Sunday, 31 December 2017

Class Review - Adam Pudney Wednesday Night Beginners at Pineapple

Beginners' Ballet:  Adam Pudney, 8 Nov 2017 Pineapple  

One of my favourite dance teachers is Adam Pudney. He teaches at Danceworks and Pineapple.  I have had only three classes with him but these have been some of the most useful ever (see Pineapple 20 Nov 2013 and (Another Slice of Pineapple 12 July 2015). If I lived in London I would be one of his regulars.

The last time I attended one of Adam's classes was on 8 Nov 2017. I had travelled to London to do what I had expected to be a stinker of a case that turned out rather well.  As I had expected the case to go into a second day I had allowed myself an extra day in the Great Wen. Finding that I did not need it I had time to scurry off to 7 Langley Street for the beginners' class with Adam.

Every time I have attended Adam's class I have had to climb up from the basement to the very top of the building. I don't know whether Adam teaches in any other studio but that is where I have always found him.  Climbing those stairs is almost a workout in itself.  Unlike my teachers in Leeds who start off with a walk round the studio, followed by arm stretches, followed by a run (and in Jane Tucker's case a sudden change of direction), followed by jumping facing in, jumping facing out, jumping jacks and stretches in accordance with the Ichino method, Adam does not make us do any of that, but we are more than ready for the first exercise by the time we arrive.

Adam focuses on detail and he spends a fair proportion of the class getting the basics right.  The video, Ballet Tutorial: Port de Bras with Adam Pudney on the Pineapple YouTube channel shows just what his classes are like.  I was led back to ballet by Adam's compatriot, Fiona, over four years ago and although I am not exactly the right shape or size for ballet I was sure that I had picked up something. Too right I had.  The first 20 minutes with Adam showed me exactly how many bad habits I had fallen into each of which he pointed out with enormous courtesy and corrected with equal assiduity.

Once Adam was satisfied that we had mastered the basics (at least for the time being) he proceeded to some barre exercises. More bad news for me.  My pliés were terrible and my tendus not much better and as for my glissés and ronds de jambe, the less said the better.  But we finished the barre and then proceeded to a difficult but very beautiful enchainement in the centre.  There was time for pirouettes.  Mine are appalling but I think I could actually get them right if I could take Adam's class regularly because he breaks the exercise down into elements that even I can understand. Those who take to them easily are annoyingly well-coordinated types who just do not appreciate the metal effort of rising onto demi, bending the legs, positioning the arms and spotting all at the same time. Though I doubt that he ever had a problem with doing all that at the same time, Adam is sympathetic. He understands that some of us do.  And he really helps us to get it.

The class was over far in an hour.  That was far too soon.  I was just getting into my stride when Adam called us into the centre for cool down and reverence.   Classes in Pineapple are quite a bit more expensive than in the North because you have to take out temporary membership of the studio but they are worth the extra.  It was well over two years since my last trip to Pineapple.  I hope I do not have to wait quite so long for the next one.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Rambert in Bradford -

Standard YouTube Licence

Rambert   Triple Bill:A Linha Curva, Ghost Dances and Goat, 16 Nov 2017 Alhambra

 One of the most memorable shows that I attended in 2017 was Rambert's triple bill at the Alhambra which I saw on Friday 16 Nov.  The company presented three works:
Three very different works and it seemed to me that all had a loose connection with Latin America.

My favourite work of the evening was A Linha Curva.  I had seen it at The Lowry the year before (see Red Hot Rambert 1 Oct 2016).  I loved it then:
"Rambert's party piece on Thursday was A Linha Curva. The stage consisted of percussionists in a box above the dancers. The work began with chants by male dancers in gigantic, reflective metallic collars which was answered by calls and screeches from the women. The stage exploded into a carnival of movement fuelled by the relentless beat of the musicians. The effect was quite hypnotic and the performers' vitality and vivacity were infectious."
I loved it even more the second time round for its colour and energy. I loved the chanting, the screeching and the rhythm. Such a contrast to the other two works which, while beautiful, were much more sobering.

Christopher Bruce created Ghost Dances in 1981 when Leopoldo Galtieri held power in Argentina and Augusto Pinochet.  Both used death squads to remove political opponents.  Spooks who visited opponents in the middle of the night and spirited their victims away.  The faceless skeletons moving to panpipes could easily represent them at one level.  At another level, they could represent the spirits of the dead  in the belief systems of the Andean tribes that had been transposed only imperfectly into the religion of the Conquistadors.   At either level it was a very disturbing work reminding audiences of their mortality and vulnerability.  But at the same time it was also eerily beautiful with elegant jumps. I should like to see it again - but not in a hurry.

The last work was also disturbing.  The "goat" in this piece had two legs not four.  The human goat was chosen for much the same purpose as a scapegoat.  Duke explained in the programme notes:
“In the village where I was brought up there was a tradition on New Year’s Eve of writing on a piece of paper two things you wanted to rid yourself of – it could be something bad that had happened to you, or something bad that you had done. The pieces of paper were placed inside a can which was tied to the tail of a goat. The goat was supposed to disappear over the horizon and take our sins with it. Usually it ran for five seconds or so then stopped to eat some grass. Some years it came running back towards us…” 
There was a lot going on in this work. A running commentary from one of the dancers and dialogue from others. Some dance, of course, and a lot of singing on stage.  According to Ben Duke's YouTube clip, rehearsals started immediately after the London Bridge terror outrage. It is in thus a commentary on the role of art in the politics of the times.

Not exactly a laugh a minute but life is brief for all and insecure for many and it does no harm occasionally to be reminded of that.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Paris Opera Ballet's Don Quixote

Standard YouTube Licence

Opera National de Paris  Don Quixote Opera Bastille 25 Dec 2017, 19:30

Although Don Quixote is not one of my favourite Petipa ballets it does have some spectacular choreography. Similarly, while I greatly prefer his score to La Bayadère, Minkus's score has some lovely tunes including the Queen of the Dryads's solo and the rumbustious final pas de deux.  Also, Don Quixote makes a change from The Nutcracker which the Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Scottish Ballet are all serving up for Christmas at home.

I had only seen the Paris Opera ballet once before in the Palais Garnier some 45 tears ago. I remember a grand défilé by the ballet students. I was told by my companion, Pamela (who had some to Paris to study with Madame Preobrajenska at the Salle Wacker) that the students were referred to disparagingly as les petits rats.  The stage seemed massive. Much bigger than Covent Garden's.  However, I can't remember anything else about the show which means that it could not have impressed me very much.  My second experience of the company came last night when it performed Don Quixote at the Opera Bastille.  I can safely say that I won't forget that show in a hurry.

Spectacular choreography needs virtuoso dancers and Isabella Boylston is a virtuoso par excellence.  She launches into grands jetes almost as soon as she appears on stage and hers seemed as graceful and effortless as any I have seen before. She danced Kitri who ends the show with spectacular fouettés.  I have seen plenty of those from lots of Odiles but the excitement that Boylston generated with hers at the Bastille last night could not have been exceeded by Legnani herself.

Boylston was partnered by Mathieu Ganio who was magnificent. He danced Don Basilio in which I had previously seen Carlos Acosta. Though I greatly admired Acosta in that role, Ganio surpassed him both as a soloist with the spectacular jumping and turns in his final solo and in the way that he helped Boylston to shine. That is the sort of partnership of which legends are made like Sibley's with Dowell.  Whether it can develop and flourish with Ganio in Paris and Boylston in New York is anybody's guess but if I ran the Paris Opera Ballet or American Ballet Theatre I would do my best to make sure it did.

We saw lots of other excellent performances last night: Erwan Le Roux as Sancho Panza, Fanny Gorse  as the street dancer, Amandine Albisson as the queen of the Dryads and Yann Chailloux as Don Quixote himself. Everyone was impressive not least the corps de ballet which was one of the most polished and disciplined that I have been fortunate enough to see.

With costumes  by Elena Rivkina and sets by Alexandre Beliaev the production was gorgeous. The Opera Bastille was designed as an ideal venue for ballet and although it lacks the charm of Covent Garden or the majesty of the Garnier it is probably one of the best places in the world to see a full length ballet by a major company. 

I sat towards the back of the stalls and enjoyed a perfect view.  The theatre has been designed to ensure easy access and egress.  If you want a drink you enter a cordon where you wait your turn.  No ostentatious waving of bank notes or sharp elbowing here. Having paid about £10 less for seats in the stalls than I was charged by Covent Garden for the back amphitheatre I was ready to sing the Bastille's praises .................  until I was stung for €5 for a tonic water and €12 for a programme (albeit a very thick and informative programme much of it in English).  Like a budget airline the essentials are cheap enough and if that's all you want well all well and good. But if you want any extras - even a postcard from the well stocked theatre shop - caveat emptor.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Degas, Dance, Drawing

Standard YouTube Licence

Musée d'Orsay, "Degas, Danse, Dessin" 28 Nov 2017 to 25 Feb 2018, Paris

Edgar Degas died on 27 Sept 2017. To mark the centenary of his death, the Musée d'Orsay has assembled many of his most famous works in an exhibition called Degas, Danse, Dessin. It  has run from 28 Nov 2017 and will continue until 25 Feb 2018. The name comes from the title of an appreciation of Degas's studies of dancers by Paul Valéry.  It has been translated into English under the title Degas, Dance, Drawing.

Many of Degas's most famous works are there including The Ballet Class, The Orchestra Pit and The Dress Rehearsal. The work that first caught my eye was Degas's La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze AnsI had seen it before but never looked at it closely. It depicts a young ballet student standing in 4th position with her hands clasped behind her back performing a rather uncomfortable exercise that has been taught to me. The figure is almost lifelike. It has hair tied back with a ribbon and wears a tunic, skirt and ballet shoes just like a modern student. The most realistic feature of the sculpture (if that is what it can be called) is the expression of concentration and perhaps just a little discomfort on the statue's face. I wear that expression at some point in almost every class I attend and I have seen that expression on all my fellow students too.

There were other sculptures of dancers in bronze on display and I looked at them with fresh eyes too.  One was doing a tendu, another an arabesque, yet another a penché and so on. These are exercises that every ballet student and, no doubt, every dancer attempts in almost every class.  Looking at some of the figures I noticed imperfections.  At first those imperfections irritated me rather like the podgy figures in his paintings who look nothing like the highly toned athletes who appear on stage today. But then it dawned on me. Degas was not idolizing the dancers on stage any more than he was idolizing laundry workers in Les RepasseusesHe was studying women (and it seems to be all women) doing hard physical work. So very different from the wives or daughters of princes, merchants and aristocrats who are rather better represented in the world's art galleries.

The exhibition was themed on Valéry's book which is not well known even in France. It was published in 1937 some 20 years after the artist's death. Fragments of the author's notes were on display next to the artist's sketches some of which I attempted to read.  I was very tired on Saturday morning having had very little sleep the night before and there was only so much of Valéry's observations that I could take in. it is probably advisable to read the book and make multiple visits to appreciate the exhibition fully.

A thought that struck me after visiting the show is that there are hardly any men in his ballet paintings and sculptures.  There is a ballet master in the ballet class and there are men in the orchestra pit but none on stage.  Male dancers were regarded less highly than now in the late 19th century but they would have been around to dance such roles as Albrecht and James.  Degas seems to have ignored them completely and one has to ask "why?" 

Degas was around when Diaghilev brought his Ballets Russes to Paris in 1909. They caused a sensation at the time.  Other artists working in France such as Matisse and Picasso actually worked for the company. Degas seems to have shown no interest in the Russians and they showed no interest in him.  Again, the question has to be asked "why?".

This had been my first visit to the Musée d'Orsay. It is a converted railway station just like GMex in Manchester (see the History of the Museum pagon the museum's website). It is a work of art in itself, particularly the murals in the restaurant. It has a massive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, sculpture and design including the biggest collection of Van Gogh's that I have seen outside Amsterdam.  I visited as many of the collections as I could but its sheer scale defeated me.

If you plan to visit the exhibition try to read the book first. Don't expect an idolization of the ballet.  On the contrary, if like me you are an adult ballet student you may be reminded uncomfortably of yourself.  Finally, if you don't like his dancers, remember that Degas also painted horses. Indeed, he seems to have been kinder to them than he was to women.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Windrush Studio Sharing

Phoenix Dance Theatre Windrush – Movement of the People,  Quarry Hill, 15 Dec 2017, 15:30

On 22 June 1948 the MV Empire Windrush, a former German troopship, sailed into Tilbury docks with just under 500 passengers from Jamaica. Those travellers came to London to fill a temporary labour shortage as the United Kingdom recovered from the Second World War. The voyage symbolizes a movement of peoples of enormous economic, cultural and political significance both for those taking and for the communities in which they settled.  Other travellers came to the UK from other Caribbean islands and other parts of the Commonwealth. There were also similar movements from the Caribbean to Canada, from the rural south of the USA to the industrial north, from the overseas possessions of other European powers to France, the Netherlands, Portugal and many other countries.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the voyage of the Empire Windrush, Sharon Watson is creating a new dance piece entitled Windrush: Movement of the People which will be premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 7 Feb 2018. I was lucky enough to see a preview of the work on 28 Sept 2017 (see Phoenix - A Double Celebration 14 Oct 2017). Last Friday at a sharing of work in Phoenix's studios I was shown some more.  It was not an easy watch and I did not expect it to be.  As I noted in October the first part of the work was harrowing enough as it showed the separation of families". As we know what happened after those travellers arrived - Notting Hill, Smethwick and Enoch Powell - I expected the second part to be emotionally harrowing. But I did not expect it to hit me as hard as it did. Tears welled up to the words "You called and we came". The artists who had been so full of exuberance in the first act appeared almost ghost like as they experienced the greyness and cold of post-war Britain.

At least some of those tears were generated by memories of my late spouse who came from Sierra Leone.  My father in law, an Anglican minister. and my mother in law. a nurse, had come to this country about the time of the voyage of the Windrush.  My spouse was brought up by aunties and cousins in Freetown and remembers a land of abundance, sunshine and love. In 1955 my father and mother in law sent for their child. At first the voyage was delightful but as the ship entered the Western Approaches everything became dark and cold. Not even the sight of my father and mother in law at Liverpool docks comforted the child.  Eventually the child adapted to life in the United Kingdom, read law and was called to the Bar which is how we met. We had a marriage that lasted nearly 27 years which was strong enough to withstand racism, all the travails of practice and even my gender dysphoria. Only motor neuron disease broke us up in 2010.

Sharon Watson's genius was to say something to me but at the sharing of work I realized that I was not the only one with memories to share and perhaps tears to shed.  The daughter of the captain of the Windrush was at the sharing. So, too, was one of the passengers, a magnificent gentleman who must have been in or close to his 90s who rose ramrod straight to acknowledge his welcome. Sharon Watson's family were in the audience as were others who had made their home in Leeds and contributed so much to the city.

Even though the work is still not quite finished, Windrush is already a success.  After opening in Leeds it will tour the country visiting Keswick, Cheltenham, Doncaster, Leicester, London and Newcastle as well as a quick crossing to Aachen for the Schrittmacher Festival.   I left details of this work with the Dutch National Ballet when I visited them on Sunday.  Aachen is only 125 miles from Amsterdam and there is a motorway and fast train all the way.  A trip to the show and back is doable without an overnight stay.  I would certainly urge them as well as my compatriots in the rest of Britain to see this mighty work

KNT Nutcracker Intensive

Standard YouTube Licence
Since August 2015 KNT Danceworks has offered adult ballet students an opportunity to learn some of the choreography of the world's great ballets in one or three-day intensive workshops. I find them extremely useful in that they have enhanced my appreciation of Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Bayadère. The Nutcracker and Coppelia, they have afforded some insight into the life of a dancer which has greatly increased my already high respect for them and they have provided an incentive for me to stick at my Tuesday evening classes with Karen Sant in Manchester and Wednesday evening classes with Jane Tucker in Leeds or find an alternative class when I can't make one of those classes.

Here's what happens. We assemble in the students' canteen at the studios of the Dancehouse Theatre in Oxford Road. They are actually the studios of Northern Ballet School where many of my favourite teachers in Leeds as well as Manchester trained. The Dancehouse, for those who don't know Manchester, is located on Oxford Road where the city's two universities, the Royal Northern College of Music and its major teaching hospitals are to be found. Also, it is almost opposite the Palace Theatre which is one of two venues in Manchester for visiting ballet companies. Sometimes these companies actually hold their classes in the same studios. The theatre is 100 yards from Oxford Road station and there is an NCP car park literally round the corner in Chester Street offering a special rate for motorists on Saturdays between 09:00 and 17:00.

At about 10:00 Karen leads us up one of the rehearsal studios where we meet our instructor. For most of those intensives our Instructor has been Jane Tucker who is my regular teachers in Leeds. However, last Saturday our intensive was taken by Martin Dutton who had taken us for class earlier in the year (see Dutton at the Dancehouse 20 Feb 2017) while Jane took the more advanced students.

I regret to say that I joined the class after it had started (partly because I had to attend to some papers before I could leave and partly because road conditions over the tops were less than optimal) so I am unable to say how the class started but Jane usually begins with floor exercises for which we are instructed to bring Pilates mats. I joined the class in the warm up exercises at the barre so I think I must have received a full class.

One of the differences that I have noted between male teachers and female ones is that a male teacher is far more ready to spot faults such as arms in the wrong place in second and they are not afraid to correct them. I appreciate that.  It costs me a lot to attend class - not so much for the tuition which is only a few pounds but in travelling time from Holmfirth which effectively writes off 6 hours of the day - and I like to think that I leave the studio at the end of the session a better dancer than I was when I arrived.  Of course, I quickly learned that ballet doesn't work like that. "Ballet is a tough task mistress who is out to break you" said Fiona, the teacher who led me back to ballet after a gap of 40 something years. Well, when someone says something like that to me I am determined to prove them wrong.

Anyway, Martin put us through our paces with a very brisk barre teaching us some of the steps we would need for The Nutcracker in the centre.  We cooled down with some floor exercises and prepared for  the repertoire class. Martin had chosen two dances for us: Sugar Plum and the snowflake dance at the end of Act I just before the choir comes in to sing "La, la, la, la, la"; "La, la, la, la, la"; "la, la, la, la, la"; "la, lally, lee, la, la, la" or something to that effect.  We put a lot of work into Sugar Plum and by the end of afternoon all of us had picked up at least some of it.   At the end of the class we show off what we have learned to Karen and she or one of the other teachers films us. The video displayed above is from last year's intensive when Jane was our instructor but I think you can get a general idea of what it is possible to learn in a day.

For the snowflakes dance I was given the role of first snowflake. My job was to run onto stage, present with my arms in fifth, do a pas de chat with a smile, turn, do an arabesque and scarper.  I have no idea whether I got it right. Whenever I see a video of my dancing I am reminded of a performing bear who is a full 2 second behind everyone else but nobody threw rotten eggs or shouted at me so I carried on. I re-entered later with two other snowflakes with arms in open fifth on demi-pointe and we danced to the back of the stage where we turned and presented.

Jane had advised us in the first intensive to take a hot bath followed by a cold shower.  It usually works but this time it just gave me a cold.  I was as stiff as a board when I woke up at 03:30 to catch the 07:30 flight from Ringway to Schiphol but the prospect of seeing The Sleeping Beauty by one of the world's great companies somehow kept me going. For my review of that performance, see The Dutch National Ballet's "The Sleeping Beauty" - I have waited nearly 50 years for this show 20 Dec 2017.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The Dutch National Ballet's "The Sleeping Beauty" - I have waited nearly 50 years for this show

Standard YouTube Licence

The Dutch National Ballet The Sleeping Beauty, Stopera, Amsterdam 17 Dec 2017, 14:00

It's funny how some performances stand out in one's memory over the years.  The performance of The Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet on 22 July 1972 was one of those. Dame Margot Fonteyn danced Aurora and Rudolf Nureyev Florimund.  It was a glorious evening and I saw the show when I was at a high point of my life, shortly after graduating from St Andrews and just before I was due to take up a scholarship to UCLA.

I've seen many excellent performances of The Sleeping Beauty since then by Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Hungarian National Ballet and lots of other companies including the Royal Ballet. None has come close to that show on 22 July 1972. It was for me the gold standard. At least not until last Sunday. Now, over 46 years after that remarkable performance by Fonteyn and Nureyev, I have seen its peer.

The matinee that I attended on Sunday afternoon had been staged by Sir Peter Wright, It is a production that I had seen several times before and know very well, Although the music, choreography and designs appeared to be the same as those I had seen before, Sunday's show had a freshness, an energy, a je ne sais quoi that somehow distinguished it from all previous performances of that ballet since 1972. The reason why it was so good is that HNB is one of the world's great companies and very special as Sir Peter noted in a YouTube clip to promote a previous revival (see Sir Peter Wright has wonderful words for the company (Dutch National Ballet) HNB 6 Dec 2010). In fact, when a gentleman in the seat next to me asked how it compared with London I replied that for my money HNB was the best company in Europe if not the world.

HNB has some brilliant dancers. Aurelia was danced on Sunday by Maia Makhateli. Although she trained in Georgia and the USA she seemed to dance very much in the English way displaying a pleasing line and considerable virtuosity but without exaggeration or gratuitous theatricality. Her rose adage was superb and readers can see her performing it in Maia Makhateli Sleeping Beauty Rose Adagio 28 Oct 2016 YouTube. It is the best I can remember. I should add that Ms Makhateli is as charming off stage as she is impressive on it for when I asked her to sign a card to my contributor, Helen McDonough, in a signing session after the show she knew exactly to whom I was referring.

Ms Makhateli was partnered gallantly by Daniel Camargo. He is a very powerful but also very graceful dancer and he can also project emotion and feeling as well as any voice actor. In those regards he reminds me very much of Nureyev at the same age.  Sunday's performance was the first time I had seen him in a major role and I was impressed,  His rise to principal in Stuttgart over just a few years was meteoric. Although he is still quite young, he has already achieved a lot.  His potential must be considerable.

As Perrault's tale is essentially a struggle between good and evil, the most important characters are perhaps the lilac fairy and Carabosse.  Erica Horwood was a delightful lilac fairy but the prima ballerina, Igone de Jongh, was the best Carabosse I have ever seen, Both appeared with their attendants and Carabossse's were particularly creepy. The other fairies, Jessica Xuan, Suzanna Kaic, Yuanyuan Zhang, Naira Agvannean, Aya Okumura and Maria Chugai, danced exquisitely There were strong solo performances in the final act. I particularly liked Young Gyu Choi's and his partner Suzanna Kaic as the bluebirds and Clotilde Tran-Phat and Daniel Montero Real as the white cat and Puss'n Boots. Everyone in the cast danced well but this overlong review would resemble a telephone directory if I gave every artist the credit he or she deserves.

The Stopera's enormous stage displayed Philip Prowse's gorgeous costume and set designs to optimum advantage.

It was thrilling to sit in centre of the second row of the stalls just a few feet behind the celebrated conductor Boris Gruzin. It was tantamount to being in the orchestra pit. Indeed, it was almost like being on stage.

The Sleeping Beauty will run to New Year's Day but, sadly, almost every performance is fully booked. However, Birmingham Royal Ballet's version, also produced by Sir Peter Wright and also very good, is about to go on tour.  It will visit Southampton between 31 Jan and 3 Feb, Birmingham between 13 and 24 Feb, Greater Manchester between 28 Feb and 3 March, Cardiff between 14 and 17 March and Plymouth between 21 and 24 March.

Finally, I must apologize to readers for the long and embarrassing delay since my last post in November. I have made made copious notes of Rambert's Ghost Dances at the Alhambra, Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid in Sheffield, Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Nutcracker in Birmingham and the Russian State Ballet and Opera House's Romeo and Juliet in Harrogate not to forget the preview of Sharon Watson's Windrush, cinema relays of the Bolshoi's Le Corsaire and the Royal Ballet's Alice in Wonderland and The Nutcracker, Martin Dutton's inspiring Nutcracker intensive, great classes at Pineapple and Huddersfield and the Arts Council's seminar on grant applications. I will try to get these out to you by the end of the year.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Tutti Frutti - Phoenix's Over 55 Contemporary Class

Morley Town Hall
Licence Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Every Monday between 11:00 and 12:15 during the Leeds school term I get to dance to Little Richard with a roomful of other ladies in my age group in  Morley Town Hall. Our teacher is Tanya Richam-Odoi and she is fab. The class is part of the Young at Arts programme which is delivered by Phoenix Dance Theatre. I discussed that programme in Growing Old Disgracefully in Morley 28 Sept 2015.

The class starts with a cup of tea or coffee and a right old natter.  After our caffeine fix, Tanya calls is to order in a circle with some gentle arm swinging, then some finger work,  leg and foot stretching, standing on one leg while rotating the foot on the other leg. Once we have warmed up she teaches us some routines in a contemporary idiom.  Right now we are learning Tutti Frutti which starts with four steps to the front, four to the back, then side steps rather like glissades with side bends, a lot of lunges to the right and left with "She bops to the east" and "she bops to the west". We simulate saxophones and guitars. We do more deep stretching, then another routine and finally a thorough cool down which is like a routine in itself.

Tania takes a personal interest in her students who clearly adore her. They tell her about their aches and pains, their news and there is a lot of hugging, Tania practises something called craniosacral therapy. I could be wrong, but the photo of her home page reminds me of Calgary Beach on the Isle of Mull which brings me to the other reason why I like her. She is very, very, very Scottish which reminds me of my salad days at St Andrews. These were the happiest time of my life. Tanya also reminds me of my first ballet teacher at St Andrews who was also Scottish. She taught me to jump to her clapping which still resound in my brain (never mind what the music is playing) when the teacher tells us to do grands jetés.

The class is open to everyone over 55.  It costs £3 including the tea and biscuits. You can park for free in Morrisons' car park and enter through a ginnel (or wynd) in the left side elevation of the building.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Ballet Black post Johnson - Still a good performance but something was missing

Author Jynto
Reproduced with kind permission of the author

Ballet Black Dopamine (You make my levels go silly), Captured, Red Riding Hood 18 Nov 2017 Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre Leeds

If anyone is interested, the photo above is a model of a molecule of dihydroxyphenethylamine or dopamine. It appears above because I can't use a lovely photo of  José Alves and Marie-Astrid Mence in Michael Corder's House of Dreams that I received just after I had published my review of Ballet Black's triple bill in Nottingham and which I had been saving for my review of their performance in Leeds.

I should begin this post by congratulating Damien Johnson on joining the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Washington DC. I wish him every success with that company. Damian was my Outstanding Male Dancer of last year. Ironically, the last time I saw Ballet Black coincided with Damien's tenth anniversary in the company (see All Hail to the Lone Star Dancer 23 June 2017). Had I known in June what I know now, I would have queued at the stage door to shake his hand as he was one of the most exciting dancers on the British stage. He is an American so I suppose it is only right that he will now delight audiences in his native country as he delighted us. I am told by David Murley who attended the Red Riding Hood workshop in February that Damien is a good teacher.  I had several opportunities to attend one of his classes.  I now feel like kicking myself for letting those opportunities slip.

I surmise that one immediate impact of Damien's departure is that the company no longer had a second man for House of Dreams.  It substituted Dopamine (you make my levels go silly) which is a duet. It was danced beautifully by Cira Robinson and José Alves. I had last seen it four years ago when José partnered Sayaka Ichikawa on a previous visit ti Leeds (see Ballet Black is still special 7 Nov 2013). The rest of the programme proceeded as advertised with Martin Lawrance's Captured and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Red Riding Hood.

It was a good performance. Ballet Black retains excellent experienced dancers and has a very promising recruit in Ebony Thomas.  Mthuthuzei November wowed us with his flirtatious virtuosity as he had wowed the Nottingham Playhouse and the London Barbican.  Sayaka was an excellent Red Riding Hood adding a soupcon of fun and naughtiness to her veneer of innocence. Grandma was as funny and dazzling on pointe as ever.  The cast danced their hearts out and they were rewarded with hearty applause.

Yet something was missing and that something was Damien.  Ballet Black has lost some fine dancers in the past such as Sarah Kundi and Kanika Carr who seemed irreplaceable at the time but it always recovered stronger than ever.  The company will no doubt get over the loss of Damian in time but he will be the hardest gap to fill.

This is Ballet Black's last performance in the North. They will appear in Portsmouth on the 21 which seems to be the last stop on their current tour. If you live or happen to be in Hampshire or Sussex on that day I urge you to see them.  They will then work on their 2018 season which will include a revival of Arthur Pita's A Dream Within a Midsummer Night's Dream. The company was recently nominated for the best creative artist in the Black British Entertainment Awards. They have recently achieved National Portfolio funding from the Arts Council England.  They are still a fine company and those like me who wish to support them can do so by subscribing as a Friend.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Always Something Special from English National Ballet: La Sylphide with Song of the Earth

Standard YouTube Licence

English National Ballet  La Sylphide. Song of the Earth Palace Theatre, 14 Oct 2017, 19:30

Long before Laverne Meyer set up his Northern Dance Theatre in Manchester, Mancunians had a special affection for English National Ballet. The company, then known as London Festival Ballet, gave its first performance in our city. Every year it returns with something special. Last year, it was the Akram Khan's Giselle.  This year it was La Sylphide with Song of the Earth.

Because it is set in Scotland, I have often argued that it should be our national ballet but very few British companies dance it.  I have seen Danes, Americans, Italians and Australians in kilts but never Scotsmen. The Royal Ballet has a version but they last danced it in 2012 (see La Sylphide on the Royal Opera House website). Scottish Ballet has Sir Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling in its repertoire which was performed brilliantly by Ballet Central last year. One company that would be ideally placed for this ballet is Ballet West which is actually situated in Gurn and Effie country. I have begged Daniel Job to stage this work but for some reason or another, it is just not possible.

To my mind, it is much more satisfying than Giselle.  I prefer Løvenskiold's score to Adam's any day and the idea of the ghosts of spurned maidens dancing their lovers - or indeed any other man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time - to death gives me the heebie-jeebies.  The story in La Sylphide is so much more reasonable even if it does have mythical creatures like sylphs and witches.

The version that English National danced last month was Andersen and Kloborg's version rather than the Peter Schaufuss's which was previously in its repertoire. The Queensland Ballet brought it back to London in 2015 and I reviewed it in A dream realized: the Queensland Ballet in London 12 Aug 2015. I liked both versions very much but if I had to opt for a favourite it would have to be the Andersen and Kloborg. It has a certain lightness of touch and parts of it such as the fruitless search for the hidden sylph and her cheeky leaps across the stage are even quite funny.

Jurgita Dronina was a perfect sylph. Playful, ethereal, enticing. Easy to see why James was led astray on his wedding day. Isaac Hernández was that wayward James. Magnificent with his jumps and turns but so weak of resolve.  Giorgio Garrett was the scheming Gurn.  Jealous and treacherous, catching Effie of the rebound. I felt glad not to be in her shoes as the wedding procession made its way to the kirk in the final scene. Anjuli Hudson played poor, sweet Effie.

My favourite character in any production of La Sylphide is, of course, Madge. The bag lady turned away from the fire by a mean-spirited James. Her dance with the other witches at the start of Act 2 is chilling and thrilling.  Her's is a dramatic role not easy to perform. Justice was done to it, however, by 
Stina Quagebeur.

A particular pleasure for me was to see Sarah Kundi as Effie's confidante, Anna. Sarah is a dancer that I have admired for many years. She led me to Ballet Black and I have followed her closely at ENB. Even though I have long been one of her fans and also support Chantry Dance and the Chantry School I had never actually met her. As we follow each other on Twitter and Facebook I asked her how she would feel about meeting two of her fans after the show. No problem was the reply so Gita and I, together with Helen McDonough waited for her at the stage door. Gita, who is a champion chef had prepared a little Diwali treat for her.

Often when a fan meets a favourite artist it is something of an anticlimax. But not with Sarah!  She was as charming and gracious in real life as she is delightful to watch on stage. She accepted Gita's gift and chatted about her roles for several minutes until she had to board the coach that was to take the company from the theatre. Helen, who was armed with an autograph book, got several signatures that night including Sarah's. 

Meeting one of my favourite artists went a long way to offsetting my only disappointment of the evening,  For some reason or other the local authority had closed Albert Square for an event but had failed to give adequate warning. The result was gridlock and chaos as we approached the theatre. I managed to drop Gita at the theatre steps minutes before the curtain was due to rise.  I had to park. I had to drive to the top of the multistorey to find a seat which meant that I missed the start of the show. Consequently, I was obliged to watch Song of the Earth on a flickering monitor with crackly sound in a noisy bar. I had chosen that performance expressly to see Tamara Rojo and, sadly, I missed her,

But it was still a great evening and I still have the chance of seeing Song of the Earth at the Coliseum in the New Year.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Tale of Two Onegins

Author Helen McDonough
© 2017 All rights reserved

Helen McDonough

La Scala Ballet Onegin 28 and 29 Sept 2017 La Scala Theatre, Milan 

I travelled to Milan at the end of September to catch 2 performances of Onegin at the Teatro Alla Scala. It is one of my favourite ballets because it has it all – drama, love, tragedy, great music, great choreography. The version being performed by La Scala was the definitive Cranko one, which I do not think can be bettered.

Set to the stunning music of Tchaikovsky, beautifully played by the La Scala Orchestra under the baton of Felix Korobov, the dancers brought the story to life. The two casts I saw were as follows:

28 Sept 2017
29 Sept 2017
Gabriele Corrado
Emanuela Montanari
Alessandra Vassallo
Agnese Di Clemente
Timofej Andrijashenko
Claudio Coviello
Mick Zeni
Riccardo Massimi

The performance of Nuñez as Tatiana was great. She really owns the role of Tatiana. You could see her joy in playing the innocent girl with a crush (or is it love?) for Onegin....Bolle was greeted with lots of applause as he entered the stage looking very elegant in the all-black attire of Onegin. The roles of Olga and Lensky were well played by Vassallo and Andrijashenko although he wobbled a bit with some of his positions to start with but settled down later. One of my favourite parts of Act 1 is the fabulous running leaps across the stage lead by Olga and Lensky followed by the flying corps de ballet. The corps was wonderful on both nights, I found them pretty precise and stayed well in their formations.

In the bedroom pas de deux, Nuñez was fabulous. Bolle performed well considering he is not as young as he was. He managed all the lifts and jumps. Being seated at quite a distance, and even with opera glasses, it was hard really to get their facial expressions. But the drama of the pas de deux came across well. Contrast this to the following night when the younger Corrado brought added lightness to the lifts and jumps and I think I preferred him as Onegin. Montanari is a more mature ballerina and playing the older Tatiana suited her better than the younger girl of the earlier acts. I was left wondering what Corrado and Nuñez would have been like together!

The second cast benefited from having principal dancer Coviello as Lensky. He was far more confident and assured and his technique was much stronger than that of Andrijashenko. I was really impressed with Coviello. Equally impressive was the delightful Agnese Di Clemente who is very young but danced the role of Olga perfectly. I happened to meet her mother and brother at the stage door after the show. Vassallo also danced Olga very well.

The peasant dances and ballroom scenes were beautifully danced by the corps de ballet on both nights and I do wonder if the second performance I saw had “the edge” because they were not dancing with an Etoile? I must praise the male corps dancers for dancing with great gusto in the Act 1 peasant dances, some showing off their party piece jumps which were pretty spectacular!

The final Act 3 pas de deux between Onegin and Tatiana was really good in both performances. Some of the moves that the dancers have to perform at the end of a 3 act ballet were pretty demanding. Tatiana has to get up off the floor straight en pointe then bend backwards and then there is a move where Tatiana is on the floor (again) and gets pulled up by Onegin into flying splits it must be very hard to do this late on in the ballet so all credit to the dancers.

It was definitely good to see a second performance on a successive night because I started to notice choreography I had not noticed before. For example, Olga and Lensky having an animated argument at the back of the ballroom after Onegin has flirted with Olga much to the dismay of Tatiana.

It made a pleasant change to see a different set and costumes for the ballet although the choreography was Cranko’s. The women in the corps de ballet had lovely sparkly evening gowns for the ballroom scenes. Tatiana wears a lovely deep blue velvet dress for the final pas de deux in Act 3, rather than the usual dull purple gown with white lace collar.

On balance. I think the second performance was my favourite though I thoroughly enjoyed both and they were equally good. As I said earlier, I think it would have been very interesting to see Nuñez with Corrado. Nonetheless, both performances ended with rapturous and seemingly endless applause. There were numerous curtain calls on both nights with the dancers coming back 2, 3 even 4 times, even after the lights had come on.

For the first performance, I was seated on the highest tier in La Scala, the Second Gallery, with a front row seat and a great view of the stage. On the second evening, I had a central box seat (a stool actually) but with a very good view too even though there was a person in front of me. I could only afford the box because it was a Scala Aperta night when tickets are 50% off subsidised by the City of Milan and only go on sale one month before the show.   I’d highly recommend giving it a go for the ambience. Scala Aperta nights do not tend to have étoiles but Scala Aperta are still worthwhile.

I was thrilled to meet all the dancers after the shows at the stage door. For me, that really rounds off the experience. All were very happy to sign autographs and have photos taken by the many adoring fans. It was quite a rugby scrum for Bolle!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Ballet Cymru's Shadow Aspct

Carl Jung

Ballet Cymru Shadow Aspect, Riverfront Theatre, Newport, 6 Nov 2017

Though I doubt that either profession would thank me for mentioning it, ballet dancers share a lot more than you would imagine with barristers.  I know one of those professions inside out as I have practised law for 40 years. Ballet I know much less well because I experience it mainly from the stalls. Such insights I have come mainly from reading and the occasional conversation with a dancer or ex-dancer and perhaps on some aspects my adult ballet class.

One of the similarities is that there are gradations of stats. At the Bar, we have silks or Queen's Counsel and in ballet, there are principals (ballerinas and premiers danesurs nobles).  We learn out skills by watching the silks in action if we are lucky enough to be led by an eminent QC. From what they tell me ballet dancers learn by performing with the greats in very much the same way.

Those thoughts crossed my mind on Saturday as I watched Mara Galeazzi dance with Ballet Cymru in Tim Podesta's  in Shadow Aspect at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport. I have always had a lot of time for the extraordinarily gifted young artists of Ballet Cymru but their performance that evening was the best I have ever seen them do.  They were inspired by Galeazzi and they danced like angels but that was not the only miracle I saw.  They energized Galeazzi and she danced in a way that I had never seen her. It was an hour and a half of magic.

According to the programme,  Shadow Aspect referred "to the unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious mind does not identify in itself. In short, the shadow is the dark side where individuals are defined and bonded by their mutual feelings of isolation." They quoted Carl Jung:
“To know yourself, you must accept your dark side. To deal with others’ dark sides, you must also know your dark side.”
Well, I will take their word for that.  As a no-nonsense Northerner, I didn't look for meaning. Just the pure of the movement.

I should say a word about the score. It was by Jean-Philippe Goude about whom I knew next to nothing before the performance but I was captivated by it and now want to hear everything he has written.  A word too about the designs for which Podesta collaborated with the architect Andy Mero. They were as bare as possible. No backcloth.  At one point just the bricks of the back wall. With Yukiko's costumes and Chris Davies's lighting. their starkness was dramatically effective.

Immediately after the show, the company had to trundle off to London where they repeated the show at Sadler's Wells.  "Thank you for coming!" said Darius James and Amy Doughty as if I was doing Ballet Cymru a favour by grabbing my reviewer's ticket with both hands. "Sorry there's no reception" as if I go to Newport for anything but the dance. Attending that performance was very special and it will be a long time before the memory fades.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Northern Ballet's MacMillan Celebration

Standard YouTube Licence

Northern Ballet A Celebration of Sir Kenneth MacMillan Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, 7 Oct 2017, 19:30

Kenneth MacMillan died on 29 Oct 1992. On the 25th anniversary of his death, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet and Yorke Dance Project have joined in a national festival of his work. The focus of this celebration was a special season at Covent Garden to which each of those companies contributed.

Before going to London, Northern Ballet performed three of MacMillan's works at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford between the 5 and 7 Oct 2017:
The company will dance them again in Leeds on 16 and 17 March 2018. 

These were not the jolliest of works for a Saturday night. One ended with a suicide.  Another was about the First World War.  Concerto was abstract but it can hardly be described as a bundle of laughs. MacMillan did create more cheerful ballets such as Elite Syncopations.   It would have been good to have included something like that in the programme.  There may have been some in the audience who had never seen MacMillan's work before.  Those audience members would have gained a better impression of the extent of his genius had some of his lighthearted work been included.

Las Hermanas means Sisters in Spanish and it was based on La casa de Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca which is subtitled Drama de mujeres en los pueblos de España ("Drama about women in rural Spain"). Though set in Andalusia on the eve of the Spanish civil war it was first performed in Argentina just before Juan Domingo Perón came into power. Melancholy runs through this work like the name of a seaside resort through a stick of rock.

As in Lorca's play, there are five sisters who range in age from 20 (Adela) to 39 (Angustias) plus their mother (Bernarda) but, unlike the play, there is a powerful male role for Angustias's fiancé, Pepe. Bernarda is in mourning for her second husband and she insists that her daughters mourn too. They sit at home without companionship as their lives tick by. Pepe enters the home,  He dances first with Angustias but she is tight and tense. Adela is more receptive but she is spotted by one of he sisters who betrays her.  Overcome with shame, Adela hangs herself. 

MacMillan created the work for the Stuttgart Ballet. His cast included Marcia HaydéeBirgit KeilRay Barra and Ruth Papendick who were among the most celebrated dancers of their time.  Appropriately,  Northern Ballet deployed its "A" team. Hannah Bateman was the eldest sister and Javier Torres her fiancé. Minju Kang was the wilful Adla, Pippa Moore the spiteful jealous sister and Victoria Sibson the tyrannical mother. Rachael Gillsepie and Mariana Rodrigues were the fourth and fifth sisters.  

Another impressive feature of this performance was the elaborate set by Nicholas Georgiadis, Georgiadis collaborated with MacMillan on many of his ballets including his Romeo and Juliet which is a masterpiece of theatre design. According to Kenneth MacMillan's website, it was Nicholas Georgiadis, who suggested the balletic possibilities of Lorca’s play.

I would be lying if I said I enjoyed the work. It is chilling, depressing and very dark. But I was very impressed by the dancers, the technicians who recreated and assembled Georgiadis's magnificent designs, the lighting staff and everyone who was involved in the production. Artistically and technically it was one of the best performances by Northern Ballet that I have ever seen.

Concerto was another work that MacMillan created while in Germany. This time it was for the Berlin Opera Ballet. His dancers included Didi Carli, Falco Kapuste, Lynn Seymour, Rudolf Holz and Silvia Kesselheim. Its score is Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2.  The work consists of three movements. The first consists of a leading lady, a leading man and six soloists. The second movement is a pas de deux. The third movement has a leading lady and the corps. According to MacMillan's website, the original performance was danced against a plain background the dancers in tunics of olive and ochre. Northern Ballet's sets and costumes were redesigned by Lady Deborah MacMillan with the dancers in brighter colours.  On 7 Nov 2017 Antoinette Brookes-Daw and Matthew Koon were the leading dancers in the first movement, Abigail Prudames and Joseph Taylor danced the pas de deux and Dominique Larose was the leading lady of the third movement.

MacMillan created Gloria for the Royal Ballet in 1980 after he had ceased to be its artistic director. It is an elegy to the youth who died or were injured in the first world war. Inspired by Vera Britten's Testament of Youth with music by Poulenc it is a highly emotional, haunting and intensely spiritual work. The males are soldiers (or perhaps spirits of soldiers) clad in khaki and very insubstantial looking helmets. If the men could be taken for ghosts the women are unambiguously ghostlike glad head to foot in white or grey. The dancers rise over a ridge as though clambering out of a trench to charge the enemy lines. On World Ballet Day, David Nixon contrasted the stage of the Alhambra with that of the Royal Opera House where the ridge looked real.  Lorenzo Trosello danced a solo, Mimju Kang and Giuliano Contadini a pas de deux. Sarah Chun, Ashley Dixon, Nichola Gervasi and Sean Bates a pas de quatre and Dreda Blow joined Hannah Bateman, Abigail Prudames and Dominique Larose in a dance for four women.

Sadly, the Alhambra was less than full on 7 Oct 2017 and I think that was because of the programming. While audiences do not expect to be jollied every time they go to the theatre there is only so much doom and gloom a body can take - especially with all the other horrible things that are happening in the world. It would also have been nice to have had a programme. I received a cast list eventually but only after I had hunted down a duty manager.

But these are niggles. Anybody who stayed the course was rewarded by some exquisite dancing. My standing order for another year's sub to the Friends of Northern Ballet went through last week. It is money well spent.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Dance as an Act of Worship in the Durga Puja Festival

© 2017 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

In Bayadère – The Ninth Life Shobana Jayasingh traces the origins of Petipa's ballet to a visit by temple dancers from Pondicherry to Paris in 1838. The dancers were observed by Théophile Gautier who described them in less than flattering terms (see my review of 28 March 2015). It is not clear how Gautier's encounter in Paris inspired Petipa's ballet in St Petersburg nearly 40 years later but that is another story. The point is that Jayasingh's story fascinated me. When I got a chance to see Indian classical dance in a temple, I seized it with both hands.

My opportunity arose on the festival of Durga Puja. This year it took place between the 26 and 30 September. It celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga over the buffalo demon Mahishasura which symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.  It is celebrated all over India but different regions celebrate it in different ways. I saw two traditions on the last night of the festival: a ceremony at Liverpool Ganesh Temple which included some gorgeous dancing by a dance company from India and a communal celebration at Merchant Taylors' Boys' School in Crosby, another district of Liverpool.

The worshippers at the Ganesh Temple seemed to be of Tamil heritage and dance was just one part of the ceremony.  There were processions one of which led the barefooted worshippers outside the temple into the Liverpool drizzle, incantations which I believe to have been prayers and purifications. We were made very welcome by the priest and worshippers. Although much of the worship was in Tamil (or possibly Sanskrit) the important announcements were made in English.

After space had been cleared for the dancers we were invited to sit on some matting.  The priest introduced the dancers several of whom were blind and at least one of the others was without speech or hearing.  I have to say that had I not been given that information I would never have guessed that any of them was challenged in that way because they were so beautifully poised. In one of my ballet classes, the teacher had asked us to close our eyes once we had found our balance on demi. I was quite unable to hold my position even for a few microseconds.  They certainly did not have that problem.

A gentleman who acted as their spokesman explained that they came from India and that they raised money from their performances to train other young people suffering from disabilities in other skills. The scenes that they were to dance were three episodes from the Hindu scriptures.  There about 8 dancers all but one of whom were female.  They were clad in beautiful green costumes. They were coifed immaculately and wore the most exquisite makeup.

This was my first experience of this style of dance in a religious setting and I cannot begin to do justice to everything I saw.  There was a recorded commentary in English on each of the performances. Though their movements were very different from ballet I noticed a few similarities. They seemed to turn out their legs from their thighs as we do and some of their gestures and arm movements were similar. Small hand and finger movements which would be almost undetectable in a theatre seemed to be significant.

I would have loved to have spoken to the dancers and asked them about their training but there was just not enough time. We had time only to exchange greetings as we wanted to catch the last few houses of the celebrations in Crosby.  Ganesh, with his elephant's head, is my favourite Indian deity.  He is a patron of the arts and sciences and solver of problems.  The story of how he acquired his elephant's head is delightful. When I was in Geneva last week for the WIPO domain name panellists' meeting, an Indian colleague gave me an image of Ganesh to me as a talisman and it now occupies a place of honour in my home.

Merchant Taylors' School is one of the leading schools in Liverpool and it has produced some distinguished old boys including a former Archbishop of Canterbury. It reminded me a bit of my old school when it was in West Kensington. A large hall which had been converted into a shrine. A band was on the stage and a sort of altar of religious symbols was in the centre of the floor.  Folk were dancing around the altar and seemed to be enjoying themselves though I was told that their dance was an act of worship too. Vegetarian food and soft drinks were on sale in an anteroom and an ice cream van at the entrance seemed to be doing a roaring trade despite the dismal weather.

I learned that most of the worshippers at this event were from Gujarat in the Northwest of India. I spoke to several of them all of whom were professional men and women with practices in Liverpool.  About 22:00 we each procured a pair of brightly decorated sticks about 18 inches long.  Mine are in the photograph that appears above. Dancers arrange themselves in pairs and strike each other's sticks in a specified sequence and then change places. I regret that I never quite mastered that choreography but I did have fun. I also managed to participate in a group dance that involved three steps to the right, three to the left and then some short jumps back before the set changes direction. That reminded me a little bit of American square dancing which I tried when I was a graduate student at UCLA,.

The crowd continued dancing with their sticks until well after midnight. The band played a tune which I understood to be the equivalent of the Lord's Prayer. There were speeches from the organizers and votes of thanks. It had been a splendid climax to a magnificent festival.