September / October 2008 newsletter

WE HAVE HAD A BUSY start to the new season. At the end of August we were delighted to welcome Gillian Revie. Gilly gave us an entertaining evening, speaking about her very varied career which has ranged from the dramatic leads in most of the MacMillan repertoire to a variety of character roles. She also spoke of her future as a ballet teacher and the musical talents of her daughter, as a percussionist! Members were delighted to hear that Gilly will return as a Guest Principal Character Artist during the forthcoming season. We presented Gilly with a silver bracelet as a leaving present from the Association. After the meeting Gilly wrote:

“Many thanks for a very memorable evening with you, it was a lovely closure for me to think back on the wonderful career that I have experienced. Thank you also for my beautiful bracelet, I will wear it with pride! With love and best wishes, Gilly.”

At our first meeting of September, we welcomed Artists Demelza Parish and Sabina Westcombe as our guests. They spoke of their training at the Royal Ballet School and first years in the Company, before giving us an enjoyable account of the Summer Tour to China, Japan and Hong Kong. Despite a hectic schedule of performances, there were many parties and lots of shopping! Members always enjoy meeting younger members of the Company and we look forward to spotting Demelza and Sabina as Swans, etc during this season.

Our guest at our second meeting of September was Soloist Iohna Loots. Iohna gave us an interesting evening speaking of her training, ballet in South Africa and her career in the Royal Ballet, including her part in the television programme about the Company. It was fascinating to hear her talk of her preparation for the role of Princess Stephanie, as well as many lighter moments, such as working in Wind in the Willows with William Tuckett and her many animal roles!

For members unable to attend meetings, a summary is made available on our website 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. 

Future meetings
We have two meetings in October. On Friday 10 October we are delighted to welcome Ballet Mistress, Ursula Hageli. Although Swiss, Ursula trained at the Royal Ballet School before joining John Cranko’s Stuttgart Ballet. She later danced with Northern Ballet, London City Ballet and latterly her own small company with Richard Slaughter before joining the Royal Ballet as Ballet Mistress in April 2005. We look forward to an interesting evening and are grateful to Ursula for giving up an evening during the run of Swan Lakes. It will give us a wonderful opportunity to hear about mounting such a production at the start of the season.

On Thursday 16 October we are very pleased to welcome Soloist Eric Underwood as our guest. Born in Washington, D.C. Eric attended the School of American Ballet in New York before joining the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2000. He was promoted to soloist in 2001 and then joined ABT in 2003. His repertory included works by Balanchine, Forsythe and Tharp. Since joining the Royal Ballet in 2006 he has created roles in ballets by McGregor, Wheeldon and Tuckett. He was promoted to soloist this Summer.

On Thursday 6 November we welcome Principal Character Artist Alastair Marriott and Soloist Jonathan Howells as our guests. Favourites with many members, Alastair and Jonathan need no introduction. It is, amazingly, exactly ten years since they last spoke to the Association. They will speak about their long careers in the Company which have included a wide variety of roles. They will also talk about Alastair’s choreography, including, most recently, Children of Adam.  We can expect a fascinating evening.

Meetings, unless otherwise stated, begin at 7.30 p.m. 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). Doors open at 6.30 p.m. 

Dates for the season
These will probably include Friday 28 November, Wednesday 10 December, Wednesday 14 January, Friday 23 January, Wednesday 18 February, Wednesday 25 February, Friday 6 March, Tuesday 10 March, Friday 17 April, Friday 8 May, Wednesday 20 May, Wednesday 17 June, Wednesday 15 July.  Please check meeting dates carefully as they sometimes change to avoid clashes with other events.

We are running short of raffle prizes. If you have any ballet books, videos or DVDs that you would like to donate to the raffle please contact Sylvia Tyler on 020 7837 4005 or bring them to a meeting.

Congratulations, etc.
Congratulations to Michael O’Hare whose job title at BRB has changed to Ballet Master from the start of this season. We apologise that Delia Matthews' name was left off the last newsletter from those joining BRB from the Royal Ballet School. BRB have also announced that Robert Parker will be rejoining the Company as a Principal later in the season and that Chi Cao returns after a six-month leave of absence to star in the big-screen adaption of Li Cunxin’s autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer. Filming took place in Australia and China and it is currently scheduled for release in 2009.

We also send our congratulations to Hikaru Kobayashi and Federico Bonelli who got married during the summer break. At the end of this summer’s tour, Joshua Tuifua retired from the Royal Ballet. We are contacting Joshua about what he would like as a leaving gift from the Association and will give more details of his intentions for the future in another newsletter.

Members will have heard that there are a number of dancers off with injuries before the season has started at Covent Garden. We wish all of them a speedy recovery. There are consequently a number of cast changes. These include Marianela Nunez replacing Tamara Rojo in Swan Lake and replacing Alina Cojocaru in Nutcracker. Roberta Marquez replaces Alina in Swan Lake and Ondine (in December). Leanne Benjamin replaces Alina in Manon and is replaced by Mara Galeazzi in those where she had originally been scheduled. Laura Morera replaces Sarah Lamb in Manon. Viacheslav Samodurov replaces Martin Harvey as Lescaut. For dates and other cast changes in the mixed bills, please refer to the Opera House website.

Annual Dinner 2008
As usual, we had photographs taken during the annual dinner. These are available for members to purchase at 25p a copy (7” x 5”). An album of these will be available at meetings and some will eventually be placed on our website.

The Wells Summer School Last Day
Twenty-five members of the Association spent a glorious day at the end of August watching 108 students from this summer school being coached by Francesca Filpi, Jonathan Cope, Nathalie Harrison, Gilly Revie, Federico Bonelli, Hikaru Kobayashi, Vanessa Palmer and Jonathan Watkins. The day was a delight and we are extremely grateful to Francesca Filpi, who organises the School, for allowing us to watch alongside the students’ parents and teachers. We all felt extremely privileged.

Autumn Rehearsals at Sadler’s Wells
In the last newsletter we gave details of rehearsals at Sadler’s Wells that are open to members of the Vic-Wells. Members of the Ballet Association can join the Vic-Wells at the reduced rate of £6 per year, starting in July each year. Advanced notice of rehearsals is given in the ‘Broadsheet’, the Vic-Wells newsletter, (issued five times per year), and more details such as updates and timings are sent by email to those who wish to be added to the ‘Interested in Rehearsals’ list. If you would like to attend any of these rehearsals you should join the Vic-Wells by contacting Richard Reavill on

It is the time of year when we ask you to renew your membership. If you haven’t already done so, please return the renewal form to Joan Seaman, as soon as possible, but not later than the end of October. There has been no rise to membership fees this year. Concessionary members should indicate which concession applies. This information will help us in analysing the profile of our membership. If you joined after the start of May, your membership covers this coming season.

Annual General Meeting
The meeting on Friday 28 November will be preceded by our AGM. Consequently the evening’s proceedings will commence at 6.45 p.m. The AGM will be followed by a guest speaker, tbc, at 7.30 p.m.


  1. Apologies
  2. Minutes of previous Annual General Meeting
  3. Matters Arising
  4. Chairman’s Report
  5. Financial Report
  6. Election of Committee
  7. Any Other Business

At this meeting we shall be electing Honorary Officers and Committee Members. The current Committee is David Bain (Chairman and Organising Secretary), Sylvia Tyler (Deputy Chairman), Joan Seaman (Membership Secretary), Melanie Shipton (Treasurer), Liz Bouttell (Reporting Secretary), Rachel Holland, Geoffrey Griffiths, Belinda Taylor and Brian Don. All members of the current committee have indicated they wish to continue on the committee.

Association members wishing to nominate candidates for election should write to the Chairman, David Bain, by Friday 21 November. No nomination can be received at the AGM. Candidates for election must be proposed and seconded, in writing, by members of the Association. Anyone interested in joining the committee should contact David to discuss what it entails. If we have more than one nomination an election may be held.