Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Oh Fortuna

Birmingham Royal Ballet - Carmina burana trailer from Birmingham Royal Ballet on Vimeo.

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Carmina Burana, Hippodrome, 20 June 2015

David Bintley comes from Honley which is almost next door to mine (see My Home and Bintley's 12 May 2015). It is not possible to grow up in this part of the world without coming across The Choral. It performs at least three series of concerts to full houses in Huddersfield Town Hall every year. In The Choral 19 Dec 2013 I reviewed one of its concerts and wrote:
"So what's all this got to do with ballet or even dance?" I hear you say. Well I did reserve the right to go off topic occasionally for an exceptional concert and this was certainly exceptional. And we dance in Huddersfield as well as sing (see "The Base Studios, Huddersfield"). We produced David Bintley of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I don't know whether he had any connection with the Choral or even attended a concert but you can't live in this part of Yorkshire without knowing about it. The Choral must have been part of Bintley's cultural heritage."
I asked Bintley about his cultural influences when he addressed the London Ballet Circle last month and he confirmed that my suspicion was right. However, my suspicions would also have been confirmed by the performance of Carmina Burana at the Hippodrome on 20 June 2015 to celebrate Bintley's 20th anniversary as artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the 25th anniversary of the company's move to Birmingham.

That was a very special evening which I have already described In Praise of Bintley on 21 June 2015. Two works were performed that day:  Bintley's latest ballet The King Dances, which I reviewed in A Special Ballet for a A Special Day 23 June 2015 and Carmina Burana the very first that he created after he was appointed artistic director of the company. I had come to see The King Dances but Carmina Burana was a treat. A multimedia spectacular. A feast as much for the ears as for the eyes. This was the first time I had seen the ballet and how and why I had missed it all those years is a mystery.

Carl Orff's score has always been popular, particularly O Fortuna. Bintley translated her into the Empress of the World, a blindfolded woman in black shift on high heels representing blind fortune. She danced alone completely oblivious to human merit and indeed the human condition. On 20 June 2015 she was danced brilliantly by Céline Gittens. I have seen quite a lot of that dancer this year and my admiration for her has grown in every performance. Incidentally, I was delighted to read about her promotion in the company. I offer my congratulations to her and the other dancers who have been promoted to the enormous number that she and they must already have received (see End of Season Announcements 29 June 2015).

In the Carmina Burana Orff set to music several secular poems about medieval life. Bintley created what are effectively 6 mini-ballets around each of those poems. O Fortuna was an encounter between lady luck (the Empress Fortuna) and seven seminarians. Spring celebrates the fertility of the earth but also of womankind. It is set in a maternity ward with women who are either about to give birth or who have given birth against a backdrop of drying sheets and nappies with the hapless father or naive body danced by Jamie Bond. The next scene is bucolic with village lads in their colourful jackets and the village lasses in their pony tails competing for the attention of Elisha Willis. The second seminarian, Matthias Dingman (who has also been promoted) in a boiling rage seeks solace in the tavern where he and five gluttons in fat suits are served Daria Stanciulescu in a tureen. Finally, the third seminarian, Tyrone Singleton, returns to Fortuna in the Court of Love where he is stripped to his underpants. One of the most effective and affecting endings to a ballet that I have ever seen.

But there are three other stars to this ballet: the designer Philip Prowse who designed the magnificent and spectacular sets and costumes, Philip Mumford for his lighting and the singers of Ex Cathedra. We in Huddersfield like to think that the Choral has a unique sound which you can best appreciate in the Dies Irae of Verdi's Requiem. Birmingham's magnificent choir Ex Cathedra came closer to that sound than any choir I have heard before or since.

Carmina Burana is of course 20 years old but to me it was as fresh and vibrant as if it had been created yesterday.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Going Dutch

Dutch National Ballet, Empire Noir,  Igone de Jongh, Floor Eimers,
Suzanna Kaic, Michaela DePrince, 17 June 2015
Author Angela Sterling
(c) 2015 Dutch National Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the Company

Dutch National Ballet, Cool Britannia, Stopera Amsterdam, 27 June 2015

I have just returned from Amsterdam where I saw the Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia at The Stopera. The word "stopera" is an abbreviation of the words stadhuis or town hall and opera the meaning of which is obvious. The building combines the functions of Amsterdam's town hall with the national opera house and concert hall. It was my first visit to the Stopera but I hope it will not be my last for it is a magnificent auditorium.

As I said in my preview Cool Britannia - in Amsterdam 16 April 2015, this is a triple bill of one act ballets by three leading British choreographers: David Dawson, Christopher Wheeldon and Wayne McGregor. Dawson and Wheeldon created new ballets called Empire Noir and Concerto Concordia which I discussed in David Dawson's Empire Noir 18 June 2015 and Wheeldon in Amsterdam and the Dutch National Ballet in London 6 June 2015). McGregor contributed Chroma which British audiences already know. Each of those works was very different from the others.

Empire Noir showcased the dancers' virtuosity. It was full of spectacular jumps, turns and lifts and looked quite exhausting. Even the dancers' entrances and exits were made at the double.  Haines's score was throbbing, vibrant and incessant.  I had seen Michaela DePrince and Sho Yamada in the Junior Company last year but this was the first time I had seen Casey Herd, Jozef Varga, Artur Shesterikov and James Stout about whom I had read so much. My only disappointment was missing Igone de Jongh but there was some fine dancing from Samantha Mednick, Sasha Mukhamedov, Floor Elmers and, of course. DePrince. She may only be an apprentice in the company (though I am delighted to learn that she will be elevated to coryphee next year) but she has quite a following in Amsterdam. She received particularly loud applause when she took her bow. The chap next to me rose to his feet as soon as she stepped forward. In the interval I noticed that a stand was selling her t-shirts. The only other dancer with t-shirts on offer was de Jongh.

Wheeldon's Concerto Concordia was a quieter and more contemplative work. He chose Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra in D Minor for his music. This is a work with sudden changes of moods could have been written for ballet. It was the first time that I had heard it and I adored it. According to the programme notes Wheeldon created the work for Anna Tsygankova and she was on stage on Saturday accompanied by Varga. They were one of two principal couples who are joined on stage from time to time by six others. The other principal couple was Victoria Ananyan and Serguei Endinian. This was the work that I enjoyed the most, probably because I liked the music.

I had  seen Chroma once before and remembered the sharp, angular almost robotic movements, the simple set with its large window through which dancers entered or against which they were silhouetted and the curious almost canine sniffing gestures at two points in the show. This cannot be an easy ballet to dance and I was delighted to see Nathan Brhane and Wantao Li who were in the Junior Company last year with  Yamada and DePrince. It was good to see those young dancers again and great to see how far they have come in a year. They were led  by Herd, Stout and Roman Artyushkin. The crowd loved this ballet and they rose to their feet as one. I like Amsterdam audiences. They see enough ballet to know what's good and what's not but they are much less stingy in their praise than Londoners.

The Stopera has a massive stage. I don't know how it compares to Covent Garden's but it seems pretty cavernous to me. There's plenty of reasonably priced seating. I was in the front row of the 1st circle and was as close to the stage as I would have been in the front row of the dress circle in the Royal Opera House. My seat cost 53 euros which is less than I would have paid for the amphitheatre. There was plenty of leg room and although the house was pretty full it did not seem crowded.  I was served very quickly when I queued for a drink in the first interval and I was charged less than I would pay in a theatre bar at home.  The auditorium overlooks the Amstel and it is possible to step out onto a walkway in warm weather. There is a metro station almost next door and a couple of pubs and two Argentine restaurants across the street.

There are flights to Schiphol from Ringway and Yeadon at a fraction of the cost of the train fare to London and hotels are generally cheaper in Amsterdam than London. I am already looking forward to my next trip back.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Wonderful Phoenix

Phoenix Dance may be a small company but it is at the forefront of contemporary dance in the UK  It has strong dancers who confidently deliver.  I was therefore delighted to be one of a number of guest who had been invited to see Until.With/Out.Enough which is to form part of a mixed bill to be danced at the Linbury between the 11 and 15 November 2015 and as part of the company's 35th year Birthday celebrations  to be delivered in 2016. The performance took place in Leeds last Friday in a studio in the building that Phoenix Dance shares with Northern Ballet.
Sharon Watson, the company's artistic director, introduced the piece to us.  She explained that it had been created by Itzik Galili. in 1997. It is about the importance of the experience of the moment.  She described it as a "work in progress" which will be more polished by the time it is performed in London. I have to say I that it is not clear where further polishing is needed for the work was very well done and exciting. The piece came through to me as being about struggles of relationships and experiences we encounter in life; how they fit in to others around us; how we interact with them; and how we cope or don't cope with those relationships and experiences,

The space was owned  as the dancers burst on stage to the music of  Henryk Gorecki and they maintained that momentum throughout the show. It was a dramatic piece. It was like a vortex.  The emotions expressed by the dancers rippled through the audience who almost participated in the show.. Exciting stuff.  There were solos, duets and group dances. Each flowed into the other in sync. .Some of those duets were between males who showed great tenderness to each other. It was a tight performance and the audience loved it.  The applause was deafening and very well deserved..

I had the pleasure of almost being face to face with the dancers as they performed this breathtaking piece. I had never been that close to a dancer in a performance before.  I really felt their presence as they performed their movements. I could hear the dancers breathe and pant.

After the performance I spoke to Sharon Watson and other members of the company about how the show was put together.. Although the work was created by Galili, Sharon and Caroline Finn must also share the credit. They added layers and nuances to the work, Galili visited the company and outlined his choreography. He was represented by Elizabeteh Gilbat who worked with the company's choreographers and dancers. The whole process took about 4 weeks. It was interesting to compare that process with the one discussed in the Narrative Dance in Ballet talk on 20 June 2015 (see Jane Lambert My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015).

I look forward to seeing this and Phoenix Dance's other works when they visit the Royal Opera House in November.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Exactly my cup of tea

Authior Xavier Snelgrove
Licensed under CC Attribution Share Alike Generic Licence
Source Wikipedia

Ballet Black, Nottingham Playhouse, 26 June 2015

Unless I am very much mistaken, the opening bars of Mark Bruce's Second Coming are a quotation from Bizet's Carmen. I was reminded of The Car Man which I saw on Wednesday. I enjoyed that show very much even though New Adventures' style of theatrical dance is not quite my cup of tea (see Motoring 25 June 2015). "Ah" I thought to myself as the ballet began, "this is exactly my cup of tea." Ballet Black are as classical as any company in the world. They are heirs to a tradition to which David Bintley paid homage in The King Dances which I saw on Saturday (see A Special Ballet for a Special Day 23 June 2015). But they are also pioneers and their work is fresh and new. That's why Ballet Black is a national treasure. That's why I love them so.

Ballet Black danced the mixed programme that I saw at The Linbury on Valentine's day (see Ballet Black's Best Performance Yet 17 Feb 2015) but it was quite a different show. The opening ballet was Kit Holder's To Fetch a Pail of Water. In February it was danced by Jacob Wye and Kanika Carr. I wrote that "this was a sweet story ...... of lost innocence." Well yesterday those roles were danced by Damien Johnson and Cira Robinson's who are two of the company's senior artists. They bring gravitas and the darkness to which Holder referred in his programme notes was much easier to notice. This is a text book example of how a change of cast can change a ballet. Now both casts are great and I hope that there will be still be nights when Wye and Carr dance that piece as well as others when we see Johnson and Robinson.

Will Tuckett's Depouillement is one of the most beautiful ballets that any company has in its repertoire. Yesterday it was danced by Alves, Carr, Coracy, Mence, Renfurm and Wye. All of them danced well but my eyes were on Coracy and Renfurm. They were very shrewd hires (see Ballet Black's New Dancers  24 Sept 2013) and they have both blossomed in the company. Coracy was a wonderful Puck in her scout's uniform in Arthur Pita's Dream and Remfurm was an unforgettable Miss Polly. Yesterday they both danced like angels. So did all the others, by the way, but there are sometimes days when individual performers shine and yesterday those two were brilliant.

If my eyes were on Renfurm and Coracy in Depouillement they were on Carr in Bruce's Second Coming. With tiny wings protruding from her costume she danced "the angel" - though not one of the heavenly variety who knows how to make Yorkshire pudding  (see Sapphire 15 March 2015 and Jonathan Watkins if you are looking for one of those). Her role is the linchpin of the work. She entered with the hoop through which she made all the initiates pass at the start and end of the ballet. She produced the dagger which the ruler wielded with such menace. One of Carr's strengths is her face which is so expressive. She can convey any emotion though it is mainly charm and wit. She is the company's great character dancer. As in February the highlight of that piece was Johnson's pas de deux with Robinson to Elgar's Cello Concerto. Its beauty brought tears to my eyes then and I had to struggle to hold them back now. Johnson and Robinson are two wonderful dancers.

I spotted Cassa Pancho, the company's artistic director, in the auditorium just before the second part of the show. "Interesting casting" she said anticipating what I was about to say. "Inspired" I replied and I congratulated her on the show, particularly on Renfurm and Coracy. "But you say that every time" said Pancho. "But then you always produce something special and something new." Although I hate to hurt dancers and choreographers' feelings I am no insincere flatterer. Gita won't let me be such. Slightly stung by the accusation or inference of flattery I was not the first to rise to my feet at the curtain call. Now I am not saying that New Adventures and Inala didn't deserve that compliment from their audiences though I did not join in either but Ballet Black definitely did, and I was there on my feet with the best of them.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Inala at the Alhambra

Bradford Alhambra

Inala, Alhambra, Bradford, 26 June 2015

On 29 Sept 2013 dancers from most of the major companies of the United Kingdom performed in a gala at Sadler's Wells for Yorkshire Ballet Summer School (see More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song 30 Sept 2013). Rambert's contribution was Inala danced by Dane Hurst to the music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. On that occasion Hurst performed to a recording of the ensemble's music. I remember that it was one of the highlifghts of the show. Less than a year later Hurst and other dancers from his company and elsewhere together with Ladysmith Black Mambazo itself and accompanying musicians appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in a full length performance of song and dance also called Inala.

The full length work was received very well. The artists were invited to the Royal Variety Performance on 13 Nov 2014. They also performed to full houses at Sadler's Wells and other venues in the UK (see About the Show on the Inala website), Earlier this month they performed in Moscow and they are now on the second leg of another UK tour which started in Oxford on 23 June 2015 (see "Tickets and Tour"). Last night I was them at the Bradford Alhambra. I hope to catch them again at Sadler's Wells on the 10 July 2015.

They certainly seem to be very popular. On Tuesday I caught a feature on Inala: Combining music from Ladysmith Black Mambazo and contemporary dance on Radio 4's Front Row in which Albert Mazibuko said that the company received standing ovations "most of the time." In the same interview Pietra Mello-Pitman, the show's executive producer who had danced in the Royal Ballet said that was something she had never received in The Sleeping Beauty no matter how beautiful.

So, what is this show like? You can get some idea from the YouTube trailer and a little more insight from  Introducing INALA - A Zulu Ballet. Singers, musicians and dancers share the same stage. There is a very simple backdrop of a wide sky against a parched landscape with three clouds that reminded me of aircraft vapour trails. The costumes are also simple. The singers appear in long shirts or tunics with geometric dancers. The male dancers are in black. The women are in black tops with different coloured skirts. There were changes of head dress.  There were feathers in the head gear that seemed to indicate different types of fowl. The backdrop changes were generated by the lighting and I have to single out Ben Cracknell for praise for some impressive lighting design.

I can't tell you much about the story because there were no programmes and hence no cast sheets. In an effort to find out why and how I could get one I introduced myself as a blogger to a chap with a North American accent who was selling DVDs in a concession booth. He told me that the programmes had been sent to Oxford. "Well Oxford, Bradford, what's the difference?" remarked my companion ironically, "They are both 'fords'." So far as I could see the show charted a day in rural South Africa with a trip to the city for there was a scene with car horns and searchlights. It ended with a sort of lullaby as the lights dimmed with the singers waving to the audience followed by a final few minutes when each of the dancers did a turn.

I have the same problem in telling you who took part in last night's show though I think I recognized Dane Hurst and some other dancers from Rambert. The best I can do in that regard is to refer you to the "Cast and Creatives" page of the show's website. I hope that the company recover their programmes from Oxford by the time I see the show again in London. I have to say that had I not seen the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala or heard Front Row I would have been able to say very little about this show.

The show is advertised as a "Zulu ballet" and there are indeed some balletic jumps and pas de deux but there seemed to me to be rather more contemporary dance than ballet.  There was, for example, no pointe work.  That is of course what I would have expected from a show that was choreographed by Mark Baldwin, Rambert's artistic director. Some of the biggest "oohs" and "ahs" from the audience were for jumps and lifts which you see in almost any ballet. They were well executed but not exactly out of the ordinary.

As had happened the previous night in Sheffield for The Car Man (see Motoring 25 June 2015) there was a standing ovation and a lot of whooping and cheering with which I did not join in. I thought it was good but not all that good. The idea of combining singing and dancing is not new. Bintley's Carmina Burana last Saturday - which I have still to review - was miles better in that regard (see In Praise of Bintley 21 June 2015). Neither is putting the musicians on stage. MacMillan did it more elegantly with Elite Syncopations. I think that this was the first time many members of the audience had seen grands jetés and tours en l'air and ballet could generate that sort of enthusiasm with the public if it were better marketed.

The element of the show that I most enjoyed was the singing which was magnificent. I recommend the show for that alone. There were also touches of humour. There was a sequence when the dancers attempted a jump. One pretended to clutch his thigh in agony. Another just gesticulated his refusal to try something so unwise. It was good entertainment and I shall report on the show again after I see it in London next month.

Thursday, 25 June 2015


Oldsmobile sedan from the 1950s
Author Sigmund
Source Wikipedia

Matthew Bourne's The Car Man Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, 24 June 2015

Matthew Bourne has never been quite my cup of tea but that does not stop my recognizing quality when I see it. Last night at the Sheffield Lyceum we had quality in spades. Quality in Lez Brotherson's designs. Quality in Terry Davies's score which incorporates Bizet and builds on it. Quality in the dancing including an impressive first performance by Tim Hodges in the role of Luca. Above all, quality in choreography by Matthew Bourne. The Car Man is the best production by New Adventures that I have seen to date.

Although it is described on the cover of the programme as "Bizet's Carmen re-imagined" it is actually a very ingenious and original work. It is set not outside a cigarette factory in 19th century Seville but in small town America of the 1950s. This was a time when women wore full skirted dresses of bright fabrics and elaborate hair styles that billowed in the dance. It was a time when Oldsmobiles and Studebakers were as capacious and majestic as ocean liners.

There is no Carmen in The Car Man but there is Luca. He seduces Angelo (Liam Mower) who is the nearest we get to Don Jose. He is a slightly built, bookish, inoffensive and slightly effeminate youth who works for Dino (Alan Vincent) in his garage. Dino employs most of the young men in the cast as mechanics and his wife Lana (Ashley Shaw) and his sister in law, Rita (Katy Lowenhoff) in his bar. The mechanics rag Angelo mercilessly. Only Luca takes his part teaching him how to use his fists as well as making advances towards him. However, Luca proves a false friend. He gets into a fight with Dino after making love to Lana. He wounds Dino fatally leaving Angelo to take the blame. Angelo is arrested and attacked in custody by a warder (Dan Wright). No doubt having been toughened by his imprisonment Angelo overpowers his attacker and escapes from prison with the warder's pistol seeking revenge. The nearest we get to Michaela in The Car Man is sister Rita who sees the crime from the start and tries to right the injustice to Angelo.

Well it's a good, tight, robust story that works and if anyone in Leeds who attended last Saturday's narrative dance perambulation (see My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015) remains in doubt as to what is meant by narrative dance he or she need only take the motorway to Sheffield. This is not ballet as such but it is dance that takes place in a theatre which for most theatre goers is all that matters. It is dramatic. It is exciting. It is spectacular. It is fun.

This company has devoted followers who leapt to their feet and practically whooped the house down at the final curtain call. That never happens in ballet but it is no bad thing as it introduces new audiences to dance in a way that no amount of midscale tours and live screenings from London or Moscow will achieve in a month of Sundays. As I said in the first paragraph this genre is not exactly my cup of tea (and despire an impressive performance it still isn't) but that does not stop me from appreciating it.

Other Reviews

Roslyn Sulcas  Review: Suspense and Charisma in ‘The Car Man’ in London  23 July 2015

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Special Ballet for a Special Day

Louis XIV as Appollo in Le Ballet de la Nuit
Source  Wikipedia

Birmingham Royal Ballet, The King Dances, Birmingham Hippodrome, 20 June 2016

As I noted In Praise of Bintley 21 June 2015, last Saturday was a very special day. It was the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet's move from London and the 20th anniversary of David Bintley's appointment as artistic director of that company. A special day deserves a special ballet and what could be more special than one inspired by Louis XIV's appearance as Apollo in Le Ballet de La Nuit.

We know quite a lot about that ballet as I indicated in The King Dances 23 May 2015. We have the score, pictures of the dancers and eye witness accounts of performances of Le Ballet de la Nuit. The ballet could easily be re-staged if anyone wanted to do that. However that wouldn't be great box office. The ballet went on all night and nearly all the roles were danced by men. In The King Dances Bintley has created a new ballet with a new score that lasts no more than 35 minutes. Nevertheless it gives modern audiences a very good idea of what Le Ballet de la Nuit must have been like.

The curtain rises to a set lit only by naked torches held by Les Messieurs: Yasuo Atsuji, Fergus Campbell, Matthias Dingman and Brandon Lawrence. This is the first watch from 18:00 to 21:00 as Night displaces Day. Night  represented by La Nuit (Ian Mackay) gradually assets his authority.

The second watch between 21:00 and midnight represents the pleasures of the night. The king (William Bracewell) enters and dances with the ladies.  But are Mesdames really ladies? From my seat towards the front of the stalls they seemed feminine enough but I knew that from my reading on Le Ballet de la Nuit not to mention the cast list and a tweet the night before from Ruth Brill that almost all the roles were danced by men. They turned out to Alexander Bird, Jonathan Caguioa, Tzu-Chao Chou and Max Maslen. So good was the dancing and indeed the wardrobe that I was confused.

The king then spots an image of Selene (the goddess of the moon) in the disc and that is the only bit that did not quite work for me. She came to life as Yijing Zhang and there was a lovely duet between them. That is the only female role in the ballet that is actually danced by a woman.

The scariest and most memorable portion of the ballet is the third watch between midnight and 03:00 where nightmares occur. First there are devils besporting themselves like monkeys. It is at this point that Stephen Montague's score is most effective for the music resembled the calls of cackling monkeys. The decision to commission a score from a modern composer was not appreciated by the lady who sat next to me and one of the subscribers to BalletcoForum wrote that the scariest three words in ballet were "specially commissioned score." Having listened to a little bit of Philidor on YouTube I am very glad that Bintley turned to Montague. His score may be 21st century but for me it worked.  The devils were danced by Kit Holder, Lachlan Monaghan, Benjamin Soerel and Oliver Till. They were followed by witches (Bird and Tzu-Chao), werewolves (Caguioa and Maslen) and finally Satan himself danced by Mackay.

The fourth watch between 03:00 and 06:00 when Day returns was such a relief. Day was represented by an enormous disc that parted to reveal the King as Apollo this time clad in gold. He was joined by the original torch bearers who transformed into Honour (Atsuji), Grace (Lawrence), Renown (Campbell) and Valour (Dingman). Night (Mackay) is revealed as Cardinal Mazarin. I am not sure of the significance of that. Mazarin was Louis XIV's chief minister during his minority and early adulthood and he was not well liked partly because he was Italian and partly because of his ruthlessness and personal extravagance. Le Ballet de la Nuit was danced in 1653 while the cardinal was still alive and at the heart of his power so I don't think his appearance can be regarded as satire.

Bintley is to be congratulated on this production. I had to give up a lot to see this ballet - English National Ballet's Choreographic and two new works by Tindall and Vigier who are two of my favourite young choreographers (see Three into Two won't go 20 June 2015). Today at class I was told by folk who had stayed in Leeds that the choreographic sharing was wonderful. I can't say that I didn't feel a tinge of regret when Gita told me that there were opportunities to meet Vigier and Hampson. But on Saturday the Hippodrome was probably the best place in the universe for a ballet fan and I think I would have kicked myself for ever had I not been there.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet

Photo Marie-Lan Nguyen
Source Wikipedia

Before I left for Birmingham I listened to a panel discussion advertised as a State of the Art Panel Discussion: Narrative Dance in Ballet. It took place in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre between 13:15 and 15:00 on 20 June. The panel was chaired by Mike Dixon and consisted of the critics Mary Brennan, Louise Levene and Graham Watts, Christopher Hampson, the artistic director of Scottish Ballet and dancers Tobias Batley and Dreda Blow.

Northern Ballet's artistic director, David Nixon, introduced the session by explaining that this discussion was part of the Tell Tale Steps programme the purpose of which was research. He described the work that had been carried out by Kenneth TindallLudovic Ondiviela, Constant Vigier and Andrew McNicol as a "laboratory" and not a workshop. The crucial difference, he explained, is that a workshop is for creating things whereas a laboratory is where experiments take place.

It all sounded very exciting and I awaited inspiration and erudition with bated breath. Although it was a very interesting discussion that did not exactly happen.  I certainly didn't learn anything I did not already know or could not easily have looked up on Google. If that was the case for me it must have been even more true for Nixon and the other dance makers and dance artists who attended.

The problem was that the panel was too large and their experience was too diverse.  Each of the speakers spoke about his or her personal experience. The critics spoke about the criteria for judging a ballet. Hampson spoke about how he creates a ballet which is very personal. Batley spoke about his reading before works starts on a new ballet and produced his copy of The Great Gatsby bristling with post it notes. He gave an example of how he considered a sentence in the novel about his character's smile and tried to incorporate it into his performance. Blow spoke about the ballet that she had created for children.

To me the discussion was unfocussed.  Maybe because I am a lawyer I would have appreciated some definitions. The title of the discussion was "Narrative Dance in Ballet" but what exactly did the panellists mean by "narrative dance"? Something with a plot like Sleeping Beauty? But that would exclude an awful lot of ballets like Les Sylphides which has characters like sylphs and a poet and indeed tells a story but does not have a plot as such. On the other there are some ballets like Giselle where the plot is best forgotten. Others like The Nutcracker where the plot is tenuous at best. I was bursting to ask that question from very early in the discussion but I did not get my opportunity until the very end.  In fact, only Gita and I managed to get a word in edgeways.

There were topics that I really wish the panel could have developed. Brennan mentioned the work of Peter Darrell who was artistic director of Western Theatre Ballet when it moved to Glasgow. Another panellist mentioned all the versions of Cinderella that had been produced lately including Hampson's and wondered whether there was a trend. Yet another discussed how technology enabled dance makers to explore topics that could not have been addressed before. Anther opined that it was impossible to choreograph ballets to Beethoven. I could have contributed to all those discussions.

The topic I most wanted to discuss was Darrell. I was at St Andrews when Western Theatre Ballet moved to Glasgow and one of our professors was John Steer who later chaired the company. Scottish Theatre Ballet (as the company called itself after the move) was the first company that I got to know and love. That was because Darrell had ignited my love of ballet. I met him once and got to know some of his dancers better. I am still a Friend of Scottish Ballet and I greatly admire the work of Hampson, his successor. Some of the things that were said about Darrell, his work and legacy did not sound quite right,

Although the panel discussed Cinderella, nobody mentioned Darius James's version for Ballet Cymru which I saw last week and is the very best version of the story I have seen to date (see Ballet Cymru's Cinderella 15 June 2015). They spoke about Ashton's, Ratmansly's, "Christopher's" (I am not sure whether they were referring to Wheeldon or Hampson) but not the gem that has recently been touring the nation.

On the use of technology and whether it increases the dance maker's range I wanted to sound a note of caution.  The use of film to represent flashbacks was not new. I had seen MacMillan's Anastasia and modern choreographers should treat such technologies with circumspection.

As to whether Beethoven can be choreographed, nobody mentioned Ashton's magnificent Creatures of Prometheus to the Eroica symphony which marked the bicentenary of the composer's birth.

I had hoped to introduce myself to Hampson and Watts but the panellists were whisked away to the boardroom after the discussion.  Gita buttonholed Brennan for a while and she seemed to want to talk but even Brennan was eventually RKO'd from the profanum vulgus by a minder. I think that was a big mistake (huge) on the part of the organizers. The folk who gave up their Saturday afternoons to attend the seminars are the ones who keep the ballerinas in pointe shoes, whether as theatre goers, taxpayers, Friends of the company or in many cases all three and we have ideas, views and experiences to contribute that could be useful.

In Praise of Bintley

Yesterday was my first visit to the Hippodrome but it won't be the last

It seems only yesterday that I read in About the House or it may have been the Dancing Times that the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet would move to the Birmingham Hippodrome and be known as the "Birmingham Royal Ballet". I was bemused. As a Mancunian I have never had much time for Birmingham. "If they want to move out of London" I said to myself "there are far better cities. How about Manchester? The second city though we Mancunians say that honour actually belongs to London. Or if not Manchester another town with character, history and fine architecture with lovely countryside nearby. Edinburgh, perhaps, Bristol, Newcastle or even Liverpool which, despite a century of relative economic decline, still has the magnificent Pier Head as well as the Phil with its exquisite gents' loo. Mais pourquoi Birmingham!"

Although I have followed the Birmingham Royal Ballet ever since it was known as the touring company and never miss a season when it visits The Lowry I had never been to The Hippodrome before. I have been to opera houses  all over the world including The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Sydney Opera House, the Semperoper in Dresden, Lincoln Center and, of course, Palais Garnier in Paris.  I had seen the Birmingham Royal Ballet on its trips to its old home at Sadler's Wells but it never occurred to me to visit the company in its new home until a year ago.

It was Ruth Brill who put me right. She gave a talk to the London Ballet Circle. She spoke about the Hippodrome and its audience and how they cherish the Birmingham Royal Ballet. I listen to her because I admire her dancing so. She is such fun. She loves to dance and she communicates her joy to her audience. So I made a mental note to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet in the Hippodrome one day.

That day arrived yesterday because it was the 25th anniversary of the company's move to Birmingham and the 20th anniversary of David Bintley's appointment as the company's artistic director. Earlier in the day I had been in Leeds watching the Northern Ballet in class and listening to a discussion on narrative ballet by a panel that included Christopher Hampson and Graham Watts (see Three into Two won't go 20 June 2015). Sadly I had to miss the choreographic sharing with new works  by Kenneth Tindall and Constant Vigier which I had expected to be (and Gita confirmed was) the best part of a very long day. But it was worth it for I would not have missed last night's show in Birmingham for the world.

The advertised performance was a double bill - The King Dances which I had discussed in my post of the 23 May 2015 and Carmina Burana which was Bintley's first work after his appointment as artistic director. I will review the performance of those works but not here because they each deserve a post of their own. The evening began with an unfamiliar overture which we learned was Prospero's theme. It is part of a new score by Sally Beamish for The Tempest and it had never been performed in public before. The curtain rose with Robert Parker standing by a lectern. "I wish I could say that that fanfare was for me" said Parker who flies aeroplanes as well as being artistic director of Elmhurst but it was for another. A photo of Bintley flashed on screen to thunderous applause. For the next few minutes Parker summarized Bintley's life and career with pictures of scenes from his ballets. The summary ended with a photo of the great man in Aston Villa's colours. Birmingham is where he has made his home and brought up his children, explained Parker, and it is where where he supports one of the city's great football teams.

There was a pause of a minute or so before the curtain rose on The King Dances and to say that that was special is an understatement.  It was one of the most enthralling performances I have ever experienced in the theatre. As I said above I will save the details of the review for another day but I don't think I have ever experienced anything more chilling than the images of hell conjured up in The Third Watch or anything more dazzling than the sight of William Bracewell glimmering in gold before the rising sun.

The evening continued with Carmina Burana and the company danced their hearts out. Although Bintley has made his home in Birmingham he comes from Honley which is almost the next village to mine (see My Home and Bintley's 22 May 2015). I long suspected that he had been influenced by the Choral. I actually asked about the artistic influences on his life when he visited the London Ballet Circle last month. Carmina Burana confirmed my suspicion for much of the glory of that ballet comes from the soaring voices to Orff's score.

After the curtain fell the crowd went wild. The applause was deafening. They yelled. They cheered.  They whooped. They clapped till their palms were sore. Several in the audience, including me, felt compelled to rise.  There was the usual reverence with its succession of curtain calls for the principals and then Michael Clarke, chair of the company's directors, walked on stage. He gestured to us to stop clapping. "That applause wasn't bad" he said "but the next round will be thunderous for I have found David Bintley," He beckoned Bintley onto the stage and the crowd erupted even louder than before. Bintley joined hands with the conductor and dancers and the applause exploded like a cannonade. Clarke told us that Peter Wright was in the audience. It was a very special moment.

I was a bit dazed after exiting the theatre. It is in the Chinese quarter of Birmingham which I think must be the fun part of town. There were crowds in the streets.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time. The Hippodrome is a lovely theatre. There are plenty of bars serving all kinds of refreshments. I ordered an espresso before the show and a very interesting soft drink consisting of squeezed apple juice and cinnamon for the interval and had plenty of change out of a fiver.  The seats were comfortable. The acoustics were good. The staff were courteous.  I found free street parking a few hundred yards from the theatre. Would you believe that they charge for parking on waste ground up to 22:00 in Leeds even on a Sunday. I can quite see why the Birmingham Royal Ballet made its home at the Hippodrome. Yesterday was my first visit to that theatre but it will certainly not be the last.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Three into Two won't go

You can't put a quart into a pint pot
Author John White
Reproduced under Creative Commons licence
Source Wikipedia

Today I shall watch Northern Ballet's company class and panel discussion on narrative ballet in Tell Tale Steps (see Tell Tale Steps - Choreographic Laboratory 13 June 2015) after which I will beetle down to the Hippodrome to see Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Bintley's double bill (The King Dances and Carmina Burana).

On any day but this I would have hoofed down to London to see English National Ballet's Choreographics at the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells or at least watched the live streaming on ArtStreamingTV at 14:15. There is a great programme with works by Fabian Reimair, James Streeter, Stina Quagebeur, Max Westwell, Morgann Runacre-Temple and Renato Paroni de Castro. I should particularly love to have seen de Castro's piece since Sarah Kundi is dancing in it with Vitor Menezes and Guilherme Menezes. Readers of this blog will know that Kundi is one of my favourite dancers and I have not seen her on stage since Coppelia in November (see Coppelia in Oxford 2 Nov 2014). I have seen a picture of her with the Vitor and Guilherme Menezes and she looks stunning. Graham Watts has written:
"Well done Sarah - lovely piece, beautifully danced,"
And he should know.

But if I were to watch that live screening I would miss Watts's contribution to the State of the Art Panel Discussion: Narrative Dance in Ballet which will take place between 13:15 and 15:00. Aside from a little pedagogic grumbling at the use of the term state of the art which is defined by s.2 (2) of the Patents Act 1977 as
"all matter (whether a product, a process, information about either, or anything else) which has at any time before the priority date of that invention been made available to the public (whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) by written or oral description, by use or in any other way"
in the wrong context (but who other than me would pick that up) I am really looking forward to that discussion because one of the panellists is Christopher Hampson who created Hansel and Gretel for Scottish Ballet which is one of the best new full length ballets I have seen recently (see Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel 23 Dec 2013. You don't get such a line up of choreographic and critical expertise every day and certainly not every day in Leeds.

Sadly, I shall miss out on the choreographic sharing but Gita will cover it for me and I will get the chance to see it all on Northern Ballet's YouTube channel later. The sacrifice will be worthwhile to catch the last performance of The King Dances. Now this is a work of tremendous importance as I explained in my article of 23 May 2015. This is a special work to mark Bintley's 20th anniversary as Artistic Director. It may go on tour but then again it may not and I am not going to miss it.

I wish all the dancers in London, Leeds and Birmingham well. I shall be thinking of them all, particularly Kundi and the Menezes.  I wish I could see all three shows live but sadly you can't repeal the laws of physics. I will do the best I can and report back tomorrow.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Food tips for dancers

I had a banana, peanut butter and date sandwich for breakfast and it was rather yummy. More interestingly it sustained me for the whole morning and well into the afternoon. That made me think about dance food. I can’t think of a better day to write this post.  It's  Ramadan for Muslims around the world .The first food that is eaten to break the fast each day is that great super food the date. Feeding the body with much needed energy.

It is always important to eat well and it is particularly important for those who require physical activity and concentration. That of course includes dancers. They need to eat well to replenish all the energy that they use up. However, foods that feed our body with energy and other vital nutrients require a little bit of understanding. Making the right food choices is not always easy.

So here are some tips for you as dancers to consider:-

Try to eat little and often.  It helps to keep your fire burning. It eliminates hunger pangs. It also stops you feeling sluggish which also happens if you eat too much in one sitting. It keeps you sustained.

2 Choose foods which are filling, healthy and unprocessed. Not only will that help keep you sustained, it will also supply the nutrients that build up muscle and bone strength and keep those organs working properly. In Hindu culture it is sometimes referred to as a "cleaner diet". The body then can then process nutrients from these foods more efficiently and transport the nutrients to the parts of the body where they are needed. Such a diet helps dancers to mobilise their bodies to the fullest extent possible.   After all, your body is your temple. It enables you to undertake the rigorous training that a dancer has to undergo.

3 Try to eat foods that fit your mood.  This is a rather important part of eating for anybody. Getting In tune with your body helps you make better food choices. Mood is usually an indicator that the body needs more of one nutrient than another. I was craving for some fish the other evening. I needed protein as I had not eaten any that day. Although it’s not only fish that gives us protein my body has become used to getting its protein from fish. Protein needs replenishing every day as the body can not store it. Protein builds and repairs tissues in the body which is very much needed for dancers. By no means are they the only benefits too.

4 Cook your food healthily. Steam or grill your food or even eat it raw. Think about what you desire to eat and visualise it your plate. Colour, texture and indeed taste helps are bodies to relax when eating and fully to enjoy the experience.  In terms of pleasure savouring well cooked food is not far removed from watching a dance performance. It is like appreciating the choreography and construction of the performance together with the lighting used and costumes worn and indeed how these costumes move on the dancers as they perform their piece to bring it all together.

So why eat dates?

Firstly dates are a super food as they have many nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Dates give dancers a boost of energy  as they contain natural sugars and are easy to carry around.  They are free from cholesterol and contain very little fat. They are a good source of fibre to help maintain your digestive system and avoid bloating. They have both soluble and insoluble fibre which helps the metabolism. They are a rich source of B vitamins which boost the nervous system that controls your thoughts and movement. In particular vitamin B6 which helps the body retain protein and carbohydrates - another very good source of energy.   They also taste delicious and are very plentiful in the shops this time of the year.

So why not snack on a few in between training this summer and see how you find them. There are many varieties to choose from and they are grown in many countries.

Many consider that the best dates come from Medina in Saudi Arabia which is where the Prophet lived and also where he died. 

Finally,  the best dates are enjoyed uncooked. I know some people like date pudding but to me stewing dates is rather like deep frying truffles. My favourite is the Medjool  variety

If you want to discuss this article or food and recipes in general email me at gita@gitamistryfood.co.uk. There’s lots of other information about food and recipes in my own blog and website.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Review: McQueen at St James Theatre, London

McQueen is a creative review of the life of tragic fashion designer Alexander (Lee) McQueen (Stephen Wight), as told to Dahlia (Dianna Agron), a fictional girl who apparently breaks into his house (or does she?) because she needs a dress. Like Lee, Dahlia is directionless and clinically depressed. He takes her on an adventure through his life story, in one night, during which time he makes her a dress which brings out her unique beauty – helps her see who she really is. There are various hints, but we are never actually told this.

The story is a vehicle, perhaps an allegory for McQueen’s artistic principle that fashion is the purest form of self-expression – how you dress (or in Lee’s case, the dresses he designs) expresses what you are. When Lee doesn’t have creative inspiration, he loses his way.
In a series of scenarios from his life, Lee effectively turns himself inside out to his mysterious intruder and they help each other through the night.
Why is this review appearing on Terpsichore, a blog about dance? Well, many of the scenes include dreamlike sequences where a group of dancers depict mannequins, wearing McQueen’s stylishly eccentric creations. The mannequins are his muses and Terpsichore is the muse of dance. David Farley’s production design and Christopher Marney’s choreography were striking from the first scene. I loved the opening sequence, where at some points it was hard to differentiate between dancers and mannequins. The dancers were all well cast, as they looked like living mannequins and they moved together beautifully as a group, with points of choreographic interest – posing and turning with lifts and exquisite silhouettes at different parts of the stage. Their skill belied the challenge of working with a relatively small space and a busy, changing set. In a later, party scene, the mannequins appear again, now representing beautiful party people – models perhaps – dancing and swaying around the stage in couples and formations, drawing Lee and Dahlia deeper in to the night.

The staging was perfect, and the lighting created and intensified the atmosphere, which was dark, but somehow optimistic. I found a balcony scene overlooking London particularly striking. Another fabulous creative device was when Lee fits a beautiful dress onto Dahlia on stage, transforming her from an obsessive fan to a late night muse who helps Lee find the inspiration that keeps him alive. This was so impressive – a nice detail was that he left one pin in the shoulder strap.
A lively, exquisitely designed production with fantastic set and production design, beautiful dancing and choreography and some excellent acting including a great Isabella Blow cameo from Tracy-Ann Oberman is let down by a plot full of holes. Here are just a few. Who is Dahlia? Is she real, or imaginary? Is she his alter ego? There are many references to her being already there, a doppelganger etc. Well if she is, it’s a bit bizarre that she’s an ‘I want, I want’ person, when Lee himself was obviously an ‘I get, I get’ person. Also if she is part of him, how come he has to tell her his life story? She’d already know all of that!

Dahlia makes a lot of suggestions that she is part of Lee, or his alter ego, but a lost American girl seems a strange alter ego for a talented, tortured designer at the height of his fame.
The reason the plot holes are so easy to spot is that the play is set between Isabella Blow’s suicide and Lee’s own. By this time his talent was globally recognised and he was at the pinnacle of his career. The programme included a useful timeline of his life, so when you read the programme, you wonder about the inaccuracies in the play. For example, Lee wasn’t ‘made’ by Isabella – he was a successful tailor before he was accepted to study on the MA course at St Martin’s and she bought everything in his graduate show. While in this play Isabella claims to be his Svengali, in reality she was a catalyst for his second career.

The play makes no reference to Lee's time at St Martin’s or his widespread recognition - including as British designer of the year – and only touches lightly on his serious issues with drugs.
The theme of self-harm and suicide – Dahlia gives no reason why she is so troubled – is treated lightly given Lee’s actual demise. The play ends on a possibly optimistic note, which is a plus point. Dahlia says she has had the best night of her life, which suggests that she is an individual in her own right. If she signifies part of Lee’s character, surely wandering around London reminiscing about his past to an imaginary friend is unlikely to be the best ever night for an internationally acclaimed fashion designer.

Even if you excuse the plot holes as artistic license, the wordy script made several scenes feel unnecessarily long. I would pick out in particular the scene in Lee’s dying mother’s house which could have been cut to less than half the length to get the message across. This was towards the end of the play and there was a distinct shuffling among audience members – the seats are not particularly comfortable.
Overall it was an entertaining show. The staging was beautiful and Stephen Wight was genuinely convincing as Lee McQueen. It helps that he really does look like him. He delivered his lines well – even the clunky ones – and he was on stage for the entire 1 hour and 40 minutes. Dianna Agron, however, was less impressive. At first I tended to agree with some critics who wrote that her acting seemed wooden, but her obvious professionalism throughout made me think that this is how she had been asked to portray the character Dahlia who would have fitted nicely into Twin Peaks.

And there was indeed a David Lynch quality about McQueen. The acting was generally pretty good, and I liked Tracy-Ann Oberman’s excellent take on Isabella Blow, though again half the number of words would have got the message across. I particularly liked her wafting around elegantly in the background of the dance sequences and other scenes.
I also have to declare a personal interest in McQueen, the play. My friend Amber Doyle is the dance captain, and I go to her ballet classes, so I was anticipating some excellent dancing. And I was certainly not disappointed. The perfect stylish dancing and choreography was one of the very best things about this show. I also felt that some reviewers were a bit harsh about the actors, particularly Stephen Wight, who I thought did a good job with an unwieldy script.

McQueen’s problem is that it is a hybrid – it’s not a musical, and a contingent in the audience who had come to see Agron based on her performance in Glee must have been disappointed that her only bit of singing is a few snatches of Billy Joel’s ‘Always a woman to me’, a song which I unfortunately associate with the John Lewis ad a few years ago.
McQueen is not a biography either, because it’s highly selective – it misses out important facts about McQueen’s life and influences and half the story is about an imaginary character, or doppleganger. Nor is it a ballet, either although much of the story is told in the dance sequences. All this means reviewers struggle to place it.

McQueen is an entertaining, beautifully staged tribute to a tortured and sadly missed talent and it successfully captures the strange and wonderful world of fashion – its creativity and its cruelty. It’s been described as self-indulgent, but what is fashion – and indeed much art too – if it is not self-indulgent? That’s the beauty of it! If you like fashion and dance, you’ll like McQueen.  I did.
NB, The image, by photographer Sam Mardon, shows the theatre’s special McQueen cocktails. This is because I had asked a contact at the theatre whether it was ok to take photos at any point and was told roundly that anyone with a camera would be escorted out. Having read some mainstream reviews I had considered putting a camera in my bag to facilitate an early exit! I’m glad I didn’t. The photo was taken on an iPhone before the show.

McQueen is at St James Theatre, London until 27 June. https://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/mcqueen/



David Dawson's Empire Noir

Dutch National Ballet's Cool Britannia opened in Amsterdam last night and will run until the 27 June 2015. It is a triple bill featuring works by three British choreographers:
I have already mentioned Cool Britannia in Cool Britannia - in Amsterdam on 16 April 2015. Each of those choreographers will contribute a work to the performance. McGregor offers Chroma which the Royal Ballet danced last year. Wheeldon and Dawson have created new works for the Dutch National Ballet. I discussed Wheeldon's in Wheeldon in Amsterdam and the Dutch National Ballet in London 5 June 2015. Today I focus on Dawson.

Up to now I have been unable to name Dawson's new work. According to the YouTube clip that I have embedded above it is called Empire Noir. The company's website says Greg Haines has written the score and that Viito MazzeoIgone de Jongh, Jozef Varga, Floor Eimers, Artur Shesterkirov, Michaela DePrince, James StoutSasha Mukhamedov, Edo Wijnen, Suzana Kaic, Casey Herd and Samantha Mednick

I am particularly excited by the promise of seeing DePrince dance again as it was she who attracted my attention to the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company last year which in turn attracted me to the main company. I have written quite a lot about that outstanding young dancer in this blog and you will find links to my other articles about her in Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam 20 Nov 2015. DePrince will be giving a master class at Danceworks on 7 July 2015 and Lesley Osman has very kindly offered to pricure an article from one of the dancers who attends that class for publication in Terpsichore (see Dance with DePrince 2 March 2015). I also look forward to seeing DePrince in Chroma.

Dawson knows the Dutch National Ballet well because he joined the company as a dancer in 1995 and later became one of its resident choreographers. He has achieved much in his career both as a dancer and choreographer winning many honours and prizes over the years.

I shall be in Amsterdam on 27 June 2015 and will review the ballets shortly afterwards.

Further Reading

13 March 2015   Nina Siegal   For Michaela DePrince, a Dream Comes True at the Dutch National Ballet

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

London Amateur Ballet Gala

Bloomsbury Theatre
Photo Frankie Roberto
Source Wikipedia

If I wasn't dancing in Northern Ballet Academy's end of year show at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds that day I would be in London for the Annual LAB Gala 2015 at the Bloomsbury Theatre. According to the Theatre's website:
"The UK's leading adult amateur ballet company, London Amateur Ballet is proud to present The LAB Gala 2015. This magical annual event will leave you spellbound by the achievements of this dedicated company of amateur dancers. The highlights in 2015 include LAB's very first specially commissioned new work from choreographer Jamie Thomson, along with a diverse programme of excerpts from ballets... and as if that wasn't fabulous enough... we'll even have a few guest stars from the UK's leading ballet companies to inspire us all!"
The London Amateur Ballet's website says that the company was founded in 2012 by Tom Linecar-Boulton. He is its artistic director and he is assisted by an impressive group of dancers and teachers. The company organizes classes, coaching sessions and intensive courses as well as performances. It has an on-line store for clothing, ballet bags and other branded merchandise.

I have got to know something about the company because one of its members dances occasionally in my Over 55 class in Leeds. She lives in Lincolnshire and travels considerable distances to attend class with us (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014). Last year she was in our end of year show and I don't think she missed a single rehearsal. She must travel even further to attend class and the other activities offered by London Amateur Ballet. She is one of the main contributors (if not the main contributor) to BalletcoForum and has written very interesting posts about very long days that started early with trips to Leeds and continued with trains to London and lots more work with the LAB and a late train home. It is hard not to admire such dedication and marvel at such stamina, particularly as her travels sometimes take her to Argyll to study with Ballet West (see Taynuilt - where better to create ballet 31 Aug 2013).

I wish everybody in LAB's gala chookas and/or toi-toi for their show. As I seem to be spending more and more time in London I hope to attend one of their shows. Their classes and course seem far too demanding for the likes of me but I think the company is a great idea and I hope to support it in other ways.

If you expect to be in London on 4 July here is a link to the Bloomsbury's box office. Ticket prices are between £18.50 and £22.50 (£15.00 for children) which is not an unreasonable amount of money when you consider that there will be pros from the English National Ballet and other major companies appearing with the amateurs on stage. If anyone attending the show would like to review it for Terpsichore I should be glad to publish such a contribution.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Northern Ballet's Ability Programme

One of the reasons why I am a Friend of Northern Ballet and a Friend of the Northern Ballet Academy is that it caters not just for those who are about to dance Siegfried and Odette-Odile in Swan Lake but everybody. Gita and I have both written about the Over 55 class (see Gita Mistry "I felt elongated and taller and stronger too" 14 June 2015 and my "We're in the Paper" 25 April 2015). The clip, Paul's Day, shows the work that the company and academy do for other groups who will never dance on the main stage of Covent Garden but can still enjoy and derive enormous personal satisfaction and confidence from dance.

Now although Paul and folk like him may not make it to the Royal Opera House they can still perform on stage in one of the principal dance venues of the nation.  On 15 July 2015 Northern Ballet will host Expressions at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre. This is described as "a sharing which brings together inclusive dance groups from the North of England, giving talented dancers with disabilities the chance to showcase their skills to an audience on a professional stage." It will include performances from Northern Ballet’s Ability course in which Paul participates, local dance organizations and by the professional dance company Flex Dance.

Now I am going to try to get along to this show if I possibly can because accessible dance can be good dance as you will see from my reviews An Explosion of Joy on Ballet Cymru's collaboration with Gloucestershire Dance in Llandudno last September and No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2015 on Scottish Ballet's work with Indepen-Dance. Tickets for Expressions are free but you do have to book in advance.