Saturday, 30 May 2009

A dress to die for

I would just like to highlight this article about a Chanel couture tutu which has been made for Elena Glurdjidze,for her performances of The Dying Swan, in today's Guardian magazine.

Elena is a senior principal dancer with English National Ballet.

Performance details are listed at the end of the article by Jess Cartner-Morley.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Darcey Bussell's Magic Ballerina books

Darcey Bussell launched the first six books in her Magic Ballerina series last October and since then a quarter of a million copies have been sold worldwide.

Now Darcey is back with the next six stories, which feature Rosa (a new character), who has inherited the magic red ballet shoes from Delphine (from the first series) and who has started learning ballet at Madame Za-Za’s school.

Darcey’s charming books are aimed at readers aged 5-8 years, and what I like so much about them (though they are not aimed at adults !) is the authenticity with which Darcey, (now retired from The Royal Ballet where she was a Principal dancer from the age of 19), has been able to imbue the stories with genuine ballet steps. Along with the words, the pictures inspire young children to "have a go", and at the end of each book Darcey includes a master class of her own, showing that it too, could be you.

Darcey and her two daughters provide the ideas and collaborate with her writer who weaves them into magical stories, including a special summer edition called “Summer in Enchantia” which is published by HarperCollins on 28th May 2009.

The books just launched are :

7. Rosa and the Secret Princess
8. Rosa and the Golden Bird
9. Rosa and the Magic Moonstone
10. Rosa and the Special Prize
11. Rosa and the Magic Dream
12. Rosa and the Three Wishes

I can thoroughly recommend these books – you will enjoy reading them to your children too – and they are available from Amazon either from the UK or from the US

I can't think of a better way to reward your child's great recital or the end of exams than with these authentically told ballet stories.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Jewels Masterclass

Tonight’s Royal Ballet Masterclass was, as always, an absolute treat. It never ceases to amaze me how generous the dancers are with their time – something picked up tonight by Rozzie Metherell, the Insight Programme Manager, who thanked both the dancers for their time and for the indefatigable way in which they always step up to the challenge. No mean feat when you consider that Ricardo had already been through four rehearsals today and Yuhui five, plus an hour and a quarter in daily class - something that is essentially a warm-up for the dancers, but a class that would floor an averagely fit person. How many prima donna footballers would work so hard every day - and then compare their pay & sponsorship deals ?

Dancing tonight were Yuhui Choe and Ricardo Cervera, both First Soloists with the Company. Both will be dancing in Jewels in a couple of week’s time, marking a debut for Yuhui, in the middle section – Rubies (Emeralds and Diamonds are the other parts of the sandwich). Both these roles are Principal roles. Rehearsing them tonight was Christopher Saunders, Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master. Anyone who has seen a ballet class taken by Chris will know how mindful of, as well as generous & patient with the audience he is, and tonight was no exception.

Yuhui and Ricardo are very well advanced with their rehearsals, much more so than would be usual for a Company as busy as the Royal Ballet. This was due to the fact that the dance notator, who is always present in the rehearsal studio, is heavily pregnant and just couldn’t be there latterly for the long stretches the dancers rehearse for, so they started a fortnight early. Chris explained that this was beneficial to the dancers, particularly Yuhui, who had more time to digest the steps before the next rehearsal.

As a consequence, Chris didn’t need to give many corrections. What always impresses me is the warmth between Chris and the dancers he’s working with; the fact that he will correct but is quick to praise first. An iron fist in a velvet glove perhaps. It works too - both dancers were really keen as mustard, with Chris commenting on what a joy it is to work with such dancers. He's canny too - he knows the dancers so well that he anticipated that Ricardo would have gone over and over in his head the sections they were due to rehearse, so Chris started from an earlier section to keep them on their toes ! One of the lifts involves Yuhui almost swinging around Ricardo, and Chris was so amazed at the height she achieved that he asked how they'd done it - admitting in the process that he can't know everything. The dancers were (and always are) incredibly generous with each other, and it turned out that Yuhui was doing it herself. Chris wanted to tell Alexandra (Ansanelli) who is also cast in the role, how it was made to look so high.

He also said how hard it can be to get dancers to this level in a rehearsal at, say, 11am on a Monday morning, and how much work ususally goes on before they are ready to hit the high notes. Again, I’m always impressed by how quickly even a tiny correction is made – one minute a leg is slightly pointing in the wrong direction, the next it’s been perfected, no matter how tricky the combination of moves. They also have to contend with a smaller stage and many a time I've seen a dancer at full pelt go hurtling towards either the wings or the piano which is on stage with them. It's dangerous stuff at such high velocity and to see it close up makes all the difference - and all for £14.

Chris was asked about who is in charge when it comes to the pace of the music, since Rubies gets faster and faster – almost to a point where you feel the dancers can’t fit in any more steps. His diplomatic answer was that it should be, and usually is (but not always) a collaboration between the conductor and the choreographer, so that subtle adjustments can be made in areas where, say, a particular dancer can’t dance as fast, or where the conductor wants to increase the pace in certain places. Chris made the point that as the audience, we are not coming to attend a concert recital, so it has to be a collaboration between the two so that the performance works on stage.

The pianist, Robert Clark, was asked about the score and whether he had made any changes. He explained that there are certain notes on his copy but that he has to play it as directed, and went on to tell a tale of the time when Pat Neary (The Balanchine Trust and incredible former dancer who still takes class in pointe shoes into her second childhood), arrived and noticed a difference in the number of counts in the music - she counted 9 when they were only playing 8. Rob knew better than to correct her but eventually she realised he was right and apologised in front of everyone. Pat is very knowledgeable; she came over when the ballet was first staged and has incredible energy and joire de vive. As I say, doing ballet class, and in pointe shoes, once past the age of most retired dancers. That's really something.

There was quite a bit of discussion about how the music is heard by the dancers and the difference between musical counting and dance counting. Neither Chris nor Yuhui count, but Ricardo does. His counting is different from the musician’s; so that where there may be 6 beats he will only count 5. Chris had to learn to count when he became Ballet Master, which didn't come naturally to him, so that he could pass on that information to those dancers who do count.

The dancers were asked whether they both hear the music the same, and if not then does it matter. Chris answered for them, by giving a great demonstration of a pique arabesque and how it could be danced in three ways, all musically fine, but in dance terms either before the beat, on the beat or behind the beat. Chris explained that it’s his job to make sure that where the dancers hear the music differently, he makes sure they are together as they should be. In Rubies they are not together all the time and so there is less of an issue. And there are no pique arabesques.

Ricardo was asked whether he found the role technically difficult and he said that he didn’t – there are no big jumps or turns and so it’s a question of having fun with the steps.

Both were asked whether they felt pressure working flat out all the time. Ricardo said that he felt no pressure as he had danced all of the roles currently in his rep before, which I found quite sad, especially when he later added that he thought that he was where he was & that he would be staying at that level. I’ve heard other dancers say the same and then get promoted; on the other hand some leave to get the opportunities at higher levels elsewhere. I can’t know how promotion decisions are reached but I have always been puzzled as to why Ricardo has been over-looked – he’s been a First Soloist for 8 years now. Surely all the dancers need new roles to keep them motivated and more importantly, in the Company ? Yuhui said that at first she would feel some pressure and panic a bit but settled down once she had the steps in her body and could relax into new roles.

Chris told us, in presponse to a question, that Yuhui had not been cast in this role originally, but with Sarah Lamb still not recovered from her broken foot at the beginning of the season, and so many other injuries this year, changes have been made since the casting was announced. It was ever so.

It’s such a rewarding experience to see firsthand the rehearsal process, and with tickets rarer than hens teeth at the moment and the ticket allocation currently up in the air ahead of next season, and potentially removed from the public for good, it will be a real loss if fewer people get the chance to see it for themselves. Seeing rehearsals also goes some way to explaining the cost of your ticket in terms of the rehearsal hours needed for a role - and that can't be a bad thing for everyone !

No pictures I'm afraid - they are banned in the Linbury Studio Theatre. It would be nice to relax the rules to allow photographs once the rehearsal is over and the participants are answering questions. I think a knowledgeable audience understands the dangers of flash photography when the dancers are working, but I can't see the harm in allowing it once they have stopped.

The Royal Ballet Masterclass tonight

Tonight's Masterclass at the Royal Opera House will focus on Jewels, an upcoming production, which was hugely popular last year when it was staged for the first time at the Royal Opera House, running from 9 June - 19 June 2009.

Unusually, there are a couple of seats left for tonight's Masterclass (at the moment).

Tonight, the engaging Christopher Saunders will be rehearsing the quite excellent Yuhui Choe and Ricardo Cervera.

There is a podcast about Jewels, by Patricia Neary of The Balanchine Trust, on the ROH website.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, Richmond Park

Last week the Royal Ballet lower school held a Royal Gala evening in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. The Gala was a private 'thankyou' to the major sponsors of the re-development project, and a celebration for the students.

There are a selection of excellent images here.

New Work in the Linbury

Photographs by Johan Persson

New Works in the Linbury
May 15th 2009
Royal Opera House

Imagine looking into a kaleidoscope; what you see refracted back at you is always different in colour, shape, size and texture, and so it is with an evening of new works. Only the colour was missing, of which more later. Some of these works have been honed in the smaller Clore Studio, giving the dancers the perfect recipe to create outstanding choreography.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Christopher Hampson was invited by Monica Mason, Director of the Royal Ballet, to choreograph a tribute to Norman Morris, a champion himself of new work & Hampson’s choreographic tutor at the Royal Ballet Upper School, and the resulting piece, called Dear Norman, is danced by Johan Kobborg and Sergei Polunin. Just three minutes long, the music is scored for solo cor anglais and speaks of loneliness, a theme present throughout the work. I thought of shadows and of uncertainty, following but also trying to find your own way.

Ludovic Ondiviela’s piece, Recordato, used recorded music by Michael England and the movements were bird-like. The costumes were grey, and of the 3 ladies, only Mara Galeazzi was on pointe. The pas de deux between Galeazzi and Bennet Gartside was beautiful & slow. Johannes Stepanek and Brian Maloney were both captivating to watch.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

And so to the show-stopper – there has to be at least one. There was a collective intake of breath when Stephen McRae, dressed in white shirt and braces, sauntered on stage left & indicated with his hand to the violinist that he was ready to start his solo in Les Lutins, to Caprice (Wieniawski) and later La Ronde des Lutins (Bazzini).

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

The piece is choreographed by Johan Kobborg, who likes to have fun and keep things light, and it’s his own style with no noticeable outside influences. The supreme virtuosity of the furiously scampering chords of the violin sits perfectly with McRae who made it look sassy, carefree, sharp and witty. With his feet he can stroke the floor, caress it even, tap it and fire off a volley of steps so fast they blur into one. It is fiendishly fast footwork, jaw-droppingly spectacular in depth and scale, and funny. McRae’s interaction with Charlie Siem, the virtuoso violin player, is relaxed, easy, but imagine racing your bow as fast as you can across your violin strings and you have the measure of the pace which is anything but. Surely I saw smoke ? McRae spins four or five times and out of nowhere, when you think he might be done, throws in a split jete from nowhere and a standing start. Sergei Polunin adds competition of his own, with his high, multiple tours en l’air and his smiley face, but he can’t match McRae for speed or sharpness. And there’s something bewitching about the subtle inflections McRae squeezes from his hips which I’ve seen no other dancer do. Alina Cojocaru, dressed as the boys in trousers and braces, shows why we have missed her so much, with her light airy expressiveness and her exquisite hands. Eventually she too is caught in the silken web spun by the violin. All credit to Siem, who introduced each piece of music serenely and then tore up the stage with it. It was all too short – 7 minutes of heaven gone in a flash !

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Yes We Did, by Kirsten McNally, to music by Aeron Copland, had an American core and unusual voiceover – Obama was in the house. Some of the musical interludes sounded to me as though light bulbs were blowing, and the lengthy crowd-cheering (as from a Chicago baseball match) were lost on me. Romany Pajdak stood out for me, making the most of the piece and having the most flattering costume.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Jonathan Watkins chose Balanescu’s No Time Before Time, performed live by The Tippett Quartet (Violin, Viola & Cello), for his piece called Now. Yuhui Choe had a beautiful solo, showing her softly expressive arms and hands to perfection. I found it to be a wistful piece with lilting violin and viola. Stepanek had a hand in the costume design and this time, they were more varied in shape and – stop the press - there was colour. Moody shades of blue through to pink and purple, fluty hemline for Choe, leotard and shorts flattering McRae the most.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Gary Avis is always hypnotic and in Non-linear Interactions his use of the space with his arms and hands caught my attention as did his leg lines. This piece is choreographed by Viacheslav Samodurov, and I found it strange and confusing, which I think was the choreographer’s intention. Galeazzi’s occasional & sudden slump into Munchs’ “The Scream” compounded my puzzlement, and there seemed to be a lot of arm waiting and pointing.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Liam Scarlett is shaping up brilliantly as a classical choreographer, and what a refreshing change to see a (mostly) classical piece to end with. This choreography is pure Scarlett; shaped by him into a unique shape and form, entirely his own. You can’t escape the odd flexed foot, but here the pas de deux between Tamara Rojo and Bennet Gartside, a rarely seen combination that worked very well, seemed to flow so seamlessly it was both tender and sad. Laura Morera and Ricardo Cervera seemed physically joined together, such was the power of their pas de deux. Perhaps most enlightening of all was Leanne Cope matching Rojo step for step, given that they are at opposite ends of the spectrum in the ballet company hierarchy. Cope is a smidge softer and slower, but her musicality is spot on and she is compelling to watch. I hope for promotions to Cope and Pajdak at the end of this season. The piece is named after the music – Consolations and Liebestraum (Liszt Consolations 1,2,3 and 5, and Liebestraum no 3), with black (must they be always black ?) costumes designed by Scarlett. Kate Shipway on the piano brought the evening to a close with her elegant & engaging music.

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

Photographic credit : Bill Cooper

New works can be tricky to stage; the audience at Covent Garden can be a conservative bunch, but the growing popularity of this event shows the depth of talent within the Company. I hope that in future the run of performances is lengthened and that the ticket prices better reflect the prestige of watching new works at close quarters and provide enough revenue to engage experts in costume design – it’s not the dancer’s forte, nor should it be, and it could add so much to a performance. The Opera House has an excellent costume department but even the inclusion of Marc by Marc Jacobs added nothing – in fact they were the most unflattering costumes of the night.

It can’t be easy mounting an evening of diverse new works, and I would have liked a better balance between the slow and the faster pieces. And please, can someone introduce some colour to the costumes next time ? I haven’t yet seen a new work where the costumes added anything to the piece; I know dancers love black but I think a performance needs to distinguish itself from a rehearsal with its costuming. Throughout the evening the stage was dimly lit (except for Les Lutins), by Simon Bennison, something we have come to expect on the main stage. But the Linbury Studio Theatre is already a darker place, and brightness could add flavour and texture to the composition. All the other ingredients are there & the programme is justifiably a resoundingly brilliant success.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Autumn 2009 Season at Sadler’s Wells

picture credit - Johan Persson

The new Autumn Season has some exciting highlights for ballet, especially a new show by Carlos Acosta and also a return visit to the UK by the Nacional Ballet de Cuba, who will feature Acosta as guest artist as part of the Spring Dance at the Coliseum season - a first for Acosta and the Company, and Christopher Wheeldon's company bring Alexei Ratmansky’s Boléro, which was created for the Bolshoi and is set to the music of Maurice Ravel.

The Autumn 2009 season is on sale from Monday 18 May 2009
Sadler’s Wells Ticket Office: 0844 412 4300 (also click the title for link to website)

Carlos Acosta
Apollo and Other Works

Tuesday 1 - Saturday 5 December
Tickets: £10 - £50

Indisputably one of the greatest male dancers of his generation, Carlos Acosta follows in the footsteps of such giants as Nijinsky and Nureyev with a programme of classic and modern works exploring the nature of the male muse in classical ballet.

The evening includes George Balanchine’s Apollo set to Igor Stravinsky’s score, plus Jerome Robbins’ A Suite of Dances and Afternoon of a Faun. The programme also features a specially commissioned new work entitled Young Apollo by choreographer Adam Hougland, set to music by Benjamin Britten.

Scottish Ballet
40th Anniversary Tour

Thursday 1 - Saturday 3 October
Tickets: £10 - £38

Scottish Ballet marks its 40th anniversary with a triple bill that captures the style and versatility of a company that continues to attract acclaim worldwide.

Rubies is one of Balanchine’s most notorious pieces, with dancers adorned in bejewelled costumes set to jazz inspired music by Igor Stravinsky. Performed to the slow-building arch of Berio’s Duetti for two violins William Forsythe’s Workwithinwork is a new addition to Scottish Ballet’s repertoire.

Performed for the first time in London, Krzysztof Pastor’s celebrated In Light and Shadow begins with a duet to the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the piece builds with solos, duets and ensemble work set to Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite.

In the Spirit of Diaghilev WORLD PREMIERE
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui / Javier De Frutos / Russell Maliphant / Wayne McGregor
Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 October
Tickets: £10 - £35

To mark the Centenary of the world famous Ballets Russes company, Sadler’s Wells evokes the essence of the ground-breaking troupe, commissioning brand new work by four of today’s most exciting contemporary choreographers. Each artist, working with all or part of his own company, gives their own original response to the famous challenge that Diaghilev once issued to Jean Cocteau: “Surprise me!”

Wayne McGregor: Dyad 1909
Inspired by Shackleton's Nimrod expedition to the North Pole in 1909, the year that Les Ballets Russes was founded, Wayne McGregor creates a brand new Ballet Blanc, Dyad 1909.
Wayne McGregor | Random Dance collaborates with acclaimed artists and filmmakers Jane and Louise Wilson, lighting designer Lucy Carter and costume designer Moritz Junge.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: Faun
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui examines the animalistic nature of human movement and the power of mythology in Faun. This new duet, created for two of his company dancers, takes an alternative look at the eponymous creature from Stéphane Mallermé’s poem, Claude Débussy’s music and Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography. With additional music by Nitin Sawhney and costumes by leading fashion designer Hussein Chalayan.

Russell Maliphant: AfterLight
Using Vaslav Nijinksy’s geometric drawings and paintings as a starting point, Russell Maliphant creates a brand new work entitled AfterLight, with three dancers from the Russell Maliphant Company plus lighting and sound design from regular collaborators Michael Hulls and
Andy Cowton.

Javier De Frutos: Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez
Olivier Award-winner Javier De Frutos’ Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanchez is a cautionary fable inspired by Cocteau’s scenarios and designs for Les Ballets Russes and set to Maurice Ravel’s La Valse. De Frutos joins forces with theatre designer Katrina Lindsay and lighting designer Michael Hulls.

In the Spirit of Diaghilev is a Sadler’s Wells Production

Morphoses / The Wheeldon Company WORLD PREMIERE
Mixed Bill
Wednesday 21 - Saturday 24 October
Tickets: £10 - £38

Sadler's Wells Associate Artist Christopher Wheeldon returns to Sadler's Wells. His first programme is a centenary celebration of Les Ballets Russes, inspired by the legendary company’s commitment to creating innovative, collaborative productions with seminal artists of its time. It features Christopher Wheeldon’s Commedia, which premiered at Sadler’s Wells last year to wide acclaim, plus a brand new work by Tim Harbour, one of Australia's most exciting new young choreographers, and Alexei Ratmansky’s Boléro, which was created for the Bolshoi and is set to the music of Maurice Ravel.

For Programme Two, husband and wife choreographic team Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, resident choreographers of Nederlands Dans Theater, re-choreograph one of their existing works, Softly as I Leave You, for Morphoses dancers Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk. Christopher Wheeldon presents two works set to piano scores; Continuum, performed to the music of Ligeti, plus a world premiere set to Suites for Two Pianos by Rachmaninoff.

Birmingham Royal Ballet
Quantum Leaps / Cyrano

Tuesday 10 - Saturday 14 November
Tickets: £10 - £40

Birmingham Royal Ballet returns with two contrasting programmes. Quantum Leaps features Stanton Welch’s Powder, danced to Mozart’s popular clarinet concerto. The Centre and its Opposite is a new work from contemporary choreographer Garry Stewart, Artistic Director of Australian Dance Theatre, set to a powerful electronic soundscape. Programme one is completed with Birmingham Royal Ballet Director David Bintley’s E=mc² which has a specially commissioned score by Matthew Hindson, and explores Einstein’s ‘Special Theory of Relativity’.

Programme two showcases more David Bintley choreography with the well known story Cyrano, with music by Carl Davis which tells the story of one man’s truly self-sacrificing devotion.

Ballet Nacional de Cuba

Tuesday 30 March - Sunday 11 April 2010
Tickets: £15 - £65

Making its long-awaited debut at the London Coliseum, Ballet Nacional de Cuba presents two programmes, which showcase the company’s unparalleled technique and extraordinary flair for invigorating Western ballets with vivid Cuban passion.

Swan Lake was the first ballet to be performed by Ballet Nacional de Cuba, when Alicia Alonso established the company in 1948. Performed with drama and style, this classic production features world-class performances from the full company of dancers. Magia de la Danza is a mixed bill which brings together extracts from seven of the company's most famous ballets including the Nutcracker, Coppélia and Swan Lake.

These performances feature a full live orchestra and four special guest appearances from international superstar Carlos Acosta, who performs with the company on 30 March and 1, 7 and 8 April. This will be the first time Acosta has ever danced with Ballet Nacional de Cuba in the UK.

Royal Ballet makes first historic visit to Cuba this summer

Today the Royal Ballet have announced details of their summer tour - and their first visit to Cuba. What a thrill for the Habaneros to watch Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring and Thaïs pas de deux, among others. Manon will be another highlight, with Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo reprising their roles, but I'm surprised to find the Le Corsaire pas de deux also on the bill. I can't think of a ballet company better equipped to perform Le Corsaire than the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, so it will be interesting to see what they make of the Royal Ballet version.

Press Release
11 May 2009

The Royal Ballet makes historic first visit to Cuba as part of
Summer Tour 2009 to Washington, Granada and Havana

23 June to 18 July

The Royal Ballet is delighted to announce that it will make its first ever tour to Cuba during its summer tour to Washington, Granada and Havana.

The Company will take two programmes and perform in two different, iconic theatres. From 14 to 16 July, The Royal Ballet performs a Mixed Programme featuring Chroma, Divertissements and A Month in the Country at the Gran Teatro de la Havana, Sala Garcia Lorca, followed by two performances of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon on 17 and 18 July in the larger Karl Marx Teatro to an audience of more than 4,500.

It is expected that the first Mixed Programme will be broadcast live to a big screen in the centre of Havana.

Cuban Royal Ballet Principal Guest Artist, Carlos Acosta, leads the Company in the first performance of Manon partnering Tamara Rojo.

Monica Mason, Director of The Royal Ballet said: I am thrilled that our plan to visit Cuba has materialised. I have the most enormous respect for the great Alicia Alonso and everything that she has achieved for the National Ballet of Cuba, the company that she founded, and for its dancers who are known and admired world wide. I am also delighted that Carlos Acosta will be appearing with us and indebted to him for the part he has played in making this tour possible. Over the years touring has played a very important part in the history of The Royal Ballet and this, our very first visit to Cuba, will be a challenging and exciting one for us. I so appreciate the invitation that has been extended to the Company and I hope very much that the Cuban audiences will enjoy our performances in the repertory we have chosen to present to them.

Carlos Acosta, Guest Principal Artist, said: I’m very excited to be going home to Cuba with my extended family, The Royal Ballet. This is the first time that the Company has ever been to Cuba and I’m proud to have been able to play a part in making this happen. I’m very excited to be dancing Manon. None of the MacMillan ballets have ever been performed in Cuba before, so this is going to be a really extraordinary visit. I can’t wait to see the reaction – both the Cubans to The Royal Ballet and the Company to the Cubans!

Immediately prior to the performances in Cuba, The Royal Ballet returns to the Kennedy Center in Washington with two programmes, followed by two performances of Swan Lake outdoors at the stunning Alhambra Gardens in Granada as part of the Granada International Festival. These performances sold out within hours of tickets becoming available.

The Royal Ballet Summer Tour 2009

Kennedy Center, Washington, US
23 and 24 June
Mixed Programme: Wayne McGregor’s Chroma/Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country/Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à grande vitesse

25, 26, 27 and 28 June

Alhambra Gardens, Granada, Spain
7 and 9 July
Swan Lake

Gran Teatro de la Havana, Sala Garcia Lorca
14, 15 and 16 July
Mixed Programme: Wayne McGregor’s Chroma/Divertissements: Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring and Thaïs pas de deux/Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet pas de deux and Winter Dreams pas de deux and Le Corsaire pas de deux/Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country

Karl Marx Teatro, Havana
17 and 18 July
Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon


I'm looking for people who will be in Havana, Granada and Washington, and attending these performances, to send bulletins for publication on my blog. They don't need to be reviews, just a flavour of what's happening would be great. If you are interested, or know someone who would be, please do get in touch.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Royal Ballet School (Lower) at the Richmond May Fair - part 2

As before, if you spot yourself please let me know so that I can fill in the details.

Just added a couple more photo's after Brian's request.

The Royal Ballet School (Lower) at the Richmond May Fair - part 1

The quite wonderful Richmond May Fair has been held today on The Green.

Some of the pupils from White Lodge, the lower school based in Richmond Park, dazzled and danced their way through morris dancing, Irish dancing, clog dancing, Scottish dancing, a Farandole, the chicken dance from La fille Mal Gardee, an excerpt from Sleeping Beauty and the party dance from The Nutcracker to finish. All the pupils were brilliant; accomplished and confident.

I hope you enjoy a few of the photo's from the show.

The weather was an improving picture and there was a large audience cheering and whooping after every dance. The children of all ages in the audience were enraptured, as were the adults.

Well done to everyone and if you spot yourself in the pictures, please do let me know who's who so that I can add the detail - unfortunately we didn't get a performance sheet.

Friday, 8 May 2009

New Work in the Linbury - updated details

Hi everyone,

Just a couple of updates to the information in my earlier post, notably who is choreographing each piece, and the details of Kristen McNally's piece.

Yes we did...
Choreography : Kristen McNally
Sian Murphy
Romay Pajdak
Pietra Mello Pittman
Akane Takada
Tom Whitehead
Ryiochi Hirano
Ernst Meisner
Richard Ramsey
Liam Scarlett
Andrej Uspenski
James Wilkie
Errico Montes
Fernando Montano

Dear Norman
Choreography : Christopher Hampson
Johan Kobborg
Sergei Polunin

Les Lutins
Choreography : Johan Kobborg
Alina Cojocaru
Sergei Polunin
Steven McRae

Consolations & Liebestraum
Choreography : Liam Scarlett
Tamara Rojo
Ricardo Cervera
José Martín
Leanne Cope
Bennet Gartside
Laura Morera

Non Linear Interactions
Choreography : Viacheslav Samodurov
Mara Galeazzi
Gary Avis
Dawid Trzensimiech
Olivia Cowley
Brian Maloney
Cindy Jourdain

Choreography : Jonathan Watkins
Samantha Raine
Ernst Meisner
Laura McCulloch
Johannes Stepanek
Yuhui Choe
Steven McRae
Laura Morera

Choreography : Ludovic Ondiviela
Mara Galeazzi
Bennet Gartside
Cindy Jourdain
Brian Maloney
Kristen McNally
Johannes Stepanek

Manon Starring Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta

Tonight on BBC4 you can catch a special treat - The Royal Ballet's Manon with Tamara Rojo as Manon and Carlos Acosta as Des Grieux.

I was at the recording of this performance and can vouch for it being a great one !

Duration - 120 minutes. 8062392

BBC4 says :

The Royal Ballet perform a production of Manon, starring Tamara Rojo in the title role with the world-famous dancer Carlos Acosta as her lover Des Grieux.

In decadent 18th century Paris, the young, beautiful and naive Manon is torn between a life of privilege and luxury with the wealthy Monsieur GM or love with the poor student Des Grieux.

Manon has become one the Royal Ballet's signature works since its creation by choreographer Kenneth MacMillan in 1974. This typically sumptuous production is designed by Nicholas Georgiadis and staged by Monica Mason and Monica Parker.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that there are still tickets available for these shows at the Royal Opera House.

For anyone not familiar with the Linbury Studio Theatre; it's a self-contained space within the House, which offers a closer view of the dancers in a different setting than the main stage. I'd describe it as a very urban, modern space, lots of metal and black, and a complete contrast to the red and gold opulence of the main auditorium. The tickets here are usually much more within the reach of most people and the opportunities are sometimes unmissable.

I'd say this is one such opportunity.

14 & 15 May at 7.30pm, 16 May at 7.00pm

The Royal Ballet returns to the Linbury Studio Theatre with more imaginative new works from dancers of the Company including Principal dancers Johan Kobborg and Viacheslav Samodurov, First Artists Kristen McNally, Ludovic Ondiviela, Liam Scarlett and Jonathan Watkins, as well as a new piece from established choreographer Christopher Hampson. The pieces are a continuation of the commitment The Royal Ballet has for new choreography and will include performances by six Principal dancers - Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru, Johan Kobborg, Laura Morera, Ivan Putrov and Mara Galeazzi.

£21.50, £18, £15.50, £9.50 standing (£13 students and ROH Access Scheme)

The new works actually are :

Dear Norman
Johan Kobborg
Sergei Polunin

Les Lutins
Alina Cojocaru
Sergei Polunin
Steven McRae

Consolations & Liebestraum
Tamara Rojo
Ricardo Cervera
José Martín
Leanne Cope
Bennet Gartside
Laura Morera

Non Linear Interactions
Mara Galeazzi
Gary Avis
Dawid Trzensimiech
Olivia Cowley
Brian Maloney
Cindy Jourdain

Samantha Raine
Ernst Meisner
Laura McCulloch
Johannes Stepanek
Yuhui Choe
Steven McRae
Laura Morera

Mara Galeazzi
Bennet Gartside
Cindy Jourdain
Brian Maloney
Kristen McNally
Johannes Stepanek

And the choreographers are :

Christopher Hampson
Ludovic Ondiviela
Johan Kobborg
Kristen McNally
Jonathan Watkins
Viacheslav Samodurov
Liam Scarlett

Regulars here will note that a highlight of the next season is Liam Scarlett and Jonathan Watkins debuts on the main stage, and here is a chance to see their styles of choreography in a smaller space.

Just click on the title if you want to book tickets while they remain !

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

BP SUMMER BIG SCREENS 2009 & competition

The following has been released today (I've kept in the Opera sections as I know they are of interest to some as well as the ballet) :

FREE live opera and ballet on a record number of big screens around the UK from the Royal Opera House

42 screenings in 20 locations

The Royal Opera House is delighted to announce that this summer’s free BP Summer Big Screen performances are Ondine, La traviata and The Barber of Seville, three contrasting masterpieces of ballet and opera. The BP Summer Big Screen relays have continued to grow in popularity, regardless of the UK’s notorious summer weather!

This year sees the largest number of BP Summer Big Screens ever with more than 40 screenings in 20 locations. Aberdeen, Belfast, Bradford, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Rotherham, Ipswich, Swindon, Sunbury, Derby, Trafalgar Square and Canary Wharf in London will again have FREE live screenings through this ongoing collaboration between the Royal Opera House, BP and the BBC. New venues for 2009 are Bristol, Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Swansea and Waltham Forest.

The Royal Ballet’s production of Ondine kick starts this year’s BP Summer Big Screen performances on Wednesday 3 June at 7.30pm. The Royal Ballet brings to life the sea spirits and sailors of this romantic story, with magical scenes beneath the sea, in a Gothic castle and onboard a storm-tossed ship. Ondine will be screened to Belfast, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Swansea, Trafalgar Square in London. Joining the presenting team this year will be Anton Du Beke live from Trafalgar Square.

Renée Fleming, the great American soprano, stars in The Royal Opera’s La traviata on Tuesday 30 June at 7pm, screened live to Aberdeen, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Ipswich, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Rotherham, Sunbury, Swansea, Trafalgar Square and Canary Wharf in London. Renée Fleming takes the role of doomed courtesan Violetta, with Joseph Calleja as her young lover Alfredo and Thomas Hampson as his unyielding father in this well known classic love story. Gareth Malone will join Deborah Bull as co-presenter live in Trafalgar Square.

The Barber of Seville completes this year’s screenings live from Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House on Wednesday 15 July at 7.30pm. With its familiar music, this most famous of all Italian comic operas features love, laughter and a resourceful heroine, aided and abetted by Figaro, town barber, extraordinaire. The Barber of Seville will be broadcast live to Waltham Forest, Bradford, Cardiff, Derby, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Rotherham, Swansea, Swindon, Trafalgar Square and Canary Wharf in London.

Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said: “I think it’s very exciting that we’re able to relay live opera and ballet performances from the Royal Opera House to all of these new and existing big screens across the country, and all completely free for audiences. This is a fantastic opportunity for family and friends to come together this summer and experience these world class performances in the outdoors, maybe even with a picnic. Each city creates a unique atmosphere – there’s such an air of excitement and expectation with hugely enthusiastic crowds. The support of both BP and the BBC has been critical to the success of the big screens, and we’re very excited that more people than ever before will be able to see our performances on the big screens this year.”



The Royal Opera House and BP are looking for budding film-makers of all ages and experience to produce their own 40 second version of Ondine. A judging panel will select some of the best films to be showcased on the BP Summer Big Screens alongside The Royal Ballet’s Ondine in venues across the UK on Wednesday 3 June 2009 at 7.30pm.

The films can either be based on the ballet where a mortal falls in love with a water sprite, pledges his love and fidelity to her, but when he breaks that oath tragedy ensues; or be a self-created watery love story. Inspiration might come from that other great love story, The Little Mermaid, or maybe Splash, the more modern reading. Participants may express themselves in words, music, dance or even animation – the sky or sea the limit. But remember, take care if filming around water – be safe! For full competition details and information on the BP Summer Big Screens visit

To submit an entry, take one of the following options:

Best option – 16.9 full height anamorphic on DV tape
Medium option – film it on a camcorder and send in on DVD
Fun option – film it on your mobile and email it to no bigger than 5mb for this option.

Participants must attach name, age and contact details. Films should be sent to ‘40 second films’ FAO BP Summer Big Screens, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD. Films must be suitable for family viewing. The deadline for entries is 26 May.

Dates and Locations

Performance: Ondine Wednesday 3 June 7.30pm

Locations: Live to Trafalgar Square, London; Botanic Gardens, Belfast; Centenary Square, Bradford; Millennium Square, Bristol; The Hayes, Cardiff; Market Place, Derby; Millennium Square, Leeds; Exchange Square, Manchester; Centre Square, Middlesbrough; The Piazza, Plymouth; All Saints' Square, Rotherham; Castle Square, Swansea.

Performance: La traviata Tuesday 30 June 7pm

Locations: Live to Trafalgar Square, London; Canary Wharf, London, Duthie Park, Aberdeen; Centenary Square, Bradford; Millennium Square, Bristol; The Hayes, Cardiff; Market Place, Derby; Christchurch Park, Ipswich; Millennium Square, Leeds; Exchange Square, Manchester; Centre Square, Middlesbrough; The Piazza, Plymouth; All Saints Square, Rotherham; Chertsey Road, Sunbury; Castle Square, Swansea.

Performance: The Barber of Seville, Wednesday 15 July 7.30pm

Locations: Live to Trafalgar Square, London; Canary Wharf, London; Walthamstow Town Square, Waltham Forest; Centenary Square, Bradford; The Hayes, Cardiff; Market Place, Derby; Millennium Square, Leeds; Clayton Square, Liverpool; Exchange Square, Manchester; Centre Square, Middlesbrough; The Piazza, Plymouth; Guildhall Square, Portsmouth; All Saints Square, Rotherham; Castle Square, Swansea; Wharf Green, Swindon.