Saturday, 30 January 2010

Clara Barbera interviewed for "Cupcakes & conversation ..."

I last saw Clara Barbera dance at the Royal Opera House last year, in Kim Brandstrup's new work (Goldberg Variations) for Tamara Rojo. I've just had the chance to catch up with her & to interview her; here it is !


Cupcakes & conversation with Clara Barbera, Professional dancer


What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
A good coffee, good tunes and thinking about the week ahead… These days every week is different from the one before!

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
I’m looking forward to choreographing new work, to be able to develop my skills as a choreographer with both classical and contemporary dancers. Also, I’m looking forward to dancing for young choreographers, whose work inspires me and pushes me places I wouldn’t have thought I could go. I have a real sense of belonging to a “new generation“ and such feeling excites me and motivates me every day.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
There’s a couple of male dancers: Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner who are based in Manchester and have just started their own company (Company Chameleon). I would love to have the chance to dance with them one day. What would I dance? Anything they ask me! I have complete faith in them and their work.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
This summer I got the chance to dance on an open-air stage by the Mediterranean sea. The sea was my backdrop, the sun was setting behind me and the audience were all clapping to the music of my piece whilst chilling in the sand. MAGICAL!!

Photograph :  James Ostrer

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
The last time I was on pointe, I was dancing next to Tamara at the Linbury in Kim Brandstrup’s Goldberg Variations. Before that, it had been Dark Elegies with Rambert the year I joined the company, that is: 2004!!! It felt a little bit like a déjà-vu preparing my pointe shoes for Kim’s shows, but it was like “being home”. I don’t wear ribbons anymore, so I just sew two elastics across the arch of the foot to keep it tight within the shoe and off I go!!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment, I’m back in Spain working on a project with a French choreographer. We work in the afternoon-evenings so in the mornings I normally stay home and do my homework: I’m doing an MA in Arts Management and that is A LOT of hard work. By the time the afternoon comes I’m dying to get physical! We do a short but intense warm up, and we go straight into the creative process. Evenings tend to be quiet these days.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Barack Obama, Nina Simone, Johann Sebastian Bach, Pina Bausch, Jacqueline du Pré and Wayne McGregor.

What would surprise people about you ?
I absolutely adore tennis but I’m particularly bad at it!

Who inspired you to dance ?
A teacher I used to have when I was little: Ana Maria Campos, the director of my first ballet school: Mari Cruz Alcalá and my Mum, who always encouraged me to follow my dream and to believe that nothing is impossible.

What is your best piece of advice?
Keep pushing and believe in yourself.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
The two hours before a show I try to keep myself to myself, rest a little, have a shower, put my iPod on, and think about my role whilst I put my make up on. When all that is done, I try to make it on stage to feel the space just before the curtain goes up. (It depends on the role though… if it's not too challenging I like to have a laugh with the silly banter that comes up often in girls’ dressing rooms... it can be a lot of fun!)

Photograph :  Monica Garcia Alcala

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Probably doing Calliope in Balanchine’s Apollo at the Royal Opera House. I was very young (in my head!) when I got to do it (English National Ballet got to do a triple bill at the ROH back in 2002) and looking back I don’t think I understood properly what I was meant to portray. If I had the chance to do it again, it would be a very different Calliope!

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I hate feeling restricted by a costume on stage. I think it’s very important that what you wear is not only flattering from the spectator’s point of view, but also makes you feel good about yourself. So much of a good performance is about how you feel before you go on stage that I think a good costume is essential.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Chemistry. There’s nothing like looking at someone on stage and feeling like they’re THERE with you in every single level. Nothing else matters: just the two of you and your characters. It’s incredible.

What is your favourite quote ?
Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I’m a bit of a jack of all trades and master of none! It used to annoy me when I was younger: yes, I could turn a little, jump a little and lift my legs a little, but nothing remarkably different from the rest. With age, I have found that this is actually not a bad quality to have, and that maybe THAT is what makes me different!

A phrase I use far too often is?
It’s all good!

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I will never, ever forget dancing the “Chosen One” in MacMillan’s Rite of Spring when I was still with ENB. The feeling you get “dancing to death” whilst the whole company is there on stage watching you is absolutely unbelievable. I have done many things before and after that, but nothing quite like it.

Photograph :  James Ostrer

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Not really!! Perhaps, what people may not know is that all through my time at Rambert and my last year in ENB I studied a BA (Hons) in Business Studies through The Open University and landed myself a degree about three months ago! I’m super proud of that!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I would love to have developed further a project I started at the end of 2009: a show I called WORK1. I would like to create a sustainable platform where talented young choreographers/artists (the new generation I was talking about earlier!) who don’t often have the chance to show their work outside their companies, came together at least once or twice a year and showed their work both in the UK and in Spain. I have spent 15 years of my life in the UK and all through these years I have met incredible people that have motivated and inspired me daily to keep dancing and choreographing… I am now in Spain, close to my family and to the life I left behind, and my dream would be to try and keep having the best of both worlds for as long as I can!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET SCOOPS PRESTIGIOUS THE SOUTH BANK SHOW AWARD

I'm sure you'll all join me in congratulating Birmingham Royal Ballet on their much deserved win.  I saw this programme last year and regular readers will recall my surprise at being almost catapulted from my seat in The Manhattan Project.  The ballet is adventurous and engaging, with great use of the stage from the dancers as you'd expect.  More surprising was the ingenious use of lighting - it really does need to be seen to be believed.

Media release: 27.01.2010

BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET SCOOPS PRESTIGIOUS THE SOUTH BANK SHOW AWARD


Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley in Birmngham Royal Ballet's E=mc²
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

Director David Bintley’s E=mc² wins ITV’s The South Bank Show Awards dance prize

Birmingham Royal Ballet is thrilled to announce success for Director David Bintley and his ballet E=mc² at ITV’s The South Bank Show Awards at London’s Dorchester Hotel on Tuesday 26 January 2010. Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, the 14th South Bank Show awards is the last ever ceremony for the celebrated arts programme.


Samara Downs in The Manhattan Project
Photograph :  Roy Smiljanic

Based on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, E=mc², choreographed by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director David Bintley, enjoyed its world premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome in September 2009 as part of the triple bill Quantum Leaps and delighted audiences during the Company’s autumn 2009 tour.

E=mc² is set to a specially commissioned score by Australian composer Matthew Hindson with costumes by Kate Ford and lighting by Peter Mumford and was inspired by the book E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation from author David Bodanis.

Other nominees in the category were Wayne McGregor’s Limen and dance group Diversity, winners of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent programme.


Birmngham Royal Ballet's E=mc²
Photograph :  Roy Smiljanic

Speaking at the Award Ceremony yesterday David Bintley said: I am delighted to win The South Bank Show dance award for E=mc² in Birmingham Royal Ballet's 20th anniversary year. This award celebrates the company's creative collaborations, the talent of the dancers and highlights my commitment to producing new work that will take Birmingham Royal Ballet forward into another exciting year and decade.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Chief Executive, Christopher Barron said: This prestigious award comes at a significant time for Birmingham Royal Ballet as the company prepares to celebrate 20 years in the City of Birmingham. The recognition for dance at The South Bank Show Awards not only celebrates the work of David Bintley and Birmingham Royal Ballet but also highlights the strength of the company and the arts in Birmingham as it moves forward in its bid for the City of Culture in 2013.

The South Bank Show Awards ceremony honours the best in British arts in the world with 10 awards in categories including; TV Drama, Classical Music, Pop Music, Visual Arts, Comedy, Dance, Film, Literature, Opera and Theatre.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Cupcakes & Conversation with Hannah Bateman, First Soloist, Northern Ballet Theatre



Cupcakes & conversation with Hannah Bateman, First Soloist, Northern Ballet Theatre

I like to think that all of my interviewees have given a little piece of their soul, to show themselves in the way that they would like others to see them. These interviews are all about revealing something of the person behind the dancer, and it's up to each of my interviewees how much they want to reveal.

I am sure that as you read this interview you will agree that Hannah has been extraordinarily frank about what it takes to be a professional dancer, and for this I applaud her.  I hope you will too.  I love that she has lived dangerously with it and I hope very much that Hannah will reap the rewards.

One more thing before you meet Hannah; the photograph at the end is, well, a piece of dramatic theatre.  You have been warned !


Hannah Bateman in Wuthering Heights with Keiko Amemoi
Photograph :  Merlin Hendy

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Ahh, 8am on Monday morning is painful!!! I am not a morning person or at least it takes a hot shower and a cup of tea to get me there. Once I am awake, ready for the day and in the car on the way to work I am genuinely excited to get into the studio. Some days class is harder than others, you know 'not plies again', but once in rehearsals it doesn't feel like a job, it's an experience.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
We have some great rep coming back this year. I am looking forward to Dangerous Liaisons as I missed out on that back in 2004 as I was injured, so it will be great to put some demons to bed when I get to dance in that. David's Swan Lake and Wuthering Heights are beautiful ballets and amazing to be involved in, and they are coming back in 2010. The mixed bill we are doing in Leeds in March will be great but I am really looking forward to dancing Juliet again in Romeo and Juliet.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
This is a hard question! I enjoy dancing with Tobias Batley as we have a good mutual respect for each other as we both got our big break in Romeo and Juliet together. I also love to dance with Kenneth Tindall as he has such a masculine lyricism and is an excellent partner. I got to dance with Hironao Takahasi this season and I got to understand on a whole new level why he has been a Principal for over 10 years. I can be quite crippled by confidence and can sabotage myself, which is something I have to work on constantly, so I feel much more settled if I know my partner on some level. But practicalities aside, I would love to dance in The Leaves Are Fading, Manon & Swan Lake, and I would love to dance with Federico Bonelli or Arman Grigoryan.


Hannah Bateman and Tobias Batley in Dracula
Photograph :  Yumiko Little

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I would like to experience dancing outside. I have only ever danced inside theatres and I can image that it must be magical to dance in an amphitheatre, say in Italy ! When I go away I try and visit the big national theatre of that country; La Scala's theatre in Milan is beautiful as are the theatres in Paris but I was really blown away by the MET in New York.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I have a mad passion for shoes in general and so I love to have all my pointe shoes ready and lined up! I have Freed shoes and have done since I was 12. I have them in forte flex and then I check them all for width when they arrive at work. If they are all good then I shellac them on the inside sole, toe and side and leave them to dry in my airing cupboard for a couple of days. I then cut the satin off the toe and stitch a circular elastic around the edge. This helps maintain the edge of the pointe or box. I then put a crossed elastic on the inside and over to the back of the shoe and finally ribbons. I wear them once for class and then dry them out and put them away for whatever performance they are suitable for!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
When we are back at base I get up at about 7.50-8am and get ready for work to leave just before 9am. It’s a quick drive in and then a warm up for class at 10. Class is 1hr 15mins and then into 3hrs of rehearsals, lunch is at 2.30 for an hr and then we do another 3hrs till 6.30pm. Our rehearsal periods are exhausting and intense but it’s an amazing thing to push your body every day. I try and relax in the evening and always have a major hot bath and stretch out before bed. I also have to do homework! I used to hate myself for always having to go through work again when I got home, but I have learned it’s just part of my process. I write most of my choreography down to really get it in my head and then body, not because I want to but because I have too! Theatre weeks are slightly different, later starts and later finishes!


Photograph : Bill Cooper

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Tatou, I love both of these strong actress's, Wayne McGregor, I just got to work with him and I didn't get to ask him half the things I wanted to! Christopher Gable, Edward Norton and Amelia Earhart.

What would surprise people about you ?
I am not really sure if there is much that is surprising about me, maybe that up until about a year ago I used to find it really difficult to handle my nerves; I used to plan an escape route from the theatre just in case it got too much! I never used these escape routes but I had to have them to give myself a sense of safety!!!

Who inspired you to dance ?
I was first inspired to dance by my dance teacher 'Miss Sue', I thought she was a real life Princess - I was four at the time! Today I am inspired by so many things, when I see live performances I want to be up there on stage too! My boyfriend inspires me, my colleagues, also David Nixon and Yoko and also the fact that I am doing something every day that I love; that’s inspiring.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Just get out there and dance it, the only thing to fear is fear itself!


Hannah Bateman and Christopher Hinton-Lewis in Wuthering Heights
Photograph :  Merlin Hendy

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I like to be ready and set for the show by the half [the stage call half an hour before curtain up]. It takes me about an hour to do hair and makeup and also set all my costume changes and lay out a few shoes that I have ready. I don’t give myself too many shoes to choose from as I can get overly picky about them! I then like to do a simple warm up and then go though my entrances and exits and any tricky steps, lifts, etc. I try to get myself in a positive, productive state of mind and ready for the journey, be it Romeo and Juliet or Dracula. By the time it comes to the show it’s important to remember that provided you have put in the hard work, it’s time to enjoy where that hard work has taken you. Hopefully a successful show!

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The Queen in The three Musketeers, it was a beautiful role but I was mentally ready for such a challenge. I could physically do it, it's just I didn't believe I could and so it resulted in these over powering nerves. I hated every show and couldn't wait for it to be over. It made me question why I danced if it caused me so much anxiety, I would come off stage and literally have no memory of what had just happened. I was so disappointed in myself as I wanted to be given bigger roles, more challenges, but I wasn't helping myself with my lack of self belief and subsequently motivation. It was a turning point for me.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I would love to create and design costumes. I think the most important thing is to be able to see the dancer’s bodies. I love structured costumes but maybe in transparent materials. It’s also important that the fabrics are soft and light and move with the flow of the dance style so becoming an extension of the dancer’s limbs and not a hindrance.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Most important is chemistry; a connection of some sort. Also strength - I like to feel 110% safe, like you can go out there on to the stage together and no matter what happens you will be able to get out of any situation. I have missed a couple of major lifts before and because I have had amazing partners I hadn’t realised how wrong they had gone until it had already been rectified. I like to think that’s because we have been dancing together, in sync on the same wave length, but maybe I am just lucky!


Hannah Bateman in Dracula
Photograph :  Yumiko Little

What is your favourite quote ?
I don't know if it’s a quote, or simply a saying, but 'just do it' from Nike. Short and sweet and to the point!

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I love to jump, any sort. Quick batterie, or grand allegro and I love a big split jeté!

A phrase I use far too often is ... ?
I don't really know but ...

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
Three moments stand out. The first time I danced Juliet, overwhelming relief and joy at completing a three act ballet, the Alumni show of A Christmas Carol, just pure fun and also the run of Swan Lake we did at the start of the year. It was the second time I have danced in Swan Lake and four years on I was relieved it felt easier and I enjoyed every minute. That music just sweeps over you, it’s complete harmony.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I can do a really good Danni Minogue impression, X Factor Danni, when she is giving her critique !!!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
A year from now I hope I will have been given the opportunity to learn one of the Principal roles in Swan Lake, getting ready to dance Juliet in Beijing, having started my new business which I am in talks about now, and I hope NBT are in our new building. Fingers crossed !!!



Hannah Bateman and Tobias Batley in Dracula
Photograph :  Yumiko Little


Thursday, 21 January 2010

BIG DANCE 2010


Photograph :  David Parry/PA

PLANS ANNOUNCED FOR BIG DANCE 2010 AND 2012:
LONDON’S MAYOR INVITES EVERYONE TO DANCE

• 10,000 people take part in show-stopping Big World Dance in the streets of London in July 2010


• Wayne McGregor to choreograph London in 2012


• £2.89 million funding from Legacy Trust UK for London’s Big Dance

In a year when dance has finally taken off as the nation’s favourite art form, plans were launched today for BIG DANCE, the world’s biggest and most influential dance initiative to take place from 3-11 July 2010 and again in Summer 2012, just before London’s Olympic and Paralympic Games with hundreds of events already confirmed in London and an open invitation to cities and communities around the country to join in.

Big Dance was established as a biennial festival in 2006 by the Mayor of London’s Office in partnership with Arts Council England and has grown to become the UK’s most important dance programme, with opportunities to experience, learn about and take part in dance for millions of people.

More than a major dance festival, Big Dance is a vibrant campaign to get everyone taking part – wherever they are, whatever their age, experience or ability. Supported by leading figures from the dance world, it is delivered through a network of national and regional agencies.


Photography :  Nick Gurney

This year Big Dance was selected by Legacy Trust UK to receive a grant of £2.89 million as its keynote project for London, enabling a major expansion and a huge increase in its reach, with an anticipated 3 million Londoners taking part by 2012. The Mayor of London is also providing significant funding as part of his 2012 legacy commitment to increase participation, cultural opportunities across the capital and see Londoners get more active and healthy.

T-Mobile UK, the company behind the iconic "Dance" advert, has come on board and is set to involve as much of London as possible in the Big Dance events, promoting participation from both T-Mobile and non-T-Mobile customers.

T-Mobile Big Dance 2010 will include a daring takeover bid of London’s streets and public spaces with Big World Dance, a showstopping dance for 10,000 people, culminating in Trafalgar Square. Luca Silvestrini will direct five co-choreographers for the Big World Dance on Saturday 10 July 2010.

Wayne McGregor, the Artistic Director of Wayne McGregor / Random Dance, recently described by The New York Times as " the closest thing to a rock star that ballet can currently claim", takes the commission in 2012. McGregor is the first Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet to have come from the world of contemporary dance.

T-Mobile Big Dance 2010 features hundreds of other performances, workshops, free events, schools events, large-scale participation events and community programmes, organised through a network of London’s leading dance organisations, East London Dance, English National Ballet, Greenwich Dance Agency, Sadler’s Wells and Siobhan Davies Dance, acting as hubs to develop the vast programme of events featuring every kind of dance style in the capital.


Photograph :  Nick Gurney

Jacqueline Rose, Director, Big Dance, said:
“Dance combines creativity and physicality in a way no other art form does. Thanks to the support of Legacy Trust UK, and all our many partners, Big Dance will champion and celebrate dance in all its forms. From the elite artists of the national stages to the extraordinary achievement of this country’s urban dance movement to simple, every day exercise, Big Dance is an invitation to everyone to join in.”

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "I'm delighted to once again support Big Dance. Anyone switching on the television lately cannot fail to have seen how enormously popular dance is - not just the lively shows, but the dancercise commercials. Big Dance is a terpsichorean feast that takes it quite literally one step further. We want to get as many people moving as possible this July and afterwards, to 2012 and beyond. Whatever your style, whatever your age or ability, as the Lady says 'Just Dance'.'

Richard Moat, Chief Executive Officer, T-Mobile UK: "From our experience with our Dance advert – which attracted over 17 million views on YouTube and spawned many fantastic imitation videos – we know how dance can really capture people’s imagination and spur them to get involved. We’re delighted to be supporting Big Dance 2010."

Dugald Mackie, Chair of Legacy Trust UK said: “The Olympics are about more than sport. As the handover ceremony showed, the Games will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Britain and to inspire generations of young people. We are delighted that projects such as Big Dance will encourage people throughout the UK to take part in cultural and sporting events, and leave a lasting legacy from the 2012 Olympics.”

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director, Arts Council England, London said: “Big Dance has already created some wonderful moments in the capital, bringing people together through movement. I'm really pleased that Legacy Trust UK funding will enable the festival to grow, and I look forward to working with all our partners to see what can be achieved as we approach 2012.”

Big Dance is London’s Legacy Trust UK programme led by the Greater London Authority in partnership with Arts Council England and supported by major organisations including: Sport England, NHS London, London Councils, Museums, Libraries & Archives, London and the British Council.


Photography :  Nick Gurney

National Dance Awards - RESULTS

Massive congratulations to today's winners - details just in (pictures to follow) :

The Tenth Annual National Dance Awards
Royal Opera House, London: 21 January 2010

The Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London today, 21st January. Patron of the Awards, the legendary ballerina Dame Beryl Grey says: “The tenth anniversary is a true milestone in the history of these prestigious Awards which are the focal point of the UK dance calendar. It has been a monumental achievement to make the event bigger and stronger with each passing year.”


Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards Winners 2009

De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement
Alexander Grant / Former Royal Ballet Principal and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada (1976-83)

The Dancing Times Award for Best Male Dancer
Paul Liburd / Scottish Ballet

Richard Sherrington Award for Best Female Dancer
Leanne Benjamin / The Royal Ballet

Dance Europe Award for Outstanding Company
Ballet Black

Best Classical Choreography
Wayne McGregor for Infra / The Royal Ballet

Best Modern Choreography
Christopher Bruce for Hush / Rambert Dance Company

PMB Presentations Award For Best Foreign Dance Company
Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Patron's Award
Richard Bonynge / international conductor

Outstanding Female Performance (Classical)
Melissa Hamilton / The Royal Ballet

Outstanding Male Performance (Classical)
Sergei Polunin /The Royal Ballet

Outstanding Female Performance (Modern)
Amy Hollingsworth / freelance

Outstanding Male Performance (Modern)
Thomasin Gulgec / Rambert Dance Company

Angelina Ballerina Children's Award
Lucy Wood / Susan Robinson School of Dance

CDET Student of the Year Award
Sam Chung / Tring Park School for the Performing Arts

Dance UK Industry Award
Marie McCluskey / Artistic Director of Swindon Dance

A full list of dancers, choreographers and companies nominated for National Dance Awards can be found here.

The Awards celebrate the vigour and variety of Britain’s thriving dance culture and highlight the huge range of dance on offer. They are the only professional awards in the UK dedicated to dance and are presented by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle, which brings together more than 50 dance writers.

________________________________________________________________________
PRESS INFORMATION
From: Scottish Ballet
Released: Thursday 21 January 2010
________________________________________________________________________
TOP INDUSTRY AWARD AS PAUL LIBURD PREPARES TO RETIRE FROM SCOTTISH BALLET


Paul Liburd in Krzysztof Pastor’s In Light and Shadow. Photograph by Andrew Ross

Scottish Ballet dancer Paul Liburd was today awarded the Dancing Times Best Male Dancer Award at the prestigious Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards.

The awards celebrate the vigour and variety of Britain’s thriving dance culture. They are the only professional awards in the UK dedicated to dance and are presented by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle, which brings together more than 50 dance writers.

Celebrating ten years this year, the awards have rapidly become the dance event of the year drawing together the entire industry in sharing the very best of dance and ballet in the UK. The awards were announced this afternoon, in a ceremony at the Royal Opera House in, London.

Paul joined Scottish Ballet in 2004, and was previously awarded the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer (Contemporary) in 2005. Last year Paul received the MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to dance. This most recent award however comes as a fitting tribute to Paul, who will retire from the Company this year following his last performances with Scottish Ballet in Krzysztof Pastor’s critically acclaimed Romeo and Juliet which tours to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Belfast throughout April and May.

Company Artistic Director Ashley Page said: “We are absolutely delighted and thrilled that Paul’s timeless commitment and unique stage presence have been recognised in this way. It has been a privilege to work with such an incredible dancer and a truly lovely man and I wish him every success with future endeavours.”
Paul is currently performing in Ashley Page’s The Nutcracker on tour to Inverness, Aberdeen and Newcastle.

Scottish Ballet was also nominated in the category of Outstanding Company and dancer Martina Foriso received a nomination for Best Female Dancer (Classical). Scottish Ballet was previously awarded the Company Prize for Outstanding Repertoire (Classical) in 2007.

English National Ballet Swan Lake in-the-round


Zvetlana Zakharova
Photograph: Daria Klimentová  © English National Ballet

Press Release


Derek Deane’s breathtaking Swan Lake in-the-round returns to the Royal Albert Hall in June 2010 starring Polina Semionova and Vadim Muntagirov

9 – 18 June 7.30pm
12, 13, 19 June 2.30pm

Raymond Gubbay and the Royal Albert Hall present English National Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall in June with Derek Deane’s lavish in-the-round production of Swan Lake – the largest production of its kind in the world and London’s dance event of the summer.

This will be the sixth sensational season in which this ballet has been performed in-the-round. Featuring more than 120 dancers on stage, this production has delighted audiences around the world and has been seen by nearly 500,000 people since its premiere in May 1997. Derek Deane’s staging of Swan Lake has proved to be a phenomenon and offers audiences a spectacular theatrical experience. Rows of swans move in unison across the stage and the athleticism of the dancers is tested to the full in this spectacular production.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, played by an orchestra of more than 80 musicians, this magnificent production features acrobats, jugglers and 60 swans gliding across the arena within the magical splendour of the Royal Albert Hall. The dramatic narrative of Prince Siegfried’s fight for the love of the queen of the swans, Odette is told through sumptuous costume designs and choreography that uses the space to great effect. Set design is by Peter Farmer and lighting by Howard Harrison.


Photograph: Daria Klimentová © English National Ballet

Bolshoi trained prima ballerina Polina Semionova will dance the opening night of Swan Lake in-the-round as Odette/Odile, partnered by English National Ballet’s most exciting young talent Vadim Muntagirov as Prince Siegfried. A Principal Dancer with Berlin State Opera, Polina first performed with English National Ballet when she was 19 in Swan Lake in-the-round in 2003. She has since gone on to become one of the world’s most sought after ballerinas performing around the world with partners including Roberto Bolle and Igor Zelensky.

Vadim Muntagirov is one ballet’s hottest young talents; he joined English National Ballet from the Royal Ballet School in 2009 and is already being hailed as a star in the making. Vadim will also dance with English National Ballet’s Senior Principal dancer Daria Klimentová during the season.

The lead roles at other performances will be performed by the English National Ballet’s Principal Pairings; Daria Klimentová and Vadim Muntagirov, Erina Takahashi and Dmitri Gruzdyev, Elena Glurdjidze and Arionel Vargas, and Begoña Cao and Esteban Berlanga.

English National Ballet is delighted to be performing this classic production in its 60th Anniversary year. The production represents many of the Company’s key values, taking classical ballet of the highest quality to the widest possible audience, at a price everyone can afford.

Wayne Eagling, English National Ballet’s Artistic Director, said:
Swan Lake in the round is a fundamental part of English National Ballet’s repertoire. Performing a ballet on this scale is a huge challenge and a very rewarding one. The fact that we are bringing this production back to the Royal Albert Hall for the sixth time is a testament to the public’s interest in a ballet produced in an unusual way and of the Company’s innovative handling of this classic work.“

Tickets: £19.50 - £55
Box Office: 020 7838 3100

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Royal Ballet Principal Mara Galeazzi

With children very much in our minds following the many, many orphans highlighted in the aftermath of the Haitian disaster, I wanted to remind everyone about Mara's determined work for children in Africa, and the Gala next month. In my original post, Mara has left a comment thanking you all for the interest you've shown so far and saying how important this is to her.

Here is an exclusive photograph from the rehearsals - I think you'll agree it's looking very good !


Mara Galeazzi and Gary Avis rehearsing for A Gala For Africa

Here are the details again :



I know that you will all want to support such a great cause, and I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.  Perhaps we should arrange interval drinks - and a quick chat with Mara ?  Let me know your thoughts please. 

Monday, 18 January 2010

Birmingham Royal Ballet News

Lots of exciting news to reveal from Birmingham Royal Ballet - the Company's 20th Anniversary celebrations begin with The Sleeping Beauty and an evening of music and dance, for one night only, hosted by Alan Titchmarsh :


Nao Sakuma as Princess Aurora and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund
Photograph :  Bill Cooper

MEDIA RELEASE: 18.01.2010

BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET BRINGS CLASSIC FAIRYTALE TO LIFE AT BIRMINGHAM HIPPODROME

Sir Peter Wright’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY MARKS THE START OF THE COMPANY’S 20th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS

Birmingham Royal Ballet returns to Birmingham Hippodrome with Sir Peter Wright’s timeless production of the classic fairytale The Sleeping Beauty. A ballet for all the family, The Sleeping Beauty promises to delight audiences from Wednesday 3 March – Saturday 13 March 2010, and marks the start of the 20th anniversary celebrations commemorating the Company’s relocation to the City of Birmingham in 1990.

The Sleeping Beauty, considered by many to be one of the greatest classical ballets from Imperial Russia, will be performed during Birmingham Royal Ballet’s spring season at the Company’s resident theatre, before embarking on a UK Tour that will include dates at the London Coliseum during the Sadler’s Wells Spring Dance Season.

With a cast of over 80, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s lavish production tells the story of Princess Aurora; the wicked fairy Carabosse announces her curse that the Princess will one day prick her finger and die. Luckily, the Lilac Fairy declares that although Aurora will indeed prick her finger she will not die, but instead she will fall into a deep sleep from which she will be awoken after a hundred years by the kiss of a handsome prince.

With Tchaikovsky’s score and original choreography by Marius Petipa, the thrilling production is by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s director laureate, Sir Peter Wright, creator of the Company’s popular production of The Nutcracker. Philip Prowse, the designer responsible for the Company’s Swan Lake, provides the designs for sumptuous baroque style sets and over 150 beautiful hand-sewn costumes adding the grandeur to lighting by Mark Jonathan.

The Sleeping Beauty performance dates at Birmingham Hippodrome:

Wed 3 – Sat 6 March & Thurs 11 – Sat 13 March at 7.30pm
Thurs 4 & Fri 12 March at 2pm
Saturdays 6 & 13 March at 2.30pm

Tickets: 0844 338 5000

The Sleeping Beauty UK touring dates:
Sunderland Empire 17 – 20 March 2010
Theatre Royal, Plymouth 23 – 27 March 2010
The Lowry, Salford 30 March – 3 April 2010
London Coliseum 20 April – 24 April 2010


Nao Sakuma as Princess Aurora and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund

Photograph : Bill Cooper



Media release: 18.01.2010


BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET’S AN EVENING OF MUSIC AND DANCE AT SYMPHONY HALL BIRMINGHAM

For one performance only, Birmingham Royal Ballet returns to Symphony Hall Birmingham, one of the world’s finest concert halls, for An Evening of Music and Dance on Saturday 20 February at 7.30pm.

Introduced by Alan Titchmarsh, radio and television presenter and passionate ballet fan, the evening will include excerpts from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia’s diverse repertory as the Company prepares to celebrate 20 years in the City of Birmingham.

Under the baton of Principal Conductor Paul Murphy, The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Britain's busiest ballet orchestra will perform music highlights from celebrated composers including Sibelius, Mahler (2010 marks the 150th anniversary of Mahler’s birth), Addinsell, Bliss, Mussorgsky, Ravel and Carl Davis.

Birmingham Royal Ballet Artists, including Principal dancers Nao Sakuma, Carol-Anne Millar, Gaylene Cummerfield, Robert Parker, Jamie Bond and Matthew Lawrence will perform short excerpts from the Company’s forthcoming season, including pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty and Slaughter on 10th Avenue.

A highlight of the evening will be the UK’s first presentation of dance and music excerpts from Company Director David Bintley’s Aladdin; a full length ballet he choreographed for the New National Theatre Ballet Company in Tokyo that premiered in Japan in the autumn 2008. Music for Aladdin is by Carl Davis and reunites the creative collaboration seen for the Company’s production of Cyrano.

An Evening of Music and Dance
Symphony Hall, Birmingham

7.30pm, Saturday 20th February 2010

£10 - £29.50

Town Hall & Symphony Hall Box Office: 0121 780 3333

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Our Ascending Stars - Shiori Kase



Our Ascending Stars....

The quite fabulous noomiedoodlesfashion very generously gave up some time to work on my brief, which was to use her fashion expertise to conjure up traditionally dressed dancers but with a fashionable twist.

'Our ascending stars'…. follows the progress of professional dancers who have graduated this year. Regular readers will know that all of the dancers featured here were interviewed just as they made the transition from vocational school to professional ballet company. Here we see how they've been getting on....

Shiori Kase, Artist, English National Ballet


Shiori Kase as one of the Mirlitons from The Nutcracker

What is it like now that you are working as a professional dancer?

I feel weird! I still can`t believe I’m in the Company and that I actually dance with the Company. But I really like being here, especially now that I can wear whatever I want to, and I can work for myself in class and rehearsals.

Which roles have you performed so far and what did you enjoy?

We`ve done Scherazade, Giselle and The Nutcracker and we are doing The Snow Queen at the moment. I really enjoy dancing every role but if I have to say my favourite it’s going to be "Vine Gatherers" from Giselle, "Mirlitons" and "Walz of flowers" from The Nutcracker.

What have you learnt that`s been unexpected?

It`s a hard one for me. I didn`t realize how difficult it would be to dance the choreography as well as staying in perfect alignment.



What`s been the best thing about company life so far?

Dancing in the Coliseum! We`ve been touring to so many places and every theatre is so different, but the Coliseum is nice and big! And also I love dancing with people from here, everyone is so nice and I am always watching amazing dancers. They make me work hard more and more!

Which roles are coming up for you in the next year?

We`ve going to do Giselle after The Snow Queen and I’m really looking forward to dancing Giselle. I’m dancing "Vine Gatherers" the "Pas de six" and the "Wilis".



Saturday, 16 January 2010

BALLET NEWS UPDATE



I wanted to share with you a video from New York City Ballet as three Principal dancers prepare to take on the daunting role of Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. It really is enlightening viewing.


In an earlier BALLET NEWS update I passed on the great news that David Nixon OBE has been awarded a New Year Honour, and here is the full press release :

New Year Honour for Northern Ballet Theatre's Artistic Director

Northern Ballet Theatre's (NBT) Artistic Director, David Nixon, has received an OBE for services to dance in the New Year Honours list announced on 31 December 2009.

David has made a significant artistic contribution to narrative dance in the UK and has been instrumental to the continued growth and success of NBT since taking over as Artistic Director in 2001. His creative output is prolific; in the past nine years he has choreographed nine new full-length ballets for NBT. David is committed to taking the highest quality dance to audiences throughout the country, bringing together collaborators at the top of their field to create new ballets with exceptional production values. He has also placed great importance in providing opportunities for young people throughout the North of England to access high quality classical dance training without having to leave home through the expansion of NBT's classical training programmes.

On hearing of his award David Nixon said: "I am overwhelmed that I have received this Honour. Coming at the end of NBT's 40th Anniversary year it is the icing on the cake to a wonderful year for the Company and for me personally. I would like to thank everyone who endorsed my nomination, the team at NBT for their hard work and dedication and especially my wife, Yoko Ichino for her unwavering support."

Dame Monica Mason, DBE, Director of The Royal Ballet supported David's nomination: "David Nixon has made the most tremendous contribution to NBT and to classical dance in the UK. His energy and his capabilities are astonishing and he is held in the highest regard within the profession."

Claude-Michel Schönberg, celebrated composer of Les Miserables and NBT's Wuthering Heights added: "David Nixon creates new works with original stories, newly commissioned scores and innovative choreography; its modernity remaining accessible to a wide ranging public. His work reaches out to the British public, bringing culture to towns and cities far from the main cultural centres of the UK. In 20 years time a young British dancer will explain his vocation in the theatre as a result of attending, one night, the performance of a ballet by David Nixon in a small town where he grew up."

The Honour is the latest in a string of awards recognising David's work. David was voted Director of the Year by readers of Dance Europe in 2003 and 2006; he remains the only Artistic Director to ever have won the accolade twice. Under his Direction NBT received the audience award at the Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for three successive years (2004, 2005, 2006), this is the only award voted for by members of the public. In 2009 NBT received the Patron's award recognising the work the Company has done to raise the profile of dance in the UK.

In 2010 NBT will move into a new purpose-built headquarters in central Leeds. Led by David's vision the building will be a powerhouse for inventive dance and a leading centre for narrative dance research.



THE TENTH ANNUAL NATIONAL DANCE AWARDS

RICHARD BONYNGE ANNOUNCED AS WINNER OF NATIONAL DANCE AWARD


• THREE NEW SPONSORS ANNOUNCED FOR NATIONAL DANCE AWARDS

Legendary ballerina Dame Beryl Grey will present conductor Richard Bonynge with the Patron’s Award for 2009 at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards at the Royal Opera House next week.

The Patron’s Award is given to an individual or organisation that has significantly furthered the cause of dance in the UK. The recipient of the Award is chosen by Dame Beryl Grey, Patron of the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. The awards ceremony, the most prestigious in the dance calendar, will take place at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden at 2pm on Thursday, 21 January 2010 in front of a VIP audience.

Dame Beryl said: “I decided to give the award to Richard Bonynge for his huge recorded catalogue of all the major ballets and his unique recordings of important items in the ballet canon unrecorded elsewhere (Russian Rarities, The Art of the Prima Ballerina, Homage to Pavlova etc). He has given access to the repertoire for many people unable to listen to this music live in the theatre. Richard Bonynge is world famous for his many recordings of operas with his wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Luciano Pavarotti and in addition has recorded ballet music throughout his long career.”

Past Patron’s Award winners:

2008 - Northern Ballet Theatre
2007 – Darcey Bussell
2006 – Strictly Come Dancing

The National Dance Awards celebrate the vigour and variety of Britain’s thriving dance culture. They are the only professional awards in the UK dedicated to dance and are presented by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle, which brings together more than 50 dance writers.

It is only natural that dance critics should celebrate as well as evaluate the art form about which they write and the National Dance Awards aim to highlight the astonishing diversity of dance in Great Britain. Dancers and dance-makers make a vital contribution to our vibrant cultural life and the Awards are our way of saying congratulations – and thank you.

HIT Entertainment, Dance UK and the Council for Dance Education and Training announced as new sponsors for the National Dance Awards.

Dame Beryl Grey said: “The tenth anniversary is a true milestone in the history of these prestigious Awards which are the focal point of the UK dance calendar. It has been a monumental achievement to make the event bigger and stronger with each passing year, with three new sponsors joining us very recently.”

HIT Entertainment is among the newest sponsors of the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards and next week will present the Angelina Ballerina Children’s Award to nine-year-old Lucy Wood (Susan Robinson School of Dance). The exciting new award was won by Lucy after a nationwide audition process which culminated in the best of the young hopefuls gathering at the studios of English National Ballet in front of a jury consisting of well-known broadcaster Angela Rippon, Dirty Dancing star Martin Harvey, Katherine Hollabird, author of the Angelina Ballerina books, and English National Ballet choreographer Antony Dowson.

Another major new sponsor is the Council for Dance Education and Training who will present their Student of the Year Award to 17-year-old Sam Chung (Tring Park School for the Performing Arts), an outstanding male dancer who triumphed in a national competition with very high standards in front of a jury chaired by Dame Beryl Grey herself. The new award will recognise each year a student of outstanding ability.

The Dance UK Industry Award will be presented to an individual working in dance who has made an outstanding contribution to the art form. The award is designed to acknowledge the contribution of a person who is often an unsung hero. It is a unique award given by the winner’s peers in the dance profession. The winner will be announced at next week’s ceremony at the Royal Opera House.

A full list of dancers, choreographers and companies nominated for National Dance Awards can be found at www.nationaldanceawards.com

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Megan Wood; what it takes to follow your dream and become a professional ballet dancer



Megan Wood @ The Royal Opera House

“ I want to be on that stage and I want to do that”. So said Megan Wood, at the tender age of 3, after her Mum had taken her to see a ballet. Megan has just premiered in Ballet du Rhin’s production of Giselle, so I think we can safely say that she has accurate foresight. The other thing I guarantee you is that the intervening years will not have been easy, and so I caught up with Megan to find out just what it takes to make one of your dreams come true.

Megan started ballet classes around the age of 3, at the Teresita Marsden School in Chichester. Teresita has recently retired but was gracious enough to recall Megan’s early years. “She came to me very young. She was a very slim little girl, and she was always very disciplined and very serious. She had very good feet, a good instep, she always worked very, very hard and did well in her exams.” Teresita goes on to explain that when other girls left, Megan stayed on, taking several classes a week, and she became more skilled as a result. Spotting this talent, Teresita was keen for her pupil to “be with other students with similar ability and to see what the world was like outside the ballet school,” and this led Megan to audition for the Associate Programme at Central School of Ballet at the age of 15, a course designed to prepare students for full time training, in particular vocational training on their degree course.

It involved a whole day, on a Saturday, in London, in addition to normal weekday school classes, and Megan was still taking local ballet classes after school every day. The Saturdays at Central were long because of the travelling to and from Chichester, but Megan thrived, being with other students who really wanted to be there, “it was always fun. I loved it, I really loved doing it. The teachers have been other places so they know what’s up and coming and they can correct you in a different way, and you have really healthy competition. Because if it’s just your local school, some of the kids just do it because their mum says, but when you’ve got people that really want to do it, like all my friends, you’ve got that healthy competition.”



One of the aspects of ballet which the teachers helped Megan to overcome was her pointe work. She had been doing one class a week at her local school, but here she was putting her pointe shoes on every day and had some fear about doing so, “because you’re standing on your feet, on your toes, and it’s not normal, I think it was the fear of hurting.” How did they do that ? “They’re going to push you a lot more: ‘you can do it, you will do it’, and they try and make you turn your mind around, and obviously, you’ve got that competition, you think ‘ok, she’s doing it, well I’ve got to do it’. You’ve got that grit and determination.”

At 16, Megan auditioned for the 3 year Central School of Ballet degree course. It helped that “some of the people that I met in associates went on to train at Central. It means that you already knew somebody, to go into this scary new place at 16. And then it’s like ‘oh my goodness, I’m at the doors, I’m here, I’m a first year.”

I’m intrigued to know how the training differed once Megan had been accepted onto the course, and she tells me, “I think your teacher always says, ‘lift your arms up, hold yourself’, but it became more: ‘no, this is how you do it, this is why we use that muscle’, it was really like training your mind to think ‘ok, that’s why we do that, and that’s going to help this movement’ so technically you were learning the proper way to use your body which is really important. When you come to London they teach you what line looks nice, how to feel, how it looks, how to put that into your mind and into your body. I think it builds your confidence, ‘ok, now I understand’ and then you feel more in control of your body.”

Megan found the experience a positive one and most of the time she had good assessments. “I think it was our first year assessment in ballet and we all sat and meditated around the barre just before, to get into the zone. You have to really focus your mind and obviously it’s really, really scary, when you’re 16. Our year bonded so well, we had such a tight year, which I think really helped; we really helped each other get through, in the down moments.” All the way through school, the students know that they will face an assessment to get into the third, performance year, “so they are looking all the time to see if you are capable as a person, and I think that’s the pressure you feel, because it’s like ‘if I don’t show them what I’ve learnt, if I have a bad assessment, what are they going to think?’ It’s really scary, just like auditioning as well, and I suppose that’s what it’s getting you ready for.”

Megan says, “ I really did work my socks off, I was really determined, especially in first year. And then in the second year we had Nathalia Barbara, who’s a real task master but I absolutely loved her as a teacher. She really, really helped me. She would really, really push you.” Nathalia says “I think she was able to develop her musicality and artistry quite a lot in that second year. She really became a dancer, not just an exercising little girl. She matured quite a lot in that year, and that was the nice thing to see.” I say to Megan that second year seems to be quite key in terms of really pushing students and she concurs, “yes, I think it’s that real push, push, push year, because they really want to get everything out of you. They know you’ve got more and they really try and drag it out. I look back on it as a really good experience, especially with Nathalia, even though she did sometimes push you to your limit, but I’m so pleased we had her and I thought she was an amazing teacher. She really showed me that there was so much more I could do and there was still more to come." Nathalia recalls, “Megan was always a delightful student. She was very musical and very responsive to corrections. A beautiful girl to work with and she worked hard. I don’t think she ever had one day when she didn’t work hard. A very dedicated student, and when you are dedicated you get the results.” Megan sums it up, "so they’re just trying to see if you can go ahead with the third year. You’ve got to be really at your tip top in third year because then, that’s it.”

During the annual Prague Masterclasses summer school, Megan met the dancer Sofiane Sylve (Principal dancer with New York City Ballet), as well as Maina Gielgud (who was trained by Tamara Karsavina) with whom she would later work, and she also met her boyfriend which she describes as “very romantic.”



Megan was asked to dance in La Sylphide with Ballet Du Rhin, and later stayed in France to take regular classes, watch rehearsals and performances, travelling here and there to auditions, one of which was for Ballet Theatre UK in London. There was the usual round of class, pas de deux and then solos, and by this time Megan felt that she must be in with a chance, not to have been cut earlier in the day. She chose her Graduation solo - the Sicilian section from Emeralds, part of Balanchine’s Jewels, which at four minutes is considerably longer than most solos, “when I first told Bill (the director) in third year that I was going to do it, he said ‘and you’re going to do all of it ?’ And I said ‘yes I am.’ And he said ‘good’. It was amazing being on the stage with everyone just looking at you for those four minutes.” It did the trick, and costume fittings followed along with a brief rehearsal period.

Ballet Theatre UK toured the UK with their production of The Nutcracker before Christmas, where Megan danced the central role of Clara, which she absolutely loved. “I think I’ve learnt so much in this contract, for myself, because we haven’t had that ballet mistress, that’s always shouting at you.” I ask what her dream role might be and she tells me, “I’ve always said, I’d love to be a Swan, especially when I went to see English National Ballet, I said, ‘I have to be a Swan one day’. But it’s between Manon and Swan Lake; the drama, getting into character, especially Manon, I love, about ballet, being someone different, and the steps, that’s ballet, but acting, that’s important for me.” Fellow dancer Natalie Cawte told me, "Megan approaches everything she does with a professional manner and is always working to improve. We had some great laughs on tour- on and off stage. She is very kind and loyal and we formed a great friendship."

Megan travelled to France in the New Year to work with Ballet de Rhin again, this time on Gielgud’s acclaimed staging of Giselle.

I ask Megan what it is about ballet that she loves so much, and in her reply I can see that her influential teachers have left their mark, “I think it's being somebody else and just playing somebody, giving the audience emotion and showing them how much that it is in my heart. When you are in the moment, it’s just magical and as soon as you get on that stage and you have an amazing performance you think ‘this is why I do it.’ You’re not you anymore, you become a completely different person and you’re just there telling this story to your audience, and just pulling them in. I love that.”

I asked Nathalia & Teresita what advice they would give to Megan now, and Nathalia echoes Megan’s sentiments about ballet, “I think my advice for her is always dance with her heart. Yes, the technique is important, but the soul is the most important.” Teresita replied, “just to keep on working, but she is very, very good so she doesn’t even need my advice.”

Monday, 11 January 2010

Our ascending Stars... Freya Thomas



Our Ascending Stars....

The quite fabulous noomiedoodlesfashion very generously gave up some time to work on my brief, which was to use her fashion expertise to conjure up traditionally dressed dancers but with a fashionable twist.

'Our ascending stars'…. follows the progress of professional dancers who have graduated this year. Regular readers will know that all of the dancers featured here were interviewed just as they made the transition from vocational school to professional ballet company. Here we see how they've been getting on....

Freya Thomas, Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich



Freya and a friend in Bavarian national dress at the Munich Octoberfest

What is it like now that you are working as a professional ballet dancer ?
Beginning a career as a professional dancer is quite a challenge. As the newest member of the company I have had to quickly adapt to the company style and also learn the existing repertoire as fast as I can. This has meant spending many hours studying DVD's of past performances and also having extra coaching sessions with the ballet mistress. Inevitably I have been expected to cover many different places and have had to be ready to jump in at short notice if a colleague is off sick or injured.

Which roles have you performed so far and what did you enjoy ?

The first role I danced was the dream sequence in Raymonda; it was brilliant to start with such a beautiful classical work. I next danced as a Swan in Terence Kohler’s “Once Upon An Ever After ” which is part of the triple bill “100 Years of Ballet Russes.” In the same triple bill I also danced as a tambourine girl in Scheherazade which had the most stunning costumes and hairstyles. I have also performed in Die Kameliadame and Kylián s Zugvögel . These ballets were all new repertoire for me and I have really enjoyed learning work by choreographers whose style I hadn’t experienced before. It was especially exciting to be rehearsed for the swans by Terence Kohler himself.




What have you learnt that’s been unexpected ?

I’ve learnt just what a small world the dance community is. I didn’t know anyone in the company before I started but have discovered that we have many mutual friends from all over the world who have trained or worked together in the past. The members of the company have really made me feel at home and although I miss my old school friends I have made a new social circle much quicker than I expected.

What’s been the best thing about Company life so far ?

The best thing so far is to know that I have taken my first steps as a professional. This time last year I was still a student just starting the audition process and now I am part of a brilliant company which will hopefully guide me to a long and enjoyable career as a dancer.

Which roles are coming up for you in the New Year ?

At the moment I have been cast in Onegin and Mats Ek's Giselle. I am very excited about dancing in both, Onegin is such a beautiful story ballet, and Mats Eks version of Giselle will be really fun as I have never done a performance in such a contempory style and it will really push me.


Ascending stars
Drawing by noomiedoodlesfashion


Friday, 8 January 2010

Mara Galeazzi, 'Dancing for the Children'

Royal Ballet Principal Mara Galeazzi is putting together a Gala night in aid of the charity 'Dancing for the Children'.

The Gala will be held for one night only on Sunday 28th February - see below for full details.

To learn more about Mara in motion, click here.

Mara has brought together some of her fellow Principal dancers along with the Ballet Boyz, most recently seen on TV on Christmas Day with their documentary about the Royal Ballet's trip to Cuba.



There are various way of booking - via Mara's website and via Sadlers Wells, or you can phone the box office on 0844 412 4300. 

For VIP tickets, please contact Judith : at galaforafrica@aol.com

The Gala promises to be a very exciting evening - with choreography by Steven McRae and a World Premiere by Liam Scarlett - so it's worth booking as soon as you can.


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tracy Jones interviewed for "Cupcakes & conversation with..."



Cupcakes & conversation with Tracy Jones, Corp de Ballet, Corella Ballet, Spain


Tracy Jones in the dressing room

How have you benefited from the training at The Royal Ballet School ?
Having done most of my training with the RBS I feel as if I owe a lot to them as to how I have turned out today, not just as a dancer but as a person also. The pure classical style that they teach there along with the self-discipline which you learn to work with are wonderful attributes for when you join a professional company. I also feel that the technique I learned there has given me a great base to develop into whichever style a director or choreographer would like. In my graduate year there, I was lucky enough to have been given many wonderful opportunities to perform with The Royal Ballet, both at the Royal Opera House and on their International tour, as well as many performances and choreography opportunities within the RBS and I feel that these experiences really prepared me to join a professional company.

What motivates you at 8 am on a Monday morning ?
Well, unfortunately I'm not the greatest morning person, so getting up on Monday mornings is definitely a challenge for me, but once I've had a cup of coffee and a shower to wake me up, I find it a lot easier to get going. Sometimes we have Mondays off here so then I am easily motivated to go and explore Madrid and do some shopping. If it’s a working day, I look forward to hopefully fulfilling goals that I have set for myself in class and rehearsals and doing better than I did the week before.


Tracy Jones & Matthew Golding rehearsing 'Epimitheus'
Photo by Fernando Bufala

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
That's a tough one. I think that depending what I was to dance would then determine who I would like to dance with, but I think that the dream role for me would have to be Macmillan's Manon with Jonathan Cope.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I'm not sure exactly where, but I absolutely adore dancing in outdoor theatres, so it would have to be somewhere outdoors with a beautiful setting that was somewhat significant to whatever it is that I would be dancing. I would also love to dance back home in Ireland for my family as they are so supportive of what I do, I feel that the best way that I could repay them would be by dancing for them.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Firstly I cut the backs so that they are 3/4 length. I then darn an outer ring on the tip of the shoe, followed by sewing elastics and ribbons. I break them in over a few classes and bang them against concrete so as to eliminate the sound. After all of that, I use shellac or Jet glue to harden the ends before using them for a show.

During your year with English National Ballet, what memories did you take away from the experience ?
I have taken with me many great memories from my time at ENB. I learned a lot about how a touring company works and having joined there as a brand new member of the corps I learned quickly to always be ready to jump into whatever spot needs filling. I was also lucky enough to have been with the company when they premiered The Snow Queen by Michael Corder, which was my first experience of working on a new full length ballet with a choreographer. The time I was there, the company also toured to China, which was wonderful as I love to travel, but I would have to say that my fondest memories would have to be of the friendships I made there and the Christmas season at the Coliseum Theatre in London.


Photo by Johan Persson

What are you looking forward to dancing this season with Corella Ballet in Spain ?
This season opened with 2 new ballets which is always exciting to be part of and very rewarding once the final product is put on stage. We also opened with a wonderful ballet by Jerome Robbins called 'Fancy Free' which I dance the 'third girl' in, so I was very much looking forward to that. We have a tour to the New York City Centre coming up in March which I am very excited about and I’m also really looking forward to doing a new version of Swan Lake after the New Year.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment we are on and off tour quite a lot, so it depends really, but if we are at home, our daily routine starts with class at 10.30am till 12 and then rehearsals till 7pm, although most of the time you won’t be involved in all the rehearsals so often you have an hour or so break in between. When we are on tour, we start slightly later with class on stage, followed by any rehearsals which the staff feel necessary, then a break to get ready for the show, followed by the show.

What is the ballet scene like in Spain ?
The ballet scene in Spain is very different to how it is in other countries. Although they have a great sense of culture here and some beautiful theatres, I don't think that ballet has as much a tradition here as it has in other places. Corella Ballet is in fact the only classical ballet company at the moment in Spain, but there are some incredible Spanish dancers all over the world and now with their own Company, I hope that ballet out here will soon have the appreciation it deserves.

You can ask six famous people to dinner — who would you invite ?
Ninette De Valois, Audrey Hepburn, Neil Armstrong, Walt Disney, Anna Wintour and Nicole Kidman.

What would surprise people about you ?
That I am a disaster in the kitchen.

Who inspired you to dance ?
Darcey Bussell was a huge influence for me growing up, especially as she too had been through White Lodge but a lot of my inspiration and willpower came from my family, knowing that they were behind and supporting whatever I did made me want to work even harder.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Never take life too seriously but, it’s short, so make the most of what ever opportunities it throws at you.


Tracy Jones & Fernando Bufala in 'In The Upper Room'
Photo by Rosalie 0'Connor

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Once rehearsals finish I normally pop out to grab a quick coffee and a snack. I then use the time before to take a power nap if I need one, or just to chill out with some music and the girls in the dressing room. I then get ready with hair and make-up, make sure my costume and shoes are prepared, and head down to the stage to do a 20 minute barre before curtain up.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
When I first joined Corella Ballet I was cast to dance in Twyla Tharp's 'In the Upper Room', a ballet with a very different style to what I had been used to dancing, but the experience was great and once I had a better knowledge of the movement I was really able to enjoy each performance more. The company also recently added Christopher Wheeldon's ballet 'VIII' to its repertoire, which is a ballet based on Henry VIII and his relationship with Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and I have been very privileged to learn the part of Catherine of Aragon. It is a part which requires a lot of emotion and I look forward to the challenge of seeing what I can bring to the role.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
It would have to be something similar to the dress normally worn for Tchaikovsky pas de deux or Juliet (from Romeo & Juliet). A light long flowing skirt with an elaborate embroidered bodice might be nice.

What is your favourite quote ?
"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can be great". Mark Twain

What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Obviously it is important to have a strong partner with charisma and suitability, but the most important thing for me is trust and a good relationship both on and off stage.

A phrase I use far too often is ... ?
I have got into a habit of starting a lot of sentences with the phrase.. " I mean really, ..... "

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I actually have two of these. The first was in 1999 when I was in my first year at White Lodge. It was the re-opening of the Royal Opera House and it was my first experience of being on such a wonderful stage with so many talented and renowned dancers. We literally had to just stand there while the orchestra played the end score from Stravinsky's 'The Firebird', but it was such an incredible feeling.

My second moment would have to have been the night that Corella Ballet premiered as a company with Makarova's La Bayadere at the Royal Theatre in Madrid. Having known how much work everyone put into getting the company up and running, it was incredible to receive a standing ovation by the public and to be part of hopefully what will go down in history as the first performance done by Spain's own classical ballet company.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I would like to imagine that this time next year I will have improved in my technique and grown as an artist and hopefully be ready to challenge myself with new goals and repertoire.