It’s all over. Last Saturday I danced Rothbart in Swan Lake for two performances and I’m still on cloud nine from it. Here’s a round up of the last few weeks:

3 weeks to go

With less than a month to go, rehearsals were in full swing. Alongside two class/rehearsals during the week, Saturdays now contained long rehearsals with the ballet school (Act I Scene I and Acts II-III) and Sundays were rehearsals with the youth ballet company (Act I Scene II). I’d finally learnt all my sections:

  • Act I Scene II (Owl Rothbart): opening variation, confrontation with Siegfried and Odette and Coda
  • Act II (Man Rothbart): Entrance with Odile, lead Spanish, a couple of bits in the Black Swan Pas de Deux, mime and exit at the end of the scene
  • Act III (Owl Rothbart): Entrance and capture of Odette, confrontation with Odette and Siegfried, final fight with Siegfried and my (delightfully dramatic) death.

I finally got my hands on my cape for Act II which turned out to be a bit more stressful than I thought. When I enter with Odile I present her to the queen and leave her to seduce Siegfried whilst I quickly whip off my cape and immediately start the Spanish dance. Unfortunately on my first attempt in a rehearsal I completely failed to undo the cape, resulting in me having to awkwardly lift it over my head and headdress/crown-thingy and run to make the start of Spanish… Oops!

We also had a photographer come to one of the youth ballet company class/rehearsals to take some promotional pictures for the show. Rather than in costume like the last ones, these were action shots during class and there were a few of me that I’ve put in the little gallery below. I’m quite pleased with them, especially my grand assemblé, but it pointed out that I’ve still got loads to work on! All the photos were taken by John Hudson LRPS (

1 week to go

A week before the performance was a the Easter break and I still hadn’t met the dancer playing Odette. Along with the guy playing Siegfried, she was staying in Bristol for the week leading up to the show and so my teachers suggested I come along to daily class/rehearsal with them – I jumped at the opportunity!

So every day I would turn up at a little dance studio outside Bristol for anywhere between 2 and 5 hours of rehearsals at a time. There were only 8 of us: my two teachers (both ex-principals), the two guest dancers, three pre-professional students (from Elmhurst/Royal Ballet School) and me. Needless to say I felt a little out of place but I tried to make the absolute most of it. Each class went along at blistering pace and pushed me harder than ever before: one of the most amusing moments involved my attempt at an exercise involving grand pirouettes switching from a la seconde to devant and then through to attitude derriere (I wasn’t too successful!). I could feel myself improving each day though, and it was so inspiring to take class with such amazing dancers. I think my happiest moment came on the final day of class when my teacher had the guys doing pas de bourée, chassé, tour en l’air across the floor and much to everyone’s surprise (not least of all my own!) I managed three double tours en l’air! They weren’t the cleanest tours ever, but I was ecstatic. Unfortunately, my teacher now won’t accept single tours in classes anymore!

The second part of these classes was lots of rehearsing. The guest dancers had only met once before and everyone needed to work on partnering and spacing. It was amazing the progress in just a week though – and it was such a pleasure to watch the professionals rehearsing their parts. It was good to get to grips (literally) with the partnering sections and much of the week my teacher had me working on the characterisation. Obviously Rothbart is quite a distinct character and he wanted me to make sure every movement conveyed this. I lost track of the number of times I got told I needed to stride out more, take more time, and make every movement more deliberate. It certainly helped, and I definitely felt my dancing improved hugely over the week. I alo got some great tips on partnering – shifting my hand position according to which jump I was assisting, using my plié more, etc.

1 day to go

With one day to go, my mum arrived to stay with me and watch the performance. She’s never seen me dance (or seen a ballet whatsoever) so it meant a lot to me that she came down and was really excited for to see what I’d been working on for the last few months. I left her shopping in Bath on the Friday though as I headed for the dress rehearsal.

This was our first chance to see the size of the stage, have a complete run through and space everything out. The stage was ever-so-slightly smaller than our rehearsal space so we had a few minor collisions, but otherwise things went pretty well. The only thing left to do was head home and get a good night’s sleep ready for Saturday…

The Big Day!

All of a sudden it was time. Six months of hard work was to culminate in two performances and I was a bag of nerves.

Arriving at the theatre 2 hours before curtain, we ran through a couple of the more crowded bits on stage to ensure people didn’t run into each other. My teachers reminded me to just mark everything and definitely not to jump as I needed to save my energy (by the time the day was over I’d be very grateful!).

Heading down to the changing rooms I got into my Act I/III costume. My teacher came over and worked on my stage makeup – he had danced Rothbart in Russia so was recreating what he used to have. Standing for about 15 minutes whilst he worked on it, I had no idea what it was going to look like – I got a bit of a shock! I’ve put a picture of it below along with some of the stage before the performance. Reckon I look evil enough?!

So how were the performances? Pretty amazing! The start of Act I Scene II had me crouched in a red spotlight on a dark stage, with smoke blowing across the stage – couldn’t have been more dramatic! The variation went without a hitch (even the nasty en dedan attitude derrière pirouette) and all the bits with Odette/Siegfried went well.

Then it was a run downstairs to get changed for Act II whilst the audience enjoyed wine and cake (totally unfair!). My Act II entrance was so much fun (a chance to look smug and disdainful with Odile) and this was followed immediately by Spanish. I think this was my favourite dance in the show as I knew it well enough that I could simply enjoy every second. The audiences also seemed to enjoy it as me and my partner got some nice cheers at the end of it! Then it was standing around in character during the other national dances before the Black Swan Pas de Deux. Whilst I didn’t have too much actual dancing in this (except for a couple of small segments) there was plenty of acting to remember: gestures to Odile, hiding Odette and directing Siegfried. This was followed by me tricking Siegfried into swearing his love for Odile (including a silent evil laugh!) and running off stage.

Then was my really quick change (no interval!) back into the Owl costume for Act III. After Odette tells the swans what has happened I appear and remind her who is in charge (lots of partnering) and Siegfried appears. A quick breather in the wings and then it was time for the finale: a fight to the death with Siegfried. It’s kind of strange but I can’t remember this section from either performance. I guess the music and character swept me away and it’s all a bit of a blur until I’m lying on the ground with a wing ripped off pretending to be dead!

Finally, the curtain calls were amazing – I got my own bow just before the lead couple and I got a mixture of applause and pantomime booing. Was kind of awesome just to soak in the applause. It was even more special knowing that my mum and a load of my friends were in the audience. Most of my university friends had never seen a ballet before and they all really enjoyed it. It meant a lot to me that so many of my friends had made the effort to come and watch and share my performance and even more so that my mum did. I was also lucky enough to get some wine from my Spanish partner and some flowers from a friend to say congratulations.

Here’s a few pics that my mum managed to snap during the performance:

After both performances (with only about half an hour between them!) I was absolutely shattered. Making sure I thanked my teachers just one more time and promising to keep in touch with the guest dancers, I finally drove back home to talk through the performance with my mum, get some well earned sleep and then drive her to the airport the next day.

What’s Next?

So now it’s all over. I can’t believe it to be honest! I’ve still got a few performances coming up in the next few months. Ballet Bristol (the adult group I dance with) are doing a summer gala in June which I’m dancing quite a bit in: Coppélia Wheat Pas de Deux (as Franz), Sleeping Beauty Jewels suite (as “Gold”), and another variation (either Franz Wedding Pas de Deux from Coppélia or my Rothbart opening variation). On top of this, there is a gala nearby for the Sue Ryder 60th Anniversary (a national charity) and both of the groups I dance in will be performing! I’m not sure what I’ll be dancing (I think the youth ballet company will be doing the “Danse des Forbans” from Le Corsaire).

Sorry for the long post but hope you enjoyed reading! Have you been performing recently? How did it go?

Until next time, keep on dancing!



As you may know, I am a Royal Opera House Student Ambassador. I went into this role knowing a fair bit about ballet but being a little inexperienced with respect to opera. I’m not completely oblivious – I’ve seen a handful of operas in the past and have sung in a chorus for oratorios and various concerts – but ask me to name some arias and I’d probably stop after three or four. I therefore viewed the ambassadorship as a way to enhance my knowledge of opera and share a journey with other ‘newbies’, which excited me to no end.

So it was a great thrill to hear from Simon (the guy in charge of us) that we had been invited to observe Royal Opera Live (or #ROLive in twitter-speak): a full day going behind the scenes as the Royal Opera prepare new productions, current repertoire and future concepts. Here’s the intro video all about #ROLive:

Leaving Bath at the ungodly hour of 6:35am, I arrived at the Royal Opera House stage door around 9:20am – just in time for Ed Watson to brush past me on his way (I presume) to warm up for morning class. I was a little ballet-starstruck, but not as much as when we sat down for our morning briefing and Dame Monica Mason was on the table next to us being interviewed – talk about a living legend! But the day was to be about opera so I peeled my eyes away and concentrated on the complicated schedule, which had been precisely incremented down to the second.

First up for us was a model showing of a new production of Rossini’s take on the Lady of the Lake: Donna del Lago. When I read this on the schedule I was a little confused – why is a model so important and why should it take an hour to see it? It turns out a model showing is an entire minature recreation of a full set along with costume designs, concept ideas and even small figurines. This is a chance for a director (and their creative team) to explain to the influential and important people of the Royal Opera House their vision before it gets put into production.

I don’t think I had ever truly considered the amount of thought that goes into an opera (or ballet) production. The director, John Fulljames, began explaining the idea that the Scottish landscape is an emotional, visceral place that changes people. They make use of embodiments of Rossini and Sir Walter Scott (with their whisky-drinking liberal friends!) reminiscing the tale to emphasise this emotion, and their distorted opinions warp the costume and design of the ensuing scenes. Seeing all the thought that had gone into just this one production made me start to realise the effort that a single new production takes – and this was before any sets or costumes had been made! The fact that the Royal Opera House can put on a handful of new productions every season is truly staggering.

Next up we sneaked into the side Stalls Circle to watch the piano rehearsal of The Minotaur – a new opera from Birtwistle that has been slightly reshaped since its 2008 premiére. Unlike most Opera I have seen, there was a rawness to this work; the music reflected the harsh reality the Minotaur inhabited. This was echoed in a stark set, blood-baying chorus and terrifying minotaur head. Later we would catch a glimpse of the Sitzprobe (literally ‘seated rehearsal’) where the singers would be accompanied by a full (86-piece) orchestra for the first time and we would hear the depth and complexity that the piano was unable to convey in this rehearsal. Here’s the trailer for The Minotaur:

Heading for lunch, we called into the ROH staff canteen (eating amongst Royal Ballet School dancers and Ed Watson!) before making our way back up to the Clore for the Royal Opera Chorus’ rehearsal of Va Pensiero: the rousing chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco. Launching straight into a full run-through I immediately got goosebumps as the chorus lamented and then roused themselves as a vocal challenge to their oppressors. It was only once they had finished and their chorus master, Renato Balsadonna, started pinpointing corrections that I realised the depth with which they worked on this piece. This small syllable could be more melancholic, that note could be more defiant. Much like a ballet dancer aims to tell a story and portray a character with every step they make, so too does a singer with every note they sing. Truly fascinating, especially the ability of Balsadonna to pinpoint the smallest of corrections, much like an accomplished Ballet Master or Mistress correcting a corps de ballet. Here’s a clip of the Met chorus singing Va Pensiero:

Following on from the chorus rehearsal we were treated to something entirely different, and a bit more like what I’m used to – physical training. The Jette Parker Young Artists are young singers at the Royal Opera House who get a rounded education to make them into world class Opera stars. Not only are they tutored in vocal issues, but also in all elements of stagecraft including, we found out, fighting. In their scenario they fought with a razor blade landing multiple blows and eventually a fatal one. This was an element of their performances I had not thought about, much as the sword fighting training shown on Royal Ballet Live for Romeo & Juliet. Once again, it was astonishing to see just how much effort goes into this world – and the fact they could do all this fighting whilst singing!

With a quick break we had a wander around the ballet studios to see if there were any rehearsals going on. It was surprisingly quiet, but we did get a glance at Cojocaru/Kobborg and Nuñez/Soares warming up before having a good look inside the MacMillan studio (including a picture of me at the barre to appear soon!).

Following on was an interview with Politician-turned-Broadcaster, and passionate Opera-goer, Michael Portillo. I found myself completely agreeing with his words, applicable to both opera and ballet. One particular comment resonated – that to enjoy opera (and also, I believe, ballet) you simply have to open yourself up to the experience. If you open up and let the story transport you to its world then the magic can truly happen: you find yourself laughing and crying, in joy and grief, and are suddenly part of the story yourself. That is the true beauty of opera, ballet, and the performing arts.

Moving from the emotion to the technical, Dušica Bijeli? (a Jette Parker Young Artist) had a vocal class for an aria in Eugene Onegin (for which she would be covering Tatiana in the upcoming production). I never realised singing could be so technical! Her corrections seemed for the tiniest things: a slight unwanted delay between syllables, a “t” sound rather than a “dd” sound. To think that she covered only a 3 minute aria in a 20 minute session – the whole opera is over three hours long! It is this attention to detail, however, that makes the Royal Opera (and the Jette Parker Young Artists) world class.

And all of a sudden our day was over. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the evening performance of La Bohème but I’ll certainly be going to see it next week when it’s beamed across the world on live cinema relay. It was truly a fantastic day and, more than anything, it was a privilege to see hundreds of dedicated and talented people work together to create magnificent works of art. (It also cemented my dream of one day working for the Royal Opera House in some way or another!) I’ll certainly be checking out the cinema relay of Donna del Lago after the great model showing and I’ve already booked tickets for Die Zauberflöte (one of my favourite operas) and Eugene Onegin later in the season. I know my passion still lies firmly with ballet but today has taught me there is a whole world of opera for me to explore too – and I can’t wait to get started!

Did you catch #ROLive? What did you think? Have you seen an opera recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

Reflecting on 2012

This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for my ballet journey, but thankfully there have been a lot more highs than there have been lows. It was only whilst talking to a childhood friend over Christmas that I started to grasp how much has happened over the last twelve months, and how it has shaped my dancing.


As the new year opened, I was settling in to my new flat, PhD, and life in Bath. I had been lucky enough to find a great RAD class in Bath (Intermediate level with an ex-Royal Ballet Principal teaching) and had joined Ballet Bristol, a local adult repertoire group, although I hadn’t started learning any repertoire yet.

After a successful gala in December (so successful I couldn’t even get a ticket!) it was time for everyone to start learning new repertoire at Ballet Bristol, and that included me! The first piece I learnt was a fun Pas de Quatre, Pas des Déesses, which I would dance with three of the ladies in BB. This meant I had to do some basic partner work in the main section (promenades and assisted pas de chats) and had my own little variation (involving lotsof entrelacés!).

Me and my three gorgeous partners in my first performance of Pas des Déesses

After a few months practice I had my first ever performance with BB – a charity gig at the local hospital’s Serious Brain Injury rehab unit. Although the room was a little smaller than we were used to (and had a pillar in the middle!) it was great to perform in front of an audience, and the patients and their family seemed to really enjoy it! This would be the first of a few charity performances throughout the year, and every single one was rewarding and fun.

The next big ballet adventure was a fantastic day of dance in London which included a BalletBoyz workshop with their Ballet Master at Sadlers’ Wells. Not only was this a chance to dance in such hallowed studios, but also a chance to really work on my technique and get some tips. With an emphasis on bringing out the masculinity of movements and, more importantly, truly performing everything we did, it was a fantastic opportunity. I seriously hope they repeat the workshop in 2013!


My summer started with a bit of a rollercoaster all to do with my classes in Bath. A film crew were coming to Bath to shoot a new TV 2-part drama (with a cast including Rupert Everett, John Hannah and Natalia Wörner!) in which one of the characters auditions to dance Giselle with a ballet company. The auditions were being shot in the gorgeous Assembly Rooms in Bath and all the choreography was by my teacher and one of her old dancing partners from the Royal Ballet. As it would be a bit weird to have an empty studio for auditions they needed a few “ballet extras” to be other auditionees warming up and they picked a few of us from the dance school. As such, I got to spend a day being paid for hanging around in ballet gear and chilling on set with some amazing actors (who were all lovely) – pretty good if you ask me! The film hasn’t been released in the UK and US yet but was shown on German TV over Christmas, so you could see part one and part two with German dubbing online (although I think the videos have been taken down now). You can spot me around 25 minutes into the first part and dotted in a few other scenes :)

After this fun I was a bit shocked to be taken aside by one of the receptionists before the last class of term. She told me they would be starting rehearsals for their March school show when thet came back in September. I hadn’t expected them to necessarily include me in the show (I was nearly ten years older than some students in my class) but was surprised to be told that they wanted me to “take a break” from class until March. I was a little hurt that after 9 months of hard work I would suddenly be taking a massive step back in terms of my RAD teaching. They later told me in August that I could come back to class until they started rehearsals proper, but got a call on the day of the first class back to say that they would be starting straight away. According to the receptionist, the ballet piece would be “girly girly” and none of the boys in my class (there were two others, both amazing dancers) would be involved – something I’m really quite disappointed about.

My favourite pic from the Big Screen Performance. Surprised myself by actually being nicely turned out!

After all that ballet turmoil I also had my PhD work to do, and in the process was sent to Canada for three weeks in July, followed by a (free!) trip to NYC staying with a friend for five days on my way back. Simply being on a different continent was not enough to stop me on my ballet journey – I took class in Toronto and London (the one in Ontario, not England) and saw the National Ballet of Canada (including one of my top three performances ever – Song of a Wayfarer). New York is kind of a Mecca for the dance world and (now I’m a little further on in my training than when I left) I made full use of it! I took 14 hours of class in three days, saw ABT three times over, saw one of my old teachers, saw loads of awesome tweeps and fell in love with tap dancing thanks to Anything Goes.

Back in the UK I had another performance with Ballet Bristol, and this one was rather special. We would be the warm-up and interval act for the BP Big Screen of the Royal Ballet in Titian: Metamorphosis! I’d be dancing Pas des Dessées and after surviving a technical hitch and a wet slippy floor we had a ball – definitely one of my more memorable performances!

Promotional shot of Ellie, Fi and myself taken after the performance.

It’s hard to pick an absolute highlight of my year, but I’ve got a feeling my week at Ballet Cymru would top the list. The chance to spend every day getting taught by amazing dancers and learning new repertoire was fantastic and I tried to make the most of it. It was certainly hard work but it did convince me that in another life I would have loved to dance for a living! I also got to share a flat with some fantastic pre-professional dancers who I made really good friends with and were all willing to share tips and tricks. I got to see one of my flatmates, who is studying at Elmhurst, perform in Cinderella with Birmingham Royal Ballet recently – amazing to see him on stage rocking it! The week ended with a performance for friends and family which was so much fun – although by the end of dancing two pas de deux pieces, the Mazurkas from Coppélia, part of Franz’s Act III variation from Coppélia, and a contemporary piece I was absolutely knackered!


Autumn started with some new repertoire at Ballet Bristol, preparing for our Gala show (originally December 2012 but now hopefully March 2013). I started working on the Jewel Fairies from Sleeping Beauty, with two partnering sections and the Gold variation to learn. I worked on the Wheat Pas de Deux from Coppélia which has been a lot of fun – tricky partnering but a joy to dance, especially with my awesome partner Laura! Finally, I’m going to be working on the Act III Wedding Pas de Deux from Coppélia and a new, more contemporary, Pas de Deux in the next few months – all very exciting!

I was thrilled to attend the first ever #UKBalletTweepMeet – a chance for a few of us twitterers to meet up and take a class together. The fantastic Karis from EverybodyBallet put us through our paces in a great 90 minute class and this was followed by lots of ballet-chat – it’s all about “post-barre bar”! I’m definitely looking forward to attending more of these in the future :)

Photo from the Russian Youth Ballet Company class - don't know why my back knee is bent... Perhaps I was about to do something?!

After all the furore at my ballet school in Bath there was a silver lining. Knowing I’d be losing a class for at least six months (I still haven’t decided if I want to go back after March – my teacher is amazing and lovely, but I don’t like the way the school has treat me) I emailed a few other local(ish) ballet schools to see if they had space for a 25 year old guy. Contacting a Russian Ballet School I got a reply asking whether I’d be interested in auditioning for their Russian Youth Ballet Company. It didn’t take long for me to reply saying I’d love to! The audition was a little nervewracking (4 hours of class and rehearsal knowing you’re being watched is intense!) but I was thrilled to get in, and have been loving it ever since. With fortnightly rehearsals the girls have been working on Act II Swan Lake whilst the guys have been learning some cool variations. Starting with two variations for Rothbart from the Kirov Swan Lake we’ve now also gone through Basilio’s variation from Don Quixote and the Pas D’esclave variation from Le Corsaire – I can’t get enough of it!


They say things get better with age, and that was certainly true about 2012 for me. In the final couple of months I had a jam packed, exciting time full of ballet opportunities.

Me in my Nutcracker costume for the competition with the Uni!

I was honoured to be selected as a Royal Opera House Student Ambassador. This means I get to promote the Royal Opera House (and Ballet/Opera in general) at my University and I also get the chance to shape how the ROH outreaches to students in the future. I’ve already had the chance to see the Viscera triple bill with the other student ambassadors (even walking past Liam Scarlett backstage before the performance!) and will be heading in on Monday for #ROLive (the follow up to the fab #RBLive last year).

I danced with my University for the first time this year which lead to me competing, something completely new to me. Although it had been a bumpy road in rehearsals (dancers falling out with each other, including one rehearsal where the choreographer refused to speak after an argument with another dancer – I steered well clear of all this!) it was fun to perform and we were thrilled to place first! If you had told me 2.5 years ago that I’d be in a winning ballet group I would never have believed you. I think winning has also helped a little with my confidence – I’m always aware that I haven’t been dancing that long but being part of the team has convinced me that I can’t be too bad if we still won even with me in there! All the drama means I won’t be dancing with the University again next term but I’m glad I did it anyway.

My favourite picture from those taken in my Winter classes - I've definitely got my concentration face on!

I was really pleased when the couple who run the Russian YBC asked if I wanted to start taking their Advanced class at their Russian Ballet School – I’m now taking class every Tuesday and Friday along with the fortnightly 4.5 hour class/rehearsals on a Sunday – I can’t get enough! They also announced that in April we will be doing two performances (matinee/evening) of Swan Lake – the Youth Ballet Company dancing the whole of Act II (and, I think, some of Act IV) and the Ballet School dancing condensed versions of Acts I and III. I couldn’t believe it when they asked me to be Rothbart- meaning I’ll have my own variation at the start of Act II (to the awesome, iconic Act II theme) and even have a little partnerwork with Odette/Odile and some ballet mime! I’m also going to be dancing Spanish in Act III (as Rothbart) so have plenty to learn. On top of all this we’re having a Masterclass with a Vaganova Academy teacher in January, and hopefully our Patron, Elena Glurdjidze (Senior Principal at ENB) will be giving a Masterclass soon as well! And to finish it all off, in my final class of 2012 I managed to (finally) complete the grand pirouette and coupé jetés en manège combination – I’ve never been able to make the full circle en manège before! Woo!

Then just before the end of the year we had a photographer in a couple of my classes and one took a video of some of the combinations – here’s me in the adage from one of the classes!

On top of all that I had my PhD Transfer in December – a major milestone on the way to my degree. Submitting a 90 page report, giving an hour-long presentation and having an hour-long viva (Q&A) with two professors pushed my sanity to its limits but I passed and the next step is hopefully submitting my final thesis in 2014! It’s a big relief to get it over with and ballet certainly kept me sane whilst working on it – now I just need to decide what I want to do career-wise…

So that was my year – and what a year it was! I’m not sure how 2013 will top it but with BRYBC/BRBS Swan Lake and the BB Gala coming up I’m sure it’ll be a good one! You can be sure I’ll be working hard to improve my ballet technique. I’m also going to have to work hard on my characterisation and acting skills for Rothbart – something I’ve never had to think about before (although I keep forgetting that practicing silent evil laughs probably shouldn’t be done whilst walking down the street…)

How was your 2012? Have you got any exciting plans for 2013? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below :)

Until next time, keep dancing!

The 2012 DaveTriesBallet Awards!

You may remember the DTB Awards last year – a fun way for me to recollect the year and share the highlights. I thought I’d try and make these an annual event and so with great pleasure I give you… The DaveTriesBallet Awards 2012!


Favourite On-Stage Couple

WINNER: Lauren Cuthbertson & Federico Bonelli

Cuthbertson and Bonelli in Romeo & Juliet. Photo Copyright - Bill Cooper, ROH.

Shortlist: Alina Cojocaru & Johann Kobborg, Lauren Cuthbertson & Federico Bonelli, Marianela Nuñez & Thiago Soares, Polina Semionova & David Hallberg
Special Mention: Guillaume Côté & Zdenek Konvalina

You can have two world class dancers on stage together, but unless they have chemistry they will never dance a world class pas de deux. After Sergei Polunin quit the Royal Ballet, the hastened partnership of Cuthberson and Bonelli was a revelation: their deep emotional connection and honesty brought something new and fresh to everything they danced together. Not only great technical dancers, their acting skills are superb, as demonstrated in their Romeo & Juliet, which was beyond superlatives.

A special mention has to be given to Côté and Konvalina – who gave a dark, visceral and emotional performance together in Song of a Wayfarer this summer. As an aspiring male dancer, I don’t think I have ever seen such an inspiring performance from two male dancers.

Favourite Female Dancer

JOINT WINNERS: Lauren Cuthbertson & Marianela Nuñez

Nuñez in Apollo and Cuthbertson in Serenade. Photo credits - John Ross and Johan Persson.

Shortlist: Lauren Cuthbertson, Marianela Nuñez, Polina Semionova, Beatriz Stix-Brunell

A really strong category this year, I couldn’t choose between Cuthbertson and Nuñez. Often dancing the same role, they bring out very different qualities in the characters they portray. Cuthbertson was truly perfect in Juliet this year (her acting skills unparalleled not only at the Royal Ballet but across the world) and it is always a joy to see her dance Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Nuñez was beauty personified as Princess Rose in Prince of the Pagodas (her Act I variation had me in tears) and she was, in my eyes, the Swan Queen in the Royal Ballet’s recent run of Swan Lake.

Favourite Male Dancer

WINNER: Federico Bonelli

Federico Bonelli in Romeo & Juliet. Photo Copyright - ROH.

Shortlist: Federico Bonelli, Alex Campbell, Guillaume Côté, Vadim Muntagirov, Dawid Trzensimiech

Seeing as I recently described him as my biggest inspiration, it is perhaps unsurprising that Federico Bonelli is my favourite male dancer this year. He embodies everything I wish to emulate in a male dancer – technique, flair, depth and emotion. His Siegfried was superb, his Salamander Prince was fascinating, and his Romeo was the finest interpretation of the role I have seen.

Favourite New Choreography

WINNER: Sweet Violets (Scarlett)

Cojocaru and Kobborg in Sweet Violets. Photo Credit - Bill Cooper.

Shortlist: Brandenburg Divertissments (Zuchetti), Carbon Life (MacGregor), Labyrinth of Love (Donlon), Sweet Violets (Scarlett), Trespass (Marriott and Wheeldon)

Dame Monica Mason’s wish of leaving the Royal Ballet a legacy of new works in her final season gave mixed results. It is always refreshing to see new choreography however, and the breadth of works shown over the season was impressively wide. The highlight for me was undoubtedly Liam Scarlett’s first foray into narrative ballet, Sweet Violets. A dark and intense piece, Scarlett used his polished partnerwork to tell the tale of the troubled Sickert with great aplomb. I’m still hoping it will reappear in a few years extended to a full-length ballet!

Favourite Dance Company

WINNER: Royal Ballet

Royal Ballet in Jewels (Diamonds). Photo Credit - Bill Cooper.

Shortlist: BalletBoyz, English National Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Royal Ballet, Royal Ballet School

It will come as no surprise that my pick of best dance company this year is the Royal Ballet. Having seen them perform much more than any other company you may think this is a biased choice but the fact I saw them so many times is simply testament to what a superb company they are. They constantly amaze me with the range of performances they give: from the purely classical Swan Lake to the ultra modern Infra.

Best Cinema Relay

WINNER: Romeo & Juliet (RB)

Cuthbertson and Bonelli in Romeo & Juliet. Photo Credit - Bill Cooper.

Shortlist: La Sylphide (Bolshoi), Nutcracker (RB), Romeo & Juliet (RB), Swan Lake (RB)

I mentioned recently that I have seen a handful of cinema relays this year and overall think they are fantastic – a cheap way to watch world class performances at a local venue. I haven’t been to a “bad” relay yet, but there was only ever going to be one winner: the Royal Ballet’s superb Romeo & Juliet led by Cuthbertson and Bonelli. With brilliant casting throughout (alongside the eponymous roles, Gartside’s Tybalet and Campbell’s Mercutio were particularly fine) this was a defining performance, and one I am thrilled to find out will be released on DVD in the Spring!


Favourite Dance Blog

WINNER: Daniel Dolan

Shortlist: Adult Beginner, Daniel Dolan, Londonballetblog, Pointe til U Drop

Daniel Dolan is a British lad studying at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow. His blog posts give an insight into his training and work ethic, and a glimpse into how his idols’ styles permeate into his dancing. It is great to be able to share his journey and I can’t wait to see what his final year at the Academy has in store for him!

Golden Tweet Award

WINNERS: @DameGrace & @Naomip_86

Short(or, rather, long!)list: @balletboy09, @BalletTeachers, @BangorBalletBoy, @BBB_Mrs, @Bead_109, @Bellafigural, @Bennet76, @bexking, @clouddancefest, @DameGrace, @DanielDolan, @dansesplume, @DiabloBallet, @FedericoUK, @ImpressionDanse, @LondonBallerina, @KOBBORG, @Naomip_86, @nycbstar2b, @theBalletBag, @_TSOARES, @VampireSoup, @YosvaniRamos, @youdancefunny.
Special Mention: #RBLive

This year the Ballet World and Twitter seemed to collide and suddenly there is a huge wealth of amazing dance-related in the Twittosphere. As such, there was no way I could pick a single winner for the Golden Tweet Award and I turned to the power of social media for some help. Asking my followers to suggest names for the shortlist I got a wealth of fantastic accounts which form the shortlist above. A couple of names kept on cropping up though and ended up clear winners. Olivia Cowley (@DameGrace) is a First Artist with the Royal Ballet who gave us a fascinating glimpse into a #dayinthelifeofacorpsballerina earlier this year. @Naomip_86 is a Tokyo-based balletomane who has a great knack for finding the best ballet-bits on the web and shares her great insight into performances she sees all across the world.

A special mention also has to go to #RBLive – the fantastic day following the Royal Ballet through company class, rehearsals and interviews. With #RBLive trending on Twitter I think it was a real demonstration of how large the ballet Twitter-community is and a great chance to see how a professional ballet company works…

Top Performances:

Romeo & Juliet (Cuthbertson/Bonelli, Royal Ballet),
Song of a Wayfarer (Côté/Konvalina, National Ballet of Canada),
Swan Lake (Nuñez/Bonelli, Royal Ballet)

This year I was lucky enough to see three ballet performances that were truly outstanding, both on an emotional and inspirational level. I’ve already waxed lyrical about Cuthbertson/Bonelli dancing MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet: simply a perfect performance of a perfect ballet. In Béjart’s Song of a Wayfarer, Côté and Konvalina tapped into the idea of a young man’s destiny stalking him to give a performance that its originators, Nureyev and Bortoluzzi, would surely be proud of. Finally, the unexpected pairing of Nuñez and Bonelli (Cuthbertson was meant to be dancing but was injured) gave a fiery and passionate Swan Lake that was a masterclass in classical ballet. Nuñez’s Odette was delicate yet assured in Act II and IV; her Odile was fierce and fast-footed in Act III – Bonelli’s noble Siegfried didn’t stand a chance!

These three were the pinnacle of a truly fantastic year with a whole host of outstanding performances. Other highlights included:

  • Sweet Violets and Carbon Life (2nd Cast, Royal Ballet) – Although the 1st cast of Sweet Violets was more star-studded, the 2nd cast moved me more, with Gartside’s breakdown in the final tableaux both heartwrenching and shocking. Carbon Life was visually and aurally intense and like nothing I’ve seen at the ROH.
  • Apollo (Muntagirov, ENB) – Tackling Balancine’s signature male role at 22 was a big task for Muntagirov but he spectacularly rose to the challenge proving himself more than capable both in technique and maturity.
  • Swan Lake (Semionova/Hallberg, ABT) – Hallberg’s classical lines and stunning technique always make him a joy to watch. Having never seen Semionova before she blew me away with her control and speed with a particularly explosive Act III
  • Uneven Ground and Grand Défile(Royal Ballet School) – I had my first viewing of the Royal Ballet School this summer with their Main Stage end of year performance. Uneven Ground showcased the graduating boys (and one girl) with Lachlan Monaghan a highlight. The Grand Défile is akin to a balletomane religious experience; it is impossible to describe the rush and excitement it generates.
  • After The Rain (Nuñez/Soares, Royal Opera House Gala) – The Royal Opera House Gala was a very special evening (not least because the Queen was in attendance) and the absolute highlight for me was Nuñez and Soares’ performance of Wheeldon’s After The Rain (set to Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel) which was moving, delicate and beautiful.

Gratitude Award:

Finally, I want to give a big thank you to all of my Teachers over the last year. Every single one has given their time to help me improve my technique and grow as a dancer. I couldn’t be on this journey without their expertise, patience and assistance and for that I am truly grateful.

I also want to give a big thank you to all of you Readers, Tweeters and Facebookers for sharing this journey with me. It really helps when I get messages of encouragement or advice and really spurs me on to keep striving to be a better dancer.

You might have noticed I haven’t included Dance Awards this year – I’ll be disecting my year in ballet in an upcoming blog post. Keep an eye out!

I realised whilst writing this post that my awards are heavily Royal Ballet dominated – whilst unintentional I think it certainly shows my love for the company. Easily being my most-watched company of the year I guess their domination was inevitable, although many other companies I have seen have made it into the shortlists for each award.

What are you choices for the Awards? Do you agree with my choices? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

A Competition and ‘Performing’

Saying that I’ve had a rather busy month would be a huge understatement – my PhD supervisor suggested last month that I aim to get my Transfer completed before the Christmas break. This is a mid-PhD assessment to make sure you’re doing enough work and have a clear plan for the remainder of your PhD. For me, this meant writing a 60-page report (well, actually it started as a 105-page report I had to trim down), giving a 45-minute talk (with 15-minute public questions), and a 60-minute viva with two professors questioning me. Pretty scary stuff! Thankfully, I completed this all on Thursday and have (unofficially for the moment) passed! It’s such a relief, and I’ll be celebrating by seeing Birmingham Royal Ballet dance their fantastic production of Cinderella tomorrow.

But this blog isn’t for me to complain about PhD work, thankfully. So what has been happening in my ballet world? Well, I’ve been pretty busy with ballet too! This last month seems to have centered around ‘performing’ in one way or another, so I thought I’d concentrate on that in my post.

University Competition

I’ve mentioned before that I have been dancing with my University Dance Society this term. Weeks of rehearsals, and a bit of drama (people walking out of rehearsals, last minute illness, …) culminated last weekend when we packed on a coach in the freezing cold and headed to the Royal Holloway competition.

My university would be entering all five categories (Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary and Hip Hop) but I was only dancing in Ballet – which was up first. We were the last group to dance so we had to wait as the other Universities took to the stage. There was 9 of us dancing (8 girls and myself – the only guy in the whole ballet competition) to the Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker – hence I ended up dressed as The Nutcracker himself! Taking to the stage in darkness and applause, we took our opening places.

Me in my Nutcracker costume!

The lights rose, the music started, the crowd cheered and we started our 4-minute long piece. Even with a smaller stage than we were expecting, we danced our hearts out and gave everything we had. I tried to be light on my feet for my solo petit allegro section, tried to get that little bit extra lift during my ‘stag leap’ entrance, made sure I was rock solid during my partnering section, and tried to whip out my a la seconde grand pirouettes as fast as possible!

Unlike my past performances, the crowed cheered and whooped their way through the performances – big cheers happening during the most exciting sections: the girls fouettéing whilst I did grand pirouettes; any partnering sections; and the grand finale. This was a new experience to me but helped to keep the adrenaline pumping and ensure I was ‘performing’ at all times.

We only went and bloody won!

I’m not sure I particularly like the competition atmosphere – and I’m not feeling too sad that I won’t be dancing with the university for the next competition. Everyone was perfectly nice and there were some truly amazing dancers there, but there was an underlying atmosphere that wasn’t my cup of tea. To me dance (or rather, ballet) isn’t about competing but more about the act of dancing itself. That being said, I’m happy to say that we won!It was really nice to know that our hard work over the past few months had paid off. :)

On a more personal note, winning meant more than just a trophy. I still struggle quite a bit with confidence in my dancing – I’m always aware that I’ve only been dancing a couple of years, and find it hard sometimes to share a barre or stage with others who have been dancing for years. Knowing that I was part of a group who won a competition gives me a little more confidence that I can’t be too bad and it was nice to get some comments from the judges on our feedback saying how great it was to see a guy in the ballet competition.

Class Photographers

Me suspended mid-air - with pointed feet for once!

Photographers in classes seem to be like buses for me – they come in twos! First up was a photographer in class/rehearsal for the Russian Youth Ballet Company a couple of weeks ago, followed by one in the advanced class I take in Bath.

There’s something a little intimidating about having a photographer in class – but I think there’s also something empowering about them too. They remind you that every class is a performance – that just because you’re not on stage doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be selling yourself to your ‘audience’ in every exercise. It reminds you to lift your chin with confidence, keep that smile beaming, and make sure every step is as beautiful as you can make it.

That being said, having a photographer there also seemed to make my rate of mistakes in class just about quadruple! :)

Here are a couple of pics from the classes…

Photo from the Russian Youth Ballet Company class - don't know why my back knee is bent... Perhaps I was about to do something?!

My favourite picture from all those taken - I've definitely got my 'concentration face' on!

Swan Lake Excitement!

One more thing… For the last few months that I’ve been dancing with the Russian Youth Ballet Company we’ve been learning bits and pieces from Swan Lake Act II. Turns out that we’re going to be putting on a condensed Swan Lake in April! The YBC will be doing the whole of Act II (not condensed at all) and then the Russian Ballet School will be dancing various parts of Act I and III. I was a little shocked to be told that I’ve been picked to be Rothbart! This means I’ll have a solo variation at the start of Act II as well as being involved throughout all of Act II-IV. I am so excited!

On top of this, as I’m now taking classes at the Ballet School, I’ll also be dancing other parts in Act I and III. I don’t know about Act I, but this week I started learning the lead male part for Spanish in Act III. I will still be Rothbart – after introducing Odile to the prince I will dance Spanish. So much fun!

What has really struck me about learning both these parts so far is how important characterisation is within performance. My first attempt at summoning the swans at the start of Act II was immediately stopped by my teachers. They pointed out that my summoning was “too princely” – instead of an upturned palm I needed to make a downward claw to impress how evil I truly am… Similarly, the last time I tried to act ‘Spanish’ (in Basilio’s Don Q variation) I got told that I looked too much like a pirate… I’m learning that little changes can make a big difference to the performance – it can be tough to remember it all whilst dancing hard steps (like using ‘claw hands’ whilst doing pirouettes in attitude devant!) but I’m sure with enough hard work and practice I will get there.

I’m really excited to perform in April. It’ll be tough to dance for so long and including variations but I’m willing to work my butt off to make sure I’m ready. We’ll be doing two shows – a matinee and evening – and I’ve already had quite a few friends say they want to come. It’ll be the first time any of my good friends have seen me dance; I’m already a little nervous!

So that’s all the ‘performing’ I’ve been up to – have you been performing recently? It might have been on stage, in class, or even in your living room – did you learn anything about your dancing in the process?

Until next time, keep on dancing!

P.S. The guy taking pictures in my class in Bath also took a couple of videos… Here’s the class (including me) doing the Adage combination

A whole load of questions…

This post is a little bit of a ‘cheat post’ – because I didn’t write most of it!

I’ve been honoured recently to be asked to give an interview with a couple of ballet blogs. It’s been really interesting for me to look back on my ballet journey so far and what my aims are for the future. I thought I’d share them both here – let me know what you think and if you have any more questions for me!

The London Ballet Blog:

When LBB Met…Dave Tries Ballet

(You can find the original here.)


Reckon ballet is all about romantic tutus and pink leotards? Think again! In 2010 Dave decided to give ballet a go. What’s more, he set up a blog and began logging his progress. Since 2010, Dave Tries Ballet has transformed into a cult media success, challenging traditional preconceptions about the dance form. Naturally, LBB was keen to have a chat with Dave about his thoughts on ballet and the gender divide. Lucky for me, I managed to catch up with him last week.

“Why lift weights when you can lift girls?” This is what happened when LBB met…Dave Tries Ballet:

Hi Dave, can you tell us a little bit about your blog?
I started ballet a little over two years ago (when I was 23) and my blog has chronicled my journey so far. I started out with absolutely no dance experience so to begin with my posts were about the intimidating side of starting as an adult: buying my first dance belt, taking my first class and so on. I’m now taking over 10 hours of ballet a week and performing with three local groups (an adult repertoire group, my university’s dance society and a youth ballet company) so the posts have shifted to my experiences performing for an audience and constantly striving to improve my technique. Alongside these posts, I also write reviews about performances I’ve seen, talk about where I get my inspiration and have even written about the links between maths and ballet!

What made you “try” ballet?
I have no idea! I was studying for a Masters (in maths) across in the States two years ago when the idea to take a ballet class sprung into my head. I had recently completed a triathlon for charity and wanted to get away from the whole swimming/cycling/running thing. Ballet seemed the perfect way to stimulate my artistic side whilst staying in shape. Despite having only seen one ballet in my life (which I couldn’t really remember) I headed to my first class and was soon hooked!

Most men assume that ballet is just for girls – what can it offer aside from pink tutus and why should they give it a go?
The first shock I got when I started ballet was how hard it is! It requires a combination of strength and agility that I didn’t have when I started (the jury is out as to whether I’ve got it now!). I’ve found since going back to other sports such as swimming, cycling and rowing
that ballet has improved my performance immensely through greater fitness, flexibility and core strength. Guys also get to do the really cool stuff in ballet – all the big impressive leaps and lightning-fast turns. Then there is the opportunity to do partnering (my favourite
part of ballet) where you show off the girl’s grace and your own strength (as a friend pointed out: “why lift weights when you can lift girls?”). Finally I get to do something I love, which also keeps me fit, whilst surrounded by gorgeous ladies – what is there to complain

Dave flexes his muscles…

What would you say is the biggest misconception about ballet?
I think there are two major misconceptions about ballet. The first is, as you mentioned above, that ballet is not manly. Male ballet dancers are in top physical shape and male ballet roles tend to be all about guys who can’t help but make women fall in love with them! I think the second misconception is that ballet is elitist. Again, this is completely wrong – I can go see the Royal Ballet for £4 and go to my local cinema to see the Bolshoi or Royal Ballet whilst munching on popcorn. I think English ballet companies (RB, ENB, BRB) are really leading the way worldwide in terms of making ballet accessible: initiatives such as Royal Ballet Live or ENB’s Agony & Ecstasy are paving the way forward.

Which ballets would you recommend for a man to try if he’s never been before?
Personally I think triple bills are the best introduction to ballet – you get to see three different pieces in one evening. There are a few great triple bills coming up in London this season. The Royal Ballet have their Viscera triple bill (featuring three of the most exciting current choreographers) and their Apollo triple bill (showcasing the Royal’s male principals in Balanchine’s iconic role). ENB’s Ecstasy & Death bill features Kylian’s abstract and powerful Petite Mort (which begins with six men on a darkened stage holding swords – amazing!), Roland Petit’s male showcase Le Jeune Homme et la Mort and Lander’s
superb classical piece Etudes. In terms of full-length ballets I wouldn’t hesitate to say MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet. Not only, in my opinion, the best choreography ever created but this ballet has it all: love, heartbreak, sword-fighting, stunning music and even a collection of harlots!

What have you learned through doing this blog? Any feedback from fellow guys trying ballet?
I’ve definitely learned from my blog how inclusive and supportive the online ballet community is. I can write a post about my (eternal) struggles with multiple pirouettes and the first comment might be from a similar amateur who is also struggling, then the next might be from a professional sharing how they got the hang of it. What is amazing for me is when I get emails from guys who were in exactly the same place as I was two years ago; hopefully I’ve helped calm a few pre-class nerves for them!

If you could pick your no.1 professional male ballet dancer who would it be and why?
Personally, my favourite male dancer and biggest inspiration is Federico Bonelli from the Royal Ballet. He embodies everything I want to be in a dancer and is as comfortable in classical roles as modern abstract pieces. This last season I was lucky enough to see him in a range of roles, my highlights being the Prince in Sleeping Beauty (opposite Tamara Rojo) and my favourite male role, Romeo (opposite Lauren Cuthbertson). His technique is flawless, his acting impeccable and he seems one of the most attentive partners in pas de deux work. Watching him on stage is like a masterclass – I learn so much every time.

Could you share your top London ballet spots?
Well my favourite company is the Royal Ballet so the Royal Opera House tops my London ballet spots. The range of repertoire the Royal Ballet perform each season and the depth of talent in the company make every trip to the Royal Opera House unique. Other spots for watching high-quality ballet include Sadler’s Wells (upcoming highlights: BRB, National Ballet of Canada) and the Coliseum (upcoming highlights: ENB, Mikhailovsky, BRB). In terms of doing ballet, my favourite places to take class are Danceworks and The Place, although the proximity to Covent Garden means I often pop into Pineapple for a class between a matinee and evening performance at the ROH!

Adult Ballerina Project

Ballerina Profiles: David Wilson of Dave Tries Ballet

(You can see the original here.)


Check out our awesome interview with David Wilson of Dave Tries Ballet. He started ballet at the age of 23, and now takes classes in the UK and performs in a couple of repertoire groups.

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

David Wilson: I started ballet two years ago, when I was 23.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

DW: Nope, I had never really done any kind of dancing before I started ballet classes.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

DW: I’m still not entirely sure! I was studying for a Masters in the States (in mathematics, so nothing arts-related) and had completed a triathlon for charity. I decided I wanted to do something completely out of my comfort zone and for some reason ballet popped into my head. At that point I had only seen one ballet in my life (an ex-girlfriend had taken me to see Swan Lake during my Undergrad degree).

ABP: Where do you take classes?

DW: When I was living in the States I took class at the Princeton Ballet School and in New York (mainly at the Joffrey Ballet School). Now I’m back in the UK (living in Bath) I take classes all over the place, including with a couple of repertoire groups I’m performing with.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

DW: It’s the absolute freedom you feel when everything ‘clicks’. As cliched as it sounds, it feels like you’re flying! It might not even be a big jump or multiple pirouette, sometimes even a simple balance can feel beautiful.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

DW: I honestly can’t think of a single thing I dislike about ballet, except perhaps that I didn’t start when I was 3 years old!

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

DW: Ballet doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, before I started I would have certainly described myself as having two left feet. But it is amazing to be able to see my own progress and I guess my motivation is to see how far I can go. Since coming back to the UK I’ve joined a couple of adult repertoire groups and a Russian Youth Ballet Company which has allowed me to perform. The rush you get whilst performing I certainly something that keeps me hooked!

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

DW: Not at the moment. I’ve taken a couple of contemporary, jazz and theatre jazz classes in New York and London but I personally like the structure of a ballet class. Knowing that you’ll start with barre (including plies, tendus etc) is reassuring, especially in a class you’ve never taken before. That being said, I really would like to try tap – bring out my inner Fred Astaire!

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

DW: Before I started ballet I had rowed and cycled for my University and completed a triathlon. Although these have taken a backburner since starting ballet I still enjoy subbing in to the occasional rowing outing and cross-train with running, cycling and, especially, swimming. However, I’m currently doing up to 12 hours of ballet a week to there isn’t much spare time (at least, not if I want to get my PhD!)

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

DW: Don’t let yourself be your own worst enemy. Just throw yourself into it. As an adult it can be really easy to get really nervous or self-conscious in class. Try to ignore that feeling! You’ll soon realise that no-one is watching (except perhaps the teacher, which is a good thing!). Don’t worry if you make a mistake or fall over either; I have a teacher who was a Principal in the Royal Ballet and after falling square on my backside during a pirouette exercise she simply said: “Good. That means you committed to it.” So I guess falling over can sometimes be a good thing!

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

DW: I guess just to say that if you’re a guy don’t be intimidated! You’ll probably find yourself heavily outnumbered in a class, but teachers are usually aware of this (and you sometimes get extra attention which is nice!).


I hope you enjoyed reading these just as much as I enjoyed giving them! Let me know what you think, or what your answers would be in the comments below. Oh, and if you have any questions you’d like me to answer then pop them below too!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

Royal Opera House 2012-13 Cinema Season Preview

This Thursday saw the launch of the Royal Opera House Cinema Season at 12 simultaneous press events held at cinemas across the country. I attended the Bristol event and although we may not have had special guests like other venues (the London event was graced by Principals Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson!) there was still plenty of excitement generated about the upcoming performances.

The 2012/13 Cinema Season comprises of 3 ballets and 6 operas, 7 of which will be relayed live. The full list of performances is:

  • Swan LakeTuesday 23rd October 2012, featuring Zenaida Yanowsky and Nehemiah Kish;
  • Les Troyens (pre-recorded) – November 2012, featuring Westbroek, Hymel and Antonacci;
  • The NutcrackerThursday 13th December 2012, featuring Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae;
  • La BohemeTuesday 15th January 2013, featuring Villazon and Kovalevska;
  • Eugene OneginWednesday 20th February 2013, featuring Keenlyside, Stoyanova and Breslik (note, this is the opera, not the ballet!);
  • Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandThursday 28th March 2013, casting to be announced;
  • Nabucco (pre-recorded) – Monday 29th April 2013, featuring Domingo and Monastryska;
  • La Donne Del LagoMonday 27th May 2013, featuring Florez and DiDonato;
  • GlorianaMonday 24th June 2013, featuring Bullock, Spence and Royal.

These will be shown in over 900 cinemas in across 32 countries. The Royal Opera House will be hoping to capitalize on the success of last year when La Fille mal Gardée was the third most watched film in UK cinemas on the day of the live screening and Romeo and Juliet became their most successful live relay to date with 16,000 people watching it in 150 cinemas in the UK alone.

As part of the press launch we were shown a preview film of the season featuring clips of each production and interviews with various dancers, singers, conductors and directors involved. Once again the Royal Opera House proved what a polished organisation they are and the resulting film is exciting, insightful and informative. Here’s a short clip of members of the Royal Opera House explaining why cinema relays are so exciting.

Reflecting on their live-screened performance of Romeo and Juliet last season, Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli were obviously excited about the live relays. As Bonelli pointed out, the relay means you are “sitting in the Gods and the stalls at the same time… Maybe it’s the best seat in the house?”. Cuthbertson agreed adding that it was “much more personal” due to the extreme close ups.

The Royal Opera House contains 2,200 seats but, as Principal Steven McRae points out, the relays allow for a much bigger audience. This was emphasised again by Cuthbertson who recalls that during Romeo and Juliet the Royal Ballet had trended on Twitter – a modern day validation that the cinema relays allow the performances to reach people on a totally different scale.

So what about this year’s productions? Obviously I am very excited to see the three ballets but, after seeing the launch film, I’m also planning on seeing most of the operas too!

Opening the season is Anthony Dowell’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. I completely agree with the Royal Ballet Musical Director Barry Wordsworth, who mentioned how great the score for the ballet is, in particulars its “extraordinary thematic unity and grandeur.” Indeed, it contains one of my favourite musical moments from any ballet: the finale to Act IV. As the strings crescendo and the brass enter with a reprise of the main theme I never fail to get shivers – sheer perfection. I’ve been told by many balletomanes that Zenaida Yanowsky is the Royal Ballet’s greatest Odette/Odile, so I can’t wait to see her interpretation.

Next up is Berlioz’s epic Les Troyens. Following the Trojan warrior Énée after the fall of Troy this is a five and a half beast of an opera, and the Royal Opera House production lives up in every way possible. It even features a giant fire-breathing horse! Seriously!

If you want to get that magical Christmas feeling then the relay of Peter Wright’s production of The Nutcracker is guaranteed to get you in the mood. Steven McRae talked of how wonderful it is to dance the Act II Pas de Deux (which is set to the most fantastic music) and it certainly ranks highly in my favourite Pas de Deuxs to watch. Having never had much opportunity to see Roberta Marquez, I’m also really excited to see her as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

After the happy and joyous Nutcracker, January features the rather less-cheerful La Boheme. Set in Bohemian Paris, this masterpiece by Puccini is truly timeless. As Pappano points out “after so many performances [La Boheme] is still one of the most touching operas in the repertoire”. I’ve never seen the full opera but just the clip of Rodolfo singing “Mimi!” at the end of the opera made my hairs stand on end. Can’t wait!

On a much happier note is the broadcast of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, just before Easter in 2013. Created in 2011 by Christopher Wheeldon this was the Royal Ballet’s first new full-length ballets for over a decade and has received critical and public success. Featuring a host of characters it is lead by the eponymous role (created by Lauren Cuthbertson) as she finds her way through this strange and magical land. A definite highlight is the Queen of Hearts Tart Adagio which Yanowsky says is “a dream come true” to perform. Not to be missed, by children and adults alike!

The rest of the season are brand new opera productions. First up is the directorial debut of the Royal Opera House’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten with Eugene Onegin, featuring Simon Keenleyside (it’ll be interesting to compare with the ballet Onegin which the Royal Ballet is performing this season). This is followed by Verdi’s Nabucco with opera superstar Placido Domingo (listen out for the gorgeous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves). May brings Rossini’s Donna del Lago which features Joyce DiDonato and a “tenor battle” between Juan Diego Flórez and Colin Lee. Rounding off the relays is Britten’s lesser-performed opera Gloriana, about Elizabeth I. Originally choreographed by none other than John Cranko, this new production will be headed by Susan Bullock and Toby Spence.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m really excited about the upcoming Cinema Season! The Royal Opera House have put together a nice mix of pieces and all offer an affordable slice of magic. Last year, the Romeo and Juliet relay was one of my highlights of all the ballet I saw, offering a depth to the performance that is not possible when sat in the Upper Amphitheatre… Hopefully a few of this season’s screenings will have the same effect! To get you in the mood, here is the trailer for the first live relay of the season – Swan Lake:

Let me know in the comments which screenings you’re looking forward to, and what your favourite screening from last season was!

Until next time, keep dancing!

DTB Inspiration: Wheeldon, Nureyev, Bonelli…

I’ve been stuck in bed this last week with the flu, pretty bad eh? Haven’t been able to go to the office (okay, that hasn’t been so bad), haven’t been able to leave the house (that’s pretty bad) and haven’t been able to take ballet class (that’s been really bad).

Pretty much the only positive about this was that it gave me a chance to watch a lot of ballet. I mean a lot. I think I cycled through all my Ballet DVDs and then headed to YouTube to help inspire me. It definitely worked and I’m eager to get back in to the studio to use this inspiration (although I’m trying to stop myself from being too eager and making myself ill again!) so I thought I’d share some of my favourite videos…

Lamenting about my lack of new stuff to watch, one of my followers suggested I watch Strictly Bolshoi. It’s a great documentary following Christopher Wheeldon as he travels to the Bolshoi Ballet to create a new piece on them. Having to overcome language barriers, petulant Principals and a bad case of “choreographer’s block”, Wheeldon comes through to produce a stunning piece to Arvo Pärt’s Third Symphony (shown in full at the end of the documentary). As I’ve been working on choreographing my own little piece it was fascninating to see the choreographic process up close. It’s well worth a watch!

Next up, @LondonFlorists suggested I check out a Nureyev documentary on YouTube called I Am A Dancer. This is a fascinating documentary showing Nureyev in all roles: on stage (clips include a lovely Act 2 La Sylphide), rehearsing, directing and in class. Just watching him in class during the opening clip is so inspiring – to see the exact placement he gives to every single movement.

Talking of inspirational classes.. Royal Ballet Live was the social media event in the ballet world this year. Broadcasting on their YouTube channel for a full day, my personal highlight was getting to watch company class in the morning. The ROH has been awesome enough to upload it on its own, in full, and I couldn’t resist watching it again whilst in bed. Someone who always sticks out for me on stage is Dawid Trzensimiech, and he did the same in the class. I would give anything to have his attitude turns – they’re sheer perfection! (I’m also really jealous of his cool green tights…) Keep an eye out for RB stars from all the ranks and maybe follow along with some of the exercises at home? :)

One of the stars in that class is the awesome Federico Bonelli. He’s probably my favourite Male Principal Dancer in the Royal Ballet, if not the world, and he inspires me every time I watch him. There’s something about the way he fills the music, his effortless lines and crisp technique. This week @CrystalBallet posted a link of him in the Act III Sleeping Beauty Pas de Deux; His variation is awesome! I particularly love his crisp double tours and his fouetté transitions from arabesque to passé. Add to that mix Alina Cojocaru and you have an amazing pas de deux, including those breathtaking pirouettes to fish dives that make me gasp every time I see them. Enjoy!

And talking of Bonelli… I couldn’t resist including my favourite YouTube clip of all time. This has my favourite ballerina, danseur, ballet and choreographer all in one. Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli in the Balcony Scene from Sir Kenneth McMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. If this isn’t inspiring, I don’t know what is.

So that’s some of the inspiration that has gotten me through this stupid flu. What’s your inspiration at the moment? Do you have a favourite YouTube clip? Please share it in the comments section below.

Until next time, keep on dancing!

BalletBoyz hit the States: A Chance to Dance

A couple of weeks ago I got sent an exciting email, and later a Fed-Ex package with a preview DVD, regarding a new TV show in America. The BalletBoyz, Michael Nunn and Billy Trevitt, recently headed to the US to create a company in 28 days to perform at a New York Gala hosted by Nigel Lythgoe, all whilst being filmed for a new series: A Chance To Dance.

As with all the work the BalletBoyz do, both on stage and behind the camera, their main aim is to make dance open to a wider audience. As ex-dancers with the Royal Ballet they are well aware of the ‘stereotypical’ audience (as Nunn, himself, puts it “it’s just a sea of grey heads”) and so aren’t afraid to mix dance styles to help make their work current. Unlike their all-male UK-based company, The Talent, (which I was lucky enough to see here in Bath and take a workshop with their ballet master at Sadler’s Wells) this would be a mixed-company and they would perform a brand new work created especially for them by Nunn and Trevitt.

Having seen the preview DVD (and I’m not allowed to give away any spoilers!) I think this looks a fantastic show that will hopefully boost the image of dance and make the BalletBoyz a household name in America. Unlike other competitive dance shows out there this isn’t about earning public votes, this is about creating a company that will not only perform at the gala but then be the opening act for the So You Think You Can Dance tour and hopefully continue to perform afterwards. It’ll involve dancers of different styles, show the creative process of Nunn and Trevitt, and give a hint at what it’s like to work in a dance company in the 21st century. All in all, I think it looks great, and just hope it makes it way across here to the UK! The season premiere is on August 17th 10pm ET/7pm PT on Ovation – check it out!

Here’s a couple of promo videos from the show – the first is an introduction to the BalletBoyz and a bit about the show, and the second is Billy Trevitt with some tips about being a dancer. Enjoy!

Let me know if you catch the season premiere of A Chance to Dance – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

Gala Countdown…

After a week away from all things ballet (my brother got married and so I gained a beautiful sister!) I’m really looking forward to getting back stuck in with rehearsals, classes and retain the momentum gained from my week at Ballet Cymru.

Gala Time!

So what is my next big aim? Well on the 9th December I will be performing in the Ballet Bristol gala. This is the adult group I perform with here in the UK and, whilst none of us are professional dancers, we are aiming to put on a 3 Act gala. When I joined last year they were in the process of preparing for their gala and it was such a success I couldn’t even get a ticket to go watch them – so hopefully it will be a sell-out this year as well.

At the moment the countdown above reads 116 days until the Gala. That sounds like a long time but it is a bit scary to be honest – there’s so much to do before then! First off, I need to learn all the pieces I will be performing (and one hasn’t even been created yet!) and then polish them to performance standard. I also need to build up my fitness and stamina to be able to perform all of them in a row.

Originally I was hoping to just be performing in one piece – I am relatively new to the group so didn’t expect to be cast in many pieces. Imagine my surprise when I found out I would be in four pieces! Here they are:

  • Act I: New Pas de Deux - this is a brand new Pas de Deux choreographed by another member of the group (who I’ll be dancing it with). I don’t know much about it, other than that it will be around 4 or 5 minutes and be exclusively partner work (no variations).
  • Act II: Sleeping Beauty Jewel’s Pas de Cinq - Whilst not in all productions of Sleeping Beauty, there is a Pas de Cinq between four ballerinas (representing Diamond, Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire) and one danseur (representing Gold). There is an opening segment with Gold and Diamond dancing together and the three others, then there are variations for Gold, Diamond and a Pas de Trois for the other ballerinas, followed by a coda with everyone. Much like Pas de Déesses it’s rather fun to be surrounded my lots of gorgeous ladies, and the piece finishes with me partnering all four in quick succession. The variation is a tricky one though, and a few different variants exist. I’ll be basing it off these two versions (the first by Jean-Guillaume Bart of POB and the second by Duncan Lyle of ABT):

  • Act III: Coppélia Wedding Pas de Deux and Wheat Pas de Deux – Now Act III is going to be the killer. After already doing two pieces I’ve got to do a complete classical Pas de Deux followed almost immediately (3 pieces separating them) by a character-style Pas de Deux! Although out of sync with the story line, the Wedding Pas de Deux will come first, with a few tricky lifts in the opening sections, a killer of a variation (which I learned at the Ballet Cymru summer program) followed by a hopefully explosive coda (maybe with a few grand pirouettes in there?). The Wheat Pas de Deux has a long opening section of partner work when Swanhilda is trying to determine if Franz is her true love. Following this she dances with her friends (although I return for a quick 32-count solo in the middle) to some of the most awesome music in Coppélia (including a bit which always reminds me of the Dambusters!). Again, the pieces are based of a few different variants but here are the Royal Ballet versions starring Carlos Acosta and Leanne Benjamin:

So that’s my gala plans – do you see now why I’m a bit nervous?! I’m really looking forward to the challenge though, and have recently added in a decent amount of cardio into my week to try and build up my fitness and stamina. I’m doing this through lots of swimming, running and biking – rather convenient as I might be doing another triathlon (and possibly a half-marathon too) in July with a friend!

Have you got any performances coming up? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, keep dancing!