Sunday, 31 July 2016

Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Covent Garden

Swan Lake, Bolshoi Ballet 2016 by Victor Hochauser, Standard YouTube Licence

Bolshoi Ballet, Swan Lake, Royal Opera House, 30 July 2016, 14:00

After seeing the live streaming of the Bolshoi's Swan Lake in January 2015 I wrote the following in Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Bradford 26 Jan 2016:
"Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake is different. As I have noted von Rothbart becomes "the evil genius". The show is compressed into two acts instead of three or four. There is no prologue explaining how Odette became a swan, no gift of a bow, no trip by the lads to the lake to try it out, the lovely divertissements in the royal palace in what is normally Act III are turned into a pitch by the various princesses and the whole episode takes place in Siegfried's imagination so that nobody has to jump into the lake in the last scene. Looking on the positive side there are expanded roles for the jester (danced by Igor Tsvirko) and also for von Rothbart danced by Belyakov.
Now I was brought on Ashton's version for the Royal Ballet which has been lovingly preserved by English National Ballet (see What Manchester does today 10 Oct 2014) and I have to say that I do prefer that version. I don't take kindly to change for change's sake when it comes to my favourite ballets such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake but that's not to say that I am against innovation. Grigorovich's versions of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker do work though not perhaps as fairy tales as much of the magic of those stories is removed from them.
Overall I enjoyed the performance very much indeed. Tchaikovsky's magnificent score remains which was conducted well by Pavel Sorokin. Above all there was some glorious dancing. Particularly the pas de deux in the seduction scene in the palace. Rodkin and Zakharova are fine artists. His jumps and her fouettés were thrilling. They were both supported well by Tvirko and Belyakov and a splendid corps. Simon Virsaladze's designs did not show up well in the cinema but they may well have been more impressive on the Bolshoi's historic stage."
Yesterday I saw that production live on stage in Covent Garden. It was perhaps not quite the same as seeing it in the company's home in Moscow where I believe the stage is enormous but it was certainly the next best thing. My first impressions which I jotted down in BalletcoForum as soon as I returned from London were, however, very similar:
"I enjoyed it very much with two tiny reservations. I wasn't entirely happy with Grigorovich's libretto and I found the sets and costumes a little dowdy. However the important things were the choreography and dancing and I couldn't fault them at all. I was very impressed with all the cast - Nikulina and Skvortsov, of course, but also Georgy Gusev who danced the jester. His energy and virtuosity reminded me of Wayne Sleep in the 1970s."
The cast that I saw yesterday was different from the one I saw in the live streaming.  Anna Nikulina danced Odette-Odile, Ruslan Skvortsov Siegfried, Mikhail Kryuchkov the "evil genius" (or von Rothbart as I still prefer to think of him) and Georgy Gusev the fool (in the sense of court jester). Each and every member of the cast danced well.  I should say a special word about Gusev who impressed me particularly. with his energy and virtuosity. He reminded me of Wayne Sleep when I first took an interest in ballet in the early 1970s.

There was one anxious millisecond when Nikulina appeared to lose her footing that caused the person next to me to draw in breath sharply but it was barely perceptible from where I was sitting and she recovered immediately.

Notwithstanding the same niggles about the synopsis and the sets which I had mentioned in 2015, I enjoyed the show very much and I congratulate and thank everybody involved for a very good performance. It was well worth the 500 mile (800 km) trek to and from London.

I have to say that I found the audience a little grudging. The Bolshoi seem to come to London every three years or so (see the Bolshoi's Tours page on the company's website) and perhaps the Southerners are used to them but the applause was pretty sparing. At one point I think I was the only one clapping while the house lights were still dimmed and the spotlight was on the break in the curtains for the first curtain call by the principals. When Kryuchkov appeared at half time there was actually a bit of booing not because he wasn't good (he was fine) but because he was dancing the villain. I don't think they have many pantos in Russia so the poor bloke must have wondered what on earth he had done wrong. Nothing at all, mate! You were great. Finally, only Nikulina got flowers even though several other women artists deserved them too and even her bouquet looked like it had come from Tesco even though she had done her company and audience proud. Relations between our governments are a bit strained at the moment with lurid reports in The Times about propaganda units in Edinburgh, but that's no excuse for lukewarm treatment of the dancers. These fine artists are guests in our country and I for one am very glad that they are here.

The Bolshoi have brought a varied and interesting programme to London (see Bolshoi Ballet on the Royal Opera House's website). I have a ticket for The Taming of The Shrew which I liked a lot when I saw the live streaming (see Competition for Cranko: The Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew streamed from Moscow 25 Jan 2016) and if it wasn't for the small matter of having to advise clients and prepare cases for court I would have seen The Flames of Paris and Le Corsaire too. 

Finally a word on the programmes. They cost a whopping £12. "You can see a whole ballet for that where I come from" I protested to the usher together with a whole lot of other North Country expletives. She replied with a sweet smile: "Well, ours cost £7 and the Bolshoi's covers the whole season so it's not bad value really." Put like that, perhaps she's right.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ekaterina Vazem - the First Bayadere and a First Rate Teacher

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The first Bayadere was Ekaterina Vazem. In a quotation from her memoirs which appears in Wikipedia she described it as her favourite of all the ballets that she had occasion to create. She liked its:
"beautiful, very theatrical scenario, its interesting, very lively dances in the most varied genres, and finally Minkus' music, which the composer managed especially well as regards melody and its coordination with the character of the scenes and dances."
She then goes on to mention a disagreement with Petipa which you will have to read for yourself.

Vazem was a great teacher as well as a great dancer. From my conversations with dancers and my reading of their biographies I have detected a special bond between teacher and student which does not seem to exist in quite the same way in other disciplines.

I have mentioned that bond several times in this blog.  In Le jour de gloire est arrive 3 Feb 2014 I wrote about Dame Antoinette Sibley and her teachers Tamara Karsavina and Pamela May:
"At the beginning of this post I mentioned the tradition of ballet. Crisp described Sibley as a 'repository' - which set her giggling - of knowledge. She had known so many of the greats and indeed she had been taught by two of them. The great English ballerina Pamela May who taught at the School while appearing regularly at Covent Garden and Tamara Karsavina whom Sibley adored. Karsavina once invited the young Sibley to her home and she cooked a steak for her. Sibley chose a steak because she thought it might be easy - something you just place under a grill - but Karsavina took the same trouble over that steak as she did with everything else."
One of my best friends from St Andrews who trained with Olga Preobrajenska wrote this about her great teacher which I reproduced in my post of 31 March 2013:
"Haven’t forgotten about your Olga P. request….don’t really know what to say except that she was a tiny and fierce little lady who believed in physical punishment and commanded the utmost respect from her students. I was 9 years old and terrified of her. I grew to love her and when she died, mother and I attended a benefit and somewhere I have one of her linens that we purchased. There was a gentleman at the studio who acted as her manager…he appeared to be slavishly devoted to her. As a child I did not know what their relationship was other than he also collected money for the dance lessons. I remember the time that Maria Tallchief came to the studio. She was beautiful. Many famous dancers came to her for instruction."
In my article What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013 I wrote how Mike Wamaya has changed the lives of some of the poorest children in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of Nairobi through his ballet lessons:
"In many ways the kids in this class have had the worst possible start in life but in one very important respect they could not have had a better one. Look at the teacher, Mike Wamaya. He is good. I googled for some more information on Mike and I found an even better clip from CNN and this article in The Daily Nation. These films show what can be achieved from the discipline not only in the studio but also in the class room and in life generally. Something that I and most readers of this blog in many walks of life are likely to have found out for ourselves."
"Love my profession" exclaimed Esther Protzman who teaches at the Netherlands Royal Conservatory in the Hague on social media recently and well she might for she has already trained some lovely dancers many of whom are on a trajectory to the top.

Vazem's pupils included  Anna Pavlova, Olga Preobrajenska and Agrippina Vaganova after whom the Imperial Ballet School was renamed. There does not seem to be any film of Vazem's teaching but there is this clip of her famous pupil who would have inherited something from her.

When a teacher has danced with a major company his or her teaching has a special edge which is not easy but is always good.  I experienced that edge last year in Jane Tucker's Swan Lake intensive at the Dancehouse which I described in KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2016. I wrote:
"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."
This year I am back for La Bayadere.  These start on the 15 Aug for beginners and the 18 Aug for more advanced pupils and I gave full details in La Bayadere - where it all took place 24 July 2016. As I said before, if you want to take part call Karen on 07783 103 037 or get in touch through her contact form, Facebook page or twitter.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hans van Manen's Lifetime Achievement Award

Hans van Manen 10 Nov 1986
Author Roland Gerits
(c) 1986 Dutch National Archive: all rights reserved
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Hans van Manen has been a huge name in dance for as long as I can remember. He is resident choreographer of the Dutch National Ballet but his works are performed by major companies throughout the world including several in this country. I have reviewed Scottish Ballet's performance of his 5 Tangos (No Mean City - Accessible Dance and Ballet 26 April 2015), Northern Ballet's performance of his Concertante and, of course, several performances by NDT2 and the Dutch National Ballet's Junior Company.

It was at performances by the Junior Company in Amsterdam that I actually saw the great man. On both of those occasions the audience exploded in applause and every man, woman and child in the auditorium rose to his or her feet in unison.

A few days ago (not long after his birthday as it happens) Richard Heideman (the press officer of the Dutch National Ballet) tweeted that van Manen had just been awarded a lifetime career award (Grand Prix à la Carrière) by a jury of distinguished critics in Cannes (see Hans van Manen krijgt carrièreprijs in Cannes 19 July 2016 RTL Boulevard). According to the report previous recipients of this award have included Maya Plisetskaya, Alicia Alonso and Vladimir Vasiliev.

Huge congratulations to Mr van Manen and long may he continue to delight dancers and audiences around the world with his creations.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

La Bayadere - where it all took place

Author Haseeb1608
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Source Wikipedia

Throughout the 19th century Russia was fascinated by India. Such fascination was perceived by Britain as a diplomatic and military threat which prompted several Afghan wars.  However, that fascination found dramatic expression in Sergei Khudekov's libretto, La Bayadère or "temple dancer".

In an article on the history of La Bayadère, Gerard Charles explains that in the early 19th century a librettist (nowadays we might call such a person a dramaturge) penned the story and then left it to the composer and choreographer to the rest:
"It is important to understand how ballets in this period were traditionally put together. The librettist (or author) would select a story or legend that suited his fancy and transpose it into a ballet in five or six acts, regardless of weather it had sufficient dramatic content to support this length. The librettist would also have little acquaintance with either the music, choreography or design."
There is no evidence that Khudekov or any of the creators of La Baydere ever visited India but then it is unlikely that Shakespeare ever visited Italy or even Scotland but that did not stop him from setting plays set in both of those countries. Khudekov seems to have done some work for the Rajah whom Solor served ruled over Golconda which is a real place. In fact, it is an important archaeological site just outside Hyderbad, in South West India.

Now I have no idea what Jane Tucker will teach us at the Bayadere intensive next month but central to the story is the wedding between Solor and Gamizatti at which Nikiya is forced to dance.

It is there, you will remember, that she is presented with some flowers in which  someone (most likely Gamzatti or her sidekick) had accidentally or on purpose concealed a venomous snake.  Now we all know that Indian weddings go on for days even in Hendon, Cheadle and Bradford.  So elaborate, in fact, that Anaish Parmar made a ballet on the theme called Shaadi Magic a, review of which you can see here.   Imagine the extravagant affair that the rajah would  have staged for the wedding if his daughter to his conquering commander.  You get the picture.

According to Wikipedia Hydrabad is famous for its palaces but also for its food:
"Hyderabadi cuisine comprises a broad repertoire of rice, wheat and meat dishes and the skilled use of various spices. Hyderabadi biryani and Hyderabadi haleem, with their blend of Mughlai and Ara cuisines,have become iconic dishes of India. Hyderabadi cuisine is highly influenced by Mughlai and to some extent by French, Arabic, Turkish, Iranian and native Telugu and Marathwada cuisines. Other popular native dishes include nihari, chakna, baghara baingan and the desserts qubani ka meetha, double ka meetha and kaddu ki kheer (a sweet porridge made with sweet gourd)."
There us in fact a whole Wikipedia article on  Hyderbadi Cuisine. Yum!

Jane and Karen can't promise us any of that but we are bound to build up an appetite from Jane's warm up, her 90 minute class, her wall to wall rehearsals until 16:00 and cool down after all that.  And Rusholme with all its culinary delights is only a mile down the road from the Danceouse where the intensive takes place.

 So if you want to take part call Karen on 07783 103 037 or get in touch through her contact formFacebook page or twitter.

Ratmansky's Razzmatazz

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Australian Ballet, Cinderella, Coliseum, 23 July 2016, 14:00

I had heard a lot about Alexei Ratmansky but had not actually seen much of his work. I doubted that I had seen any of it at all until Janet McNulty reminded me that Lana Jones and Adam Bull had danced the final pas de deux from Ratmansky's Cinderella at the 45th anniversary gala at The Grand last year (see Sapphire 15 March 2015). In his review of the National Ballet of Canada's Romeo and Juliet at Sadler's Wells (Carrying a Torch for Pure Academic Ballet 22 April 2013 New Your Times) the well kniwn US critic Alistair Macaulay described him as "the most gifted choreographer specializing in classical ballet today."

Ratmansky has created works for the Mariinsky, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Australian Ballet, the Kiev Ballet and the State Ballet of Georgia but, so far as I can recall, not for any company in this country.  Perhaps we just can't afford him - particularly not in these horizon narrowing and increasingly austere and nasty post-Brexit days. In Working with the Master, one of the notes in the programme, Deborah Jones, mentions his arrival at the Australian Ballet's studios in a Ferrari (or was it a Lamborghini?). Certainly a fabulously expensive motor car obviously chosen to make an impression on the dancers and their management.

This show had everything: ocean liners, express trains, a Citroën Traction Avant prowling the poplar trees of Picardy, bushes that morph into metronomes and the most fabulous costumes with men in what appeared to be tutus representing the planets and the fairy godmother in a bowler hat. There were some breathtaking lifts as well as comic clowning by Cinderella's stepmother and sisters, the narcissistic dancing master (reminding me incongruously of Christopher Marney's dalmatian from Dogs Don't Do Ballet), her wino father and his cronies.  Our emotions were tossed everywhere from outrage as the stepmother and her daughters trashed the portrait of Cinderella's mother to elation as the godmother flashed her image everywhere in the kitchen and hoots after said stepmother and stepsisters made one faux pas after another.

Altogether this was a jolly good show. Perhaps not the best Cinderella.  I've yet to see anything that beats Darius James's for Ballet Cymru (see Ballet Cymru's Cinderella  15 June 2015) though Christopher Hampson (see Scottish Ballet's Cinderella 20 Dec 2015) and Christopher Wheeldon (see Wheeldon's Cindereella  13 July 2015) came close largely, I think, thanks to their leading ladies. Bethany Kingsley-Garner was beautiful in her role and Anna Tsygankova amazing in hers.

In praising those dancers, however, I take nothing away from yesterday's cast. Amber Scott sparkled in her dancing as much as her ballgown under the lights. Ty King-Wall was every inch a prince. Amy Harris was a beguiling stepmother. Last week we saw her as Odile (see The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake - Murphy won me over 17 July 2016). Why was that beautiful young woman cast in the villain's role two weeks running? Last week's Siegfried and Odette, Rudy Hawkes and Robyn Hendricks were planets this week. Ingrid Gow and Eloise Fryer, entertained us as the ridiculous dumpy and skinny sisters. I particularly liked their boxing poses. No messing about with those Sheilas. Jasmin Durham delighted us as the fairy godmother. Great character performances also from Steven Heathcote as Cinders's hapless father and Franco Leo as the prince's doddery retainer.

Everyone involved in this production deserves congratulations. Ratmansky, of course. I can quite see why Macaulay wrote what he did. Jerome Kaplan for his fabulous designs. Rachel Burke for her lighting. Wendell Harrington for the ingenious projections. Perhaps most of all Nicolette Fraillon for the gorgeous music that she delivered so well.  I learned a little bit of ballet etiquette yesterday. When the conductor is a lady it is the premier danseur noble and not the principal ballerina who leads her onto the stage to take her bow.

The Australians have now finished their short season in England. They brought their country's sunshine with them just when our poor, dear country needed it most. I shall miss them. Bon Voyage and come back soon.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Background to La Byadere

Between the 15 and 20 Aug 2016 Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy will run two intensive workshops on La Bayadère for KNT Danceworks in Manchester.

The first one, which is suitable for beginners, will run from the 15 to the 17 Aug 2016. The second for more advanced students will run from the 18 to 20 Aug. Each course costs £200 though if you are fit and keen enough you can do the two for £350.

I did Jane Tucker's Swan Lake Intensive last year (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) and her Romeo and Juliet Intensive in April and although those experiences nearly killed me I would not have missed them for the world.

Although La Bayadère is one of the most beautiful romantic ballets it is not performed very often in this country.  I have only seen it once and that was a performance by The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre at the Coliseum last year with  Irina Kolesnikova and Denis Rodkin in the leading roles (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). As it is not so well known I shall be publishing a number of articles on as many aspects of the ballet as I can.

I will start with a treat which is a trailer for the Dutch National Ballet's production in 2009.

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The National Ballet will perform the ballet again in Amsterdam between the 8 Oct and 12 Nov 2016 which will be the first opportunity for most of us to see it.  Amsterdam's Stopera is actually cheaper and easier to visit than Covent Garden for many of us outside London despite the pound's fish dive. There's lots of information about the current production on the company's website (see La Bayadere Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa).

Here are some other articles about the ballet and its background.


Jane Lambert   Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015

Jane Lambert   La Bayadère - The Ninth Life 29 March 2015


Jane Lambert   La Bayadere  31 March 2015

Gita Mistry   A British Asian’s Perspective on La Bayadère 29 Aug 2015

Wikipedia   La Bayadere

Companies' Repertoire

Bolshoi Ballet

Dutch National Ballet

Royal Ballet

What Manchester Did Yesterday ......

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 If you are in London tomorrow you nay want to make your way to Canada Square Park at Canary Wharf between 12:30 and 14:00 for a pop-up performance of ballet, contemporary, modern and street dance promoted by the Royal Academy of Dance. There have already been pop-up performances at Finsbury Square this  month and there will be another at King's Cross in October.

These events build on the success of pop-up performances at Broadgate Circle and King's Cross in support of the Genée last September.

All good stuff but these are not the first pop-up dance performance in a major UK city.  Enjoy this video of KNT Manchester dancers in Piccadilly Gardens supporting Oxjam in 2013.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Another Class at Dance Studio Leeds

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A lot of things seem to happen on Monday evenings. It's the night that the London Ballet Circle meets for its talks.  Last Monday it was Ballet Black's first Friends evening (see Ballet Black's First Friends' Event: A Rehearsal with Chris Marney 14 July 2016). A few weeks earlier I was on my way to Trecate (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016). Before that I was travelling back from Hungary (see My Trip to Hungary 23 April 2016). For all those reasons and more I had got out of the habit of visiting The Dance Studio, Leeds for its Monday evening Beginners and Improvers Ballet Class.

That is a pity for the class is good.  It is held in a convenient location at Mabgate Mills less than a mile from Northern Ballet where there is plenty of free parking and at the very convenient time of 19:45 which enables me to do a full day's work before grands battements and ronds de jambe.  There is a nice bunch of students in the class and until a few weeks ago it was run by the studio's founder, Katie Geddes, who is lovely. Last Christmas she organized a trip to The Nutcracker at The Grand (see Northern Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015) and a great party which raised funds for the NSPCC.

Katie is on maternity leave just now and one of the members of the class showed me some photos of her little boy who was born in May so huge congratulations to her and best wishes to the rest to her family. Since Katie went on leave her class has been taken by Sara Horner. According to the studio's website:
"Sara has been performing and teaching for over 11 years since completing her professional training at Performers College, Essex. During this time, she has worked in corporate shows, Pantomime, Cruise ships and Theatre tours of the UK and abroad, as a lead female vocalist, dancer and backing artist. Sara is also a freelance dance teacher teaching in numerous establishments in the West Yorkshire region. She is also Principal of Sara Horner School of Dance teaching ballet, tap, and modern to adults and children in Leeds."
Essex is the county of The Chelmsford Ballet Company and Just Ballet so anyone trained there must be good.

And so she was. Distracted by a passionate conversation about mobile phones I lost my turning and had to drive round acres of urban blight by the motorway before I found my way to Mabgate Mills by which time I had missed warm up and plies. However, I caught the rest of the barre which proceeded briskly with combined tendus and glisses, fondus and ronds de jambe, developpes, cloches and barre stretches. Embarrassingly I was the only member of the class who couldn't get a right leg on the barre and as they were travelling barres there was no lower rail. However, I could get my left leg up. Dunno what's gone wrong with my right leg. I could manage it OK this time last year. No doubt a sign of ageing. It's the only thing holding me back from putting my name down for Jane Tucker's Bayadere intensive in Manchester next month (see La Bayadère it is 2 July 2016).

Be that as it may I enjoyed the adagio, the pirouette exercise which Sara worked into a little enchainement, glissades and assembles and the temps leves and grands jetes at the end.  As I said in Dance Studio Leeds Beginners' Ballet Class 23 Oct 2015 the studio in which class takes place is not exactly cavernous so we have to apply the brakes after the second step hop let alone the step across the puddle which is how I was originally taught grand jetes but it was a lot of fun and the cool down and reverence came far too soon.

I thoroughly recommend this class especially while Northern Ballet is closed for the vacation.  It costs £6.50 for a 90 minute session which is about average for the North of England and well below the cost in London. There is a good teacher and nice atmosphere. Everyone makes an effort but it's not edgy or competitive.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Australian Ballet's Swan Lake - Murphy won me over

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The Australian Ballet, Swan Lake, Coliseum, 16 July 2016, 14:00

The synopsis in the programme notes were ominous as were some of the reviews in the papers and on BalletcoForum. A lot of parallels had been drawn between the plot of Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake and Prince Charles and Lady Di though Judith Mackrell thought the story saw closer parallels to Giselle (see Australian Ballet: Swan Lake review – a royal tragedy lifted by its leads 14 July 2016 The Guardian). It all sounded very like change for change's sake which I don't like very much at all (see Up the Swannee 17 March 2016). To my great surprise and delight I enjoyed Murphy's version despite the liberties that he took with the story and the score.

I think the reason why I liked Murphy's Swan Lake  so much more than say David Nixon's is that it was a genuine variation upon a theme with some real innovation and not a completely different story with different characters albeit with some bits of Petipa and Ivannov's choreography such as the cygnets' dance bolted on. That was also true of David Dawson's Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet which I saw in Liverpool last month (see Empire Blanche: Dawson's Swan Lake 4 June 2016). I hesitate to use the expression "traditional Swan Lake" because ballets evolve over time and Geraldine Morris reminded us in Tell Tale Steps 2 that there wasn't much Petipa or Ivanov in the Swan Lake that she danced in the 1960s but if we take Anthony Dowell's production for the Royal Ballet as the meme Murphy did not stray all that far from it.

The plot of Dowell's Swan Lake and of every similar version is Siegfried's betrayal of Odette. Murphy explored that theme as did Dawson though their Odettes were very different. I have to say that I prefer Dawson's as his Odette is nobody's victim but Murphy's is interesting all the same.  She is head over heals in love with her husband but he still hankers after another (hence the parallels with Lady Di). When she realizes that her marriage is somewhat crowded she flirts with just about everything in trousers and creates a terrible scene which ends in her committal to a psychiatric hospital beside a lake staffed by nurses who appear to be members of a religious order with a scary swan like headgear (a bit like the Ursuline sisters though I had always thought they were a teaching order). I think it must be the mad scene that reminded Mackrell of Giselle though Siegfried's philandering reminded me more of James's two timing of Effie and the sylph in La Sylphide. During her stay in the hospital Odette imagines herself swimming on the waters of the lake with its swans and Siegfried coming to look for her.

Odette recovers her sanity. She gatecrashes a party given by Odile where Siegried sees Odette in a new light and falls in love with her. This time it is Odile who loses herself in a frenzy of jealousy. She summonses the psychiatrist and scary nurses but Odette scarpers with Siegfried and the whole court scouring the countryside for her.  I should point out that Odile is never referred to as such in the programme. She is called "Baroness von Rothbart" but that is not such a big departure as it sounds for Odile is Rothbart's daughter in the Dowell version. There is no Rothbart as such but his function is served by a lugubrious psychiatrist in charge of the psychiatric hospital.

There are some interesting transpositions.  It is Odette and not Odile who dances fouettés in the mad scene. The music that announces Rothbart and Odile's arrival in the black act of Dowell announces Odette's presence at the Baroness's party. Odile prowls outside the hospital looking pointedly at her watch as Siegfried visits his wife just as Odette flutters outside the palace as Siegfried declares his love for Odile in Dowell's version. Both Dowell and Murphy end with Odette jumping in the lake. There is a dramatic epaulement in Murphy when Odette and Siegfried spot each other for one last time before Odette is dragged down into the deep taking the draperies representing the water with her.

Several commentators talked about Murphy's use of contemporary dance. I didn't see all that much contemporary as opposed to classical vocabulary and what I did see seemed to work very well.  For instance, I liked some of the more unconventional lifts very much indeed as well as steps that gave the impression of skating.  Having nearly killed myself as a 66 year old Rumpole trying to learn the cygnets' and Hungarian dances and swans' entry at the KNT Swan Lake intensive last year I was pleased to find that they were all there and not too different from the versions that Jane Tucker had taught us unlike Dawson's where the cygnets became a pas de quatre.

For all its cleverness Murphy's Swan Lake would have been nothing without some excellent dancers. Robyn Hendricks was a perfect fit for Murphy's Odette. Tall and commanding but also delicate and vulnerable she was as great an actor as she was a dancer.  The expression "dance-actors" is often used by critics but except for Ed Watson I could think of very few people who merited the description. Ms. Hendricks is certainly one who does.  She was matched by Amy Harris as Baroness Rothbart who was captivating in the jealousy scene.  Earlier this year I saw Ted Brandsen's Mata Hari in Amsterdam (see Brandsen's Masterpiece 14 Feb 2016). That dance is how I imagine Mata Hari in real life. Partnering both Odette and Odile magnificently. Rudy Hawkes was a great Siegfried.  Murphy's Siegfried is a complex character. Not a complete bastard despite the way he treated Odette though someone who needed chastisement. Hawke understood his character well.  Every Swan Lake needs what the Bolshoi call an "evil genius" and that lot fell to Tristram Message as the psychiatrist. Not as big a role as Dowell's Rothbart but just as important to the story.

Looking through the dancers' bios I notice that nearly all of them come from Australia and many of them were trained at the Australian Ballet School. Given its relatively small population, the existence of two other fine companies in Brisbane and Perth and the fact that it continues to export fine dancers like Steven McRae and Jenna Roberts to us, Australia's contribution to dance is massive. I shall return to London for Cinderella next week and I am looking forward to it tremendously.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Ballet Black's First Friends' Event: A Rehearsal with Chris Marney

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Last Monday I was lucky enough to watch Christopher Marney rehearse Damien Johnson, Isabela Coracy, Jacob Wye and Sayaka Ichikawa in To Begin Begin at the Barbican Centre.  That is a ballet which David Murley reviewed in Ballet Black at The Barbican on 22 March 2016 and I reviewed in Ballet Black made my Manchester Day on 20 June 2016.

Readers of this blog know that I have a particularly high regard for Marney (see my appreciation Christopher Marney 16 March 2016). When I first published my appreciation of Christopher this blog received more hits than it had ever done before. I tweeted about it and my tweet was noticed by Sir Matthew Bourne who replied that he was not surprised because Christopher Marney is a genius. Who am I to to argue with Sir Matthew even if I disagreed with him on this matter which I don't. The chance of seeing a genius at work with some of my very favourite dancers was compelling.

Chris rehearsed two pas de deux:  first Damien and Isabela and then Jacob and Sayaka.  I was aware of his sensitivity to music and had surmised that he would have a great eye for detail but I was still amazed by its extent. Points like the way Isabela fell into Damian's arms and his insistence on their keeping eye contact as she bent back or how Sayaka and Jacob rolled up towards each other in a length of blue silk were repeated until Chris and the dancers were happy that the effect was right. They did that energetically and enthusiastically for there is something in Chris's voice and manner that would inspire an artist. At the end of each session we saw a finished performance of the work on which Chris and the dancers had been working.

After the rehearsals of the two pas de deux Marney invited questions from the audience. One of the first questions was "What comes first the story and the music."  It was no surprise to me that Chirs replied that it was the music. He listens to a lot of music, he said, particularly on Classic FM. Someone asked Cassa which of Manrey's ballets she liked best. She replied "Dogs Don't Do Ballet". I asked about the transposition of War Letters which he had created for Ballet Black to the students of Ballet Central. I observed that although the students had not yet gained the same experience of life as the dancers of Ballet Black their production had a poignancy of its own as the students were the same age as the men sent to war and the girls who were left behind. Cassa mentioned that she sent one of her dancers to Ballet Central to help them prepare that show.

The reason I was invited to the rehearsal is that I am one of the Friends of Ballet Black and this was its first event (see Ballet Black's Friends Scheme 2 April 2016). I got the opportunity to meet some of the other Friends over tea and cake.  Some I already knew from the London Ballet Circle but others were just starting to follow ballet. It was a particular pleasure to meet Bill Boyd whom I had known through Facebook and BalletcoForum for a while but had never actually met. The tea party offered a chance to chat informally with Cassa, Christopher and the dancers. They probably already know that their public love them but it never hurts to tell them once in a while.

Post script

Ballet Black are performing at To Begin, Begin  and other works at the following venues in the Autumn:

ENFIELD, LONDON: 27th & 28th September

STRATFORD, LONDON: 6th - 8th October

NEWCASTLE: 11th & 12th October

LEEDS: 14th & 15th October

GLASGOW: 28th & 29th October

DONCASTER: 2nd November

EXETER: 9th & 10th November

WATFORD: 15th November

ESSEX: 16th NovemberLICHFIELD: 18th November

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Northern Ballet School's Showcase of Dance

Manchester City Ballet's Giselle
Photographer Caroline Holden
(c) Northern Ballet School 2011 all rights reserved
Reproduced with the kind permission of the School

Northern Ballet School, A Showcase of Dance, The Dancehouse, Manchester 8 July 2016

Northern Ballet School is a national treasure and I say that without exaggeration for many reasons. It has talented young people of many nations some of whom will make their mark on stage in ballet or musical theatre while others who will share their gift of dance as teachers. It hosts The Dancehouse Theatre, one of the institutions of Manchester, and Manchester City Ballet, the only resident classical ballet company in our metropolis. I have particular reason to be glad of the School's existence as it trained two of my favourite teachers in Leeds as well as those in Manchester. I attend class in its studios and have performed on the Dancehouse stage.

Last week the School presented its students in A Showcase of Dance at The Dancehouse,  The show was a combination of ballet and musical theatre reflecting its twin focus on classical ballet and jazz theatre. It consisted of 20 works in three acts some of which were quite lengthy. It began at 19:30 and ended just after 22:00. Each and every performance was brilliant in its own way.  As I tweeted last night, it was not just a good students' show - it was a good show by any standards.

Act I  began with a large extract of the second act of Giselle though it had been adapted by the students' choreographer, Anton Alexandrov, for his almost entirely female cast.  Myrtha, danced by Sayaka Sugimoto, and what a friend aptly called Myrtha's sidekicks, Zulm (Meagan Hoare) and Mona (Sally Hind), had at least as much to do on stage as Giselle herself (Yukiho Kasai) and a great deal more than Albrecht danced by Carlos Felipe Oliviera. That was the cast that had performed Giselle in December (see Manchester City Ballet's Giselle 12 Dec 2015) and the the same woodland backdrop was used. As before they were all good but I was particularly impessed  by Oliveira. With his shock of heair, was one of the most noticeable dancers in the show. I was also impressed by the corps who had some tricky steps including the tricky progress across the stage in arabesque.

The next two works, Beat It, by Helen Vidotti to the music of Michael Jackson and GUY by Lee Lomas to the music of Lady Gaga, were exciting and exuberant. They were followed by Cell Block Tango, a scene from Chicago where each of prisoners explained how they had landed in gaol. More great dancing from Oliviera in Anthea Garrett's Final Dance to the music of John Kander. This time Oliveria's partner was Larissa King. Dani Winters's brilliant Diamonds to DjeeeeeKK completed the first act.

More ballet in Act II with Lisa Rowlands's Juliet - A Thousand Good Nights to the music of Abel Korzeniowski. This piece had been  created to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Alex Burrows who had danced the peasant pas de deux in Gisele appears to have been Romeo. I was not clear which of the girls was Juliet unless they all were which is possible as they were all good dancers. Although I enjoyed all the works in act II, two stood out for me in particular. There was the utterly charming Family Scene written and staged by Chris Helmsley where a mother (Annabelle Dawes) and father (Cameron Barclay) spoke about how they fell in love before their inquisitive children (Kezia Coulson and Emilia Miller). One of many opportunities for the students to show their ability to act with American accents which so few Brits can do well. I also loved You Gotta Get a Gimmick  by Emma Woods. The other works in act II were I've heard that Song before, Just in Time, The Secret, Sax and Gasp.

The final act opened with one of the early scenes from the musical Little Shop of Horrors which I have enjoyed ever since I first saw it at Pitlochry. Seymour was played by Joseph Foster and Audrey by Lucy Davies. Both acted, danced and sang well as did the rest of the cast. That was followed by Statera, a work created by Alexandrov to Philip Glass's music. Great dancing by the cast which included Burrows, Hird, Hoare, Kasai and Sugimoto. Nexr came Garrett's Runaround to Mopmop's music. Lonely Town, another ballet by Alexandrov to Leonard Bernstein's music mainly for the men. Darcey Ferguson danced the prostitute which was the only female role. The final piece was Times Square Ballet, a sparkling work by Lee Lomas to Bernstein. Set in Manhattan there were snatches from On the Town including New York, New York which I can never get out of my head when I visit that city. Maxwell Statham performed Gaby which was the role created by Gene Kelly, Jak Elmore Chip which was created  by Frank Sinatra and Harry Poswell as Ozzie which was created for Jules Munshin. I saw more than a little stardust in their performances.

The show ended with thunderous applause to the strains of Donna Summer as the artists took their bow. I had enjoyed last year's Showcase (see Serendipity 10 July 2015) but this was even better. The names of at least some of these performers will be up in lights in the West End.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Dancing, dreaming, dying

Source BBC Online (c) 2015 BBC, Reproduced under licence

EVEN if you have never heard of Adel Euro, chances are you’ll be aware of the manner of his death.

Adel was one of 280 (and counting) people killed when a shopping mall in Baghdad, Iraq, was bombed at the weekend.

Adel (his stage name) merits a mention on a blog about dance because he was making a name for himself as a hip hop/street dancer – despite all the risks that go with that in somewhere like Iraq.

I hadn’t heard of Adel until the other night, when the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme marked his murder by re-broadcasting an interview they did with him late last year:

What shines out through the interview (even through a translator) is Adel’s sheer love of and determination to dance. His first real encounter with dance was a video of Michael Jackson. “I felt like I was born then,” he says.

His family warned him off dancing because of the danger it put him in: it is seen as a sign of homosexuality, which is illegal in Iraq. (That’s in the parts under government control, of course – in areas held by Daesh/Islamic State, gay men have been thrown to their deaths from buildings because of their ‘sin’.) How lucky are we in places not like Iraq to be able to dance how we want, where we want, when we want (no matter how well or badly that may be)!

In the interview, Adel recounts how he was arrested by the police while dancing in a park; he was released when he managed to convince them he was practising martial arts! (Martial arts are ‘manly’, so OK for men to do.)

In the end Adel wasn’t killed because of his dancing; he died because he happened to be at a shopping mall when some murderous inadequates decided to detonate a lorry-load of explosives there.

Which is sadly ironic, given the hope for the future that he reveals at the end of the interview. “One day,” he says, “I’m going to leave Iraq and go to a place where people love dancing, not fighting.”

Adel Euro RIP.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Scottish Ballet and its Public

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I was at St Andrews when Western Theatre Ballet moved to Glasgow and right from the start it engaged with its public in a way that no other British company had ever done before.  It visited all sorts of venues including our Buchanan Theatre the day this country adopted decimal currency. Scottish Ballet was the first company that I got to know and love and you know what they say about first loves. As you can see from the film the tradition of engaging with the community continues.

The other way in which Scottish Ballet engages with its public is through its classes. In its newsletter today it announced particulars of its adult ballet classes:

Classes take place at the company's premises at The Tramway on Albert Drive next to Pollockshields East station.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Comings and Goings

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Both Birmingham Royal Ballet and Northern Ballet have published press releases on arrivals and departures and promotions within the company. Birmingham's was published on Monday and is headed End of Season Announcements. Northern's was published yesterday and is headed Dancer promotions and joiners for 2016/17.

I should like to congratulate everyone in both companies who has been promoted. All are well merited. As readers know I try not to have favourites but there are some artists who delight me particularly in both companies.

Of those who have been promoted in Birmingham I am especially glad to see the elevation of Celine Gittens to Principal. Her performance as Swanilde in Coppelia at the Lowry on the 5 March 2015 was Sensational.  Another of my favourites is Delia Matthews who is now a First Soloist. I was at the Opera House in York when she was injured in Les Rendezvous. I almost felt her pain (see Birmingham Royal Ballet in York 21 May 2015). I was so sad. But she made a great recovery and danced beautifully in Romeo and Juliet as Rosaline (see A Good Outcome from an Unhappy Event - Singleton's Fine Performance 6 March 2016) and in The Taming of the Shrew just a few days ago. Yet another promotion that delights me is Brandon Lawrence who is now a soloist. A Bradford man he soars in every role - particularly when he dances in Yorkshire.  As I said last year
"if I have to single out anyone it has to be Brandon Lawrence, a Bradford lad who clearly relished his return to God's own county. He danced proudly and magisterially. There was no doubt that he was glad to be back on home turf."
 Finally, I am delighted by Valentin Olovyannikov's promotion. He was a great cleric and innkeeper in The Taming of the Shrew.

I was delighted by all the promotions in Leeds but particularly by Rachael Gillespie's. Abigail Prudames's and Kevin Poeung's.  Rachael excel's in everything but one role that she danced particularly well was as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan (see Not too sure about Fairies but I certainly believe in Rachael Gillespie 21 Dec 2014). My favourite performance by Kevin Poeung was as Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2013 (see Realizing Another Dream 15 Sept 2013). I think my favourite performance by Abigail was in Jane Eyre which I saw in Richmond a month ago.

There is one advancement that I long to see, especially as two of Northern Ballet's premier or principal dancers are on leave of absence. No names no pack drill but her dancing is
and she is
to watch. Though Janet McNulty and Mel Wong might argue otherwise I am probably that dancer's number one fan.

Sad to be see departures and leave of absence from both companies and I wish all leavers well. However, my sadness at Luke Schaufuss's departure is mitigated by the fact that I can still see him in Scotland. He was great in La Sylphide last year (see A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015). Finally, a big hello to all the joiners to both companies. I shall look forward to watching them dance. No doubt some will become big stars.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Chelmsford's Next Ballet - How Come The Essex Girls (and Boys) Get All The Fun?

Teniel's White Rabbit
Source Wikipedia

Chelmsford Ballet Company, of which I am proud to be a non-dancing associate, describes itself as an amateur company with professional standards for all its work, involving professionals in its productions, courses, teaching and workshops. It is based in Chelmsford but its dancers come from all over Essex and beyond and its associates such as I and far like Gita come from as far away as Yorkshire.

The company's Artistic Director is Annette Potter of The Classical Ballet & Theatre Dance School. She has staged some wonderful productions since I have been following the company namely The Nutcracker (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014), Pineapple Poll and Carnival of the Animals double bill (see A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015) and The Sleeping Beauty (see A Real Beauty: Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty 25 March 2016).

This year Annette is creating a new ballet for the company to be called Alice's Adventures based on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.   This will be quite different from Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland.   As Annette has kindly agreed to give me an interview I shall be writing a feature on it shortly. The company has published the following information in its blog:
“Alice” has not been performed in any guise by The Company since 1994. This version, choreographed by our Artistic Director Annette Potter, will bring a fresh look at the characters and story; bringing with it a different slant on an age old favourite. Dancing members will be able to audition for a part in this new production in October. Many have already indicated that they wish to participate and we’re sure that those candidates successful at audition in June will also be keen to audition again for a role in the show."
A workshop will take place on 25 Sept 2016 for any dancing members who wants to take part in the show and it is necessary to audition to become a dancing member.  The show will be performed at the Civic Theatre between 22 and 25 March 2017,

Another important event in Chelmsford's calendar is Let's Make A Ballet for children and young persons aged between 7 and 14. That will take place on 16 Oct 2017 at The Sandon School. How Come The Essex Girls (and Boys) Get All The Fun?

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Room for Dancing

I was not the only blogger in the Silvio Pellico Theatre at Trecate last week. Monica Bragagnoli who describes herself as "a simple but passionate ballet viewer" has a splendid blog called A Room for Dancing. Her latest article features the Gala for Alessia and contains some lovely pictures of the performance (see Gala per Alessia - Cristiano Principati e Giovanni Danzatori - Teatro Silvio Pellico Trecate 28 June 2016).

Other recent posts include the end of year show of La Scala's ballet and music students (see Accademia del Teatro alla Scala - Scuola de Ballo e Orchestra - Milano 13 June 2016), David Dawson's Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet in Inverness 6 May 2016 and the Vienna State Ballet in Vicenza 10 April 2016.

Monica started the review of Gala Les Etoiles which included the Royal Ballet's Thiago Soares and
Marianela Nuñez on 10 Jan 2010. She is an excellent photographer and her photos are exquisite. I have included the publication in my blog roll.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

My Visit to La Scala

The auditorium of La Scala, setting the stage for Swan Lake 28 June 2016
(c) 2016 Gita Mistry: all rights reserved

La Scala Theatre is one of the great opera houses of the world and its ballet company one of the world's finest (see Marinella Guatterini Ballet History). Carlotta Grisi trained at its ballet school as stars of our own times such as Carla Fracci, Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle. I was very impressed by the young dancers in the Dutch National Ballet who had trained there such as Cristiano Principato and Emilie Tassinari. On Tuesday at the Gala for Alessia I saw for the first time, and made the acquaintance of, other young dancers who had trained at La Scala Ballet School who were dancing in Milan and Vienna and they impressed me too (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016).

My time in Italy was very short so I did not have time to see any performances but I did manage to visit the Theatre Museum at La Scala. I had been there once before in 1974 before the theatre had been renovated. I was impressed then and was even more so now. Before my visit I had planned to explore the cathedral, Brera and the Theatre Museum but there was so much to see that there was barely time for anything else. All we could manage after our tour was the briefest of visits to the magnificent Duomo. Most of the exhibits in the Museum relate to the opera, the composers of the scores for the great operas and the singers who performed at La Scala but there are some real ballet treasures such as a fine portrait of Rudolf Nureyev.

However, the greatest treat was to enter the auditorium and watch the preparation of the stage for Thursday's performance of Swan Lake. This is Ratmansky's staging and is a co-production with Zurich Opera House. The stage is massive and so is the orchestra pit which must make it very difficult for the audience to see the dancers' faces even from the front row of the stalls. A box on the second and third levels might be better but one would be no closer than the front row of the amphitheatre in Covent Garden. For the folk in the gods the stage must seem as remote as the sea off St Anns at low tide.

The Author 29 June 2016
(c) 2015 Gita Mistry:
all rights reserved
That is of course beside the point. One comes to La Scala for history, tradition, excellence and the sense of occasion where all those things are to be found in abundance. You can see my sense of elation from my arabesque in the photo.

Milan is the second city of Italy as Manchester is the second city of the United Kingdom but the contrast between the two was palpable. The Victor Emanuel arcade with its Prada, Gucci and other premium retailers knocked Sr Ann's Square and Police Street into a cocked hat. Instead of a clanking tram there is a fast and frequent underground to most parts of the city. Fast, clean electric trains sped us from and to Trecate some 26 miles away in contrast to the noisy diesel that laboured back to Huddersfield from Manchester airport. Italy has had a glorious history ever since classical times, its art and architecture are everywhere and it is the first port of call for refugees and migrants from Africa yet I saw and heard none of the ugly calls "To Take Control" or "Get our Country Back" which erupted during and continue to fester as a result of out mean spirited and inglorious referendum campaign. In short, the journey back from Italy to post Brexit Britain was not just an 800 mile flight but a lurch back 50 years in time.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

La Bayadère it is

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About the only good news last Friday was that Jane Tucker would lead an intensive workshop at The Dancehouse next month but we were not sure when or which ballet she would do (see KNT's Summer Ballet Intensive 24 June 2016). Now we know the answer to both for Karen has posted the following information on the BalletcoForum website:
15th - 17th August: Beginners Ballet Intensive
18th - 20th August: Advanced Ballet Intensive
The intensives will be held at The Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester and taught by the lovely Jane Tucker (Northern Ballet Theatre) who has taught at KNT Danceworks several times now and knows us well.
Your average day will start with a warm up/body conditioning session, a ballet class and end with repertoire classes. The repertoire you'll be learning is from the beautiful ballet La Bayadère.
Please comment below if you're interested in/want to book yourself on our intensive and I will send you a registration form and more info as soon as I have it.
The prices are £200 for one summer intensive (3 days) or £350 for two summer intensives (6 days). There is a £50 non refundable deposit included in the price to secure your place.
Our past summer schools have been great fun so I hope to see you there :-)
I attended Jane's Swan Lake intensive last year and her Romeo and Juliet intensive in April  (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015, Day 2 19 Aug 2016 and Day 3 20 Aug 2016 and Romeo and Juliet 9 April 2016).

If you want to attend, call Karen on 07783 103037 or contact her through Facebook.

Small Steps and other Pieces - Leeds CAT End of Term Show

Author Ben Btooksbank
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Academy of Northern Ballet, End of Year Show, Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre, Leeds, 25 June 2016

I have mentioned Cara O'Shea in this blog several times since I saw her class at the Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre open day on 15 Feb 2014 (see Northern Ballet Open Day 18 Feb 2014). She is an inspiring teacher as I found out for myself a few days later when she taught our Over 55 class (see A Treat For Us Old Ladies 27 Feb 2014). We love Cara as we do all the teachers at Northern Ballet Academy and, in particular, our regular instructor, Annemarie Donoghue, but, on the very rare occasions that Annemarie can't take us, we are always delighted by Cara.

Cara's job title is Head of Lower Level Pre-Professional Programme which places her in charge of the younger pupils of the Academy of Northern Ballet. Occasionally she is asked to coach some of those pupils for ballets such as The Nutcracker where children have a role in the ballet.  When I reviewed Northern Ballet's performance of that ballet on 18 Dec 2015 in Northern's Nutcracker 19 Dec 2015 I wrote:
"there are some delightful touches that one does not see in every other production. There are the mime sequences where Clara recounts the battle with the mice to Drosselmeyer and later her dad and the children's pieces, particularly the little chap with his trumpet whom Gita named "man of the match". Cara O'Shea has to be congratulated for the work she did with the little ones for so often it is they who can make The Nutcracker."
Cara's contribution to the Academy and Company was acknowledged last week by Northern Ballet's Artistic Director, David Nixon, in a brief introduction to the Academy and Northern School of Contemporary Dance Centre for Advanced Training End of Year Show on the 25 June 2016. He mentioned in particular her ballet Small Steps which she had created for the Academy to commemorate the International Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year (see Small Steps - Northern Ballet Academy's Commemoration of the Kindertransport 21 Jan 2016). I had missed it when it was first performed because it clashed with the live screening of the Bolshoi's performance of The Taming of the Shrew from Moscow. I got my chance last Saturday when it was performed as part of the Academy's end of year show.

Small Steps was a very beautiful work and I was profoundly moved by it for two reasons. The first is that the dancers were about the same age as the children who were sent abroad. They looked so bonny but also so lost and vulnerable. The second is that Cara chose very appropriate music - Arvo Pärt's Für Alina and Spiegel im Spiegel, Lee Holdridge's Into the Arms of Strangers, the intermezzo from Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Paul de Senneville's Marriage d'Amour.  The ballet explored the conflict in the parents' minds and the pain of separation.  Although she challenged her dancers her choreography was restrained and sombre - and as I have said before profoundly beautiful.

Although Small Steps was the high point of the afternoon it was not the only work of excellence. Cara worked with Yoko Ichino, the Academy's Associate Director and the company's Ballet Mistress on Greeting, the grande entree, and with Nixon and Ichino on the Finale. She also created Presentation to Johann Strauss's Napoleon March in which the girls displayed their mastery of technique with considerable grace and Knightsbridge, a bravura piece for the boys to Eric Coates's famous score.

Although the choreography was attributed (quite rightly) to Fokine I am pretty sure that Cara must have had something to do with the more senior students' performance of Chopiniana  (or Les Sylphides as it is called in the programme). It is a very beautiful but also very difficult ballet to perform well and not every professional company gets it right but Cara's girls and boy did and all credit to her and them.

There was excellent contemporary dance too.   I was particularly impressed by the NSCD's performance of Studio Wayne McGregor's Datum towards the end of the show but I admired all the works including Matthew Slater's Converge, Tim Casson's Connect, Holly Noble's Phonic and Gemma Harrison's Another Day. In his speech Nixon stressed the importance of contemporary dance in ballet training and vice versa. Leeds is lucky to have the NCDS and Academy in such close proximity.

As I explained in The Lowry CAT 27 Feb 2016 Centres of Advanced Training provide opportunities for pupils aged 10 to 18 who aspire to a career in dance. The programme was accompanied by a list of student destinations which included some of the top schools in the country - Elmhurst, Central, Ballet West, Royal Conservatory of Scotland and Northern Ballet School where Cara trained.  I am sure all my readers will join me in wishing those students well in their careers.