Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Looking forward to the Gala and trying to get the Night Fall Video to work

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This time next week Team Terpsichore should be in Amsterdam.

We are very excited about it.  One member of our team is an eating expert who can't wait to get her gnashers into riijsttafel, Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer and every other cheese in Holland not to mention Calve peanut butter which you just can't get in this country.

Apart from one meeting with my editor at Kluwer at which we shall probably speculate at great length whether Brexit has torpedoed the unitary patent and the Unified Patent Court, this will be my first opportunity in years to play the tourist and see the bits of Amsterdam that I have never quite got round to before. Top of my list is the van Goch museum having been inspired by Chantry Dance's Vincent (see Duology  29 Sept 2015) and our pals at Casa Alessia in Italy (see From Italy with Love 1 July 2016).

However, we are looking forward to the Gala most of all. I attended it last year and described it as The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015 without the slightest exaggeration. The only comparable event I can remember was Sir Fred's retirement gala at the Royal Opera House on 24 July 1970. This year promises to be even better as it features Igone de Jongh who is one of my favourites in the company.

Having praised the Dutch National Ballet to the rafters I am now going to say something that they probably won't like so much and that is that is that I can't see anything special about Night Fall.  The hype in yesterday's press release would have done credit to Lord Mandeslson:
"In Night Fall, the viewer feels like part of the corps de ballet, entering a world where the boundary between dream and reality seems to vanish. The choreography is inspired by the world-famous ‘white acts’ from Romantic ballets like Swan Lake, La Bayadère and Les Sylphides. The ballet was choreographed by Peter Leung, a former dancer with Dutch National Ballet, to music composed by Robin Rimbaud (Scanner). It was directed by Jip Samhoud and Marijn Korver from &samhoud media. Night Fall is a co-production by Dutch National Ballet, &samhoud media and Chester Music. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and Gear VR provide the technology that makes it possible to produce the first ballet in Virtual Reality."
That may be the idea but it hasn't worked for me up to now. I've tried the YouTube video on my Chromebook and a brand new Huawei Honor smart phone which cost me a lot of lolly. The phone showed everything double. The images were was so small that I could hardly make out any detail. The figures on the YouTube were very dimly lit and seemed to me out of focus. As for the violin I couldn't stop thinking of Sherlock Holmes.

Now it may well be that I don't have the right kit or that I failed to carry out the instructions correctly but I got more and more grumpy as the night wore on. That was a shame because I had such a nice class in Manchester and was in excellent spirits at the start of the evening.  This is not the first time the company has experimented with mobile phone technology. Ernst Mesiner choreographed Bounden for the Game Oven and I actually downloaded the app (see Bounden - Something that appeals to my Interests in Technology and Dance 17 Dec 2013). Mel and I tried very hard to get it to work in a cafe in Sheffield no doubt providing hilarious entertainment for everyone in the eatery - but it just wouldn't.

Now as a patent lawyer (which I do better than shades. swans or even statues) I applaud innovation as it funds my balletomania. But I think a bit more R & D needs to go into Night Fall.  The press release came from Richard Heideman. We'll look out for him on Wednesday. Maybe he or one of his staff can get Night Fall to work for Mevrouw de Eter en me.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Now that we have had a go at La Bayadere let's see the Experts do it properly

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Earlier this month a dozen adult ballet students at KNT Danceworks in Manchester took part in a three-day workshop on La Bayadère. We did a little show at the end which you can see in La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes 17 Aug 2016. While I don't think I would be wise to give up the day job just yet I enjoyed the workshop enormously.

I think the main benefit of the workshop will be the insight into the ballet that I have gained from attempting the shades and golden idol dances.  I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Swan Lake in Covent Garden and other theatres around the world over the last 55 years or so but I learned so much more about the ballet from Jane Tucker in her three day intensive last year that I did in a lifetime of watching performances of it from the stalls or reading about it in the books.

The next opportunity for most of us in the UK to see La Bayadère will be the Dutch National Ballet's production in Amsterdam between 8 Oct and 13 Nov 2016. That is Makarova's version which must be similar to the one she did for the Royal Ballet that was last performed in 2013. We in Team Terpsichore have already got our tickets. We are flying out from Ringway on 12 Nov and returning in the evening of the 13. We shall see the matinee on the 13. If Floor, Cristiano, Emilie, Thomas, Giovanni or any of our other Facebook friends will be in  that show do let us know.

As there are still plenty of tickets for the matinee it would be super duper if some of our classmates could meet us in Amsterdam.  The above video shows two of the dances we learned in Manchester, namely the golden idol and the entry into the kingdom of the shades. It would be a wonderful opportunity to see the experts do those dances properly.

We could also perhaps make a side trip to the Hague to see our dear teacher, Mark Hindle, lead the gazelles in the Lion King at the AFAS Circustheater.  The only problem is that the ticket prices for this musical which has been running in London since Adam was a boy start at 29 euro and go up to 100 euro. That is far more than the cost of the equivalent seats in the Stopera to see one of the greatest ballet companies in the world with some of its biggest stars and a full orchestra. And that is for a show in the Hague - not Amsterdam. However, it may be possible to negotiate a discount if we could organize a party.

Whether or not we get to see Mark on this occasion the ballet is a must.  If you have not seen the Dutch National Ballet it is very like our own English National Ballet. It has many connections with this country.  One of its leading ballerinas, Igone de Jongh trained in London.  Its magnificent choreographer and artistic co-ordinator of the Junior Company, Ernst Meinser, danced with the Royal Ballet for many years and is one of out own (see Meet Ernst Meisner and his talented young dancers 6 Dec 2014). Matthew Rowe, the company's musical director and principal conductor, comes from London. Indeed, he may even have attended my old secondary school for there is a tantalizingly oblique reference to him in the latest issue of our alumnus magazine.

The company performs in the Stopera which is a lovely theatre. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the building on my last visit to Amsterdam (see Double Dutch Delights 17 Feb 2016). It is one of the most modern auditoriums in the world with a good view of the stage from every seat.  There is a terrace on every floor which overlooks the square and canal below. There is no better way of spending an interval than standing on the terrace and reflecting on the show.

Amsterdam has become a little more expensive for us since the recent fish dive of the pound after the referendum but it is still cheaper than London. There are lots of reasonably priced restaurants offering a wide range of national cuisines. My favourite is rijjsttafel which comes from Indonesia, a country that used to be administered by the Netherlands. It seems to be as popular in Amsterdam as curry in Rusholme and for very similar reasons. There are convenient flights from Ringway and Speke by easyJet. Transport around Amsterdam is very easy. Nearly everyone seems to speak at least some English and Dutch is the closest relation to our language.

I admire the Dutch National Ballet very much for many reasons not least of which is the opportunity that the Junior Company gives to outstanding young dancers from many parts of the world.  There is a Friends' scheme of which I am a member.  If you come with me to Amsterdam and fall in love with these beautiful artists as most do, I do hope you will consider joining it.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ballet West's 2017 Tour

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Ballet West is a ballet school not far from Oban in the Western Highlands. It must be a very good school for several of my favourite young dancers trained there.  Sarah Mortimer is one.  Isaac Bowry is another.  Natasha Watson is yet another.  Some of the staff and students from Ballet West have recently toured Malaysia as I mentioned in Ballet West in Malaysia on 18 June 2016. You can download a video of two of the students with one of their Malaysian hosts from the Ballet West home page.

The school has a company which tours Scotland at the beginning of each year to give its students stage experience. A performance of The Nutcacker by that company in Pitlochry on 23 Feb 2013 was my very first post to this blog. The show was so good that I returned for Swan Lake the next year (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March  2014) the subsequent year, Romeo and Juliet the year after that (see Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet  1 Feb 2015) and The Nutcracker again this year (see Thinking out Loud about Ballet West 8 Feb 2016).

Ballet West have announced their tour for 2017. They will dance Swan Lake again and they will dance it just the way I like it. No Simon. No Anthony. No Odilia. The same ballerina dancing Odette and Odile. No evil genius but a proper von Rothbart danced so impressively last time by my fellow Mancunian Isaac Bowry. And above all there will be no bikes. To get a flavour of their performance I have found this YouTube clip which shows Sara-Maria Barton's brilliance in the black act. That is my favourite part of the ballet for it is the act that contains all those fouettés not to mention the divertissements at the beginning.

The tour will start on 20 and 21 Jan 2017 at The McRobert Arts Centre on the campus of Stirling University. The McRobert Centre has a fair sized auditorium with what appears from the stalls to be a fairly danceable stage. There is a reasonably priced restaurant with a licensed bar and coffee shop in the lobby and plenty of free parking near the auditorium. It might be awkward to reach by public transport as the campus is a mile or so outside the town centre and I have never seen a bus there but there are probably taxis to be hired somewhere in the vicinity.

The company's itinerary is as follows:

  • Stirling, Macrobert 20th & 21st January 2017
  • Helensburgh, Tower Digital Arts Centre 27th January 2017
  • Paisley, Paisley Town Hall 28th January 2017
  • Oban, Corran Halls 9th February 2017
  • Glasgow, SECC 11th February 2017
  • Greenock, Beacon Arts Centre 12th February 2017
  • Livingston, Howden Park Centre 16th February 2017
  • Edinburgh, EICC, 18th February 2017

If Cinderella's fairy godmother were to appear right now and grant me three balletic wishes, one of them would be for Ballet West to make at least one appearance in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am pretty confident that audiences here would love them. I happen to know from conversations with members of the audience and posts to a ballet fans' forum to which I subscribe that I am by no means the only Sassenach who ventures North at the coldest time of the year to see these fine young artists.

And my second wish? Why it would be to see those same young dancers perform the purest and most beautiful of the Romantic ballets which like them is set in the Highlands.  Please, Mr Job, pretty please! Do consider La Sylphide one year. I have seen Danes dance it. Australians. Even an Italian in Trecate earlier this year. Why not Scots?

Friday, 26 August 2016

Ulysses Unbound

Yesterday, scientists from Queen Mary University of London reported evidence of an exoplanet slightly heavier than the earth orbiting our nearest star at a distance that could sustain life. Nature, a publication not given to hyperbole, described the discovery as fulfilling "a longstanding dream of science-fiction writers — a potentially habitable world that is close enough for humans to send their first interstellar spacecraft" (see Alexandra Witze "Earth-sized planet around nearby star is astronomy dream come true" 24 Aug 2016 Nature).

Witze quoted the lead researcher, Guillem Anglada-Escudé: “The search for life starts now.”  What better timing for the premiere next month of Chantry Dance's Ulysses Unbound at Grantham's Gravity Fields science fair, Despite its title, Ulysses Unbound owes nothing to James Joyce:
"The last astronaut has left a dying earth in search of a new home. In a thrilling cascade of stunning characters, costumes and imagery, he witnesses the birth of a new star and finds himself on an alien world, populated by very alien creatures!
This extraordinary ballet combines an exciting original soundtrack with contemporary ballet danced by an exceptional international cast. Through the fascinating choreography the dancers interpret cosmic events, from the evolution of a star to the formation of a deadly black hole."
A few days ago I would have called that plot science fiction but after yesterday's discovery I would suggest that it now has a possible basis in science.

This is not the first work by Chantry Dance that has been inspired  by the heavens. Their contribution to the 2014 festival, Chasing the Eclipse, starring Dominic North and Rae Piper had an astronomical theme. A number of journalists have already speculated that the discovery of this exoplanet could be the discovery of the century. If they are correct it would be appropriate for this year coincides with the 350th anniversary of the annus mirabilis in which Sir Isaac Newton carried out not far from Grantham some of his best work (see About Us on the Gravity Fields website).

Ulysses Unbound was created by Paul Chantry and Rae Piper to an original score by Tim Mountain who wrote the music for Chasing the Eclipse. Rae Piper has also created the designs for Ulysses Unbound.

The work will be performed with The Stacked Deck, another work by Piper and Chantry based on game theory:
"Life is a harsh game - sometimes it’s difficult to win with the hand you’re dealt. But is it actually about howwe play the game?
Inspired by the concept of Game Theory and the theme of equality, ‘The Stacked Deck’ is based on a combative game of cards which four players are all desperate to win. Each time a hand is dealt, the players are given a different scenario to face. How they chose to play their hand will determine the final prize.
Intense, raw and gripping, with the dancers radiating primal physicality, this ballet challenges us to look at how we all play the ‘game’"
The double bill open at the Guildhall Arts Centre on 21 Sept 2016 before going on to Stamford,  Birmingham, Worcester and Woolwich.  Sadly they won't be in the North this year. We have got to do something to tempt them here

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Northern Ballet's New Season

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Last September Northern Ballet opened their new season with Jonathan Watkins's 1984 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which they then took on tour They danced Wuthering Heights in Bradford and finished with a brilliant Nutcracker at Christmas.  Thus year they are reviving three works: Nixon's Wuthering Heights at the WYP. They are taking Jean-Pierre Maillot's Romeo and Juliet to Sheffield, Canterbury, Belfast, Woking and Bradford. The Christmas show at The Grand will be Nixon's Beauty and the Beast which they will also dance at Norwich, Nottingham, Newcastle and Southampton.

Of those three shows the one that I would recommend without hesitation is Romeo and Juliet.  I saw it twice in Leeds last tear and enjoyed both performances (see Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - different but in a good way 8 March 2915 and Leebolt's Juliet 13 March 2015). I also saw the Bolshoi dance Maillot's Taming of the Shrew earlier in the month and was enchanted by it (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016).  I have become something of a Maillot fan and wrote a short appreciation of his work on 5 Aug 2016.

We saw quite a lot of Wuthering Heights in 2015. I watched it in Sheffield including a dress rehearsal in March and liked it a lot (see Wuthering Heights 19 March 2015). I also caught it in Bradford in November where I was somewhat less impressed (see Northern Ballet's Wuthering Heights in Bradford 22 Nov 2015). I wrote:
"Batley and Leeboilt were good too as they always are but their performance lacked fire. It was like watching World Ballet Day or even company class. Old ladies like me who sacrifice their widow's mite for ballet (now increased by 133% - see The Increasing Prince of Friendship 14 Oct 2015) expect to float when we leave the theatre as I did on Friday when I saw Ballet Black (see Ballet Black's Return to Leeds 21 Nov 2015) or on 12 Nov 2015 when I left the Linbury after seeing Phoenix (see The Phoenix Soars Over London 13 Nov 2015). The reason I floated was that Ballet Black and Phoenix danced as though they were inspired as did Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie yesterday. I swapped a ticket in the centre of row B of the Stanley and Audrey Burton for yesterday's performance of Ballet Black for one at the side of the top of the auditorium for Friday so that I could see the last performance of Wuthering Heights in Bradford. Had it not been for Bateman, Takehashi and Gillespie I think I would have regretted the exchange."
If Northern Ballet wanted to open their 2016/2017 season with a work inspired by a Brontë novel, my choice would have been Cathy Martson's Jane Eyre which I saw in Richmond at the beginning of June (see Northern Ballet's Jane Eyre: the best new Ballet from the Company in 20 Years 2 June 2016). That was a reminder of the old Manchester based Northern Ballet that welcomed me back to the North in 1985. The company offered real treats in those days such as Gillian Lynne's A Simple Man and Christopher Gable's Christmas Carol (see my review of its 2013 revival Christmas Carol - "A Fine Performance Filled with Joy" 19 Nov 2013). Save for the opening in Doncaster Jane Eyre has not been performed in Yorkshire and it would have suited the Quarry well as it is a more intimate auditorium than The Grand. I had to travel 200 miles to see a ballet based on a novel by a Yorkshire author. I do hope they bring it home soon.

Beauty and the Beast ought to be as popular as Cinderella for when you think about it de Villeneuve's story is simply Cinderella in reverse. Peter Darrell, Darius James and David Bintley have all had a go as I said in my review of David Nixon's 2011 production in IP Yorkshire over a year before I started this blog (see Jane Lambert Ballet and Intellectual Property - my Excuse for reviewing "Beauty and the Beast" 31 Dec 2011). In that article I said:
"Beauty and the Beast is not an easy story to choreograph. Scottish Ballet had a go with Thea Musgrave's score many years ago. I reviewed for "Aien" (St Andrews University student newspaper) when it was premiered at The King's Theatre in Edinburgh in 1969. Ballet Cymru also seems to have had a version in its repertoire. Another link with IP, incidentally, since Ballet Cymru is based in Newport, the same town as the Intellectual Property Office. And, of course, there is the Birmingham Royal Ballet's version. But none of those versions has ever achieved the popularity of works like Coppelia, Giselle, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake. Will David Nixon's version do any better? The answer is that I am just not sure."
Since I saw Nixon's Beauty and the Beast I have seen and reviewed Bintley's and James's. Both Mel Wong and I reviewed James's Beauty but Mel's review is far better than mine (see Mel Wong For grown ups who haven't lost touch with their childhoods - Ballet Cymru's Beauty & The Beast 24 June 2014). In my review of Bintley's Beauty I asked myself which was best.  Here is my reply:
"Well I like them all but in different ways. Musgrave's for the music. Birmingham's for the sets and costumes but also Bintley's choreography. Nixon's for the last Act. Ballet Cymru's for its spirit."
The one thing I remember most about Nixon's ballet is that the family piled into a derelict bus which I found risible but I also remember some great dancing from Martha Leebolt, Hannah Bateman and Victoria Sibson and a sublime final act. Here is what I wrote at the time:
"As for Nixon's choreography the first two acts reminded me of early McMillan - works like Anastasia which are not performed very often nowadays for a reason. But the last Act reminded me of Balanchine and I think it was that Act which saved the ballet. The pas de deux between Beauty - danced exquisitely by Martha Leebolt - and the beast showed just what the choreographer can do. Also impressive were Victoria Sibson and Hannah Bateman who danced the fairies, Hironeo Takahashi, the beast's servant and the coryphées, Michela Paolacci, Ayana Kanda, Christie Duncan and Isabella Gasparini who were four sprites. The last Act of the ballet could well stand as a work in its own right. I hope to see that Act many times again but I would happily skip the first two acts with its old bus and bailiffs."
A curious choice for a Christmas show. I would have preferred G able's Christmas Carol or indeed his Cinderella but I will be in the audience for the final act.

Of course, the show that everybody is anticipating with relish is Kenneth Tindall's Gasanova which opens in Leeds on 11 March 2017. It will then tour Edinburgh, Sheffield, Norwich, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, The Lowry and London. This is Tindall's first full length ballet. His shorter works such as Luminous Junc•ture and The Architect, have attracted favourable critical comment including some from me (see Angelic - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 9 June 2013 and A Wonderful Evening - Northern Ballet's Mixed Bill 21 June 2014 23 June 2013). I like Tindall as you can see from my appreciation of 28 Feb 2015. I am therefore looking forward to this work very much indeed.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Why Terpsichore Yorkshire?

A few minutes ago I launched Terpsichore Yorkshire with an article about Planet Dance, a dancewear retailer and wholesaler in Baltley. By so doing I am looking after my core audience, the adult dance community in Yorkshire and the Humber.

I started this blog in a very small just over three years ago to write about my classes at Northern Ballet Academy, the University of HuddersfieldDance Studio Leeds and other studios and to review performances by Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and visiting companies to The Grand, Bradford Alhambra, Stanley and Audrey Burton and other theatres in Yorkshire.

This blog has been spectacularly successful with over 10,000 hits a month. It has massive audiences in the United States and Russia and significant followings in Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands as well as the United Kingdom. My overseas readers and indeed those from other parts of the UK cannot attend classes in Leeds or Huddersfield or indeed performances in our local theatres. They want to read about what is going on at Covent Garden, the Coliseum and Sadler's Wells which they do visit occasionally as well as theatres and opera houses abroad and in other parts of the country. Consequently, my focus has moved away from Yorkshire and the North to London and overseas.

That is a pity for Leeds remains an important dance hub.  One of the reasons for increasing funding to Northern Ballet is that Arts Council England believe that
"Leeds has the potential to become a major regional dance centre. We suggested that Northern Ballet should work with Phoenix, Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Dance and others to explore how they might work collaboratively to build a broad dance culture in Leeds, capable of increasing audiences and attracting and retaining talent in the city"
(see How Arts Council England supports Dance 10 Oct 2015). I want to chronicle and if possible even to facilitate that development.

Terpsichore Yorkshire will focus on our great local companies, their talented artists, its great teachers and so on. We will give in depth previews and comprehensive analyses of their performances. We will write about dancers from Yorkshire with other companies such as David Biintley, Xander Parishm Brandon Lawrence and Dominic North. At the sane time, we will also try out adult dance classes in all parts of the county and report on them. We will check out local dancewear retailers and their merchandise.  We will report news and views on all aspects of dance from all parts of Yorkshire,

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Manchester's Link with English National Ballet

Manchester Opera House
Author: Mike Peel
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Source Wikipedia

As a Mancunian I am immensely proud that the company which is now England's national ballet company danced its first performance at the Opera House on 5 Feb 1951 (see Our History on English National Ballet's website). The company has chosen our city again to premiere Akram Khan's Giselle on 27 Sept 2016 before taking the work on a tour of the rest of the nation. There is enormous affection in this city for English National Ballet which I noted in Manchester's Favourite Ballet Company 29 Nov 2015).

I was delighted to learn yesterday from Tamara Rojo herself that our pride and affection is reciprocated. She had tweeted:
To which I replied:
The company and its director signalled that they liked my tweet. Tamara Rojo quoted it and added:
A number of events will be held around the country in connection with this important new work including some in Manchester (see the Take Part page of the company's website). There is also a fascinating dialogue between Akram Khan and Tamara Rojo on Re-imagining Giselle and Ballet Meets Kathak: the traditions behind Akram Khan's Giselle.

Having just completed in Manchester as it happens a 3-day intensive workshop on La Bayadere which is set in Hyderabad (see La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: 16 Aug 2016 Day 2 17 Aug 2016 Day 3 17 Aug 2016) I should love to see how a choreographer from the Sub-Continent would reinterpret that work. I tentatively suggest that ballet which is not well known in this country as subject matter for a future collaboration between Akram Khan and our national company.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

La Bayadere Intensive Day 3: No Snakes

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Updated 24 Aug 2016

It was only on the train home that it occurred to me that there might have been more tactful ways of showing our appreciation to our excellent teacher, Jane Tucker, than flowers at the end of our workshop on La Bayadère in view of what had happened to Nikiya. But some sort of expression of our appreciation was appropriate as this workshop was special. Romeo and Juliet was good (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) as had been Swan Lake (see see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2915, Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and Day 3 20 Aug 2015) but this was even better. I for one learned so much over the last three days and not just about La Bayadère but ballet in general.

As on the other days the day started with floor exercises on our Pilates mats. There was then a 90 minute class which focused on some of the steps we would need for our rehearsals and performance. Jane had included some  jetés en tournant in the golden idol so we worked on those as well as our balancé turns.  After class we ran through each of the pieces that we had learned. We were far from perfect but Jane told us that she had been expecting carnage and we never got anywhere near that. For the rest of the morning and early afternoon we concentrated on the details that required most attention.

After lunch, Jane fashioned the dances that we had learned into a show. Each piece was to lead seamlessly into the next. We did a couple of rehearsals and then prepared for our audience which consisted of Karen Sant and Josh Moss who are beautiful dancers as well as outstanding instructors.  Although I have very little experience of performing I have already found that performances tend to lift a cast and it was no different today. There were glitches but everyone put her heart into the show. My favourite was the golden idol as I explained in Day 2 earlier today. Jane's adaptation included some échappés which I have always enjoyed.  It was over far too quickly. Karen clapped vigorously after each piece while Josh filmed us with a tablet or mobile. Both Jane and Karen told us that we had made progress since the start.

There were some very happy ladies who left The Dancehouse today - all fired up with enthusiasm for our classes and shows in the coming year. Tomorrow Jane starts a new course for the more advanced students which I hope and am sure that they will enjoy as much as we did ours.

La Bayadere Intensive Day 2: Idols and Disembodied Shades

There is a mirror at the front of the studio where we train. I glanced at it yesterday as I entered our notional stage from the top of its imaginary ramp. Try as I could to incline towards the audience with my arms in fifth and my right leg extended there was just no way that I could pass as a disembodied shade.  I did my best to be ethereal and dainty but I am big boned and my frame is now upholstered with more than a generous accumulation of middle age spread despite my attempts to mitigate it through exercise and diet.

On the other hand I might just pass as an angular statue though I lack the strength and virtuosity of Ivan Vasilev in the YouTube clip. Because everyone else in the class is young and nimble Jane had prepared the workshop around the shades. That was sensible because my classmates can dance those roles so much more convincingly than I can. At the start of the programme I asked Jane whether we could do the golden idol which had been danced so impressively by Andrei Federkov in St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's production at the Coliseum last year (see Blown Away - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's La Bayadere 24 Aug 2015). There is something very dramatic and chilling about a statue that comes to life. It is the statute that leads Dom Juan to hell at the end of Moliere's play.  She replied that she would see what she could do but I knew it would be a big ask because she would have to adapt the choreography considerably for us.

To my great delight and surprise she did just that and we learned it yesterday as well as another piece for the corps. Learning the idol was great fun for we had to move in a quite non-balletic way which is what I do anyway.  We did some assemblés and chaînés  though not the tours en l'air or multiple turns shown in the video clip in substitution of some of the tours en l'air that only a powerful dancer trained in the Russian style can do well.

Today is our last day and I can barely crawl to the bathroom let alone dance this morning but I will try. This has been a great experience and I am grateful to Jane Tucker for teaching us and KNT for giving us the opportunity to learn the choreography of this beautiful but relatively little known work.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: There's Life in the Old Girl Yet

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I hesitated before signing up for Jane Tucker's La Bayadère intensive at KNT  even though I had voted for it when Karen Sant polled us on what we wanted to learn because I was not sure that I would be able to do it. Much as I had enjoyed last year's Swan Lake (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) and this April's Romeo and Juliet (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) they nearly killed me and now I am a year older, slower, stiffer and generally wonkier. Truth to tell, my anxiety that I might no longer be up to it is the only reason why I did not bite Hannah Bateman's hand off when she advertised her Ballet Retreat in Leeds earlier this year.

I am really glad that I did sign up for Jane's intensive because I had a whale of a time yesterday. Although I am as stiff as a board this morning with aches and pains in muscles and joints that I never knew existed despite soaking in a hot bath followed by a cold shower I am buoyed up by two news items.  The first was the 97 year old dentist and entrepreneur featured on How to Age. The second was the story on The World Tonight about Doreen Petchey from Reading who has just passed her RAD Grade 6 exams at age 71 (see Congratulations Doreen 12 Aug 2016 on the RAD website and the video clip on her (Britain's oldest ballerina: 71-year-old passes Grade 6 exam). I might add in passing that there are lots of ladies of that age or older in Annemarie Donoghue's Over 55 class at Northern Ballet in Leeds and that at least 4 members of that class regularly attend Jane Tucker's improvers' class in Leeds on Wednesday evenings which is definitely not for wimps.

Our intensive started with 30 minutes of floor exercises on Pilates mats at 10:00.  We then had 90 minutes of class which consisted of a full barre and the usual centre work which took us through to noon.  Between noon and lunch we learned our first bit of repertoire which was the second shade's solo dance from the last act of the ballet. The first and the last bits were easy enough but I got a bit lost in the middle but Jane seemed to be reasonably satisfied with our effort overall.

We broke for lunch at 13:30 and I found a Japanese restaurant behind The Dancehouse that Gita the Eater had discovered in April.  I really love Japanese cuisine having been to Japan three times but although there are lots of places that claim to be Japanese restaurants there are very few that would pass muster in Tokyo. This is one of the very few that would. I refuelled on tempura and rice with plenty of green tea.

After lunch we ran through the second shade's solo again and then started on the descent into the kingdom of the shades. Jane had already taught us a version of that dance which I had struggled to master in her improvers' class in Leeds and the Romeo and Juliet intensive in April.  It was a considerable relief to find that she required us to do the version that appears in the video. Yoshie led us out to the centre of the studio and we followed her in height order. The first bit consisted of a sequence of arabesques followed by a right tendu with our arms in 5th which was just about doable but then an almost interminable couru which we did on demi punctuated by a développé and two descents to the floor which I dared not risk for fear of never getting up again. I couldn't do them in cygnets last year either.

We repeated the dances that we had learned before Karen who filmed us with her tablet.  Our day finished with 20 minutes of floor exercises. I left the Dancehouse just after 16:15 to begin the trek back to Brockholes which turned out to be surprisingly smooth once I had caught a through train from Oxford Road to Huddersfleld.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was to run a hot bath. Jane's advice last year of a hot bath followed by a cold shower was the best tip I have ever picked up from a ballet class and it really works. I was going to give alcohol a miss last night but when I heard about Mrs. Petchey I felt compelled to drink her health in Argentine Malbec. If she can do grade 6 at age 71 I should be able to finish this course at age 67. And perhaps I should have a shot at the RAD exams too. If I passed them I might eventually be allowed to turn up to Chelmsford Ballet's company class. I am looking forward to another year of classes with Annemarie and Jane in Leeds and Karen and Ailsa in Manchester. Maybe there's life in the old girl yet.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Where can I get a Ballet Class in August?

Standard YouTube Licence

Not in Brum for a start!

"Classes are currently on Summer Break!" proclaims the DanceXchnage's website. "Our NEW autumn term starts Monday 19 September – Saturday 10 December 2016." And they try to make out they are the nation's second city.

No such problem in the real second city. Danceworks has classes through the summer as you can see from their timetable. Sodoes Pineapple.

Classes don't stop at Leeds, or Liverpool or indeed Newcastle-Under-Lyme according to Picturesinthefirelight

But in Manchesteour modern Ithaca, there are classes throughout the year at KNT in the Dancehouse Theatre's studios. And for the next few days something wonderful will happen.

I don't know whether there are still places on these intensives. I suspect not. But if you don't enquire on  Tel: 07783 103 037 you certainly won't be able to come.

Damien Johnson

Damien Johnson in the Linbury, bar after the show 14 Feb 2015
Author Jane Lambert
(c) 2015 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

One of the most exciting dancers on the British stage right now is Damien Johnson of Ballet Black. Just now he is at home in the United States having spent a short spell in Bermuda but he will be back in London at the end of September to perform in Ballet Black's Triple Bill at the Millfield Arts Centre in Edmonton. He will also dance with the company in Newcastle, Leeds, Glasgow, Doncaster, Exeter, Watford, Harlow and Lichfield.

David Murley reviewed the production in Ballet Black in the Barbican on 22 March 2016 and I reviewed it when it came to The Lowry on 19 June 2016 in Ballet Black made my Manchester Day 20 June 2016. In my humble opinion it is the best show that I have ever seen the company do but with works by Christopher Hampson, Christopher Marney and Arthur Pita how could it be otherwise. At Ballet Black's First Friends' Event  I was lucky enough to watch Marney work with Johnson and Isabela Coracy as well as Jacob Wye and Sayaka Ichikawa. To watch a genius (not my word but Sir Matthew Bourne's when tweeting about Marney but an opinion that I heartily share) at work with four of the most talented dancers I know was a rare delight.

I am prompted to write about Johnson again because he has just posted the following message on Facebook
"Hey everyone, check out my website... Someone special made it for me 💚😘"
I did his bidding. I visited his website at and I am very impressed. The website summarizes his history. I had no idea that he had worked with Dance Theatre of Harlem.  I loved that company when they visited London in the early 1970s and I wish they would return. There are some great photos of him as well as a video of a rehearsal at The Barbican. Johnson teachers and there is a contact form for those who wish to engage him.

I am sure my readers will join me in wishing him a very pleasant holiday in the United States and a safe journey back to the UK. I shall be in the audience at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds and the Cast in Doncaster.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

International Mariinsky Far East Festival in Vladivostok

Standard YouTube Licence

On the 31 March 2016 I wrote about The Mariinsky Theatre's Primorsky Stage which appears to be a little bit of that famous opera house 4,067 miles from St. Petersburg. That theatre came to my attention a few days ago when I learned through Facebook that Xander Parish and Hannah O'Neill were there. They have been taking part in the International Mariinsky Far East Festival in Vladivostok which ends today which ends today with a concert featuring  Leonidas Kavakos and Yeol Eum Son and the combined orchestras of the Mariinsky Theatre and the Primorsky Stage  under the direction of Valery Gergiev.

Vladivostok is one of those places that I have always dreamt about but never quite got round to visiting. I must add that I have not yet been to Russia even though I have long admired its literature, music and. of course, its ballet though not always its governments - particularly not during the cold war. I hope to put that right some day while I am still able to travel. I had always imagined Vladivostok to be a rather romantic city though descriptions in Wikipedia, Wikitravel, Lonely Planet and even the local tourist board website suggested that it might have a lot in common with Hull as it is a major fishery or perhaps Portsmouth as it is an important naval base. This YouTube video by two local students show some interesting architecture that reminds me a little of both San Francisco and Vancouver while the surrounding hills look very much like those on the coast of Northern California.

Returning to the Festival it appears from the Primorsky stage website that there have been 25 operas, ballets, and concerts over the last 12 days featuring
"the most brilliant soloists of the Mariinsky Theatre as well as leading guest artists from Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Mongolia, Germany, Greece, The United Kingdom, The United States, and Puerto Rico."
For some reason the website has omitted New Zealand, the country of O'Neill's birth, and France, the land where she now works, from that list.

Be that as it may, O'Neill danced with Parish in Giselle on 6 Aug 2016 and again on 8 Aug 2016 in a Ballet Gala with Ulyana Lopatkina, Soo Bin LeeEkaterina KondaurovaKonstantin Zverev, Danila KorsuntcevOksana Skorik and Renata Shakirova in a programme that consisted of works by Ilya ZhivoiMaxim Petrov, Eldar AlievAnton Pimonov and Asaf Messerer as well as the pas de deux from Petipa's The Talisman which is not well known in this country. Interestingly. it is not based on Sir Walter Scott's novel but is set in India like La Bayadere. Another example of Russia's fascination with India that I mentioned in La Bayadere - where it all took place on 24 July 2016. More familiar works in the programme were the pas de deux from Swan Lake, Fokine's The Dying Swan and Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet which Parish danced with O'Neill. I should mention in passing that I saw Parish dance that role in London with Viktoria Tereshkina two years ago and he was jolly good (see Reet Gradely: Romeo and Juliet, Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Opera House 29 July 2014 31 July 2014).

As the score to Romeo and Juliet was written by Sergei Prokofiev it is also worth mentioning that the Festival was dedicated to the 125th anniversary of that composer's birth. His opera Betrothal in a Monastery (which I have to confess I do not know) was performed on 30 July 2016. If you click the link I have just given you, you will find a recording of some great music. I believe that opera would go down very well here if only someone would stage it.  Also in honour of Prokofiev, the violinist Clara-Jumi Kang and pianist Sergei Redkin played his Violin Concerto No 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 and his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 in concert on 1 Aug 2016.

Kondaurova and Lopatkina also took part in a triple bill on 3 Aug 2016 called Ballet Stars of the Mariinsky Theatre which consisted of Alicia Alonso's Carmen Suite, Jerome Robbins's In the Night and Balanchine's Symphony in C. The blurb on the website states:
"Diversity of talents of the Mariinsky Ballet Company will be presented at the festival with the program of one-act ballets. In the legendary Carmen Suite by Bizet-Shchedrin that was created specifically for Maya Plisetskaya by choreographer Alberto Alonso, today’s dancers create their own version of independent Carmen.
Choreographic stories of love, united in In the Night by Jerome Robbins, present three totally different by temperament pairs of soloists. Hypnotic thoughtfulness and tenderness of a first date in the adagio, performed by first couple is followed by restrained manifestation of feelings of the second duo. And third pair shows true culmination of love passions.
Evening’s final piece Balanchine’s Symphony in C is perfectly suited to demonstrate the best assets of the company: four parts of the ballet are shared by four pairs of soloists. This ballet allows the company to display its multivalent talents, from the most technically demanding movements in the allegro, to the proud and regal grace required in the adagio."
It must have been lovely.

Alonso's Carmen Suite and Balanchine's Symphony in C were performed the next time in Ballet Stars of the Mariinsky Theatre but in this programme Hans van Manen's The Old Man and Me was substituted for In the Night.  The programme notes state:
"Hans van Manen’s ballet The Old Man and Me is a story of the emotional turmoil people experience when they are drawn to one another but cannot be together. The tenderness of this story is revealed by the dancers’ remarkable transformation into the characters they portray, and the depth, with which they feel their partner's every movement."
 Kondaurova danced Carmen as she had the night before but in this triple bill she was joined by Diana Vishneva, Vladimir Malakhov, and Yekaterina Osmolkina.

Vishneva also attended a screening of a documentary on her life after which she answered questions from members of the public and signed autographs in a special Evening with Diana Vishneva in the chamber hall on the 5 Aug.

The last ballet of the Festival was  Sergeyev's Swan Lake which was first staged in 1950. I am pleased to note that in this production Rothbart is called Rothbart and not the "Evil Genius" as in Grigorovich's version which the Bolshoi have performed in London on their current tour.  When I complained gently in Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Covent Garden on 31 July 2016 that this renaming was change for change's sake though not on the same scale as David Nixon who created an entirely new libretto. introduced new characters such as Simon, Anthony and Odilia and opened with chaps riding bikes somewhat unsteadily onto the stage (see Up the Swannee 17 March 2016) I was put firmly in my place by Amelia of BalletcoForum. She wrote:
"Poor Yuri Grigorovich has been rebuked enough for many “sins” committed by him against “Swan Lake”. Please allow me to clear him of the "Change for change's sake” charge.
Dear Terpsichore, as long as I remember there were no German names in the Bolshoi’s cast lists since 1940s.
Ziegfrid was called Prince and Rothbart was Evil Genius. The reason for that was that German names stirred strong negative feelings at that time. No need to remind about what the German army did on the Russian soil. The worst abusive word to a person at that time was not an ‘idiot’ or ‘bastard’ or… but “Fritz”, an allied name for Germans, like “Jerry” in English. The Russians were shuddering from German names for a long time after the end of the 2WW.
Grigorovich was still at school then. So let’s exonerate him from changing the names."
I had not heard that explanation and I thanked her for it.  I added that I thought that the Bolshoi had missed a trick. The code name for the German invasion was Barbarossa which means Red Beard in Italian which is almost the translation of Rothbart from German. St Petersburg, which was besieged for nearly two and a half years had even more reason than Moscow to dislike the Germans but the Mariinsky (or Kirov as it would then have been called) does not appear to have changed the names of the characters in its version. Anyway, getting back to the ballet Skorik was Odette-Odile, Yevgeny Ivanchenko was Siegfried and Sergei Umanetc was the wicked baron.

There was lots of other good stuff which I don't have time or space to discuss:
Apparently this is the first such festival by the Mariinsky in Vladivostok. If they ever do it again I shall save my kopeks and take the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Michaela DePrince revisits Danceworks

Michaela DePrince with the Summer School Pupils
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Michaela DePrince entered the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company less than three years ago and she is now a grand sujet or soloist of the company. As the rank does not exist in English ballet companies I asked Ernst Meisner, the Junior Company's Artistic Coordinator what it meant in Ernst Meisner’s Work with the Dutch National Ballet 2 Dec 2014 and this is what he told me:
“I danced some nice roles like Hilarion in Giselle, pas de six in Rudi van Dantzig’s Swan Lake, 5 Tangos by Hans van Manen and Zuniga in Ted Brandsen’s Carmen."
These are big roles that are generally performed by principals in England and as DePrince will be performing equivalent roles with one of the leading ballet companies in the world this is remarkable progress by one so young.

A meteoric promotion at an early age is not always a good thing but DePrince is a charming young woman. I met her at the opening gala of the Amsterdam ballet season last year and "I left the Stopera thinking how that exceptionally talented young dancer was as gracious off stage as she is magnificent upon it" (see The best evening I have ever spent at the ballet 13 Sept 2015).

Last year Michaela DePrince gave a masterclass at Danceworks which Ciara Sturrock, one of her students, reported for us in Michaela's Masterclass 8 July 2015. Last month she came back again to teach the Danceworks International Ballet Academy Summer School and hold anther masterclass. Imagine the excitement that those young students must have felt to take a class from someone like her.

Michaela DePrince with older students
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company
The photo to the right shows Michaela DePrince with some older students. The timetable for the 18 July 2016 shows that she taught three classes that day between 09:30 - 10:30, 10:30 - 11:30 and 13:00 to 14:30. Lesley Osman, general manager of Danceworks, has very kindly sent me  photos of the day.

I should mention in passing that Michaela DePrince is only one of several distinguished teachers on the summer school which I discussed in Danceworks Summer School  31 March 2015.  It appears that the 2016 programme has been even more successful than last year in that it attracted 80 students aged between 6 to 18 from 25 countries.

Here is another photo of DePrince with the older students:

Michaela DePrince with older students
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Here she demonstrates a position.

Michaela DePrince 
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Here she appears to be making corrections.

Michaela DePrince 
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Here she addresses the class.

Michaela DePrince
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Michaela DePrince 
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Michaela DePrince 
(c) 2016 Danceworks, all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company
And I think you will agree that I have saved the best photo to last. A gorgeous portrait of an exceptionally talented young dancer.

My next opportunity to see Michaela DePrince on stage will come on the 7 Sept 2016 on the opening night of the 2016 - 2017 season. I also hope to see her in the Dutch National Ballet's production of La Bayadere and of Ted Brandsen's Coppelia. I will review all three performances for you in due course.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Jean-Christophe Maillot

Probably completely illogically I felt a surge of regional pride when Jean-Christophe Maillot strode on stage to acknowledge the applause of a London audience for the British premiere of his version of The Taming of the Shrew (see Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew 4 Aug 2016). Maillot is not of course a Northerner. He is not even English. But he has created what in my very humble, provincial and totally untutored opinion is the best existing work in the 2016 and 2017 season for Northern Ballet. When he came on stage I recognized him from his photo on his web page on the Northern Ballet website.

But even though Maillot is not English he will know all about regions because France has the same cultural, economic, political and social divide between capital and country as we do and he like me is definitely from the country. I suspect a little bit of metropolitan snootiness in some of the comments on his The Taming of the Shrew that were less than ecstatic. Maillot trained in Tours not Paris and he made his name in Hamburg in a country whose capital for many years was Bonn (a city with a population that is not much larger than that of Barnsley). The company of which he is artistic director is in Monte Carlo which is a stiff 9 hour drive from Paris.

Those who want to learn more about Maillot the man can glean some useful info from the Northern Ballet web page that I mentioned above, his web page on Les Ballets de Monte Carlo website and in articles by Judith Mackrell (The Monte-Carlo method: a ballet company's fairytale story 7 April 2014 The Guardian) and Mark Monahan (Jean-Christophe Maillot: 'What about people who don't know about dance?' 19 Apr 2015 Daily Telegraph). There is also the above YouTube interview that I have dug up for those who can still remember their GCSE (or in my case O Level) French.

Those of my readers who missed the Bolshoi's performances or the cinema transmission of The Taming of the Shrew earlier this year (see Competition for Cranko: The Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew streamed from Moscow 25 Jan 2016) missed a treat. You'll have to fly to Moscow if you want to see it and I am not sure when it will next be performed there. However, you can see his Romeo and Juliet in Canterbury, Woking or Belfast as well as Sheffield and Bradford this autumn (see Northern Ballet's website). And it is worth seeing.  Here's what I wrote about it in Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet - different but in a good way 8 March 2015 and Leebolt's Juliet 13 March 2015.

Finally, in case you hadn't guessed, Maillot's Shrew  is currently leading the field by a length in my ballet of the year stakes despite strong entries from Ted Brandsen, David Dawson and Cathy Marston this year.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Bolshoi's Triumph - The Taming of the Shrew

Ekaterina Krysanova as Katharina.
Vladislav Lantratov as Petruchio
Photo: Mikhail Logvinov
(c) 2014 Bolshoi Ballet, all rights reserved
Reproduced by kind permission of the company

Bolshoi Ballet, The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Opera House, 3 Aug 2016, 19:30

The Bolshoi Ballet has always been respected in this country but until last night I don't think it has ever been loved. There are many reasons for that, not least the fact that the company was seen as an instrument of Soviet soft power during the cold war coming to London as it did in the year the tanks rolled into Budapest. That may have changed with the London premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew for the audience really warned to the show. Standing ovations are quite rare in the Royal Opera House but when Maillot appeared to take a bow several members of the audience (including yours truly) felt compelled to rise.

I had seen a screening of this ballet earlier this year and of all the ballets that had been streamed from Moscow last year The Taming of the Shrew was one I had liked best (see Competition for Cranko: The Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew streamed from Moscow 25 Jan 2016). I enjoyed it all the more upon seeing it live.

The cast that I saw last night was very much the same as in the cinema trnsmission. Ekaterina Krysanova danced the title role. Her Petrucchio was Vladislav Lantratov. Olga Smirnova was her sister and Artemy Belyakov was their dad. Georgy Gusev who had impressed me as the court jester in Swan Lake made an exceppent Grumio.

Although Cranko is my all time favourite choreographer and his Shrew had always been my favourite work there are features of Maillot's production that I think I prefer. It is an amusing and very fast moving ballet. The plot is tighter than Cranko's and the score is definitely more memorable. I love "Tea for Two" in the final scene. Cranko's work and Maillot's are very different but each has its strengths.

Seeing it on stage I was struck by the similarities with Northern Ballet's Romeo and Juliet  which had also been created  by Mailot. The sets were similar (not surprising as they were both designed by Ernest Pignon-Ernest) as was the lighting. I had not noticed those similarities when I saw The Taming of the Shrew on screen.  Audiences in the UK will have a chance to see what I mean when Northern's Romeo and Juliet goes on tour next month,

One of the pleasures of World Ballet Day is comparing the style of The Australian Ballet with the Bolshoi as the latter follows immediately after the former.  The Russians are usually strong on technique and the Australians on energy and vivacity. In yesterday's ballet the company danced like Australians as much as Russians and I can't think of  a better compliment than that.