First off, I have come to realise that my blog post about my trip to Canada and the USA will probably never get written. There’s so much to talk about and I’m currently uber-busy so thought I’d do a quick round-up here:
- National Ballet of Canada were Wow!. Saw their triple bill which started with Elite Syncopations (such fun) and ended with Chroma (striking to say the least). But for me the best piece was Song of a Wayfarer danced by Zdenek Konvalina and Guillaume Côté. I’ve never seen such a powerful male Pas de Deux before, danced perfectly and with such emotion. Inspiring! A huge thank you to Katherine for showing me around and some really interesting discussions!
- Managed to take class in Toronto at Metro Movement (again with the awesome Katherine) before rushing to the airport to head to Halifax, Nova Scotia (Conference No. 1). Didn’t fit any ballet in whilst there (lectures started at 8:15am and finished at 7pm) but managed a couple of runs and did get to meet the lovely @KimiSaysWhat!
- Headed back to London (Ontario!) to work with a research group for a week and managed to take a great class at Dance Steps London.
- Brief trip back to Toronto for Conference No. 2 before heading back to London, ON where I took a couple of great classes (including an RAD one!) at Karin Hobby Dance Academy the night before I headed to NYC.
New York City
- Took nearly 14 hours of ballet class in three days! Took class at Steps, Broadway Dance Center and Joffrey Ballet School (with one of my old teachers). The classes were superb and ranged from Beginner through Advanced Beginner to a couple of Intermediate ones to really stretch me (e.g., from 4th, attitude turn en dehors, plie straight into regular pirouette and finish in arabesque fondu!). Great to take class with one of my old teachers too (she remembered me!) who reminded me to “never stop dancing”.
- Saw ABT thrice: two Swan Lakes (including Polina Semi-ohmygod-nova) and a Corsaire (worth putting up with the crazy story line just for the Hallberg-Herrera-Simkin Pas de Trois). Also got a chance to meet some lovely tweeters at the Met: @AnneCanHaz, @YouDanceFunny, @Catchip, @BodiesNeverLie and @BalletJones!
- Met the lovely AdultBeginner and we went on some Cartoon Adventures (plus I got to meet her baby bump- be jealous!).
- Met the awesome @OJ_Danseur for a few beers. Got a few looks when he tried to give me tips on lifts by demonstrating in the middle of the pub but we didn’t really care. Also, I learnt that drinking four pints after 4.5hrs of class (without dinner) makes me unable to walk in a straight line.
- Met the amazing @DanielDolan for a coffee who was in NYC with the Bolshoi Summer Intensive. So inspiring to gain a glimpse into his world and got some great tips. Not sure I’ll be taking up his method of getting variations into his muscles memory though: running it through 6 times without a break!
- Saw Anything Goes on Broadway which was amazing and made me want to learn tap. Also, randomly bumped into @BodiesNeverLie and @artspl.
- Also got to see so many old friends from when I was at University in New Jersey. Can’t believe it was only a year ago I left, feels like a lifetime!
So that was my whirlwind trip to North America! I’m certain I’ve forgotten a few things, but as I’m sure you can tell it was a rather action-packed trip (massive understatement!).
Well since then I’ve been away to Bremen, Germany for Conference No. 3 (less than 48hrs after landing from NYC) and will be off tomorrow on Conference No. 4 (this time Grenoble, France). In between these though I have had a bit of a rollercoaster week.
First up was a trip to London on Sunday. Heading in (very) early I met some friends for breakfast and then headed to the Royal Opera House to see the Royal Ballet School’s end of year performance on the Main Stage. Featuring students from all years in both the lower and upper schools this would be a jam-packed gala-style event, culminating in the famous Grand Défile.
The first half featured some great pieces (including an Olympic-themed piece) but the highlights for me were Simple Symphony by Alastair Marriott and Uneven Ground by Paul Boyd. Simple Symphony showcased the classical technique of the dancers, with the soloists being unanimously superb. Featuring the graduating guys, Uneven Ground was a piece with a laid back style whilst retaining a grounding in classical technique. The punchline (I don’t want to spoil it) was a pleasant surprise and one dancer which particularly stood out for me was Lachlan Monaghan who seemed to constantly be giving his all. He was the dancer who was “feeling” the dance and “living it” the most.
The second half started with Jiri Kylian’s abstract Un Ballo which was a masterclass in control and restraint whilst allowing emotion to come through. The graduating class handled it with aplomb. John Neumeier’s Yonderling took me completely by surprise. Starting off as a rather sweet piece (including a rather amusing duet between a lovesick boy and the unreciprocating object of his affections) it gradually transmuted into a shockingly moving piece that had me close to tears. The youth of the dancers echoed the innocence that was suddenly lost and the final tableux of the group being circled by a lone dancer was breathtaking.
Following this was the strictly classical excerpts from Paquita, allowing Mayara Magri to show us just ehy she will be joining the Royal Ballet next year. Her technique was impeccable, and Lachlan Monaghan also shone in the Pas de Trois – I’m looking forward to seeing him dance with Birmingham Royal Ballet next season. Finishing the performance was the incomparable Grand Défile. As close to a religious experience as a balletomane can get this features each year of the RBS in succession. In their year’s colour of tutu and unitard they dance for a short segment (30sec) before exiting to let the following year take the stage. Once the graduating year appear they dazzle us with a minute of virtuoso dancing (I lost count of the number of double tours one of the guys completed) before suddenly all 200 or so dancers from the school flood the stage in perfect formation. In a matter of mere seconds they are perfectly lined up: girls stage right, gents stage left, graduating year in centre working out to the youngest by the wings. The roar of applause and the thought of the potential on that stage make for something quite special indeed. If you ever get the chance to see the Grand Défile you simply must, and I defy you not to have a tear in your eye by the end of it.
I also got a chance to see the Titian2012 exhibition at the National Gallery with the lovely @BeccaTweet and @Antoinetta13. The paintings themselves were hugely inspirational and the clips of the choreography and stage set-up (by the awesome @Bennet76 of the Royal Ballet) were amazing.
Inspired by the amazing performances, Monday was my own chance to perform. The ROH were beaming Titian2012 to 20 or so outdoor screens across the country and the Bristol one had asked Ballet Bristol to be the ‘warm-up act’. Now it’s not every day you get to dance as a lead up to the Royal Ballet is it?! I would be dancing Pas des Déesses and we would open our set.
After frantically trying to make sure I remembered the choreography (it was about 2 months since I last danced it!) we headed onto stage and took our opening positions. As the music started I noticed it was rather crackly but tried to ignore that and concentrated on promenading the first girl in arabesque. As I got to the second girl the music was barely distinguishable. As such, my partner thought we were behind the music, I thought we were ahead, and it all resulted in me virtually throwing her onto arabesque. Not the smoothest thing in the world. As I turned to my third partner the music suddenly cut.
What to do? The four of us were stood in pose waiting for something to happen. A minute or so passed and finally we were told that the music was unsalvageable and so we exited the stage to let the next dancer do their piece. Argh! The rest of the first set went well, with all our dancers looking their usual stunning selves. As the Royal Ballet live-stream started with Machina we had a ‘group meeting’ to discuss the second set (to be danced in the first interval). It was decided to try and fit Pas des Déesses in this second set (one of the dancers had the music on her iPod) so that everyone got the chance to dance. Luckily none of us had changed out of costume so we headed back out as Machina was finishing.
Unfortunately there had been a little bit of drizzle during Machina so the outdoor stage was a little damp. As we started things were going perfectly – I managed to nail the first three promenades with the girls nicely on their legs (at least it felt like that!). As I finished the fourth promenade I extended my right leg to tendu derriére. All of a sudden my back foot slipped and I thought I was going down, taking my partner with me! Luckily I managed to brace my left leg and recover, hopefully without anyone (except my partner) realising!
My variation went really well, the windy conditions giving me a bit of extra balonne in my grand jetés en tournant – even getting a mini round of applause after my variation! The coda section is very simple: two posé arabesques into grand jetés en tournant. Except after the first one instead of heading downstage I turned upstage! Don’t know why I did this but it meant a quick change to the choreo to make sure I didn’t jump off the stage into the water fountain behind us! Luckily no-one off the stage noticed the ‘adapted’ choreography so I think I got away with it… All in all it was a great experience and I think the whole of Ballet Bristol did themselves proud. We got to stay around to watch the second half of Trespass and Diana and Actaeon. There was a few photographers there so check out the end of this post for some pics!
After such a high on Monday I couldn’t wait for my RAD class on Tuesday, even if it was the last one of term. I arrived early (as always), got changed and started warming up. The receptionist came over and asked to have a word so I headed through. She then told me that the school was working towards a show in March and as such I would probably have to leave the school for 6 months or so and go somewhere else. I was shocked. She explained that classes would be involving practicing for the show (which I obviously wasn’t going to be involved in) so I wouldn’t be able to attend them. I still couldn’t take this in and she pointed out that she needed to speak with the teacher about it too.
I was surprisingly hurt by this. Not so much at the fact I wasn’t involved in the show but more that I’d been working towards my RAD Intermediate for the last 9 months or so and suddenly I was being dropped. It felt like a rejection, from somewhere I’d worked really hard to get in to. So I headed into class with a bit of a heavy heart. Luckily the teacher had an awesome class planned: entirely consisting of free work in the centre, including some manly stuff for me (2 soutenous, lame duck to tour en l’air finishing to the knee!). As class finished I went over to thank her for this year and say how sorry I was I wouldn’t be taking class with her for a long time. She hadn’t heard anything about this and I explained what the receptionist had said. She thought it a bit odd and couldn’t see why I wouldn’t be able to take some form of class. Reassuring me she’s have a word with the receptionist she also pointed out I could have privates with her (but unfortunately private classes with an ex-Royal Ballet Principal don’t quite fit into a graduate student budget!).
As I left I had another word with the receptionist, asking her when I might know for sure what was happening. When she said “sometime in September” I pointed out that I would need much more time if I was to find somewhere else to work on my RAD Intermediate. That was how we left it and I just hope I will be able to keep dancing there after all. My teacher is so good, and I feel I’ve made a lot of progress in the last few months.
So I was feeling very down about this and drowned my sorrows in bowls of muesli (on which I managed to lose half a filling!). I wasn’t really in the mood for Ballet Bristol rehearsal on Wednesday but headed over, reassured that ballet always gets me out of my funks (even if this time it had gotten me into one). Working briefly on my choreo before the first class we got the barres out and set off. Getting a few compliments from the teacher I was feeling much better by the end of the first class. Between classes two of my fellow dancers, Carrie and Rose, got me to close my eyes and stand in the centre of the studio. Knowing I would be in France for my birthday next week they had decided I should celebrate it a week early. You can see the result in the picture…
Opening my eyes I felt ridiculous but couldn’t help but grin. The balloons lasted until the end of pliés (they were making my port de bras rather ‘interesting’!) and the skirt until I was rehearsing my variation (cabrioles to the knee didn’t really work with it!). The socks, however, stayed on throughout and I’m planning on rocking them as warm-ups to class in the future As we headed for post-barre bar I was shocked to find they had also got me some presents! Lots of Dave-friendly (i.e. no chocolate etc) treats (including homemade cheese muffins!), a “I’d love to be a Ballerina” book and a “design your own costumes” ballerina set! I couldn’t stop laughing at it all and it was the perfect remedy to my crappy Tuesday. They made me feel really special and I love them all! They rock!
So that’s been my up and down rollercoaster of a week. Today I’m in London to take a couple of classes at Danceworks (Elem and Beg Ballet) and then am heading to the ROH to see the final Titian2012. It’s Dame Monica Mason’s last performance as Director of the Royal Ballet so it’s sure to be an emotional night! Oh, and next week (once I’m back from France) it’s the Ballet Cymru Summer Intensive! I’m a mixture of nerves and excitement right now (more nerves than anything else!)…
Until next time, keep on dancing!