Monday, 31 August 2015

1984 and All That - Northern Ballet's New Season

Sellar and Yeatman's 1066 and All That is one of the books that we all read at school.  George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is another. Jonathan Watkins's arrangement of Orwell's novel for Northern Ballet opens to a full house at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 5 Sept 2015 is the company's big ticket production for the new season. Northern Ballet has released this hour long video on YouTube with talks by Watkins, David Nixon, rehearsals, a pas de deux by Tobias Batley and Martha Leebolt and more.

After Leeds the production tours Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Southampton culminating in a season at Sadler's Wells between 24 and 28 May 2016. My favourite venue for anything in Northern Ballet's repertoire is West Yorkshire Playhouse because it feels like the company's home. It is a stone's throw from Quarry Hill and the auditorium is so intimate. I have seen some lovely shows there in the past, notably A Midsummer Night's Dream on 14 Sept 2013 (see Realizing Another Dream 15 Sept 2013). Unfortunately, the West Yorkshire Playhouse season clashes with the Dutch National Ballet's opening gala in Amsterdam and professional commitments in London (see Triple Dutch 4 July 2015). If any of my readers would like to review the opening night I should be very grateful.  I will catch the ballet in Manchester or Sheffield with my Swiss friend who first dew it to my attention even though she does not go a bundle on ballet (see 1984 28 Feb 2015 and Für Andrea - more Information on 1984 26 July 2015).

Another new ballet in Northern Ballet's repertoire is the children's ballet Tortoise and the Hare which is choreographed by Dreda Blow and Sebastian Loe. Blow spoke briefly about her work for children in the panel discussion on narrative dance in ballet on 20 June 2015 (My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015). She told a delightful story about one child's reaction to one of her ballets. Although I had already admired her as a dancer I warmed to her ever more. Tortoise and the Hare opens at The Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds on 22 Oct 2015. It will also be performed in Southampton on 6 May 2015.

Elves and The Shoemaker another children's ballet choreographed by Daniel de Andrade to music by Philip Feeney is touring Hull, Nottingham, Canterbury, Manchester, Woking, Newcastle and Bradford. I saw it in Huddersfield on 11 April 2015 and reviewed it in The Ballet comes to me 12 April 2015.

Also coming to Hull is Madame Butterfly which I described as Nixon's Masterpiece in my review of the opening night in Doncaster. Another popular Nixon ballet Wuthering Heights which I saw in Sheffield on 18 March 2015 is coming to Canterbury in October and Bradford in November. Northern Ballet's take on The Nutcracker where the Stahlbaums become the Edwardses is coming to The Grand between 16 Dec 2015 and 2 Jan 2016 after touring Woking, Newcastle and Norwich. I saw it twice and sort of half reviewed it in my IP law blog for solicitors and patent agents in Manchester and Liverpool (Cracking Nuts - Copyright in Choreography 24 Nov 2011 IP North West). Even more liberties are taken with Swan Lake which is coming to Leeds, Norwich and Milton Keynes in the new year. I saw it in Leeds with my late spouse first time round. We both regarded it as interesting in the sense of "May you live in interesting times".

Sunday, 30 August 2015

US National Centres for Choreography

A great resource that I have discovered recently is NetworkDance which is a cornucopia of information about dance: news, photo, videos, courses and a whole lot more. I have not been able to find out anything about its location from its contact page or corporate structure from its terms but I would guess from the language and style in which those terms are written and its preponderance of US news that it is based in the United States.

Even so, it carries a lot of news and information about the UK including a link to PregDance which offers dance classes in London to pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies. I shall be exploring this service in another article.

However, I digress. This article is about US National Centres for Choreography and it is about two institutions at the University of Akron in Ohio and Florida State University in Tallahassee. I learned about the centre in Akron from the news item National Center for Choreography launches in an email from NetworkDance on 25 Aug 2015. I clicked the link and found myself on a page of Dance Informa dated 24 Aug 2015 with the same headline. Dance Informa linked to National Center for Choreography to launch in Akron on the University of Akron website which announced:
"The University of Akron and DANCECleveland announced today that they will launch a new center for choreography — only the second in the nation — where the country’s finest dance professionals will create new work."
The article embeds videos of the announcement and a lot of other information about the Centre and dance at the University but it does not say which was the first centre for choreography in the USA.

I did some googling and came up with MANCC which describes itself as
"the only national center for choreography in the world located in a major research institution, and operates from one of the premiere dance facilities in the United States. The Center is embedded within The Florida State University School of Dance, and offers unparalleled opportunities for contemporary choreographers to hone their artistic practice and develop new work inside a creative community."
From a distance of over 4,000 miles it is impossible to compare the two centres but they seem to have much in common. Both seem to have lavish rehearsal studios, theatres and other performing spaces and close links with local dance companies. I wish both institutions well and hope to visit them when next in their respective neighbourhoods.

Though there are several universities in the UK that teach dance and many dance schools offer degrees or other tertiary qualifications I can think of no institution in this country that claims to be a national centre for choreography. Do we need one here? I suppose the answer must depend on the contribution that the institutions in Florida and Ohio actually make to dance in the USA, whether they advance anybody's career and in particular on whether there is a stream of British students to those centres seeking teaching or facilities that are not available in the UK.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A British Asian’s Perspective on La Bayadère

In March I saw Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life at The Linbury. Jane reviewed the show for Terpsichore in La Bayadère - The Ninth Life 29 March 2015. The piece started with an Indian blogger writing about a performance of La Bayadère the night before. He wasn’t too impressed by the ballet and I got the impression from her video that neither was Shobana Jeyasingh. So I didn’t expect much when I turned up at The Coliseum last Sunday to see St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s performance of the ballet.

I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the score, costumes, sets and choreography. It was not a very pleasant story but not so very far out that one could say that sort of thing could never happen in India. The drumming dance in the divertissements was spot on as was the way some of the women moved. The set for the rajah's palace in the second scene of Act 1 reminded me of some of the palaces and maharajahs' homes that I had seen on a recent visit to Rajasthan. There were some things that the company did not get right. The brahmin's costume for example. Brahmins rarely wear red which is a bridal colour. They are more likely to wear white and only very occasionally a red scarf. 

There was some great dancing by Denis Rodkin as Solor but that was to be expected from a principal of the Bolshoi. I was also impressed by the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s dancers, particularly Irina Kolesnikova as Nikiya, Natalia Matsak as Gamzatti, Andrei Federkov who danced the bronze idol and Miho Naotsuko who was one of the lead shades. Naotsuko was the woman of the match so far as I was concerned.

I thought the ballet took its time to get going but it certainly had some action in Act III. I was mesmerized by the descent of the shades, thrilled by Rodin and Kolesnikova’s pas de deux and the lead shades’ solos at the end and the bronze idol divertissement. I don’t know why we don't see this ballet more often because it is one of the most exciting I have ever seen.

The audience loved the show. One chap threw some carnations on to the stage which were gathered up by Rodkin and presented to Kolesnikova. These were followed by the more formal bouquets for the principals from the management. Then more flowers from the flower thrower. Rodkin picked up one of those bouquets and tossed it deep into the auditorium. I clapped vigorously but from my seat. I wish I had stood up and given them a standing ovation.

I was uplifted as I entered St Martin’s Laine in the late summer sunshine.

Here is a heavenly recipe collection for potato and cashew nuts with a cool cucumber raita to honour the shades which you may like to try .

Potato with cashew nuts and lime leaves, served with cucumber raita

(Serves 4)


500g/1lb Potatoes part boiled
60g/2oz cashew nuts
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1/2 Tsp paprika
1⁄2 Tsp chilli powder
1 Isp onion seeds & a handful of lime leaves
2 Tsp dried coriander
1⁄2 Tsp turmeric
1 1/2 Tsp of ginger pulp
1 Medium dry whole chilli
Salt to taste
Ground nut oil
1 Tbsp chives
Juice of a Large Lemon
Zest of a lime

For the raita

1⁄2 Cucumber grated
250g Plain yoghurt
1 Clove garlic
1 Small rocket chilli
1⁄2 Tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1⁄4 Tsp mustard seeds crushed

Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks and part boil in salty water for 15 mins. Set aside. 

For the raita 
Prepare the grated cucumber and remove the water by squeezing it in your hands 

For the raita 
Crush the garlic, finely chop the green chilli and grind the mustard seeds in a pestle and mortar.


Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Lowu or shallow level pan, lightly fry the cashew nuts, cumin seeds and add the limes leaves and stir.  Now add in the ginger and whole green chilli.

Add the potatoes and sprinkle in the onion seeds, paprika, chilli powder, dried coriander, salt and turmeric. Give it all a good stir and cook on a medium heat for 2-3 mins, add in the lime zest and lemon juice. This brings out all the flavours. Finally, after a good stir sprinkle over the chives.

For the raita 
Add to grated cucumber: the yoghurt, garlic, chilli, and turmeric and give it stir. Add salt to taste and mix in the crushed mustard seeds.

Finally enjoy this video of Kolesnikova's solo towards the end of Act II.

And talking of Pirouettes .......

English National Ballet's newsletter Ready to Dance arrived earlier today with with a link to Osiel Gouneo's pirouettes in Don Quixote which the newsletter described as "jaw dropping". He will be joining the company as a guest artist this season.

The newsletter also has details of ENB's latest productions: Lest We Forget, Romeo and Juliet  and Le Corsaire, They are bringing Lest We Forget to Manchester on 24 Nov for one night only and also Romeo and Juliet from the 26 to 28. Le Corsaire is coming to Liverpool between 18 and 21 November.  Interestingly, Le Corsaire is also to be staged in Oman, one of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, next year.

The newsletter links to Liam Scarlett's video on No Man's Land and the article What you didn’t know about Nureyev’s Romeo & Juliet in the company's blog.

Finally there are full details on the company's adult ballet classes which seem very similar to Northern Ballet's. Good to know that I shall be able to keep up my ballet if my work takes me permanently to London.

Friday, 28 August 2015

A Pint for Josh

For Josh when I next see him in the pub
Author Silk Tork
Source:  Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

"Ballet is a very hard taskmaster" said one of my ballet teachers. "If you are not careful it will break you." I have had a very short and not at all glorious career in ballet but I know from personal experience just how right my teacher was.  I nearly abandoned ballet when I fell flat on my back trying to do posé pirouettes (see Class 27 Nov 2014). Another occasion was the Sunday before last week when I panicked over the Swan Lake summer intensive (KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015). The problem is pirouettes. Try as I might I just can't do them. Whenever we do them in class I shudder inwardly until we move on to jumps.

I hate to be defeated by anything so at the Swan Lake intensive I asked Karen whether she could arrange some private lessons for me to diagnose what I have been doing wrong and what (if anything) I can do to get pirouettes right.  On Tuesday Karen wrote:
"hey Jane, have you had Josh before? I can see if he's available on Thursday 8:30pm if that suits you."
Of course I knew Josh. I had taken one of his classes and had got on with him like a house on fire.

Just before class I posted the following to my Facebook page:
"Looking forward to my hour's private lesson with Josh Moss at KNT in Manchester to learn pirouettes which have defeated me for so long as I have attempted to learn ballet. Josh is a great teacher and if anybody can get me rotating it is he. Josh, if I can do at least a 360 degree turn with my other leg in retire by the end of this evening I will buy you a pint. In fact, I think we will both be in need of the amber nectar after this evening's effort regardless of the outcome. I am going to give it all I've got."
That post attracted a few comments including this one from Simon who is one of the regulars in my class:
"Remember if they can put a man on the moon, you can turn on one leg!!!"
Now Simon does know how to pirouette as well as a lot of other things in ballet but he did not know the enormity of the challenge. I replied:
"Simon, you have seen me dance. Getting a man on the moon is a decidedly easier proposition. :-)"
Josh was more realistic:
"We shall try our best to crack the pirouette! One thing I can promise is that you will be a lot more confident with them after our class. :-)"
I turned up yesterday just after 18:30 for Ailsa's beginners' class.  Always a pleasure because she is so jolly. Especially when she is getting us to do stretches or other difficult things. She has a great sense of humour. "Think of a pas de deux" she said "when you are about to be turned by Prince Charming."  "In tights" she added in a deadpan voice prompting mirth all round the studio. It was a great class: a thorough barre, a delightful port de bras, jumps and temps levés, runs and sautés. There were a lot of chattering happy faces at the end of class.

As I was leaving the class a lady asked me whether I was the blogger of "Terpsichore".  I admitted that I was she.
"Oh you've inspired me to come back to ballet after a gap of two years" she said.
"And are you enjoying it?" I asked 
"Immensely" she replied.
 That's a lovely thing to hear. Even if she is the only one it makes me feel useful.

While Ailsa was taking the beginners Josh was teaching the advanced class which one of my Yorkshire friends was attending. His class started at 19:00 and was due to run for 90 minutes so I did some breathing exercises while it was going on. As soon as I heard applause I entered the studio and presented myself to Josh.

Josh asked me how I wanted to use the hour. I asked him to analyse my turn and tell me where I was going wrong.  I demonstrated an exercise that I had attempted the night before: starting off in second, snapping up twice in relevé with my other leg in retiré. a plié and then a feeble, wobbly 60 degree turn.

Josh told me not to upset myself over pirouettes. "Even professionals have off days" he assured me. "You'll never get them right if you stress yourself."

He took me to the barre and asked me to rise several times in demi. He immediately saw that I was not placing any weight on my big toe of either foot and that was because my ankle was out of alignment. "Try pushing it forward" he suggested and it worked. I found I could rise up on demi so much more easily, Even on my right foot which has given me so much trouble over the last year or so. I also found it easier to balance. Josh suggested some foot strengthening exercises with resistance bands which I started this morning.

Next he brought me into the centre where we repeated the rises and balances and then some tendus.
"Now keep your weight on your supporting leg and touch the floor gently with your other foot, You get your power by pushing off with that foot."
We started with quarter turns, then half turns and finally full turns. I was getting round 300 degrees.
"Throw your right arm more" said Josh "and pull your left arm round to meet it,"
I couldn't do that properly at first but then suddenly it clicked. We tried turns on my right foot and I accomplished a few complete revolutions.

We repeated that exercise from second.  Ragged and scrappy at first but it improved slowly.  While all this was going on my friend was at the other end of the studio doing stretches and other floor exercises. Occasionally she looked up and smiled or gave me a thumbs up. Eventually, I accomplished complete revolutions from second.

Finally we attempted complete turns from a lunge and these seemed to be easier,

The hour passed far too quickly and Josh asked me how I wanted to spend the last 10 minutes. I asked him to recap all that he had taught me so we returned to the barre, then centre, then turns from each position.  Finally, Josh gave me a spotting exercise.   He made me focus on a speaker and turn until it was outside my vision and then snap round again.

I still haven't got everything right by a long chalk but I am no longer afraid of pirouettes. I will practise all the exercises over the next few week and then return to Manchester for another hour.

On Facbook Josh wrote:
"A big well done, you should be very proud! :-)"
A tad over generous perhaps but I am proud. "Josh, mate, I owe you a pint."

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Dance Bradford

Dance Bradford is a network bringing together Bradford Theatres,  Dance for LifeDance United, Deana Morgan AcademyKala Sangam, Northern Ballet, Yorkshire Dance and other organizations with the aims of
  • making high quality dance more accessible to all, 
  • coordinating the provision of development, training and support for aspiring professional dancers, and 
  • ensuring opportunities for community dancing as a tool for empowerment, fun and well-being.
Members of the network meet on a regular basis to exchange information and opportunities, cross-promote each other’s work and also to participate in large scale dance events.

The events page advertises Rambert's visit to The Alhamnbra between the 21 and 23 Oct 2015 and Christmas Dreams at St George's Hall on 12 Dec 2015 but, surprisingly, it does not mention Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights at the Alhambra between the 17 and 21 Nov or Elves and the Shoemaker at the same theatre on the 20 Nov 2015 or Time to Shine  at Morley Town Hall on 26 Sept 2015 in which I am dancing.

Dance Bradford appears to be based at Deana Morgan's studios on Briggate in Shipley and can be contacted on 01274585317 and

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Laura Morera

I extended my stay in London after seeing La Bayadère for another day to see Susan Johnson interview Ricardo Cervera and Laura Morera. I had to endure the miserable weather in London and drive nearly 200 miles through the night but it was worth it because Morera's performance on on 16 April 2015 was exquisite (see The Best Fille Ever 18 April 2015). Fille is pretty well my favourite ballet and I have seen a lot of performances over the years but that evening was special and I wanted to tell her that myself.

I can say nothing about the discussion last night because the London Ballet Circle embargoes reporting of its proceedings, but I can direct you to a photograph of Cervera, Morera and Johnson on the Circle's Facebook page.  Morera has had a splendid career with the Royal Ballet which is summarized on her page on the Royal Opera House's website:
"She trained at The Royal Ballet School and graduated into the Company in 1995, promoted to First Artist in 1998, Soloist in 1999, First Soloist in 2002 and Principal in 2007. Her repertory includes Manon and Lescaut's Mistress (Manon), Tatiana (Onegin), Mitzi Caspar and Marie Larisch (Mayerling), Lise (La Fille mal gardée), Gamzatti (La Bayadère), Sugar Plum Fairy (The Nutcracker), Giselle and Myrtha (Giselle), Effie (La Sylphide), Titania (The Dream), the Queen of Hearts (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Paulina (The Winter's Tale) and Principal roles in Song of The Earth, Rhapsody and Viscera."
The same web page embeds a YouTube video on the staging of Manon in which Cervera as well as Morera discuss the ballet and its characters.

Meetings like the one last night provide a rare opportunity for interaction between a dancer and his or her audience. We can express our appreciation on the night by clapping, cheering, rising to our feet and even throwing flowers but that is not the same as saying "your dancing touched my soul".  Do dancers need to know that? I don't know but I do know that I feel compelled to say that sometimes.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere

Ekaterina Vazem, the first Bayadere

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, The Coliseum, 23 Aug 2015

This afternoon I saw La Bayadère for the first time. Until then I had seen only the descent of the shades.  La Bayadère is not performed nearly as often as Swan Lake, The Nutcracker or The Sleeping Beauty in this country and I had assumed that there was a reason for that. But I was blown away by this ballet as I was when I saw my first Swan Lake. This ballet has drama, colourful divertissements and spectacular choreography in the last act. I would confidently argue that this is Petipa's best ballet and I long to see it again.

The ballet was performed by St Petersburg Ballet Theatre at the Coliseum. Nikiya was danced by Irina Kolesnikova, Solor by Denis Rodkin, Gamzatti by Natalia Matsak, the rajah by Dimitry Akillinin and the brahmin by Dimchik Saikeev. I had expected much from Rodkin having seen him  in several of the Bolshoi's HDTV transmissions from Moscow. He is even more impressive in real life. When he jumps he seems to hover. I expected less from the other dancers as I knew nothing about them but they were good too. Two other dancers also impressed me: Andrei Federkov who danced the bronze idol and Miho Naotsuko who danced one of the lead shades.

Act 2 of the ballet consists largely of divertissements.  I have already mentioned the idol's dance. I enjoyed them all particularly the drum dance.

There were glitches. The snake dropped out of Nikiya's bouquet several seconds before it was due to bight her. One of the shades faltered in the last act. The sacred fire in act 1 was less than convincing. But none of those slips spoiled my enjoyment of the show. The orchestra played well and the sets and costumes were sumptuous.

The audience loved the show.  I saw my first flower throw in decades. A chap a few rows in front of me in the stalls threw three or four bouquets of carnations at Kolesnikova and Rodkin several minutes before they received their official bouquets from the management.  Rodkin threw one of the bouquets deep into the auditorium. I don't know what the man who had bought the flowers must have thought of that gesture but I think it was an acknowledgement of the applause and as such a charming gesture.

I saw the ballet with Gita. She will post her impressions of this performance shortly. As she is of Indian as well as British heritage I shall be very interested in what she has to say.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Casey Herd

No time for a long post as I am dashing down to London to see Irina Kolesnikova and Denis Rodkin in La Bayadère, but here's a video about the fine American dancer, Casey Herd who impressed me so much in Cool Britannia (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015).  He is one of the principals of the Dutch National Ballet.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

So head over the water - on the transporter - to visit Ballet Cymru - in their home city

On 3 Oct 2015 the London Ballet Circle will visit Ballet Cymru at its studios in Newport. Audrey Allen writes in the Circle's newsletter:
"As the company is small in size it is possible to meet and talk to everyone in a friendly and informal setting, and those who went last year commented on the warm hospitality they received."
I have already had the pleasure of meeting Darius James and Marc Brew but it is dancers who make a company and Ballet Cyrmru has some lovely dancers. Last year at Stuck in the Mud in Llandudno I came very close to two of my favourites, Krystal Lowe and Mandev Sokhi (see An Explosion of Joy 21 Sept 2014). So maybe this year I will actually get to shake their hands.

Ballet Cymru reminds me a lot of Scottish Theatre Ballet when it first moved to Glasgow from Bristol. It is still a small company but it already has the confidence to stage full length classics like Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella and interpret them in an original way (see They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013 and Ballet Cymru's Cinderella 15 June 2015). It is very conscious of being a national ballet company. For instance, it has commissioned two scores from the young Welsh composer Jack White, its programmes and website are bilingual and it has introduced characters with Welsh names into Romeo and (or rather "a") Juliet and Cinderella.

The London Ballet Circle is one of the company's funders.  It contributes the Stanley Hawkins bursary which enables a student to attend the company's advanced ballet summer school. The company also receives support from the Arts Council of Wales, its local authority, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other trusts and foundations as well as donations from the public. One of the reasons for the London Ballet Circle's visit is to raise funds and members of the Circle and their guests are invited to contribute £12.50 each.

If you are coming from London you should aim to catch the 09:45 from Paddington. If you live in the North or Midlands there will be space in my car for at least one passenger. I can take either the M6 and M5 if I have a passenger from the North West or the M1, M42 and M5 if I have a passenger for Sheffield or Nottingham. Just let Audrey know you are coming and send your cheque for £12.50 to her at 8 Goldsmith Road, London, N11 3JP (tel: 020 8361 2872, Email: The main party have to catch their train back to the Smoke at 16:39 but we can leave whenever we like and there is much to see in Newport.

First and foremost there is Caerleon with its Roman archaeological site, museum, fortress and baths. When I was learning Latin I had to translate an unseen about a man who threw a stone at a dog which had walked on his mud tiles as they were drying in the sun. I seem to remember that he missed. In the text book there was a photo of the canine footprint and the indentation made by the stone. The Romans didn't waste the tile. They installed it in the Caerleon baths and if you get to Caerleon you can actually see it.

There is also the Riverfront Theatre where Ballet Cymru will perform TIR, Celtic Concerto and a new ballet by Marc Brew on 6 Nov 2015.  The music for TIR will be provided by Cerys Matthews who is one of the company's patrons. She has such a lovely voice that it would almost be worth learning Welsh to understand her song. It is certainly worth a trip to Newport to hear her live.

I find myself going to Newport quite often for work. The Intellectual Property Office moved to Concept House in parkland on the outskirts of the city nearly 25 years ago. I argue such matters as entitlement actions (disputes over who owns or is entitled to apply for a patent) or oppositions and invalidity applications (disputes over the registration of trade marks) before tribunals known as hearing officers. At a recent conference on intellectual property law that I attended which was organized by the Intellectual Property Office I found that several senior officials were quite unaware that Newport had a national ballet company. I will try to bring those great institutions closer together.

Now, what's the transporter mentioned in the Jay Z  spoof?  It is actually a bridge across the Usk. It is called the transporter because goods and passengers are carried across the river in a module that is hauled by an electric motor. There are similar ones in Middlesbrough and Warringtom.  These structures seem to have their own friends' groups rather like ballet companies. I find it strange that anyone can become passionate about an obsolete mode of transport but maybe the friends of those bridges would say the same about my passion for ballet.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Duology - Chantry Dance releases new details of its Autumn tour

DUOLOGY Tour: 'Vincent - a stranger to himself' rehearsal trailer from Rae Piper on Vimeo.

On 13 May 2015  I mentioned Chantry Dance Company's  Duology, a double bill which they will take on tour  (see Chantry Dance's Autumn Tour 13 May 2015). It will consist of Vincent - a stranger to himself' and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.  The company has now published more details of the show and released the above video.

As its title suggests Vincent - a stranger to himself is about the life and loves of Vincent Van Gogh. It explores the man behind the self-portrait, his relationships with the women in his life and his art. The work is choreographed by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper and directed by Gail Gordon. Piper has also designed the sets and costumes. In addition to Chantry and Piper the cast will include David Beer, Rebecca Scanlon, Sorrel de Paula Hanika and four young dancers from the company's associates programme.

Starting from Mozart's famous and much loved music Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is said to be designed to invite each member of the audience to create his or her own interpretation of the dance imagery. Instead of being just passive observers he or she will participate actively in the work.  I am intrigued to imagine how this will work but, knowing Chantry and Piper as I do, I am confident that it will work.

Each performance will be followed by questions and answers which will lead no doubt to lively discussion. For those in the auditorium who are new to contemporary dance it should be a good introduction to the art. For those who are already familiar with this genre, their understanding and appreciation should deepen. If I understand the advanced publicity correctly, each evening is likely to be an education rather than just a performance.

The venues for the tour are:

10 Sept - The Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham 01476 406158
11 Sept - The Arts Centre, Stamford 01780 763203
19 Sept - Elmhurst, Birmingham: 0121 472 6655
24 Sept - Swan Theatre, Worcester 01905 611427
26 Sept - Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax 01422 349422
2 Oct - The Tramshed, London 020 8854 1316.

This is a popular company with a growing reputation and following so don't leave it too late to book your seat.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 3

Marius Petipa
Source Wikipedia

Well it's over. We did our show. We have all had a stab at dancing four of the best known dances from Swan Lake. I feel a massive sense of achievement merely to have taken part in all the classes and rehearsals and the final performance even though I am conscious that much of the choreography was well beyond my physical strength and skill. I am enormously grateful to Jane Tucker for teaching this course and to Karen Sant for organizing it. I am also grateful to all my teachers for conducting me to the point where I could contemplate a workshop of this kind. Finally, I want to say a big thank you to all the other participants for making me feel so welcome notwithstanding my antiquity, awkwardness and lack of talent.

Our day started with warm up exercises on our pilates mats. Depressingly they included some that I could do perfectly well just a couple of years ago which were now quite beyond me. Sit-ups from a flat on the back position, for example. I could only achieve that by enormous exertion which was clearly not a good idea so I raised myself as much as I could and sank back with somewhat greater alacrity than anybody else. The exercise that I found particularly useful was for the feet. Just over a year ago my right foot started to give me trouble to the extent that I can no longer rise on it on demi. Jane showed is how to flex and stretch the toes. That really helped with some of the barre work later.

I felt very much at home in Jane's class for it started just like every class at Northern Ballet with a walk, skip and run. We did tendus at the barre, followed by pliés in second, first, fifth and fourth, then more tendus. glissés, ronds de jambe, cloches, grands battements and stretches. In the centre we did a port de bras, pirouettes of various kinds, chaînés and all types of jumps. A bit more difficult than the Over 55 improvers at Northern Ballet perhaps but still doable.

The last hour before lunch and the first hour after lunch were taken up with rehearsals. We did the Hungarian dance, Siegfried's solo, cygnets and the swans' entry.  There were sequences of each dance that I never mastered but the prince's dance was by far the most difficult for me.  It required assemblés, tours en l'air (which I had never tried before) and multiple pirouette turns which I have never managed in class. The swans' dance was the most satisfying to learn and execute.

The last event of the day was our show. We had been asked to bring white leotards, flesh coloured tights and a black skirt. I had ordered mine from Just Ballet in Essex. Those garments took their time to arrive because the rain had smudged the address. The Royal Mail in its wisdom had sent the package to Harrogate rather than Holmfirth. Happily I picked them up on the morning of the show. This was the first time I had worn ballet tights and I found them difficult to put on in the confined space of the ladies' shower cubicle. Nevertheless, I managed somehow.

As often happens the excitement of performing raised everybody's game - even mine - but it was over so quickly. I savoured every single second of the show.  Karen and Jane clapped us generously.  Jane asked us whether our expectations had been met. "Oh indeed they had" we replied. "They had been exceeded." Jane commended the progress that we had made in the three days of the workshop.

So was this workshop worth £200 and three days off work. Emphatically yes! I think the real benefit will be a heightened appreciation and understanding of the ballet when we next see Swan Lake on stage. In my case that will be Birmingham Royal Ballet's at Sadler's Wells. I shall be looking out for the changements and échappés of the cygnets and I will say to myself "I did that". I will share the pride of the noble Magyars in the Hungarian dance. My heart will leap with each of Siegried's tours en l'air. And I know what it is like to be a swan under a magician's spell. This experience will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 2

Author Marek Szczepanek
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

This is only day 2 of the intensive but already I have learned a lot. A lot of choreography, of course: the cygnets' pas de quatre, the Hungarian dance, Siegfried's solo and the entry of the swans. I have also received some jolly good practical tips such as take a hot bath followed by a cold shower after strenuous physical exercise. I have learned a lot about myself and what I can still do at my age. But most of all I have learned a whole new respect for the dancer.

I have been exhausted by only two days of classes and rehearsals but members of a company have to do that sort of thing all the time and then dance in a matinee or evening performance or on some days both. To do that day in day out requires stamina, strength and determination. It is true that they are all much younger than me, that dancing is their vocation and that they have trained for it over many years but it is still gruelling stuff and I take my hat off to them.

Today I got to know some of students on this course a little better. Several of them had read this blog and we discussed some of the articles in it. I also got into conversation with Mark Hindle, one of the teachers at KNT, over lunch. We found out that we share a passion for Ballet Black and Ballet Cymru and are both fans of Sayaka Wright-Ichikawa and Krystal Lowe.

Tomorrow we are consolidating and refining what we have learned in order to give a performance at 15:45. Karen has very kindly allowed Gita to watch us so that she can review our show for Terpsichore. On Sunday night I was a bag of nerves quite convinced that I wouldn't make it through the first day. Well I have survived the first two days already and I think that tomorrow will be the best bit.

One of the reasons I didn't throw in the towel on Monday is that I was bucked up by an email from my clerk. The Chambers and Partners guides are to lawyers and law firms what the Michelin red guides are to restaurateurs. Just before I was due to go into class I learned that I was in it. Ballet takes a large part of the credit for that.  Five years ago I was devastated by the loss of my spouse to motor neuron disease and had more or less lost the will to live. About a month or so after my spouse's death I noticed a postcard on my gym noticeboard offering ballercise classes by a lady who had danced with Queensland Ballet. I took those classes and found that I enjoyed them. They made me exercise and gave me discipline. Ballercise led to ballet and eventually Northern Ballet's Over 55 class in Leeds. I made a lot of new acquaintances in that class and many more through the London Ballet Circle, Chelmsford Ballet, BalletcoForum and elsewhere.

On Thursday Jane Tucker will teach an advanced workshop based on Giselle.  Michelle, a member of my Over 55 class and one of the most prolific contributors to BalletcoForum, will be taking part. If it is only half as good as Swan Lake she is in for a treat.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1

Swan Lake
Author Paata Vardanashvili
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence 

Although I was very gung ho when I booked my place on KNT Danceworks beginners' adult ballet intensive summer school on 4 June my feet were chilling at an alarming rate last night as I contemplated the enormity of what I had committed to. I set out the timetable in "A Swan? Me a Swan? Ah! Go on!" 13 Aug 2015. Three days of warm-up sessions, classes and rehearsals and then a performance on the last day.
"Have you taken complete leave of your senses" asked wise I of frivolous Me. "You are 66 years old, way overweight, badly coordinated and one of the least competent students who ever clutched a barre."
Hard to argue with the truth. But I had paid my money. Booked three days off work. Told everybody I was going. Too late to back out now. So I wended my across the Pennines in low spirits feeling much as the condemned must have felt as he was trundled along to Tyburn.

My spirits rose when I actually arrived at The Dancehouse. I was welcomed by Karen with a smile and recognized more than a few familiar faces. We were led upstairs to one of the studios where we met our teacher. I know Jane Tucker from Northern Ballet and think the world of her.  She has a wonderful way of coaxing us to carry on even when we can go no further. "Not bad" she exclaims after a shambles of a turn. "How are you doing?" She smiles. "All right?" And so we are.

We started our day with a warm up on our pilates mats. Gentle stretches to soothing music. A few minutes break followed by a 90 minute class. Like all Northern Ballet teachers we started with a walk, then arm stretches, then a run, then a skip facing in. Then a skip facing out. We did the usual barre, port de bras, turns and jumps. We had our first rehearsal just before lunch in which we learned the cygnets' dance. After lunch we learned the Hungarian dance. Finally, we had a very thorough cool down on our mats. "Go and take a hot bath followed by a cold shower" advised Jane "And get a good meal inside you,"

Well, I feel knackered but not nearly as knackered as I had expected to be at the end of the first day. I did follow Jane's advice and while the cold shower was murder I have no more aches and pains than I would expect at the end of any class.  I must have seen scores of Swan Lakes over the years but this course has given me an understanding of two dances that I would never have gained otherwise in a month of Sundays.

I am just so glad I came.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Scotland the Brave

Source Wikipedia

Some of the most interesting new work over the next few months is likely to be performed in Scotland. Scottish Ballet will tour Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen between the 25 Oct and 10 Oct with a triple bill consisting of Javier de Frutos's Elsa Canasta, Bryan Arlas's Motion of Displacement and Sophie Laplane's Maze.  The company will dance Cinderella which its artistic director, Christopher Hampson, created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2007 in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness in December and January. In April and May Scottish Ballet will dance David Dawson's new Swan Lake in those same venues in the Spring.

I am looking forward to all those works. I am a great fan of Christopher Hampson and was very disappointed not to have the chance to shake his hand when he visited Leeds on 20 June 2015 (see My Thoughts on Saturday Afternoon's Panel Discussion at Northern Ballet 21 June 2015). I loved his Hansel and Gretel (see Scottish Ballet's Hansel and Gretel 23 Dec 2015), Four for Ballet Central (see Dazzled 3 May 2015) and Perpetuum Mobile for Northern Ballet (see Between Friends - Northern Ballet's Mixed Programme 10 May 2015). Hampson described his Cinderella as a study of grief in the Narrative Dance in Ballet discussion. Having seen two excellent but very different versions of Cinderella from Ballet Cymru and the Dutch National Ballet I shall be very interested in Hampson's interpretation of the story.

However, the performances to which I am looking forward even more than Cinderella are Laplane's Maze and Dawson's Swan Lake. Why those two in particular? Well Laplane is a dancer who has caught my eye more than once. Like Constant Vigier who contributed to Tell Tale Steps in Leeds last June she comes from France. Not long ago I would have struggled to name a woman choreographer other than Ninette de Valois and Bronislava Nijinska. Now there are several coming through strongly in this country and abroad. My interest in Dawson has been stimulated by his Empire Noir which I saw in Amsterdam in June (see Going Dutch 29 June 2015). Dawson has spent a lot of time with the Dutch National Ballet and he must know van Dantzig's Swan Lake very well. I wonder how much (if anything) of van Dantzig's style has rubbed off on to him.

I have had some other good news from Scotland which is that The Byre theatre will reopen today. I remember the original Byre which was literally a byre or cow shed. There was a notice in the auditorium requesting patrons in the front row to refrain from resting their legs on the stage. The Byre was forced to close for financial reasons early in 2013 and I feared that that great St Andrews institution might be lost forever. One of the shows that was to have been performed at The Byre was Ballet West's The Nutcracker but that had to be cancelled when the theatre went dark and I saw Ballet West at Pitlochry instead (see Ballet West's The Nutcracker 25 Feb 2013). It would be lovely if Ballet West could return to St Andrews. It may be too late for them to book a slot for 2016 but perhaps they can return with La Sylphide in  2017. The Byre would make a good venue for other companies such as Chantry Dance, Ballet Cymru, Ballet Black and maybe even Scottish Ballet. I was on the steering committee of the first St Andrews arts festival which brought that company to St Andrews on 15 Feb 1971 though the venue was the Buchanan and not the Byre.

It was at St Andrews that I learned to dance and appreciate ballet. I had spent my first 18 years without setting foot on any kind of dance floor not even a discotheque.  I think my first time on my feet was the Celtic Society's bejants' ceilidh when I was dragged protesting to make a third for the dashing white sergeant. Later I discovered ballet and took my first lessons in St Andrews. The first company that I got to know and love was Scottish Ballet (then called Scottish Theatre Ballet) and that company still has a special place in my affections and I am proud to be one of its Friends.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Let it snow - Ballet Theatre UK's Autumn and Winter Tour

One of my favourite ballet companies is Ballet Theatre UK, They have some lovely young dancers: David Brewer, Ines Ferreira and Sarah Mortimer to name just three. They work incredibly hard travelling sometimes hundreds of miles for one or at the most two performances and then back on the road again. Look at their tour dates for their Autumn and Winter tour: Coventry on the 23 Oct (the company's website says the 25 by the way), Wimborne on the 24 and Bognor on the 25. And yet when they come on stage they seem fresh and full of energy.

By touring the small towns and suburbs of the UK they are bringing ballet to an audience that would never otherwise see it. Yes I know that the Birmingham Royal Ballet splits into two and tours some of the smaller venues of Northern and Southern England (see Vaut le Voyage - Birmingham Royal Ballet in Shrewsbury 28 May 2015 and Birmingham Royal Ballet in High Wycombe 31 May 2015) and that Northern Ballet has just completed a tour of smaller theatres with Madame Butterfly (see Nixon's Masterpiece 22 May 2015) but these talented and incredibly resilient young men and women do that sort of thing all the time. Through their work they are removing some of the elitism and snobbery of ballet for which I for one am extremely grateful. To appreciate why that's important, read For Emma 28 April 2014 an article that I wrote after their visit to Southport.

In order to draw an audience the company's artistic director Christopher Moore bases his ballets around well known stories. Ballet Theatre UK performed The Little Mermaid in Spring 2014 (see Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 April 2014), Swan Lake (albeit with a radically different libretto to take account of the size and structure of the company which annoyed some people but not me) last Autumn and Winter (see The Bedouin of Ballet 12 Dec 2014) and Aladdin earlier this year (Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin 5 April 2015). This time the company is reviving The Snow Queen which is based on Hans Christian Andersen's well known fairy tale.

I have no doubt that this show will draw in the crowds from Coventry to Yeovil and I shall see them on one of their transits from the North but I do have a plea to Mr Moore as a reviewer. Please - pretty please - type out a cast list for each of your venues and get the local Staples to run off as many copies as you've sold tickets. It'll only cost a few quid and it will pay dividends in audience (and critics') goodwill. It really will. Also the dancers will be acknowledged - and these fine young men and women deserve to be acknowledged. Up to now I have been relying on the mother of one of the dancers to give me the cast lists but she is a busy lady with her own dance classes (see There's more to Harpenden than Thameslink 17 May 2015). Alternatively, invest in an easel and pin up the names in the foyer as Matthew Bourne's New Adventures does.

Ballet Theatre UK also has a school which I shall discuss in a future post. One day I hope to meet Mr Moore and learn more about his vision and ambition for the company. If you have not yet seen this company do go to one of their shows. I have not yet met anyone - including grizzlies like me who can remember Fonteyn and Fracci - who has not left the theatre in which they have performed on a high.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

"A Swan? Me a Swan? Ah! Go on!"

I have just received my joining instructions from Karen Sant for the KNT Danceworks summer intensive in Manchester between 17 and 19 August and I can't begin to contain my excitement I am. I am joining the beginners class based on Swan Lake which will be led by Jane Tucker who has already taught me at Northern Ballet.

Here is what Karen has written:
"Each day will start at 10:00 am with a 45 minute warm-up session, so please make sure to bring either a yoga mat or a towel with you! We will have a short 15 minute break after the warm-up session, and then the morning ballet class will begin at 11:00 am. 
Class will be 90 minutes long, and we’ll have a short break in the middle so you can get some water and rest. We will have another 15 minute break afterwards, and then at 12:45 pm we will start our technique/repertoire class.
Lunch will be at 1:30 pm for one hour, and you will be able to eat it in the café/coffee shop on the first floor (no food or drink, except for water, is allowed in the studios). There are lots of shops, cafés, and other food places around The Dancehouse Theatre, so there will be plenty of choice if you are not bringing food with you!
The afternoon will be filled with rehearsals for the performance on the final day. We have split this into two sessions with a short break in the middle – the first session starts at 2:30 pm and runs for one hour, and the second starts at 3:45 pm and runs for 45 minutes. On the final day, the second session will be when the performance takes place."
As for the performance I have been told to bring a white leotard (or at least a white t-shirt over the top of  another leotard) and a black skirt together with flesh/pink and black tights. A a decision will be taken on the day as to which we all prefer.

Now this is unlikely to kill me (though if it did I can't think of a better way to go) but I am no spring chicken and no sylph either. I am not particularly well coordinated and while I do my best and try very hard I am the first to admit that I am one of the least talented ballet students who has ever clutched a barre. Added to that I pulled a muscle two weeks ago which was so painful that I thought that my last hour had come. So it will be a challenge for me and even more for Jane.

But you know what? Opportunities like this do not come every day. This one is definitely once in a lifetime because next year I will definitely be far too old and far too busy. For three days I shall pretend to be a swan. How good is that?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London

Queensland Ballet, La Sylphide, Coliseum 8 Aug 2915 19:30

Jane Lambert and Gita Mistry

In their Annual Report for the year ended 31 Dec 2010 the directors of the Queensland Ballet wrote:
"Our dream
By 2013, Queensland Ballet will be recognised, not only in Queensland but throughout Australia and also overseas, for:
  • creating and presenting a broad repertoire of quality work which ranges from the great classics, through contemporary dance, new ‘story’ ballets, and works for children 
  • exciting and challenging both dancers and audiences 
  • developing choreographers
  • training dancers to a consistently high standard in classical ballet technique, and developing that technique through excellent coaching and creative artistic development
  • having a strong and coherent artistic team led by a strong Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer
  • best practice in company management."
Their season at the Coliseum which ended last Saturday shows just how far that dream has come true. Much of the credit for their success is due to their artistic director, Li-Cunxin who combines business acumen with artistic genius.

The Queensland Ballet is not a large company. it has 23 dancers according to Wikipedia (though I have counted rather more on its website) but it stages full length classics like The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia and The Nutcracker as well as contemporary works. It is based in Australia's third largest city and it must compete for attention and to some extent audiences with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne and Sydney and the West Australian Ballet in Perth. To bring La Sylphide to one of the world's two alpha ++ cities which hosts two of the world's greatest ballet companies and sees most of the rest periodically was extremely ambitious. Some would say recklessly so.  In our view the Queensland Ballet carried off this enterprise magnificently.

The company did not choose the easiest work for its début in England.  La Sylphide is not performed very often in the UK. The last performance by the Royal Ballet was in 2012 (see La Sylphide 7 Aug 2015). Why that should be is not clear because it is a lot more credible than say Giselle. James on the day before his wedding is distracted by the image of a sylph which he follows into the woods. Well men do that.  He is not very nice to an old lady who tries to warm herself by the fire. There are no trysts beyond the grave and the ladies in white are much less offensive than the wilis. From a feminist perspective  the outcome of the ballet is satisfying. Effie is rescued from a disastrous marriage with an utter prat. Gurn is much more likely to look after her properly.  Also in the last scene James is taught some manners. if you treat the sylph and the poisoned scarf as a figment of James's lurid imagination the story makes perfect sense today.

The version that Queensland Ballet brought to London was created by Peter Schaufuss for what is now the English Festival Ballet in 1979. It is still remembered by a lot of people. When Li-Cunxin spoke to the London Ballet Circle on 3 Aug 2015 Gerald Dowler asked how many members of the audience remembered that production. It was surprising how many hands sprang up (see Li-Cunxin at London Ballet Circle 5 Aug 2015).  Not everybody liked that version at the time, particularly not in Denmark. The better known and more popular version is Johan Koburg's.

To appreciate this ballet you have to put yourself in the mind of the 19th century theatre goer. This was one of the first works (if not the first) in which a ballerina rose on pointe as part of the choreography.  The stage would have been lit not by electricity but by gas or flickering candle. The impression on the audience must have been almost magical.  Something of that magic was wrought by Yanela Piñera who reminded me of Carla Fracci who enchanted me when I saw her dance the sylph nearly half a century ago.  She was accompanied - I won't say partnered because there is no pas de deux as such - by Peter Shcaufuss's son Luke as James. It was great to see Greg Horsman and Mary Li  (nee McKendry) again. They are both well known in England.  Horsman danced Madge and Li Anne, James's mother. Mia Heathcote was a delightful Effie. I particularly liked her first dance with the foot flexing.  Vito Bernasconi was a worthy Gurn.

There is a lot of drama in this ballet as well as a fair measure of levity. It was also colourful David Walker's sets and costumes were gorgeous. Steen Bjarke's lighting was the next best thing in the 21st century to gaslight. I have only one niggle and that's the dancing with folded arms. It's not Schaufuss's fault. Bournonville is unlikely ever to have seen Scottish country dancing which explains why the the reels look as though they came out of Hungary. It would be nice if a modern choreographer or a producer made those dances look a little bit more Scottish.

The audience on Saturday night loved the show. A phalanx in the centre stalls actually gave the company a standing ovation though I think these may have been the company's supporters from Brisbane. The Queensland Ballet now has fans on the other side of the world.  It can return to Australia well satisfied with its season in London.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Norwegian Ballet

Opera Oslo House
Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia

One of the highlights of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's show in Amsterdam and London was Milena Siderova's Full Moon danced by the gifted young Dutch dancer Bart Engelen to Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet.  Well Bart now has a new job with the Norwegian National Ballet which is based in Oslo's new Opera House.

That building was opened in 2008 which must make it one of the newest and most advanced performing spaces in the world. I have not visited Oslo since the opera house was constructed so I have no personal knowledge of the building but I am very impressed by the pictures and description on the Norwegian Opera and Ballet's website. There is a short video of the building on YouTube. I shall certainly take a guided tour of the building on my next visit to Norway.

That may come soon because I am tempted by the new programme which includes box office staples like Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, Giselle and The Nutcracker as well as Anna Karenina, a new work by Christian Spuck to a score by Rakhmaninov, Lutoslawski, Tsintsadze and Bardanashvili. According to the company's website the Norwegian Ballet
"focuses greatly on new works created especially for the company by choreographers like Alexander Ekman, Liam Scarlett and Choreographers in Residence Jo Strømgren and Alan Lucien Øyen."  
Now I have heard of Ekman and I know Scarlett but Strømgren and  Øyen are completely new to me and I am curious. A chance to seen Øyen's work will come with Back to the Future which opens on 16 Oct 2015.  Also on my wish list is Jiří Kylián’s Black and White.

The company that Bart will be joining has some British dancers like Philip CurrellLindsay Craig from Preston and Natasha Jones. Its principals include Currell and the Cuban dancer Yoel Carreño. The company made a good choice when they recruited Bart Engelen. I wish him and the Norwegian ballet all the best and I look forward to seeing them in the new season.

One Last Chance to Shine

Last month I danced in Northern Ballet Academy's end of year show (see My Second Ballet 5 July 2015). This is likely to be our class's last show because the new timetable does not allow time for rehearsals. But we shall have one last chance to dance at Morley Town Hall on Saturday, 26 Sept 2015. We are dancing in A Feast of Music and Dance by Older Performers which will take place between 11:30 and 13:30.  We are appearing with West Yorkshire Playhouse Heydays and the Australian performance group The Golds.

Our show is part of a 2-year programme known as Time to Shine which is delivered by Yorkshire Dance and the Leeds Education Arts Forum (City Varieties, Leeds Grand Theatre, Northern Ballet, Opera North and Yorkshire Dance) to improve the lives of older people in Leeds. Our show is free but tickets must be booked in advance. Call 0113 243 8765 or email

As this may well be my last performance anywhere I am hoping for a flower throw as is customary for retiring dancers at Covent Garden. "Happen" as we say in these parts.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Looking forward to a great year at Chelmsford

Marion Pettet as Britannia, Pineapple Poll 2015
Photo Amelia Potter
Copyright Chelmsford Ballet Company 2015, All rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

I am very proud to be an associate member of the Chelmsford Ballet Company. It is one of the oldest ballet companies in the United Kingdom and has launched the careers of some of the country's most talented artists and teachers. I travel half way across the country to attend its events and I have never been disappointed.

The reason I am thinking of that company today is that members' subs are due for renewal this month. Associates like me who have the excuse of distance to mask our lack of talent are asked to pay only £14, Dancing members have to pay £27 unless they are in full time education in which case they get a a £5 discount. That is hardly going to break anybody's bank.

A lot of activities are promised for the next 12 months.   A Sleeping Beauty workshop on the 27 September and company classes on the first Sunday of most months for dancing members. A Let's Make a Ballet workshop for students between the ages of 7 and 14 on the 18 Oct 2015. The AGM before the end of October. There is usually a Christmas concert in conjunction with the Brentwood Choral Society. And finally the piece de resistance which is the annual performance in The Chelmsford Civic Theatre,

This year the company will dance Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty, This is one of the most ambitious ballets that any company can undertake. It is probably the best known and best loved ballet in the modern repertoire, particularly in England where it will always be associated with the reopening of Covent Garden on 20 Feb 1946. The score is riddled with earworms and there are so many lovely dances. Not just the pas de deux of the Prince and Aurora but also such favourites as the Bluebird and Puss in Boots. The performance will take place between the 16 and 19 March 2016.

There is one important link with Northern Ballet. One of our most popular teachers Cara O'Shea danced Aurora in a previous production of The Sleeping Beauty. I was lucky enough to take one of her classes last year (see A Treat for us old Ladies 27 Feb 2014) and I saw how she coaxed every ounce of effort from her children's class at the Northern Ballet Open Day 15 Feb 2014.

I think we can all look forward to a great year at Chelmsford,