As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of posts, I live in the middle of nowhere in Northern England. As such, London is a bit of a trek to get to. This weekend though I head down for three days of dance – in all forms.
The initial purpose of this trip was to watch Cloud Dance Festival: Firefly. I’ve followed CDF on twitter for a long time now and I was excited to see all of Chantal’s hard work come to fruition. Also, I’ve never seen much contemporary dance before so I was looking forward to seeing something new and exciting.
However, in planning, the weekend expanded and soon I had a weekend packed full of dance! I’m going to do a post specifically on Cloud Dance Festival, and another on my ENB Sunday, but in the meantime here’s a brief recount of my weekend.
I dashed straight from working the Friday lunch shift at the pub to catch the train down to London. Getting into King’s Cross I rushed to my hostel (the first of three over the weekend) and dropped off my bags. I then hurried off to the Pleasance Theatre in Islington for the first night of CDF.
Not arriving in London until 25 minutes after the curtain I knew I would never catch all of Friday’s performances, but I was lucky enough to catch five and a half of the nine pieces. As I said, I’ll talk more about CDF in my next post, so for now I’ll just leave it at saying it was awesome!
Heading back to the hostel, I tried to get an early night. However, when your sharing a room with 16 others, all going to bed at different times (including one at 4:30am!) my sleep was fitful to say the least. Soon enough it was 7am and my alarm went off so I could get up and get ready for some dance class.
It seems quite a few of the dance schools in London are closed for the summer, or busy doing summer intensives, but I found a couple of dance classes at Pineapple Dance Studios that I fancied taking. It also seems like adult classes in London tend to be on weekday evenings rather than weekends, but this might also have been due to it being the middle of summer.
You may have heard of Pineapple Dance Studios because of the Sky TV series based on it (which I’ve never seen) but if not, it is a pretty big studio in Covent Garden. It is mainly based in ‘commercial’ dance rather than Ballet – comparing to NYC I think it is more Broadway Dance Center than Steps on Broadway.
First up was the Pure Technique class with Karen Estabrook. I didn’t really know what to expect with this class but had been recommended it by some of my followers on twitter, and so decided to give it a shot. Based in Ballet with hints of jazz (i.e. Layouts) this was an hour class aimed to build strength, improve balance and practice turns. It was hard, sweaty work but certainly a lot of fun.
It pushed me more in terms of fitness than technique (although I still had technical corrections) but I wouldn’t recommend it for absolute beginners – there was a guy in the class who looked new to dance and seemed to find it difficult to follow. Every sequence at the Barre (75% of class) involved extensions, balances, relevés and so on, and were repeated twice on each side with no rest; by the end of which you were most certainly feeling the burn!
Next up was Keith Hodiak’s Basic Ballet class. Suddenly the room was packed, going from 6 of us in the Pure Technique class to more like 50 in Keith’s class. As with any new school I go to, I didn’t really know what level this class would be – one school’s Basic could be another’s Elementary or vice versa. This was however, very basic and although it is always good to concentrate on the fundamentals, due to the size of the class I got no feedback whatsoever which was slightly frustrating. It was good to take a Ballet class again though – two weeks of home classes just isn’t the same!
As class finished I was starting to feel rather sore and decided to alter my plans for the afternoon. The combination of coming down with a head cold and a lack of dance classes for a fortnight stopped me taking anymore classes, as I wanted to save my legs for Sunday (you’ll find out about that soon enough!). This was a real shame though, as I had planned to take Ballet at The Place and tweet-up with @ojdancingboy. Oh well, maybe next time!
That wasn’t the end of Ballet-related stuff for the day though – I headed to the National Portrait Gallery to sneak a peek at their mini Ballet exhibition. With it being open for free this weekend, the gallery was packed, but as I climbed to the second floor the crowds thinned and I got a chance to see portraits of some of the greatest dancers of the 20th Century. Highlights for me included a fantastic photo of Anna Pavlova in her garden on what seemed to be a summery afternoon. When juxtaposed with photos of her on stage in all her glory it was fascinating to catch a glimpse of her ‘normal life’ – much like twitter allows us to peek into current dancers lives.
Another highlight was a bronze bust of Margot Fonteyn. I suppose what struck me about this was that the artwork completely ignored Fonteyn’s body, which, after all, is what made her famous. Alongside full body shots of Nijinsky and his contemporaries, this omission emphasized Fonteyn’s position as more than just a dancer, but a national treasure also.
Soon enough I was dropping my bags off at the second hostel and heading back to Cloud Dance Festival for the second night. This was even more awesome than the first, I got to rewatch a couple of my favorite acts from Friday, and saw the awesome Tommy Franzén in Kristen McNally’s piece. But more about that in the next post!
Another early-ish night was needed though, and all too quickly my 7am alarm rang and I made my way across London in tights (stealthily hidden under sweatpants) towards Trafalgar Square. Why? Because I was about to dance on the London Coliseum stage. Yes. You read that right. All thanks to an awesome workshop by ENB for adult beginners – in fact, it was so awesome I’m dedicating an entire blog post to my ENB Sunday! Between class on stage (given by ENB Soloist Kerry Birkett), learning a section of the Corps part in Carmen, watching Company Class (their final one of the season) and then watching the Roland Petit triple bill, it was a Sunday I don’t think I’ll ever forget! In fact, I’m still on a high from it!
Best. Morning. Ever.
Lugging my three bags back across London (minus the tights this time!) I checked into my third hostel in as many nights and quickly grabbed dinner before heading back to Cloud Dance Festival for the final program. Even more thrilling, innovative, inspirational, powerful and awe-inspiring than the last two nights this was a perfect way to end off my trip. Saying a final goodbye and thank you to Chantal I headed back to the hostel and tried to salvage some sleep before my 6am wake-up call for my train home.
And so ended my weekend in London. It all went past in such a blur and it is kind of surreal to be traveling back to quiet Northumberland for a shift in the pub this afternoon (on my Birthday no less!). That being said, I’m absolutely knackered and can’t wait for a good night’s sleep in my own bed tonight. Oh wait; I’ve got to be up at 5:30am tomorrow to catch a plane to Bath for some flat-hunting. Let’s hope there’s plenty coffee on the plane.
Until next time, keep dancing!