January 2008 newsletter

WE WISH ALL MEMBERS a Happy New Year, with many great performances.

Since the last newsletter, we have had four very different, but equally enjoyable, meetings. At our second November meeting Francesca Filpi talked about her training in Paris and the Upper School, her career in the Royal Ballet and the setting up and running of her summer schools; sometimes, as she said, ‘rather Enid Blyton.’ Francesca finished the evening by teaching some basic ballet steps to two volunteers from the audience! In December, Thomas Whitehead gave an entertaining talk about his career, including his year in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. Those present will eagerly await his debut in a Russian play!

We got the New Year off to a dynamic start. On 2 January, José Martin talked of his very varied time in three ballet schools and six companies. His views on ballet teaching and new choreography were both enlightening and, sometimes, a little controversial. His interest in the history of ballet was refreshing. He was followed, a week later, by Roberta Marquez. Despite a warning that the meeting would be conducted in Portuguese, Roberta talked eloquently in English about her time in Brazil. And in the Royal. Rudolf in Mayerling, we heard, was not the first to point a gun at Roberta’s head, but despite the dangers of Rio, she misses the sun! During the meeting, she was granted a rare accolade from our membership secretary, Joan Seaman, who spoke of how moved she had been by Roberta’s performance in Symphonic Variations, which was shown on TV over Christmas.

For members unable to attend meetings, a summary is made available on our website, www.balletassociation.co.uk, once the report has been checked by the guest speaker. If you do not have access to the internet and would like a copy of a report, please send a stamped, addressed envelope to Joan Seaman, our membership secretary, at 56 Turney Road, London SE21 8LU. We have recently caught up on a lot of overdue reports.

Future meetings
We have two meetings in February. On Friday 1 February at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church we are delighted to welcome First Soloist, Martin Harvey, as our guest. It is over five years since Martin last talked to the Association. It has been an eventful few years, as Onegin, Rudolf, Colas, Lescaut, Eros, Gurn and many other roles. Over the last two seasons, Martin has been a guest Principal with Birmingham Royal Ballet in Fille mal gardée and Edward II. He also danced Fille in Bermuda last summer. We can expect a lively and entertaining evening.

On Wednesday 13 February at the Swedenborg Hall we have a very special evening, where we welcome Soloist Giacomo Ciriaci and First Artist, Helen Crawford. Born in Florence, Giacomo trained in Italy before joining the Royal Ballet School. In 1992 he played Tadzio in the Royal Opera’s production of Death in Venice. He joined The Royal Ballet that year and was promoted to soloist in 2004. He has a wide repertoire which includes Puck, Beggar Chief, Alain and the Jester in Cinderella. Helen was born in Ipswich and trained at the Royal Ballet School. She danced Clara with the Company in 1993 and joined in 1998. She was promoted to First Artist in 2003. She dances many soloist roles, including Moyna, Big Swans and various fairies in Sleeping Beauty. Giacomo gave his last performance with The Royal Ballet on 19 January in Nutcracker. We are delighted that he and Helen have agreed to come and talk to us. We will giving Giacomo his leaving present at the meeting. We know ballet fans will not wish to miss this occasion.

Meetings, unless otherwise stated, begin at 7.30 p.m. They are usually held at either the Swedenborg Hall or Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. The two venues are a couple of hundred metres apart. Swedenborg Hall is in Barter Street, off Bloomsbury Way (nearest tube Holborn). It seats a maximum of 100 people, so turn up early to be sure of getting in. Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church is at the eastern end of Shaftesbury Avenue, opposite the Shaftesbury Theatre. From Covent Garden you walk up Endell Street and cross over Shaftesbury Avenue. The church is then on your left. (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road) This venue is larger and can accommodate our membership.

Doors open at 6.30 p.m. Admission: Members £3, Concessionary Members £2, Guests £7.

Dates for the rest of the season will, as far as possible, be taken from the following: Thursday 6 March, Wednesday 26 March, Friday 4 April, Thursday 17 April, Wednesday 30 April, Friday 30 May, Thursday 5 June, Thursday 19 June, Thursday 3 July.

Members will be very sad to hear of the death of Norman Morrice at the age of 76. He joined Ballet Rambert in 1953 and became its principal choreographer nine years later and its director from 1970-74. In 1977, he became the fourth Director of the Royal Ballet, a post he held for nine years. In 1987 he was appointed Director of the Royal Ballet Choreographic Group and was also Head of the Choreographic Composition Course at the Royal Ballet School. He was an inspiration to many young choreographers.

Sadly, we also have to announce the death of Harry ‘Jock’ Drewett. Regular members will know Jock well. He often took photos for us at meetings, stood in the Stalls Circle and waited at the stage door, especially for Tamara Rojo. Despite difficulties in both walking and breathing, Jock struggled in to hear his great friend, Francesca Filpi talk in November. We will miss him greatly.

January has seen three members of the Royal Ballet leave the Company. As already stated Soloist Giacomo Ciriaci left at the end of the Nutcracker season and will be opening a wine bar, where all will be welcome. On January 5, Soloist Christina Elida Salerno and First Artist Gemma Bond left after performances in Les Patineurs and Nutcracker respectively. Christina is returning to the United States and Gemma is also going to the States, where she has joined American Ballet Theatre. We wish all three a successful future. We sent flowers to Christina and Gemma and will be presenting Giacomo with his present at our meeting in February.

Annual Dinner 2008
We are now able to confirm that our Annual Dinner will be on Thursday 15th May. Once again, it will take place at the Rubens Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road. Dinner is at 8.00pm. A private bar is available from 7.00pm. The dinner will cost £32.

Given the popularity of our dinner last season and our growing membership, we expect a very heavy demand for tickets, so early application is advised. Consequently, this year’s dinner will be open to members only. If there are still vacancies at the end of April, we will open it up to members’ guests at this stage. There will be about 140 places for members and 35 for an exciting array of dancers of all ranks, Company management, etc. We will not be announcing the guest list until the April newsletter. You will then have an opportunity to let us know which dancers you would like to sit near.