Sunday, 15 April 2018

KNT's One Day Workshop on La Bayadère

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We spent the first sunny day of the year cooped up in a dance studio in Manchester. How sad is that?  Well not at all really because we had a whale of a time. For the first time, we beginners and pre-intermediate students had an opportunity to dance with the advanced class and the experience lifted us all.  Even me!  For that reason alone it was the best KNT intensive at the Northern Ballet School's studios that I have ever attended, though, I must emphasize, all the other ones have also been good.

We had two excellent teachers:  Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy and Martin Dutton of the Hammond.  Martin took our class and Jane the more advanced students. We had several joint sessions.  A warm up with Martin at the beginning of the day. Both teachers taught us the entry into the kingdom of the Shades towards the end.   We concluded the intensive with a joint performance at which each class danced its pieces before the other and we came together for the entry into the kingdom of the Shades at the very end. 

After a warm-up which started on the floor and ended with a brisk run round the studio, Martin led us into class. We did the usual barre exercises - pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, grands battements et cetera - then a delightful port de bras, pirouettes dehors and dedans and some of the jumps that we needed to master for Solor's solo.   We had one chap in our midst - Peter from North Wales  - and Martin drilled him (and us) in tours en l'air.  Sally used to make me do these when I was a student at St Andrews and I still remember them up to a point (see Ballet at University 27 Feb 2017).  We finished off with some jumps.  Throughout the class Martin emphasized the importance of performance.  "You look like your attending a maths class not a dance class", he said. "Dance is supposed to be fun," "So is maths" I protested sottissimo voce which was somehow picked up by the class.  Very naughty to break a cardinal rule of class etiquette that I had learned nearly 50 years ago at St Andrews but that was a provocation I could not ignore

The warn-up and class took us up to lunch time so Martin broke for lunch at 12:20.  I nipped out for some sushi and berries from Tesco across Oxford Road. While over there I noticed that the old National Computer Centre will become an incubator sometime this Spring.  There is a canteen at Northern Ballet School which opens to the public only for shows at the Dancehouse theatre. However, it has tables, chairs and a vending machine and we usually meet to eat our sandwiches there.  Many of the beginners and pre-intermediate class were regulars at Karen Sant's Tuesday class but there were three of us from Jane's Wednesday night class in Leeds and Peter from North Wales.

After lunch Martin gave us a quick warm up and then led us into the repertoire.  Before playing the music he taught us the steps as he would in class.  One of our pieces included a cabriole which he broke down into its components.  Only after he was satisfied that we were as good as we were ever going be he taught us the whole solo. For the performance, however, he divided the class into sections and allocated each of us part of the choreography.   We were able to concentrate on our part and while we were a long way from perfect we were also far from a rabble.

The second piece he showed us was from Solor's solo while he was stoned on opium.  "Heavy man" as my roommate at UCLA used to say. There were lots of jumps and turns which were great fun but we had insufficient time to polish them into a performance.

We did, however, learn the whole of the entry into the kingdom of the shades with all those arabesques and tendus as we descended the notional ramp followed by the  bourrés, the descent to one knee which I daren't risk as I might never get up again and some awkward soutenus.  Martin led us through that piece in our studio.  Then Jane invited us into hers to join her students.  She had taught her class a slightly different choreography and the two teachers drilled us together until they were satisfied that we were doing the same thing.  The advanced class danced Nikiya's solo and the second shade's solo delightfully to warm applause from us. We danced our solo to probably over generous applause from them. It was good to have an audience which included my good friend Yoshie, Karen and Mark Hindle as well as the advanced class members.

The day passed far too quickly.  However, we have a show to which we can look forward on 19 May 2018 and, of course, the launch of Powerhouse Ballet with Jane Tucker in Huddersfield on 26 May.

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