Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Royal Gala - Royal Ballet Lower School, White Lodge

Photo : Hugo Burnand

On May 13th, a host of stars joined some of the UK’s foremost philanthropists at a Royal Gala, attended by Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to celebrate the completion of the four year £22 million redevelopment of White Lodge, which has been home to The Royal Ballet Lower School since 1955. Its constant use as a ballet school has required upgraded facilities to meet current regulations. The Prince is President of the School and has recently become Patron of the Royal Ballet company.

Their Royal Highnesses were met upon arrival by White Lodge students 11 year old Eleanor Ferguson and 12 year old Christopher Thomas.

Eleanor Ferguson and Christopher Thomas present flowers
Photo : Hugo Burnand

The theme of the Royal Gala was taken from the philosophy of the School’s formidable founder, Dame Ninette de Valois – “Honour the past, herald the future and concentrate on the present”.

White Lodge, a 17th Century Royal Hunting Lodge in Richmond Park, Surrey, was sumptuously decorated for the occasion by Belgian floral sculptor Daniel Ost, and by Richard MacDonald, one of the most collected figurative sculptors alive today who installed a selection of his bronze sculptures – including the Heroic bronze of Rudolph Nureyev.

Following the theme of past, present and future, attendees included Sir Anthony Dowell (comperé for the evening), Dame Antoinette Sibley, Darcey Bussell CBE (who had flown in from her home in Australia), Lauren Cuthbertson, Sergei Polunin and Ashley Page. Generous donors of the Appeal attending the Royal Gala included Dame Vivien Duffield and Ricki Gail Conway.

Marguerite Porter and Stephen Wicks performed the Tango from Façade (choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton), Lauren Cuthbertson and Sergei Polunin (Royal Ballet company) performed the Act 2 Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker and Natasha Oughtred and Jamie Bond (from Birmingham Royal Ballet) danced the Act 1 Pas de Deux from Romeo and Juliet (choreographed by Sir Kenneth Macmillian). Lower School students performed Danse Bohémienne, (choreographed for the event by former student & Royal Ballet First Artist Liam Scarlett), whilst graduate students danced Larina Waltz (choreographed by Ashley Page, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet & former student of White Lodge).

Dame Antionette Sibley and Darcey Bussell CBE gave contributions and reminiscences.

After the performance, Their Royal Highnesses were introduced to all the performers and contributors before attending a dinner, where they were treated to a specially created performance by The Royal Ballet School’s Dance Partnership and Access Programme featuring 24 young people from two state schools : Sydenham Girls and Forest Hill, dancing with year 10 Royal Ballet School students.

The evening culminated in the graceful display of White Lodge students bidding their guests goodnight with a grand defile, choreographed by Liam Scarlett.

The School still has £2 million to be raised by 2010 to meet the final redevelopment costs.


  1. Hiya, I'm off to Covent Garden tonight and I'll look out for the Royal Opera House. Thanks for the idea!!!

  2. In fact I read about this gala in The Guardian and it's so pleasant to see Prince Charles supporting dance in the UK. It's also good to see Darcey still around. Many thanks for this review and thanks for your visit to my blog. As for the other Cuban dancer, I suppose you mean Carlitos. Well, I am not in his league at all. I teach Afro-Cuban dance and performed with the Havana University Folkloric Ensemble for three years. Over here I teach masterclasses at the London Studio Centre monthly, although they are on hold at the moment. Carlos is light years ahead of me. He actually managed to surpass Carreno, and that's saying a lot. I loved Carreno when he was with the Cuban National Ballet.

    I'll be popping back. You blog about one of my passions and one about which I have written and on which I have conducted extensive research. Many thanks.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments A Cuban in London. It's gratifying to read that you are immersed in Cuban culture even in rainy London !

    I wonder what you made of Tocororo ?

    Will you be in Havana for the historic performances by The Royal Ballet next month ?

    I want to cover them for this blog and am looking for any Habaneros who might be willing to tell me their reaction to seeing Manon & the RB company in their country.

  4. I wish I could be in Havana (I didn't even know that the Royal was going to Cuba!) but I came back from there in March after a two-week holiday.

    I loved Tocororo, although it was a bit repetitive in certain parts. Carlitos has definitely excelled as a versatile performer, which has always been my pet hate with certain ballet dancers, certainly with the old Soviet school whenever they visited Cuba. Brilliant technique, but wooden faces.

    If you want someone to contribute to youro blog, then the name Ahmed should suffice. We were good friends for a few years until i left. Occasionally he would get me tickets to the ballet. He had a slot on Cuban national radio, CMBF and then landed his own programme on Sunday nights on Cuban national television, presenting dance, from ballet to folkloric, from modern to contemporary. When I last saw him he was a very happy and contented fella, even though the whole country was falling apart around him. I can't remember his surname but if you go to the ICRT and ask for him, the presenter, people will know who you're talking about.

    I hope this helps. If you need anything else, do not hesitate to contact me. Most of the people I know from my days as a regular ballet and dance season goer are long gone, migrated to other countries, but there might be a few around still.

    Have a nice week.

  5. For a look at sculptor Richard MacDonald's art and his plans for the White Lodge installation, see: -> The Artist -> News (May 2009).

  6. i go to the royal ballet school and i love it i have performed in the royal opera house countless times it is great i am in lancaster house at the school

  7. cwazywabbit - thank you for your comments and welcome

    Anonymous - thank you & welcome ! great to hear how much you enjoy being at the RB School. How lucky you are to be performing with the company so much ! I hope you enjoy this site and please keep me posted with your progress - following vocational students, as you can see from this site, is a real passion of mine & perhaps you might like to be featured ?


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