Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Hampson's Hänsel and Gretel comes to Newcastle

Hänsel and Gretel and the Witch
Illustration Arthur Rackham
Source Wikipedia

I know not why, but Dawson's Swan Lake comes to Liverpool 29 May 2016 is my most popular article. It has attracted 10,374 page views including 276 today. It is a preview of David Dawson's Swan Lake which Scottish Ballet was about to perform in Liverpool. It also mentioned Christopher Hampson's on stage promotion of Bethany Kingsley-Garner and Constance Devernay to principal ballerinas which has proved enormously popular as their elevation was well deserved, but I still don't have a clue why the internet has taken such an interest in that post. It has had far more attention than the actual review of Dawson's Swan Lake though it was far from an unfriendly one.

So, chums, I am following the same formula substituting "Hampson" for "Dawson", "Hänsel and Gretel" for "Swan Lake" and "Liverpool" for "Newcastle."  
"No chance," growls Chip the Dog on Crosby sands with mistress in tow. "Newcastle isn't Liverpewel."
Well, we shall see. Newcastle is a great city with a great theatre and a great love of dance (see Dance in Newcastle 4 Nov 2016.

Certainly, the Novocastrians have packed out the Theatre Royal well in advance for every performance. I am aways happy to learn that a company has filled a theatre and particularly so when that company is Scottish Ballet who are the first company that I got to know and love and who will always enjoy a special place in my affection. Not just for old times sake because I knew them in their Bristol days when they danced Mods and Rockers to the Beatles but for what they have become with some of our nation's finest dancers under the direction of an outstanding choreographer.

For Hampson is outstanding. I defy anyone to sit dry-eyed through Storyville. or not to be uplifted by his Four; or enraptured by his Perpetuum Mobile. His Cinderella which I saw in Edinburgh was magnificent. His  Hänsel and Gretel which I saw in Glasgow in Dec 2013 was a delight. All my favourites were in that show.  The production has received excellent reviews from the Scottish critics as it made its way from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness. The company is off to Northern Ireland after it briefly visits us.

As I said above, Scottish Ballet's season in Newcastle has been a sellout; but in case there is a return they are at the Theatre Royal on Gray Street from Wednesday to Saturday.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Prix de Lausanne 2017

Standard YouTube Licence

Last Sunday I saw Cesar Corraales dance Albrecht in Mary Skeaping's Giselle. I was very impressed with him:
"Her Albrecht was Cesar Corrales who was a wonder to watch. Charming and athletic I can see why Giselle begged clemency from Myrtha and danced with him to keep him alive. In other productions, I feel Albrecht gets off lightly compared to Hilarion, but not this time. His jumps were thrilling - especially some spectacular entrechats just before the bell struck 4 where his legs interweaved like shuttles."
I was so impressed with this young chap that I looked him up and noted that he was one of the Prix de Lausanne prize winners in 2013.  You can see a video of his performance on YouTube (see Cesar Corrales - 2013 Selections - Contemporary variation). Four years on he is already a first soloist in English National Ballet.

The finals of this year's Prix de Lausanne starts tomorrow and the winners will be announced on Saturday. There were 338 candidates 5 of whom came from the UK and, interestingly, a young woman from Iran and two others from Turkey (see the list of nationalities represented and selected).  Sadly none of our young dancers got through to the last stage. I may be wrong but I think Natasha Watson of Ballet West was the last British dancer to be selected (see Natasha Watson in Lausanne  15 Nov 2014). This year, the biggest contingents came from Japan (89 entered and 13 selected), Australia (48 entered and 10 selected) and the USA (45 entered and 5 selected). Rather more successful were the Chinese who entered 16 and 7 got through. Here is a list of the finalists with details of their nationality and ballet school.  I wish them all well both in the competition and their subsequent studies and careers.

It seems a very interesting programme, particularly on the last day when there will be performances by the German National Youth Ballet who will perform an original creation of John Neumeier called “John’s Dream” (see 2017 Interlude) and Lauren Cuthbertson and Alexander Jones of the Zurich Ballet (see 2017 Interlude II). There will also be talks, an exhibition, networking, cocktails and doubtless much more. All the great and the good from the ballet world are going. I wish I was.

Friday, 27 January 2017

The Sandman Tour

THE SANDMAN - trailer from Rae Piper on Vimeo.

In The Sandman Cometh - Chantry Dance's New Full Length Ballet 20 Nov 2016 I mentioned the Chantry Dance Company's first full-length ballet. The company has now posted a short trailer to Vimeo which you can see above.  The libretto appears to be based on Hans Christian Anderson's  The Sandman or Ole Lukøje which I discussed in Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2014 when Paul Chantry and Rae Piper danced a one-act version of the story.

With Sir Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes touring the country (see The Red Shoes Second Time Round 4 Dec 2016) and a new production of The Little Mermaid by David Nixon for Northern Ballet opening on 21 Sep 2017 at Southampton, this is the year for Hans Christian Anderson.

The Sandman will open in Grantham two days later and visit Worcester, Greenwich, Stamford, Horsham and Andover in the next two weeks.

Chantry Dance will also be at Move It in the Excel Centre on Saturday 11 March at 15:45 where Paul Chantty and Rae Piper will teach an advanced contemporary ballet repertoire class based on The Stacked Deck which they performed last year. Theoretically, tickets for the class can be booked through the Ticket Factory website and perhaps you can if you have the patience of Job and time on your hands.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Ballet Cymru's The Light Princess

The Rev. George McDonald
Author of the Light Princess
Photo William Jeffrey
Source Wikipedia

On 19 May 2017 Ballet Cymru will premiere The Light Princess, a new ballet by Darius James and his beautiful dancers, at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport. According to the company's press release of 19 Jan 2017, The Light Princess is based on the story by George McDonald with a score by Catrin Finch.

Although the story has much in common with The Sleeping Beauty it also presciently appears to have a message for our time on drought and climate change. The author was a Congregationalist minister from Scotland who is said to have mentored Lewis Carroll and inspired many other writers including W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Walter de la Mare, E. Nesbit and Madeleine L'Engle. Finch composed the music for Celtic Concerto which I reviewed in Ballet Cymru in London on 1 Dec 2015.

The company is not releasing many details of its new production. In its press release it says:
"Using elements of circus and outstanding classical choreography the story draws inspiration from Sleeping Beauty, telling the story of a princess afflicted by a constant weightlessness, unable to get her feet on the ground, until she finds a love that brings her down to earth.
Featuring ground breaking video projections and stunningly vibrant costumes The Light Princess will transport you to a world of laughter, beauty and wonder."
Following its premiere in Newport, Ballet Cymru will take the work to Bury St Edmunds, Llanelli, Milford Haven, Stevenage and Newcastle under Lyme.

I am also delighted to say that the company is taking A Midsummer Night's Dream to Preston and Sale as well as other venues in every part of the UK which will please their Northern fans greatly.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Skeaping's Giselle

Engish National Ballet Giselle Coliseum 22 Jan 2017

Giselle may have been premiered on 28 June 1841 but it is no museum piece. Feudal landowners may be a bit thin on the ground these days but there is no shortage of spoilt wealthy young (and not so young) men who behave just like Albrecht. Nor, sadly, is there a shortage of women who are hurt by them, just as much as Giselle. They may not stab themselves with swords but they suffer in other ways and sometimes their suffering can be fatal.  There is no need to reimagine Giselle.  Leave that to the audience. That's why we are there.

In contrast to Akram Khn's Giselle, Mary Skeaping's keeps Adam's score and what we believe to have been Corelli and Perrot's choreography as varied by Petipa and sets the ballet in the German countryside. I find that helpful for then I can concentrate on the interpretation.  There are lots of possibilities. As Lauretta Summerscales says in her video on how she interprets the iconic role:
"If I do it 50 times, I'm sure I'd still find in that 50th time something new."
If one ballerina who dances Giselle regularly can conjure up her character in 50 different ways, how many more interpretations must there be for those who watch different productions or even the same production with different casts?

Although I bought my ticket before I knew who was dancing, I was glad to see that my Giselle today was Elisa Badenes. I cannot recall ever seeing her before because she dances with the Stuttgart Ballet so I looked her up and found that she had advanced from corps de ballet to principal in a very short time. On the way to London, I tweeted:
She did not disappoint me.  She is a beautiful dancer, graceful. and aetherial. Her arms appear as subtle and as soft as gossamer in the wind.

Her Albrecht was Cesar Corrales who was a thrill to watch. Charming and athletic I can see why Giselle begged clemency from Myrtha and danced with him to keep him alive.  In other productions, I feel Albrecht gets off lightly compared to Hilarion, but not this time.  His jumps were thrilling - especially some spectacular entrechats just before the bell struck 4 where his legs interweaved like shuttles.

Hilarion, danced by Fabian Reimair, projected possessiveness, meanness and jealousy as well as recklessness.  For once I felt he had what was coming to him as Myrtha's wilis tossed him off stage.

As for Myrtha, she was portrayed steely and icily but with authority by Alison McWhinney. This was the first time I had noticed her in a major role but I shall certainly look out for this impressive dancer in future. Her attendants, Zulma and Moyna, danced by Rino Kanehara and Adela Ramirez, were splendid too,

The English National Ballet Philharmonic under Alex Ingram played magnificently from the opening bars of the overture. Adam's score needs an orchestra like them. David Walker's sets and costumes were gorgeous. Alex Ingram's lighting - particularly the flashes at the start of act II - conjured menace convincingly.

Altogether, one of the best performances of Giselle I have ever seen - and I have watched quite a few over the decades.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ballet Retreat Revisited - Wendy McDermott's Experience

On 4 Oct 2016 Mary Howard kindly reported on the very first Ballet Retreat last August (see The Ballet Retreat 4 Oct 2016). Two more have taken place since then - one in London and the other in Leeds. Wendy McDermott, who attends the same classes as I do in Leeds and Manchester as well as Jane Tucker's intensive workshops at KNT, participated in the January Ballet Retreat on 14 and 15 Jan 2017. She has very kindly written this report.

"Anyone that follows my twitter account will perhaps remember that I wrote
How right I was! I wrote that on the 20th November 2016, which was, at the time, the 2nd day of the London retreat, which I had missed myself! They were dancing Giselle solos, which, coincidentally, was the same date as Maya Plisetskaya’s birthday. But also coincidental because she’s my favourite ballerina in this role. (Marianela Núñez a close second. Anyhow, I digress).

The Leeds retreat was the third such event, produced by Hannah Bateman and David Paul Kierce, current and former dancers with Northern Ballet respectively. We were also lucky enough to be tutored, supported, and guided by Gavin McCaig, another professional dancer with Northern Ballet, so we were in good hands.

There remains a buzz of anticipation on the morning of the first day, as Mary Howard experienced and thus wrote for the previous retreat, only this time we went straight into warm up from 10am, instead of watching the Northern Ballet company class. This 20 minute warm up consisted of gentle, but thorough stretching to awaken the body ready for the day ahead. The lovely Hannah Bateman, current leading soloist with Northern Ballet and one of the Retreat’s producers, took us through the moves. I would have like to have done some dynamic stretching at the end but that’s just a personal preference.

A quick break followed for the usual necessities whilst the barres were being set up ready for the technique class (with company pianist) with David Paul Kierce. Readers; Dave is a force unto himself! Those of you who have taken the Thursday night beginner ballet class at Northern Ballet with Chris Hinton-Lewis and knows the energy, enthusiasm and fun he brings, will recognise the same, if not more, from David.

After lunch, provided by the Retreat, we went on to learning The Sleeping Beauty’s ‘Blue Bird’ variation, adjusted of course to suit our levels of ability but still to a technical standard to feel challenged. The men similarly separated to learn their variations.

The day ended with a really good stretch and cool down, instructed by Hannah.

Day two (and sadly the final day) took the same vein, culminating in performances from all dancers, in small groups of between four and six persons so everyone had more than enough space to spread their wings in the amazing Stanley and Audrey Burton Dance Theatre (incidentally, we had the same space for the whole two days; a luxury!) We all took thunderous applause after our solos, some taking a little longer for the reverence than others (moi , tu me dis? Pas du tout).

Judging by the dancers attending, it’s becoming a firm favourite with adult dancers from London and Yorkshire alike and will become a diary staple in the months to come. So to dancers young and not so young, male and female, I say to you, add this event to your dance diary as it is an event surely not to be missed."

Thank you, Wendy, for this great report. I am so glad that you enjoyed this Retreat. You weren't the only one. Mary also attended the January Retreat as did several of my other classmates. All spoke highly of Hannah and David.

Hannah and David have announced two more Retreats - one at Rambert's studios in London between 29 and 30 April and the other in Leeds from the 26  to 28 Aug 2017,

Saturday, 21 January 2017

How Nikiya must have felt when she saw a snake

I want to make clear that I have not been able to confirm this news. Nobody from the Birmingham Royal Ballet has been in touch with me about the cancellation of La Bayadѐre even though I encouraged readers to donate to The Big Give appeal to stage that ballet in A Birmingham Bayadere on 28 Nov. There is nothing about the cancellation on Birmingham Royal Ballet's website.  Indeed, the Big Give page on its website still bears a picture of the golden idol with the words
"La Bayadère to Birmingham, and beyond...
In autumn 2017 we will be performing Stanton Welch's amazing staging of La Bayadère. Featuring a fire god, fantastical dream sequences and a collapsing temple, La Bayadère is a classical ballet with a touch of Bollywood flair. This exciting ballet tells the story of Nikiya, a temple dancer, her lover Solor, and the terrible vengeance that keeps them apart. La Bayadère sits alongside Swan Lake and Giselle as one of the great 19th-century classics and one not so far performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet. This Christmas, please make a donation to help us bring this cornerstone of the repertory to Birmingham and our wonderful tour venues."
However, several subscribers to BaletcoForum seem to have received letters from the company advising them that La Bayadère has been cancelled owing to an unexpectedly large cut in Birmingham City Council's grant and that Birmingham Royal Ballet intends to revive Aladdin (which I reviewed in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Aladdin on 1 March 2013) instead.

If the story proves to be true I apologize to any reader who was persuaded to donate to BRB's Big Give appeal by my article. I am acutely aware that BRB competed for funds with English National Ballet and BalletBoyz who were raising money in the Big Give for their classes for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease (see ENB's Big Give to Dance for Parkinson's 25 Nov 2016) and also with Ballet Cymru which sought contributions for a new roof for its premises in Newport (see Ballet Cymru's Big Give Appeal 29 Nov 2016). Scottish Ballet was also appealing for funds for its young dancer mentoring scheme though not in the Big Give (see Scottish Ballet's Young Dancer Mentoring Scheme 10 Nov 2011). Northern Ballet had a Christmas appeal too.

I am glad to say that ENB, BalletBoyz and Ballet Cymru all met their targets as did BRB with a generous surplus so no harm would have been done. I contributed to ENB's appeal in the Big Give because it was the only cause that still had match funding just before the Big Give closed. I seem to remember from my classes at law school that gifts to a charity differ from contributions to other good causes in that they can be applied to the charity's other work by a doctrine known as cy près.  Such gifts do not have to be held on resulting trust for the contributors. I am sure that everybody in BRB acted with the best of intentions and in good faith. I will see and review Aladdin when it comes to the Lowry and BRB remains one of my favourite companies. But that does not stop me feeling very sad and not a little embarrassed about the cancellation of La Bayadѐre. I do wish the company would make a public announcement about the cancellation and not just write to some of its supporters. Above all, I do wish it would remove references to La Bayadere from the Big Give page of its website.

Postscript 23 Jan 2017

I am glad to report that Birmingham Royal Ballet has removed the reference to La Bayadère from its Big Give page. In fact, it has taken down the page altogether.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Toi Toi Toi Taynuilt

Standard YouTube Licence

Our good friends Ballet West are starting their tour of Scotland in Stirling tonight, We want them to know that we are thinking of them. Some dancers say "toi, toi, toi" at times like this. Others "chookas". Whatever works for them we wish it for them and send them all our love.

The company is giving three shows at the Macrobert Centre on the Stirling Unversity campus.  One tonight at 19:30 and two tomorrow at 14:30 and 19:30 respectively. If you live in central Scotland, hurry, for there are not too many tickets left.  The Macrobert Centre is a good venue offering free parking and a reasonably priced bar and restaurant.

Ballet West then move on to Helensburgh, Tower Digital Arts Centre 27 Jan, Paisley, Paisley Town Hall 28 Jan, Oban, Corran Halls 9 Feb, Glasgow, SECC 11 Feb, Greenock, Beacon Arts Centre 12 Feb, Livingston, Howden Park Centre 16 Feb and finish up triumphantly at Edinburgh, EICC on 18 Feb 2017.

I saw the company's 2014 Swan Lake in Pitlochry and very good it was too (see  Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014).  Most of the dancers are students this is the first opportunity to see some of the names to watch in the future.   Isaac Peter Bowry who danced the male lead in Ballet Theatre UK's Romeo and Juliet in Wakefield on 14 July 2017 was von Rothbart in Pitlochry on 1 March. Genée medallist Natasha Watson the only British dancer of her year to make the finals of Lausanne was in last year's show. Sarah Mortimer, who delighted me when she was at Ballet Theatre UK, trained at Ballet SWest some years earlier.

Ballet West have just celebrated their silver jubilee (see Congratulations to Ballet West - here's to the next 25 Years 23 Nov 2016). They may be on the edge of a small village in Argyll but they have turned out some very good dancers over the years.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Positioning Ballet - International Ballet Conference

The Dutch National Ballet will hold a private working conference at its studios in Amsterdam called Positioning Ballet between 10 and 12 Feb 2017 to coincide with the opening of Made in Amsterdam. The Purpose of the conference is to give artistic directors, choreographers and dance journalists from around the world an opportunity to exchange ideas about the future of ballet. The UK will be represented by the Royal Ballet's Director Kevin O'Hare (who also sits on the board of Northern Ballet), Tamara Rojo and Judith Mackrell of The Guardian.

The timetable for the conference is as follows:
Saturday 11th of February
09:30 – 10:15 Walk-in
10:15 – 10:30 Opening
10:30 – 11:45 Talk & discussion: Heritage
11:45 – 12:45 Lunch
12:45 – 14:00 Talk & discussion: Diversity
14:00 – 14:30 Break
14:30 – 16:00 Talk & discussion: Identity
16:00 – 16:20 Short Break
16:20 – 17:00 Wrap up

20:15 Premiere: Made in Amsterdam 1

Sunday 12th of February
11:30 – 14:00 The next step! (guest speakers and lunch)
14:00 Premiere: Made in Amsterdam 2
16:00 Reception

The discussion on "Heritage" covers "the art of programming", "ballet as re-enactment" and "heritage and innovation," There is only an hour and a quarter to cover all that ground - less than the time required for a typical ballet class - and it covers such interesting topics as "Which works are kept in the archive, based on which criteria? When is something still relevant? And when should it be revived?" I for one would just to know the decision-making process by which works like the Royal Ballet's Anastasia and Northern Ballet's Swan Lake are revived. As for "heritage and innovation" I should love to learn whetherTamara Rojo has more to say about shillelagh-wielding wilis.

"Diversity" is a topic very dear to my heart. Only 75 minutes to discuss:
"How can ballet companies better reflect the diversity of the metropolitan society in which they operate? Which steps must be taken in order to make the ballet world more inclusive? It is a fact that the stark differences in our society run along the lines of ethnicity, culture, gender and sexual orientation. During the working conference, we will focus primarily on ethnic and cultural diversity. We will also take a look at some good practices – projects that are successful in diversifying dancers, choreographers, organisation and audience."
On my very limited experience of two galas and half a dozen shows, the audience at the Amsterdam Music Theatre or Stopera seems a little more typical of the population at large than the audience of a ballet night at Covent Garden and certainly The Grand.  But it may be wishful thinking and I have no statistics to back it up. It would be interesting to find out what if any sociological research has been carried out.

Incidentally, it is encouraging that Corinne Vigreux who helped to found Tom Tom sits on the National Ballet's supervisory board.  It is rare for a tech entrepreneur to show such interest in the performing arts - at least in this country.

The last top is "Identity" and includes a discussion on whether it is still possible for ballet companies to reflect their geographical location. The company notes:
"Companies are increasingly engaging in co-production, and choreographers and dancers travel all over the world. This requires individual companies to position themselves clearly."
But was it not ever thus? Petipa was a Frenchman and Pavlova danced everywhere.  Why should a ballet company be like a football team? I am not Welsh but I am a Friend of Ballet Cymru. Too much emphasis on place reduces choice. When was the last time Northern Ballet danced in Birmingham or Birmingham Royal Ballet at The Grand or Alhambra?

I congratulated the National Ballet on this initiative.   I hope they will consider making the discussions available to the public.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Another way to help the Kids in Kibeira

Just spotted this on Danceworks' Facebook page:
!The students of our International Ballet Academy are collecting shoes and clothes to send. If you would like to contribute, please bring to Danceworks Reception."
Thanks kids and thank you Lesley.

For those interested in helping, Danceworks, is at  16 Balderton Street, London W1K 6TN.

Thank you Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Studios
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

As readers know, one of my interests is Africa.  Ever since I first heard of it, I have been beating the drum for Mike Wamaya's class in the Kibera district of Nairobi.  In Recognition for the Kibera Ballet Class 9 Jan 2017 I reported that the mainstream media had begun to take an interest in those students. The Guardian had posted a film about a film about them to its Facebook page and the Huffington Post had run a feature on them.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet saw this publicity and decided to help. Here's what they said in an email that they circulated earlier today:
"We have recently been inspired by an article from The Guardian about a ballet school in Kibera, Nairobi; a 'slum' home to 700,000 people. The young dancers there mainly learn to dance barefoot and rely on donated shoes to learn advanced techniques that can be used in performance. We were incredibly moved and inspired by their talent and hard work, so we rounded up as many pointe shoes as we could to send over via Anno's Africa with our best wishes and warmest compliments on their work."
I think that's lovely.  That news really cheered me up.

I don't know whether Mike's students have all the pointe shoes they well need other things.  Scholarships to train abroad as Joel Kioko has done is one possibility,  I shall follow this story like a terrier and report anything new.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Danza Contemporánea de Cuba

 Standard YouTube Licence

In Double Latin  7 Jan 2017 I mentioned the forthcoming tour of the UK by Danza Contemporánea de Cuba. While writing Beautiful Ballet Black 14 Jan 2017 I remembered that Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who choreographed A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet and Little Red Riding Hood for Ballet Black, will also contribute Reversible to the Cuban tour.

The above trailer gives us a taste of what to expect from in the programme. There is a bit more detail including comments from each of the choreographers and two of the dancers in The Spirit of the Cubans | Danza Contemporánea de Cuba UK Tour 2017.

The tour starts at Royal Concert Hall Nottingham on 14 and 15 Feb and moves on to the Lowry 17 and 18 Feb, Theatre Royal Newcastle 21 and 22 Feb, Barbican 23 Feb, Millennium Stadium 28 Feb and 1 March, Theatre Royal Plymouth 3 and 4 March, Brighton Dome 7 and 8 March, Eden Court, Inverness 10 March, Festival Theatre Edinburgh 14 and 15 March and Marlowe Theatre Canterbury 17 and 18 March.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Ballet Theatre UK's Romeo and Juliet

Theatre Royal Wakefield
Photo Tim Green
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Ballet Theatre UK Romeo and Juliet Theatre Royal Wakefield, 14 Jan 2017, 19:30

I have been blogging about Ballet Theatre UK for nearly three years and have reported their performances of The Little Mermaid (see Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 Apr 2014), Swan Lake (see The Bedouin of Ballet 12 Dec 2014), Aladdin (see Ballet Theatre UK's Aladdin 5 Apr 2015) and Pinnochio (see Pinnochio 6 June 2016).  It is a troupe of some 14 talented young dancers who create two full-length ballets a year which they perform in small and medium town and suburban auditoriums the length and breadth of the country. Each of those ballets is choreographed by their founder and artistic director, Christopher Moore and is either an adaptation of a well-known work such as last night's Romeo and Juliet or a folk or children's tale like last season's Pinnochio.

Through that work, Ballet Theatre UK introduces high-quality dance to audiences whose only other experience of ballet might be a show on BBC 2 or BBC 4 around Christmas or an end of term review by kids from a local ballet school. There is a complete absence of gimmickry in Moore's productions. His Romeo and Juliet, for example, is set firmly in renaissance Verona and his costume designer, Daniel Hope, has obviously spent time and trouble on researching the period in order to produce the most elaborate and what to my eyes at any rate are historically accurate representations of the elaborate headgear that might have been worn by Lady Capulet, Paris and Juliet's nurse. Phillip Moore's set consisted of a simple classical arch which, when combined with some imaginative lighting design by Russ Marquis, transported us effortlessly from the town square of Verona, to Juliet's boudoir, to her parents ballroom, to her balcony, to Friar Lawrence's chapel, the square again, the bedroom and finally to her tomb. All of those costumes and props will no doubt be dismantled and packed in the vehicle that will convey last night's show from the county town of the West Riding to Horsham in sunny Sussex.

The audience that saw last night's show got a lot for their money.  As the crowd included a fair sprinkling of children I should imagine ballet teachers and dancewear shops the length and breadth of the country owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Christopher Moore and his dancers for inspiring an endless supply of new pupils and customers all of whom will be in the market for tights, shoes and snazzy new leotards. Indeed, it may not just be children in the market for such kit as adult ballet classes are sprouting like mushrooms everywhere as I noted in Back to Class 8 Jan 2017. Those teachers, retailers, studios and theatres would probably be willing to advertise if Ballet Theatre UK would take advertising.

So Christopher Moore and his talented young dancers perform an important public service not just to dance itself but also to education, retailing and possibly even public health in getting kids and possibly some adults off their backsides and onto the barre. When the time comes for giving gongs I hope the powers that be remember him.

It is vital that this company keeps going but it is not obvious how they manage it. If they get anything from Arts Council England, which seems to have plenty of dosh for projects that seem to be much less worthy, Ballet Theatre UK don't mention it on their website or in their sumptuously designed and printed, but singularly uninformative, programmes at £5 each. They appeal for corporate giving and sponsorship on their website but if they get any they keep quiet about it. There is an acknowledgement of some 22 individual donors on the last page of the programme some of whom bear the names or at least the surnames of creatives and dancers in the company. The only advertisement in the programme is for The School of Ballet Theatre UK.

Ticket and programme sales will bring in some revenue but it can't be that much. The Theatre Royal Wakefield, which is a beautiful Victorian venue with a glorious history (see Theatre has a rich history 22 Aug 2097 Wakefield Express), seats only 499 punters. Although yesterday's turnout was not bad there was more than one empty seat.

Of the five shows by Ballet Theatre UK that I have seen since I started this blog, this was by far the best. I think it helped that I knew the story backwards.   By contrast, Aladdin and Pinnochio were not the easiest ballets to follow.

However, I think a lot of credit must go to the dancers and in particular to Isaac Peter Bowry who, like me, is a Mancunian (see Born to be a star: Wythenshawe dancer Isaac, 16, on the road to ballet success 12 Oct 2012 Manchester Evening News). Yesterday was not the first time I had seen Bowry in a major role. I mentioned him in my very first post for his performance as Drosselmeyer in Ballet West's "The Nutcracker" on 25 Feb 2013, again when he danced von Rothbart the following year (see Swan Loch - Ballet West's Swan Lake, Pitlochry 1 March 2014 3 March 2014) and Paris the year after that in Ballet West's Romeo and Juliet 1 Feb 2015. He impressed me when he was a student and again last night. I am delighted that he has found a home in Hinckley. He is a naturally talented actor as well as a strong dancer.
His glazed expression after seeing Juliet for the first time at her parents' ball was priceless.

Laia Ramon, his Juliet, also acted and danced well. Alistair Beatte handled a sword adroitly as Mercutio as did Lucien Vecchienelli who danced Tybalt. Claire Corruble, the only name I remember from the last time I saw the company, danced Lady Capulet with passion. Dominic Who portrayed her husband as not a very nice man threatening Lady Capulet as well as Juliet with a clout at one point. All danced well.

I can't tell you much about anyone in the cast except Bowry because there were no biographies in the £5 programme and the information on the dancers' page of the company's website is "coming soon" - and has been for several months. That's a pity because Gita likes to name "a man or woman of the match" but can't identify her nominee.  All she can say is that it was "that tall slender girl."

Ballet Theatre UK inspires a lot of loyalty. The mother of one of its former dancers describes the company as "fine". Another former dancer who is a Facebook friend wrote "enjoy" when I announced I was on the way to the theatre. A subscriber to Balletco Forum who identifies him or herself only as a Nottinghamshire ballet lover contributed a glowing review of the Chesterfield show to that website. As I said above, friends and family of the company, members as well as the dancers and creatives themselves have donated.  It is clearly a cause worth supporting.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Beautiful Ballet Black

Yesterday I received this very welcome message from Cassa Pancho:
"Dear Jane
We are delighted to be returning to the main stage of the Barbican in March with our new triple bill!

This year, we are presenting a new ballet by the celebrated British choreographer, Michael Corder who has created a sparkling new quartet, House of Dreams to the music of Debussy, a re-staging of our 2012 audience hit, Captured created by Martin Lawrance and our story ballet is Red Riding Hood, choreographed by the multi-award winning Annabelle Lopez Ochoa who gives us a fairy tale with a surprising twist (and helium balloons!) with costumes from Yann Seabra who designed our fabulous Swarovski tutu for Cristaux last year.
We have over 3000 seats to fill, so please help us spread the word! If you can't make it to London, take a look at our Spring tour dates at the end of this email.
Barbican triple bill premiere: 2nd-4th March 2017: https://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=20245
We look forward to seeing you at a show soon!
Best regards from Cassa & all at Ballet Black"
There followed a list of venues where they are going in the first half of this year.  The list includes Finchley, Winchester, Worthing, Birmingham, Ipswich, Salisbury and Nottingham (see the Performances page of their website for full details). Nowhere in the North as yet but they usually visit Leeds in the Autumn and there is every hope that they may be tempted back to the CAST and Lowry.

Michael Corder is described by the Birmingham Royal Ballet as "one of Britain's most successful choreographers and directors" who has created over 50 original works which have been performed by The Royal Ballet, The Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Dutch National Ballet, The Boston Ballet and The Norwegian National Ballet and many others. He studied at the Royal Ballet School and joined the Royal Ballet in 1973. As a dancer, he performed many leading roles with the Royal Ballet and also as a guest artist with other major companies.

Martin Lawrence is an associate choreographer with Richard Alston Dance Company.   He trained at Coventry Centre for the Performing Arts and London Contemporary Dance School. He danced with Richard Alston Dance Company from 1995 - 2007 and was appointed rehearsal director of that company in 2007. His first commission was  Thimble Rigging for the Meltdown Festival in 2000. Since then he has created work for Richard Alston, Scottish Ballet and Ballet Manilla as well as Pendulum, Captured and Limbo for Ballet Black. I reviewed Limbo in Extra Special - Ballet Black at the Linbury 26 Feb 2014 27 Feb 2014 and mentioned it again in What could be more thrilling than a Ride on a Roller Coaster? A performance by Ballet Black! 24 May 2014, Best Ever - Ballet Black at the Nottingham Playhouse and Ballet Black at Home in Leeds 7 Nov 2014.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa is a freelance choreographer based in Amsterdam. She trained at the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp and danced with various Europen companies before specializing in choreography in 2003 (see her Biography page on her website). Her works include A Streetcar named Desire for Scottish Ballet which I reviewed in Scottish Ballet's Streetcar 2 April 2015.  Cassa's description of Little Red Riding hood is intriguing and I look forward to comparing Lopez Ochoa's version with Darius James and Amy Doughty's for Ballet Cymru which I saw in Newport on 21 May 2016 (see Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour 22 May 2016) and Cardiff (see Ballet Cymru's "Sleeping Beauty Moment" 5 Dec 2016) and which David Murley reviewed in Little Red Riding Hood comes to London 2 Dec 2016).

On 25 Feb 2017 Lopez Ochoa will hold a one-day practical workshop on Red Riding Hood for students in higher education and training, emerging artists and professionals which will explore ballet technique generally and the repertory of the new ballet.  The cost is only £65 plus a 60p booking fee and the fee includes a ticket fo the show. There are also a number of bursary places.   To apply for a place
"Please send a CV (feel free to include images/video links) and a short written statement (200 words) on how this Weekend Lab will benefit your practice to: weekendlabs@barbican.org.uk
The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 27 January; you will be notified one week later if you have been offered a place."
That seems like a golden once-in-a-lifetime-never-to-be-forgotten opportunity to me and I wish everyone who applies for a place the very best of luck. If I were an able young dancer I would jump - nay perform grands jetes en tournant, tours en l'air and any number of entrechats - at that chance.

Finally, I could not leave a discussion of Ballet Black without reminding my readers that Damien Johnson was one of my outstanding male dancers in 2016. As it is not easy to compare a principal in a company like the Royal Ballet, Dutch National Ballet or the Bolshoi with a senior artist of a specialist company like Ballet Black I divided the award into two, one for principals and soloists of major companies who dance leading roles in full-length ballets and the other for the rest.

I did not draw a similar distinction for women dancers but partly because I did not have time but mainly because I could not decide between Cira Robinson, Sayaka Ichikawa and Isabela Coracey all of whom are outstanding.  All I can say is that it would have been one (or more likely all) of them.

I don't think I would be flattering them or exaggerating by saying that Ballet Black is one of the most attractive companies in any of the performing arts that I have seen in over 60 years of theatregoing.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Factory to go ahead

St John's Gardens
Author: R Lee
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

Ever since George Osborne MP delivered his Autumn Statement for 2014 I have been beating the drum for the Factory arts and cultural centre as a centre for dance in Manchester (see Let's bring the Royal Ballet to The Factory Manchester 11 Dec 2014, The Factory begins to take shape 26 Nov 2015 and Thanks George 8 Dec 2015). Yesterday, Manchester International Festival ("MIF") announced that it had obtained planning permission to build the arts complex as part of the redevelopment of the St John's district of Manchester (see MIF announced as operator for Factory).

According to the Festival's website:
"MIF will be the operator for Factory, creating a year-round programme of work and running the building, which is due to open 2020. Factory will give audiences the opportunity to enjoy the broadest range of art forms and cultural experiences – including dance, theatre, music, opera, visual arts, spoken word, popular culture and innovative contemporary work incorporating multiple media and technologies"
MIF has commissioned dance before.   In 2015 it commissioned Wayne McGregor's Tree of Codes which was premiered at the Manchester Opera House on 3 July 2015 and is to be performed this year at the Palais Garnier, the Musikhuset in Aarhus and Sadler's Wells. Last year it facilitated Akram Khan's Giselle which the MIF's artistic director described as “an example of the sort of collaboration we can expect to find at The Factory” (see Verity Williams MIF’s Giselle at The Palace Theatre, preview: Dancing to a different tune 15 Dec 2016 creativetourist.com).

While I was not exactly bowled over by Akram Khan's Giselle I applaud MIF's commitment to dance. Now that we shall have a 1,600 seat auditorium for Manchester there is no reason why the second city of the UK should not host its own world class resident ballet company. Ideally, I should like to revive plans for a Northern home for the Royal Ballet which the last Labour government had proposed.  If that is not possible we may have to build one ourselves from the ground up. We shall see.

Meanwhile, if anyone wants some idea as to how the Factory will look there is a great article about the Factory with some good pictures on the BBC website (see Designs approved for Manchester's £110m Factory arts venue 12 Jan 2017).

Thursday, 12 January 2017

ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble's UK Tour

ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble
(c) 2017 ŻfinMalta Dance EnsembleL all rights reserved
Reproduced wth kind permission of CAST on behalf of the company

We are likely to hear quite a lot from Malta over the next 6 months as it holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. It will be to the Maltese government that our ministers will deliver notice of this country's intention to leave the EU under art 50 (2) of the Treaty on European Union. Malta is one of our best and oldest friends having resisted gallantly ferocious attacks by Axis forces during the second world war for which the whole population was awarded the George Cross. An emblem that continues to appear on its national flag. That small island republic is an important partner in the Commonwealth as well as the EU - at least for the time being.

Even though it has a population of only 450,000 Malta has a rich culture. Its national language is Semitic though English is another official language and Italian is widely spoken. It is 50 miles south of Sicily and about 200 miles north of Libya and Tunisia. It has been influenced by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, all of whom have occupied the country at one time or another.

That rich heritage which is both Mediterranean and European is alluded to by ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, Mata's national contemporary dance company, on the "Company" page of its website:
"ŻMDE is the repertory national company of Malta that aims to thrive in the sharing and employment of a wide range of repertoire ranging from new works created in Malta by both local and international choreographers (upcoming and established) as well as the re-staging of renowned works from all over the world, thus creating a company of versatility, whilst maintaining a clear identity with its Euro-Mediterranean roots,"
The company is directed by Mavin Khoo who studied Bharata Natyam, the Cunningham technique in New York and classical ballet with various distinguished teachers around the world and has worked with Wayne McGregor, Akram Khan and Shobana Jeyasingh among others.  Its dancers come from Malta and many other countries.

ŻMDE is about to tour the UK with "five works designed to take the audience on a journey of discovery, passion and intricate choreography."  The tour starts in Swansea on 26 Jan 2017 and will move on to Birmingham on the 27, Doncaster on the 1 Feb, Derby on 2, Liverpool on the 3 and Sadler's Wells on the 9 and 10.

The performance in Doncaster will take place at CAST which I visited on 21 May 2015 to see Northern Ballet's Madame Butterfly (see Nixon's Masterpiece 22 May 2015) and Ballet Black last year (see Ballet Black in Doncaster 3 Nov 2016). The company will perform Home by Mavin Khoo and Kick the Bucket by the Spanish choreographer, Iván Pérez. Home is inspired by Spanish cinema and the films of Pedro Almodóvar. The dancers weave a cinematic narrative as the life of one man unravels on stage. Kick the Bucket is an emotional dance duet about life and death. Tickets for the performance in Doncaster will cost £16.50 (£14.50 concessions) each and may be ordered from the box office on 01302 303 959 or online at castindoncaster.com.

Rodolfo Barradas, Marketing and Communications Officer of CAST, has kindly brought this tour to my attention and supplied me with the photo that appears above. He has also sent me the text of an interview with Mavin Khoo which I plan to publish shortly before ŻMDE visits Doncaster. I also hope to find out more about dance in Malta generally. I have already discovered that there is a Russian ballet school in the republic and a dance department at the national university. I have also seen some impressive videos of some of the country's ballet students. For a place with a population not much bigger than the metropolitan borough of Doncaster occupying a very much smaller land area there appears to be a lot going on.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Thinking Big out West

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I first learned about Duchy Ballet on 29 March 2014. The reason I can date it so precisely is that I wrote in The Guys of the Golden West 30 March 2014:
"Other Golden Guys are Duchy Ballet whose existence I discovered only yesterday. This evening and yesterday they were performing The Mousehole Cat & Other Ballets at The Hall for Cornwall in Truro. Roberta Marquez of the Royal Ballet appeared as a guest artist. According to the company's website Duchy Ballet was formed to celebrate the opening of The Hall for Cornwall with the aim was of establishing a youth ballet company for Cornwall providing the opportunity to train, rehearse and perform within a professional setting. The company's choreographer is Terry Etheridge who was a guest choreographer of the Chelmsford Ballet Company some years ago and inspired and taught Andrew Potter who danced Drosselmeyer in that company's recent production of The Nutcracker (see "The Nutcracker as it really should be danced - No Gimmmicks but with Love and Joy" 20 March 2014). Potter acknowledged his debt to Etheridge on twitter this morning:
"Mr Etheridge, Found me, taught me and inspired me."
Having seen Potter's performance I congratulate Etheridge on a very good job."
I mentioned Terence Etheridge and Duchy Ballet again on 17 Sept 2016 in Ballet in Cornwall while I was on holiday in Looe.  I added that their next production will be The Sleeping Beauty at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro. 

Today I learned that Aurora will be danced by Laura Bosenberg, one of the senior principals of the Cape Town City Ballet. To get some idea of how she dances watch the YouTube clip of her performance in Camille with Tom Thorne, one of the male principals of the company.  Founded only 3 years after the company that eventually became the Royal Ballet the Cape Town City Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in the Commonwealth.  According to Wikipedia John Cranko was a member as was Phyllis Spira Africa's one and only prima ballerina assoluta. Margot Fonteyn has danced with the company as have Carla Fracci, Beryl Grey, Nadia Nerina and many other famous stars.

I suppose I should not be surprised.   A company that can attract a principal of the Royal Ballet of the stature of Marquez thinks big. It is not only in America that they think big out West.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Sasha Mukhamedov's Elevation to Principal

Sasha Mukhamedov in La Bayadere
Photo Altin Kaftira
(c) 2016 Dutch National Ballet
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

At the end of last year the Dutch National Ballet announced three important promotions. Sasha Mukhamedov and Qian Liu became principals and Michaela DePrince a soloist. I have already mentioned DePrince's elevation in Not just Christopher Hampson who makes onstage promotions: Michaela DePrince's Promotion to Soloist 28 Dec 2016. I am delighted by the news and congratulate all three dancers.

I am particularly pleased by Mukhamedov's promotion for two reasons.  The first is that she was born in the United Kingdom and trained at Tring, the Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst. The second is that I saw her dance an extract from La Bayadere at the opening night gala in September (see Dutch National Ballet's Opening Night Gala - Improving on Excellence 9 Sept 2016 and Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere - the Highlight of my World Ballet Day 5 Oct 2016) and then the whole ballet on 13 Nov 2016 (see Dutch National Ballet's La Bayadere 14 Nov 2016).  She danced beautifully in that ballet and just as Fonteyn is my Marguerite and Sibley my Titania she will always be my Nikiya.

Mukhamedov's progress has been meteoric. She first came to public attention as a medallist in the Youth America Grand Prix in 2007 when she was only 17. She joined the company the following year rising to coryphée in 2010, soloist in 2012 and now principal ballerina.

I watched her greet her fans, pose for photos and sign their merchandise after her performance in La Bayadere with considerable grace and good humour.  Some ballerinas are admired but not always loved.   She is loved as well as admired.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Recognition for the Kibera Ballet Class

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I first wrote about Mike Wamaya's ballet class in Nairobi in What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013:
"In many ways the kids in this class have had the worst possible start in life but in one very important respect they could not have had a better one. Look at the teacher, Mike Wamaya. He is good. I googled for some more information on Mike and I found an even better clip from CNN and this article in The Daily Nation. These films show what can be achieved from the discipline not only in the studio but also in the class room and in life generally. Something that I and most readers of this blog in many walks of life are likely to have found out for ourselves."
I mentioned them again in Back to Africa 7 Jan 2015, Revisiting Kenya with Obama 25 July 2015 and Al Jazeera features the Ballet Class in the Nairobi Slums 19 Oct 2016.

In the last of those posts, I mentioned that students from Kibera were taking classes at the Dance Centre Kenya which is directed by the US dancer Cooper Rust. On 3 and 4 Dec 2016, some of those dancers took part in the Dance Centre Kenya's performance of The Nutcracker at the Kenya National Theatre (see Dance Performance: The Nutcracker by Dance Centre Kenya, Dec. 3 & 4 2016 @ the Kenya National Theatre 2 Dev 2016 Nairobi Now :: arts, culture and events). Those performances were, of course, big news in Kenya (see Billy Odidi Holiday season starts with ‘The Nutcracker’ dance 1 Dec 2016 Business Daily) but the class was noticed internationally.   The Huffington Post featured the artists in  Striking Photos Of The Ballet Program Bringing Strength To One Of Africa’s Biggest Slums 14 Dec 2016 and now The Guardian has added a film about them to its Facebook page.

Now that this remarkable initiative has been discovered it is important not to forget it. These kids need encouragement and resources and it is important to build on what has already been achieved.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Back to Class

Author Lambtron
Source Wikipedia
Creative Commons Licence

With the honourable exception of Danceworks which has remained open for business throughout the Christmas holidays (see  Working off the Christmas Pud 21 Dec 2016) there have been no dance classes since the third week of December. In case there were other classes open in this period don't moan at me for not mentioning them. At the end of that article I wrote:
"Should any dance studio or accredited teacher run a class in any dance style anywhere in the UK between now and 9 Jan 2017 I will publicize it here, in Facebook and on twitter. Indeed, I shall even try to attend and review it if it is at all possible."
Did you get in touch with me?  Well then.

For most of us adult ballet classes start this week.  Yippee!  Not a moment too soon in my book. I attend improvers classes at Northern Ballet Academy and occasionally Dance Studio Leeds in Leeds and KNT in Manchester.

I am aware of excellent classes in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newport and Sheffield and will put you in touch with them if you care to contact me.

"All very well for you" I hear you say, "you live close to three big cities but I live in the back of beyond."  Well, there are great classes even in rural neighbourhoods. Ballet West runs adult ballet classes in the Western Highlands and Terence Etheridge teaches ballet in Cornwall.  Ask around and if you still can't find one I am sure I can find you an RAD or ISTD accredited teacher with full insurance near a church hall, gym or community centre who can take you on.

"I would have loved to have done ballet when I was young but there wasn't time because .................." Usual  reasons are competing attractions, lack of time, pressure of exams or more immediate priorities on the family budget.
"That's OK, you can start now."
"But I'm much too old aren't I?"
"Rubbish! I reply. "I started when I was 64. I shall be 68 on Valentine's Day. I am a relative stripling. There are students years older than me in Leeds and the BBC reported that there was a student in Scotland who was over 100."
Northern Ballet run 4 classes in Leeds for students aged 55 or over and I am aware of similar classes in Glasgow, London and elsewhere. There is also the RAD's "Silver Swans" programme. No. You are never too old to take up ballet. Or even perform it.  I have danced twice in Northern Ballet's Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre and once in the Dancehouse at Northern Ballet School.

"How much will these classes set me back?" About £6 or £7 a session in Leeds or Manchester. A little bit more in the Smoke but, even there, the cost of classes won't break the bank.

"But I'm not the right shape or size. I'd never fit into a leotard."

First, you don't need a leotard. Trackie bottoms or leggings and T-shirt will do and, at least for the first few classes, you can dance in bare feet. Secondly, I am not exactly sylphlike as anyone who has met me can confirm but I have bought kit to fit me from Just Ballet in Southend, Planet Dance in Batley and Mr Frog in Huddersfield.

You can spend a fortune on dancewear but you don't have to. All you need are a couple of leotards which you can get from £20 or less each, a couple of pairs of shoes, again for £20 or less, maybe some dancers' tights which are a bit more than you would pay for a pair of opaques in Tesco and a devil to put on and a ballet bag to keep them in. Oh and a towel.

"How long does a ballet class last and what happens?"

Between 60 and 90 minutes.

First, there is the warm up. Different teachers have different techniques. My favourite way is to start with a gentle walk around the studio, then move the arms in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction, then a gentle run, then change direction 30 seconds in, skipping facing out, skipping facing in, Jumping Jacks up and forwards.  Warm up finishes with some stretching exercises.

The class starts with pliés. Plier means "to fold" in French and this exercise consists of bending the legs - like a badger or maybe a copper (the constables in this clip can also do some tendus, simple jumps and even lift their serjeant). Then there are leg and foot exercises known as tendus. After that there are glissés, ronds de jambe and several others that you can look.   In all of those exercises the student can hold a rail known as "the barre" to steady him or herself.

After about 20 to 30 minutes at the barre the teacher calls the class into the centre of the studio and repeats some of the tendu or other exercises so that the student can find his or her balance. The teacher then combines some of the steps he or she has taught the class into a simple exercise known as an enchainement which the students practise as a group and then try to repeat in smaller numbers.

Next come turns - either chaines or pirouettes which is a sort of pons assinorum in ballet - a bit like Pythagoras's triangle in maths. You either pick it up immediately if you are well co-ordinated or you struggle and I am sorry to say I am one of the strugglers.

Then there are the jumps and they are my favourite part of class. Simple ones to start with and then more complex ones with the evening ending in joyful soaring grands jetes or temps leves which I shall leave you to look up.

Quick cool down exercises. Bows or curtseys to the pianist and instructor.  Then everyone leaves chatting and giggling and wondering where the time went.

There's a picture of a dance classs circulating the internet with the words
"Money can't buy you happiness ....... but it can buy you a dance class which is kinda the same thing."
I'd go along with that.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Double Latin: Contemporary Dance from Cuba and Cherkaoui’s m¡longa

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In The Year of the Swans: My Review of 2016 27 Dec 2016 I wrote that two of the highlights of the year were the visits by NDT2 (see NDT2 at the Lowry 24 April 2016 and Prickling - NDT2 in Bradford 1 May 2016) and Alvin Ailey (see Alvin Ailey in Bradford 29 Sept 2016 and Alvin Ailey in Bradford 8 Oct 2016) to the Alhambra and Lowry. The Alhambra and Lowry are members of a group of theatres in Great Britain and Ireland known as Dance Consortium that collaborate to bring leading dance companies from around the world to the UK and Republic of Ireland. Their website is worth visiting not just for news of current tours but also for the vast accumulation of articles, videos and other resources on dance companies, choreographers and artists to be accessed through the Features page.

This year, the Dance Consortium will bring two Latin American companies to this country:
There are very interesting companies and I look forward to seeing both.  

The Cuban company will present three works that have not yet been seen in the UK: Reversible by Annabelle López Ochoa, The Listening Room by Theo Clinkard and Matria Etnocentra  by George Céspedes. Reversible is described by the Dance Consortium website as:
"Hot Cuban passions, sass and wit all meet in Reversible by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. It delves deep into the path of gender matters, sudden changes in relationships, the games, rivalry and pleasure of being opponents and dissidents. To an eclectic soundtrack including music by Jean-Claude Kerinec & Staff Elmeddah, Kroke, Scanner and Eric Vaarzon Morel, Reversible is a captivating comment on gender, spoken in Lopez Ochoa’s trademark quirky style, this time with a Cuban accent."
The Listening Room was partly funded by the British Council as part of the Islas Creatvas collaboration between the UK and Cuba. The music is by Steve Reich and the work is described as "a celebration of expressive and instinctive dancing" with the dancers in headphones responding to an alternate soundtrack of wildly diverse music and text.   Matria Etnocentra is said to portray "the tension between the fluidity of music and dance and the regimented nature of daily life in Cuba."

Having travelled extensively through Argentina in 1988 and 1998 I am particularly looking forward to Cherkaoui's m¡longa. According to Wikipedia
 "Milonga dance incorporates the same basic elements as Tango but permits a greater relaxation of legs and body. Movement is normally faster, and pauses are less common. It is usually a kind of rhythmic walking without complicated figures, with a more humorous and rustic style in contrast with the serious and dramatic Tango."
Choreographed by  Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui consists of 10 tango dancers from Buenos Aires, two contemporary dancers and a tango band of five musicians. This dance form is enthralling almost hypnotic to watch. Its antecedents are unknown but it developed in the area of Buenos Aires known as La Boca (or "Mouth") which has a history as colourful as the decoration of its houses.