Thursday, 6 October 2016

At Home with the Chelmsford Ballet

Annette Potter, Artistic Director of the Chelmsford Ballet Company
Author Jane Lambert
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

I first learned about the Chelmsford Ballet Company nearly three years ago (see The Chelmsford Ballet 15 Dec 2013). I joined the company as a non-dancing associate shortly afterwards. Since joining I have written a lot about the company and attended all its shows (see The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmicks but with Love and Joy 20 March 2014, A Delight Indeed 22 March 2015 and A Real Beauty: Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty 25 March 2016. It was only on Sunday that I got a chance to visit the company at its home in Chelmsford.

The occasion was the company's annual general meeting which took place at the headquarters of Chelmsford Young Generation Amateur Music Society ("CYGAMS"). CYGAMS is located on a recreation ground just outside the city centre which would have taken hours to find before the development of satellite navigation. Google maps guided me the 208 miles from my home without a hitch and I reached the room where the meeting was to take place with time in hand.  I already knew the company's chair, Marion Pettet, its artistic director, Annette Potter, and its publicity officer Jessica Wilson. I had met some of the front of house volunteers at the annual shows and, of course, I recognized some of the dancers, but this was my first opportunity to chat with them.

The AGM was conducted very briskly and efficiently but also quite thoroughly. Minutes were approved. The office holders and committee members were introduced. The chair reported on the year's activities which were impressive. The treasurer and other officers reported on their respective stewardships. Everything seemed to be managed most satisfactorily. The officers and committee were re-elected and received a vote of thanks from the floor.

Chelmsford Ballet Company's Rehearsal Studio
Author Jane Lambert
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert - all rights reserved
After the meeting the artistic director showed me the studio where the company class and rehearsals take place and the properties store which are also located in CYGAMS.  As you can see from the photo, the studio is spacious with a sprung floor, a wooden double rail barre, a carpeted area for an audience and a baby grand in the corner. It stands comparison certainly with the studios at the Northern Ballet School where my evening classes with KNT take place and even the top studio of Northern Ballet and Phoenix Dance Theatre's premises at Quarry Hill in Leeds.

Chelmsford and District Model Railway Club
Author Jane Lambert
(c) 2016 all rights reserved
The props store was next to the rehearsal studio and it was a veritable treasure chest.  There were flags, halberds and items of every conceivable kind of scenery. The company had been particularly adventurous and innovative in its use of projected graphics in  its production of The Sleeping Beauty earlier in the year. Annette Potter told me a little about how those effects were achieved. She was very proud of her technicians' expertise and she commended them as warmly as she did her very talented dancers.

As I was about to set off for the trek home to Yorkshire I heard a whistle blast and the chugging of a locomotive. I turned to investigate and found this tiny engine dragging its driver and passengers around a miniature railway track. A kindly gentleman in a smiley faced t-shirt with a North American accent told me that the track was operated by the Chelmsford and District Model Railway Club. He invited me to take a ride and I would gladly have accepted
Photo Jane Lambert
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert All rights reserved 
had it not been for the prospect of a long drive home. There were also miniature traction engines wheezing in the space between the tracks. It all seemed a lot of fun.

I told the North American gentleman that I had driven down from the North to attend the Ballet Company AGM. He told me that the Model Railway Club often receives visits from curious dancers whom it is delighted to welcome. He wished me a safe journey to my Borealian fastness. Coming from the other side of the Atlantic he may well have regarded 208 miles as no big deal. A Sunday afternoon drive if he hailed from somewhere like Texas or Alberta but it was a long way for me.

I have to say that Chelmsford with its friendly people and many activities is my kind of town. It is good that engineering is pursued as energetically and enthusiastically as dancing and the other performing arts that take place at CYGAMS.

I look forward to returning in March (if not before) for Annette Potter's new ballet, Alice's Adventures, which will run at the Civic Theatre from the 22 to 25 March 2017. Other events that will take place shortly are Lets Make a Ballet for local children on 16 Oct 2016 and the Christmas concert with the local choral society in Brentwood on 17 Dec 2016.

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