Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Ballet Retreat

According to its website The Ballet Retreat is a joint venture between David Paul Kierce and Hannah Bateman to produce "two and three day, adult ballet courses, held at world class professional studios for dance enthusiasts, facilitated by industry experts." The first of those courses took place in Leeds last bank holiday weekend (27 to 29 Aug 2016) and was attended by Mary Howard who is a regular member of my adult ballet classes at Northern Ballet Academy in Leeds. I asked Mary to write about her experience and this is what she sent me:

Led by
Hannah Bateman and David Kierce

​There is a buzz of anticipation in the beautiful glass reception area of Northern Ballet's home in St Peters Square Leeds. It's the first day of our Ballet Retreat and everyone is anxious about how the day will progress. Hannah is calm and smiling behind her desk where we all sign in to accept our name badge and T-shirt. David is bouncing with energy and greets everyone with enthusiasm. ​I look around to determine how many other dancers are in my age group (over 60) there are a few which is good. There are also some male participants which is very good because they are a rare and welcome species.
Whilst we all mingle and chat over coffee, I start to feel much more relaxed. At 10:00 O'clock we watch the Northern Ballet Company at their training class in the main Burton theatre. This is amazing and very inspirational. At 11:45 we warm up with Hannah for half an hour. Beautiful relaxing exercises mostly on our Yoga mats. Now it's time for a Ballet Class in technique with David. This is very different to my usual  "0ver  55" class, and I love it. We have a wonderful pianist but David's voice carries well above the music so instructions are clear. He is very entertaining whilst also being firm in his requirements of our dancing. He misses nothing and occasionally stops to correct an arm position or foot that may be straying. After this we all welcome the delicious and plentiful buffet lunch laid on by the catering team.
After lunch there is a further one hour ballet class involving exercises carried out in the centre of the studio. Following this one hour of Classical Repertoire, Hannah joins us and we begin to learn the Aurora Variation from The Sleeping Beauty. This is the culmination of a fabulous day, the music and steps of the Variation are light and so expressive of a young girl who is presented for the first time at an adult ball. After cooling down and relaxation I float down to the station in a thunderstorm of hail but also an imaginary fluffy cloud.
Over the next two days the curriculum follows a similar pattern, except on Sunday afternoon there is a Surprise Taster Class of traditional Indian dancing which involves moves that are totally alien to classical ballet: no pointed toes and much stamping of the feet. In the Classical class's we progress the Aurora Variation to it's finale. This is very rewarding and I begin to feel the exhilaration of a performer!
On Monday afternoon David extends the seating area of the theatre and whilst most of the group are seated, five people at a time perform the Variation to thunderous applause from the "audience". I must say that our six male dancers who tackled a very energetic routine from Swan Lake received not only applause but whistles and shouts of extreme enthusiasm. They were magnificent.
We exited the theatre and after a delicious afternoon tea it was time to bid farewell to our new friends, many hugs, kisses and selfies were taken. Sadly the three days were over too quickly and how I would have loved to carry on for much longer. Maybe I will see you in a future Retreat?"
I am very grateful to Mary for this report. As I would have expected, the weekend seems to have been great fun. I have seen Hannah on stage many times and I admire her dancing very much indeed. She is one of my favourite dancers with Northern Ballet - indeed with any company. Having seen Akram Khan's remake of Giselle for English National Ballet last Tuesday I for one should like to learn more about Indian dance.

Hannah and David have announced two more retreats. One at Rambert's studios in London between the 19 and 20 Nov 2016 and the other at Northern Ballet's studios in Leeds between the 14 and 15 Jan 2017. The London retreat costs £199 and the Leeds retreat £279. Places may be booked through David and Hannah's website.

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