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June 2011 newsletter

SINCE OUR LAST NEWSLETTER we have had our May meeting and our Annual Dinner. At our May meeting, it was a pleasure to welcome former Royal Ballet Principal Bruce Sansom. Bruce is currently Ballet Master and Assistant to the Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet. He brought us up to date with his career since leaving the Royal Ballet in 2000, including his time with Rambert and Central School of Ballet, before returning to San Francisco to take up his current post. It was fascinating to hear about the emphasis placed on a variety of new work in San Francisco. Bruce provided a packed meeting with a very entertaining evening.

Future meetings
There has been a change of guest at our final meeting of the season on Friday 3 June, when we are delighted to welcome Pietro Mello-Pittman as our guest. First Artist with The Royal Ballet, Pietra was born in Rio de Janeiro. In 2001, she was awarded first prize in the Ursula Moreton Choreography Competition at the Royal Ballet School. Pietra will talk about her training and her career since joining The Royal Ballet. In 2009, along with composer Ella Spira, she set up production company Sisters Grimm. She had collaborated with Ella for some pieces in New Works with Royal Ballet dancers. In September 2009 she produced and directed the short ballet film, Rapunzel –The Final Chapter. Last week saw the first performance of her most recent enterprise, INALA (abundance of goodwill), a collaboration with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a choir which you may remember from their work with singer Paul Simon a few years ago. We hope to be able to show a short film during the meeting about the making of this ballet. We can expect a fascinating evening and a great end to our season.

Elizabeth McGorian, who was originally scheduled for this date, hopes to be able to speak to us during next season.

There will be no meeting during July. The Royal Ballet finishes its tour to Taiwan at the beginning of July and dancers are on holiday for the rest of the month. For those attending the trip to Birmingham, there will be a meeting with a BRB dancer on Wednesday 22 June before the performance. If you are not on the trip, but would like to attend this interview, please contact Brian Don on 020 8368 4419 to have your name added to the list.

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 and Chroma. She created roles in Wayne McGregor’s Infra, Limen and Acis and Galatea, Ernst Meisner’s What If and Slava 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. Melissa last spoke to us soon after she joined in a meeting with Sergei Polunin. We can expect a very interesting evening.

Provisional dates for the rest of next season are: Friday 2 September, 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. Doors open at 6.30 p.m. unless otherwise stated. Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

Please note that membership is annual and coincides roughly with the ballet seasons of the Royal Companies. If you joined after the start of April 2011, your membership will be for next season, as well as the remainder of this. New membership cards for such members will be sent out automatically at the start of next season.

Entrances, exits, etc.
During last season’s visit to Birmingham, our Chairman interviewed BRB Momoko Hirata. Momoko has recently left BRB and joined Angel Corella’s Company in Madrid. We wish her great success in her new company.

As reported in the last newsletter, Bethany Keating has retired from The Royal Ballet. As always, we sent a small present to her. She writes: ‘Thank you so much for such lovely gesture from the Ballet Association. I’m very touched … The last few months have been a sad and challenging time. I haven’t yet decided what to spend the money on but I wanted to say thank you for now and I’ll be sure to let you know! Best wishes, Bethany Keating.’

In Praise of Suffolk – and Sir Fred
An exhibition Sir Frederick Ashton, the Ballet and Suffolk is being held in three venues in Ipswich from 19 May to 9 October. (Ipswich Town Hall, Christchurch Mansion and the Jerwood DanceHouse.) If enough members express interest, we may try to arrange a visit to these exhibitions.

Royal Opera House Exhibition
Part of the very successful exhibition, Invitation to the Ballet: Ninette de Valois and the Story of the Royal Ballet, at the Lowry in Salford has moved to the Opera House. We are hoping to arrange a guided tour given by the curator for members of the Association. This is expected to be in June or July.

Annual Dinner 2011
We held a very successful annual dinner on Tuesday 17 May. We have had lots of messages from members and guests saying how much they had enjoyed the evening. Sadly our Patron Dame Monica Mason was unwell on the day and could not attend. We are glad to see that she has recovered fully. The final guest list was: Jeanetta Laurence, Jonathan Cope, Christopher Saunders, Gailene Stock, Gary Norman, Zenaida Yanowsky, Mara Galeazzi, Lauren Cuthberton, Steven McRae, David Makhateli and his wife ENB dancer Natalia Kremen, Nehemiah Kish, Sergei Polunin, Gary Avis, Genesia Rosato, Itziar Mendizabal, Helen Crawford, Bennet Gartside, Kenta Kura, Elizabeth Harrod, Kristen McNally, Akane Takada, Sabina Westcombe, Celisa Diuana, Francesca Hayward, Yasmine Naghdi, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Valentino Zucchetti, Camille Bracher, Sander Blommaert, and pianists Robert Clark and Kate Shipway.

As usual, we had photographs taken of the guests on each table, during the evening. These will be available for members to purchase at a future meeting and some will be placed on our website.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain