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February/March 2010 newsletter

WE STARTED 2010 with a very enjoyable meeting where our guest, First Soloist Yohei Sasaki, spoke of his training, his career with The Royal Ballet, his family and his plans for the future. From the young student at the Royal Ballet School going to the pub to the proud family man, Yohei gave a delightful account of his career, including the frustrations of recurrent injuries. He brought some photos of his wife, former dancer Maria Pietra, and their two sons. We wish him a successful future as he moves from dance to sound. As well as undertaking a training course, Yohei will be doing some work experience with the sound department at the Royal Opera House. To further his new direction, the Association gave him a gift towards purchasing a compact mixer. Contributions towards this gift can be given at meetings.

Our website now contains a gallery of beautiful photographs of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performances last season taken by distinguished dance and theatre photographer Bill Cooper. It is well worth viewing.

Future meetings
We are delighted to announce that the guest at our meeting on Tuesday 23 February will be Royal Ballet Principal, Rupert Pennefather. Somewhat elusive, this will be the first time Rupert has spoken to the Association since he joined the Company in 1999. He had danced Albrecht in the second act of Giselle at the Royal Ballet School performance that summer as well as the pas de trois from Theme and Variations. He was promoted to First Soloist in 2006 and to Principal in 2008. This season he has been seen as Prince Rudolph in Mayerling, Oedipus in Sphinx and the Princes in both Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. We can look forward to a very interesting evening.

One of the highlights of last season was the meeting when Gailene Stock, Director of The Royal Ballet School, brought graduate students Tristan Dyer and Shiori Kase to talk. We are very pleased to announce that at our first meeting in March, on Wednesday 3 March, Jay Jolley, Assistant Director of The Royal Ballet School will be our guest. It is some year’s since Jay last spoke to us. He will talk both about his role in the school, this year’s activities in the school and some highlights from his own dancing career. He will be accompanied by the two recipients of the Annual Ballet Associations Awards, Imogen Chapman and Angela Wood, who will talk about their time in the School and their plans for the future. We are sure that many members will want to meet these two young dancers at the beginning of their careers.  (N.B Please note that on Wednesday evenings there is a concert in the Church at 6.00pm. Members are welcome to attend this. Otherwise, please do not arrive before 6.50.)

At our next meeting on Wednesday 17 March our guest will be Royal Ballet Soloist Laura McCulloch. Born in Glasgow, Laura trained there before joining the Royal Ballet Upper School. She joined the Company during the 2000/2001 Season and was promoted to First Artist in 2005 and Soloist in 2008. Laura spoke to the Association as part of a trio of young dancers soon after she joined the Company. We can expect an entertaining evening catching up on the intervening years which have included dancing the solo principal girl in Rubies and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. (N.B. As this is another Wednesday, please do not arrive before 6.50 unless you wish to attend the concert at 6.00)

Meetings, unless otherwise stated, begin at 7.30 p.m. and are at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church which 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, if you face East. (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road). Doors open at 6.30 p.m. except Wednesdays.

Provisional dates for the rest of the season are Wednesday 7 April, Friday 16 April, Thursday 27 May, Thursday 3 June, Thursday 24 June. Some dates may change depending on commitments of speakers. Please note 13 and 20 May are cancelled because of the Annual Dinner.

Other Events
Oxfam Haiti Earthquake Appeal: An exclusive photo of Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares is being auctioned on eBay in support of this appeal. The auction closes at midnight on 14 February. Details can be found on the Ballet Bag blog. Direct eBay auction link.

Sunday 28 February: Gala for Africa at Sadler’s Wells Theatre at 7pm. In aid of Mara Galeazzi’s charity ‘Dancing for the Children’, a very special evening with guests from The Royal Ballet: Gary Avis, Ricardo Cervera, Yuhui Choe, Sarah Lamb, Steven McRae, Laura Morera, Marianela Nunez, Sergei Polunin, Thiago Soares, Eric Underwood, Edward Watson; and others, including The Ballet Boyz. Tickets £10-£50.

Sunday 28 March: British Friends of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. We invited the British Friends of BNC to our meeting with Guest Teacher Loipa Araujo. The British Friends have now reciprocated by inviting Association members to an interview of Premier Dancer Viengsay Valdés, who is partnering Carlos Acosta in BNC’s performances at the Coliseum and in Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff. She partnered Thiago Soares in a gala on the Royal tour last summer. If you are interested in attending, please contact David Bain. Time, which will be around 2.30 or 3.00pm, and venue have yet to be confirmed. More details here.

Friday 9 April 2010: Connecting Conversations with Alicia Alonso. The Director of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, talks to psychoanalyst Luis Rodríguez de la Sierra about her extraordinary career. 7-8.30pm at Henry Thomas Room, Tower Building, London Metropolitan University, 166-220 Holloway Road, London, N7 8DB. Nearest tube Holloway Road. Tickets: £12/£8 concessions. Includes a glass of wine. Free online booking at, or by phone 07787 814 316 (£2.50 fee). Members may also be interested in listening to Connecting Conversations: Tamara Rojo in conversation with Luis Rodriguez de la Sierra (held in March 2009).
Exits, Awards, etc.
At the first meeting since the AGM, David Bain and Sylvia Tyler were re-elected respectively as the Association’s Chairman and Deputy Chairman.

As announced in the last newsletter Cindy Jourdain and Xander Parish left The Royal Ballet in January. We presented them with flowers and wine respectively. Members will be pleased to hear that Xander is dancing the principal role in Chopiniana (Les Sylphides) with the Maryinsky on February 11 and that Cindy is dancing with Christopher Wheeldon’s Company Morphoses later in the year.  

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of former Royal Ballet Principal Georgina Parkinson on 18 December following complications from cancer. Georgina was a member of the artistic staff of ABT for more than thirty years, where she continued her dancing career as well as being ballet mistress. Members will fondly remember a masterclass a few years ago where she coached her daughter-in-law, Leanne Benjamin. Last October she was back at the Opera House coaching the Empress in Mayerling. The Royal Ballet has also announced the death of former soloist and ballet mistress Jill Gregory.

On a happier note, at the performance of Nutcracker on 12 December, the ‘prop’ invitation that Hans Peter showed Clara in the third scene of Act II read ‘Will you marry me?’ After the curtain calls, Paul Kay placed an engagement ring on Leanne Cope’s finger, as she had said ‘Yes’.

Congratulations to all those who have recently won awards. These include David Bintley who won the last South Bank Show Award for Dance for his new work E=mc². At the National Dance Awards given by the Critics’ Circle, Alexander Grant received the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement, Leanne Benjamin the Richard Sherrington Award for Best Female Dancer, Wayne McGregor the Award for Best Classical Choreography for Infra and Melissa Hamilton and Sergei Polunin the Awards for Outstanding Female and Male Performances. Congratulations also to Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, who has been appointed as a non-party-political peer in the House of Lords.

Annual Dinner 2010
There are some places left for our Annual Dinner on Monday 17th  May at the Rubens Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road.  Dinner is at 8.00pm.  A private bar is available from 7.00pm.  Price £35. An application form was attached to the last newsletter. If you are unlucky, don’t despair, your name will be placed on a waiting list. Last year most on the waiting list were successful in getting into the dinner.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain