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July 2011 newsletter

We send our warmest congratulations to Kevin O’Hare on his appointment as Director of The Royal Ballet from July 2012 as successor to Dame Monica Mason.  After his illustrious career at Birmingham Royal Ballet, Kevin joined the Royal Ballet as Company Manager in 2004 and subsequently became Administrative Director in 2009. Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon have agreed to become part of the senior artistic team with Kevin and Associate Director Jeanetta Laurence. We look forward to hearing his plans for the future. 

We also send our congratulations to our President Marion Tait, who has been appointed Assistant Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Following a celebrated career, Marion became the Company’s Ballet Mistress in 1995. Marion will continue to teach company class and perform character roles, whilst from August 2011 she will assist David Bintley with BRB’s artistic delivery.

At our last meeting of the season, we were delighted to welcome First Artist Pietra Mello-Pittman as our guest. Pietra spoke about her training and career since joining the Royal Ballet, including her choreography. She then spoke of her production company Sisters Grimm, which she formed with composer Ella Spira. After speaking about the short ballet film, Rapunzel -The Final Chapter and their most recent enterprise, INALA (abundance of goodwill), a collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo Choir, we watched a film about the latter project. It provided a fascinating end to our season.

Future meetings
Our first meeting of the new season is on Tuesday 23 August, when we are pleased to welcome Soloist Melissa Hamilton as our guest. A very good reason for you to come back early from your summer holidays. Born in Belfast, Melissa trained at The Jennifer Bullick School of Ballet until the age of 16, before moving to Elmhurst School for Dance. She trained with Masha Mukhamedov at Elmhurst and then privately in Greece. She won at the Youth America Grand Prix in 2007 and joined The Royal Ballet later that year and was promoted to Soloist at the start of this season. Her repertory includes Olga, Mary Vetsera, Zulme, Agon, Summer Fairy, Tryst, Symphony in C, Carmen, Voluntaries, Sensorium, DGV:danse à grande vitesse and Chroma. She created roles in McGregor’s Infra, Limen and Acis and Galatea, Meisner’s What If and Samodurov’s Trip Trac. In the last mixed bill, she was one of the four soloists in Ballo Della Regina as well as dancing the role created by Darcey Bussell in DGV. In 2009 she received the Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) Award in the Critics’ Circle Dance Awards. She is scheduled to make her debut as Juliet next March. Melissa last spoke to us soon after she joined in a meeting with Sergei Polunin. We can expect a very interesting evening.

Our second meeting of the season, on Friday 2 September, is our annual opportunity to meet two of the Royal Ballet’s younger dancers. As well as hearing about their training and first year in the Company, they will speak about the performances in the O2 and the tour to Taiwan. This year we welcome Camille Bracher and Yasmine Naghdi as our guests.  From Johannesburg in South Africa, Camille won the Outstanding Contemporary Award at the Youth America Grand Prix in 2007 when she was only 15. Two years later, she was awarded a second prize in the international competition in Helsinki. Yasmine, from London, was a JA from 2002, before joining the Royal Ballet School in 2004 and moving to the Upper School in 2008. During her time at the school she was selected to participate in an exchange with the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St Petersburg and in 2009 won the Young British Dancer of the Year competition. We can expect a very entertaining evening with these two young dancers, who have both made a great impression during their first season.   

Provisional dates for the rest of next season are:  Thursday 6 October, Friday 21 October, Wednesday 2 November, Wednesday 16 November, Tuesday 6 or Friday 9 December, Wednesday 4 January, Friday 20 January, Thursday 26 January, Friday 3 February, Tuesday 7 February, Wednesday 29 February, Friday 9 March, Tuesday 20 March, Wednesday 4 April, Tuesday 17 April, Friday 27 April, Thursday 3 May, Thursday 17 May, Wednesday 30 May, Thursday 14 June, Thursday 28 June, Thursday 5 July, Thursday 12 July.  We will not use all these dates as some, particularly after Christmas, will clash with Royal Ballet events. All dates are subject to change, but are given to help you plan your diaries for next season.

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 is Tottenham Court Road though that is currently closed). Doors open at 6.30 p.m. unless otherwise stated. Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

BA visit to Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst School for Dance
Towards the end of June, 37 members joined a fantastic trip to Birmingham. On the Wednesday we watched Ballet Master Wolfgang Stollwitzer take a male class at BRB, after which the group had lunch in a local restaurant. Before the evening performance, our Chairman interviewed First Soloist Jenna Roberts. From Australia, Jenna gave us a delightful account of her career so far. (A report will be posted on our website, alongside other interviews.) Sadly this was cut short as the choir needed the studio to prepare. We then watched the opening night of Allegri Diversi and Carmina Burana.

Next morning, we were welcomed at Elmhurst School for Dance. Unfortunately, our President Desmond Kelly was away teaching in Japan, but we were splendidly looked after by his Assistant Denise Whiteman and Fundraising and Development Officer Anna Hainsworth and other members of staff. In the morning we watched Samira Saidi and Alain Dubreuil rehearse second and third year sixth form students in extracts from David Bintley’s Flowers of the Forest. After a short tour of the school, we were given an excellent lunch and met a number of the school’s staff. During lunch David Bain presented The Ballet Association’s Annual Award to Nastazia Phillipou. From Cyprus, Nastazia is a first year sixth student. Our award will help towards the cost of her taking part in the Genée competition later this year in South Africa. Nastazia enchanted members, talking informally with them during lunch. After which we watched her in class with the other first year sixth students taught by ex-BRB dancer James Grundy. We will watch Nastazia’s progress with great interest. We have had letters from both Denise and Anna, stating that ‘our students enjoyed performing to such a well-informed audience!’ We also left a cheque for Desmond Kelly, rather belatedly his present from the Association for when he left BRB, which will be used for the school in his honour. We will let you know how this gift has been used in due course. It has been announced that Desmond will retire from his role as Artistic Director at the end of next season, although he will continue his contact with the school as Artistic Advisor.

Ballet Association Awards
At this year’s Graduation Ceremony our Chairman, David Bain, presented the Annual Ballet Association Awards to 1st Year Upper School students Marcelino Sambé from Portugal, Yaoqian Shang from China and 2nd Year Upper School student Nina Tonoli from Belgium. Marcelino’s successes include junior division gold medals at the USA International Ballet Competition 2010 and at Youth America Grand Prix 2009. His entry for the Ursula Moreton Choreographic Award received 2nd prize and was performed during the Linbury season, at which he also performed the pas de deux from Le Corsaire on the second night. Yaoqian also danced the Corsaire pas de deux on the opening and closing nights. She previously studied at the Beijing Dance Academy and was offered a place at The Royal Ballet School after being seen by the Director at the Youth America Grand Prix 2010. Nina performed in a number of ballets both in the Linbury Season and on the Main Stage. She enjoys choreographing and was featured in a short documentary for Belgian television alongside Sander Blommaert. This can be seen on YouTube. Marcelino, Yaoqian and Nina will be invited to talk to us during next season and we hope to see them in class at some time later in the school year.    
Entrances, exits, promotions, etc.
The Royal Ballet has announced that Emma Maguire and Akane Takada have been promoted to Soloist and Sabina Westcombe, James Hay, Dawid Trzensimiech and Valentino Zucchetti to First Artist. Jonathan Howells will become Assistant Ballet Master. In addition to Bethany Keating and Vanessa Fenton, who left during the season, James Butcher has also left. During last season Francesca Hayward and Fumi Kaneko joined from the RBS and Japan respectively. At the start of this season, Alexander Campbell joins from BRB as a Soloist and Claudia Dean and Tomas Mock, graduates of the RBS, and Meaghan Grace Hinkis from American Ballet Theatre join as Artists.

At Birmingham Royal Ballet Joseph Caley has been promoted to Principal, Tyrone Singleton to First Soloist, Matthias Dingman, Samara Downs, Céline Gittens and Rory Mackay to Soloist and James Barton and Feargus Campbell to First Artist. At the start of the summer Maureya Lebowitz joined as a Soloist from Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Emily Smith as an Artist from the RBS. At the start of the season Tzu-Chao Chou will join as a Soloist from Australian Ballet and Karla Doorbar and Brandon Lawrence from the RBS join as Artists. Lewis Turner who trained at Elmhurst School for Dance and has been a Prix de Lausanne laureate for the last year joins as an Artist. Video Archivist and former dancer and Principal Character Artist David Morse has retired after 50 years with the Company, as has First Soloist Andrea Tredinnick after 24 years. Andrea has enrolled onto the RAD teacher training programme. Other leavers besides Alexander Campbell, are Christopher Rodgers-Wilson who joins Australian Ballet, Dusty Button who continues her dance career in America, Machi Moritaka, Sonia Aguilar and Anniek Soobroy.

We send congratulations to all those promoted and those joining the Companies and send our best wishes for the future to those leaving.

Charity galas
The Royal Ballet’s Gary Avis and Friends is in aid of the Hunger Project and there are two shows on Sunday 11 September at 1.30 and 6.30pm at Ipswich Regent Theatre. Gary has put together a programme with dancers from The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet. Tickets can be obtained from the theatre box office 01473 433 100 or

On the same evening, other dancers from The Royal Ballet and ENB will perform much new choreography in A Dream of Africa Gala at 7.30 at the Britten Theatre, The Royal College of Music, in aid of the Ghana based Ashanti Development Charity. Box Office 020 7591 4314. More information on Facebook.

In Praise of Suffolk – and Sir Fred
We are planning an outing for members to Ipswich to see the exhibition Sir Frederick Ashton, the Ballet and Suffolk, which was installed by Cristina Franchi of the Royal Opera House Collections. The date has been confirmed as Saturday 3 September. It will be a day trip to Ipswich by train, members making their own arrangements for transport there, and then visiting the exhibition which is split between two main venues with a film being shown at the third. The exhibition includes a recreation of Margot Fonteyn's dressing room, as well as costumes from a variety of Ashton ballets. There will be a need to do some walking between venues as well as around them. We are also hoping to visit Yaxley, where Ashton and his family are buried in the churchyard.

Royal Opera House Exhibition
A group of members had a very successful afternoon visit to the current exhibition at the Opera House, Invitation to the Ballet: Ninette de Valois and the Story of the Royal Ballet. This is a slimmed down version of the exhibition that was at the Lowry last year. Cristina Franchi, the curator of the exhibition, guided us round the exhibits and gave a fascinating insight into the objects that had been chosen to represent different stages in the life of Dame Ninette. We were also able to learn a little about the workings of the Opera House Collections. Cristina had arranged a viewing for us of the Lynne Wake documentary on Dame Ninette, Come Dance With Me, which was an added extra to the enjoyment of the visit. As a thank you, we are making a donation of £250 to the Collections, some of which was collected from the members who attended the visit and the remainder of which is from the BA funds. The donation will be put towards the costs of conserving a costume in the Monica Mason exhibition next season.

The BFI Performing Arts Catalogue
The British Film Institute has produced this new education resource. The catalogue documents the histories of dance and other art forms on film and television, referencing c. 3500 film and video titles held by the BFI. It is available as a free downloadable pdf from the BFI website.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain