Saturday, 27 February 2010

English National Ballet's Emerging Dancer & People's Choice Awards

Regular readers will know that I have been reporting on the Emerging Dancer and People's Choice Awards for a while now, as well as interviewing all but one of the nominees.  The results are in ! 

24 February 2010
for immediate release

English National Ballet is delighted to announce that Anais Chalendard is the winner of this year’s Emerging Dancer Award, sponsored by Talbot Hughes McKillop and Crystal Costa has won The People’s Choice Award, following a performance at English National Ballet’s studios this evening in front of a panel of judges comprised of Artistic Director, Wayne Eagling, ballet legend Dame Beryl Grey DBE, Prima Ballerina Tamara Rojo, The Sunday Express dance critic and arts feature writer Jeffery Taylor and ballet supporter David Lloyd.

Anais Chalendard has been named the winner of the Emerging Dancer award 2010 sponsored by Talbot Hughes McKillop. Anais was presented the coveted award along with a cash prize by Julian Gething, Partner at Talbot Hughes McKillop.

Anais gave a spell binding performance of Nikiya's Death Scene from La Bayadère When the award was announced she was speechless but delighted & she said afterwards "I didn't expect it, it was such a victory for me, I treated it like a show", and of recently coming back from injury she said "I missed pointe shoes so much I really enjoyed performing again and I love La Bayadère, such a feminine ballet"

Wayne Eagling commented :
“To all the dancers congratulations, I'm very proud to be their director. I hope we can continue in the future, the award has created excitement and fun within the Company”.

Tamara Rojo said of Anais' performance :
“She is a very beautiful dancer, dramatically very talented, and an artist with great potential. She'll do very well”.

Jeffery Taylor said of Anais :
"She has passion which I particularly find irresistible, and complete commitment for the story she is telling. She's technically fantastic and very brave to perform this in front of the great Bayadère of her generation [Tamara Rojo]".

Also this evening Crystal Costa was presented with The People’s Choice Award voted for by English National Ballet’s audiences throughout the autumn and Christmas seasons. Crystal wowed audiences across the UK with her performance as the title role in Giselle, and also as Gerda in The Snow Queen.

Crystal Costa commented
“It's been a pretty exciting time, and I hope the award continues and evolves. Thanks to English National Ballet and Talbot Hughes McKillop for doing this for us it's been quite special."

This is the inaugural year of the Emerging Dancer Award sponsored by Talbot Hughes McKillop. The Emerging Dancer Award is an annual competition for English National Ballet to recognise and nurture the phenomenal talent of its up-and-coming dancers. The Award encourages excellence and potential within the Company.

A snapshot of Anäis Chalendard

Anäis was born in Le Coteau, France and trained at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille. Previously a member of Deutsch Oper, Straatsoper Berlin and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Anais joined English National Ballet in 2008. After one season with the Company Anais was promoted to First Soloist following performances as Manon during the Spring tour. Anais would love to dance Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and is greatly looking forward to the Spring tour of Giselle, one of her favourite ballets.

A snapshot of Crystal Costa

Crystal Costa was born in Vancouver, Canada and trained at The National Ballet School of Canada before joining Hong Kong Ballet. During her time at Hong Kong Ballet she rose to the rank of Principal before joining English National Ballet as a Soloist in 2007.

Promoted to First Soloist in 2008, Crystal has danced Principal roles since her first season with the Company in The Snow Queen as peasant girl Gerda and both the Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara in the The Nutcracker. Crystal is currently rehearsing her favourite role, Giselle which she will perform for the first time with English National Ballet during the Autumn tour.

A little about the ballet company - English National Ballet

English National Ballet celebrates 60 years of dance excellence in 2010, with five of the world’s favourite classical ballets, Giselle, Cinderella, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet and The Nutcracker. Founded by two of the greatest British dancers of all time, Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, the Company’s first performance was on 14 August 1950. 60 years on, English National Ballet is Britain’s largest touring ballet Company with 67 dancers and a live orchestra. English National Ballet acts as a cultural ambassador for the nation and performs full scale productions throughout the UK, Europe, and across the world, at a price everyone can afford.

I'm sure you'll want to jon me in wishing congratulations to Anais and Crystal.

Thursday, 25 February 2010


Delia Matthews in Cinderella
Photograph :  Tim Cross

Quite a bit of news for you, beginning with Birmingham Royal Ballet's 20th Anniversary Gala, in the presence of royalty, which takes place on Tuesday 9 March at 7.30pm & Wednesday 10 March at 2pm and 7.30pm. 

First of all I'd like to give you a snapshot of Birmingham Royal Ballet's history, to put the celebrations into context :

Birmingham Hippodrome and Birmingham City Council invite Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet to re-locate to Birmingham.

Richard Johnson, Director of Birmingham Hippodrome and on behalf of Birmingham City Council meets with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet’s Director Peter Wright and General Manager Christopher Nourse. They discuss the proposed plans for a move, to be helped by local funding and improved facilities at Birmingham Hippodrome

Relocation announced at a press conference on 12 January

In June, Dame Ninette de Valois lays the foundation stone at Birmingham Hippodrome to commemorate new studios and facilities

Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet moves to a new home in Birmingham and changes its name to Birmingham Royal Ballet

Sir Peter Wright retires. David Bintley becomes Artistic Director

Birmingham Royal Ballet becomes independent of the Royal Opera House

Christopher Barron joins Birmingham Royal Ballet as Chief Executive

Elmhurst School for Dance moves from London to Birmingham and becomes the Associate School of Birmingham Royal Ballet

As the company prepares to celebrate twenty years in the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director David Bintley wins The South Bank Show Dance Award and an Olivier nomination for E=mc²

Here are the details of the Gala :
Media release: 25.02.2010


attended by


Birmingham Royal Ballet is pleased to announce the Company’s 20th Anniversary Gala, 20 Years Celebration, on Wednesday 10 March at 7.30pm at Birmingham Hippodrome, will be attended by
Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales, President of Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Duchess of Cornwall, Patron of Elmhurst School for Dance, the Birmingham-based vocational school in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

2010 marks Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 20th year in the City of Birmingham since the company (then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet) moved from London in 1990, a move the press at the time described as ‘the arts coup of the decade’. Twenty years on and Birmingham Royal Ballet is delighted to celebrate two decades of success with an exciting array of productions, kicking off with three celebratory galas at the company’s home theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome.

Sponsored by Bullring Birmingham, 20 Years Celebration will highlight excerpts from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s most memorable repertoire. Along with multimedia presentations that will commemorate the company’s local, national and international achievements over the last two decades, excerpts from The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet Carmina Burana, and Ballet Changed My Life: Ballet Hoo! will be included, along with performances from students of Elmhurst School for Dance and the Royal Ballet School.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director David Bintley said: It’s our 20th anniversary so it’s a celebration of the past 20 years, and looking towards the future. I’m trying to tell the story of the whole company, not just the people who appear on stage, but also all the parts of the Company that people really don’t know very much about. I hope that everyone who comes would leave at the end with a better understanding of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Louise Hamer-Brown, Marketing Controller for Bullring commented: To produce a ballet requires such a vast range of skills and talents united to create a work of art, from set design and costume design, choreography to lighting and of course, the dancers. This year at Bullring we’re celebrating all that makes people feel happy, so collaborating with Birmingham Royal Ballet which brings delight to all who watch and take part in it, seemed a natural unity. We are proud to sponsor an organisation that brings this exquisite performance art to Birmingham.

For tickets, please either call 0844 338 5000 or visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website (link below).

Delia Matthews in Cinderella
Photograph :  Tim Cross

Birmingham Royal Ballet have also announced their 2010/11 Season, which includes the World Premiere of David Bintley's new production of Cinderella.

Birmingham Royal Ballet is pleased to announce the company’s 2010/11 season, which includes the world premiere of David Bintley’s new version of the fairytale classic, Cinderella. A triple bill named Pointes of View and the classic love story Romeo and Juliet, along with Cinderella, conclude the company’s celebrations for their anniversary year in Birmingham.

Later in the season and into 2011, ballet favourites La Fille mal gardée and Coppélia will delight audiences of all ages. A double bill called Passion and Ecstasy finishes the 2010/11 season at Birmingham Hippodrome and includes Allegri diversi and Carmina Burana. Both ballets are by award winning choreographer and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director, David Bintley.

In The Upper Room
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

In September the company will open its season with a triple bill named Pointes of View, three complementary ballets by some of the world’s leading choreographers. Kenneth Macmillan’s Concerto is one of his most popular works, in which displays of energy and virtuosity frame a warm and tender pas de deux. The Lady and the Fool is an unsentimental but deeply passionate dance created by John Cranko, MacMillan’s contemporary and friend, and another influential 20th century choreographer, and In the Upper Room, dancers in trainers and striking red pointe shoes dominate the stage with energy, flair and finesse in this athletic ballet by American choreographer Twyla Tharp.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed by the company at Birmingham Hippodrome in 1992. Kenneth MacMillan’s production returns to the company’s home theatre from 29 September 2010 for 6 performances only. With a sweeping score by Sergei Prokofiev and choreography from Kenneth MacMillan, Romeo and Juliet continues to be the all-time classic love story.

Chi Cao as Romeo, from Romeo & Juliet
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Created for the City of Birmingham in the company’s 20th anniversary year, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s brand new production of Cinderella by David Bintley, receives its world premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome on 24 November 2010. John Macfarlane, designer of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker and the company’s recent Le Baiser de la fée promises to conjure up a magical world to bring this much loved fairytale to life to the music by Sergei Prokiev.

Kicking off the spring season La Fille mal gardée will be performed at the beginning of March 2011 at Birmingham Hippodrome. Ever popular because of its simple, engaging story and wonderful wit, La Fille mal gardée remains a firm family favourite. Created in 1960 by Frederick Ashton, one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century, this charming ballet was an instant hit and includes the famous ‘clog dance’, one of the most famous dances performed in a classical ballet.

In June, Coppélia, the tale of magic, mayhem and the original living doll, will entertain audiences of all ages at the company’s home theatre. The company’s production is by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director Laureate Sir Peter Wright. Premiered by Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1995, the enchanting production of this witty ballet is an ever-popular celebration of love, with a sparking score by Delibes and breathtaking choreography by Marius Petipa, Enrico Cecchetti and Peter Wright.

James Grundy as Alain from La Fille mal gardée 
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Later in June, Passion and Ecstasy, is an evening of two ballets by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director, David Bintley and rounds off the 2010-11 season at Birmingham Hippodrome. Allegri diversi is an energetic ballet set to Rossini’s score full of jumps, turns, and dance phrases that freeze into unpredictable poses with speeds that reach impossible highs. Completing the summer’s double bill is David Bintley’s Carmina Burana. An encounter with the mind-blowing Goddess Fortuna deals three seminarians a major lesson in the fickle nature of fate. It is a thrilling, large-scale production, made to Carl Orff’s rousing and emotionally charged choral tour de force. With designs by Philip Prowse and lighting by Peter Mumford, Carmina Burana premiered in Birmingham in 1995.


Pointes of View
(Concerto / The Lady and the Fool / In the Upper Room)
22 – 25 September 2010

Romeo and Juliet
29 September – 2 October 2010

Cinderella (World Premiere)
24 November – 12 December 2010

La Fille mal gardée
2- 5 March 2011

15 – 18 June 2011

Passion and Ecstasy
(Allegri diversi / Carmina Burana)
22 - 25 June 2011

Please visit the Birmingham Royal Ballet website for more information.  Season tickets are available from 22 February 2010. Discounts of 25% can be obtained by those wishing to book a subscription package enabling them to see all shows.
Please note General booking opens 31 March 2010.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Royal Ballet Triple Bill reviewed - As One|Rushes - Fragments of a lost story|Infra

As One|Rushes - Fragments of a lost story|Infra
The Royal Ballet
February 19th 2010

As a First Artist with the Company, Jonathan Watkins choreographed his first ballet for the main Covent Garden stage boldly using his colleagues from all ranks – including Principals. They in turn relished the chance to have a new work made on them; no matter that the choreographer is in the corp.

Artists of The Royal Ballet in As One
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

His ballet, As One, highlights five snapshots of life in an urban setting, so the intriguing set, by Simon Daw, bursts open to reveal a kitchen and a house party way past midnight. James Wilkie stole the show outright, and the prize for the most unflattering costume (in a night of unflattering costumes) goes to Leanne Cope, dressed in a triangular orange and grey dress that did nothing for her, but full credit to Cope as it never distracted from her fabulous lines, sharp footwork and beaming smile. A sofa-dwelling channel surfing guy, Ed Watson, studiously ignores Laura Morera who tries and fails to get him to notice her. Morera is as fleet and frisky as ever, but to no avail.

Artists of The Royal Ballet in As One
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

At the start of Urban Youth, a line of sparkling white trainers descended in front of us. Homage to Craig David I wondered ? No, this is Shoefiti, which began in the US and is where a pair of trainers, with laces tied together, are thrown over telephone wires as a way of marking territory (other uses are available). Johannes Stepanek put feeling into his steps as a group of males dressed in orange (as were most of the dancers throughout), did their thing.

Artists of The Royal Ballet in As One
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

What are we waiting for? Had me watching the clock too; I’m sure this is a good concept for something but I’m unconvinced that it’s right for ballet. Many chairs arrived and the dancers often walked from one to another, with Kristen McNally despairing and unable to reach any of them. Do people usually move chairs a lot in a waiting room ? Whatever they were waiting for, I couldn’t wait for the final slice, Blinkered Living, where a somewhat typecast Steven McRae spun and leapt his way in front of the market trader video design backdrop by Simon Daw and Tim Reid. A lesser dancer would have been lost in front of the vast screens with rows of flickering numbers and in his orange suit he pirouetted fiendishly; McRae never shows the preparation before each step.

Yuhui Choe in The Royal Ballet’s As One
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Overall I found the five slices of life more intriguing individually than either the start or close of the piece. There was nothing wrong with the opening, with Laura Morera on her own, nor the ending where all the slices of life come together through a vast picture frame, but I didn’t feel that Watkins’ optimistic sense of oneness at the end had, as yet, been fully developed. But full marks to him for bringing something new, and a story ballet at that, to the audience.

Steven McRae in The Royal Ballet’s As One
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Rushes, literally tiny bits of film implying a very old story which only survives in fragments, is choreographed by Kim Brandstrup, and has morphed into a slightly gentler story than at its first showing, where I remember Carlos Acosta being far more brutal with his partners and the furniture.

Carlos Acosta in Rushes
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

The essence of the story is that the male character, danced this evening by Carlos Acosta, is flawed, fragile and sometimes violent as a result, and is forever chasing a woman (Laura Morera) who emphatically does not want him. This makes him angry and tension is in the air whenever the two are together. Every now and then we see another woman (Alina Cojocaru), who loves him even though he is oblivious.

Now I have two problems with this. First of all, if you want a credible story of rejection then don’t cast Acosta, for whom the very concept is anathema. He makes a good job of it of course, but I don’t sense that it is a feeling he has come into much contact with. Secondly, his hideous costume makes him look like a teacher, and he’s a dancer. Not just any dancer either. I had hoped for improvements in this department second time around but he is still dressed in loose trousers and a truly offensive two tone orange knitted jumper. Why ? His handstands into the splits on a chair and his sublime partnering skills are still as striking as ever, but there is no need to dress down the star.

Laura Morera and Carlos Acosta in Rushes
Photograph : Bill Cooper

Morera matches him in the pas de deux with its off-balance steps and endless configurations, and Cojocaru is ghostly in grey as she envelops Acosta without touching him physically or otherwise - her ethereal presence doesn’t even register with him. Fabulous to see her back.  There are also twelve dancers who break up the rushes, and I particularly noticed Tara-Brigitte Bhavnani and Paul Kay in these sections - hard to do as there is a beaded curtain across the whole stage through which the main characters dip and dive.

Alina Cojocaru in Rushes
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Infra was the surprise of the night for me. I am not a fan of resident choreographer Wayne McGregor’s style, but with Infra the elements he weaves together are compelling to watch. There is no particular story in this last ballet, McGregor says it is just ‘about people’.  This is the modern ballet which the Company took on tour to Cuba last summer, and you can see how the audiences there must have marvelled at the technique.

Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood in Infra
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Utterly outstanding were Sarah Lamb and Ricardo Cervera; Lamb replacing Lauren Cuthbertson and turning the steps into a work of art, which she couldn’t have done without Cervera. Lamb has been out for a year with a serious injury (a broken foot) which could have been career-shattering, but I am delighted to say that she is back with a blast and exactly where she should be.

Sarah Lamb and Ricardo Cervera
Photograph :  Elliott Franks

Julian Opie’s set designs, with his white pixel people walking above the dancers could have been a distraction were it not for these two masters.

Artists of The Royal Ballet in Infra
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Much has been said of Melissa Hamilton and in Infra she has found a role that makes the most of her physique. With Eric Underwood they make a striking partnership; both have great style and flexibility and complement each other - she is yin to his yang. Yuhui Choe also made her mark with very sharp footwork and great hands.  The costumes were mostly body hugging black as favoured by the dancers, giving an overall effect of clarity and diamond precision.

With a triple bill there is almost always something to suit everyone. This bill has three, largely similar ballets, but there are subtleties which reward the audience and this time you won’t have to break the bank to see them.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Ksenia Ovsyanick interviewed for "Cupcakes & Conversation .."

Cupcakes & conversation with Ksenia Ovsyanick, Artist, English National Ballet

Ksenia is one of the 6 nominees for the Emerging Dancer Award, which celebrates the talent of up and coming dancers at English National Ballet.

The Emerging Dancer Award is an annual competition for English National Ballet to recognise and nurture the phenomenal talent of their up-and-coming dancers. The Award encourages excellence and potential within the Company, with the winner being awarded a £5,000 cash prize.

During the Summer English National Ballet’s artistic, musical, administrative staff and Principal dancers have been voting for their Emerging Dancer and the top six nominated dancers are Esteban Berlanga, Anais Chalendard, Crystal Costa, Ksenia Ovsyanick, Junor de Oliveira Souza and Venus Villa. You can read my interviews with all of the nominees (with the exception of Junor) in the archive section to your right.

Each nominee has chosen a solo to perform to the judges (Tamara Rojo, Wayne Eagling & Dame Beryl Grey among others), and Ksenia has chosen :

Ksenia Ovsyanick, Swanhilda variation from Coppélia
Choreography Vinogradov Oleg
Music Leo Delibes

The other nominees have selected :

Esteban Berlanga, Casi Fado
Choreography Ricardo Franco
Music Misia

Anais Chalendard, Nikiya's Death Scene from La Bayadere
Choreography Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa
Music Ludwig Minkus

Crystal Costa, Transcendence
Choreography Yat-Sen Chang
Music Oleg Kostron

Junor de Oliveira Souza, Des Grieux's Act I solo from Manon
Choreography Kenneth MacMillan
Music Jules Massenet

Venus Villa, Carmen variation
Choreography Elena Glurdjidze
Music Georges Bizet

The winner will be announced next week.

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
A hearty breakfast with a cup of coffee, watching my favourite TV show.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
There is a chance I'll be dancing Giselle in spring 2010. I can't wait!

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
Michael Baryshnikov, if he was still dancing. Probably Don Quixote.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
In a huge beautiful field with lots of space and stunning scenery.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I do loads of darning, so that every inch of the shoe fits my foot perfectly. Takes a while!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I get up at about 8.30am, have a slow breakfast, get to the company an hour and a half before class to do yoga and warm up. Then class and either rehearsals or shows untill about 10pm. Obviously we have breaks in between (which are really hard not to spend shopping.)

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Michael Baryshnikov, Jude Law, Hugh Grant, JK Rowling, Ant and Dec.

What would surprise people about you ?
erm... I lose loads of things, but then always find even more.

Who inspired you to dance ?
The Crystal Fountain fairy in Sleeping Beauty. It was the first ballet I'd seen and my favourite bit was the Crystal Fountain variation.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Dreams do come true, just make sure you really DO want it.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I usually take my time starting about an hour and a half before the show, putting make up on, then hair and I spend at least half an hour warming up. If I finish getting ready quicker I would spend time doing Sudoku or reading a book or just chatting..

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I did Odette (from Swan Lake) for my graduation performance. And I don't think I've ever been more nervous in my life! Although we did only Act 2 of Swan Lake, it was my first time doing an actual principal part in the ballet.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
Maybe a tutu that I wouldn't feel I have on during dance.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Reliability and communication during dance.

What is your favourite quote ?
“It's Impossible!” – said the Reason.
“It's Reckless!” – noticed the Experience.
“It's Useless!” – cut off the Pride.
“Give It A Try..!” – whispered the Dream

A phrase I use far too often is ... ?
"It's Ridiculous!" I should really find some synonyms to this word!

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I was dancing Kitri's variation once (from Don Quixote) and the audience starting clapping already after the first step. It gave me such a buzz, I felt on top of the world for a minute:)

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I think different people know different sides of me. For some it would be a surprise, that I can play piano, or used to do acrobatics, or most of the time I know where to go even in a huge city I've never been before. And I'm good at mathematics and chemistry;)

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
erm... promoted to the next level:)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Royal Ballet cast changes

17 FEBRUARY 2009


Saturday 6 March (evening)
Edward Watson will be replacing Federico Bonelli in the role of Romeo to partner Mara Galeazzi in the role of Juliet.

Friday 12 March & Tuesday 16 March
Tamara Rojo will be replacing Lauren Cuthbertson in the role of Juliet to partner Rupert Pennefather in the role of Romeo.

Friday 19, Friday 26 February, Monday 1, Tuesday 2 & Thursday 4 March
Sarah Lamb will be replacing Lauren Cuthbertson in Infra.

Friday 19, Friday 26 February, Monday 1, Tuesday 2 & Thursday 4 March
Yuhui Choe, Kristen McNally, Laura Morera, Steven McRae and Edward Watson will be performing principal roles in As One.

Tuesday 23, Wednesday 24 March & Wednesday 14 April
Ryoichi Hirano will make his debut replacing Federico Boneli and Helen Crawford will make her debut replacing Lauren Cuthbertson in Concerto. They will be performing alongside Sarah Lamb, Yuhui Choe and Steven McRae.

Tuesday 30, Wednesday 31 March & Thursday 15 April
Laura McCulloch will make her debut replacing Helen Crawford in Concerto to perform alongside Marianela Nunez, Rupert Pennefather, Laura Morera and Brain Maloney.

Tuesday 30, Wednesday 31 March & Thursday 15 April
Valeri Hristov will make his debut replacing Federico Bonelli in Elite Syncopations to perform alongside Sarah Lamb, Laura Morera, Ludovic Ondiviela.

Saturday 17 April (evening) & Friday 23 April
Steven McRae will make his debut replacing Federico Bonelli in the role of The Prince to partner Miyako Yoshida in the role of Cinderella. Friday 23 April will be Miyako Yoshida’s last performances with The Royal Ballet in London.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Ballet Gala @ The London Coliseum, in homage to Rudolph Nureyev

A gala night is planned as a tribute to Nureyev in March.  As you can see, there are a great many dance stars who will be dancing on the night.  Don't miss the chance to see Igor Zelensky in London, and Polina Semionova will be back later in the summer to guest for English National Ballet in their production of Swan Lake in - the - round.  I should warn the uninitiated that the music accompanying Pierrot Lunaire is a challenge to the ears. Some would say an assault.  One of you will know the German for 'spoken song', but that is exactly what you get.  It's quite high pitched and difficult to listen too, but the dancing is worth watching.  The best way to get around the problem is to take ear muffs with you !  Ivan Putrov danced the title role at the Royal Opera House, and is unmatched.  I will keep you posted with developments.

Ballet Gala Homage to Rudolph Nureyev
English National Opera
21 March 2010, London Coliseum

Photography :  Frederika Davis

A Ballet Gala in memory of the legendary ballet star Rudolph Nureyev, celebrating his extraordinary career from Kirov soloist to masterly choreographer. After his defection to the West in 1961, Nureyev became a household name – delighting audiences with his electrifying and daring performances – but he never forgot his roots and did much to revive the Russian tradition. Perhaps the greatest male dancer since Nijinsky, his longstanding partnership with Dame Margot Fonteyn of the Royal Ballet was one of the most famous in the history of dance.

The programme of the gala concert will include extras from such masterpieces as La Bayadère, Romeo and Juliet, Manon, Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Le Corsair, as well as the short ballets The Moor’s Pavane (choreography by C Limon), Afternoon of a Faun (choreography by Jerome Robbins) and the last movements from Pierrot Lunaire (Choreography by Glen Tetley).

Nureyev's dance and choreographic repertoire will be performed by international stars from the Bolshoi, Mariinsky, Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Berlin Staatsballet and Wiener Staatsballet. Among them: Alina Cojocaru, Olga Esina, Mara Galeazzi, Dmitri Gruzdyev, Dmitri Gudanov, Nina Kaptsova, Johan Kobborg, Ivan Kozlov , Manuel Legris, Ulyana Lopatkina, David Makhateli, Roberta Marquez, Andrei Merkuriev, Marianela Nunez, Ivan Putrov, Gil Roman, Farukh Ruzimatov, Polina Semionova, Vladimir Shishlov, Thiago Soares, Inaki Urlezaga, Edward Watson, Svetlana Zakharova and Igor Zelensky.

Photography :  Frederika Davis

The Coliseum is home of the English National Opera and English National Ballet. The leading world opera and ballet companies have performed on this stage in the past. Many of Nureyev’s London triumphs took place on the Coliseum’s stage.

The gala evening will draw a link between Nureyev’s brilliant career in the West and his early years courtesy of the Rudolph Nureyev Classical Ballet Festival, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia.

Presented by Ensemble Productions in association with Alfa-Bank, The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan City Municipality and Stolichnaya-SPI.

21 March 2010 , 7 pm
Coliseum, St. Martin's Lane, Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 4ES

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Cupcakes & Conversation with Alice Topp

Following the news that The Australian Ballet has received the largest donation in its history, here is an interview with one of their Corp dancers.

Cupcakes and conversation with Alice Topp, Corp de Ballet, The Australian Ballet

Photograph :  James Braund

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
I would say the people I work with and our shared passion to be the best we can be, as individuals and as a collective. I love getting to work and seeing my friends, plus Monday morning means catching up on weekend gossip!!!

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010?
Every production brings its own challenges and excitement but I’m particularly looking forward to performing in Japan with Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake and Nutcracker.

Who would you most like to dance with and what would you dance?
There is no one particular dance partner that I desire to dance with but if Steven Heathcote was still dancing, it would have been him, in any production!!

 Photograph :  Tim Richardson

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
I'd have to say right here. Our audiences are responsive, our theatres are lovely and I love living in my own country. It's a great lifestyle that we have here. We are also very lucky with our fantastic facilities and repertoire and the company is full of such beautiful creative and talented people.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I usually bend them a little and just stick them on!!! I tend to go through shoes pretty quickly so there's not much I do to prepare them. I spend more time trying to make them last!!

What is your daily routine at the moment?
Well we are currently in a rehearsal period, preparing for The Silver Rose. I've been waking up with my kitten alarm clock (I just adopted a little 4 month old kitten that thinks breakfast time is 6am!) and then get up at around 8am. I do yoga every morning an hour before class with fellow dancer Gina Brescianini which helps me feel warm and balanced, ready to take on class at 10.30am. Ordinarily rehearsals take us through the day til 6.30pm. After work I usually catch up with friends over dinner, films or shows or spend the night in with my flatmate and cat.

Photograph :  Tim Richardson

You can ask six famous people to dinner- who would you invite?
I would invite the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank (if she were still present), Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston....I mean, what is going on!!!

What would surprise people about you?
I love cricket and footy, beer and I have 2 tattoos.

Photograph :  Tim Richardson

Who inspired you to dance?
A combination of my mum, who introduced me to dance, my first ballet teacher, who really invoked a fire in my belly and a determination in me, and the stars of The Australian Ballet when I was growing up, for their memorable performances and moments where as a child I lost myself in time.

What is your best piece of advice?
It's not what happens to you, it's how you react to what happens to you.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
I usually have a nice warm shower then put my iPod in and listen to some music whilst putting on my makeup and doing my hair. I will then do company warm-up barre, get into costume and perhaps do some yoga breathing exercises before starting the show.

Which role has tested you the most and how?
I would say the most challenging piece of choreography I have been involved in was Wayne McGregor's Dyad 1929. I found it exhilarating and physically demanding at the same time. The movement felt foreign on my body at first until I found a place within myself and the work in which to expand and grow. It's proven to be my favourite piece to perform to date.

Australian Ballet's Bodytorque "Chemical Trigger"
Photograph :  C Branco Gaica

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
Something comfortable that would move with the body and compliment the figure. Perhaps a nice boy leg leotard that showed the beautiful muscular physiques of the dancers with a chiffon overlay for the women to create a softness and femininity.

What do you look for in a dance partner?
Someone with good communications skills. A person willing to listen and compromise. A dancer with commitment to the work and to the dance partner and also a good sense of humour!!!!

What is your favourite quote?
Hold on to what is good, even if it is a handful of Earth.
Hold on to what you believe, even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do, even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to my hand, even when I have gone away from you.

A phrase I use far to often is....?
'Awesome!!!' Or 'Excellent.' Or 'Heck Yes!!!'

What's been your best on-stage moment so far?
I can't really narrow it down to one!! There's been a few very memorable moments. I particularly loved our tour to Paris in 2008 where we performed Swan Lake and received a standing ovation. Dyad 1929 and Divergence both brought some extremely exciting stage moments for me, plus every time a colleague steps onto the stage for the last time..... that always brings extra magic and a few tears!!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
Still loving dancing as much as I do now and making the most of every moment that I have in this career that I feel very fortunate to have. Wherever that takes me, in whatever capacity I contribute in.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Cupcakes & Conversation with Anna Blackwell


Cupcakes & conversation with Anna Blackwell, Apprentice, Northern Ballet Theatre

Diarmaid O'Meara & Anna Blackwell in Ascent by Mikaela Polley
Photograph : Bill Cooper

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
A strong coffee usually wakes me up with a good breakfast and a brisk walk to work. Once I’m in work I try and make the most of the morning, I like to get a good warm up in before class. Once I’m in the studio it’s easy to feel motivated - there’s a really nice atmosphere in class and I enjoy the responsibility that comes with being a professional dancer and taking control of your own training.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
2010 seems to be another busy year for NBT. In the near future we will be doing ‘As time goes by’ and ‘Angels in the Architecture’ and several other short works including the ‘Powerhouse Rhumba’ which David choreographed for the 40th anniversary event. This is particularly special, as it was a celebration of the Company where it is today so being involved as a new member was an honour. The way it was choreographed was a great experience too - we had the chance to play around with the movement so it was a little more personal and specific to our styles. We will also be doing Romeo and Juliet. This is such an exciting prospect - the drama of the story really draws everybody into it and it is so important that everybody on stage is in the moment to give it its authenticity and sentiment. I’ve been to see Romeo and Juliet in the past numerous times and so being a part of it is really special.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
I saw Rambert Dance Company perform a section A Linhna Curva a while ago at Sadlers Wells, which was incredible. I also remember seeing Dutch National perform The Second Detail and Impressing the Czar (both Forsythe pieces). They are such breathtaking ensemble pieces, I can imagine the energy is incredible on stage and certainly resonates to the audience. My dream would be to perform Juliet, it’s such a demanding role and so emotional and you get the chance to change from a young innocent girl to a woman driven by love over the course of a couple of hours! I would also love to dance with my close friend - James. It was wonderful having the chance to in school and I think the experience is so special with someone you are close to!

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
Anywhere really! I love to travel and hope to get the chance to in the future. I’ve always liked the thought of performing on an open air stage - I remember English National Ballet did a performance on a stage set up over water in front of the Chateau of Versailles in France, which I can imagine looked stunning in the evening!

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I usually stand on them to flatten them a little, bend them, and pour super glue into the toe. I sometimes shave the sole of the shoe a little so it has less of a ridge. Sew ribbons and elastics on, and if they’re looking a little worn - I darn the toe to try and make them last longer.

What is your daily routine at the moment?
It depends whether we are touring or not. When we aren’t performing, we are rehearsing at West Park. My day usually consists of a coffee on the way to work, a good warm up, class for an hour and fifteen minutes followed by rehearsals, usually to around six thirty. When we’re in the theatre however the day is much longer. Class is usually a little later, and then there will either be a matinee performance or rehearsals on stage, followed by a performance in the evening.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite?
Sue Perkins, Tim Minchin, Steven Fry, Hugh Laurie, Michael Roux Jr., Beyonce. Random, but I think it would be interesting!

What would surprise people about you?
Probably that I’m quite a shy when I first meet new people. Also that I’m northern(ish)... often surprises people as I don’t have an accent!

Who inspired you to dance?
I used to religiously watch a video of the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake that my mum bought me when I was young. It was Nathalia Makarova dancing the role of Odette/Odile and I was transfixed. I’d never seen anything so delicate. I also had a lot of energy and did gymnastics and lots of sports but I seemed to have a passion for dance and performing and the rest is history!

What is your best piece of advice?
Believe in yourself. It has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since I started dancing, but I believe if you have confidence in what you do you will enjoy it to its full extent.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
Usually with another coffee! I like to relax too - usually by listening to my music whilst I’m doing my hair and make-up. I’ll usually warm up on stage or try and get some cardiovascular exercise in and a few strengthening exercises. I always go over my parts in the show - there are so many cast changes in some of the shows it can get a little confusing at times. I usually use the stage to go over difficult steps and find my centre of balance... always a challenge on raked stages!

Which role has tested you the most & how?
It would have to be David Nixon’s Swan Lake. It provides so much for the corps, and there is room for a little more artistic interpretation of the swans in David’s production and I always felt liberated after a performance. Although I was still a student at that point so I lacked the strength the professional dancers had so I really had to push, which left me feeling extremely sore and tired and red faced and out of breath! Although that changed the more we performed.

Another role which really tested me was the classical variation I chose for Prix de Lausanne. The whole experience was new to me - and I found it hugely daunting. I chose the Gamzatti solo from Act Two of ‘La Bayadere’, which really pushed my stamina. I don’t consider myself a classical or virtuoso dancer so it really helped highlight my weaknesses. I didn’t have long to work on the solo so I had to find time at the end of the day at school when the studio was free to rehearse. I learnt so much from this, I had excellent coaching from several different teachers who all provided me with huge amounts of help and support.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
It would have to be something simple - I always feel a little uncomfortable in frills and bows! I love the costumes for Forsythe’s ‘Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude’. They show off the dancers legs and are an unusual take on a classical tutu.

What do you look for in a dance partner?
I like to dance with someone who has qualities I can relate to, someone relatively tall who can sympathise with how difficult I find it to move fast! I suppose I’m quite lyrical, and I really enjoy throwing myself around. It’s always easy to work with someone with good energy and approach to the work and shares the passion for it that you do.

What is your favourite quote?
I can’t think of any quotes. Maybe ‘nothing is more prolific of conflict than misunderstanding.’ I vividly remember reading it and think it couldn’t be truer!

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I don’t think anything comes too naturally to me! I quite like jumping ... but I wouldn’t call it a signature step!

A phrase I use far too often is...?
I’ve lost my... (Usually followed by ballet shoes, phone, purse, keys, warm ups, etc...)

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
I suppose it would be performing the Neumier Variation at the Prix de Lausanne. I learnt so much from the coaching we got whilst we were there and it was the first time I’d performed to an audience of that calibre. It was great to have my parents and teacher - Sara Matthews - in the audience and supporting me.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I quite like cooking when I get round to it. Although my critics are usually quite close friends or family so they’re probably just being polite... I used to do gymnastics - that’s an old skill but I hope it still counts...?!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I generally take each day as it comes; working hard and enjoying the fact I’m being employed to do something I have a passion for and have spent a long time training to do. I hope to still be with the company, and I’d hope to see a progression in myself and my work. Dancing seems to be an elusive career so it’s difficult to determine where I will be – I’d like to travel at some point but I feel these are still early days!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Scottish Ballet news
The ever innovative and resourceful Scottish Ballet bring you a unique competition - "LOVE IDOL", if you will !!

Erik Cavallari as Romeo and Sophie Martin as Juliet in Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet.
Photograph by Andrew Ross.

Scottish Ballet are having a ‘love week’ to tie in with their forthcoming tour of Romeo and Juliet.

They will be visiting one of the main shopping centres in each city that they are taking the tour to ~ Glasgow (Princes Square Mon 8th, 11am – 4pm), Edinburgh (St James’ Shopping Centre Tues 9th 11am – 4pm), Inverness (Eastgate Shopping Centre Wed 10th 11am – 4pm) and Aberdeen (Union Square Thurs 11th 11am – 4pm) and setting up a Romeo and Juliet ‘love seat’ where they will encourage members of the public to leave a special video love message – whether that be a romantic story or maybe even a message to their loved one. Each of these videos will then go onto a dedicated love story section of their website with the option to vote for your favourite (for each city) ~ a kind of ‘love idol’ I suppose!

The winner in each city will receive a gorgeous romantic prize package including VIP tickets to see Romeo and Juliet in their city, champagne and strawberries at the interval and an overnight stay and dinner at a luxury hotel in that city (in Glasgow for example the dinner and stay will be in the 5 star Townhouse hotel – ooooh!). Their messages of love will also be presented on a special winners page on their website.

I'll be following up once the competition is over to see whether any romantic souls decide to pop the question !

Birmingham Royal Ballet news

If you followed the fabulous Prix de Lausanne finals on Sunday afternoon, shown live over the internet, you'll know that Elmhust School of Dance did very well indeed.  I featured one of their trained dancers, Maria Engel, last year, and another of their students has won at the Prix :




Elmhurst School for Dance, associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet, is delighted to announce success for sixth form student and head-boy, Lewis Turner, who won the contemporary dance prize at the finals of the Prix de Lausanne, the celebrated dance competition held in Switzerland.

Created in 1973, The Prix de Lausanne, an international competition for young dancers, is open to young dancers of all nationalities aged 15 to 18 who are not yet professionals. Through its mission statement it aims to highlight exceptional dance talent from around the world, opening doors to professional training with emphasis on healthy lifestyles and the importance of academic tuition working alongside dance training.

On Sunday 31 January, Lewis competed against young dancers from across the globe at the competition held annually and danced his way to success with the piece Libera Me by Cathy Marston, Director and choreographer of Bern Ballett, Switzerland.

This prize, donated by Fondation Nestlé Pour L’art, is awarded to the finalist who, through the interpretation of their contemporary variation at the finals, shows exceptional potential in the area of contemporary dance. The prize consists of a free contemporary dance summer course, including travel and accommodation.

Desmond Kelly, Artistic Director, Elmhurst School for Dance said:

Lewis Turner is one of the most focused hard working dancers I have ever had the pleasure to teach. His success at the Prix de Lausanne is a direct reflection of his admirable work ethic. We at Elmhurst School for Dance are very proud of him.

Congratulations to Lewis and to all of the competitors - this year the number of boys exceeded the girls for the first time in Prix history.