Friday, 24 August 2018

KNT's Day of Dance: Rachael's Musical Theatre Class

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I described KNT's Day of Dance last Saturday in Vampires (19 Aug 2018).  While I was trying to dance like a vampire in Karen Sant's class Rachael Crocker was teaching this routine to our colleagues in the musical theatre class.  After we had performed our piece they invited us next door to watch them.

I described them as "very good indeed. Very slick, very polished and you could tell from the smiles on their faces that they were having a whale of a time."  You can see for yourself what I meant,

I am so fortunate still to be dancing with the graceful, athletic and generous students of KNT.  They welcome me as one of my own even though I am decades older, so much slower and far more ponderous than they are.  I am very well aware of my limitations as a dancer and am reminded of them whenever I see myself on film, especially when I get in the way of what would otherwise have been a much more polished performance.  Usually that does not matter but recently it very nearly did.

That brings me to two announcements to those who have put their names down for Powerhouse Ballet's audition on 15 Sept.   As promised I have spoken to Mark Hindle about extra coaching for the audition on 15 Sept and he has suggested a mock audition for those who want it in the Dancehouse on one of the Saturdays before the audition.   I will find out about availability of studio space with the Dancehouse on Tuesday but in the meantime it would be useful to know who intends to turn up for this session with Mark either on 1 or 8 Sept by emailing me at

The other announcement is that I have arranged for the chef whom Jay Rayner described as "Britain's best home cook" and "the greatest  Indian chef in Britain" to prepare a healthy but tasty energy giving lunch for those who show up at Dance Studio Leeds on 16 Sept 2018 to work with Terry Etheridge.

Not quite blown away but still a good show - "Swan Lake" with Rodkin and Kolesnikova

Queen's View, Perthshire
Author Peter Hermans
Licence Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported

St Petersburg Ballet Theatre  Swan Lake 23 Aug 2018 19:30

Three years ago, my friend Gita and I zoomed down to London for the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's performance of La Bayadḕre at the Coliseum with Denis Rodkin and Irina Kolesnikova in the lead roles.  I was blown away as you can see from my review which I wrote exactly three years ago.  We returned yesterday full of excitement and anticipation to see the same two dancers in the lead roles in Swan Lake.   We had a great evening but it was not quite as good as the last tune we had seen them.

Technically, Rodkin danced faultlessly.  A powerful virtuoso he never fails to impress.  But he seemed a little bit subdued last night as though he was performing on autopilot.  Koleshnikova, one the other hand, rose in our estimation.  She was much more convincing as Odette-Odile than she had been as Nikiya. The dancer who almost stole the show for us was Sergei Fedorkov as the court jester.  Not only did he wow us with his fouettḗs and acrobatics.  He also raised a laugh and won our hearts with his passage across the stage with a single flower in his suit of a lady from the pas de trois.

By and large I prefer the Royal Ballet and English National Ballet's versions of the traditional Swan Lakes and David Dawson's for Scottish Ballet of the revisions to any of the Russian versions but there were bits that I liked very much indeed.   I have already mentioned Fedorkov's performance which won him Gita's accolade as man of the match.  She likes to think of ballet in sporting terms.  I enjoyed the corps - particularly the arrival of the black swans in the last act - the divertisseements (particularly the cygnets' in act 2 and the Hungarians in act 3 perhaps because I had a go at learning the choreography a few years ago) and the fidelity to the libretto and score.

Talking of the score we heard passages in acts 3 and 4 that we do not often hear in England.  The harp music is particularly lovely.   The production also had gorgeous sets and lighting.   I think I liked them even more than I liked John Macfarlane;s for Scarlett's version.  Particularly the backdrop in acts 2 and 4 which reminded me of the Queen's View of Loch Tummel and the castle in the first scene that resembled Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria.

There was a much more diverse audience than I usually see for ballet in London which can only be for the good.  I guess there were more ballet newbies than usual.   Nobody followed me when I tried to clap Rodkin as he first appeared on stage though there was a ripple of applause for Koleshnikova and the clapping for Legnani's 32 fouettḗs started far too soon and ended far too early but hey ho.  Having said that, it was a very responsive audience and they are the best kind to be part of.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Ballet West in Genting

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This week and next the Ballet West International Touring Company will perform Swan Lake and will give a series of masterclasses at the Genting International Showroom at Genting Highlands in Malaysia.  The cast will be made up of instructors, recent graduates and students of the school.  I have seen and reviewed Ballet West's performances of Swan Lake at Pitlochry in 2014 and Greencock last year and I am confident that the Malaysian public are in for a treat.

I have a very soft spot for Ballet West.  It was they who started me blogging with their impressive performance of The Nutcracker at Pitlochry in Feb 2013 and I have attended at least one performance of every winter tour of Scotland ever since.  Located some 500 miles from London they do not always get the attention of the largely metropolitan dance press and blogosphere that they deserve.  They are a centre of excellence of which everyone in the UK (not just Scotsmen and women) should be proud.  I know because I have experienced their training first hand (see Visiting Taynuilt  4 May 2018).

I have not yet visited Malaysia but I understand from members of my family who served there that it is beautiful and the pictures I have seen certainly reinforce that understanding.  Malaysia also has a rapidly growing economy which is an important market for British goods and services.  There is a clear link between a country's prowess in the performing arts and its perception by overseas consumers.  All of us in the UK have an interest in the success of this tour.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

KNT Danceworks Day of Day - A Couple of Postscripts

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Two postscripts to Vampires, my write up on yesterdays' Day of Dance at the Dancehouse,

The first is that Karen has posted the video of our performance of Daethon and Arundel to YouTube which you can see above.   Remember we learned this piece in 90 minutes.  For many of us it was the first time we had heard David Hotchkiss's music or learned about his libretto.   Daethon was danced by Ruaridh Bisset and the lead vampire by Mark Hindle.

The other postscript is that Harriet Mills, who taught the advanced ballet class yesterday, keeps an excellent blog called A Ballet for Life which I strongly recommend. Harriet is a principal of the Karlsuhe State Ballet.  On 17 Nov 2018 her company will premiere a new production of Swan Lake by Christopher Wheeldon which I for one should like to see. 

If anyone would like to see it with me get in touch as soon as possible.   If there are enough of us we might be able to negotiate group discounts with the theatre, hotel and airlines.


The Vampire
Author Philip Burne-Jones

KNTs Day of Dance at the Dancehouse was a great success.  I got some valuable tips on arabesques and développés from Rachael Crocker that everyone else seems to know but had somehow eluded me these last 50 years and I got to dance a vampire in a scene that Karen Sant had created from David Hotchkiss's music for Daethon and Arundel.  I would not have missed the day for the world.  Judging by the comments on Facebook and twitter, neither would anyone else who was there.

I had booked just two classes:  beginners and pre-intermediate ballet with Rachael from 14:00 to 15:30 and the repertoire class with Karen from 15:30 to 17:00.  There was, of course, much more than that.  There had been classes in jazz, PBT and contemporary in the morning. The prima ballerina, Harriet Mills gave a class for more advanced students at the same time as our beginners and pre-intermediate class and Rachael gave a repertoire class in musical theatre at the same time as Karen's class.

There were a lot of familiar faces from KNT but also several from Northern Ballet.  Several students had travelled considerable distances.  One from as far way as Anglesey which is where I plan to spend my long awaited and much anticipated summer holiday next week.  While I have been beating the drum for KNT in Leeds my Yorkshire friends have been spreading the word for Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat next weekend which I would have been tempted to attend had I not arranged a holiday.  Karen occasionally refers to us as the KNT family which sounds soppy but really isn't while a friend who attends the Ballet Retreat tells me that is how she feels about that workshop.  One of the wonderful things about events like yesterday's are the friendships and connexions that they catalyze.

Rachael's class began  with the usual barre exercises with a particular focus on relevés, retirés and balancing on demi with rapid turns.  Clearly she was getting us used to the idea of pirouettes. We did plenty of those in the centre including chassé, pas de bourré and turns in fourth.  I continue to find them difficult even though I had performed the exercise with two other teachers that week.  Rachael spotted that several of us were struggling with arabesques and pivots and diagnosed the problem as the position of the right arm. Similarly, several of us were struggling with  développés,   "Imagine your leg connected to your arms by a piece of string", she suggested. "You raise your arms from bras bas to first at the same time as you lift your leg," I tried that and it really helped.  "And as you unfold your right leg you raise your left arm," she added.

I was so pleased about what I had learned from Rachael that I mentioned it to Mark Hindle on the way into studio 1 for Karen's repertoire class.  I suspect that he was surprised that I had not worked that out for myself or learned it from another teacher some time between yesterday and my first ballet class in 1969.  Diplomatically he observed that it was one of the advantages of taking classes from different teachers.  I had already learned that from Marion Pettet of the Chelmsford Ballet. That is why the Chelmsford Ballet invites different teachers for its company classes which is what I try to do with Powerhouse Ballet.

Mark was in the repertoire class because he was lead vampire in the scene that Karen had choreographed from David Hotchkiss's score.  A recumbent Daethon (danced by Ruaridh Bisset) was ambushed by circling vampires. Most of us wore black as had been requested by Karen.  We surrounded Daethon menacingly with our arms rippling like bat wings.  We bourréd away to form several lines where we pivioted, pliéd, turned twice, joined hands, balancéd, pushed Daethon to the ground as he morphed into a vampire.  Pretty chilling choreography and at least as impressive in my humble opinion as other choreographers' Dracula.  There is only so much that can be accomplished in 90 minutes but I think Karen did justice to David's score.

We performed our piece before Rachael's musical theatre students who applauded us generously.  Ruaridh and Mark and many of my fellow vampires were superb and deserved their clapping though I am not sure that I did.   I was beginning to slow down after 90 minutes of hard exercise.  Rachael invited us back to studio 1 to show us what her class had learned.  They were very good indeed. Very slick, very polished and you could tell from the smiles on their faces that they were having a whale of a time.

I hope that Karen arranges another day of dance soon. Many others have said the said the same on Facebook.  Having said that I also enjoyed the repertoire workshops with Jane Tucker and Martin Dutton.   I hope that we shall have a few more of them too. Although I can attend Jane's class in Leeds throughout the year her repertoire classes were special.  I learned more about Swan Lake and La Bayadère from her intensives than watching scores of performances from the stalls and reading libraries of books and programme notes.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Flash Back to the 80s

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Jazzgalore (NBS Musical Theatre Dance Co.). Flash Back to the 80s  24 March 2018, 19:30 The Dancehouse, Manchester

Northern Ballet School in Manchester claims to be  "an international centre of excellence in training for classical ballet and musical theatre."  I can personally endorse that claim as many of my teachers at KNT Danceworks and Northern Ballet trained there.  Students at Northern Ballet School can focus on classical ballet or jazz and musical theatre and both focuses have their own performance companies, Manchester City Ballet for classical dance and Jazzgalore for jazz and musical theatre.

Between the 22 and 24 March Jazzgalore presented Flash Back to the 80s, a two act review featuring the dance and singing from the 1980s.  I attended the show on 24 March and had intended to review it months ago.  The reason I did not do so is that I had asked for one or more photos from the show for my review which unfortunately never arrived.  What has arrived, however, is the above video which appeared on YouTube a few days ago.  It is a compilation of highlights of the show and  I think it is pretty fair and accurate.

I enjoyed the show and judging by the whooping and cheering I think the audience did too.  I particularly liked the numbers from Fame, especially Hard Work and the title song which were staged and choreographed by Andrew Margerison, Anton Alexandrov's Chess Ballet, Sarah Lawson's I can do that from A Chorus Line in Act 1.  In Act 2 my favourites were Helen Vidotti's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Emma  Woods's Raspberry Beret and two more works by Margerison, Whitney and the finale, Where's The Party.  Congratulations to Patricia McDonald who produced the show and Lee Lomas and Andrew Margerison who directed it.

Sadly I seem to have missed a couple of Northern Ballet School's recent shows. That is a pity because I am one of its well wishers.  I train at least once a week in its studios and I have danced several times in its theatre.   Above all I am a Mancunian even though I now live in Summer Wine country. I missed The Nutcracker because the rickets sold out very quickly and The Showcase of Dance because of conflicting commitments.  The school has published a video of highlights from The Nutcracker which suggests that it was very good.   I hope I shall not miss Manchester City Ballet's next performance in December. 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Audition is now full

Terry Etheridge

On Tuesday our ballet mistress, Beverley Willsmer, told me that Terry Etheridge had given one of her best classes ever.  Having danced with what is now English National Ballet as well as a leading company in Germany and having trained at the Rambert, Beverley will have attended a lot of  classes.

The class for the audition is now full and we have a waiting list.   If you want to be considered for our first ballet it is still worth putting your name down on the waiting list and keeping the 15 and 16 Sept free.   I have relinquished my place at the barre to make way for a dancer with a better chance of being selected.   I shall try to move the class to a bigger studio.  Urgent matters and illnesses that prevent dancers from attending class always crop up at the last moment.

If we can't give you a place at the audition please do not despair.   We have a cracker of a class the following Saturday, the 22 Sept 2018 with 90 minutes hard graft from Mark Hindle and a further 60 minutes masterclass with our guest teacher and choreographer, Yvonne Charlton. from the Netherlands.  We have also lined up a workshop with Ballet Cymru, Wales's national classical ballet company, as well as company classes with Jane Tucker, Karen Sant and Fiona Noonan who are excellent.

If you want to discuss this article or find out more about Powerhouse Ballet send me a message on my contact form.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018


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Northern Ballet is promoting its revival of David Nixon's ballet The Three Musketeers with thius animated filmIt is still early days but I think it is a great idea.

The Dutch National Ballet has been doing that sort of things for years.   Here is its animation of Giselle

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 La Bayadère

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and Ted Brandsen's Coppelia:

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Other companies do it well too.   Here's the Canadian National Ballet's Onegin.

 Though not strictly an animation I rather like this office parody by Houston Ballet:

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Dangerous things snakes.  Especially if you are a pigeon.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Powerhouse Ballet August Update

Leeds Company Class 28 July 2018
© 2018 Powerhouse Ballet: all rights reserved

Last week's class with Annemarie Donoghue of Northern Ballet was the best class ever in terms of numbers with 21 attendees, and it was also very enjoyable.  But the excitement generated last week has been quite overtaken by events,

On 31 June 2018 I wrote that we had been offered a slot at Move IT in Manchester on 16 or 23 Feb.  I had originally planned to stage the pas de six from Bournonville's Napoli because there seemed to be nothing in the piece that I had not been taught at one time or another by my teachers at Northern Ballet or KNT.  However, Beverley Willsmer, who had actually danced that pas de six, warned me that it was nothing like as easy as it looked.   She advised us to commission our own work if we could.

As a result of her warning, I wrote on Powerhouse Ballet's website:
"I thought of the pas de six from Napoli but Beverley who has danced that work tells me that it is nothing like as easy as I had supposed. I should be very grateful for suggestions from members of the company and indeed anyone else."
I was wondering where on earth I could find a choreographer as I penned that article.

As soon as I had published that article,  the eminent dancer, choreographer and teacher, Terry Etheridge, contacted me through Facebook with an offer to create a ballet for us.   This was an exceptional opportunity and I grasped it with both hands.  Not only has Terry enjoyed an impressive career as one of the first members of the company that is now Northern Ballet, a soloist at Festival Ballet, artistic director of Hong Kong, head of dance at Urdang, principal of Rambert school and guest choreographer for the Royal Swedish Ballet school, he has many years experience of teaching and creating ballets for dancers just like us for he is resident choreographer of Duchy Ballet in Cornwall.

One of the dancers with whom Terry has worked at various times in his career is our ballet mistress, Beverley Willsmer.  She has also danced with Festival Ballet as well as in Germany and she was ballet mistress to Chelsea Ballet which is another amateur ballet company.   I am proud to say that I danced with Beverley in my very first show at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds in 2014.  Until Jonathan Barton advised me last April that one can watch a performance or one can do a performance but not both at the same time (see Visiting Taynuilt 4 May 2018) I used to position myself close to Beverley at the barre in the hope that some of her brilliance would rub off onto me. I am not sure that any did though I certainly learned a lot from her.

Terry will be in  Leeds on 15 and 16 Sept 2018.   He will hold an audition in the form of a class on 15 Sept from which he will select his cast.  He will invite the dancers he chooses back the next day to create the ballet.  I shall take thorough notes and so will Beverley.   We shall film the choreography at the end pf the session. 

Beverley will then invite the cast back for rehearsals starting immediately after each company class beginning with the 22 Sept in Liverpool.   Other rehearsals will take place in Leeds on 27 Oct immediately after Jane Tucker's class, Manchester on 1 Dec immediately after Karen Sant's and Leeds on 26 Jan 2019 immediately after Fiona Noonan's. We might even be able to squeeze in a rehearsal on 28 Nov immediately before or immediately after our workshop with Ballet Cymru.  Yet more rehearsals will be arranged by Beverley as and when necessary.  If you want to be in the show and can commit to the rehearsals here is the link to our Evenbrite page. We have room for only 6 more dancers so if you want to audition don't leave it too late to register.

The show is only one of a number of great events for you.   Don't forget Yvonne Charlton's master class on 22 Sept in Liverpool and Ballet Cymru's workshop. Fiona Noonan, who has CRB clearance, will also teach a class for  younger dancers.  We need to find a Clara (aka "Marie"), her horrible little brother who smashes the nutcracker, his even sillier little chums who disturb the girls with their drums and trumpets while they are playing with their prezzies, mice and some toy soldiers for The Nutcracker which we hope to dance at least in part next year.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

A Day Not To Be Missed: KNT's "Day of Dance" in Manchester

When I told colleagues at work a few years ago that I had spent three days of my summer holidays in Manchester they did a double take.  Even more so when I told them that I had spent the time learning Swan Lake and it was one of the best three days ever. I did the same a year later to learn La Bayadère and again the year after that to learn Coppélia.  

That was great fun but this year we regulars at KNT are ready for something different.  Accordingly we are offered "A day of dance with industry professionals at the Dancehouse Theatre Manchester." In other words, wall-to-wall classes on Saturday 18 Aug 2018 from 10:00 in the morning to 17:00 in the afternoon.

Two of the industry professionals have already been announced.  They are Rachael Crocker and Harriet Mills.  Rachael will be teaching advanced jazz, beginner and pre-intermediate ballet and musical theatre and Harriet advanced ballet.  Both have very impressive credentials

Here is Rachael's bio:
"Rachael trained at Northern Ballet School and was a Royal Ballet senior Associate whilst training she qualified and took part in the prestigious Adeleine Genee Awards and also won the IDTA ballet scholarship.
Rachael recently finished performing at the London Coliseum in Kiss Me Kate (choreographed by Will Tuckett) as Dance Captain. Prior to that she was part of a small group recording the soundtrack to the new Mamma Mia movie ‘Here We Go Again”.
Other theatre credits include: ‘Dick Whittington’ at the London Palladium, ‘Strauss’ (National Tour); ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (Welsh National Opera); ‘Cats’ (RUG Australia) as Tantomile understudy Jemima, Demeter and Victoria Graziella in ‘West Side Story’ (National tour); first understudy Meg Giry in ‘The Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary tour’ (National tour); ensemble and first understudy Wendy in ‘Peter Pan’ (Mayflower theatre); ‘We Will Rock You’ (Antwerp Belgium); ensemble and understudied and played Wendy in ‘Peter Pan’ (Grand Canal theatre Dublin); first understudy Cinderella in‘Cinderella’ (Orchard theatre); ensemble and 1st understudy Iris in ‘Fame’ (National tour); ‘We Will Rock You’ (Dominion theatre); swing in the original London cast of ‘Movin’ Out’ (Victoria Apollo); alternate Ice Princess in ‘The Snowman’ (Peacock theatre); swing and first understudy Zsa Zsa in ‘Love Shack’ (National tour); Dance Captain and swing in ‘Grease’ (Victoria Palace, Japan and National tour); ‘Cinderella’ (New Victoria Woking), Rumpleteaser, Demeter, Jemima and Tantomile in ‘Cats’ (Stuttgart Germany); Meg Giry in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Hamburg Germany) and the Spirit in ‘The Spirit of the Dance’ (US tour).
Film and TV credits include: ‘Devils in the Disguise’ for the Discovery Channel, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ directed by Joel Schumacher and ‘Finding Neverland’ directed by Marc Forster.
Radio Credits include: BBC radio production of Smith of Wooten Major.
Rachael has also appeared on the Al Murray Show, took part in the 2008 Olympic handover ceremony and guested for Rock of Ages for their performance at West End Live. She also regularly performs for Incandescence Contemporary Circus Theatre Company and Private Drama Events.
Teaching: Rachael graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance gaining a Distinction for The Professional Dancers Teaching Diploma and teaches at various schools and colleges across London. She taught scholarship classes for the IDTA and RAD along with various workshops in ballet and jazz."

Harriet is a principal with the Karlsruhe State Ballet.  I was lucky enough to attend one of her classes earlier this year (see One of the Best Ballet Experiences Ever  14 Feb 2018).   This is her bio:
"After attending her first vocational school from the age of 11, Harriet Emily Mills left the Hammond School, Chester, to start at the Royal Ballet Upper School in London. She graduated after 3 years with her first job with the Staatballett Karlsruhe and has worked as a professional ballet dancer there for 6 years. Harriet has danced roles such as Odette/Odile in Swanlake, Myrtha Queen of the Willis in Giselle and Katharina in Taming of the Shrew. She has been involved with many creations by choreographers such as Davide Bombanas (Der Prozess), Terence Kohlers (Misia Sert, Das Kleine Schwarze/ the Riot of Spring) and Reginaldo Oliveiras (Edith Frank in Anne Frank). After 6 years of working her way through the company Harriet is now a Principal Dancer."

Space is limited and bookings have to be made and classes paid for in advance.   The email address and phone number for further information appear on the poster above.  The Dancehouse is a short walk from Oxford Road station which is on the Leeds to Liverpool mainline.  There is an NCP multistory car park in Chester Street which is literally round the corner from the Dancehouse.  The car park offers a discount for daytime parking on Saturdays. There is usually plenty of free street parking on Saturday afternoons.  There is a bus stop outside the studios which is served by several routes. The nearest tram stop is at St Peter's Square which is a few minutes walk from the Dancehouse.