Friday, 31 October 2014

Catching them young

The combination of colour, drama, movement and music often set to a familiar fairy story can capture a child's imagination. Once captured the experience can lead to a lifetime's pleasure unless soured by compulsory ballet lessons on a Saturday morning in a draughty church hall.

In contrast to other children's media, ballet sends out some positive messages. It is the one art form in which women have always enjoyed at least equality with men. Great for the self-confidence of girls who may not want to dance on stage but have ambitions in other fields: see how ballet works for kids from a rough neighbourhood in Nairobi in What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013. Ballet also sends messages for boys in that women are to be cherished and respected - not insulted, molested or ravished. How a ballerina stands en pointe or turns on pirouette contains useful lessons on mechanics and mathematics for both genders. Getting kids moving in a studio instead of slouching in front of the telly or a tablet with a milkshake and burger would save the NHS billions. Perhaps most importantly of all ballet - unlike Disney animations - is palpably real. Dancers may do wonderful things with their leaps and turns but they are still human beings - in many cases just a few years older than their audience.

So how to get a young child hooked on all this positivity? The great Spanish educationalist St Ignatius de Loyola is reputed to have said "Give me a child to the age of 7 and I will show you the man". The problem with ballets like The Nutcracker and Cinderella is that they last too long for the under sevens. The answer is to choreograph a ballet for that age group and that is something that English National Ballet has done spectacularly well with its My First Ballet series. Last year it was Coppelia which I reviewed on 14 April 2014 and this year it is Swan Lake. Vlad the Lad who will be four in December and is the nearest I have to a grandson said it was "awesome" which is a big word for a three year old. He enjoyed the show so much that he even sat through a performance in which his real less-than-fairy-more-like-hippo-godmother had the time of her life in Leeds.

But Vlad was even more impressed by Chris Marney's Dogs Don't Do Ballet for Ballet Black and he actually had the pleasure of meeting Mr Marney as well as Cassa Pancho. She is the nearest he will ever get to meeting a fairy godmother in that she made possible the wonders that took place before his very eyes. Bless you Chris and Cassa and all your wonderful dancers, particularly Madame Kanikova whose predicament with the French horn was of real concern to Vlad.

So what else can children of Vlad's age see? My beloved Northern is touring the nation with elves and the shoemaker building on its success with Three Little Pigs and The Ugly Duckling.  Birmingham Royal Ballet is presenting First Steps: a child's Coppelia to kids in Edinburgh and Manchester in the Spring. Just across the North Sea Ernst Meisner's The Little Big Chest for the Dutch National Ballet seems to have been a runaway success in Amsterdam - easier to reach and cheaper to stay in than London for many of us in the UK. For slightly older children there is the Royal Ballet's The Mad Hatter's Tea Party and maybe Chantry Dance's The Happy Prince.

If I have time I will arrange a resource page of children's ballet's with reviews and information about prices, times and venues.

Post Script

22 Nov 2014   After watching The Happy Prince in Halifax on Thursday I ran into Paul Chantry and Rae Piper in the Square Chapel bar. I told them that I had enjoyed the show and would have loved to have taken Vlad the Lad to see it at the Wells but their performance would take place way after his bedtime. They replied that they intend to take the show into children's theatre in the next few months so I should be able to take him to see it. I will blog the dates, times and venues of those performances just as soon as I hear about them.

Also I have some good news for Northern kids. Cassa Pancho tweeted that Ballet Black are coming back to Leeds shortly with Dogs Don't Do Ballet so I shall let you all know when they are coming.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

On Tour with Sarah Kundi

New Theatre, Oxford
Photo Wikipedia

As readers of this blog already know I am a fan of Sarah Kundi. Although I must have seen her many times when she was with Northern Ballet she first came to my notice when I saw her dance Depouillage with Jade Hale-Christofi on You Tube when they were at Ballet Back (see Ballet Black's Appeal 12 March 2013). I have followed her career ever since.

Kundi is not just a wonderful dancer. She is also a talented blogger.  She has already published two posts to On Tour with Sarah Kundi that provide a fascinating insight on the life of a dancer:

I saw the company including Kundi dance at the Palace Theatre in Manchester (see What Manchester does today 10 Oct 2014) and I am looking forward to their company class and CoppĂ©lia at the New Theatre in Oxford on 1 Nov 2014. Shiori Kase will be dancing Swanilda and Yonah Acosta Franz. Kundi has tweeted that she will also be dancing in the show so it should be a very good evening.
With a cast like that how could I not enjoy the show? I shall of course review the ballet for this blog.


I must admit that I had never heard of "Frightnight" until I had received this tweet from Mel.  I asked her what it was and this is what she told me:
Apparently it is a Sheffield institution -  Britain's biggest Halloween party.

As Mel says, the festival is called "Out of this World - Sheffield's Festival of Sci-Fi, Magic and Horror" and I suspect the reason for the change of name is that it was announced in January that there was not to be a fright night this year (see "Sheffield Fright Night to take year off over funding worries" 16 Jan 2014 The Star). But there is a little matter of an election before Nov 2015 and as Oliver Cromwell found out when he tried to abolish Christmas nothing is more unpopular than spoiling someone's fun.  So we will have Frightnight on Sunday the same as always albeit under a different name (see "Horror-themed fun to be unleashed at festival in Sheffield city centre" 28 Oct 2014 Sheffield Telegraph).

The show that I want to see is my Paint it Black choreographed by my ballet teacher and good friend, Fiona Noonan, for the students of Hype Dance Academy one of whom is Mel. I watched a rehearsal of that show when I attended Fiona's ballet class the Monday before last.  I think I know everyone who is taking part in that piece as I took class with them for most of the summer. They are very nice people and I wish them all chookas or, if they prefer, toi-toi.

If you are in Sheffield

Post Script

Here is a link to a YouTube video of Christopher Bruce's "Paint it Black" for Rambert. Noonan's is quite different but to my eyes just as enjoyable.   See Rooster ................ :-) 4 Oct 2014 for my review of Rambert's version.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Gina Moffatt

It is not every day that I can incorporate a business story into my ballet blog but I think I am justified in doing so today because Gina Moffatt who owns and runs the Blooming Scent Cafe in the Bernie Grant Arts Centre has just  been named Entrepreneur of the Year at this year's Precious Awards according to today's Business Matters.

What's that got to do with ballet? Well it was at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre that I first saw Ballet Black (see Why Ballet Black is Special 20 May 2013). Although I had come to London to see Sarah Kundi I had the good fortune of meeting Gina who is also a star.  She provided the refreshments before the show and in the two intervals. I wish Gina and all the other business owners in the Bernie Grant Centre every success in the future. I look forward to my next visit to the Centre which is likely to be another show by Ballet Black.

While on the subject of Ballet Black I should say that they have recently celebrated the 14th anniversary of their formation with a wonderful retrospective display of photos on their Facebook page. The company is performing at the Stanley and Audrey Theatre in Leeds on 6 and 7 Nov (where I also danced) and I'm giving up an all expenses paid jaunt to Paris to see them which shows how good they are. They have also announced their new programme for their new season with new commissions which opens at the Linbury on the 10 Feb 2015.

I'm slowly building up a resource page on Ballet Black at Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014 27 Feb 2014.

Shadows of War - the Other Ballets

Because the restoration of A Miracle in the Gorbals is so special I reviewed it separately in A Second Miracle 23 Oct 2014 but MacMillan's La Fin du Jour and Bintley's Flowers of the Forest are important works that should not pass unnoticed.  I saw those works with Miracle at Sadler's Wells in the matinee performance on the 18 Oct 2014.

The MacMillan was striking in many ways. Spurling's set with stylized human faces. The jerky puppet like movements of the dancers in the opening and closing scenes, the women in swimsuits and the men in golfing attire, Ravel's Concerto in G Major. The work was created in 1979 towards the end of MacMillan's career and contains some spectacular choreography. The tossing into the air and catching of the leading women Nao Sakuma and Maureya Lebowitz. The apparent levitation of the men several feet into the air. This is not everybody's favourite ballet but I enjoyed it if only for the music. But the choreography is good too and, as I said above, the sets are striking.  I think I will find fresh things to appreciate in it next time I see it.

The connection with war was not obvious. The note on the MacMillan website observes that the ballet ends as the door to a garden is closed on the world. Quoting Clement Crisp the note concludes:
"It is a requiem for the douceur de vivre of an era, and it is nostalgically grateful for the 1930’s wayward charm.”
Well, perhaps. The war brought full employment and opportunity for many as well as destruction. I don't think there was anything douce or charming about the 1930s. With dictators and depression they are best forgotten.

The Flowers of the Forest is an old Scottish folk song:
"I've heard the lilting, at the yowe-milking,
Lassies a-lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
'The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away'"
Like our own Pratty Flowers the song berates the futility of war. Bintley, who comes from Huddersfield, must have heard that air many times. It is fitting that he chose the pacifist Benjamin Britten to contribute much of the score.

The ballet is two works in one. Four Scottish Dances to Malcolm Arnold's music with Sakuma and Lebowitz again and then the much more serious Scottish Ballad to the Britten. Two bits of the choreography stand out. A wonderfully rhapsodic tour en l'air by the lover in the second dance reminding me of Burns's lyric verse and then the dance of the two drunks who stagger around the stage collapsing in a heap with the women dancing the Huntley (or something very like it) over their spread eagled bodies,

Again there was no express connection with war but the connotations were much more marked in the Bintley. Created in 1985 Flowers of the Forest is one of Bintley's early works and for what my opinion is worth I rate it one of his best. The show is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth tomorrow. If there are any tickets left do go and see it.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

MurleyDance's Autumn Tour

MurleyDance has achieved a lot since its dĂ©but in February 2012. It has completed several nationwide tours visiting venues in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as big cities like Leeds, Leicester and Manchester and has performed at the Edinburgh festival. It has commissioned work from Briar Adams, Richard Chappell and Anaish Parmar as well as providing a platform for its founder and artistic director David Murley. Above all, it has built up a troupe of beautiful and accomplished dancers. As I said in Ey Up from Upperthong 19 Oct 2014 they have grown in every way since I first saw them on 1 Dec 2013 (see MurleyDance Triple  Bill 2 Dec 2013).

I caught their quadruple bill Hail Britannia at the Shaw Theatre in London on 18 Oct 2014. It consisted of two works by Murley and one each from Chappell and Parmar. I enjoyed each of the works tremendously but particularly Parmar's Shaaadi which transposes the colours, drama and movement of the Hindu wedding into classical ballet. Classical ballet has only recently begun to put down roots in India itself (see More on Ballet in India 4 Sept 2014 and Ballet and Bollywood - why they don't meet more often 15 July 2014) and there are still only a handful of dancers of South Asian heritage in this country, but works like Shaadi should change all that. The jumps, turns and pointe work were all in the classical tradition but the costumes and most of the music could have come from the Hindi cinema. There were wonderful performances from the bride - full of apprehension as she embraced her father and brother - the bridegroom reluctant at first but then performing exuberant jetĂ©s - and the busy, busy mother in law despairing and cajoling at first and then dissolving into the dance. A lovely work, I do hope to see Shaadi time and time again.

Chappell's Wayward Kinship was a complete change of mood. Like Gilian Lynne's A Miracle in the Gorbals which I had seen earlier in the day it considered the struggle of the temporal against the spiritual. It explored the friendship between Henry and Beckett and its transition into hate with the eventual ridding of the turbulent priest. The knights who carried out the king's bidding were women and all the more sinister for that. The ballet ended with Beckett nearing his cross triumphant in death. A remarkable work for any choreographer but all the more impressive for a 19 year old who has only just completed his training at Rambert. No doubt we shall see a lot of Richard Chappell in the years to come.

Murley contributed Frisky Claptrap and Highgrove Suite. Both were good but I enjoyed the first work more than the second possibly because of its levity. Ostensibly a tour of Britain by three backpackers - a girl and two boys - it also explored the boys' loyalties. Attracted at first by the girl's charms as the three sped around Britain from Cockfosters to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch by way of Upperthong (a village in the Holme Valley not far from Huddersfield) to a backdrop of continental trains the boys eventually find their home at Happy Bottom.

Highgrove Suite was the last work of the programme and it was impressive. It traced the history of a young girl's passage through life from childhood to her final illness. Bashfulness at her first male encounter, her childish games, motherhood and eventually a hospital bed. Murley created fluent choreography reminiscent of MacMillan to a haunting, lilting score. It is that fluency that attracts me to his work which I noted fist in La Peau last year.

According to the company's website they intend to present their first full length work next year. That is something of an achievement for a company that is not quite three years old. It says a lot for Murley but also for the company's administrative director Paul Kelly, a senior officer of a major retailer who somehow finds time to chair Phoenix and help to oversee The Lowry. Of course, a growing company needs help from its public and there are many ways in which we can all support it.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Bolshoi's "A Legend of Love" streamed from Moscow

 A Legend of Love is not well known in the UK which is a pity because there is a lot to like about the ballet. A fine score by Arif Malikov, spectacular choreography by Yury Grigorovich and striking set and costume designs by Simon Virsaladze. It was first performed by the Kirov (now the Mariinsky) Ballet in Leningrad (St Petersburg) in1961. Grigorovich introduced it to the Bolshoi when he moved to Moscow. The Bolshoi performed it for the first time in 1965 with Maya Plisetkaya and Maris Liepa in the leading roles.

My first encounter with the ballet was watching a rehearsal during World Ballet Day on 1 Oct 2014. I saw an HDTV transmission from Moscow at the Wakefield Cineworld this afternoon. An HDTV transmission is not the same as watching a ballet in the theatre but PathĂ© Live's broadcasts are the next best thing. Although the Royal Ballet's transmissions are getting better they are still some way behind PathĂ© Live (see "Manon Encore at the Huddersfield Odeon" 20 Oct 2014).

The scenario for the ballet was contributed by the Turkish poet and playwright NĂązım Hikmet who based it very loosely on the 12th century Persian poem The Labours of Ferhad. There is a synopsis on the Bolshoi's website but the point to remember is that the hero, Ferkhad, chose to sacrifice his love for the beautiful Princess Shireen in order to secure a water supply for his drought ridden neighbours. Very public spirited. Indeed very socialist minded.  Just the sort of thing that Stakhanov might have done.

There are six strong roles in the ballet:
Grigorovich inserted some exhausting looking jumps for the men, particularly the jester in act II and at least as many fouettĂ©s for the Queen as in Don Quixote or Swan Lake. Indeed, he really put that character through her paces forcing her to adopt the most awkward, angular poses including one that resembled a table with one leg thrusting in the air like a flag post,  Nearly all her movements were en pointe even in the reverence at the end.  The effect was spectacular - one feat after another - just as in a firework display.

The most remarkable thing about this ballet is that it was created by very young men.   Malikov was in his late twenties when he wrote the score and Grigorovich was in his early thirties when he choreographed it. Both of those gentlemen are still alive and Malikov was in the audience.  He was interviewed by Katerina Novikova in the second interval and it was wonderful to see him as he rose to acknowledge applause in his box when a spotlight beamed on him just before the start of the third act. He took a bow to thunderous applause at the end of the show when the conductor invited him onto the stage. 

In her interview Ms Novikova asked him about his teachers and mentors. He listed a number of distinguished composers and musicians culminating with Shostakovich. Charmingly and not at all cheesily he noted that the title of the ballet was A Language of Love and wished everybody a little bit of love in their lives.

One of the reasons for the success of PathĂ© Live's transmissions is the remarkable Ms Novikova.  Always elegant - today she wore a smart blue top and trousers - fluent in French and English and very knowledgeable her discussions and interviews are as unmissable as the dancing.  As well as Malikov she spoke to Rodkin who was down in Moscow from the Mariinsky. She got him to talk about how the great dancers of the past, Liepa and Plisetkaya, had inspired him and how he had realized his ambitions of dancing Spartacus and Ferkhad by the age of 24. 

Last week I was driven to the hot dog stand after the umpteenth gushing tweet about "Federico" and "Marianella" not to mention the platitudes of the presenter. The Bolshoi and Pathé Live know they are good. They have sufficient self-confidence not to need such endorsements. They make good use of the intervals. They don't refer to their principals as Denis and Maria as though they were the neighbours from number 36. They have what the Americans call class and therein lies the difference.

Post Script

I posted an edited version of this article on the BalletcoForum blog and received the following responses from a lady I know only as "Amelia" and a gentleman called "Bruce Wall".

Amelia wrote:
"Thank you, Terpsichore, for your tribute to this remarkable ballet, which, in my view, should be seen on the Bolshoi's historic stage.

I just want to mention that the 24-y-o Rodkin has never been a Mariinsky's dancer. The Bolshoi has been his only employer since 2009."
I replied:
"Thanks for that information, Amelia.
I was foxed by the absence of a hypertext link to Mr Rodkin on the Bolshoi cast list but the presence of a link to him on the Mariinsky's site. I should be grateful if you could shed some light on the apparent anomaly.
I am afraid that I do not follow either company as closely as I should wish because I see them only when they visit London (and even then only once or twice a season because I live 200 miles from the capital).
You on the other hand do follow the Russian companies much more closely and I am always grateful for your information and opinions."
Mr Wall wrote:
"Terspichore, Denis Rodkin was one of the two prized private students of Nikolai Tsiskaridze, when he was still with the Bolshoi prior to becoming the Acting Rector of the Vaganova School. The other was Angelina Vorontsova ......  She is by all reports a lovely dancer and......, is now with the Mikhailovsky Ballet and features prominently in that company's NYC season at the Koch theater next month frequently dancing with I. Vasiliev."
I thanked him for that information as well.

If anyone else can assist us with information about Denis Rodkin's background and antecedents I should be glad to hear from them.  I know this blog is read in Russia so I should be particularly glad to hear from anyone who follows ballet closely in that country.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Grupo Corpo at the Alhambra

Yesterday I spent one of the most enchanting evenings ever in the theatre. The Brazilian dance troupe Grupo Corpo performed Sem Mim and Parabelo at the Alhambra theatre in Bradford.  Both works were choreographed by Rodrigo Pederneiras.  The dancers' bodies clad in gorgeous costumes created wonderful shapes and patterns to hauntingly beautiful sounds. An impression of the performance can be gained from the YouTube video above and the video and sound clips on the company's website.

The works that they chose for us exemplified the history and cultural diversity of Brazil. Sem Mim was inspired by the 13th century Galician minstrel Martin Codax while Parabelo was based on folk songs from the interior.  At one point I thought I heard bagpipes and later the men appeared in tartan kilts. In a question and answer session with the director and two of the dancers after the show I asked: "Why the kilts and bagpipes".  I was told that they are part of the culture of Galicia.  I googled "Galicia" and "bagpipes" and discovered a clip of pipers in Santiago de Compastela. "Such a sweet sound", I thought, "so different from the Scots and Irish instruments". Until the show I never knew that kilts were worn in Spain but there is actually a website about Galician kilts and tartans.  The Celtic influence was just one of many. My companion whose heritage is Indian was reminded of the rhythms of Gujarat in another part of Sem Mim.

Founded in 1975 the company seems to have created its own unique dance style which is not quite ballet and not quite contemporary but blends the two. They dance in shoes with legs turned out as in ballet. There choreography incorporates the jumps and turns of classical ballet but rarely, if ever, en pointe. In the pas de deux in the above clip I believe I saw the woman en pointe but the stage was dimly lit and she may well have been en demi. The most remarkable feature of their technique is that their bodies seem to ripple and shimmer with the sound and light their feet and hips moving forward, their legs and upper bodies going back and their heads loose. Almost like shadows flickering in the light. My companion asked them how they achieved that effect in the Q & A and one of the dancers rose to her feet and demonstrated it.  Another member of the audience asked whether they had rehearsed Sem Mim under water for that was the impression they had created.

In the Q & A another of the questioners asked them whether they dance the ballet classics. They answered "no, Ballet is not their "language" though it is part of their training. One of the dancers explained that she had been attracted to dance by Michael Jackson but she learned ballet in the course of her training and they still do class each day. Certainly they have the grace and show the precision of classical dance.

Grupo Corpo is approaching the end of a gruelling nationwide tour which began at Sadler's Wells at the beginning of the month and which has already taken them to Southampton, Cardiff, Salford and Plymouth.  Their appearance in Bradford was the company's only visit to North East England.  Although the audience greeted them enthusiastically with several members rising to their feet at the end of the show, our seats in the front stalls and there were more than a few empty seats in the auditorium.  Their next stop is the Hippodrome where Birmingham Royal Ballet is based.  Then on to Belfast which is their only appearance in Ireland and finally the Festival in Edinburgh where Scottish Ballet perform.  I do hope they draw the crowds in those cities.  If you live anywhere near those venues you will be richly rewarded if you see the show,

Bringing them to Bradford was quite a coup for the theatre management as they might easily have gone to Leeds or Newcastle instead. In the Q & A a young Brazilian woman expressed her pride in  her nation's artistes but I have to say that I am also proud of the Alhambra theatre of which I am now a Friend. It has brought some top notch shows to West Yorkshire in the past and I hope that it continues to do so. Its manager is clearly a dance fan. I very much appreciate the chance to meet the dancers and director after the show which has been done at least once before.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Second Miracle

Sir Robert Helpmann
Photo Wikipedia
In Dancing in the Blitz: How World War 2 Made British Ballet David Bintley spoke of Sadler's Wells Ballet's contribution to maintaining morale during the second world war. Much of the credit belongs to Sir Robert Helpmann who was one of the few male dancers to avoid conscription. He was also a considerable choreographer creating  ComuHamlet, The Birds and Miracle in the Gorbals during that period. The last of those ballets was a particular favourite possibly because it was a story about the conflict between good and evil which would have reminded the public why they were fighting.

The story is based on Jerome K. Jerome's Passing of the Third Floor Back which is a Christian allegory. Jerome's work is set in London and is about the efforts of a Christ figure ("the stranger") to improve the lives of the residents of a boarding house that had been made miserable by a grasping landlady and a well off businessman. The residents listen to the stranger and follow his advice. That upsets the businessman who bribes the residents to turn against the stranger.

Jerome's short story was transposed to Glasgow by Helmpann's partner Michael Benthall who wrote the scenario for the ballet. A young woman throws herself in the river and is dragged out unconscious. A clergyman tries unsuccessfully to revive her.  He covers her with a shroud and leaves her for dead. A stranger appears and revives her. The crowd acclaims the stranger as a miracle worker much to the annoyance of the clergyman whose shortcomings are revealed when he follows a prostitute to her lodging.  He encourages some local gangsters to set about the stranger who is left to die alone on stage with only the a beggar for company.

The music for the ballet was provided by Sir Arthur Bliss a recording of which you can hear on YouTube.   The sets and costumes were designed by Edward Burra (see Pallant House Gallery's Painting the Stage). The cast of the first performance on the 26 Oct 1944 at The Prince's theatre (now the Shaftesbury) included Moira Shearer, Leslie Edwards, Celia Franks, Gerd Larsen, Stanley Holden, Gillian Lynne and Helpmann himself who danced the stranger.

The ballet was included in the repertoire every year between 1944 and 1950 and was taken on tour. It then disappeared from the Sadler's Wells Ballet's repertoire though critics were still referring to it when I first took an interest in ballet in the late 1960s. For some reason the public forgot it in contrast to Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring which was first performed in Washington just four days later and which has much in common with Helpmann's work. No doubt that is because Helpmann developed his acting career though I have seen him dance with Sir Frederick Ashton in Cinderella in the early 1970s. He also compeered Sir Frederick's retirement gala on 24 July 1970 which I was lucky enough to attend.

It was therefore something of a second miracle to see the revival of this work at Sadler's Wells on 18 Oct 2014. Revival is perhaps not quite the right word for as Dame Gilian Lynne said in The Inspiration which was reprinted in the programme: "There are very few people left alive from that 1944 creation and not one of us remembers a step." Lynne has re-created the ballet to Bliss's music in the style of Helpmann and it certainly looks authentic to me. It appears that Burra's set and costume designs did not survive but Adam Wiltshire seems to have come close. The sense of period was conjured by the sounds of an air raid - the drone of an aircraft, explosions, anti-aircraft fire and a siren - all in total darkness before the first few bars of Bliss's score.

Miracle was sandwiched between MacMillan's La Fin du Jour and Bintley's Flowers of the Forest as part of Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shadows of War programme. Each of those ballets is an important work in its own right and therefore merits a separate review. The company had cast some of its strongest dancers for the performance. The stranger was danced by CĂ©sar Morales, the clergyman by Iain Mackay, the prostitute by Elisha Willis and the suicide victim by Delia Matthews.   Even some of the minor roles were danced by accomplished dancers - Marion Tait and Ruth Brill as two of the old ladies - and Yatsuo Atsuji, Brandon Lawrence, Rory McKay and Valentin Olovyannikov as gangsters.

The only other work of Lynne's that I have seen is "A Simple Man" which she choreographed for Northern Ballet to mark the centenary of L S Lowry's birth nearly 30 years ago (see "Northern Ballet's 'A Simple Man'" 14 Sept 2013). That is another ballet set in the back streets of another great industrial city in times gone by. There is much in Miracle that reminds me of A Simple Man. I wonder how much of Simple Man derives from Helpmann.

Other Reviews

Robert Hugill  Miracle in the Gorbals 18 Oct 2014 Planet Hugill

Monday, 20 October 2014

Manon Encore at the Huddersfield Odeon

I did not book tickets for this season's Manon at the Royal Opera House for two reasons. One was a very good reason and the other not so good.

Taking the good reason first, one can't see everything because there are not enough hours in the day and not enough noughts in my bank balance. If I saw everything that I want to see at the Royal Ballet I would never have time or money for anything else. Now I know the Royal Ballet is the gold standard and I love it dearly but that does not mean that everything else is rubbish. My beloved Northern won the Taglioni award this year and there is great work coming out of Birmingham, Glasgow as well as Leeds not to mention places like Grantham, Newport and Taynuilt, all of which deserves attention, criticism and support.

The less than good reason is that I am a Sibley fan (see Ballerina 1 July 2013). Manon was created for Dame Antoinette as she recalled at her talk to the London Jewish Cultural Centre on 1 Feb 2014 (Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School 3 Feb 2014). I was afraid that I would be disappointed by anyone else in the role. A moment's reflection would have persuaded me that such a fear was groundless for many reasons not least of which is the fact that Sibley is coaching modern ballerinas in that role. But the real clincher came when I saw the rehearsal on World Ballet DayMarianela Nuñez is not Sibley but as you can see from the clip she is a very convincing Manon.

As it was too late to book for the House and as I was busy on Thursday I decided to see the encore at Huddersfield Odeon this afternoon and very good it was too. This is a gruelling role demanding a lot from the ballerina and her partner but Nuñez was up for it as was Federico Bonelli who danced des Grieux. They were strongly supported by Ricardo Cervera as Manon's brother Lescaut, Christopher Saunders as GM and Gary Avis as the gaoler of the penal colony.

The presentation was a lot better than in previous years with interesting interviews with Kevin O''Hare, Nuñez and Bonelli though the Royal Opera House are still some way behind Pathe-Live. They  could do themselves a favour by omitting the gushing but in many cases ill-informed tweets which are very irritating for those of us who actually do go to the ballet regularly.  The Bolshoi and Pathe-Live do not see the need to do that and neither should Covent Garden.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ey Up from Upperthong

I've just come back from a jaunt to t'Smoke. I should've got back three hours ago but some blighters closed the M1 between junctions 15 and 18 which decanted the North bound carriageway of one of the busiest motorways into a country lane. Not only that but they put up downright misleading diversion signs which led me on a magic mystery tour of the East Midlands. Just the sort of jolly jape one appreciates in the wee small hours of the morning.

Any road as it is now too late to get any decent kip I'll tell thee about my adventures in the Great Wen. I'd gone down to see two shows, Birmingham Royal Ballet's Shadows of War at Sadler's Wells in the afternoon and MurleyDance's Hail Britannia at The Shaw Theatre in the evening. Both shows were outstanding though in different ways and, to some extent, actually complementary. As I think I am the only person on the planet to have seen the two shows back to back I count myself very fortunate.

 "To begin at the beginning", I arrived at the Wells early to meet LinMM from BalletcoForum who is lovely. Shortly afterwards we were joined by Don Q Fan and Aileen who are also very sweet. I had already met Don Q Fan at The Lowry in January and we get on like a house of fire. Aileen I had not met before and it was lovely to put a name to a face. The four of us had a fair old chin wag about ballet before the bell summoned us to our seats.

I'm going to do a proper review of both shows later in the week. All I will say about Shadows of War for the moment is that I enjoyed all three ballets but Miracle in the Gorbals was enthralling. It started off eerily with the sound of planes, explosions, anti-aircraft fire and sirens and then Sir Arthur Bliss's wonderful score, A museum piece? Not at all. Think of religious fundamentalism. It's as relevant today as it was in wartime.

Miracle was preceded by La Fin du Jour with striking set designs and even more striking choreography. Two movements in particular took my breath away. The way in which two of the women were thrown through the air and caught again and then a spring several feet in air by two of the men from a prone position. I really felt for them.

The triple bell was polished off by Flowers of the Forest with the men in kilts and the women in tartan skirts and green bonnets and jackets. I would have dressed the ladies in white gowns with tartan sashes as women used to dress for ceilidhs and Highland balls many years ago. The back drop of hills and swirling mist was very effective. I loves two scenes in particular - one of a couple of drunks staggering and eventually collapsing with the girls dancing something like the Huntley over their spread eagled limbs and a lovely lyrical pas de deux where the man performed an ecstatic tour en l'air flooding Burns's verse into my mind.

While we were dissecting the Miracle Don Q Fan noticed a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON from the Royal Ballet whom our mutual friend from Liverpool greatly admires. I won't steal Don Q Fan's thunder by saying who it is but suffice it to say that a photo was taken of VIP and I was the one fumbling with Don Q Fan's mobile as bells rang and folk scurried back to their seats with VIP graciously standing. He even waited for a second photo with me in the piccy.

So after chatting away merrily for another hour we four musketeers went our separate ways. My next stop was the Shaw to see Hail Britannia. One might have thought that this would have been an anticlimax after Shadows of War but it wasn't. It was just as good but in a very different way. First we were clapping and tapping to Anaish Parmar's  Shaadi. It was good to see a balletic interpretation  of the song and dance routines that always seems to work themselves into Hindi films. I loved the henna party, the use of pointe and the mother in law reminding me of a very, very, very dear friend.

Next up was Wayward Kinship by the amazingly young Richard Chappell. That had a lot in common with Miracle in the Gorbals in that it also dealt with religion pushed to extremes and the hero coming to a very sticky end.

Then came Frisky Claptrap a love triangle between three backpackers, two blokes and a girl, against a background of  trains and quaint British place names. One of those quaint sounding place names was Upperthong which is a village in the Holme Vallet where I lived for 7 years. I now live in one of the neighbouring villages a couple of miles away. Above is a picture of Upperthong which is right on the edge of the Pennines and thus endures one of the wettest and windiest climates in the country. Other places that tickled David Murley's funny bone were Cockfosters, Fannyfield and Llanfair­pwllgwyn­gyllgo­gery­chwyrn­drobwll­llanty­silio­gogo­goch. If you want to know how to pronounce the last place name watch Newport State of Mind. A quick memo to David. We also have a place called Netherthong in our valley. Thong, nether garments. Did thou miss a trick, lad?

Finally there was Murley's Highgrove Suite which was the piece de resistance. What it had to do with Prince Charles's country pad was not obvious but there was some cracking choreography.   As I say, I'll review it properly in the fullness of time. I last saw MurleyDance in December (see MurleyDance Triple Bill 2 Dec 2014). The company was good then and is even better now. I can't wait for its first full length ballet next year.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

MurleyDance Hail Britannia

This time last week I saw Sarah Kundi in English National Ballet's Swan Lake (see "What Manchester does today" 10 Oct 2014). She led me to Ballet Black, one of my favourite companies (see "Ballet Black's Appeal" 12 March 2013), and introduced me to the work of Christopher Marney (see "Christopher Marney" 16 March 2014).  I saw Ballet Black perform Marney's latest ballet Dogs don't do Ballet  on Saturday. Sarah Kundi also led me to another great company, MurleyDance, for which she danced before joining ENB ("MurleyDance Triple Bill" 2 Dec 2013). I shall see that company's latest work, Hail Britanniathis Saturday. I am grateful for her for leading me to MurleyDance too.

MurleyDance is taking Hail Britannia on tour. The programme,  includes works by Richard Chappell, Anaish Parmar and David Murley. Chappell's work considers the relationship between Henry II and Thomas Beckett. Knowing the Anouilh play as I do, I am expecting a lot from this work.  Coinciding with diwali, Parmar's  Shaadi is about Hindu wedding traditions in modern Britain. Murley has two works in the mixed programme, Frisky Claptrap which makes fun of British place names like Cockfosters and Fannyfield, and Highgrove Suite which is about a young girl's transition into womanhood.

The show is coming to the Shaw Theatre on Saturday where I shall be. It will them move to Epsom on the 22nd and Cheltenham on the 25th.  The telephone numbers and websites of the theatres where Hail Britannia is to be performed are on the company's website.

The company depends on the public for support and you can donate or sponsor its work through its website.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


The day I danced in public I presented the nearest I have to a grandson with a copy of Anna Kemp's Dogs don't do Ballet. A few weeks earlier I had actually met the extraordinarily gifted young choreographer, Christopher Marney, and scolded myself for not thinking of asking him to sign that book because Cassa Pancho had told me that Ballet Black had commissioned Marney to base a ballet on that book a few weeks before the official announcement. Ironically I met two other choreographers, David Nixon and Kenneth Tindall, the day after I had performed and I could have asked either of them to sign something else for little Vladimir but it wouldn't have been the same. Anyway, yesterday the first performances of Dogs don't do ballet took place in Harlow and I was there with three year old Vlad to see the show.

The ballet is for children aged 3 or over so the acid test is: "what did a 3 year old child think of the show?" Well Vlad the Lad liked it.  In his short life he has seen no less than three ballets if you count the Northern Ballet Academy's end of term show (and I think you must because there were some good performances in that show which more than made up for my poor efforts) and he liked them all. But he particularly liked Dogs don't do Ballet for he sat through the whole 50 minutes quite entranced. He's an active boy and to hold his attention for all that time says a lot about the show. So guys, you passed the Vlad test.

So what did this 65 year old think of it?  I loved it. Though it was a children's ballet there was plenty to appeal to grown ups. For instance, the ballet teacher, Miss Polly, swigging from her hip flask and sleeping through her students' barre exercises.  She was danced by Christopher Renfurm who has blossomed as a character dancer. He is a good Slvador Dali but a brilliant ballet teacher. Though I am glad to say that none of my ballet teachers is anything like Miss Polly, Renfurm fitted the popular stereotype of a ballet teacher to a tee. The expression of delight on Anna's face changing to embarrassment upon her first kiss was another moment to savour. Marie Astrid Mence, Ballet Black's latest recruit, was an adorable Anna. The study of canine behaviour by Cira Robinson - so familiar to anyone who has ever kept a dog - was yet another delight. There was Bif's whining, her friendly slathering over Miss Polly, the playfulness with which she toyed with a tutu and her pas de deux with a dalmatian. Just like a real dog - in fact, just like Harvey*.

As I said in my appreciation of Christopher Marney the quality that distinguishes him from other choreographers is his remarkable sensitivity to music. This was reflected in the construction of the score - KetĂšlbey, Baranowski, Strauss, plenty of Tchaikovsky and above all FaurĂ©'s Dolly Suite - and of course the interpretation of that score. The movements that he created were extraordinary - particularly those that required Robinson, Kanika Carr and JosĂ©Alves to dance on all fours. Also the barre exercises - the foundering "Kanikova" -  with a French horn over her head - and of course Bif's pas de deux. I was already quite a Marney fan before I saw that ballet and my admiration for his work is now even greater.

All the dancers seemed to have fun - Isabela Coracy as the coquettish Felicia with her poodle (Carr) and her pink mobile. Jacob Wye as the bashful TJ, Damian Johnson as the kindly dad - and it showed in their wit and exuberance.   Gary Harris's costumes - particularly Robinson's dog suit and Miss Polly's hats and shawls - were inspired. So, too, was James Lewis's set and of course David Plater's lighting.   I ought to say a word about the programme which was unusually cheap but also very informative and came with a set of crayons for colouring Bif in her tutu.  I now know which dancer keeps a pet and what it is. Although I have only met a few of them briefly on one occasion I feel I now know them.  I am looking forward to seeing them all in Leeds on 6 Nov 2014.

This show is moving on to Bournemouth on the 19 and Exeter on the 21 Oct and finally to Winchester on 29 Nov. If you live anywhere near those towns - or even if you don't - do go and see it.  Yesterday, Chris Marney's dad asked me how many miles I had driven for the show. The answer is 520 and the ballet was well worth every inch of the journey.

Post Script
I am starting a resource page on that company at Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014 27 Feb 2014

There are some lovely pictures of Dogs don't do Ballet on Ballet Black's Facebook page.

*The pet dog of one of my ballet teachers

Friday, 10 October 2014

What Manchester does today

English National Ballet, Swan Lake, Palace Theatre, Manchester 9 Oct 2014

Isn't it lovely when someone achieves his ambition? On James Forbat's profile the following words appear:
"Roles would love to dance
Romeo, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake"
Well yesterday in Manchester Mr Forbat danced that role and he did very well indeed.  Of course, he had the benefit of an adorable Odette-Odile in Erina Takehashi. Yesterday was the first time I had seen her (or at any rate the first time I had noticed her) and she impressed me considerably. She was a very convincing Odette in the prologue and second act - so delicate and feminine - and I couldn't imagine her as Odette but the lady is tough as well as beautiful and she is also an accomplished actor. She danced the seduction scene even more brilliantly than she had danced Odette.

Many of my other favourites were also in the show: Arionel Vargas as Rothbart, Lauretta Summerscales, Michael Coleman and Sarah Kundi. It was a great pleasure to see them all again.

I have seen a lot of Swan Lakes in my time but this is one of the best. There were some very nice touches like the prologue with Odette as a girl plucking the petals of a daisy before Rothbart turns her into a swan. I also liked the divertissements particularly the Neapolitan dance which seems to have reinstated Ashton's original choreography. It was also good to see Peter Farmer's designs.

Appropriately this production will start in Manchester and move on  to Milton Keynes, Liverpool and London. Manchester was the first city outside London where Festival (as the company was originally called) performed. Manchester was where Laverne Meyer founded Northern Ballet. Manchester was going to be a  Northern hub for the Royal Opera House and it is a tragedy that those plans were shelved (see Royal Opera House shelves move north 28 Oct 2010 The Independent). The second city needs its own resident world class ballet company. We had one once and let it go. So sad!

Further Reading

18 Oct 2014
Sarah Kundi

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Could the Arts not do something about this horrible Scourge

Last February some of the world's finest classical and contemporary dancers gave up their time for a gala at the Britten Theatre to raise funds for development in Ghana. I was there and it was a great evening for a great cause. I reviewed it in Gala for Ghana 4 Feb 2014.

I think now that there is an even better cause and that is to raise funds for treatment centres, medicines and clinicians to contain, control and eventually conquer a virus that has already killed thousands and is likely to kill very many more.  Possibly even more damaging than the virus itself is the economic damage to the economies of some of the poorest countries in the world since tourists are no longer coming to this regions's beautiful beaches and most other types of business is grinding to standstill. Needless to say it is also affecting the social and cultural life of the region as well. Sierra Leoneans are among the most friendly and courteous folk I know (and I should know for I was married to one for nearly 28 years) but who risks a kiss or handshake nowadays when since skin to skin contact spreads the virus.

So the region needs some help.  It is already getting some from governments and NGOs but Sierra Leone and its neighbours will need massive help in rebuilding their economic, social and cultural institutions when the immediate crisis is over. That's where something like Gala for Ghana to raise money for such rebuilding could help. If anyone in ballet or the other performing arts would care to give their time for a similar gala I would do my best to support it.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Elizabeth Rae

This morning our Over 55 class at Northern Ballet Academy was taught by Elizabeth Rae. As you can see from her biography on Northern Ballet's website she has enjoyed a glittering career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and author. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be taught by her.

We have two classes on Tuesday: an hour of barre and exercises in the centre and then an extra 30 minutes for those of us who want to improve (or in my case learn) pirouettes and jumps.  It was quite challenging for all of us and particularly for me but Elizabeth gave us lots of useful tips and information which she delivered with considerable wit. For instance, always keep your little finger in view when doing grands pliĂ©s because you keep your back straight and transfer your weight to the ball of your foot and not the heel when doing turns.  Although I have been trying my best for ages I still can't do pirouettes properly and I get really frustrated with them but Elizabeth's exercises really helped. She taught us to do tours lents in retirĂ© and while I was a long way from  getting it right I was a closer to getting it right than ever before.

After class we gathered round to thank her for her teaching and in a short conversation that followed she spoke to us briefly about her career.  She danced many important roles with Frankfurt Ballet and there is a lovely picture of her with Richard Sykes of that company on her Northern Ballet web page.  I googled her and found that she danced as Lisa Rae when she was on the stage and I found lots of other beautiful images of her.

One of the reasons I take as many ballet classes as I can is the precious interaction between teacher and student which you can see in the clips from Moscow and San Francisco (see "Adult Ballet in Moscow and San Francisco - could have been Leeds or Manchester" 2 Oct 2014). I have heard great dancers from the past such as Antoinette Sibley talk fondly about their teachers (see Le jour de gloire est arrive - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School 3 Feb 2014 and modern ballerinas like Lauren Cuthbertson and Elena Glurdjidze talk in the same way about theirs.  I will never be a ballerina but I can at least experience that aspect of their lives.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Bruce Again

Less than 24 hours after seeing Rambert's Rooster in Manchester, I saw Christopher Bruce's face in another programme. This time it was for Ten Poems which was part of the double bill The Crucible with Ten Poems which Scottish Ballet danced at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh.

Shortly before the show, I tweeted:
I did.

The two works had quite a lot in common. Rooster was choreographed to familiar songs.  Ten Poems to equally familiar poems. There was similar precision and control in the choreography in both works. Marian Bruce who designed the sets and costumes of Rooster also designed the costumes and sets for Ten Poems. But there were differences. There is much less light and joy in Thomas's verse than in the music of The Rolling Stones. Do not go gentle into that good night danced by Andrew Peasgood and Chris Harrison had me close to tears. On the other hand, having seen men push women around in Rooster I derived some satisfaction at masculine comeuppance in Lament. There weren't too many laughs in Ten Poems unlike Rooster but the plucking gesture in the general neighbourhood "of the old ram rod, dying of women" by one of those women generated one of them. Indeed a guffaw of (mainly) female laughter.

The other work in the double bill was Helen Pickett's The Crucible.  This followed closely Arthur Miller's play which I first saw performed by the National Theatre at The Old Vic at about the same time as I was introduced to Dylan Thomas's poetry. It is about the Salem witch trials which resulted in the execution of some 20 people in 1692 for the crime of witchcraft. Each of those condemned was convicted on the evidence of a scheming teenager who manipulated her friends and through them the whole colony of Massachusetts into a hysterical frenzy. Miller wrote The Crucible as a study of mass hysteria and the irrationality of group think as Senator McCarthy was ending the careers of some of America's leading figures in the arts with groundless or exaggerated allegations of Communist sympathy.

There were very strong performances by Sophie Martin as Abigail Wlliams, Chris Harrison as John Procter and Eve Mutso as his wife, Elizabeth Procter.  Indeed, the whole cast were great. Tense and dramatic it was in many ways more powerful than the play. Charles Heightchew's designs and George Thomson's lighting were striking, particularly the last scene with a silhouette of the gallows and a prisoner ascending to his doom.

The double bill is moving on to Aberdeen having started in Glasgow and having also visited Inverness as well as Edinburgh but sadly it will not be seen outside Scotland, at least not for the moment. That is a pity because we don't see enough of Scottish Ballet south of the border. It does a season at the Wells, of course, and makes it down to Newcastle occasionally but not to Bristol where it was born or Leeds where its first cousin if not sister company through Laverne Meyer now resides. Its family resemblance to Northern Ballet is remarkable. We in Leeds and I am sure the folk in Bristol and indeed the rest of the nation would welcome it with open arms if it could be persuaded to pay us all a visit.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Rooster ................ :-)

I love dance and find something to enjoy in most shows but I have rarely had such a good time as I had at The Lowry last night. Rambert delivered a scintillating programme of work by Mark Baldwin, Richard Alston, Merce Cunningham and Christopher Bruce. Each of those works is a choreographic masterpiece bur the show was called "Rooster" not "Mixed Bill" and it was that classic that I and most of the rest of the crowd had come to see.

I am just over three years younger than Bruce and grew up with the Rolling Stones.  I did not actually buy their records or indeed any pop music because I did not have a record player until my 21st birthday but then I did not need to because their music was everywhere at friends' parties and on the radio particularly programmes broadcast from ships moored in the Thames estuary.

The late 1960s was not a bad time to be young. Conscription had ended in 1963. There was full employment with relatively well paid work for young women. Those of us who were lucky enough to get into one of the handful of universities that existed at that time had full maintenance grants. The oral contraceptive pill had broken the link between intercourse and child birth liberating both sexes. The threat of nuclear annihilation was receding with the first test ban treaties and for a time the cold war seemed to be thawing. There were the first stirrings of movements for racial and gender equality.

There were still menaces, of course: the war in Vietnam, Apartheid, Rhodesia, the brutal crushing of the Prague Spring and Ulster. Life wasn't rosy everyone - not even in suburban Surrey where I grew up or St Andrews where I went to university - especially if you were poor, black or female - but it was a damn sight better than it had been in the forties, fifties and early sixties and the music and the fashions of the day reflected a time of optimism, growing freedom and relative prosperity.

Bruce's Rooster reflected that time uncannily. It is eight movements set to eight Stones' songs:
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Lady Jane
  • Not Fade Away
  • As Tears Go By
  • Paint it Black
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Play with Fire
  • Sympathy with the Devil.
Not all those tunes are happy but then we weren't always happy all of the time. That's when we listened to tracks like Ruby Tuesday. Bruce has captured the moods and emotions in each of those songs uncannily with some breathtaking choreography an example of which you can see in this clip.

The piece would have been nothing without Marian Bruce's designs. The dancers' hair, those gorgeous black and red dresses, the boys' jackets and ties - authentic but not in the least dated - clothes especially Ruby's dress that every woman in the audience must have longed to wear. I remembered what we wore to parties during my schooldays at Belsize Park and Richmond or during my students days at Elie or on the North Haugh.

Now, as you can see, I am far too emotional to give this performance any proper critical analysis. If you want to learn more watch Bruce's commentary on the Unmasked page of Rambert's website, read these student notes from an Australian university, read a review or, better still, see the show for yourself as it tours the country

Justice requires a few words about the other pieces. The show opened with The Strange Charm of Mother Nature by the company's artistic director Mark Baldwin. For some reason or other I had expected it to be about animals or plants but it is actually about sub-atomic particles and was inspired by a visit to CERN. The music was provided by a live orchestra which reminds us of Rambert's classical roots and the fact that it was our first ballet company (see "Rambert at the Lowry - 9 Oct 2013" 11 Oct 2013). The music was eclectic - Bach, Stravinsky and Cheryl Frances-Head - and the designs by Katie Paterson stunning. Along the backdrop ran a beam of light at different heights and in different colours changing with the costumes of the dancers. A plasma stream perhaps? If so, it was effective.

The other treats of the evening were Richard Alston's Dutiful Ducks to Charles Amirkhanian's poem danced by Adam Blyde and my personal favourite. Merce Cunningham's  Sounddance.  I have to confess to being a Dane Hurst fan ever since I saw him dance Inala to Ladysmith Black Mazambo at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School Gala at the Wells last year.  He was the first on stage and the last to leave conjuring his colleagues to do magnificent things in between. Don't get me started about Dane Hurst because it would not be fair to the other dancers who were brilliant too.

While watching Rooster a thought occurred to me. Rooster was created in 1991 which was well outside the period but there was at least one rock ballet in the 1960s, namely Peter Darrell's Mods and Rockers  for Western Theatre Ballet. Critics were a bit sniffy - see The Spectator of the 27 Nov 1963 - but crowds loved it and so, I think did the dancers. Western Theatre Ballet is now, of course. Scottish Ballet which is reviving Darrell's Nutcracker. Wouldn't it be lovely to see another Darrell classic again. Sarasota Ballet danced it in 1996 so it must be a lot easier to reconstruct than say Helpmann's Miracle in the Gorbals. So what about it, Mr. Hampson? Please. Pretty please.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Scottish Ballet and Ballet West

Glasgow Armadillo
Photo Wikipedia

Tomorrow I am going to Edinburgh to see The Crucible with Ten Poems by Scottish Ballet. I am always excited when I go to Scotland because Scottish Ballet was the first company that I got to know and love and therefore occupies a very special place in my affections (see Scottish Ballet 20 Dec 2013). It was in Scotland that I took my first classes and indeed it was there that I first learned to appreciate ballet. Although I was brought up in suburban Surrey less than 20 miles from Sadler's Wells and Covent Garden I never saw any ballet on stage because my father thought it was rather frivolous and even mildly subversive owing to its associations with the USSR. It was only when I had my own income in the form of a local authority grant and jobs that I could pick up driving vans and minibuses around London that I was able to see ballet regularly.

There is another Scottish company that I love to watch and that is Ballet West from a small village a few miles outside Oban.  Ballet West is a school  in an idyllic location which seems to attract talented students from around the world and train them to a very high standard.  To give the students stage experience they produce a show which they take to theatres and other venues in small towns and city suburbs around Scotland. My very first post to this blog was on Ballet West's Nutcracker which I saw in Pitlochry. This year I saw their Swan Lake of which you can see a video of their performance in Inverness. I once explored their village and its surroundings while waiting for the Craignure ferry and I whooped with delight when their pupil Natasha Watson won a medal in the GenĂ©e. As you can see, I am very, very, very, very impressed with Ballet West.

Ballet West's next ballet will be Romeo and Juliet which is the show they took to China in 2011.  They will be taking it to the Clyde Auditorium on Valentine's day which is known locally as the Armadillo, their most ambitious venue yet. My birthday coincides with that day and my favourite way of celebrating that day is watching ballet. There are some great pictures of the boys in rehearsal on their Facebook page.  Other news from that page is they will be holding a fund raising lunch by Loch Lomond on 2 Nov for which there were still a few vacancies last time I checked. If you can't make that there are many other ways you can support that Centre of Excellence.

Post Script

I have just received an invitation through Facebook to meet some of Ballet West's dancers and creatives when they perform in Glasgow which I have gratefully accepted.