source Wikipedia

In my review of Don Quixote I compared the relationship between ballet streamed to a cinema and ballet in a theatre to that between hamburger and fillet steak (see "¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield" 17 Oct 2013). Well in today's HDTV broadcast of Spartacus to nearly 1,000 cinemas around the world we tasted some raw meat. Or at any rate steak tartare since the performance was brought to us by Pathé Live.

This show was an eye opener: a great score, great choreography and above all great dancing. There was spectacular athleticism from each of the male principals, sultry sexiness from one of the ballerinas and innocent tenderness from the other, a mighty duel and an even mightier battle.  It is a great shame that this ballet is not seen more often in this country.   It is an even greater shame that it is not in the repertoire of any British company.

I suspect that one reason for that is that Spartacus is perceived as a ballet of the Soviet era.  It was first performed by the Kirov (now the Mariinsky) in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1956 which was the year that Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest.  The production that we saw today was choreographed by Yury Grigorovich in 1968 - the year the Warsaw pact deposed Alexander Dubček.  The historical Spartacus has a special place in Communist mythology - though without the slightest basis in Roman history. He is said to have been one of Karl Marx's two heroes (see "Karl Marx's  Confession" 1 April 1865). The revolutionaries who very nearly took control of Germany at the end of the First World War called themselves The Spartacus League.

Very little is known of the historical Spartacus. He was a gladiator and he did lead an insurrection known as the Third Servile War between 73 and 71 BC but there is no evidence that he had a wife called Phrygia (which was a region of Anatolia) or that he worsted the politician and property speculator, Marcus Licinius Crassus, in single combat. The story upon which the ballet is based is a novel by Raffaello Giovagnoli and it bears as much resemblance to classical history as English history does to King Lear.

It is a very good tale, though, and for those who have yet to see the ballet this is the gist. Spartacus and his wife Phrygia are captured by the Roman general Crassus and brought to Rome as slaves. Spartacus is made to fight as a gladiator while Phrygia is forced into concubinage. In one of his fights Spartacus kills a friend. Overcome by remorse he stirs his fellow slaves into rebellion.  While rescuing Phrygia he confronts Crassus and challenges him to duel which Spartacus wins.  Though Crassus is at his mercy Spartacus lets him go. Humiliated at losing the duel, Crassus gets his concubine Aegina (another geographical name, this time an island near Athens) to infiltrate the rebel camp and distract the slaves while his soldiers creep up and ambush them. It is true that Crassus crushed the rebellion but he did that by cruelly disciplining his own soldiers and crucifying the slaves he captured along the Appian Way.

This story creates two powerful roles for the two male principals: Spartacus danced by Mikhail Lobukhin and Crassus danced by Vladislav Lantratov. There are two very different female roles - the proud, seductive, scheming Aegina danced by Svetlana Zakharova and the sweet Phrygia danced by Anna Nikulina who has a lovely smile on her web page but looked understandably the picture of misery in her role.

Having grown up during the cold war I had always thought that the Soviet Union was very straight laced. How, I wondered, could Grigorovich have got away with Aegina's seduction scene during that time.  That question  was actually put to the ballerina who first danced that role by the presenter, Katerina Novikova. She replied that she was told to tone it down the night the authorities were in the auditorium but then she could dance it normally.  The same question might also have been asked about Aram Khatchaturian's score. We in the UK know the adagio from signature tune for the TV series The Onedin Line but there is so much more to this lovely score parts of which reminded me of Bernstein.

Save for a break in transmission towards the very end this was a delightful transmission. I liked  the understated presentation with a single presenter and cameras in the slips and foyer during the intervals. It was a revelation to see Lobukhin limbering up with press-ups before the curtain rose and the shots of the audience in the foyer.  Seeing members of the audience in Moscow chatting or snapping one another with their mobile phones made us feel as though we were in the theatre.  And that is perhaps one of many reasons why people clapped tonight in Wakefield whereas they sat in stony silence in Huddersfield on Wednesday.  I think the Royal Opera House has lessons to learn.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

More Thoughts on Don Quixote

Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev of the Bolshoi   Source Wikipedia

The performance of Don Quixote which was streamed to my local Odeon last Wednesday has prompted me to think about the ballet generally and to ponder why it is not staged more often (see ¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield 17 Oct 2013). Lots of companies dance Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker and Giselle but not so may include Don Quixote in their repertoire.  It is one of those ballets like La Sylphide that everyone has heard of but not actually seen. I have only seen one version of Don Quixote on stage and that was London Festival's at the Coliseum in the late 1960s or early 1970s.  Dame Ninette de Valois tried to stage the ballet for what is now the Royal Ballet in 1950 but it does not seem to have been very popular. 

Although the ballet takes its title from Miguel Cervantes's well known novel it is very much a Russian work (or perhaps, more accurately Eastern European as the score was contributed by an expatriate Austrian).  It is one of Petipa's earliest works having been staged for the first time in 1869 and that may be one of the reasons.  It provides scope for some brilliant dancing by the principals and soloists but it does take liberties with the novel. The ballet really ought to be renamed Basilio and Kitri for that is what the story is all about - a Hispanic Fille mal gardée with a touch of Carmen.  

Save for the coda in the last Act, the music is not very well known.  I had (and possibly still have) a vinyl LP somewhere which I bought from the old Ballet Bookshop in Cecil Court. Does anyone else remember that wonderful source of ballet memorabilia? I played that disc often when I was a student - particularly when I had an essay to write.  The composer Ludwig Minkus wrote a lot of music for the ballet. After many years service at St Petersburg, Minkus returned to his native Vienna where he subsisted on a pension from Russia.  That remittance ended with the First World War as the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia were on opposite sides.  He died in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik revolution, in very straightened circumstances. Having to cope with such circumstances poor old Minkus had more than a little in common with with Cervantes's creation. 

From what I could see from the images that were streamed from Covent Garden, Carlos Acosta has reworked substantially the Petipa ballet.  By dancing Basilio himself and casting another Marianela Nunez, another Latin American dancer, as Kitri he has reclaimed the work for the Spanish speaking world. As I said in my review, the screening left me dissatisfied. All the remaining performances of the ballet this season are fully booked.  I hope Acosta's version stays in the Royal Ballet's repertoire rather longer than de Valois's because I should really ought to see it. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

¡Por favor! Don Quixote streamed to Huddersfield

Huddersfield Odeon

For those who can't get to Covent Garden, the Met or any of the other great opera houses of the world live streaming is a wonderful thing. I'm not going to say that it is the next best thing to being there because in some respects it is better. It doesn't cost as much for a start and sometimes you get insights into the production through interviews with the artists, choreographers, composers, conductors and others that you would never get in any other way. The broadcasts from the Met are particularly good in that regard.

But it is not the same thing because two ingredients of a live performance are missing.  First, there is no interaction with the artists.  You can't clap or at least you can but you will attract a lot of funny looks.  There is not a lot of point because nobody on the stage can hear you.  And you certainly can't shower flowers on the stage as you could when there was a flower market at Covent Garden.  Secondly you see what the camera takes you to.  Great close ups but ballet is intended to be appreciated as a whole from seat G5 in the stalls or even the upper slips of the amphitheatre.

Tonight's broadcast of the Royal Ballet's Don Quixote from the Royal Opera House to cinemas in 21 countries including the Huddersfield Odeon had some very good points.  Great choreography by the multi-talented Carlos Acosta and also great dancing from him as Basilio, Marianela Nunez as Kitri, Ryoichi Hirano as Espada. Laura Morera as Mercedes and Elizabeth Harrod as Amour. The set, costumes, lighting and musical arrangements were sumptuous but these are difficult to appreciate from a distance and indeed in a different medium.  

One plus perhaps of cinema is that I saw a lot more of the character dancers than I would have done in the auditorium.   For me they were the best part of the show.  Character dancing has always been something that the Royal Ballet has done better than any other company - possibly because audiences here are brought up on pantomime. Remember Robert Helpmann and Fred Ashton as the two ugly sisters in Cinderella or Wayne Sleep in just abut any role.  Well Gary Avis, Philip Mosley and above all Christopher Saunders are carrying on that great tradition.

But I left the cinema less than satisfied.  Why?  It may be because I am spoilt.  I have seen a lot of ballet lately and when you have seen the real thing  nothing else will quite do.   As I entered the auditorium an usher was offering wine together with ice cream and popcorn.  "You always have wine with ballet" she said.  That got me thinking.  Ballet in Covent Garden and ballet in Huddersfield Odeon are two different things. As different in their way as fillet steak is from hamburger.   

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Ballet is the little bit of magic that remains when you discover that there is no Father Christmas and there are no fairies at the bottom of your garden

There is a little girl in Carlisle who has just started to learn ballet and her mum wants to show her something more than YouTube videos of ballets. So earlier this evening she tweeted me with a request for listings.  I referred her to North West Dance and Yorkshire Dance which list more or less everything in the North of England between them. I also told her about the Royal Ballet's Don Quixote which is to be streamed live to cinemas around the world on 16 Oct. I also recommended Northern Ballet's Three Little Pigs and Cindarella and as Carlisle is not too far from dear old Glasgow town I suggested Scottish Ballet's "Hansel and Gretel" for the bairn.

What about ballets for kids in the rest of the country? Growing up in Surrey I looked forward to London Festival Ballet's The Nutcracker at the Festival Hall every January. Well that company is now called English National Ballet and they are dancing The Nutcracker in Liverpool between the 20 and 23 Nov and the Coliseum between the 11 Dec and 5 Jan 2014 with a gala on 13 Dec. The Royal Ballet is also staging The Nutcracker  at the Royal Opera House between the 4 Dec and 16 Jan 2014.

Although it is not the best ballet for children because it is so sad and there isn't really a happy ending I understand that Ballet West will be touring with Swan Lake early in the New Year.

I hope the little girl gets as much pleasure from dance as I have had in my lifetime. As I tweeted to her mother 
"Your daughter will find that ballet is the bit of magic that remains after learning there's no Father Christmas or fairies."
Her mother replied that she thought mountains would remain there too and I agreed. Of course, she should find lots of other wonderful things as she grows up such as books and music and maybe science.

If the little girl does take to ballet she should learn more than just pliés and tendus.  Ballet is one art form in which women have always enjoyed at least equality. When we think of great dancers of the past it is always the ballerinas who come first to mind - Taglioni, Elssler, Grisi, Karsavina, Pavlova and Fonteyn. Save perhaps for Nureyev and Nijinsky most members of the public would struggle to name any premiers danseurs nobles.

Also. as kids like those in Mathare progress in their art she should also learn that this is no longer an elitist and Euro-centric art form but one that belongs to every part of humanity.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Rambert at the Lowry - 9 Oct 2013

Dane Marie Rambert    Source: Wikipedia

Although it no longer includes "Ballet" in its title and it now describes itself as "our national company for contemporary dance" Rambert is in fact our oldest ballet company, Founded as the Ballet Club in 1926 it pre-dates the Vic-Wells Ballet, the precursor of the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, by about 5 years. Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Anton Dolin and Dame Alicia Markova were all with Dame Marie Rambert, the founder of the company (see "A History of Rambert").

Dame Marie had danced with Diaghilev.  Rambert proudly displayed its heritage with Nijinsky's L'après-midi d'un faune which opened the quadruple bill at the Lowry in Salford last night.  Faun was one of the first ballets I ever saw and it remains one of my favourites as you can from my "Hommage au Faune" 9 July 2013. I think it was that work and in particular Bakst's set that won me to ballet many years agi  I saw Faun for the second time only last July when the Boston Ballet came to London (see "Boston Ballet: 'High as a flag on the Fourth of July!'" 7 July 2013). As I quipped in my twitter stream, ballets are a bit like buses. You wait an age for them then two come along at once. Rambert's production, unlike Boston's, did without Bakst's backdrop though the costumes were much the same.  Possibly The faun was danced intricately by Dane Hurst and the Nymph exquisitely by Angela Towler.  I had last seen Hurst at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala at Sadler's Wells on 29 Sept 2013 where he had danced Insala to music by Ladysmith Black Mambazo (see "More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song" 30 Sep 2013). Hurst impressed me then and he impressed me last night.

Chosen to accompany Faun was Mark Baldwin's "What Wild Ecstasy" with music commissioned from Gavin Higgins. As the curtain rise two giant wasps hanging from the ceiling prompted a murmur from an audience composed largely of schoolchildren.  The kids were a little distracting at times - particularly in the opening bars of Faun as cackles and titters - but it was still good to see them there.  The headgear of the dancers suggested flowers and insects and the ballet ended with a shower of yellow balls forming a circle on the ground which I took to represent pollen.

Next came Tim Rushton's Monolith, a very mysterious and haunting work set to the music of Pēteris Vasks. The programme states that "Monolith is inspired by pieces of monumental greatness and the people who formed them with their presence belief and mysteries." The set by Charlotte Østergaard and Rushton reminded me of images of Mars from Curisotiy with a range of hills and a volcano in the distance. Hues of reds, other worldly blues.  Watch this clip and form your own view.

The last work was The Castaways by the young American choreographer Barak Marshall and yesterday was its world première.   It is not every day that I get to a premiere much less review it.   This was more play than dance but still very enjoyable.  Twelve characters stuck in a cellar with no communication with the outside world except through a funnel through which were sent a bag of mail and a loaf of bread.  The music was eclectic ranging from English and Yiddish songs to the national anthem of the former Soviet Union.  All danced well but the following attracted my attention in particular: Kym Alexander, Kiril Biurlow and Vanessa Kang.

Rambert is about to move to splendid new premises on the South Bank and has invited the public to a series of events to celebrate their move in December.  I shall certainly take them up on their invitation.  I hope the move goes well for them.

Further Reading

9 Oct 2013   "The Castaways: Barak Marshall Creates For Rambert" The Ballet Bag

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Galina Rakhmanova

I learned from the Mariinsky's Facebook page the very sad news that Galina Rakhmanova has died at the age of 49. 

I never got the chance to see her on stage and now I never shall but we can still appreciate something of her art from a video that someone has uploaded to YouTube in her memory. 

My sincere commiserations to her fellow artists, students, friends and relations.

Monday, 7 October 2013

London Ballet Circle

I mentioned the London Ballet Circle in August on 31 Aug 2013. I have now joined the Circle or rather rejoined it as I was a member while I was an undergraduate at St Andrews in the early 1970s but allowed my membership to lapse when I went to UCLA for graduate studies in the USA. Now that I have rejoined I am getting all sorts of useful information in its newsletters and Facebook page.

For instance there is an announcement about the English National Ballet School's special public performances at its studio theatre on Hortensia Road on Saturday 19 October, at 14:00 and 16:00 as part of the Chelsea Festival.  It also celebrates the school's 25th anniversary.  Tickets are £10 for adults £10 and £5 for children and further information can be obtained from  on 020 7376 7076.  If I lived in or near London I would be there like a shot.

While talking about the English National Ballet School I should add that two of its students did well at the Genée which I mentioned in "Yet More Good News from Ballet West - Natasha Watson's Medal in the Genée" 30 Sept 2013. . Isabelle Brouwers received a silver medal and John-Rhys Halliwell a bronze. John-Rhys Halliwell also won the audience award.  Belated congratulations to those guys and all the best for the future.  I look forward to seeing them on the stage soon.

More useful information that I have just received from the London Ballet Circle is about Dance UK, the national voice for dance. The website of this organization has information about auditions, events, fitness, jobs and campaigns.  One of the items is Launch in Leeds on 23 Oct which is on my home turf. It is a day long seminar on "How to make a living in dance and how to have a long career" which is run by Northern Ballet, Phoenix, Leeds Met and Yorkshire Dance. Jolly interesting even to someone like me who is far too old and far too fat and arthritic to have any aspirations to a career in dance.

Finally the London Ballet Circle is holding a special event for its new president Sir Peter Wright on the 28 Oct 2013. I would love to have attended the event but I will be on my way back from a meeting of arbitrators that takes place at the UN agency for intellectual property in Geneva that day. The evening for Sir Peter promises to be splendid and I hope everybody who can attend has a great time.  I shall look forward o reading all about it.

You should by now have realized that it is worth joining the London Ballet Circle even if, like me, you live nowhere near London and give the Big Smoke the widest of all possible berths.  If you want to join here is their membership page with details of subs and how to join up.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Ballet Black: "we don't talk about stuff, we just do it."

Cassa Pancho, Source: BBC Ballet Black opens up dance world 11 Oct 2011

Cassa Pancho, the founder and artistic director of Ballet Black has just posted a very thoughtful and interesting article to her company's Facebook page. It discusses a number of issues including race and ballet which she generally tries to avoid for several reasons, one of which is that Ballet Black does not talk about stuff it just does it. Rather than comment on the article I urge you to read it for yourself.

I should however like to develop one point that Cassa Pancho makes in her article which is that:
"the future lies in young children attending ballet classes around the country, who are not yet old enough to be judged as professionals." 
Now this is true of all dancers and not just those of African or South Asian heritage but Ballet Black helps to promote diversity in ballet in a rather special way. It runs a a junior ballet school in Shepherd's Bush "where children of all colours, creed, shape and gender are welcome" and an associate programme for "vocational dance school, professional dancers, retired dancers, in-between-jobs dancers and people who aren't pros but love ballet and have enough skill to keep up" open to people of every colour which "are taught by people who excel in their field AND are of black or Asian descent." By so doing the company is not just offering inspiration to kids of all classes and cultures through its principal dancers, it is creating an environment in which ballet is perceived less as something that is elitist and European and more as an art form that folk of all races, nationalities, religions, classes and cultures can own.

Ballet Black does great work which deserves the public's support and the public can support that work through the company's Just Giving page.

However, Ballet Black works in an advanced country. As there is no reason to suppose that talent is concentrated in any particular country or ethnic group there must be far more folk with talent that is never developed in countries or communities where there are no ballet schools or even companies than those who rise to the top in countries like the UK where such institutions exist.

One such dancer is Michaela DePrince of the Junior Company of the National Ballet of the Netherlands.  I have written about her in two articles "No Holds Barred" 4 Oct 2013 and Michaela DePrince 4 April 2013. The reason I have taken an interest in her - other than that I have been impressed by the videos of her that I have seen on YouTube - is that she comes from Sierra Leone and that is a country I know better than most as I was married for nearly 30 years to a Sierra Leonean. According to her video she was attracted to ballet by a photo of a dancer that she found in a magazine outside her orphanage and she was given the opportunity to study ballet only by the happenstance that she was adopted by folk from the USA where her talent could be identified and nurtured.

A charity that is working in another African country is Anno's Africa. I blogged about their work in Mathare, a particularly deprived area of Nairobi in "What can be achieved by a good teacher" on 3 March 2013. In that article I wrote:
"In many ways the kids in this class have had the worst possible start in life but in one very important respect they could not have had a better one. Look at the teacher, Mike Wamaya. He is good."
According to Anno Africa's blog the company now has another teacher from the United States who has danced professionally. I have Googled her and found a YouTube video that suggests she is very good.  Would it not be lovely if one of the students from Mathare presented him or herself to Cassa Pancho or indeed David Nixon, David Bintley or Christopher Hampson for audition one of these days!

Anno's Africa also has a Facebook page and a Just Giving page if you are feeling generous but please continue to support Ballet Black and all our other schools and companies as well.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Ronaldo likes Ballet

I am a bit of a fan of the TV series "Spiral" or "Engrenages" as it is called in France. It is about the Paris underworld and the French criminal justice system.  The heroine of the series is Captain Laure Berthaud, a plain clothes officer played by Catherine Proust while her arch enemy is a really nasty Latin American psychopath by the name of Ronaldo Fuentes. Here's a photo of him behind his red headed counsel at what I seem to remember was his bail application.  Known as "the butcher," he kills and mutilates women in the most horrid way.

Incensed by his viciousness Captain Berthaud makes it her personal mission to hunt him down.  In the series that was shown on British television the Captain eventually corners him but, rather than take him into custody, she discharges two bullets at him at point blank range. 

And that, mes amis, one might think was the end of that.  But one would be wrong for it seems that Ronaldo has survived and has an account on twitter. Not only that but he seems to like ballet.  Last week he mentioned my article on Dave Tries Ballet as well as another article on a music industry convention in Dubai in The Dark Shadows Daily. Naturally, I thanked him for the mentions.  He replied:
"@nipclaw Even though I have to lie low from les flics, I do enjoy a bit of nutcracking at l'Opéra de temps en temps"
I was a bit surprised that a serial killer should like a ballet about a pre-pubescent girl's dreams of a battle between mice and toy soldiers and an excursion through the land of sweets.  Giselle with its ghosts of women who had died horrible deaths seemed to be more in his line.  So I replied:
"@Ronaldo_Fuentes J'aurais pensé que vous preferez <<Giselle>> avec toutes les femmes mortes sauf Myrthe vous rappelle une certaine policiere."
which I translate as
"@Ronaldo_Fuentes I'd have though that you would prefer Giselle with all those dead women unless Myrthe reminds you of a certain woman police officer."
 Myrthe, in case the allusion is not obvious, is the Queen of the Wilis (the ghosts of these poor, unfortunate women) and she sees it as her mission to revenge herself on mankind (and I do mean MAN kind and not humankind) just as Captain Berthaud saw it as her mission to avenge the women Ronaldo had butchered.

Ronaldo replied to my tweet:
"@nipclaw C'est drôle ça. J'adore Laure et Giselle, mais Carmen est ma danseuse préférée. Oublie pas que je suis un latino, gringa:) A toute!"
Again, I translate loosely.
"@nipclaw That's so funny. I adore Laure and Giselle, but Carmen is my preferred dancer. Don't forget I'm a Latino, "Gringa" (Limey) :) See you!"
Now Carmen is a popular opera but it is not quite so well known as a ballet, at least not in the English speaking world. However, Roland Petit did choreograph a version for his wife, the remarkable Zizi Jeanmaire. Jenmaire was a very sensuous dancer and I can just imagine her dancing the Hanbanera.
"L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
Que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
Et c’est bien in vain qu’on l’appelle
S’il lui convient de refuser."
I translate as:
"Love is like an untamed birdThat nobody can cage.It is pointless calling after himIf it suits him to stay away."
However, I did find this clip of Ulana Lopatkina which in my humble opinion is more than acceptable.

I have tweeted it to Ronaldo:
"Pour @ronaldo_fuentes, je cherchais le habanera de Zizi Jeanmaire mais cette danseuse russe va assez bien a mon avis"
 "For @ronaldo_fuentes. I looked for Zizi Jeanmaire's Hananera but I think this Russian dancer is at least OK."
I wonder if he agrees. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

No Holds Barred

I have got even greater respect for the kids of Mathare whom I mentioned in my article "What can be achieved by a good teacher" (3 March 2013). Like them I have had a class without a barre.  You have to concentrate much harder just to keep your balance let alone perform an exercise correctly. On the other hand you do learn something about weight distribution particularly with glissés and tendus.   

On the subject of Africa I am pleased to see that Michaela dePrince, who was born in Sierra Leone, is now in Europe. She is with the Junior Company of the National Ballet of the Netherlands. As I mentioned in my article, Ms de Prince appears to have exceptional talent and I was saving my pennies to see her in New York.  Thanks to budget airlines the Netherlands is a lot of cheaper and easier to reach than the USA. This is the Junior Company's schedule for the next 6 months.

I have a lot of connections with Sierra Leone through marriage and through looking after another young woman whose family was displaced by the civil war. I visited the country and travelled around it in 2007.   When I was there the scars of the conflict were still very visible.  Watch this short video in which de Prince tells her story.

Louis Smith  Source Wikipedia
Also impressive in another way is our British Olympic medallist Louis Smith who was challenged to learn ballet. A short film "Louis Learns Ballet" on the Royal Academy of Dance's website shows that he had some natural aptitude for the art for he seems to have made quite remarkable progress.

Also on the new website is an article by Jennifer MacFarlane the RAD's manager in Scotland on the Genée which was held in Glasgow this year (Some Thoughts from Scotland on Genée 2013).  Most of the article is about fund raising but there is a beautiful picture of medallist Natasha Watson from Ballet West with her award.  I mentioned this young dancer's success in
"Yet More Good News from Ballet West - Natasha Watson's Medal in the Genée" on 30 Sept and the article seems to have gone viral. Ms. Watson is another outstanding dancer I look forward to seeing on the stage.

Although I try to keep the ballet separate from the law my chambers have provisionally booked the boardroom of Northern Ballet's premises for a 3 hour seminar on recent developments in intellectual property on 11 Dec 2013 for local solicitors and patent and trade mark attorneys.  Attendees will be asked to donate to Northern Ballet's "Sponsor a Dancer" and the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School Appeals.


In "Engaging Generation Y in ballet – thoughts and ideas" whose blog I featured in "Fantastic New Blog: Dave Tries Ballet" mentions another sportsman who incorporates ballet into his training schedule:
"British Olympic swimmer Liam Tancock uses ballet seriously within his training. I think one of the best things about Tancock is that he’s so “matter of fact” about doing ballet. Being interviewed by the BBC (BBC Article) he points out the benefits of ballet and how it’s impacted his performance. "
He also refers to a conversation between a rugby player and a dancer. The context of those observations was a discussion on engaging young adults in opera and dance.  Dave had been approached by RESEO (the European Network for Opera and Dance Education) to contribute to the Network's Autumn conference on "GENERATION Y: Engaging young adults in opera and dance".  I agree with his view that often the most effective way to connect with his (or indeed any other) generation is by not 'trying too hard and that "the easiest way to make ballet accessible is by making it seem 'normal.'”  However, rather than comment on that article in detail I invite you to read it for yourselves.