Sunday, 31 January 2016

One of my proudest moments - Dancing in Move It!

Yoshie Kimura and Jane Lambert

It is nearly 03:12 in the morning but I am not going to sleep until I have written this experience out of my system. Last night I took part in Move ItThe Dancehouse's seasonal dance revue performed by students from its many and varied evening classes. I was in KNT's Beginners' Ballet piece which was choreographed by our teacher, Karen Sant. It was not the first time I had danced in public but it was by far the most enjoyable.

Karen had asked us to assemble at The Dancehouse at 15:30. She had told us to wear black leotards with a mesh dress, black tights, pink shoes and our hair in a bun. The last instruction caused me no end of grief because I have never learned how to style my hair. I spent a whole hour in front of three different transatlantic YouTube tutorials entitled "How to make a classic ballet bun" (or words to similar effect) getting precisely nowhere. Happily Gita knew how and she arranged my hair in a very tight bun within minutes.

Just as she had finished I caught my crowd proceeding with a purpose so I followed them. They led me to the auditorium of The Dancehouse Theatre where we all sat down. There were already dancers on stage performing to an infectious drum beat.  After they had finished the compère whom I had mentioned in Better than Eurovision took to the stage. Her introduction was very much as it had been last year but she said something very true about adult dance. Nobody forces us to come to class week after week as may have happened to some of us when we were children. We come because we want to not just to keep fit but because dance is enormously satisfying both emotionally and spiritually. She added that for the teachers seeing that satisfaction on the faces of their pupils is enormously rewarding. I will give an example of what she must have meant below.

The compère then called on the first piece which was Josh Moss's repertoire class (see A Pint for Josh 28 Aug 2015). They were performing the swans' entry from Swan Lake which was a bit of choreography that I happened to know from the Swan Lake intensive that I attended over last summer (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015, Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and Day 3 20 Aug 2015). It was executed beautifully as was a Rothbart excerpt danced by my classmate from the intensive, Simon Garner, and another gent whose name I do not know.  We saw the whole of the first part of the review and a bit of the second before our cast was called back stage to do our stuff. Gita saw the whole performance so she will review the show. All I will say is that I enjoyed each and every piece and some (including the last ballet piece performed by a cast that included another Swan Lake intensive student, Yoshie Kimura, photographed with me above) enormously.

Not long into the second part of the show we were called back stage.  The Dancehouse is only the second commercial theatre in which I have performed and is quite a bit bigger that the Stanley and Audrey Burton in Leeds. There is a whole labyrinth of passages and anterooms before you get to stage left or stage right. Somehow I arrived at the right place for entry stage right. Our music struck up. The first step was a tendu with the right leg followed by a fondu and lunge. Out of my peripheral vision I caught Tyson, yet another Swan Lake intensive student doing those steps so I knew I was OK. We repeated those en croix. then some lunges left and right working through a plié in second, a soutenu, some balancés right and left, followed by three glissades to the right, a changement, more glisssades and another changement, a run, a temps levé, another runa turn with the right hand followed by a turn with the left, some sautés, an advance forward, two awkward retirés, a port de bras and then lights followed by a curtsy and a rapid exit to the right. Or something like that! We (or rather I) made a few errors but somehow we got through that rehearsal without mishap.

Karen shepherded all the KNT evening class students to one of studios after the rehearsal where she and the other teachers put each of the casts through our paces. Being very old and rickety I had intended to do a barre with Sophie before the rehearsal but I never made it because of my struggles with my hair.  I did a few pliés in each position with side and back bends, tendus, glisses, ronds de jambe, grands battements and stretches on the upper rail of the barre of my own. I applied some make up and then it was time for our second rehearsal. We were better second time round. Several of us practised some of the steps once or twice again until we got it more or less right.

With all the KNT casts in the studio dancing, snacking, chatting, stretching it was just like a party. Some of us checked our phones. I found tweets and chukkas messages from far and near: Andrea from Basel (via Golcar), Andrew in Sheffield, Marion and Annette in Chelmsford, Mel in Budapest, Nik in New Zealand and Mark Hindle from somewhere on the high seas.  I thank them all.  After our studio rehearsal I spotted Jane Tucker who had taught our intensive. Everyone who had taken that intensive was transformed by it so her presence back stage lifted our morale to new heights. Mine particularly for I had taken her class at Northern Ballet the previous Wednesday and by some fluke I had actually managed to pull off a pirouette more or less correctly. Jane had witnessed it and the expression on her face was a joy to behold. I think she was even more delighted than I had been.

Gradually the studio emptied until there were only two casts left. Our friends from the advanced class toi-toied and chukkased us and we made our way back stage. We could hear the peels of applause for each of the other turns and then it was us. The saying "it'll be alright on the night" has some truth because a performance almost always lifts performers. I am sure we made mistakes - Gita has already mentioned one that I made - but it didn't matter. We danced like we had never danced before and left the stage elated. "We did it!" one us said punching the air once out of the audience's earshot.

Then there were photos and flowers and hugs and kisses. That was when Yoshie arranged for someone to photograph us which she posted to my Facebook page. I'm a bit taller than Yoshie so I tried to plier in first position hence my rather curious expression and pose.  Honestly, I had not been drinking. In a Facebook post before the show Karen had referred to us all as "the KNT family" and that was just how we felt. We got to know each other a little better yesterday. I certainly got to like my classmates and our wonderful teachers, Karen, Josh and Ailsa, even more. We all made our way to the bar and I am sure the celebrations must have carried on for ages.

Performances like yesterday's are very important to students at every level for ballet belongs in the theatre. Without the chance to dance it is just another way of keeping fit.  Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, but it is a bit like reading Shakespeare for an exam. The poetry and music can still emerge but it is strained. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who got me to this point - Karen, the Dancehouse, all the teachers at KNT and all the others elsewhere who got me started and have helped me on my way.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Miracle that's wrought by tickling the Ivories of the Old Joanna

Igor Zapravadin.                          Standard YouTube Licence

Because last week's class at KNT was so good (see "So what was so great about it exactly?" 20 Jan 2016) I feared tonight's would be something of an anticlimax. In fact it was even better and one of the reasons why it was even better is that we had a pianist. There are some lovely recordings for ballet classes on the market but there is nothing like a live pianist especially when he or she plays something from a well loved ballet. I remember being transfixed by strains of Mendelssohn's Dream from the next door studio at Quarry Hill and fighting back tears as memories of Sibley and Dowell flooded back.

Although we have pianists for most of our classes at Northern Ballet we are taught to honour them. We curtsy to them in the reverence. One instructor, Elizabeth Rae, taught us to curtsy with our hands over our hearts. "You've always got to show respect to the maestro" she explained. A classmate who had studied at one of the best schools in London corroborated her. "They have real power" she warned. She told me a story about a pianist from her student days,
"If you got on the right side of the pianist he would play 'I feel pretty' for your turn. If you upset him he would serve up 'Nellie the Elephant'". 
Consequently I always make a point of thanking the pianist as well as the instructor though I would probably do that anyway.

The other reason why tonight was so good is that we had our rehearsal on the stage of the auditorium in which we are performing. What a stage it is!  I thought the Stanley and Audrey was big but The Dancehouse's is even bigger. When the house lights are up and you peer into the seating are it looks and feels cavernous.

Our rehearsal did not get off to a good start but Karen coached us patiently. We performed it in the studio a couple of times. Then Karen led us onto the stage. The first run through needed some adjustment particularly with the last movement but we practised it a couple of times before Karen called it a day.

I didn't go home immediately because some of the members of our class were in the pointe class and several of us wanted to watch them. I was quite impressed but Karen saw room for improvement. She drilled them as she had drilled us and the second time through they were even more polished.
"You must think I'm terrible" muttered Karen as she dashed past.
"Not at all" I replied. "Mark had told me you had high standards and expected nothing less than the best." 
That was true by the way. Vlad the Lad, his mum and dad, Gita and I collared my teacher Mark Hundle at the stage door of the Empire after he had danced two shows in Dick Whittington on Boxing Day and wanted nothing more than to get on with his Christmas (see a Liverpudlian Whittington 27 Dec 2015). It was Mark. incidentally, who encouraged me to dance in this show and for that I am very grateful. In that suggestion he was backed up by Mel who once saw me dance (see Mel Wong The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014 29 June 2014).

Today we got our costumes which in my case is a mesh dress over a black leotard. I'd been worried that it might not fit because it is made by Bloch whose idea of extra large seems to me to be an anorexic stick insect. But in fact it does fit and I feel so good in it.  I shall be 67 on the 14 Feb so I am not sure how much longer I can keep dancing. But for the moment I can. And I love every minute of it.

So folks, if you find yourself in Manchester on Saturday night and feel like you need a break from assembling your Billy flat packs or a change from propping up the bar of the Lass o' Gowrie, The Briton's Protection or The Old Monkey you could do a lot worse than come to the Danchouse at 19:30  and watch us Move It.  All that entertainment for a fiver. You won't get much better value than that.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Competition for Cranko: The Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew streamed from Moscow

Standard YouTube Licence

Even before the housekeeper ambled on to the stage I could tell from the photos that we were in for a treat. They depicted Petruchio's loucheness in the way he wore his hat, the simple set and the timeless costumes. The housekeeper was first on stage well before the maestro. She was elegant, wearing heels, immaculately coiffed.  She sat down on stage to check her make up. She donned a pair of pointe shoes and filed her nails. Then when she was good and ready she ushered in the conductor.

The ballet was very short. It consisted of two acts.   The screening started at 15:00 GMT and we were out by 17:00 but it packed so much in. The dancing was magnificent, particularly the duet between Katherina and Petrtuchio in act II. There were some lifts movements I have never seen before. The most extraordinary was where Petruchio seemed to raise Katherina with his arm stretched like a piston as though she were riding a horse. It must have required enormous strength from him and I guess remarkably uncomfortable for her.

The score was by Dimitri Shostakovich and the choice was inspired. One of the greatest composers for the ballet ever.  Glorious soaring crescendos and humour with his orchestration of Tea for Two for the harmony of the last scene.  Of equal genius was the choreographer, Jean-Christophe Maillot, and his muse, Bernice Copieters who translated it into dance.  So too was Ernest Pignon-Ernest who designed the set and the choreographer's son, Augustin, who designed the costumes.  One of the highlights of yesterday's transmission was Katerina Novikova's interview with Jean-Christopher Maillot and Sergei Filin in the interval and it was there that Maillot acknowledged the contributions of his creative team.

The story kept pretty faithfully to the play with a little lot more prominence to the widow.  Bianco was all sweetness and  grace while Katherina was Scotch bonnet pepper - until she was bedded towards the end of the second act.  Katherina is the star. Hers is the title role and it required a dancer with exceptional technique who was also a remarkable actor. Yesterday that role was danced by Ekaterina Krysanova.  Her Petruchio had to be at least as strong and his role was danced by Vladislaw Lantratov. Olga Smirnova was a gorgeous Bianca. Anna Tikhomirova, .as the housekeeper was in many ways the anchor of the show from the prologue when she patronizingly clapped the entry of the conductor.  I must say a special work for Vyacheslav Lopatin, one of the best character dancers ever, who played Petruchio's groom. His eyes were a picture as he tossed a sheet over his master and bride.

I have often said that Pathe Live had the edge over the Royal Opera House's transmissions though the House has recently raised its game.  Yesterday's transmission from Moscow reached new heights with the interview with Filin and Maillot. It will be interesting to see how Covent Garden responds to the challenge.

The Bolshoi are bringing the Taming of the Shrew to London on 3 and 4 Aug 2016.   Here is a little clip on their YouTube channel. I can't wait to see them live on stage in that show.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

This year I am in it!

Liverpool Town Hall, 8 Sept 2014

I described last year's Move It as better than Eurovision as indeed it was.  This year's show is taking place this Saturday and, guess what, I'm in it. I've danced in public before at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds this year and last (see My Second Ballet 5 July 2015 and The Time of my Life 5 July 2014) and also in Morley Town Hall (see Growing Old Disgracefully in Morley 28 Sept 2015) but this performance is altogether more challenging for it takes place in The Dancehouse which is half as big again as the Stanley and Audrey and part of Manchester's history.

I shall be dancing in the Beginners' Ballet piece but that class is of a very high standard. See how good they were last year in Didn't They Do Well!  Well we have an even harder routine this year and we have all been working hard to master it since the beginning of last term. Our choreographer is Karen Sant and she expects a lot from each of us. The above video shows her teaching our contemporary class in Liverpool Town Hall on 8 Sept 2014. I was there and wrote about it in It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014. It was the first time I tried jazz and contemporary although we started with ballet.

There will, of course, be lots of other performers apart from us. Other ballet classes plus Jazz, Tap, Burlesque, Flamenco, Hula Hooping, Chinese Dance, Street Dance, Belly Dancing and more. Last year I had a great time and if you do come I hope you do too.

Tickets will set you back £5. Doors open at 19:00 and the show starts at 19:30. The Dancehouse is in Oxford Road, a few hundred yards from, and on the same side of the road as, the railway station, There is also lots of unrestricted street parking on Saturday evenings. If you are feeling peckish you can get an excellent burrito at Panchos and there is also good Chinese, Indian and fast food in the area.

We Mancunians like to say that what we do today London does tomorrow. I think it derives from the days when impresarios previewed they shows here before taking them to the West End. They did that because Manchester has the best theatre and most discriminating audiences outside London

Saturday, 23 January 2016

We drop French at our peril

Louis XIV
Author Hyacinthe Rigaud
Source Wikipedia

There is a really depressing article by Ed West in The Guardian entitled The long adieu: how Britain gave up learning French. Apparently there has been a sharp decline in the number of British schoolchildren taking modern languages, particularly French. For some reason or other there has been a slight increase in the numbers taking Spanish (which is good) but that does not make up for not doing French.  Spanish has never been spoken in these islands whereas French was. As West notes, it is
"the language used at the first parliament, spoken at Runnymede in 1215, a language that still features in much of our legal system and which, until 1858, was the only one on British passports."
That is the reason why our vocabulary is so huge and flexible and our grammar so simple. Without the Norman conquest English could well have developed into an inflected language, much like modern German, with genders and awkward compound words.

But there is another reason for learning French which is that seventeenth and eighteenth century France shaped the modern world in science, diplomacy and of the course the arts. That is particularly true of ballet. Just go through Wikipedia's glossary of ballet terms and count the number that are not in French. As David Bintley reminded us in his documentary, The King who invented Ballet there is a reason for that. The company of the Paris Opera and the school that is attached to it are the oldest and arguably noblest in the world.

A generation ago it would not have been necessary for teachers to explain what is meant by tendu, fondu or frapper. The class would have come across those words in their unseens and prose composition. Increasingly in class I am instructed to bend rather than plier or to tap rather than piquer.  Plier means to fold rather like a pantograph and piquer means to prick which are subtly different concepts from bending or tapping which would translate into rather different movements.

World Ballet Day starts with class in each of the companies. The ballet master or mistress may give instructions in Russian, English or some other language but the exercise itself is nearly always described in French and its meaning instantly becomes clear. The use of French was never abandoned in the Soviet Union even at the height of Stalin's terror and it would have been one of the few conduits with the rest of the world. It provided a medium through which other ideas could pass.  Without such conduit would perestroika ever have been possible?

As machine translation improves, as English is spoken everywhere a tourist goes as many businesses and institutions even in France use English internally it is argued that there are better uses of time on a crowded curriculum - but are there. We don't learn French to order a pression or croque Monsieur but to understand our own language and civilization better. If we drop French we do so at our peril.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Two Chances to meet Leanne Benjamin

In my article about Hendrick's January's class at Danceworks I mentioned some of the master classes that will take place at those studios soon:
"Roberta Marquez, Zdenek Konvalisa and Antonia Franceschi as well as Leanne Benjamin teaching a series of repertoire classes from February and Michaela DePrince in July."
 I promised to mention these again when I had more details.

Danceworks has just published details of Leanne Benjamin's course for advanced and professional dancers. The great ballerina will present four master classes between 09:30 and 12:00 on  22 Feb, 21 March, 18 April  and 16 May. Those who want to take the course must book all four classes at a cost of £160 plus a £3 booking fee. The blurb advises that numbers will be strictly limited to ensure personal attention. Participants are asked to make sure that they have appropriate technical training in order to get the most out of the experience. They must be 15 years of age or over. Places are offered on a first come first served basis and you can book through the web page.

If like me you are a million miles from "advanced/professional" standard you can still meet Leanne Benjamin on the 7 March at 19:30 in the Civil Service Club at 13-15 Great Scotland Yard when she gives a talk to the London Ballet Circle. That event, incidentally, is open the public as well as members of the Circle. If you are not already a member it is well worth joining even if you live well outside the metropolis. Tomorrow is the Circle's AGM and party by the way.

Returning to Danceworks I could not resist this photo of one of my favourite dancers on the poster for the studios' open day on 31 Jan which offers all sorts of free taster classes in  all styles of dance. Christina-Maria Mittelmaier will teach beginners' ballet between 10:30 and 11:30 after which she gives her regular class until 12:00 (see the the Sunday timetable). Oh and if you are wondering about Michaela DePrince I am assured that she is coming. Not on the 31 Jan alas but soon.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Small Steps - Northern Ballet Academy's Commemoration of the Kindertransport

Arrival of Jewish refugees, London
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S69279 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Source Wikipedia
 Creative Commons Licence

On Sunday the 24 Jan 2016 at 14:00 the Lord Mayor of Leeds will commemorate the Kindertransport, the rescue of nearly 10,000 mostly Jewish children from Nazi Germany and occupied territories immediately before the Second World War. Members and attenders of the Religious Society of Friends (whose faith I share) helped to promote and facilitate that effort by making representations to the government to relax immigration restrictions, fetching the children from their points of departure and accompanying them to England and providing homes and schools for the children upon their arrival (see Kindertransport on the Quaker website).  The history of the Quakers' contribution has been recorded on

I mention the commemoration of the Kindertransport  because I learnt today in my Over 55 improvers' class at Northern Ballet Academy that Cara O'Shea has choreographed a short ballet called Small Steps for the Centre for Advanced Training students of our Academy which they will perform at the Town Hall. There will also be a speech by Nick Winton (the son of Sir Nicholas Winton who was particularly prominent in rescuing Czech children), a performance by the Clothworkers' Consort of Leeds, readings, lighting of candles and prayers by Rudi Leavor of Bradford Synagogue (see Leeds Town Hall Civic Remembrance Event on the City Council Website).

Readers of this blog will know that I have a very high regard for Cara O'Shea. It was she who trained the childen in The Nutcracker who helped to make the show for me (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015). She first came to my attention when she was teaching the boys for the Northern Ballet Open Day on 18 Feb 2014 and a few days later I was lucky enough to be taught by her (see A Treat For Us Old Ladies 27 Feb 2014). She is also close to two other institutions for which I have enormous regard: the Northern Ballet School where she trained and the Chelmsford Ballet Company where she danced Aurora at age 15.

While the Kindertransport commemoration would be well worth supporting for its own sake a performance by some of our Academy's most promising students under the direction of one of their excellent teachers will make it particularly memorable.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

So what was so great about it exactly?

It wasn't just me who said so. One of my classmates posted to his Facebook page:
"Loved class and rehearsals tonight. just what i needed after the past few days (especially today)"
I have to say that I enjoy all my classes. It is very rare that I don't and when that happens it is nearly always my fault in attending when I am not 100% rather than that of the teacher or classmates (see Never attend a Ballet Class the Morning after the Night Before 21 Dec 2015),  So what made yesterday's class special?

Well, first of all it was huge. I counted 50 dancers before Karen Sant, our instructor called us to order and set out first exercise. There were quite a few new faces but there were also plenty of folk I knew from the Swan Lake intensive and previous classes.

Secondly, it was happy. Everyone was there to have fun.  When you bring 50+ people together to do something they love you get magic.

Thirdly, we have a good instructor. Karen pushes us hard. Particularly in the chaînés which sends our heads spinning however much we try to spot with consequent giggles which add to the fun. But she never pushes us too far so when we reach the mirror without falling over we feel we have accomplished something.

Fourthly, the class is in Manchester which has some of the jolliest people in the world. Don't look at me for the exception that proves the rule. I was born in Manchester but went to school in London and grew up in Surrey. But we Mancunians have a humour all of our own and we like to be nice to each other.

Of course, we have these elements every week so what happened last night to make it special. Dunno but it was as anyone could tell from our grins, chatter and giggles as we exited into the cold, dark Oxford Road night.

Dance Law #1: PRS for Music Charging Policies

Royal Courts of Justice
Author Anthony M
Creative Commons Licence
Source Wikipedia

Copyright is a property right which subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, sound recordings, films or broadcasts, and typographical arrangement of published editions. It is the exclusive right to do or authorize the following acts in respect of the work:
(a) to copy the work
(b) to issue copies of the work to the public
(ba) to rent or lend the work to the public
(c) to perform, show or play the work in public
(d) to communicate the work to the public
(e) to make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation.
Anyone who does or authorizes any of those acts in the UK without the licence of the owner infringes that right, Such an infringer may be sued in the civil courts or in some circumstances prosecuted in the criminal courts. If found guilty the penalties for copyright infringement are approximately the same as for theft.

As civil litigation can be expensive owners of certain types of copyright works have established organizations known as "collecting societies" to enforce their copyrights. One of those collecting societies is PRS for Music which describes itself as "the home of PRS and MCPS, representing the rights of over 115,000 members in the UK," The PRS and the MCPS are two separate collecting societies representing respectively the rights of the owners of the copyrights in words and music and those of the owners of the copyrights in the sound recordings. PRS for Music offers to license the performance of their  members' works on terms that are regulated by statute. They have reciprocal agreements with collecting societies in other countries to enforce the rights of foreign collecting societies' members' rights here, The foreign collecting societies enforce the rights of British copyright owners elsewhere.

The statute that protects the rights of copyright owners in the United Kingdom is The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ("the CDPA"). Section 2 of that Act confers the exclusive tight mentioned above subject to a number of exceptions. One of those exceptions is provided by s,34:
"34 Performing, playing or showing work in course of activities of educational establishment
(1) The performance of a literary, dramatic or musical work before an audience consisting of teachers and pupils at an educational establishment and other persons directly connected with the activities of the establishment--
(a) by a teacher or pupil in the course of the activities of the establishment, or
(b) at the establishment by any person for the purposes of instruction, is not a public performance for the purposes of infringement of copyright. 
(2) The playing or showing of a sound recording, film or broadcast before such an audience at an educational establishment for the purposes of instruction is not a playing or showing of the work in public for the purposes of infringement of copyright.
(3) A person is not for this purpose directly connected with the activities of the educational establishment simply because he is the parent of a pupil at the establishment."
Doubts have arisen over the years as to whether a dance school falls within that exception.  Until the beginning of this year it was the opinion of PRS for Music that it did not. Following representations from the Royal Academy for Dance (see PRS for Music - Educational Exemptions 4 Jan 2016) the collecting society appears to have changed its position. In its PRS for Music Charging Policies the collecting society writes that it has a number of non-charging policies that define circumstances in which it chooses not to make a charge for its licence and one of these is dance schools:
"Section A - Dance Schools that are educational establishments
Where a dance school qualifies as an educational establishment, section 34 of the 1988 Act provides that a public performance licence will not be required from PRS (or any other copyright owner) for performances before an audience of teachers and pupils/students at the school (and other persons directly connected with it) provided that the performance is given
  • by a teacher or pupil in the course of the activities of the dance school; or
  • at the dance school by any person for the purposes of instruction.
Section B - Dance tuition provided by persons other than educational establishments
Where copyright music is used for the purpose of dance tuition, a licence will ordinarily be required by the course provider. However, if the music is performed within the context of and for the purposes of a lesson and/or examination leading to a qualification aligned with Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 1 or above, [for the purposes of calculating charges under the dance tuition session of the current DS tariff and proposed new Fitness and Dance Tariff], PRS is willing to treat such performance as if it were given in circumstances to which section 34 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 applies and accordingly will not make any charge respect of that session."
First, it has to be stressed that that is only a position statement from a collecting society - albeit a powerful one - and not a statute, judgment or other authoritative statement of the law. Having said that, I stress that I do not necessarily disagree with it. If anyone wants to challenge that position in respect of charges made in previous years they can still do so though I am not encouraging (or indeed discouraging) them to do so. Secondly, this statement does not bind copyright owners who are not represented directly or indirectly by PRS for Music. Thirdly, this position statement applies only to the United Kingdom and those other territories to which the CDPA applies.

If anyone wants to learn more about copyright in music or relating to dance, exemptions and licences, collecting societies and enforcement he or she should call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or use my contact form.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Hendrick's Class at Danceworks

Hendrick January

Well over a year ago Lesley Osman of Danceworks invited me to review one of her classes. I had intended to accept her offer much sooner but I don't get to London all that often and when I do it is nearly always for work. Last Saturday I decided to treat myself to a matinee at Covent Garden (see The Royal Ballet's Double Bill 18 Jan 2016) and Hannah Frost's beginners' class at 16:30 at Danceworks.

Between Rhapsody and the Two Pigeons I received the following email from Cherise Collings the reception manager at Danceworks:
"Hi Jane,

Hope all is well.
To update - unfortunately Hannah Frost will not be teaching her class today, she will have cover .
Hendrick January. He is a very good teacher and Hannah consistently has Hendrick cover for her when she is away.
Sorry for the late update - we only found out a bit earlier today that Hannah could not teach.
Best and look forward to seeing you.

Cherise Collings"
The double bill at Covent Garden ended just after 15:00. There was, of course, lots of clapping and cheering which is very much part of the show and I exited the theatre just after half past. I walked to Holborn and took the Central Line to Bond Street dropping into Boots to procure some water and bun pins on the way.

The moment I arrived at Danceworks's studios at Balderton Street I was feted like a ballerina. Cherise introduced herself to me and gave me a guest pass. She showed me the studio where the class was to take place and directed me to the changing room. The facilities while Spartan were more than adequate. There were showers, loos and mirrors and enough space to change in privacy.

I presented myself to Henderick who remembered meeting me at one of Ballet Black's performances. There were about 27 names on Hendrick's register - about half a dozen men and the rest women.  There was at least one gentleman who seemed to be about my age and several ladies who seemed to be not far short. The rest were of various ages and levels of experience.

Hendrick introduced himself and promised a "gentle class". I would not describe it as easy but it was well within every student's capability. Hendrick started with pliés in each of the positions but he kept us alert by making us rise or do a port de bras after every movement. He kept us on our toes with tendus incorporating a rond de jambe and weight transfer into the exercise.  It was much the same with the other exercises until we had completed the usual canon.

Hendrick has an eye for detail and he made many corrections. In my case my arm was drooping in second and he had to remind me twice before I got it right. Ports de bras seem to be one of his strengths because he drilled us through each of the arm positions a couple of times before he was satisfied with us.  One tip that I learned from him was to retain the curvature of the arms when coming out of 5th.

He gave us a couple of great centre exercises. I particularly enjoyed the last one which started with a tombé, pas de bourré, pirouette, balancé and ending with a jeté.  He allowed a little time for pirouettes and jumps - sautés and échappés - an echainement where we combined everything we had learned and then - far too soon - the reverence.

Hendrick packed a lot into the 90 minutes so there was not much time for cool down but we were allowed time to stretch and I carried out the exercises that Annemarie and Jane had taught me in Leeds. It was a good class and it ended a great day of dance after a virtually dance free week.

After the class I thanked Hendrick for the lesson.  He recommended my taking Hannah's class which I certainly hope to do but I would also like to take his class again for, as Cherise said, Hendrick is a very good teacher.

He is of course just one of several. Lesley reminded me of some of the others:  Roberta Marquez, Zdenek Konvalisa and Antonia Franceschi as well as Leanne Benjamin teaching a series of repertoire classes from February and Michaela DePrince in July.  I will mention them again nearer the time.

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Royal Ballet's Double Bill

The Royal Ballet, Rhapsody and The Two Pigeons, Royal Opera House, 16 Jan 2016

A trip to Covent Garden is always something of an occasion.

First, the tickets arrive in a smart folder sponsored by Rolex, the "Official Watch". They carry a hologram and are printed on expensive paper. They look more like the title to an investment rather than a voucher for a show.

The redevelopment of the Covent Garden piazza following the relocation of the fruit and veg market to Nine Elms has transformed the neighbourhood from a place of manual labour into a playground with expensive shops and restaurants where once there were lorries, warehouses and pubs with crazy opening hours. You have to resist the lures of luxury chocolates and cashmere cardigans to reach the revolving doors and pass an equally tempting shop of Royal Opera House merchandise to reach the box office.

That box office looks and feels like the counter of a private bank with its elegantly groomed and exquisitely mannered staff. The queue for the cloakroom is divided into aisles so you never have to wait more than a few minutes to deposit or retrieve your coat and hand luggage. Instead of formidable flights of stairs from Floral Street there are lifts and escalators to whisk you to whichever part of the auditorium you are seated.

The auditorium looks and feels as it has always done with its elegant curtains and royal monogram even though it will have been renovated and redecorated many times but the bars and restaurants along the way are opulent.

I miss the old House with its all pervading smell of over ripe fruit and vegetables and unofficial flower throws. At least the London ballet crowd remain.  The twos and threes of office workers straight from work in their buns and twin sets with earnest stares who never seem to age.

Also the same rituals.  The short clap when the maestro appears, the ripple when the ballerina and male principal first appear on stage and at revolution 27 of Legnani's 32 fouettés in Swan Lake and sustained applause with cheers at the very end. The bewigged flunkies in their red liveries have gone but the order of precedence in which flowers are presented seems to be very much as it has always been.

As my readers will have surmised from the lack of recent updates my day job has kept me very busy lately. I had spent more or less every spare moment since the Christmas holidays preparing for a hearing which left no time for watching ballet and hardly any for class. That hearing took place on Friday and lasted the whole day.  To restore my spirits I checked the Royal Opera House's website for tickets and found there were still some left for the Rhapsody, Two Pigeons double bill. One was in the middle of the amphitheatre stalls that 50 years experience of theatre going has taught me to be one of the best parts in the House.

The two ballets are by Sir Frederick Ashton but from different stages of his career.  He staged the Two Pigeons in 1961 with the late Christopher Gable and Lynn Seymour in the title roles and created Rhapsody in 1980 as a birthday gift for the Queen Mother. Somehow I had missed both of those works when they had previously been performed so this double bill was a double first for me.

The matinee started with Rhapsody to Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  The lead dancers in the first performance were Mikhail Baryshnikow and Lesley Collier so you can imagine the weight of expectations on the shoulders of their young successors.  James Hay and Francesca Hayward were brilliant in those roles as were the other twelve dancers who supported them including several soloists. Rhapsody was one of Ashton's last ballets but it reminded me of many of his early works with his spectacular turns and jumps for the males and the dainty pointe work and delicate arm and hand movements. for the women. The costumes designed by William Chappell for a set created by Ashton himself were gorgeous.  The dancers, orchestra and pianist richly deserved their deafening and sustained applause.

The Two Pigeons as re-staged by Ashton to Messager's music is quite charming.  It was originally created by Louis Mérante for the ballet of the Paris Opera in 1886.  Ashton changed the story and Lanchbery adapted and arranged the score. Two of my all time favourite dancers, Lynn  Seymour and Christopher Gable, were in the original performance at Covent Garden on 14 Feb 1961 and it must have been wonderful.  The leads on Saturday were Alexander Campbell and Yuhui Choe. I will tell you how they got on below

There is lots of humour such as the echoing of the pigeon steps by the young girl, the dance competitions and even some slapstick such as the sudden removal of the artist's chair.  A particularly delightful touch are provided by the trained pigeons, Toad, Mole and Bianca who flew past on stage and sat on the artist's shoulder right on cue.  Ironically, the last show that I had seen from Covent Garden was Carlos Acosta's Carmen (see Au Revoir but not Adieu 18 Nov 2015). Comparisons are odious and there is no bigger fan of Acosta on this planet than me but if the Royal Ballet wants to dance gypsies Ashton shows the way to do it.

Shortly after the performance Campbell tweeted:

I replied
Although I did not know it at the time the magnificent Janet McNulty also saw the show and she wrote:
Now I don't agree with Janet on everything. How can I? She's a Liverpudlian and I'm a Mancunian. She likes football and I cricket. She votes one way and I another. But in our appreciation of this performance we are as one.

It will be streamed to cinemas on the 26 Jan 2016. Now if you get a chance to see it you really must.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Don't Expect Petipa

Standard YouTube Licence

The last time I saw Northern Ballet's Swan Lake I felt quite deflated. It was my birthday too and I felt as Vlad the Lad must have done after his mum and I beat him at snakes and ladders in the best of three on his birthday. We still had Tchaikovsky's majestic music. The dancing was superb.  But the story and settling were quite different.  I beetled down to London at the first opportunity to see the Royal Ballet's production. It was several years before I ventured back into the Grand for Northern Ballet.

Since then I have seen Grigorovich's production, Christopher Moore's and of course Matthew Bourne's so I am more receptive to the idea that there can be different versions of that great ballet. I am therefore rather gingerly giving Northern's version a second chance.  It is starting in Leeds between the 3 and 12 March before wending its way to Milton Keynes by way of Sheffield and Norwich.

If my feelings about it don't change I still have David Dawson's for Scottish Ballet to look forward to. They are coming to Liverpool on 1 June. Now that will indeed be a treat.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Did I read this correctly?

Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae
You Tube Licence

In the January newsletter from Danceworks I read the following section:
"New Classical Ballet classes
Three fantastic new drop-in Ballet classes for 2016 for advanced dancers with extraordinary dance stars: Antonia Franceschi, (Mondays 11.30am from 4th), Zdenek Konvalina, (Tuesdays 10am from 11th), and Roberta Marquez (Wednesdays 10am from 6th)."
Now Roberta Marquez is one of the greatest ballerinas of her generation and which dancer of sufficient aptitude would not give an eye tooth for a class from her? Surely it is a misprint or another Roberta Marquez?

It seems not.  Marquez's class for advanced/professionals takes place between 10:00 and 11:30 on Wednesday at a cost of £8.  If I were good enough to take her class I would camp all night outside 16 Balderton Street to be first in the queue.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Gaza Ballet School

Standard YouTube Licence

I am grateful to Alison Winward, one of my fellow students at KNT, for drawing the Gaza ballet school to my attention. "Did you know there's a ballet school in Gaza?" she wrote. "I thought that was just awesome." I agree. In that 141 square mile strip of territory in which nearly 2 million people are crammed and which has been subject to regular bombardment for nearly 70 years, it is comforting to read of this beacon of culture and education.

Ballet classes take place at the premises of the AM Qattan Foundtion, a British charity that promotes the arts and education in Palestine and Lebanon. The school was featured in a report for Reuters by Nidal al-Mughrabi entitled Pirouettes and plenty of pink at Gaza's only ballet school 30 Nov 2915 which was picked up by newspapers around the world including the Daily Mail.

Reports like this remind us that ballet belongs to the world and not just to countries that are predominately white or relatively wealthy. One of the first articles that I published was about a remarkable teacher in Kenya called Mike Wamaya and his work in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of Nairobi (see What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013). Michaela DePrince, one of the most exciting young dancers in the world, was inspired to dance while she was still a child in Sierra Leone (see Michaela DePrince at TEDx Amsterdam 28 Nov 2014). I have heard that it is her ambition to see a ballet school in Freetown and if it is not hers then it is certainly mine (see A Ballet School for Freetown 20 May 2014).

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Please, pretty please, will somebody revive this lovely ballet.

Standard YouTube Licence

In Prosit Neues Jahr 2 Jan 2016 and Frohes Neues Jahr 1 Jan 2014 I mentioned Lichine's Graduation Ball. As you can see from the video it is a charming ballet. It was once very popular.  I saw London Festival Ballet perform it in the late 1960s or early 1970s, It was also in the repertoire of the Australian Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba and the Ballet of La Scala, Nowadays hardly anybody seems to perform it. Why is that? It is so happy and the music is so lovely.

Admittedly there is not much of a plot. It's a bit like Grease. A girls' school holds a dance and invites the boys in the cadet corps. Both boys and girls are shy at first but they slowly break the ice. They play games and one of the boys takes a fancy to one of the young ladies. So, too, do the students' teachers and they plan to meet after the ball. Unfortunately, they spot the students and the mistress and master lead their miscreant pupils back to their respective establishments.

The music is by Johann Strauss the younger as arranged by Antal Dorati and was first performed in Australia by the Ballet Russe in 1940. Quite remarkable that there was an audience for Strauss when Australia and Austria (then part of Nazi Germany) were at each other's throats.

Graduation Ball would be a lovely ballet for a school or small company.

Prosit Neues Jahr

Musikverein Vienna, Golden Hall
Source Wikipedia

Television over the New Year used to be decked out with tartan, accordions, Scottish country dancing and Glaswegian comics. That tradition seems to have waned even in Scotland with a new emphasis on fireworks and fun fairs. Probably a good thing as Hogmanay was often accompanied by excessive drinking which must have placed an enormous strain on traffic patrols and the National Health Service. Nowadays the world wakes up for the annual New Year's Day concert from Vienna.

Not everyone enjoys that concert. Writing in The Spectator Norman Lebrecht described the concert as "an annual jellybox of waltzes, polkas, galops, marches and any old tritsch-trash" in "The Nazi origins of the Vienna Phil’s New Year’s Day concert". He described the music as "strictly bar-room, written by members of the Strauss family as social foreplay for the soldiery and serving classes in low taverns."

I am afraid that I do not agree with him.

Great orchestras are allowed to let their hair down once in a while. On Thursday I attended The Hallé's Abba concert where the orchestra including the conductor appeared in big hair wigs and 1970s costumes to act as a backing group for largely inaudible singers attempting to belt out Dancing Queen and Fernando to an audience of swaying sexuagenarians. If I were unkind I could have described the experience as akin to listening to a tribute band in a retirement home, but I won't because it was still good fun and everyone including yours truly had a great time.  The Strauss family are at least the artistic equals to Abba and for my part I greatly prefer them.

Mr Labrecht's main concern lies in the origins of the concert:
"The tradition, however, is decidedly pernicious. This concert came into being as a gift to Nazi criminals, a cover for genocide. The Vienna Philharmonic was quick to sack Jewish and leftist musicians when Hitler came to town. More than a dozen were sent to concentration camps; seven of them perished. The orchestra unanimously endorsed the Anschluss with Germany, exhorted by the conductor Karl Böhm to declare ‘a 100 per cent “yes”’, and proved a willing executioner of cultural cleansing, removing Mahler and other giants from its walls and histories."
He complains of the exclusion and under representation of women and non-white musicians in the orchestra:
"The orchestra has, until recently, excluded women. One of the perverse pleasures of watching the New Year’s Day broadcast is to count how few females are permitted to take part. The orchestra has just seven women members out of a roll call of 130, the lowest in any 21st-century symphony orchestra."
True but that was also a criticism that could be levelled at many British institutions including a well known watering hole in Fleet Street frequented by journalists and out of work barristers for many years. He concludes:
"So long as appearance defeats substance — so long as the world oohs and ahhs at the musical sweetmeats and ignores the dirt in the kitchen, New Year’s Day from Vienna will remain a family favourite, a testament to our human ability to look the other way."
With all respect to Mr Lebrecht, I rather hope it does.

Anschluss was reversed over 70 years ago. There was pretty thorough de-Nazification by the allies who partitioned Austria for a while immediately after the end of the war. Very few if any of the players could have been born during the second world war. Modern Austria is our democratic partner in major international and European institutions including the United Nations which was celebrated by Robert Stolz's UNO March, the first piece in yesterday's programme.

The Vienna Philharmonic is raising money for asylum seekers. Next year's concert is to be conducted by Gustavo Dudamel of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. Sorry but I want to hear that concert. Indeed, if I could spare the time and money I would rather like to be in Vienna this time next year.

Before reading Mr Lebrecht's article I had intended to write about the ballet sequences which were performed by dancers of the Vienna State Ballet (Wiener Staatsballett). There were only two of them this year - one danced at the Prater race track and the other at the Schönbrunn Palace. Not surprisingly, these are the bits of the TV transmission that I like most. I enjoyed both pieces very much and I wish I could find out the names of the dancers and choreographer in order to congratulate them. I can, however, report that the company is directed by Manuel Legris who was one of the stars of the Paris Opera Ballet, that the company is dancing Ashton's La Fille mal gardée until 20 Jan 2016 and that it has some lovely works in its current repertoire and that some of those performances are streamed live over the internet.

Vienna's connection with the ballet is often overlooked but it was the birthplace of Ludwig Minkus who gave us La Bayadère and Don Quixote (see More Thoughts on Don Quixote 20 Oct 2013). It is also the setting for Lichine's charming Graduation Ball which I really wish someone would revive.

More Gongs

Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

In Arise Sir Matthew 31 Dec 2015 I congratulated Sir Matthew Bourne and the others who had been honoured in the New Years Honours List for services to dance. In the last paragraph I wrote:
"If I have forgotten to mention anyone else who has been honoured for his or her contributions to dance I apologize profusely and offer my congratulations."
There were in fact two very important omissions: Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet who gets a CBE and the choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, who gets an OBE, The reason I missed them first time round is that their names appear on a separate Diplomatic Service and Overseas List.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office press release explains that the 72 awards are in "recognition of truly exceptional and outstanding service to Britain overseas."  It describes Tamara Rojo as:
"one of the most outstanding dancers of her generation. After more than a decade of being one of the Royal Ballet’s most spectacular artists, she was appointed as Artistic Director and Principal Dancer of the English National Ballet in 2012. Under her leadership the company has flourished and continues to honour its commitment to touring the UK and overseas. Her belief in the importance of making the arts in general and dance, in particular, accessible to people from all walks of society has led her to contribute to the Arts Council East, Dance UK and the ICA."
It quotes Rojo's reaction:
“I am so honoured and humbled to receive this award. I owe so much to the UK already, it has given me so many opportunities and great fulfilment and happiness in my life, and this honour is a wonderful encouragement to continue to work for the Arts.”
 Wheeldon is described as an "international choreographer of contemporary ballet" and he us recognized "for services to promoting the interests and reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide."

I congratulate Rojo and Wheeldon on their honours and wish them well.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year! Christmas is over. Now if you want to work off those Mince Pies .....

KNT Dancworks Manchester: Ailsa Baker, Josh Moss and Karen Sant
Standard You Tube Licence

I was 63 when I took up ballet. Save for a few classes when I was an undergraduate at St Andrews in the early 1970s I had no experience of ballet. My first classes were at The Base in Huddersfield. They were not easy because I was the oldest member by several decades but we had a good teacher and I persevered. In September 2013 I joined Northern Ballet's Over 55 class where all the other students were about my age. That was one of the best decisions I ever took in my life. We have an excellent teacher in Annemarie Donoghue and the other students are lovely. Here is what I wrote after my first class with Annemarie: Realizing a Dream 12 Sept 2013.

My classes with Annemarie gave me sufficient confidence to try classes with other teachers. I tried Adam Pudney's class at Pineapple which I enjoyed tremendously (see Pineapple 20 Nov 2013 and Another Slice of Pineapple 12 July 2015). I took classes with Christopher Hinton-Lewis (see It's an Ill Wind - Review of Northern Ballet's Beginner's Class 6 Dec 2013) and Elizabeth Rae and attend regulalry Jane Tucker's class at the Northern Ballet Academy. I have appeared in the Academy's end of term shows (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2014 and My Second Ballet 5 July 2015) which we even took or tour to Morley (see Growing Old Disgracefully in Morley 28 Sept 2015). I ventured south to Sheffield (see More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield 14 May 2014), across the Pennines (see So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class 29 Aug 2014) and I even found myself dancing in the ballroom of Liverpool Town Hall (see It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014).

My favourite dance studio is KNT' in Manchester. Classes take place in the studios of the Northern Ballet School on Oxford Road.  There are some great teachers as you can see in the video and I have yet to meet kinder or more supportive classmates. There are classes in all sorts of dance every day of the week except Sunday (see Adult Dance Class Timetable). Last Summer I attended Jane Tucker's Swan Lake intensive and enjoyed it tremendously (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015, KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 3 20 Aug 2915). KNT are presenting a show on 30 Jan 2016 and I am in it. :-)

Another good class that I have discovered very recently is Katie Geddes's at Dance Studio Leeds (see Dance Studio Leeds Beginners' Ballet Class 23 Oct 2015). Again, there is a great teacher and some lovely people in the class. Katie organized a delightful Christmas party on 4 Dec 2015 and a trip to Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker on 18 Dec 2015 (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015). One of the delights of just about any dance class is the opportunity to meet interesting new people in all walks of life and I have made some great friendships through ballet.

So this is how I spend my week.  On Mondays I go to the beginners' class at Dance Studio Leeds between 1945 and 21:15. On Tuesday's I attend Karen Sant's beginners' class at KNT in Manchester from 18:30 to 19:30. On Wednesday I attend Jane Tucker's improvers' class at Northern Ballet between 19:00 and 20:15. That is a particularly challenging but also very worthwhile class because if you aim for the stars you may actually clear the bar. On Thursday's I attend Annemarie Donoghue's over 55 improvers class at Northern Ballet between 11:00 and 12:15 which is also pretty stretching. If I miss a class earlier in the week for any reason I cross the Pennines for Sarah Butler's beginner's class at KNT between 18:30 and 19:30 on Friday. I have also attended the Saturday afternoon mixed ability class between 15:00 and 17:00.

If you live anywhere near Manchester or Leeds those are the classes I recommend. If not, here are some tips to find a class that's right for you. If you live in or near London you are spoilt for choice. lists dance classes in just about every dance style in every part of the metropolis on its Dance Class and Workshops page. I have only attended Adam's class at Pineapple but I have watched some of the classes at Danceworks and can't wait to try some of them.  KNT runs classes at Studio 76 at 76 West Derby Road and Dolphin Dance Studio at Dolphin Dance Studio at 42 Devon Street in Liverpool on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays (see Timetable). Dancexchange runs all sorts of classes in Birmingham. Scottish Ballet runs a wide range of adult ballet classes at the Tramway in Glasgow (see the Get Dancing page on Scottish Ballet's web site). Ballet West offers body conditioning for adults at Taynuilt on Tuesdays and Thursdays (see Ballet West Outreach Timetable 2015/16) as does Ballet Cymru in Newport on Mondays between 18:30 and 19:30 (call Jenny Isaacs 01633 892927 or email for further details).

We are busy compiling a database of adult dance classes up and down the country. If we find any gaps we shall do our best to find a teacher and premises to fill them. If you are an RAD or ISTD teacher, carry the appropriate insurance and accreditations and are prepared to teach adults in your area do get in touch.