Thursday, 31 January 2013

January 2013 Round-up

This month, as well as my blogs on Tamara Rojo, the ROH Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III triple bill, English National Ballet in class and ENB's Lilac Fairy workshop I have written:

 
and a review of Dance Proms in Dancing Times (January issue), p.77

Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish in In the Night
Photo: Tristram Kenton, courtesy of ROH

Monday, 21 January 2013

Lilac Fairy Workshop

ENB Sleeping Beauty Adult Workshop, London Coliseum - reviewed on 20th January

Daria Klimentova as the Lilac Fairy
Photo: Patrick Baldwin
Company dance artist and director of ENBYouthCo, Holly Noble, took a group of adults, including myself, through their paces in a Sleeping Beauty workshop.

After a Saturday morning trek through the snow to reach the London Coliseum, Noble soon had our bodies working and our muscles warm. After ballet class, we learnt the Lilac Fairy mime, an elegant segment of choreography that explains the ballet’s story to the audience through gestures.
 
To counteract Carabosse’s wicked spell, the Lilac Fairy states: “I love Aurora. You want to kill her – why? Listen to me speaking. Aurora will prick her finger but die, she will not. She will prick her finger and go into a deep sleep, until from far away comes a handsome prince who will kiss her and break the spell.”
 
Whilst I’m not sure my performance could compete with the company’s own Lilac Fairies, including Daria Klimentova and Lauretta Summerscales, it was wonderful to dance centre stage at the London Coliseum. And I shall keep practising my role, just in case English National Ballet wants to cast me in the future!

Tamara Rojo

Tamara Rojo, Ballet Association meeting, Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church - 18th September

Artistic director of English National Ballet and former Royal Ballet principal, Tamara Rojo, spoke to the Ballet Association on Friday. Passionate and intelligent, she gave opinions on a variety of topics, a small selection of which are included here.
 
Rojo chatting to attendees after her talk
Photo: Laura Dodge
On Sergei Polunin: “You can ride on your talent and instinct up to a point but then you have to really work. Sergei has a gift – but it's also a curse. He didn't ask to be given that talent. We have to give him space.”
 
On Liam Scarlett: “Liam is one of the most talented choreographers around - we have only seen the beginning. He can take the most talented Royal Ballet stars and we all respect him and want to please him. I did think he shouldn't give up his dancing yet and I told him that; I think
choreographers with a longer dancing career have a better ballet language.
“When he first said, would you be naked onstage? [in Sweet Violets], I almost fainted! Fortunately I wasn't completely naked, but it took all my courage in rehearsal to do it the first time.”

On dancing Princess Epine in The Prince of The Pagodas:
Since I've worked with a sports scientist, my jump has improved. I enjoyed the role – Epine is a fantastic character. She's hard done by: her father split the kingdom unequally – what was she supposed to do?”
 
On Birthday Offering: “It was all about the dancers at the time. Even before we started rehearsing, we knew we'd lost. We were going to be compared to the original dancers and whether we were better or worse, we wouldn’t be the same. The audience and critics are never happy".

On reinterpreting ballets: “We need to interpret old choreographies like Shakespeare. Why do people go on and on about Hamlet? Because every production is different. I think we should do the same with ballets, otherwise no one will want to watch them in 50 years. Choreographers need to be less precious about their work and let new generations reinterpret it.”

On Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets: “Song of the Earth is my favourite Kenneth Macmillan ballet. It's a masterpiece. The last pas de deux is a joy to do.”

On becoming an artistic director: “Applying to be the Royal Ballet artistic director was a learning experience in how to convey my vision. It made me sure it was what I wanted to do. I'm very proud to be ENB's director.  
“I knew it was the right time because I wanted to do it. The position I hold as a ballerina is essential to do the things I want with the company such as draw media attention and attract collaborators. I have already achieved a lot as a dancer so I no longer feel hungry for myself.”
 
On English National Ballet: “I have an almighty team and I think it shows already. Loipa Araujo is the best ballet teacher and coach in the world.
"I want to give ENB an identity of its own. I don't want it to be considered the lesser ballet company in London.”
 
On future choreography for ENB: “In Petite Mort [part of the ‘Ecstasy and Death’ triple bill in April], the language is so specific that you can't change anything. We've been rehearsing since September and it’s a 20 minute ballet!
"My favourite ballet is Mats Ek’s Carmen. He's coming to see ENB at the end of the season. I will wine and dine him to get him to work with us!
"I want to bring lots of new choreographers as well as restore old repertoire, but I also want to save room for George Williamson and other choreographers from the company.”

 
On the challenges and successes of her new role: “I’m very busy – I don’t sleep much! But on tour, a child saw our Sleeping Beauty and then told me he wants to become a ballet dancer. That was my greatest success ever!"

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Firebird Triple Bill

The Firebird/ In the Night/ Raymonda Act III, Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House – reviewed on 11th February

The Firebird was created in 1910 for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Michel Fokine desired his title character to be a “bright glow, without turnout and without preparations”, but contemporary dancers frequently place emphasis on perfect technique and high leg extensions rather than the choreography's glorious avine qualities. Not so Roberta Marquez, who beautifully embodied the lead role with the wonderfully flapping wrists, sense of flight and commanding eyes that make it so powerful.
 
Emma Maguire and Alexander Campbell in In the Night
Photo: Tristram Kenton, coutesy of ROH
But Marquez was not the only dancer to be commended as the whole cast looked superb. Particular praise goes to Christopher Saunders as the Immortal Kostchei and Helen Crawford as the Beautiful Tsarevna.

Jerrome Robbins' In the Night made a contrasting second work, with three vastly different but equally delightful pas de deux taking inspiration in style from Frederic Chopin's music. Emma Maguire was lyrical and soft in her duet, partnered excellently by Alistair Campbell. Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish brought elegance to their choreography including regal poses. Roberta Marquez and Carlos Acosta finished the ballet with a spark using their passionate Latin American style.

Rudolf Nureyev’s Raymonda made a grand finale to the triple bill, with a number of other excellent dancer performances. Gary Avis was an outstanding last-minute replacement in the Hungarian Dance and Hikaru Kobayashi gave a neat variation that perfectly matched its twinkly orchestral accompaniment. But Zenaida Yanowsky was the star of the show, performing a solo that holds particular fondness for me (as it was the first repertoire I learnt) with real poise and exquisitely detailed musicality.

Nehemiah Kish and Zenaida Yanowsky in Raymonda
Photo: Tristram Kenton, courtesy of ROH

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

ENB in Class

English National Ballet in Class and Rehearsal, London Coliseum - reviewed on 4th January
 
Watching ballet dancers in their daily class is the epitomy of agony and ecstasy. Whilst performing beautiful movements with incredible flexibility, grace and strength, you can also see the aches and pains that never translate into stage performances, as dancers massage joints or grimace as they stretch an overworked muscle.
 
At the London Coliseum last week, a few lucky observers including myself were able to gain an insight into this critical part of every dancer’s day. The 75 minute class is a chance to focus the mind in preparation for upcoming rehearsals and performances, warm-up the body and refine ballet technique.
Tamara Rojo and Vadim Muntagirov in ENB's Sleeping Beauty
Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Commencing at the barre, dancers seemed wrapped-up as if ready to face an Arctic Winter with padded coats, thick boots, woolly leg-warmers and numerous other layers of clothing. But as movements expanded, progressing to high leg extensions, pirouettes and jumps, they peeled off their layers, eventually revealing the exquisitely-contoured and muscular frames that are unique to dancers.
 
Somehow still energetic after this lively morning routine, company members then rehearsed for The Sleeping Beauty. Lead Principal, Vadim Muntagirov, took to the stage first, spinning impressively and rapidly, but evidently dissatisfied with his prowess. The female corps de ballet then had the tough job of perfecting the ballet's group choreography with artistic staff Jane Haworth, Loipa Araujo and Hua Fang Zhang scrutinising every angle for corrections.
 
I left as rehearsals of the Prologue fairies began, feeling exhausted just watching the dancers working so hard. If you haven't yet been lucky enough to see English National Ballet in class or rehearsal, then I recommend you do. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the effort required to make each and every performance such a delight.