Saturday, 31 May 2014

Tempestuous Choice - Amsterdam or Leeds?

As I mentioned in "Amsterdam or London?" earlier today the Dutch National Ballet are dancing "The Tempest" between the 18 and 29 June. Having seen Pastor's Romeo and Juliet two weeks ago I would love to see it but I come only travel to the Netherlands on a weekend. I have tickets for Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill on the 21 June 2014 which includes van Manen's Concertante as well as a new work by Kenneth Tindall and on the 29 there is Northern Ballet Academy's Tenth Anniversary Gala. Also, and don't laugh too loud, I am dancing myself on the 28 June in Northern Ballet Academy's end of term show in the same theatre as the Mixed Bill and the Gala.

Northern Ballet danced Concertante last year and I loved it (see "Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill" 9 June 2013). Since then I have twice seen the wonderful dancers of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company dance Kwintet and I have even seen the great choreographer take a bow at the Stadsshouwburg with my very own eyes (see "And can they fly! The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at Covent Garden" 30 May 2014 and "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013" 25 Nov 2013). I very much want to see it again.

The last performance of The Tempest in Amsterdam coincides with Northern Ballet Academy's Tenth Anniversary Gala. I am a pupil at that Academy as well as one of its Friends (see "Realizing a Dream" 12 Sept 2013) and I became a Friend after seeing its great teachers at work at the Northern Ballet Open Day on the 16 Feb 2014. Like every other company's ballet school our Academy trains the very best of the best for the stage but it also reaches out to old ladies like me (and from time to time the occasional sprightly gentleman) as well as students whose movement and expression are challenged in many other ways. It is a great institution and I would urge everyone to consider supporting it as a Friend.

The gala on the 29 June sounds fun:
  • a "decadent" afternoon tea (what can they be putting in the tea or adding to the butties?)
  • a gala performance by the CAT students (if you want to know what "CAT stands for ask the Academy and not me); and finally
  • a drinks reception.
Quite a lot for £50 I think you will agree.

And the 28 June is my big day.  Vlad the Lad and his mum and dad are travelling up from London to see me. Having been thrilled by the magnificent Michaela DePrince on Thursday and being besotted by Ballet Black's wonderful dancers I am afraid my darling girl is in for something of an anticlimax when she sees me on stage. But never mind! We shall be dancing to some lovely music by Shostakovich (the soundtrack from the Soviet film the Return of Maxim). It is something I never dreamed would ever happen to me. To dance on the same stage where I have seen Martha Leebolt, Tobias Batley, Sarah Kundi, Cira Robinson ......

However, I will be back in Amsterdam for Swan Lake in September and Jewels and Cool Britannia next year. If I can only navigate my way to the Friends page on the Dutch National Ballet site I will gladly subscribe 50 euros to become their Friend too.

Amsterdam or London?

When I travelled to Amsterdam to see the Junior Company Dutch National Ballet for the first time last November nothing could have been easier or more pleasant.  Contrast it with my trek to the capital of my own country to see them again at The Linbury. That journey could not have been more trying and cost a great deal more.

The flight to Amsterdam lasted 45 minutes. Though we are not in Shengen customs and immigration took minutes to clear. Outside the terminal at Schipol airport a bus was waiting to take me to my hotel in the Leidseplein which cost something like 4 euros.  The hotel was literally across the road from the Stadsschouwburg where the Junior Company was performing.  You can actually see a bit of the theatre in the photo on the hotel's home page. I booked through and got a room with a shower for under 100 euro. The hotel is about a quarter of a mile from the restored Rijksmuseum where I gorged my eyes on Rembrandt and the other masters.  The performance at the Stadsshouwburg was magnificent (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013" 25 Nov 2013). After the show I consumed a traditional Dutch 3 course meal at The Pantry with a glass of beer for about 35 euros. I remember that the speciality of the house had a long Dutch name but looked and tasted very much like cottage pie. I then wrote my review using one of the hotel's computers in the business centre rather than its expensive wifi, had a good night's sleep and caught my bus back to Schipol at 06:30 in good time for my flight home.

I live in Holmfirth in the Pennines near the Peak District National Park. It is a beautiful part of the world and I have a 4 bedroom house with stunning views for the cost of a dog kennel in Kensal Rise. It is only 200 miles from London as the crow flies. No distance at all to an Angeleno or a Sydneysider.  But have you seen the train fares to Euston, King's Cross or St Pancras? Or the cost of parking at a mainline station car park? Or the time you need to allow to pick up your ticket from the temperamental ticket machines?

Through trial and error over the years I have worked out that the best way to London is to drive to Luton Parkway (164 miles away) where I can park for £2 after 17:00 and take Thameslink to Farringdon or Holborn Viaduct for £9.35.  When the M1 is clear the drive to Luton Parkway from Dodworth takes 2 1/2 hours - only an hour longer than  the drive to Sheffield or Manchester and the time you have to allow for parking and getting your ticket. But right now the M1 is not clear. There is a 20 mile stretch of roadworks from Derbyshire to Sheffield which will take a year to finish and when there is an accident as there was yesterday it takes hours for the carriageway to be cleared.  If you break your journey in London even at a Travelodge you're talking about serious money. And as for restaurants ..... £75 for a curry for 3 in Drury Lane.

Even more annoying than the prices and congestion in London is the arrogance of London audiences who can't acknowledge excellence from outside when they see it.  They were presented with excellence by Scottish Ballet two weeks ago (see "Scottish Ballet's Timeless Romeo and Juliet" 15 May 2014) and all that they could do was grumble that Pastor's ballet was not the same as Macmillan's. I have already mentioned the reluctance of the audience at the Linbury to give those marvellous kids of the Junior Company the accolade that they had received in Amsterdam and which they so richly deserved in London after dancing their hearts out ("And can they fly! The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at Covent Garden" 30 May 2014). And when I happened to mention in a discussion on Ballet Black that Christopher Marney is my favourite living British choreographer I was answered by a post of a long list of others the inference being that I can't possibly have seen very much. When I pointed out that my respondent had omitted David Nixon and Tindall from his list I received an even more condescending observation in reply.

So I have been looking round for an alternative to London and I think I have found it in Amsterdam.  Just look at the programme of the Dutch National Ballet for the coming year. Right now they are touring with Ashton's Midsummer Night's Dream and Paquita in Dreams. Next month they are launching Pastor's Tempest. Having been thrilled by Scottish Ballet's Romeo and Juliet I am eager to see more of his work.  It may not be possible as the 21 clashes with Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill and the 29 clashes with Northern Ballet Academy's Friends Gala. But I will be back for van Dantzig's Swan Lake in September (of which we got a little taste on Thursday) and Jewels and Cool Britannia next year.

Of course I won't give up on London altogether. I still love the Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, Rambert, Ballet Black and so much more.  You will still catch me occasionally at the House, the Coliseum and the Wells.  I am braving the roads yet again tomorrow to see Clement Crisp interview Lady Macmillan and Donald Macleary's Masterclass at Ivy House, Anna Palova's old home at 15:30. I am staying over to see Chris Marney at the London Ballet Circle. But London had better look out. Amsterdam, Paris and Copenhagen are serious alternatives for a change of scenery.

Friday, 30 May 2014

And can they fly! The Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at Covent Garden

In "The Flying Dutchmen are coming to London" I wrote:
"Well they are not all Dutch, of course, and only half of them are men but, as you can see from the clip above. they can all fly."
And fly they did from the high pitch whine of Daniel Montero's gyrations in Ballet 101 to the magnificent jumps of Sho Yamada and Michaela DePrince in the pas de deux from Diana et Acteon. Yesterday was the end of a 6 month tour of the towns and cities of the Netherlands plus Vitoria and Oviedo in Spain and the Linbury in Covent Garden that started at the Stadsshouwburg in Amsterdam on 24 Nov 2013. I saw them at the start of their tour and reviewed their performance in "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013" on 25 Nov 2013. I was amazed then but the company was even better last night.

The show in the Linbury followed very much the format that I had seen in Amsterdam. There were eight short ballets introduced by a video clip. The only difference is that the speeches in Dutch were edited out, Having seen the show before and knowing the Linbury I selected my seats carefully. The middle of row G in the Arena so that my eyes were approximately the same height as the dancers'. I calculated that these would be just about the best sets in the house.

The reason I chose my seats with such care is that I brought my sister in law and the nearest I have to a daughter to the show. They are both Sierra Leonean and I wanted them to see DePrince, a Sierra Leonean born dancer whom I had previously described as "quite simply the most exciting dancer I have seen for quite a while." For many years Sierra Leone was in the news for all the wrong reasons and whenever there was a report of a coup or atrocity my late spouse who had known the country in better times was driven to tears. I watched the faces of my guests as DePrince as Diana entered from the right of the stage with her bow and their joy and their pride were palpable. As she executed one amazing feat after another their pride increased like the whine of Montero's engine. Seeing their happiness - indeed our happiness -was reason enough to make the 400 mile return journey to see that show.

But DePrince is just one of 12 prodigious talents.  As George Williamson said in his video introduction to Dawn Dances the dancers of the Junior Company come from all over the world and they all have different qualities. Yesterday I concentrated on some of the dancers I had missed last time. Thomas van Damme, for instance, who opened the evening with Nancy Burer in Minuet.  Van Damme also danced in Hans van Manen's Kwintet an exposition of almost architectural symetry created originally for Alexandra Radius. I have always admired van Manen's work but I saw new complexities which left me wanting more. Happily I don't have long to wait as Northern Ballet will be dancing Concertante in Leeds between the 18 and 21 June,

As in Amsterdam my favourite ballet of the evening was Ernst Meisner's Saltarello. That is the ballet that shows the dancers to their best advantage. DePrince and Yamada were magnificent in that ballet but so were Montero and Sofia Rubio Robles. Fast and spectacular it must have been such a joy to dance. It was certainly a delight to watch. The yellows and reds of the costumes flickered like flames in a hearth.

The finale was Williamson's Dawn Dances which was performed for the first time in the United Kingdom on Thursday. As with Kwintet I noticed qualities in the work that I had missed before as well as Oliver Haller's designs and Judd Greenstein's score. It is an exuberant ballet well suited to young dancers.  It is a work that I could see again and again.

The Linbury is a very different theatre from the Staddshouwburg.  In is smaller and more confined.  The crowd were appreciative clapping and cheering in the right places but somehow the atmosphere was different from that wonderful night in November.  This seemed an even better performance than in November which was rewarded by the audience rising to its feet as one.   If ever a troupe of performers deserved a standing ovation it was those 12 great kids last night. It should have been easy as those at the top and sides of the auditorium were already standing. I rose but nobody else in the Arena joined me and in the end I sat down so as not to spoil the view of those behind me. Ah well! London is London. Always a bit too snooty. Now if my friend Mel had been with me it would have been different.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Inventions for the Ballet

Patent examiners in 1900 courtesy the IPO
Over the last few weeks I have been writing about intellectual property and ballet. I have concentrated largely on copyrights, rights and performances and trade marks because these are the rights that are most important to companies, theatres and dancers; but there are others such as registered and registered Community designs, unregistered design right and patents for inventions. I was therefore interested to see Lauren Godfrey's recent post "The wonderful world of ballet inventions". Lauren is Northern Ballet's publicity officer and her blog is fascinating. I read and enjoy everything she writes.

Lauren Godfrey - author of
The Wonderful World of
Ballet Inventions
As I said in "Branding and Ballet - Copyright and Rights in Performances" 3 May 2014 "intellectual property ("IP") is a portmanteau terms for the bundle of laws that protect investment in intellectual assets." The intellectual assets that patents protect are inventions. There is no statutory definition of "invention" in England though s.1 (2) of the Patents Act 1977 declares what is not an invention.  However, it may be surmised from s.60 (1) that an invention may be a new product or a new process.

Patent law in England goes back a very long way. In the 17th century the Stewart kings tried to dispense with Parliament by selling monopolies of various commodities. As you can imagine this and other money making wheezes of the sovereign were not very popular with the public and they did not raise enough money anyway. Eventually King James I was forced to convene Parliament in order to raise taxes. Parliament agreed to vote him some money but only on condition that the king abolished monopolies.

The Act of Parliament that implemented that bargain was The Statute of Monopolies 1623. The Act provided that:
"All [Monapolies] and all Commissions Graunts Licences Charters and tres patents heretofore made or graunted, or hereafter to be made or graunted to any person or persons Bodies Politique or Corporate whatsoever of or for the sole buyinge sellinge makinge workinge or usinge of any thinge within this Realme or the Dominion of Wales, or of any other Monopolies, or of Power Liberty or Facultie to dispence with any others, . . . , are altogether contrary to the Lawes of this Realme, and so are and shalbe utterlie void and of none effecte, and in noe wise to be putt in ure or execucion."
However it was subject to one proviso and that was
"That any Declaracion before mencioned shall not extend to any tres Patents and Graunt of Privilege for the tearme of fowerteene yeares or under, hereafter to be made of the sole working or makinge of any manner of new Manufactures within this Realme, to the true and first Inventor and Inventors of such Manufactures, which others at the tyme of makinge such tres Patents and Graunts shall not use, soe as alsoe they be not contrary to the Lawe nor mischievous to the State, by raisinge prices of Commodities at home, or hurt of Trade, or generallie inconvenient; the said fourteene yeares to be [accomplished] from the date of the first tres Patents or Grant of such priviledge hereafter to be made, but that the same shall be of such force as they should be if this Act had never byn made, and of none other."
That exception is the basis of our own and every other country's patent law.

A patent confers a monopoly on the manufacture, importation, stocking, marketing, distribution of use of patented products or products derived from a patented processes. In order to qualify for this monopoly, the invention has to be new. involve an inventive step, be capable of industrial application and not fall within any of a number of statutory exceptions. To apply for this monopoly the inventor has to pay quite a lot of money to a patent attorney to prepare the application. The applicant must describe the invention in sufficient detail for it to be made or used by someone with the relevant skills and knowledge ("person skilled in the art") after the monopoly ends. He or she must also pay for the patent office to search its records to see whether the invention or something close to it has already been invented. If, and only if the office is satisfied that the invention meets all the statutory criteria, then it will grant a patent. The cost of that process for the UK alone is around £5,000.  For  the UK and several other European countries it can be several times that amount. If protection is also sought in big manufacturing countries overseas like China, Japan, Korea and the USA, the total bill will be even higher.

After the patent is granted there are renewal fees to pay in each country. In some countries these actually increase with the passage of time. If the patent is infringed or its validity is challenged, proceedings in the Patents Court can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Even in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court the costs could be many tens of thousands of which only £50,000 is recoverable from the losing party. Patents are granted for terms of up to 20 years from the date of filing. Once that term has expired anyone can work the patent. However if a court or Intellectual Property Office decides that a patent should never have been granted it can revoke the patent immediately whereupon anyone can make use of the invention.

According to Peter Bissell and Graham Barker who wrote "A Better Mousetrap: the Business of Invention" only a small proportion of patented inventions on the world's patent office registers are ever worked. Of those that are, only a few ever cover their costs.  Just a handful ever make serious money for their owners.

For all those reasons patents are of limited interest to companies, dancers or theatres. They are more likely to be of interest to companies that make flooring, footwear, textiles or perhaps to broadcasters and electronics manufacturers. All the patents and patent applications in Lauren's post will have expired or about to expire by now (if indeed they ever ran their full term) except for the high-heeled bifunctional pointe shoe. However, you never know.  I will certainly mention patents in my seminar on IP and ballet.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bounden Launched

I have already mentioned Bounden, a game that has been developed by Game Oven a Dutch software house in collaboration with the Dutch National Ballet on two occasions (see "Bounden - Something that appeals to my Interests in Technology and Dance" 17 Dec 2013 and "Bounden Part II - How it Works" 1 Feb 2014). The game has now been launched in the same week as the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company began its tour of Spain and England ("The Flying Dutchmen are coming to London"  24 May 2014). 

So far Bounden is available only on iPhones but Game Oven is developing a number of Android versions. I say a "number" because the game depends on a gyroscope and different phones have different types of gyroscope or in some cases no gyroscope at all. That means different software for different devices. The company has appealed to Android users to help it test and perfect its software for their phones. I have responded to the appeal and will let you know what happens.

Since the launch Game Oven has received a lot of plaudits for its iPhone version. Some of the folk who have tried it claim that it actually teaches ballet.  Jason Johnson of writes:
"Bounden will teach you ballet and help you hook up."
Jessica Conditt, adds:
"Bounden either turns players into graceful ballet dancers, courtesy of the Dutch National Ballet's expertise, or into giggling messes."
I suspect that is a bit of an exaggeration. I can't see how an app can dispense with years of barre work and centre exercises but it is obviously a lot of fun. With specially commissioned music and choreography by Meisner it is the nearest I will ever get to class with a grand sujet of the Dutch National Ballet who first distinguished himself in our own Royal Ballet.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Who is this Terpsichore Bint anyway?

The Nine Muses including Terpsichore on a Roman Sarcophagus
Source Wikipedia

When I was young which was not all that long ago nearly everybody who was likely to appreciate ballet would have studied at least a little Latin and probably some Greek. They would have known who Τερψιχόρη was or, at the very least, how to pronounce her name correctly. Sadly that is not the case today for I am often introduced or referred to as Terpsi-core. For future reference there is a useful pronunciation guide (albeit with an American accent) on YouTube.

I don't know whose fault it is but I suspect Lady Williams who did away with grammar schools. If not her then maybe one of Lady Thatcher's Education Secretaries who sacrificed the classics in pursuit of the chimera of relevance. If that was indeed the aim then it was sadly misconceived for nothing has prepared me more for life than the classics. Not only have they helped me understand and express myself in my own tongue but they have helped me learn also other natural languages including those not derived from Latin such as Japanese. They also helped me to learn programming because computers are (or at least were) very unforgiving just like my masters at St. Paul's. I suspect the abandonment of Latin has much to do with the decline in our children's ability to code and the rise of UKIP.

Anyway I digress, Terpsichore was one of nine muses who personified the arts and literature. They were the daughters of Zeus, the ruler of the gods. Terpsichore was the muse of dance and she carried a lyre. The others in alphabetical order were Calliope, muse of poetry, Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (song and elegiac poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (sacred music), Thalia (comedy) and Urania (astronomy). You will see them all lined up in the frieze above which I think is in the Louvre. I believe Terpsichore is third from the the right. There are more images of Terpsichore on the Warburg Institute website.

As the muse of dance Terpsichore has been the subject of many ballets including one by Marius Petipa to the music of Cesare Pugni.  She also appears in Balanchine's Apollo which was revived recently by the Royal Ballet. There are many dance schools around the world that call themselves Terpsichore. There is lots of other references to her in film, drama and literature and I have even found a page for Terpsichore on Facebook.

Post Script

Here is another post on the continuing relevance of the classics. Interestingly it appeared on the Old Paulines Alumni Linkedin Group of which I am also a member. Probably the only female member.

Classical studies still relevant today

Helping people and automating everything elseHandling PTSD - soldiers returning from battle, brought the war home with them
A soldier returns home from battle but has brought the war with him. He stares off into the distance, unable to take joy in his family or friends, still hyperalert to threats he no longer faces. Unable to heal his invisible wound, he takes his own.
Ancient warrior myths help veterans fight

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Flying Dutchmen are coming to London

Well they are not all Dutch, of course, and only half of them are men but, as you can see from the clip above. they can all fly. And they are flying in a different sense this week. Having completed a tour of the Netherlands they are going international. Tonight they are performing at the Teatro Campoamor in Oviedo. On Wednesday and Thursday they are coming to the Linbury.

I saw the opening of their tour in Amsterdam on the 24 Nov 2013 (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013"  25 Nov 2013). It was a night I shall always remember. The members of the audience rose to their feet as one and the theatre literally vibrated with the applause. I have known other great performances where there have been standing ovations but I have known only one night to compare with that evening in Amsterdam. That was the gala for Sir Frederick Ashton in the Royal Opera House on the 24 July 1970 (see the photo of the curtain call on the Royal Ballet's Flickr stream). 

I have written a lot about the Junior Company in this blog and on BalletcoForum because they are special. There are other junior companies in the world but this one is different in that its members had already distinguished themselves before they entered its ranks. Michaela DePrince for instance had danced Gulnare in South Africa when she was only 17 and was with the Dance Theatre of Harlem before she joined the company. They are thus the crème de la crème of their generation. The Junior Company is a centre of excellence perhaps comparable with elite institutions in other fields like Harvard Business School or the SAS.

Someone from the Dutch National Ballet posted a message about the Junior Company's visit to London on the Balletco Forum website yesterday which I answered. In their reply to me the spokesperson said:
"Hi Terpischore, yes I've read your post on your website, it was a very special occasion indeed, great that you could make it! and so nice you will come and see the company again. I am curious about your opinion this time, the Junior dancers have really grown up this season :-)"
It was the last 8 words that pulled me up with a jolt. Those artists were already good enough to prompt a standing ovation from one of the most sophisticated audiences in the world six months ago. How much better can they get?

Well on Thursday I shall find out. British interest will focus on Michaela DePrince since there is a massive Sierra Leonean community in this country two of whom will be coming with me. DePrince is the nearest we have to a local girl and we shall want to make her feel at home.  Though there are no British dancers in the Junior Company this year there are plenty of British connections. Meisner himself danced with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. The pas de quatre from Sleeping Beauty was choreographed by Sir Peter Wright. The whole of the third Act is a ballet by George Williamson.

As you can see I am already a fan of this company. If you want another view try Sanne Thierens's "Grandiosity from members of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company" 11 May 2014 in Bachtrack. There are still a few tickets for sale if you hurry.  Call 020 7304 4000 or click this link.

Post Script

The Junior Company's short international tour opened in Oviedo in Asturias last night.

Ernst Meisner tweeted:

Something for us all to look forward to.

Friday, 23 May 2014

What could be more thrilling than a Ride on a Roller Coaster? A performance by Ballet Black!

Ballet Black, Triple Bill, The Atkinson, Southport 23 May 2014

I have just returned from Southport where I saw Ballet Black. They danced the works that I saw at the Linbury in February (see "Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014" 27 Feb 2014). It was the same programme but different - and different in a good way for I thought that they danced better than I had ever seen them dance before.

The first ballet was Limbo by Martin Lawrence which he set to a score by Hindemith.  As in February the male dancers were  Jose Alves and Jacob Wye but Isabela Coracy danced the female role. She interpreted it quite differently from Cira Robinson. Robinson is a remarkably graceful and elegant classical dancer. Coracy is a ball of energy and extremely strong. I have been a Coracy fan ever since I saw her dance Diana and Actaeon with Helenonilson Ferreira on YouTube (see "Ballet Black's New Dancers" 24 Sept 2013). That was the piece that I saw Michaela de Prince dance in Amsterdam ("The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam" 24 Nov 2013). Like de Prince Coracy has enormous potential and it is likely that she and de Prince will be compared throughout their careers.

As readers of this blog may have noticed, I am also something of a Marney fan (see "Christopher Marney" 16 March 2014).  He is the next guest of the London Ballet Circle on 2 June 2014. I shall be at the Civil Service Club to hear him speak. I hope I get a chance to shake his hand.  Two of a Kind, reminded me why I admire Marney so much.   Flowing and soaring with the most remarkable lifts the ballet expressed the ecstasy of love.  At least twice in her pas de deux, Robinson was turned literally head over heals.  Such a position could have been ungainly for most dancers but Robinson gave it beauty.  The choreography brought out the best in all the dancers, Damien Johnson, Kanika Carr and Christopher Renfurm as well as Robinson. I cannot tell whether it was a joy to dance - though I suspect it was - but it was certainly a joy to watch.

Having seen A Dream within Midsummer Night's Dream in February I concentrated on the detail. For the first time I noticed Carr's virtuosity: a remarkable samba on pointe and some spectacular fouettés. She has a most expressive face that can tell a story with a single glance and that was the quality that I had noticed before. I noticed the humour second time round. Sayaka Ichikawa as Helena beating off the attentions of Demetrius and Lysander (Alves and Wye).  Titania (Robinson)'s infatuation with Bottom (Alves). My companion yesterday evening (who is herself an accomplished dancer) said that she enjoyed Arthur Pita's Dream even more than David Nixon's. While I would not go quite that far because Nixon's ballet is special for me I certainly enjoyed Pita's very much indeed.

There were two pleasant surprises yesterday evening. The first was meeting Janet McNulty, one of the most authoritative contributors to BalletCo Forum. She has seen a lot of ballet and knows what she is talking about.  I look to her before most critics when I want to know something about a show. The second was meeting Cassa Pancho and bumping into some of the dancers in the foyer.  It was great to have an opportunity to tell then just how much we enjoyed the show though I think they must have known that already. The house was not quite as full as it might have been but the applause at the end was sustained and deafening. More than a few of us felt compelled to rise to our feet and that does not happen every day in ballet.

The company will be in Exeter on the 27 and 28 May and then Nottingham on the 2 July.  In the Autumn they will be back in Leeds.  If you live anywhere near those cities go see the show.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Ballet School for Freetown?

The Cotton Tree where the Sierra Leonean nation was founded
Source Wikipedia

Although ballet belongs to the world there are places where the muse makes its home. In the early 19th century that home was in Denmark. Later in the century the muse moved to Russia, Diaghilev brought it to Western Europe and in particular England and France. In the last century it made its way to the New World. Arguably it has now found a home in East Asia and in Latin America. I believe its next abode will be Sub-Saharan Africa.

There are already signs that that is happening. Arguably the most exciting company in the British Isles is Ballet Black. In America there is the magnificent Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey. In just over a week London audiences will be thrilled by the Sierra Leonean born dancer Michaela DePrince as I was when I saw her last November (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam 24 Nov 2013"  25 Nov 2913), Finally there are initiatives like Anno's Africa's remarkable class in the back streets of Nairobi (see "What can be achieved by a good teacher" 3 March 2014),

According to The Guardian's Africa correspondent, Michaela DePrince "plans to return to Sierra Leone one day to open a school" (see "Sierra Leone war orphan returns to Africa en pointe for ballet debut" 16 July 2912).  DePrince has achieved so much in her short life that I have every confidence that she will realize that plan. We in this country are particularly well placed to help her to do so.

Sierra Leone is an English speaking country which was administered by our government until 1961. It is a member of the Commonwealth and many of its political, educational, commercial and cultural institutions are modelled on ours. There is a large Sierra Leonean community in this country two members of which will be accompanying me to the Linbury to see De Prince dance when the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company visits London on the 28 and 29 of the month.  I have a personal link with Sierra Leone in that I was married to a Sierra Leonean for nearly 28 years.

If children from DePrince's school wish to complete their training we have great ballet schools in London, Leeds, Glasgow and elsewhere where they can do so. The Royal Academy of Dance which accredits teachers and examines students is here.  Above all we have a massive and sophisticated audience for dance and out great companies have always been open to, and attracted, the best dancers in the world.

There must be a massive reservoir of talent in Africa and the prospect of watching it develop is exciting.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Scottish Ballet's Timeless Romeo and Juliet

Ever since it was in Bristol  Scottish Ballet has been exciting and innovative. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I have always admired it.  It was works such as Mods and Rockers '63 and Houseparty that first attracted my attention. It continued to innovate and take risks after the company's move to Glasgow with a a steady stream of new works by Peter Darrell, Ashley Page and now Christopher Hampson all of which are reflected in the company's repertoireKrzysztof Pastor's Romeo and Juliet continues that tradition of adventure and innovation.  

I saw that ballet at Sadler's Wells on 17 May 2014. This is the first time it has been seen in London but it has  been in Scottish Ballet's repertoire since 2008.   It is in fact on its third tour of Scotland or fourth if you count the Up Close tour when parts of the ballet were danced in some of the smaller venues in Scotland during October 2010.  After London it will be in Edinburgh between the 21 and 24 May. As Northern Ballet's recent success at The Linbury shows, there is good ballet outside London though that seems to come as a surprise to London audiences.

The story of Romeo and Juliet is well known and has been the translated into ballet by several choreographers. The version with which British audiences are most familiar is probably Kenneth Macmillan's for the Royal Ballet.  Ballet Cymru also has a great version for the small auditoriums that it visits which I reviewed in "They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport" 14 May 2013. Next month we shall see English National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet in the Round and then the Mariinsky's with Xander Parish dancing Romeo.  

Shakespeare's play and the other versions of the ballet focuses on the young lovers who are kept apart by family antipathy and rivalry. Pastor's version focuses on the enmity not just in mediaeval Verona but in Italy throughout the ages.   It achieves that effect by setting different scenes of the ballet in different periods of modern Italian history: 
  • between the wars when Fascists struggled with Communists; 
  • the immediate post war period when Italy was transformed into a consumer society; and 
  • the recent past when the post-war consumer boom ended precipitously.
There are people in the position of Romeo and Juliet in every age and I read the references to Romeo and Juliet in the ballet as the representatives  of such persons in each of those periods.

In every other respect the ballet followed the play. There were strong performances by Christopher Harrison as Romeo, Claire Robertson as Juliet, Daniel Davidson as Mercutio, Owen Thorne as Tybault and Rimbaud Patron as Friar Lawrence. Principal conductor Richard Honner stuck to the Prokofiev score though perhaps with a few tweaks. For instance the percussion seemed to continue a little longer than in other versions after Romeo had killed Tybault.  As in Macmillan's version the centre piece of Pastor's ballet were the pas de deux that traced the lovers' relationship: the initial meeting, the balcony scene, in the bedroom and finally the tomb. I noticed how a lift that seemed like an assisted grand jeté expressed diffidence and even struggle in the first pas de deux and joy in the second.

Among the aspects of the ballet that I most liked were Tatyana van Walsum's designs which can be studied on the Romeo and Juliet page of her website. For each of the three periods she set the scene with flickering newsreel clips and the protagonists' uniforms.

For my further reflections on this ballet and the views of others who saw it This ballet is not everybody's cup of tea though it is certainly mine. The initial reactions on BalletcoForum were not exactly encouraging but I have known Scottish Ballet for many years and I was not going to be deterred. I am glad I persevered. After watching Romeo and Juliet at the Wells on Saturday I signed up as a Friend though I have been such for many years.

Further Reading
20 Dec 2013   Scottish Ballet
9 March 2014 Peter Darrell
11 March 2014  Elaine McDonald in her own Words

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield

Sheffield Town Hall                                                                    Photo  Wikipedia

For the last year and a bit I have been taking Fiona Noonan's adult ballet classes at The Base Studios and Team Hud in Huddersfield (see "The Base Studios, Huddersfield"  2 March 2013 and "Team Hud Adult Ballet Class" 22 Jan 2014).  Recently she has been engaged to teach advanced, intermediate and pointe classes at Hype Dance Academy in Sheffield while the regular teacher is on maternity leave. For the next three weeks she will be covering Hype's beginners and improvers classes too.  Yesterday I followed her to Sheffield to take her classes at Hype.

The first thing to say is that Hype is not easy to find. I lived a mile from Hampton Court Palace between 1955 and 1982 so I know all about mazes but not even that labyrinth had prepared me for Sheffield's one way traffic system. I suspect it was devised in the days when Sheffield City Council was said to be slightly to the left of Fidel Castro and it was the local local authority's policy to drive motorists off the roads and onto the excellent trams.  Hype's address is 67 Earl Street, Sheffield, S1 4PY which my satellite navigation seemed to think was on planet Zog. The first time I tried to find it I missed the class altogether as I crawled around the city centre from one traffic jam to the next as the minutes ticked by. There are directions on the "contact page" of Hype's web site but these are not much help unless you know Sheffield well. It is no good calling the studio for directions because the switchboard is not covered for the whole of the day.

If you are a motorist the trick is as follows:
  • get on the A61 (inner city ring road in the clockwise direction) which you can join at the Park Square roundabout from the Parkway which connects with the M1 (watch the cameras they are super-sensitive after the 50 mph sign), 
  • follow the ring road past the station which should be on your left, 
  • make a sharp right onto St Mary's Road, 
  • then another into Matilda Street, 
  • carry on down Matilda Road past the UTC college which should be on your right, 
  • then a left into Sydney Street, 
  • a sharp right on Arundel and 
  • then left on Earl.
To say you can't miss the studio would not be true because it is a very undistinguished two storey brick building which must have been a warehouse or other light industrial building in its heyday.  There is signage for the observant pedestrian and no doubt aspirant taxi driver if they have anything like The Knowledge in Sheffield but it is easy to miss.

One good point about the location is that there is plenty of street parking which costs £1 after 18:00.  Don't be fooled into using pay by phone because the app tried to charge me £2.40. Another is there are some very good Chinese restaurants and a grocery within a few hundred yards of the dance school. My favourite is the Wong Ting where I celebrated my 60th birthday.

Once you find Hype and get inside it is very nice. There appear to be two studios and Fiona's class was in Studio 1.  That is a long narrow room with barres along the right hand side and a mirror at the front. The walls are decorated with posters and playbills and Victorian schoolroom style exhortations such as dance is 20% talent and 80% labour. Yeah!

There must have been between 15 and 20 people in the beginners' class, mainly women nearly all of whom were in their twenties.   We filled the fixed barre and 4 of us spilled on to a travelling barre. They were a friendly crowd and most of them were well kitted out in leotards and soft toed ballet shoes.

Fiona introduced herself to the class and told us a little bit about her training in Australia and her career as a dancer and teacher. She then asked the students what they had learned from their regular teacher and how she had taught them. The answers suggested that her method was very much like Fiona's.

We had a warm up exercise in the centre for toes and legs.  I was dismayed to find that my balance was well below the class's because I had to let my feet touch the floor once or twice. We then sidled off to the barre for the usual exercises.

Fiona is a good teacher but I have never seen her teach better than she did yesterday. She likes a big class of enthusiastic students and she found them at Hype. Through the barre exercises she focussed on technique particularly on basics such as weight distribution and the use of abdominals and abductors. She has an eye for detail and I think we all had a correction to make. Once she was happy with our pliés, tendus and glissés we moved on to fondus and développés which do not come easily to this old lady but nevertheless have to be done.

In the centre we followed a port de bras exercise that I had already attempted several times in Huddersfield which consists of chassés starting on the right, then left and en croix, a lunge, a pivot, arabesque which is substantially repeated on the left.  Annemarie in Leeds has a similar exercise for us old ladies except that we soutenu rather than pivot and cut out the arabesque.  We marked it without and then with music and then tried it for ourselves.  To my joy I found that I could just about hold my pivot - at least for the first time.  The second was a bit of a dog's breakfast.

Fiona asked the class about travelling steps and two of the students set off with something that looked very much like temps levés to me.   That is certainly what we ended up with.  The long narrow room gave us plenty of space for building up some momentum.  We did that exercise in groups of three and loved it.  In the last few minutes we did a few sautés and jetés again making good use of the room's length.

All too soon the class was over. Fiona explained that another teacher would be taking over from her in a few weeks' time. That announcement elicited a few sighs showing how much everyone had enjoyed the class.

A few of us stayed on for the improvers' class which started immediately afterwards.  One of the students in that class was Mel with whom I had driven down to Lincoln the previous Friday (see "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014). Mel is a good dancer and I had feared that I would find myself out of my depth.  Although she and all the other students were in a different league to me they were also friendly.  Everyone was keen to learn.   The barre and centre exercises were similar to those that we had done in the beginners' class but they were done by my fellow students even more slickly and elegantly.

The final class of the evening was beginners' pointe for which I did not stay. I doubt that I shall ever reach that standard because try as I might my ankles are weak and my core is jelly but you never know.  When I started ballet again just over year ago I couldn't do any of the centre work.   Now I am at least having a jolly good bash.

Before coming to Sheffield I had done two classes in Leeds and I had expected the Sheffield classes to be a bit of a slog but they weren't. They were a lot of fun and I could have carried on for more.  I have not met the other teachers but judging by the standard I found at Hype they must be good.  I have no hesitation in recommending that dance school.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance

The Sandman with his Umbrellas      Source Wikipedia

Two weeks ago I saw Ballet Theatre UK's The Little Mermaid in Southport (see "Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport" 27 April 2014). That ballet was based on  a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Yesterday I saw a ballet based on another of Hans Christian Andersen's tales, The Sandman or Ole Lukøje.  

The author summarized the story as follows:
"There is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his socks, then he opens the doors without the slightest noise, and throws a small quantity of very fine dust in their eyes, just enough to prevent them from keeping them open, and so they do not see him. Then he creeps behind them, and blows softly upon their necks, till their heads begin to droop. But Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them, for he is very fond of children, and only wants them to be quiet that he may relate to them pretty stories, and they never are quiet until they are in bed and asleep. As soon as they are asleep, Ole-Luk-Oie seats himself upon the bed. He is nicely dressed; his coat is made of silken fabric; it is impossible to say of what color, for it changes from green to red, and from red to blue as he turns from side to side. Under each arm he carries an umbrella; one of them, with pictures on the inside, he spreads over the good children, and then they dream the most beautiful stories the whole night. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over the naughty children so that they sleep heavily, and wake in the morning without having dreams at all."
Paul Chantry inducing pleasant dreams with his
multicoloured umbrella
(c) 2014 Skydancer     Reproduced with kind permission
of the photographer 
Choreographed by Gail Gordon the Sandman was danced by Paul Chantry who entered in front of the stage in the shadows.  He mounted the stage which had a single prop: a hat stand and the sandman's two umbrellas.  Paul is a tall, elegant dancer and he circled the stage magisterially with his wide ronds de jambe and battements.  From the left entered his subject, Rae Piper, clad in a simple navy print shift. Rae has the most expressive face and she expressed joy under the multicoloured umbrella but with utter dismay to the plain one. Producing from his pocket a medicine bottle Paul sprinkled the sleep inducing drops over Rae's eyes. In the absence of programme notes I cannot recall the score but it was beautiful and Gail Gordon's choreography interpreted in perfectly.

Piper and the plain umbrella
(c) 2014 Skydancer    Reproduced with kind permission of
the photographer
Sandman was part of a double bill at Lincoln Drill Hall yesterday. The theme of sleep and dreams continued with Dream Dance, an improvisation. That was Chantry Dance's contribution to the Lincoln Inspired festival of literature, performance and art.

Before the show there was a workshop of which I attended about half owing to the nightmare of Lincoln's one way system, congestion and limited parking. Before I arrived the participants were invited to contribute ideas on the theme of sleep and to write them on post it notes. Having missed the beginning I slunk into the back of the auditorium but Gail spotted me and invited me on to the stage where I met the choreographers Paul and Rae and the dancers, Mel (Skydancer) with whom I had driven down from Sheffield, and two young women whom I know only as Fiona and Leanne from Coventry. Fortunately I had brought my ballet bag with me and I donned my leggings and shoes.

Rae showed me the post it notes on a large white board.  They included flying horses, dream, Valhalla and sketched out a story of the four of us with our separate dreams of flying to Valhalla. Fiona patiently taught me and rehearsed a phrase which we danced in unison which included a chassé across the stage, a simple turn to the right, chassé to the left, a left hand turn and opening our arms in second to the audience. Mel and Leanne who like Fiona are both good dancers, executed more intricate movements.  Everybody's contributions came together in a short ballet which someone filmed on an i-pad.  We started with head rolls led by Mel. Taking our cue from her we thrust our arms above our heads and then tilted to one side.  Mel then executed her dance after which Fiona and I did ours followed by Leanne. Next we selected our visions of Valhalla which in my case was a flower. Returning to formation we turned in unison.  Leanne followed by Fiona danced on the floor. Mel and I with jetés joined them and we finished on the floor my right hand across Fiona's and my left on Mel's.

How we hugged each other like long lost friends after the show even though I had met none of the dancers before yesterday morning.  Mel and I had exchanged the occasional email before and we had followed each other on twitter but yesterday was the first time we had actually met. For me the experience of dancing on stage for the first time under the direction of professional dancers was very special. In Realizing a Dream 12 Sept 2013 I wrote:
"Me. Dancing to real ballet music in a real studio in a real ballet school. Imagine!"
Yesterday was the culmination of that dream and it was one of the best days of my life. I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks for that. First. Gail, Paul and Rae for letting me into their workshop. Secondly, Mel for drawing the workshop to my attention. Thirdly, my teachers. Fiona Noonan who coaxed me gently back into ballet and patiently guided me through barre and my first steps. A real labour of Sisyphus.  The wonderful Annemarie Donoghue of the Northern Ballet Academy who allowed me to build on that foundation. Sally Marshall who gave me my first ballet lessons at St Andrews 45 years ago. How she made me jump!  Chris Hinton Lewis, Adam Pudney and Cara O'Shea for their lessons. Finally, all the dancers, choreographers and teachers who have inspired me for the last 60 years.

Returning to the show, Paul and Rae laid the board with its post it notes on stage and selected themes from it for their improvisation. They invited Fiona, Leanne, Mel and me to dance with them and we did off stage. I cannot remember every movement that the principals did partly because I was dancing too but I loved a Latin American dance that allowed them to show off their virtuosity and dramatic skill.

Finally the afternoon ended with questions and answers.  I asked them how the company was formed and its vision.  They had been freelancers but formed themselves into a company after they had received a commission from China.  As can be seen from the What's On page Chantry Dance are very busy. They have a summer school between 28 July and 1 Aug and then they are taking their new ballet The Happy Prince on tour.

I have known some great moments in the ballet and yesterday's experience of dancing with Fiona, Leanne and Mel under the direction of Paul and Rae was right up there with them.

Post Script

And here is the performance that Fiona, Leanne, Mel and I produced at yesterday's workshop:

Post Post Script

12 May 2014

Although I am not sure how many of them have actually watched this video, news of my participation in this workshop has given my colleagues, clients and staff a lot of harmless amusement.  Apparently it has spread like wildfire. The Bar loves to give nicknames to its eccentrics. One eminent Queen's counsel whose first name was Robert was known as "Frothy Bob" as he could not help discharging spittle when in full flow. The late George Carman QC was known as "Gorgeous George". Goodness knows what mine will be.

Post Post Post Script

28 May 2014

A video of the performance of The Sandman that I described above has been uploaded to Vimeo and can be viewed here.

Monday, 5 May 2014

An Even Better Show: the Bristol Russians by the Sea

On 16 Feb 2014 the Bristol Russian Youth Ballet Company and their special guest stars Arionel Vargas and Elena Glurdjidze danced Cinderella in Stockport to raise money for Reuben's Retreat. It was a good show which I reviewed in "Good Show - Bristol Russians' Cinderella in Stockport" 19 Feb 2014. Yesterday, substantially the same cast danced the same work at the Playhouse Theatre in Weston Super Mare.  In my view, in that of others who had seen both performances and in the view of at least one member of the cast, they did even better this time.

There are several respects in which yesterday's performance appeared to be better than the previous one. The first is that they danced with greater confidence and panache.  The visual jokes such as the faux pas of Cinderella's sisters danced again by Caitlin Anstis and Paige Pullin or the tussle over the outside orange between the king (David Wilson), his minister (William Griffin), the sisters and their mother (Yury Demakov) seemed funnier. The Spanish princess's dance was performed haughtily yet alluringly by Ellie Wilson. Even the stars, Vargas and Glurdjidze, seemed to sparkle more. The second respect in which yesterday was better was that the choreography appeared to have been revised. It was slicker and smoother - especially the children's dances in Act I. In this production there were birds as well as mice with boys as well as girls. All the important bits were retained such as the pas de deux when the prince spots Cinderella at the ball and falls in love with her, the comic attempts by the sisters and mother to force their feet into the glass slipper and the delicious moment when Cinderella produces her slipper to the prince. The third respect in which yesterday was better was that the company had an even more receptive audience in Weston than in Stockport. The auditorium was full. There were very few empty seats in the stalls and not many in the circle so far as I could see. Overhearing conversations in the bar at the interval and in the seats around me it was clear that many had seen ballet before and knew what to look for. Certainly, the audience knew when to clap.  Ballet, like the other performing arts, is a two way communication and the mood of an audience can make or break an evening.

There are several reasons for yesterday's success.  First, the cast had danced this work before in Stockport. They knew that they worked well together and that the audience had liked them. Hence the confidence, panache and sparkle. Secondly, they were on home turf before a West Country audience. This is very much a Bristol company. It was clear from the conversations that I overheard that there was lots of local pride.  Very much the same pride as I had noted in Chelmsford when the Chelmsford Ballet Company performed The Nutcracker on 19 March 2014 (see "The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy" 20 March 2014). In Stockport, the Bristol Russians had to enlist the help of local dance schools for some of the roles and their students danced very well. But in Weston the company could use their own pupils, all of whom are good and some of whom show considerable promise.

That promise was demonstrated by the Underwater Kingdom Scene from The Little Humpbacked Horse, one of the classics of the Russian ballet but one that is rarely seen in England. The music is by Cesare Pugni who also wrote the score for Diana and Actaeon which Michaela dePrince and Sho Yamada of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company dance so well  (see "The Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet - Stadsshouwburg Amsterdam" 24 Nov 2013) and are soon bringing to London.  The Underwater Kingdom had big and little pearls, corals, star fish and seaweed for students of all ages and both sexes swimming in the ocean that was the domain of David Wilson. That ballet was danced immediately before Cinderella and was a lovely taster. Most importantly it showed what the school and company can do without English National Ballet superstars. It has turned me into a fan and I shall follow and support their future productions.

The only respect in which yesterday's performance might have been improved was in the operation of the curtain and the lights. The music started when the house lights were still blazing. Somewhat disconcertingly as I was in the middle of a tweet about the show. Twice the curtain rose after the applause had ceased and one of those was for the youngest children who deserved a roar but received somewhat less acclaim.

After the show I met David Wilson at the stage door again. I had a slightly longer chat with him this time about the performance and his job in Silicon Valley.  I am delighted for him. My graduate school was in California and I know the state well. There is a lot of good ballet there.  I am sure all my readers will join me in wishing him well.  David started DaveTriesBallet blog and took his first ballet lessons in New Jersey.  It will be interesting to read his adventures in the West.  While waiting for Dave I was introduced to Ellie Wilson who is as delightful to meet as she is to watch on stage. She is in her first year at the Rambert School and again I am sure everyone will also join me in wishing her all the best.   Last but not least I met Alex or BristolBillyBob in Weston, one of the regulars at BalletcoForum.  It was good to make his acquaintance and I look forward to meeting him again.

Finally, a word about Reuben's Retreat. Before the show one of the managers came on stage and told Reuben's story, the efforts of his parents to remember him and the success of the charity so far for which he received thunderous applause. Recently, the charity announced that it had acquired property in the Peak District for accommodation for families of children with life threatening or limiting conditions (see Grace Nolan "North West charity announces property purchase" 25 April 2014 Huddled). The Bristol Russians and their guest stars have helped to make that possible for which all of us in the North are grateful.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Branding and Ballet - Copyright and Rights in Performances

Theatre Royal Drury Lane 1821                                           Source Wikipedia

This is the fourth in my series of articles on ballet and branding which is my thank you to companies, theatres and dancers for a lifetime of pleasure watching their performances. The others are "Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers" 13 March 2014, "Protecting the Brand" 31 March 2014 and "Branding and Ballet - Licensing the Brand" 18 April 2014. In this article I shall discuss two important intellectual property rights ("IPR") for companies, theatres and dancers: copyrights and rights in performances.

What is IP?
Intellectual property ("IP") is a portmanteau terms for the bundle of laws that protect investment in intellectual assets.  Intellectual assets are creations of the mind that give one business a competitive advantage over all others. Such assets can be a new invention, a blockbuster film or novel, the cachet that is given to luxury product and so on.  

Intellectual assets fall into four categories:
  • Brands
  • Design
  • Technology, and
  • Works of art and literature.
The laws that protect the investment in creating those assets in the UK include the Patents Act 1977, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ("CDPA") and the Trade Marks Act 1994. The rights that those laws confer, such as patents for inventions, copyrights in original works of art and literature and registered trade marks for signs that distinguish one business's goods or services from those of all others are types of IPR (intellectual property rights). 

The exercise of those rights can be very valuable for a business which is why we regard them as property.  As they protect creations of the mind or intellect we call them intellectual property.

Copyrights and Rights in Performances
The intellectual assets that copyrights and rights in performances protect are works of art and literature. 

Copyrights have existed in one form or another since the days of Queen Anne. The first copyright statute for this country is still referred to as The Statute of Anne. Copyrights prevent the unauthorized copyright, distribution, performance and other exploitation of works that are written, drawn or otherwise created in some permanent medium such as film or optical or magnetic memory. 

Rights in performances are much more recent. These protect the performances of actors, musicians, dancers and other performers from unauthorized broadcasting, filming or taping and other exploitation of their performances. The existence of those rights has only been possible since the development of sound and motion picture recording and transmission technologies. 

In the UK copyright and rights in performances are conferred by different parts of the CPDA.  Copyright is conferred by Part I of the Act and rights in performances by Part 2.  The CPDA came into force on the 1 Aug 1989 and has been amended many times since then. The Intellectual Property Office has helpfully compiled an up to date version of Parts 1 and 2 of the Act together with other relevant legislation.

International Agreements
The UK is party to a number of international agreements that require foreign governments to protect the intellectual assets of British businesses and individuals in their territories and the British government to protect the intellectual assets of foreigners here.  The agreement that provides reciprocal protection of works or art and literature is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works ("Berne").  The agreement that provides reciprocal protection for performances is the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations ("Rome"). Berne and Rome have been supplemented by a number of other international agreements of which the most important are the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. One of the reasons why Parliament enacted and has revised the CPDA was to enable the UK to comply with those conventions and treaties.

Copyright Works
The CDPA protects the following types of work from unauthorized copying, publishing, performance and other distribution in the UK:
  • Original artistic, dramatic, literary and musical works
  • Broadcasts, films and sound recordings, and
  • Typographical arrangements of publications.
That covers such works as the story, score, the choreology, broadcasts and HDTV transmissions and some of the art work such as scenery and fabric designs.  One of the many things that the Court of Appeal decided in Massine v De Basil[1936 - 1945] MCC 233, one of the few copyright cases relating to ballet, was that there is no such thing as copyright in a ballet. There are instead a bundle of copyrights in the works that make up a ballet such as an outline of the plot, the music, notation, artwork for the scenery, costumes and other works. Secondary copyrights are created in any videos that are made during class and rehearsals as well as in any sound recordings that may be made. Yet more copyrights are made in the notes, photos, compilation, editing and typographical arrangement of the programmes. 

Rights in Performances
Performers including dancers and those who have contracted with a dancer or other performer to broadcast, film or tape a performance such as the BBC, a film studio or a record company have the right to object to the broadcasting, filming or taping of a performance regardless of whether the performance takes place in a theatre, TV studio or film set.

Creating a Copyright?
There is no system of copyright registration in the UK though there is in some other countries. Copyrights come into being the moment a work in which copyright can subsist is created by a British citizen or resident or a citizen or resident of any other state that confers confers protection on the works of British citizens and residents within its territories pursuant to the Berne Convention or some other agreement with the UK government. Most countries of the world are party to Berne and the few that are not have entered other multi or bilateral agreements with the UK.

Copyright can subsist in any of the works listed above provided that it is not copied wholly from another work. Essentially copyright rewards the labour, skill and taste that has been expended on a work. Thus, a poet may write a poem which creates a literary copyright; an artist a drawing that creates an artistic copyright; and an editor may choose the poem and the drawing and combine them with other poems and drawings in an anthology which creates yet another literary copyright in the compilation.

Creating a Right in a Performance
Consent is required for broadcasting, filming or taping of a performance from the moment the dancer or other performer walks on stage to the final curtain call so long as the performance takes place in the UK or by a national of a country that is party to the Rome Convention or some agreement with the UK.

Who owns Copyright?
Usually the author (that is to say the person who makes the work) is the first owner of the copyright subsisting in the work but there are a number of exceptions. If the author is employed to create the work under a contract of employment or apprenticeship the author's employer becomes the first owner unless the employer and employee have agreed otherwise. Merely commissioning a work, however, does not usually confer copyright on the commissioner unless the circumstances suggest that that is what the parties had intended as happened in Massine v de Basil.  When commissioning a score, choreography or other work it is important for the parties to think about who is to own the work and what rights (if any) each of the parties has or should have in its exploitation.

Who owns a Right in a Performance?
In the first instance it is up to the dancer or other performer to consent to the broadcasting, filming, taping or other exploitation of his or performance.  In practice the terms upon which such consent is given have been negotiated by Equity on behalf of its members. Such terms are incorporated into individual performers' contracts of employment. Broadcasters, film and recording studios that have negotiated exclusive contracts to record a performance can also object to broadcasting, filming and taping of performances.

How to make Money from Copyrights and Rights in Performances
Copyrights and rights to make, distribute and otherwise exploit copies of recordings may be assigned or licensed for money or moneysworth.   How much will be paid by way of a royalty, licence fee or other payment will depend on supply and demand. The work of a well known artist, choreographer or composer will generally command a greater payment than that of a lesser known one.  Some copyright owners assign their rights to organizations known as "collecting societies" which collect payments on behalf of all their members and distribute them after deducting their expenses as individual dividends. BECS (British Equity Collecting Society) collects royalties for licensing performers' rights on behalf of their members.

Moral Rights
In addition to the rights mentioned above which are generally referred to as "economic rights" performers and some copyright owners have rights to be identified as performer or author and the right to object to derogatory treatment of their works that are known as "moral rights".  These subsist quite independently of the economic rights and cannot be assigned.

Violation of an IPR is known as "infringement".

Large scale deliberate infringement of copyright (known as "piracy") and rights in performances ("bootlegging") are offences that can be punished by up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Local authority trading standards officers have a statutory duty to investigate and prosecute such offences.

IPR owners can also sue infringers in the civil courts for injunctions (orders of the court to refrain from or stop infringements on pain of fine or imprisonment for disobedience), damages (compensation for past infringements) or an account of profits (disgorging any profits that have been made from infringements), surrender of infringing copies and their costs (legal expenses for bringing the action). In England and Wales most claims for IPR infringement (including small claims) are brought in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC") or the Intellectual Property list of the Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice.

Collecting societies also bring proceedings in the civil courts on behalf of their members.

Further Reading
The Intellectual Property Office has published a very useful guide entitled "Copyright, Essential Reading" which can be downloaded in pdf from its website. Equity also has a considerable volume of materials on performers' rights which is accessible to its members.

Should anyone require additional information he or she can call me during office hours on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form, twitter, Facebook, G+, Linkedin or Xing.

Happy May bank holiday everybody.