Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Isabella McGuire Mayes continues to make history

I first introduced you to the lovely, talented dancer Isabella McGuire Mayes in July 2009, when she had been short-listed in the Great Britons competition run by British Airways. As you probably kow by now, it was thanks to your generosity in voting that Izzy won the competition.

After her win, I asked Izzy if she would keep a diary of her time at the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, Russia, and here is a snapshot of her second year at the school (2009/2010)

I love the Autumn term at the Vaganova Academy. I appreciate every single second I am here. Once the Government has put the heat on it’s really cosy where we live. There are only a few foreign students – but a couple of new faces. There’s a girl from Italy next door on one side and a girl from Mongolia on the other. I have to talk to the Mongolian girl in Russian. It’s our only shared language. My Russian is improving. You absolutely must have Russian. I understand pretty much everything now. I am now 17. I am still the youngest foreigner and the only Briton.

The weather is getting cold. Winter is definitely coming. Someone said it could reach -30 this year.

Rossi Street is named after the Italian architect Rossi who designed it and it’s one of the most beautiful streets in St Petersburg.

A friend asked if I would like to go to see Swan Lake at the Mariinsky with Diana Vishneva. I had a fantastic seat at the side of the stage opposite the Tsars box on the other side. I could see Diana Vishneva and the other dancers preparing to come on and then when she was on I was so close to her. I could see every facial expression and every movement. It was great to be so close because you can study what’s needed to give a great performance.

This was the dancer in their courtyard during Winter :

It was in the deepest of the Winter when Xander Parish arrived from The Royal Ballet. He is making history by being the first English man to be offered a job at the Mariinsky. He has had some really great roles since he arrived.

Spring brought some bad news from England. My shoe-maker Bob Martin is retiring. I have had a real panic. Bob made me eighty pairs of shoes to keep me going but it’s going to be very difficult. For a dancer your shoes are everything. My shoes are specially made. I have a large platform like Darcey Bussell because I am tall like her. It helps with balance. I have a higher vamp (the front of the shoe) because I have a high instep and then you don’t ‘go over’ which can be dangerous. Bob’s shoes are beautiful to look at too. Really anxious about it because he’s irreplaceable. Here he is - he has made all my shoes :

May 18 and a performance by the Vaganova Ballet Academy at the Hermitage – Catherine the Great’s theatre.

My teacher said: “calm yourself ,don’t be nervous,” and she got it spot on. I was nervous and I get nervous every time I rehearse and that’s with my teacher who I see every day; I am silly !

Without much delay the performance started, before my solo I took a deep breath and walked on with confidence. I didn’t feel nervous as soon as I was on stage because the audience felt quite far away, so I felt quite alone when I was doing it but at the same time I knew I had to interact with people.

I managed to do three pirouettes which was really great because I had done lots of practice in the studio but I was very worried about them and frustrated. Two are fine to do but three gives it that little extra something. I took some slow bows and walked off proudly not looking at anyone at all, I daren’t.

Then people said well done to me which was a relief, and I felt very strange that it was over. All those rehearsals were finished it was strange but satisfying, and the next day people said some more really nice comments.

It was definitely worth the tears and hard work . Hopefully more to come!.

As I finish off this diary of the year I have been invited to join the Mikhailovsky Theatre on tour in London this summer. They are doing a historic production of Swan Lake. I will have to learn it very quickly.

I have two more years left in school and this is fantastic. I am looking forward to working very hard to perfect my art.

It’s wonderful to be asked to be with them on tour at the Coliseum in London in July.

Isabella is sponsored by The Slater Foundation (Ed : The Slater Foundation is a charitable organisation which provides funding for a variety of causes.) and The Scriveners Society of the City of London. (Ed :  as the name (The Worshipful Company of Scriveners) implies,the Scriveners have always been writers and they were originally known as Writers of the Court Letter, as opposed to members of the Stationers' Company, who are derived from the Writers of the Text Letter. The Company's principal activities are a mixture of social, professional, charitable and civic functions. The Company maintains a charitable fund, from which annual grants are made).

Isabella still has two more years training to do at the Vaganova Ballet Academy (Ed : The Vaganova Academy is the associate school of the Mariinsky Ballet, one of the World’s leading ballet companies).

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Cupcakes & Conversation with Vivienne Wong, Coryphee, The Australian Ballet

cupcakes courtesy of Primrose Bakery, supporters of BALLET NEWS

Vivienne Wong
Photograph :  James Braund

Cupcakes & Conversation with Vivienne Wong, Coryphee, The Australian Ballet

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday Morning?
With all the long hours that we train, dance and perform, having one day off can sometimes leave you feeling exhausted. But on those days or any other days of the week, what motivates me to get up in the morning is the thought and burning desire that I have to become a better dancer.

Dancing has always been a part of me and who I am, and it has been a passion of mine that has continued to grow and grow over the years. The fact that I can get up each day and do what I love doing makes me incredibly happy.

I also think I am a very lucky and fortunate dancer to be working amongst a company that is full of really great and supportive people, and when I look around at them all, I feel inspired by them to work harder and give everything 150% so I can become a better dancer.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010?
I am excited about dancing many things this year, but what I am gearing up towards at the moment is dancing a very cool contemporary pas de deux piece. It is a piece that has been choreographed by Alice Topp, a fellow dancer in The Australian Ballet, and it will be performed in an exclusive small season of shows in Sydney Theatre.

After that there are some great works by Steven Baynes in which I am cast to do a beautiful pas de deux in, and then also after that I am excited about being involved with a new work being created by an upcoming Australian choreographer Tim Harbor.

Later on in the year we will also be touring Japan, performing Graham Murphy’s Swan Lake and his Nutcracker. I can’t wait to re-visit Tokyo again!

Who would you most like to dance with and what would you dance?
Just for fun, I would love to be able to dance Romeo and Juliet with my Fiancée Tiago Brissos - who isn’t a dancer. I absolutely adore the music and I would love to dance the role of Juliet one day, and I think it would be truly special to dance a love story like Romeo and Juliet with someone who I feel I share a very special connection with.

Vivienne Wong and Calvin Hannaford in Trace by Alice Topp as part of the Bodytorque.á la mode programme.
Photograph : Branco Gaica.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre) where would you dance?
It has always been a dream of mine as a young girl growing up and watching The Australian Ballet to one day be dancing with them, so dancing with The Australian Ballet has really been a dream of mine come true.

How do you prepare you Pointe shoes?
I am quite particular with my pointe shoes and with the way they look and bend to my foot, so I tend to take a lot of care with how I sew my ribbons on and how I break them in. First I squash the toe block, so my toes feel nice and snug in the shoe, then I take a look at them and pick which one looks more like a lefty or righty.

Once I have decided which shoe belongs to which foot I put them on and point to see where it is exactly that I need to place my ribbons and elastic. I always have criss-cross elastics plus ribbons on my pointe shoes so I know there is no way the heel or shoe will slip around when I dance. Then, finally, once I have sewn everything on, I peel the sole of the shoe away from the board and pull it down to where my foot arches. I then bend and curl the board inside the shoe in the other direction, making sure that the shoe is nice and supple from my arch to the heel. After all that my final step in preparing a pair of performance shoes is to bend a slight demi-pointe in the sole and then I am ready to slip them on, have a little practise in them, then go on stage and dance!

What is your daily routine at the moment?
My daily routine at the moment involves waking up at 8am and making myself some Vegemite toast and tea. Once I have had breakfast I head into work so I can arrive there with an hour or so to spare before class. I dedicate the hour before class to stretching out my body and aligning it with some Pilates. Once I start class at 11am I don’t stop much until 3pm. We do an hour and fifteen-minute class followed by a fifteen-minute break and then we have rehearsals for the rest of the afternoon. We learn and rehearse our next season’s pieces during the day and once I am done rehearsing, I usually follow it up with some preventative ice for the sore joints and ankles. I take a break and eat, relax and sometimes have some physiotherapy or massage to get my body feeling good and ready for the show. Once again an hour before our warm-up barre at 6:30pm I do some more Pilates and exercises to strengthen and connect my body in the right way it needs so I am able to get on stage and perform at my best. I do a half an hour warm-up barre and then I have 30 minutes to do my make-up and hair. Once I am ready I am up there on stage going over steps and corrections before the curtain goes up making sure that I do a better show than the last. Once the show finishes at around 10pm I ice my ankles one more time, go home and make my cup of tea and have a little something to eat then head to bed.

Vivienne Wong with Artists of The Australian Ballet in Graeme Murphy’s Firebird
Photograph : Alex Makayev

You can ask six famous people to dinner – whom would you invite ?
Six famous people I would love to sit down with over dinner would definitely have to involve Keith Jarret and Jeff Buckley because I think they are amazing musicians, also Jiri Killian because he is still one of my favourite choreographers, The Deepak Choppra because I would love to listen to all the knowledge he has, David Attenborough for all the amazing stories he would have on the places he has been and all the things he has seen, and Salvador Dali because his is an artist that intrigues me.

What would surprise people about you?
What people don’t know about me is that I have a huge passion for music – I play a little bit of acoustic guitar every now and then, and absolutely love listening to a wide variety of music. I love to take photos and had the pleasure recently of taking some photos for a classical guitar album and absolutely loved it! I also enjoy doing some Thai Chi and love the martial arts, and have an interest in massage therapy.

Who inspired you to dance?
I remember wanting to start ballet lessons after watching my older sister dance around in class one day. All I remember was that I wanted to get up and join in! I was always the first one to be seen dancing around to music playing on the radio, in the shopping centre or at home in the lounge room. Dancing has always been a passion of mine, and a love right from the start, and after that day I started ballet lessons I have never looked back.

What is your best piece of advice?
My best piece of advice I could give to someone would be to “believe in yourself.”

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
In the hours before a show, I like to make sure that I take time out for myself and listen to what my body needs. Sometimes before a show the best thing for my body is to rest and take a power nap, other times it may be that I need to exercise and do some Pilates or even get a bit of physiotherapy or massage on it so I feel on top of my game, and other times it can be about me fuelling my body in the right way. Listening to my body and what it needs is my way of focusing and preparing for the physical demands it will undergo in a show. Closer to the performance, especially if there is a more demanding role I have to dance, I like to make sure that I have visually gone through the dance and corrections so I know my body and mind will know exactly what it is that needs to be executed.

Vivienne Wong and Calvin Hannaford in Trace by Alice Topp as part of the Bodytorque.á la mode programme
Photograph : Branco Gaica

Which role has tested you the most and how?
I would have to say an experience like no other that I have encountered in my years at The Australian Ballet and working with a huge range of choreographers, would have to be working with Wayne McGregor. He challenged the limits of my body in all the ways it could move and he worked with such enthusiastic intensity and huge mental capacity that I had to work incredibly hard to keep up with the pace he worked at. I was expected to chop and change, reverse, do half of the sequence, then a fifth of the sequence in reverse, then minus the left hand, and it truly had me exhausted by the end of the day.

If you were asked to design you own ballet costume, what would you create?
When I am dancing on stage I like to feel comfortable in whatever I am wearing so if I was designing a costume I think comfort would definitely be a main priority. I also enjoy the feeling of being able to move freely in a costume without the constrictions that sometimes come along with wearing a tutu. One of my favourite and most comfortable costumes that I have ever worn would have to be the costumes designed for Graham Murphy’s Swan Lake in Act 2. It is simple yet elegant and very comfortable to dance in.

What do you look for in a dance partner?
I love dancing with a partner that I can connect with and it is important to me to be able to do this with someone when performing on stage. When I find a partner I can interact with and bounce off energy with, it makes every emotion and step feel real and organic and natural, and for me this is where the beauty and magic lies. I also love being able to get to a point with my partner where I feel that I can co-ordinate the way I move and dance with him, making everything feel easy and effortless. I have also learnt over the years that performances can be pretty unpredictable. So when you’re on stage dealing with lights, nerves, and props, having a partner you can trust is also something I look for.

What is your favourite quote?
“Great dancers are not great because of their technique; they are great because of their passion.”- Martha Graham

Vivienne Wong and Rudy Hawkes in Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929
Photograph : Jim McFarlane

Do you have a signature step – one that comes naturally to you?
I wouldn’t say that I have a signature step; I am a dancer that is more of a mover and groover I think. I do love to turn and jump but I still have those “off days” too where my turns don’t quite work.

A phrase I use far too often is...?
I don’t think I have one, but I think I might say, “cool” a fair bit. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in the 80’s.

What’s been your best on stage moment so far?
A role I absolutely adored performing was one of the fairies from Stanton Welch's The Sleeping Beauty. This was a very long ballet and one that involved me doing a lot of solo work that was very controlled. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and had a lot of fun with this role.

Do you have a secret skill no one knows about?
I can twist my tongue into a three-leaf clover!

Luke Ingham and Vivienne Wong
Photograph : Jean Francois Campos

In terms of your ballet career where would you like to be in a year from now?
When I think about all that I would like to achieve as a dancer and where I would like to be in a year's time, my answer would still be here at The Australian Ballet company but as a soloist or senior artist dancing even more significant and demanding roles. There are so many opportunities that The Australian Ballet offers to its dancers, and I am also hoping in a year’s time I might have the exciting opportunity to possibly explore some choreography with The Australian Ballet in ‘Body Torque’.

And while we are leading up to our 50th Anniversary we will also be performing and revisiting some fantastic repertoire and iconic pieces that are very unique to this Company, and I am really looking forward to it!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Madison Keesler interviewed for 'Cupcakes & Conversation with ...'

cupcakes courtesy of Primrose Bakery, supporters of BALLET NEWS

Cupcakes & Conversation with Madison Keesler, Corp de Ballet, San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake
Photograph : Erik Tomasson

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
For the most part, Monday is San Francisco Ballet's one free day so if I'm not in bed sleeping chances are my motivation to get up is a massage appointment.

What are you looking forward to dancing this year?
We just ended a wonderful 2010 Season and there are a lot of things I'm looking forward to in the 2011 Season. Even though it will be my third year in a row performing it, I am very much looking forward to John Neumeier's The Little Mermaid. I feel very passionate about John's work and I'm happy to know that more and more of his full works are being performed in the States. In addition, I am looking forward to the large diversity that this company always offers. While I won't know casting for next season until we start back in July I am looking forward to at least watching and hopefully participating in Giselle, Balanchine's Coppélia, Artifact Suite, Wayne McGregor's Chroma, and Kenneth Macmillan's Winter Dreams.

Madison in Cinderella's Ball by Alan Hineline
Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, April 2006
Photograph :  Rosalie O'Connor

Who would you most like to dance with and what would you dance?
There are many men in the ballet world I would be honored to dance with. I have one person in mind that I would love to do Romeo and Juliet with now and John Neumeier's Lady of Camellias, when we are older.

If you could dance anywhere in the world , where would you dance?
I want to dance everywhere and experience everything - San Francisco, Hamburg, Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Japan...the list goes on and on.

Madison in 2008 with Hamburg Ballet in rehearsal for La Sylphide
Photograph :  Kiran West

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I am always looking for better shoes and better break-in techniques but I currently I wear Freed classics, with a lot of personal specs, and "bell" is my maker. I darn the tips, I cut the inside shank so it bends to my arch, and then on the outside I cut a small strip out of the shoe's sole on a diagonal to give it that extra flexibility right where I need it. I cut the outside on a diagonal towards my little toe because it helps the shoe not sickle as much.

What is your daily routine at the moment?
As I said earlier, our season just ended so my routine is a little out of whack at the moment. Usually I would get up, do my floor barre, class, rehearsals, then performance. Since I have been off I've been giving myself a little bit of relaxation time. My summer plans are still not completely organized but I will definitely be continuing class and training in one place or another.

Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite?
Gandhi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Eckhart Tolle, Audrey Hepburn, Sylvie Guillem, and John Neumeier.

What would surprise people about you?
Hmm...I don't feel that I'm much of a surprise to be honest; I am what I am.

Who inspired you to dance?
My mother, Juliet Kent, and the Paris Opera Ballet's video of Romeo and Juliet with Manuel Legris and Monique Loudieres were some of my earliest inspirations and continue to inspire me today.

Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

What is your best piece of advice?
Live for this moment because it is all that we ever truly have.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
My preparations will vary greatly depending on the show and the part. Usually you can either find me blasting music in my dressing room while getting ready or doing floor barre backstage. I find that my best performances happen when I am calm and present.

Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

Which role has tested you the most & how?
I have been so blessed with opportunities since becoming a professional dancer and every single piece I've learned, in Hamburg Ballet as well as San Francisco Ballet, has given me something and I've learned so much within these last two years. My wonderful training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) also allowed me to have countless performing opportunities which greatly shaped how I am as a performer today. One role that tested me the most was Aurora in CPYB's full production of The Sleeping Beauty. To carry an entire ballet at 16 was not easy and it taught me just how far I was capable of pushing myself, as well as how much further I had to go. There is no such thing as perfection in the ballet world, especially for me, and every day I try to work and keep improving as much as possible.

Photograph : Oliver Endahl

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I can't say I have thought much about this in the past, but the first thing that comes to my mind would be a long romantic tutu - a simple yet beautifully jewelled bodice with a long flowing tutu to elongate the legs.

What do you look for in a dance partner?
I think most female dancers would agree that a partner who is well trained in partnering technique is a must. Partnering, just like anything else in ballet, must be learned correctly in order to be successful. In addition to that you must have some sort of connection with that partner while the two of you dance together; without that there is no point, you might as well just dance alone.

What is your favourite quote?
This is a tough one for me to answer because I have so many favourite quotes! I could go on and on but for the sake of this interview I will pick one of my favourite ballet related quotes -

"Movement does not exist outside of the human body. To become a true dancer means to bring to ideal balance the physical impossibilities of your stubborn imperfect body with the possibilities of your soul. Which, as you move through life is continually renewing itself and demanding new expression."
- Natalia Makarova
Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

Do you have a 'signature step' - one that comes naturally to you?

A phrase I use far too often is...?
I didn't know this until I asked someone but apparently the answer to this question is - "Why is all of this confusing me so much?", "No, just kidding", and "I don't know". Hmm, I'm going to have to be more aware of those...

Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

What's been your best on-stage moment so far?
To be completely honest, I have had so many wonderful moments but none that I would be able to define as my "best on-stage moment". I will let you know when that comes around.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
Well you definitely cannot call them skills but I love singing and acting. I have a secret wish of creating a CD, as well as starring in a movie that has a purpose and a good message.

Photograph :  Oliver Endahl

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I have so many goals for my life, both short and long term, but I have no idea where I will be in a year from now. I am going to let life take me where I am supposed to go, continue working hard, and enjoy every moment of what I do.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Mikhailovsky Theatre premiere Swan Lake in London next month & BREAKING BALLET NEWS

The Mikhailovsky Theatre tour to the UK from July 13-25 @ The London Coliseum with a premiere of Swan Lake, a ballet in four acts with music by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, choreography: Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, Alexander Gorsky, Asaf Messerer, revised by Mikhail Messerer, set and Costume Design: Simon Virsaladze, and Principal Designer of the Revival: Vyacheslav Okunev.

This much was known.

Isabella - performance of the Vaganova Ballet Academy in the theatre of Catherine the Great at the Hermitage - Paquita ( Sylphide) - May 18 2010

Last year I followed Isabella McGuire Mayes, when she had been short-listed in the Great Britons competition run by British Airways. Isabella had been invited to train at the Vaganova Acedemy in St Petersberg - the only British girl to do so, and they broke the rules to allow her to join. 

Isabella outside the Vaganova Ballet Academy in a Russian mid winter

Thanks to your generosity in voting, Isabella won the competition. Izzy’s transport costs to and from the school were fully met, and becoming a Great Briton has rewarded Izzy in other ways, as she talks about in this interview.

Now you have the chance to watch Isabella dance.  Isabella is two years away from graduating, and has been invited to perform with the Mikhailovsky Theatre this July in the corp de ballet - and for a British girl to be invited to dance with a very Russian company is highly unusual.

Isabella - who was the first Briton to be invited to the Vaganova Ballet Academy when she was only 15, and Xander Parish - the first Briton from The Royal Ballet Company to be invited to the Mariinsky

Swan Lake is the jewel in the repertoire of the Mikhailovsky Theatre and the highlight of its London season. This is a revival of the historic Moscow staging in 1956.

Isabella in class at the
Vaganova Ballet Academy

The triumphal restaging of this Swan Lake at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in September 2009 was devised by Mikhail Messerer, the company’s Ballet Master in Chief. The epoch of Alexander Gorsky saw the development in the evolution of dance following the ballet classicism of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. This staging boasts the superb sets and costumes by renowned designer Simon Virsaladze. The legend of a young prince finding his true love, a swan princess bewitched by an evil genius, offers the many dancers of the company a great opportunity to show their talents.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Laura Bösenberg, Principal, Cape Town City Ballet, interviewed for 'Cupcakes & Conversation with ..'

cupcakes courtesy of the Primrose Bakery,
supporters of BALLET NEWS

Cupcakes & Conversation with Laura Bösenberg, Principal, Cape Town City Ballet

Laura, by Laura

Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) is governed by a Board of Directors, with Elizabeth Triegaardt as Executive Director, responsible to the Board for all artistic and business decisions. CTCB currently employs 24 dancers on a permanent contract and operates with a small, very experienced staff. 

You may have read in the news that the Company is in a difficult financial situation right now. The reason is because the Western Cape subsidy (in place since 1994 when the Company was no longer fully state-funded on a national level) is no longer sufficient to sustain them in the current economic downturn. In 2010 the Company hope to raise R1.8m through private sponsorship (grants and donations). CTCB’s budget for 09/10 is R6.9m (49% production costs). The Company perform over 120 times annually in formal and informal venues around the country. Production income accounts for roughly 55% of total income, while government grants total less than 20%. 

By chance yesterday evening I met a lady from South Africa who is an enthusiastic and knowlegeable supporter of ballet - both at home and abroad (Hello, if you are reading this) and if her enjoyment of ballet is represented across the country then I hope that the Company survives in the long term.

The Company aims to ensure that classical ballet remains in South Africa (they lose many talented local dancers abroad), and by interviewing one of their Principal dancers, I hope to raise awareness of the Company worldwide.

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
A rehearsal that day that I'm particularly enjoying working on, a good cup of coffee or a bright sun shiny morning:)

What are you looking forward to dancing this year?

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
Umm.. Roberto Bolle in Romeo and Juliet or Carlos Acosta in Fille mal Gardee?

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
The Paris Opera House.

Contemporary Solo
Photograph by Daniel Barth

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I sew elastics and ribbons and pan them pre show, nothing drastic:) luckily!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Wake up at 7.30, get ready for class at 10, end notes at 2pm and rest during the afternoon to get ready for the show at 8. I like getting to the theatre around 6.30 to prepare.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
I've gone blank!! I had a whole long list!! Let's see... Love Top Gear so probably Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May (can they count as 1!?), Darcey Bussell, Rowan Atkinson & Jim Carey.

What would surprise people about you ?
I'm pretty transparent so I'm not too sure?

Who inspired you to dance ?
The many beautiful ballerinas of the past and present and my teachers who have encouraged me.

What is your best piece of advice?
Dance for yourself and appreciate your God given talent so that the audience who appreciate you, may see your passion shine through from within.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I eat a good meal early in the day that helps me most with energy, try and rest and sort out my tights, shoes, hair things etc. I like to get to the theatre about 2 hours before the show. And do make-up and hair and warm up.


Which role has tested you the most & how?
I can't pin point anything thinking about it; I find something in every season that is a challenge where I need to really work!

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
The ultimate tutu! Super comfy and very easy to move in, it won't restrict you at all, and it will be flattering and fit properly.

What do you look for in a dance partner?
Someone who remembers corrections and remembers when I've told them how I like to be partnered. I also like someone who's musical and strong.

What is your favourite quote ?
"I'm so broke I can't even afford to pay attention!"
"That's not a small frog, that's rather a large bullfrog" - The Turning Point

Table Pas de Deux
Photograph :  Pat Bromlow Downing

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
My high attitude derriere kick up.

A phrase I use far too often is ... ?
“What the hell!!!”

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
Performing Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I keep it a secret!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I'd like a few more Principal roles under my belt and to see Cape Town City Ballet survive successfully and come out stronger after all the financial cuts from the government and lack of funding!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

English National Ballet celebrate their 60th Anniversary year with an exclusive party at The Dorchester

Stunning Jo Wood and her Mum
Dorchester photography throughout :  Robert Griffin

Yesterday evening, as the sun slowly dipped over Hyde Park, English National Ballet celebrated its 60th Anniversary London season with an exclusive celebrity party at The Dorchester, followed by a performance of Swan Lake in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall.

Actress Helen Worth chats to Venus Villa and Araminta Wraith

As you’ll hear, the word “breathtaking” cropped up time and again when I talked to guests about the show.

ENB Press Manager Rachel Branton in a stunning dress, chats to Alison Meir and Paul Wendt

One of London’s most elegant venues, the ambience at The Dorchester is set the minute you arrive, with liveried doorman smartly opening limousine doors, escorting invited guests past the waiting paparazzi.

Inside, guests enjoyed a party atmosphere, sipping champagne.

Olivia Hallinan and Araminta Wraith

The circulating canapés were popular with guests including Florence Welch, Damian Lewis, Jo Wood, Tom Chambers and his wife Clare, Henry Holland, Rupert Graves with his lovely young daughter, a heavily pregnant Nicola Stephenson, Olivia Hallinan and Beverley Knight.

Araminta Wraith and Venus Villa

But this is a Swan Lake party, and so two English National Ballet dancers, the lovely Venus Villa (First Artist) and Araminta Wraith (Artist), attended the party wearing their beautiful Swan tutus.

Singer Beverley Knight

In addition, both dancers sparkled in designs by jeweller Peter Lang, who is the first choice for Australian fashion stylists and magazine editors (with celebrity fans such as Kylie Minogue, Liv Tyler, Jerry Hall and Nicole Kidman) and who is launching his first European collection, coinciding with Autumn/Winter 2010.

Actor Damian Lewis

The tutus attracted much attention, especially from actress Helen Worth, and you can read the ‘story of a Swan Lake tutu’ here.

Venus Villa, Rupert Graves and his daughter

Guests were treated to an exclusive English National Ballet goodie bag, containing, among other treats, Brown and Harris products.

Brown & Harris support BALLET NEWS

Dawn McDaid, creator of Brown & Harris says, “We are genuinely very proud to sponsor English National Ballet and are thrilled to be involved in such a fantastic organisation. We are so pleased to be able to help support its events such as the Swan Lake Celeb Party that was hosted so beautifully yesterday evening. The performance of Swan Lake was breathtaking and we are so pleased to be able to give something back to the talented dancers by gifting them with our products.”

Radiant actress Nicola Stephenson

A routemaster bus then whisked the guests to the Royal Albert Hall to watch a performance of English National Ballet’s Swan Lake in-the-round.

Douglas Booth

The Company’s young star, Vadim Muntagirov, danced the Principal role, with Guest Principal Polina Semionova as his Odette/Odile.

Henry Holland

You can read a review of the First Night performance (casting was Muntagirov/Daria Klimentová) here.

Olivia Hallinan and guest

After the show actor Damian Lewis said “I thought the performance was stunning and beautiful. The two Principals were exquisite. I’ve never seen so many swans on stage before and it was breathtaking to watch.”

Venus Villa discusses Peter Lang's jewellery designs

This production of Swan Lake has been choreographed by Derek Deane to fill the vast ovalness of the Royal Albert Hall stage.

There are 60 swans on stage together; probably the only time you’ll see so many beside an atmospheric, moonlit lake.

Actors Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy were among the guests and afterwards Charlotte said, “it was truly magical and beautiful, we had the most fantastic evening.”

Florence Welch

There are a couple of performances left – the run closes on Saturday, so be quick if you don’t want to miss this treat.

More photographs are available from Robert Griffin, so please do get in touch if you'd like to know more.

ENB Managing Director, Craig Hassall with Araminta Wraith

The last word has to go to English National Ballet's Managing Director, Craig Hassall, as he invited guests to board the routemaster bus and join him at the Royal Albert Hall, explaining the magic of Swan Lake in-the-round.