Friday, 31 July 2009

Tamara Rojo interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Tamara Rojo, Principal, The Royal Ballet

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
A good coffee.

Who would you most like to dance with ?
I am very lucky, I dance with the partners I want but maybe one day I would love to share the stage with Mr. Baryshnikov.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
With a lot of work. I sew them, varnish them, bang them, cut them....

Tamara & Carlos Acosta dance Manon in Cuba

What is your daily routine at the moment?
Very unpredictable. At this moment I’m flying from one continent to the other, at 3 day intervals, and performing in between.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite?
Mats Ek, Vargas Llosa, Lars van Trier, Jude Law, Simone Veil, Placido Domingo.

What would surprise people about you ?
I am quite a funny person.

Tamara & Yoel Carreño in Cuba

Who inspired you to dance ?
My first teacher, Lola Grande, and Lynn Seymour.

How would someone else describe you ?
How can I read their minds?

What is your best piece of advice ?
Work hard, travel, discover new ways..

Tamara & Alicia Alonso in Cuba

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I think plain roles like Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. I find it difficult to be inspired by them.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
I am not a very funny person.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create?
Something red.

Tamara dances Isadora

What are you most proud of ?
My friends and family.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
My life is still happening so the script is not finished yet and I hope it will be a long, long, long, one.

Tamara dances Isadora

What is your favourite quote ?
“She is like caramel but not so sweet”

The White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre

Darcey Bussell visits the Museum in May 2009 - Photo: Patrick Baldwin

At the heart of Richmond Park lies White Lodge, a 17th Century Royal Hunting Lodge which has been home to The Royal Ballet Lower School since 1955.

The School is a surprisingly interesting local resource centre, and although a working School for the majority of the year, public access is allowed for certain events and to visit their new Ballet Resource Centre.

As part of the extensive re-development of the building and as a result of a specific £350,000 fundraising campaign, The White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre is the UK’s first permanent museum dedicated to classical ballet. It is all the more unique because of its setting – housed as it is within the Lodge and with easy access for local residents. A visit to the museum can easily be combined with a walk in the Park or with afternoon tea at nearby Pembroke House. The museum is designed to offer all visitors an insight into the development of ballet, and demonstrates The Royal Ballet School’s commitment to creating greater access opportunities for the wider community.

Tutu Display - photo Brian Slater

The School’s past graduates and future stars include Sir Anthony Dowell, Dame Antoinette Sibley, Darcey Bussell CBE, & Sergei Polunin.

Earlier this year, the School’s Vice President, Lady Sarah Chatto, opened the museum, dedicating it to the memory of her late Mother, HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. The Princess was President of The Royal Ballet from 1956 until her death in 2002.

The £22 million White Lodge Redevelopment Appeal was launched in 2005 in order to repair and restore White Lodge to its former magnificence and to extend its life. From 1955, its constant and rigorous use as a ballet school had left it urgent need of repair and upgrade to meet new statutory standards for Health and Safety and Child Protection. The new facilities enable the School to deliver a dynamic and harmonious fusion of academic and social education, with the achievement of excellence in dance as its primary focus.

Pointe Shoe display - photo Brian Slater

Through a series of films, artefacts and interactive resources, (including pointe shoes which you can touch), the Museum enables visitors to trace the history of White Lodge from 1727 to its present day position as one of the world’s finest ballet schools and at the same time, follow the parallel history of classical ballet. A major focus of the Museum is the life and legacy of Dame Ninette de Valois - one of the key visionaries of British ballet and the Founder of The Royal Ballet.

White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre
Entry to the White Lodge Museum is free of charge, but visitors must register in advance. Normal opening hours during term time are Tuesdays and Thursdays 13.30-15.30, with alternative times available for groups or special visits. Please call 020-8392 8440.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Anaïs Chalendard interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Anaïs Chalendard, First Soloist, English National Ballet

Anaïs has recently been promoted from Soloist to First Soloist.

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
It sounds a bit of a cliché but I'm very lucky because I'm doing my passion: I am dancing. I don't know a lot of people, at our time, who are able to say that they are working for their passion. When I turn on the radio or the TV, or when I read the newspaper, and see the news.... well.... all this makes me think that I'm really not in a position to complain or try to look for the "motivation". On the other hand, saying everyday is a "dream come true" would be wrong. The life of a ballet dancer is hard, tiring and painful. What you need is not motivation. It is support.

Who would you most like to dance with ?
I would love to dance with Friedemann Vogel. And I would love to dance again with my previous partner in Germany, Flavio Salamanka.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
The preparation is one thing, but of course the basic shape of the shoe is extremely important. It takes a ballerina years and years to find the perfect shoe. The way to prepare a shoe depends on its shape. I think pointe shoes have to look like gloves. They have to look like they are part of the leg. It is just a thin extension. So I prepare my pointe shoes with this in mind.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Well... I am on holiday at the moment so ... I wake up about 8:30 and I go to swim for about 1/2 hour and then I do some stretching for 1/2 hour as well. Then I have breakfast with my family. Afterwards, we all go to the beach to grill until around 3pm. There I have something light for lunch. This is followed by a little siesta or reading a book. Finally I just hang around with my sister (she's 11) until dinner time. Voilà !!!

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Dominique Khalfouni: étoile of Paris OPERA, she was one of my teachers at school.
J K Rowling: I'm fan of Harry Potter!!!
Zinedine Zidane: the man who can dance with a balloon!!
Rudyard Kipling: my favourite poet
Isabelle Adjani: what an actress !!!
Le Dalaï Lama: because , he is the Dalaï Lama !!!

What would surprise people about you ?
I'm not too bad at cooking...I surprise myself sometimes thou !!! hhehehee!!!

Who inspired you to dance ?
Well... Basically, dance was more of a therapy because I had some health problems when I was younger. So I can't say that anyone in particular inspired me. Of course there are fabulous dancers and my heart beats stronger when I'm watching a beautiful performance. But to be honest, what inspires me is music and the feelings it carries. It is like magic, especially in the choreographic work. Music and feeling becomes movement. And movement is LIFE !!

How would someone else describe you ?
If this person knows me, I would appear extremely sensitive. Always worried. I doubt everything including myself.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Keep a cool head and look straight forward.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Giselle was my first big part, I was very impressed by the role itself. It was an honour and a challenge at the same time. But with Giselle, I had the feeling of the weight of tradition on my shoulder, something just much, much bigger than me. But then, it was a fabulous journey and each time I danced Giselle, I discovered new things. Working on Giselle never ends.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
It actually happened more than once and I'm sure it's gonna happen again!! Sometimes, my sister and I (for no reason), have uncontrollable laughter. I love it!! and it's really fun !!

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I think a costume has to relate to a ballet, so, I can't tell how I would design a costume right now. But one of my favourite costumes was when I danced Gamzatti. My costumes were amazing. I had to wear skirts in beautiful fabrics. The belly was free because I only had a sort of bra on top set with colourful stones. I also had to wear gorgeous bracelets and earrings. Everything was very exotic and feminine.

What are you most proud of ?
My family.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
I have no idea !!!

What is your favourite quote ?
"When you give yourself you receive more than you give." Antoine de st EXUPERY.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Yes sure ... but it's a secret skill...

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Adrienne Schulte interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Adrienne Schulte, First Artist, English National Ballet

Adrienne is currently on maternity leave.

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
It's tough when I'm tired.... but each new day is another chance to get it right. And some sunshine helps too!

Who would you most like to dance with ?
Marcelo Gomes. We've been friends since we were students and I have always looked up to him as an artist.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I used to wear my shoes really hard, so I basically just sewed on ribbons and elastic, put some superglue in the tips, made them a bit malleable in my hands for a minute or so, and then put them on for class or straight on for a performance. Now I enjoy wearing my shoes a bit softer which means I need to bend them a lot more in my hands and wear them down pretty well in class and rehearsals before making it to the stage.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Well, I have a 9 week old baby so there really is no routine at the moment besides lots of feeding, cuddling, napping and spending time with my husband and our dog, Thor.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Alive? Christopher Walken, Carla Bruni, Anthony Bourdain, The Stig, Sofia Coppola and Katie Holmes (she has some explaining to do).

What would surprise people about you ?
When I was 19 I had my tongue pierced and got a bartending license.

Who inspired you to dance ?
My mother enrolled me into dance classes as a child because I used to dance around the house nonstop to Michael Jackson; a fact made all the more touching by his recent passing.

How would someone else describe you ?
Chilled out, good sense of humour and well-balanced.

What is your best piece of advice ?
There are things in life you can control and things you can't. It's not worth getting upset over those things you can't change.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
While dancing for American Ballet Theatre, I was given a leading role in Anthony Tudor's Dark Elegies. The ballet is about a community that is mourning the loss of their children. The choreography is challenging on its own, and each step holds so much meaning and mature emotion. I had to search far within me to find that sadness and portray it without focusing solely on technique, as I tend to do.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
When I was a ballet student in New York City, my friend and I were stopped on the street and asked to dance the Macarena for a morning talk show. My mother was back home in Pennsylvania watching the show, and was of course shocked to see her daughter "dancing" on TV.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I am torn between loving a simple clean Balanchine-style costume that really shows off a dancer's body, and a magnificent tutu that fits well and looks stunning on stage.

What are you most proud of ?
The birth of my son, Logan.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
My husband was quick to answer this question with a couple of gorgeous A-list celebrities. Maybe I would ask Katie Holmes at my dinner party.

What is your favourite quote?
I always knew I would look back at the times I'd cried and laugh, but I never knew that I'd look back at the times I'd laughed and cry.
- Shaun Prowdzik –

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
Well, it used to be backward walk-overs, but my secret got out when I was asked to do them onstage. Everyone was quite impressed!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Angelina Ballerina’s Big Audition

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Holland Park
22 – 30 August

”Outstanding… another huge success” The Stage

“… guaranteed to charm an army of small children” The Sunday Times

Choreography Antony Dowson
Music Pyotr llyich Tchaikovsky
Music recorded by the Orchestra of English National Ballet

Photo: Patrick Baldwin

What could be more exciting than a trip to the ballet in the magical surroundings of Holland Park? The magnificent 1000-seat theatre has been home to Korn/Ferry Opera Holland Park in the Summer months for many years, playing to packed houses of opera novices and aficionados. Now, English National Ballet is delighted to bring the new show by Angelina Ballerina, Angelina Ballerina’s Big Audition, to one of the most beautiful covered spaces in the capital.

Call 0845 230 9769

Saturday 22 August 12pm, 3pm, 6pm
Sunday 23 August 11am, 2pm, 5pm
Tuesday 25 August 3pm, 6pm
Wednesday 26 August 3pm, 6pm
Thursday 27 August 3pm, 6pm
Friday 28 August 3pm, 6pm
Saturday 29 August 11am, 2pm, 5pm
Sunday 30 August 11am, 2pm, 5pm

Adults £20.00
Children £17.50

2 adults and 2 children £60
Groups 10+ £12.50 per ticket
Discounts not available online

Daria Klimentová interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Daria Klimentová, Senior Principal Dancer, English National Ballet

Daria prepares for the final act of Manon
Photo : P.Lapetra

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
If I’m dancing with Friedemann, then Friedemann Vogel. If not, then coffee from Starbucks.

Who would you most like to dance with ?
I have already danced with Irek Mukhamedov and Carlos Acosta so it’s only Friedemann Vogel now, a Principal from Stuttgart Ballet.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I wear Grishko. They are made especially for my feet, so I don’t have to do much, except sew the ribbons, the edges of the actual pointe shoe, and later on I use shellac to make them even harder- but they last forever.

Daria in Manon with Friedemann Vogel
Photo : P.Lapetra

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment I’m in Prague organising International Ballet Masterclasses for students and professional dancers from all over the world. So I’m in the studios from 10am - 5pm, teaching, making sure everyone is happy, doing class and rehearsing myself. Then I get home and I’m Mum to my Sabina.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Matt Damon, Madonna, Jack Nicholson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Johnny Depp & Meryl Streep.

Daria in Manon with Friedemann Vogel
Photo : P.Lapetra

What would surprise people about you ?
How much I actually care, how much I get stressed, and how much I don’t like people watching me when I dance.

Who inspired you to dance ?
Czech ballerina Hana Vlacilova, Russian ballerina Ekaterina Maximova and now Diana Vishneva.

How would someone else describe you ?
I have no idea, no-one actually knows me, they all know a bit of me.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Love each other, care about each other, enjoy what you have, nothing lasts forever.

Daria in Manon with Friedemann Vogel
Photo : P.Lapetra

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Marguerite in The Lady of the Camellias. I was 19, there was a lot of acting, I was inexperienced, and I guess I passed the test. Czech TV filmed it but if I did it now, it would be different.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. I have fallen over many times during the show. It’s usually funny for others who see it but not so much for you.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I would create the perfect tutu, in which I would feel very feminine, sexy and slim and I could move very freely in it.

What are you most proud of ?
That I didn’t give up ballet every time I wanted to. That I can do other things too, not just dancing.

Daria with her daughter, Sabina

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
Meryl Streep

What is your favourite quote ?
Dance like no one is watching.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Well I’m not going to tell you that...:)

Monday, 27 July 2009


Izzy has won the BA Great Britons competition.

I would like to say thank you to everyone who voted because Izzy's ranking shot up over the weekend and that must have been in no small part due to all of you.

Why Izzy was chosen:
At just 16, Isabella showed enormous courage in taking herself off to the Kirov Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia. Not speaking the language didn’t daunt the young star, who remains the only British student currently studying at the school.
Izzy is a true Great Briton, representing British talent on the world stage, and overcoming huge challenges to achieve her dream. Izzy’s award will enable her to fly back and forth between the UK and St. Petersburg, ensuring her much-deserved holidays back home while she fulfills her four-year course at the school.

Izzy’s story…

“I have been learning ballet since I was two - really seriously since I was 7. First of all I went St Joan of Arc Primary School in Highbury, London and I did ballet every Saturday. But then I met a Russian ballet teacher. Her classes were so hard that at first I cried. My Mum thought- well that's that then! But then, after a few days, I asked my Mum if I could see that lady again.

She's now very special to me. We've worked hard together for many years. I got into the Royal Ballet School at 13. When I was 14-15 I had a lot of problems when I grew. It was really painful for nearly a year because my bones had grown and my muscles had to catch up. Sometimes it was excruciating to keep going.

It was crunch time when I was 15. We were all auditioning for the Royal Ballet School Upper School in Covent Garden. I went on a visit to St Petersburg with my teacher Zina. The head of the Kirov Ballet School ( which is called the Vaganova Ballet Academy) took a look at me. They changed their rules to offer me a place at only 16. I was amazed - ecstatic. For me this is the best ballet school in the world. Rudolph Nureyev went there and Anna Pavlova, Nijinsky, Barishnikov - they make so many great dancers. So last September I was scared stiff to be starting a new life in this school in Russia.

I have just completed a year and I am the only British girl there. I am learning Russian. I live in a hostel inside the school and I think it's been the best decision of my life to go. At first trying to keep my legs high for ages was so hard. It is all very, very difficult but so rewarding and inspiring. My family thought I would just go for two years. But when I got there the Russian teachers said they wanted me to learn everything - and that means I will be there four years all together. My parents don't know how they're going to pay for it. It's already cost a lot. Free flights would be such a big help. It will really help give me the best chance to fulfil my dreams.”

What is the British Airways Great Britons scheme?

• British Airways is the proud airline partner of London 2012
• To help British talent take off the British Airways Great Britons scheme offers free flights to upcoming British talent
• The programme offers 180 flights a year, every year in the run up to 2012
• Winners are chosen every 2 months from a panel of expert judges, including Olympic gold medalist, Denise Lewis
• Applicants are welcomed to prove their talent in any area: sport, music, fashion, performing arts, art and design, innovation, or community
Apply online for the next round

Jeremy Curnier : From Student to Star

I am delighted to be able to reveal a specially commissioned drawing by Sarah, an immensely talented artist, to introduce this new series of interviews. I asked Sarah to depict the progression from student to professional dancer, and Sarah has very generously given of her time and skill to produce this magnificent drawing.

From Student to Star is a new series of interviews featuring Graduates as they begin their professional careers, and will be following them regularly.

Jeremy Curnier, a Graduate of The Royal Ballet School, begins work today with Northern Ballet Theatre. Curnier recently danced the role of Puck, from The Dream, in The Summer matinee performance by the School, and was truly outstanding.

What are you most looking forward to about joining the company?

With 8 years of training at the Royal Ballet School behind me I am now looking forward to a whole new experience and meeting a range of dancers from various backgrounds of training. It is also great to finally begin my career with Northern Ballet Theatre where I hope to perform regularly and experience being on tour.

How do you think life will differ from your student days?

Working as a student towards my chosen career has prepared me to give the best of myself and I aim to take this sense of responsibility into the professional world. I believe the routine of performing regularly and on tour will enhance my confidence on stage, enabling me to become more familiar with performance and interpretation of a role while at the same time retaining clean technique.

What are your best achievements as a dancer?

From an early age I have been privileged to perform various character roles with The Royal Ballet Company. These included Fritz in The Nutcracker and the Tsarevich from MacMillan’s Anastasia. Whilst I was at White Lodge another memorable event was a gala performance in front of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

Since Being at Upper School there have been two roles in particular which I have performed on the Royal Opera house stage that have been huge highlights of my career so far. The first was a challenging role in Wayne McGregor’s i-relations and the second was dancing the role of Puck from Ashton’s The Dream at my final graduation performance.

Which professional dancers do you most admire and why?

When I was younger I remember watching ABT’s Don Q and being utterly inspired by Baryshnikov’s performance of Basilio. His technical clarity and his brilliant engagement of the audience were outstanding. I have now watched a lot of his roles and his extensive repertoire and diversity of dance genres is what I believe to be unmatched by any other male dancer.

Since being at Upper School I have learnt not only to draw inspiration from a few professionals but I search YouTube for clips of dancers of all generations and eras as different techniques can teach and show various strengths in a performance.

What do you think you will bring to the Company?

I hope to fulfil my role in Northern Ballet to the best of my ability and become a recognised member of the Company not only for my artistry but also for my hard work and dependability and perhaps a good sense of humour!

How do you imagine your first day to go?

I received an email from Northern Ballet to inform me that our first day will be filled with meetings! I therefore believe Monday the 27th of July will have a quiet relaxed atmosphere where I hope to get the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with the dancers and staff.

As for my first working day, I expect it to be tough as I will be trying to make positive impressions of me as a dancer. I imagine there to be a lively fun ambiance as everyone will be refreshed from their summer holidays!

Which role would you most like to dance?

I would never give up the chance to dance the role of Puck again, whether it be Ashton’s The Dream or David Nixon’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. I enjoy this role because of the energy required and the technical challenge it presents and find it well suited to my physique and stronger qualities in classical ballet.

Where would you like to be this time next year?

I would very much like to still be at Northern Ballet this time next year as I believe it is important to become well established as a dancer in a reputable company. I would like to achieve a higher status and profile in this company before moving on if I so wished.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Isabella McGuire Mayes - only a few hours of voting left

Today is the last day of voting, so if you have a moment to follow this link, please have a look at Isabella's achievements and perhaps you will want to vote for her.

Izzy visited this website today and has said how much she would appreciate your votes as well. This is what she said :

"hi i'm isabella , today is the last day of voting and if you would be so kind as to vote for me , i would very much appreciate it xxxx

thank you

I will let you know the result tomorrow afternoon.

The Royal Ballet : Elizabeth Harrod interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Elizabeth Harrod, First Artist, The Royal Ballet

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The thought of learning something new, there are very few days in which I never learn something new, whether it be trivial or profound, ballet related or not, it's always exciting to know there is always more to learn. I like a challenge, I always feel like I dance my best when I am being pushed.

Also breakfast! I am always hungry and it's my favourite meal of the day.

Who would you most like to dance with ?
I would love to experience sharing the stage and dancing with a truly great dance/actor. I enjoy all aspects of dance within the term “Ballet”, but dramatic and emotionally charged roles appeal far more to me.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I wear Gaynor Mindens, which I think most people would agree are much harder to sew than a regular pair of Freeds, as the material and satin are much tougher, so I usually end up with cuts and blisters all over my fingers! I firstly unpick the drawstring on the heel, this stops it digging in and gives a flatter piece of material on the back of my heel. This is quite tricky and intricate and usually takes about an hour per pair. I then sew my ribbons followed by crossed elastic from where the ribbons are sewn to the back of my heels.

Thankfully Gaynors last for a long time, otherwise I'd have to come up with a much quicker method!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I usually wake at 8.00 am, sometimes 8.30 if I put my alarm on snooze! I am at work by 9.00 am, class starts at 10.30, but I like plenty of time to prepare and do some Pilates.

Rehearsals run until 5.30 if there is a show, in which case I'll run out to M&S to grab some food. If we have no show we can finish at 6.30, I'll then go to the supermarket & prepare a good dinner, I find cooking very relaxing.

If I happen to finish early I'll go home and bake. I love trying out new things - usually sweet. I live with my boyfriend so he helps me out when it comes to eating my experiments, which is a good thing or I may be in the wrong profession!!!

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Johnny Depp, Brandon Flowers (the lead singer of the Killers), Julie Walters, Kim Cattrall, Anya Hindmarch (handbag designer) and Dita Von Teese.

What would surprise people about you ?
I am I complete Chocoholic!! I struggle to make it through a day without it!!!

Who inspired you to dance ?
I don't actually have a story of inspiration, I initially started dancing because I wanted the pink leotard with the pretty skirt! I just adored dressing up and would always perform, even if I was at home in the kitchen. Then I gradually developed a passion for classical ballet, I had wonderful teachers, Vanessa Hooper and her mother Vera Skelton who pointed me in the direction of The Royal Ballet School, things just gradually progressed. Obviously my love and determination grew, it's definitely not a job you could pursue if you didn't love it!

How would someone else describe you ?
I hate to say it but probably slightly neurotic!!! Although I have got much better and have taught myself not to sweat the small stuff - it makes life much easier!

I like to think I also have a good work/life balance and I'm very family orientated, they are extremely important to me.

What is your best piece of advice ?
If anyone is unfortunate enough to be injured - use every day as a learning experience. Being injured was one of the most educational periods of my life. I now have so much more knowledge to take with me in my career. I try to look at things in a positive way or it would just be wasted time in my career and in my life - I don't intend to waste a second.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I performed Clara (from The Nutcracker) for the first time at Christmas which was my first experience of 'carrying' an entire ballet so to speak. To know that I was the one who had to play a major role in setting the scene and creating the atmosphere was initially quite daunting, but I soon found myself very at home and loved every second. I also found the pas de trois from Act 1 Swan Lake a challenge in terms of stamina - it's very deceiving.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
My most recent would have to be falling off a stool in the Royal Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. They are small circular stools and we have to bourrée around en pointe, unfortunately I had a wobbly stool, fell off backwards and ended up in a heap with my partner, legs up in the air, dress over my head! I had to work very hard at composing myself!

There was a point when I'd frequently fall flat on my face on stage. I think my parents were really quite concerned that this was not the right career choice!

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I love to feel feminine and like a woman when I am on stage, I think I would design a dress along the lines of Tatiana in 'Onegin' or Marguerite in 'Marguerite and Armand'.

What are you most proud of ?
Right now I am in love with the flat my boyfriend & I have just bought together. The buying process was stressful but it was absolutely worth it, we are over the moon.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
Someone with a good sense of humour. I have learnt to laugh at myself & at life - it's much more fun that way.

What is your favourite quote ?
'Everything in moderation' - that was my great grandfathers philosophy for everything in his life, he died a month before his 100th birthday.

Friday, 24 July 2009


Hello Everyone,

On Monday we will know whether or not Isabella has won the Great Britons competition.

One of the very first Great Britons winners was Daniel Dolan, who is about to take up his place at the Bolshoi Ballet. Daniel will be flying off to Moscow, courtesy of British Airways, in August.

As the most popular single entry, 16-year-old Daniel Dolan from Widnes in Cheshire beat hundreds of applications to secure flights to Moscow to train at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy– one of the world’s most renowned ballet schools.

The BA Great Britons Programme is a £500,000 travel fund offering up to 180 free flights a year until 2012 to enable British budding talent to realise their dreams.

So, it can be done & with the help of your votes I hope that another high achieving Briton can further their career this time.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

English National Ballet - Anjuli Hudson interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Anjuli Hudson, Artist, English National Ballet

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
A big cup of coffee and some good music on the way to work.

Who would you most like to dance with?
I danced the White Cat & Puss in Boots in The Sleeping Beauty with my friend Shevelle Dynott. He’s a great dancer and I had a lot of fun working with him so I’d love to dance with him again.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I wear handmade shoes by Freed which mould really well to the shape of my foot even after I’ve only worn them once. I darn the ends of my shoes to make them last longer and after I’ve sewn my ribbons on I singe the ends with a lighter so they don’t fray. When the backs of the shoes begin to get soft, I use shellac to harden them. I usually have about three or four pairs on the go at the same time so I don’t wear them out too quickly.

What is your daily routine at the moment?
A typical day at work in London when we’re rehearsing starts at 10:30am and finishes at about 6:30pm. I usually wake up at around 8:00 so I don’t have to rush. It takes me about 45 minutes to get to work, so I aim to get there at around 10:00 and have half an hour to warm up before class. Class is an hour and forty-five minutes and the rest of the day is filled with rehearsals that can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours!

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Dead or alive? Barack Obama, Alan Carr, Michael Phelps, Gelsey Kirkland, Freddie Mercury and Audrey Hepburn.

What would surprise people about you?
I think people are surprised by how well travelled I am. When I was young, my Dad’s job moved us around a lot. I was lucky enough to live in places such as India, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and then England of course! To experience completely different cultures like that at such a young age was just incredible.

Who inspired you to dance?
My previous dance teacher when I was in Tokyo, Ana Keates. She was a big fan of tough love but full of life and such an inspiration to me. She was also the one who pushed me to audition for Elmhurst School of Dance in Surrey when I was twelve. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

How would someone else describe you?
I’ve always been the little one! People have said I’m quite competitive and maybe even stubborn sometimes, but also fun and outgoing.

What is your best piece of advice?
Don’t regret anything you do. I’ve learned that you’ll end up regretting the things that you didn’t do more than what you did do.

Which role has tested you the most and how?
I still think working with the Company as a student was my biggest challenge. You have to be very quick at picking up the choreography, learn many if not every corps de ballet place and be able to step in for anyone at any time. Plus you don’t know anyone and on top of that you’re hoping to get a contract out of it all. Talk about pressure!

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
There’s so many but this is quite recent. A few months ago my friend and I were on holiday and we decided to rent a jet ski! While we were out, we hit a wave wrong and both of us went flying off the back. We were in the same position in the air, just minus the jet ski! I wish someone had caught it on tape. It took us ages to finally get back on it because we were laughing so much!

Photo : Amber Hunt

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create?
I’ve always been a big fan of The Nutcracker. I love the whole Christmas theme so I’d probably design one of the costumes in that. You could have a lot of fun with the second act because it’s supposedly a dream so anything’s possible. It would also be comfortable and flexible for the dancer to be able to move with ease, I think that’s extremely important to the dancer.

What are you most proud of?
I’m so proud of my Dad for overcoming cancer. He had leukaemia and it was caught at a late stage, but he still fought through it and is now in remission.

Photo : Amber Hunt

Who would play you in the film of your life?
I don’t know! Maybe someone like Rachel Bilson, she’s little and feisty like me!

What is your favourite quote?
C’est la vie!

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I was determined to play an instrument at school when I was younger! I signed myself up for everything. Recorder, piano, violin, guitar. I tried so hard with all of them but I was never really good at any of them. At the time I thought I was though! Okay so more unskilled than skilled with instruments, but I’ve found my niche now!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Isabella McGuire Mayes

Isabella is a plucky 16 yr old former White Lodge ballet student, who was offered a place at the legendary Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg last year. They broke the rules to accept her (the rules state that a foreign student must be aged at least 17 yrs), and Isabella is only the 2nd British student in the School's 270 year history to be offered a place.

Initially Isabella thought that she would study at the School for two years, but her teachers want her to learn everything which means a 4 yr study period. The costs for a foreign student are high, and include medical insurance for extensive physiotherapy and massage.

Isabella says that one day she wants to dance with The Royal Ballet.

Isabella has been short-listed for a programme called Great Britons, run by British Airways (click on "performing arts" when the page loads and scroll down to Isabella's picture). The programme helps young people overseas in various activities, to meet their travel costs.

Today's Evening Standard carries more information and photographs.

Here is a video clip about Isabella from YouTube.

There are only four days of voting left, so please do have a look at the information available and decide whether or not you want to vote for Isabella. You can read extracts from Isabella's diary which was featured in The Guardian, as well as download her media file.

English National Ballet - Masterclasses & Summer School

Ballet dancers take class every day of their working lives - and sometimes beyond ! Class is a structured work out where all the major muscles are warmed up ready for the day ahead. For professional dancers it's a time to ease out the stiffness of last night's performance, or to strengthen an area perhaps weakened by an injury.

English National Ballet are offering two opportunities this weekend to join them in class, on Saturday 25th July 11am-1pm at Markova House.

First there is a Taster class, where no experience is necessary, for those aged 7-11 yrs.

Then there is an Improver class, where some dance experience is required. This is for those aged 14 yrs +.

In both classes the cost is £8 and there are 25 places available in each.

Additionally, if you are not in London this weekend, English National Ballet are offering places at their Summer School at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, from 12th - 14th August. You can join classes and workshops, choosing from Ballet Creative, Learn the Steps, Twilight Ballet or Ballet Masterclass with expert teachers and dancers of the Company.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Royal Ballet on tour in Havana, Cuba

I have been regularly updating my earlier post with pictures and articles about the Havana performances, so please do check back from time to time to see what's new !

Monday 20th July

I have just added a link to a review of one performance by someone who was actually inside the theatre, as well as some more pictures and video's.

We now have a report of the Manon performance as well.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Royal Ballet

15 JULY 2009
For immediate release

Steven McRae becomes The Royal Ballet’s newest Principal in 2009/10 season promotions

The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae has been promoted to Principal in the recent Company promotions. The Australian dancer joined the Company in 2004 after two years at the Royal Ballet School and has risen quickly through the ranks. His first major role as a Principal will be in The Royal Ballet’s first performance of Glen Tetley’s Sphinx on 4 November.

Stephen McRae in Now
Photo : Bill Cooper

Also promoted are: Helen Crawford, Hikaru Kobayashi and Sergei Polunin to First Soloists; Kristen McNally becomes a Soloist and Leanne Cope, Olivia Cowley, Melissa Hamilton and Nathalie Harrison are promoted to First Artists. Sian Murphy becomes Assistant Ballet Mistress which she will undertake alongside her role as a First Artist.

The Company is also pleased to welcome graduates of the Royal Ballet School Leticia Stock, Tristan Dyer and Benjamin Ella who join as Artists. Hayley Forskitt from the Norwegian National Ballet and Jacqueline Clark from Ballet Ireland, who both trained at the Royal Ballet School, also join as Artists along with last season’s Prix de Lausanne Apprentice Akane Takada. Rina Nemoto joins as a Prix De Lausanne Dancer.

The Royal Ballet bids a fond farewell to Principal Alexandra Ansanelli, First Soloist Isabel McMeekan, Soloist and Assistant Ballet Mistress Vanessa Palmer and First Artist Henry St Clair.

The 2009/10 season will open on Wednesday 7 October with Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Mayerling. For casting, dates and ticket prices please visit the Royal Opera House website.

The Royal Ballet in Cuba

20th July - At last ! Jorge Gonzalez who writes the Cuba Journal has sent me a link to an actual review of one of the performances in Havana, from, which was a Special Report by Toni Piñera for Granma. There is a reference to "A Month in the Countryside" - the ballet is called A Month in the Country.

Very many thanks to Jorge. reports on The Royal Ballet’s performance on Manon.
"Royal Ballet gives perfect presentation of Manon in Havana".

The Today Programme on Radio 4 has a three minute slot about The Royal Ballet's visit to Cuba.
Scroll down the page to 8.38am.

"If you have a good night, it’s the best place to have it, because the people are really going to know that it’s a good night" – Tamara Rojo on performing to the knowledgeable Cuban audiences.

Here is a BBC video with Michael Voss talking about the Company taking class and of Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo dancing Le Corsaire.

The Cuban Government news agency Presna Latina reports on The Royal Ballet.

Associated Press have a short report from Anne-Marie Garcia
on the first performance here.

The People's Daily Online has 7 excellent pictures of the Company dancers in Havana.

Here are some pictures from Havana Times.

The Sacramento Bee has a selection of photo's here.

MSNBC have a report here.

An outside look at the first night in Havana - "Opening Night and the Royal Ballet" by Havana Times

CBS News has a video with footage from the performance.

The Havana Times are "Relishing the Royal Ballet in Havana".

The Havana Times (what would we do without them !) reports on “Royal Ballet closing night in Cuba”. It was also the last performance with the Company for Principal dancer Alexandra Anasanelli.

The Miami Herald carries a picture of Monica Mason bowing deeply to Alicia Alonso (the rest of the report has been widely syndicated).

There is a distinct lack of reporting on all the Havana performances from anyone who was inside the two theatres.

The Guardian reported “In Havana, swine flu disrupted the Royal Ballet's 150-strong tour of Cuba when six of the dancers fell ill, including stars Marianela Núñez and Steven McRae”.

It has also been reported that the Cuban authorities acted very swiftly and isolated the infected people. They were given anti-virals and are now fully recovered. I mention this only because it might have given rise to concerns about Carlos Acosta's upcoming Coliseum performances this coming week, where Stephen McRae is also dancing, but the dancers will do everything possible to avoid disruption to the schedule and after all "the show must go on".

The Cuba Journal has some great pictures here.

Carlos Acosta was on the line from Havana to Radio 4's Front Row programe earlier in the week. It's on iPlayer now - just scroll through to about 16 minutes in.

Click here for the video and photo section of this website - the first listed video shows beautiful footage of Tamara Rojo rehearsing.

Roberto Suárez has more photo's here.

Radio Nuevitas reports “Royal Ballet in Havana, Undying Memory”

The Havana Times has a review on the shows.

The Observer carried this interview with Carlos Acosta and others last weekend in the magazine.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Royal Ballet School Graduates 2009

In my review of The Royal Ballet School Summer Matinee Performance, I reported that every one of the 2009 Graduate year had been awarded a contract with a professional ballet company.

Here is the full list of Graduates and where they are going :

Ruth Bailey - The Royal Ballet
Leticia Stock - The Royal Ballet
Tristan Dyer - The Royal Ballet
Benjamin Ella - The Royal Ballet
Benjamin Soerel - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Nicola Henshall - English National Ballet
Shiori Kase - English National Ballet
Vadim Muntagirov - English National Ballet (First Artist)
Jeremy Curnier - Northern Ballet
Charlotte Barber-O’Donnell - Dutch National Ballet
Elisa Badenes - Stuttgart Ballet
Freya Thomas - Munich Ballet
Oda Groener - Royal Danish Ballet
Daniel Norgren-Jensen - Royal Swedish Ballet
Jonathan Hanks - Estonian Ballet
William Moore - Estonian Ballet
Lucas Lima - Norwegian National Ballet
Lili Felmery - Hungarian Ballet
Giada Rossi - Ballet de l’Opera National de Bordeaux
Bethany West - Ballet de l’Opera National de Bordeaux
Giacomo Vitelli - Corella Ballet, Spain
Mattia Vitelli - Corella Ballet, Spain
Sergi Terns Goma - Corella Ballet, Spain
Alex Arshamian - South African Ballet Theatre
Natalie Blosser - Ballet Tuscon, Arizona
Giorgio Galli - National Ballet of Canada
Ichigo Oguro - Singapore Dance Theatre
Jessica Wood - The Australian Ballet

Carlos Acosta and Guest Artists - update

Full details of the cast and programme for Carlos Acosta and Guest Artists at the London Coliseum are now available.

Due to unforeseen circumstances Nina Kaptsova of the Bolshoi Ballet will not be able to participate in the run of Carlos Acosta & Guest Artists. Nina Kaptsova was due to dance the Pas de Deux from Spartacus.

Kapstova is dancing with Ivan Vasiliev in Spartacus at home with the Bolshoi, which means that Acosta is performing two solo pieces from Spartacus instead. These don't appear in the official release below. I'm sure Kapstova's absence will be missed - not least because when Acosta danced the role in the UK, he did not perform the one-arm lifts in the pas de deux (he had a different partner), as he did with Kapstova in Paris - so this would have been an opportunity for anyone who missed the Paris shows to see the original & famous choreography. Such a shame the programming can't be worked out.

The confirmed guest artists for the evening are as follows:

Florencia Chinellato – Hamburg Ballet
Amilcar Moret – Hamburg Ballet
Begoña Cao – ENB
Arionel Vargas – ENB
Roberta Marquez – The Royal Ballet
Steven McRae – The Royal Ballet
Miguel Altunaga – Rambert Dance Company
Pieter Symonds - Rambert Dance Company
Veronica Corveas – Ballet Nacional de Cuba

The programme for the evening consists of the following:

Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes
Ivan Tenorio’s Ritmicas
Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody
John Neumeier’s Othello
Azari Plisetski’s Canto Vital

INTERVAL (20 mins)

Kim Brandstrup’s DK60
Derek Deane’s Summertime
Michel Descombey’s Dying Swan
Ramon Gomez Reis’ Over There
Miguel Altunaga’s Memoria
Georges Garcia’s Majisimo

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Royal Ballet School Annual Matinee Performance

Photo : Johan Persson

If it is the case that this performance is the one that the students most look forward to throughout the year, I can say that this year the audience’s eagerness far excelled their own. The entire Graduate year has, for the third year in a row, been offered contracts with ballet companies around the world.

Photo : Johan Persson

I’ve seen Frederick Ashton’s The Dream a good few times but I have never seen it danced as fluently and with such spriteliness and élan as this one. This is no easy ballet to pull off – and this was not a student performance.

There was a sparkling delicacy and brightness threaded through the entire cast. Elisa Badenes (now off to Stuttgart Ballet), as Titania, has technical control, beautifully arched feet and her port de bras reminded me of The Royal Ballet’s Roberta Marquez in phrasing and fluency.

Photo : Johan Persson

Her Nocturne pas de deux with Joseph Caley, as Oberon, was pure poetry. Caley lifted Badenes high and then so slowly lowered her into the splits, several times, that she might have been sitting on a cloud, so careful was he to avoid even a tiny crumple of its pillowy softness.

Photo : Johan Persson

This must be one of the trickiest pas de deux for any dancer, let alone a newly graduated student. (Technically, Caley is not a student but a recent graduate of the School, replacing an injured dancer, and now with Birmingham Royal Ballet). Oberon needs a quiet authority to keep everyone spellbound in his shady glade, and Caley added grace and stature.

He was helped no end by Jeremy Curnier as a quite outstanding Puck. I particularly liked his cheeky, intrepid dancing; his technical mastery evident so that he had time to play with the character. I’ve never seen Puck danced better.

Photo : Johan Persson

Full marks must also go to Jonathan Hanks who was accomplished beyond measure en pointe as Bottom – always a real crowd pleaser but this time especially so, because his characterization as the transformed ass and his footwork were truly stellar.

Leticia Stock as Mustardseed and Shiori Kase as Cobweb were starbursts, showing a polish and twinkle that caught my eye.

Photo : Johan Persson

The second half of the programme began with Les Jeunes Hommes, specially commissioned for this year’s performances and choreographed by Stanton Welch. The dance really does show off the strength & verve of the boys in the School, and what talent there is !

Photo : Johan Persson

They were presented in a row, bare-chested against a blue backdrop, and it was just them and the music (Vivaldi’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor & solo oboe by Alaster Bentley). Each dancer used his own internal spotlight to full effect. Several of the dancers turned out perfect gargouillades, a tricky pas de chat step with a ronde de jambe on each foot.

Photo : Johan Persson

Reawakening begins gently, with a refreshing piquancy & softly draping costumes by Carole Leicester, great lighting & lilting music (Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius). All of the dancers were young stars.

Photo : Johan Persson

The Larina Waltz, with Tchaikovsky’s lovely music & new passages added by choreographer Ashley Page for these Graduates, showed off the five couples in classical style, dressed in shimmering white tutu’s and black tunics. Leticia Stock and Shiori Kase proved their credentials again (Stock has a contract with The Royal Ballet and Kase with English National Ballet), with clean, strong lines and assured partnering.

Photo : Johan Persson

The Grand Défilé is a thrilling way for the students to end their year at the School, to end the show, and show off their accomplishments. Thrilling too for the audience. The music – Études by Karl Czerny, builds & builds until one after another the dancers dazzled & fizzled, with an impossibly long one handed lift here, or a series of faultless fouettés there, all to thunderous applause.

With all 220 students on stage, the Défilé is complete. So too is our admiration of the School and its remarkable achievements. What you see on stage are the best ballet students in the world. But that is only part of the story. There are many layers which the teachers skilfully weave together to nurture & develop the young dancers throughout their years at the School.