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June/July 2013 newsletter

AS WE WRITE THIS NEWSLETTER both companies are embarking on their holidays after successful tours; the Royal to Monte Carlo and Japan and Birmingham Royal Ballet to Belfast and Dublin. We wish them well-earned rests, although we know many will be making guest appearances around the world.

We have had two meetings since our last newsletter. At our June meeting we welcomed First Artist Andrej Uspenski. After speaking briefly of his training in St Petersburg, Dresden and Berlin and his career with the Royal Danish Ballet, Andrej spoke of his time at the Royal. He then enthusiastically talked about his interest in photography and his recent bookDancers: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Ballet, whilst about 60 photos from the book were projected onto the walls of the church. His second book about Natalia Osipova developing as a swan has just been published. After talking, Andrej signed copies of Dancers which members were able to purchase for £21, a 40% discount on the published price. The publishers, Oberon Books, have generously extended this offer to all Ballet Association members (see below). Andrej provided a very entertaining evening.

There then followed an emotional meeting in July, when we welcomed Principal Mara Galeazzi a few days after her final performance with The Royal Ballet in Manon, which took place in Monte Carlo. Mara has been a regular guest of the Association both at meetings and at Annual Dinners and will be sorely missed. As well as looking back on her career and work for charity, she spoke of her plans for the future including galas in Italy at the end of July. We look forward to hearing about developments in Oman in years to come and wish her and her family great success for the future.

Future meetings
Our first meeting of the new season will be on Thursday 22 August, when we are delighted to welcome Olivia Cowley, who has just been promoted to Soloist in The Royal Ballet. Born in Aylesbury, she trained with Nicola Bowden before joining the Royal Ballet Upper School and then the Company in 2003. She was promoted to First Artist in 2009. Her repertoire includes a variety of soloist roles and she has created roles in Carbon Life, Acis and Galatea, Sweet Violets, As One, Linear and Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. This November she makes her debut in one of the Principal roles in Chroma. We can expect an interesting meeting.  

At our next meeting on Wednesday 4 September we welcome Artists Mayara Magri and Nicol Edmonds at the start of their second season in the Company. Born in Brazil, Mayara joined The Royal Ballet last season, after one year at the Royal Ballet School, which she entered following success at the Prix de Lausanne, where she won a Scholarship and the Audience Prize. Nicol, from Devon, graduated from Elmhurst School for Dance and spent two years with Finnish National Ballet before joining the Royal. As well as talking about their careers, Mayara and Nicol will speak about the Royal Ballet tours to Monte Carlo and Japan. Meetings where you have the opportunity to meet newer dancers in the Company are always popular and amongst the most entertaining of the year.  

Provisional dates for the rest of next season are: Wednesday 2 October, Thursday 17 October, Tuesday 12 November, Wednesday 27 November, Wednesday 11 December, Thursday 9 January, Wednesday 29 January, Thursday 13 February, Thursday 20 February, Wednesday 5 March, Wednesday 26 March, Wednesday 2 April, Thursday 24 April, Wednesday 7 May, Thursday 22 May, Wednesday 4 June.  Although all dates are subject to change, please put these dates in your diaries. 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. If you walk past the opticians you will see the church. Doors open at 6.45 p.m. unless otherwise stated. Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

The Royal Ballet School
The School has announced that Christopher Powney has been appointed Artistic Director Designate and will take up his role in April 2014. After a transitional term, he will take over the full running of the School from Gailene Stock, when she retires at the end of August 2014. A former teacher at the Upper School, Christopher is currently Artistic Director of the Dutch National Ballet Academy, after dancing with Northern Ballet, English National Ballet, Ballet Rambert and periods as Assistant Artistic Director of Ballet Central and senior teacher at The Royal Conservatoire, Den Haag. In the meantime, Jay Jolley will continue in the role of Acting Director, whilst Gailene is on long-term sick leave.

Members will have enjoyed the School’s performances, both in the Linbury and on the Main Stage. We are sure you were impressed by them all, but especially by our 2012 Award winners, Yaoquian Shang and Annette Buvoli who danced the leads in Seven Greek Dances and La Destinée respectively. Our third winner, Marcelino Sambé is, of course, already with the Royal and received outstanding reviews for his dancing in Kim Brandstrup’s new work Ceremony of Innocence, which the Company performed at Snape Maltings as part of the Aldeburgh Festival in June.

Following the Main Stage performance, our Chairman attended the School’s Graduation Ceremony where he presented the 2013 awards to First Year Upper School student Chisato Katsura and Second Year students Reece Clarke and Adam Russell-Jones. We look forward to welcoming them to a meeting early in the New Year. We presented an additional award, her Ballet Association leaving present donated by Leanne Benjamin, to First Year student Harry Churches. We hope he will attend a meeting early this coming season with Leanne.     

News, farewells, etc
Members will have been extremely saddened to hear of the death of former Royal Ballet Principal David Wall on Tuesday 18 June at the age of 67. Our thoughts are with his wife, Alfreda Thorogood. One of the premiere dancers of the 20th Century, both Lescaut in Manon in 1974 and Crown Prince Rudolf in Mayerling in 1978 were created on him by Kenneth MacMillan. He retired from dancing in 1984 and embarked on an illustrious career as a teacher, including a time as Director of the Royal Academy of Dance and from 1995 to 2007 as Répétiteur at English National Ballet. More recently he and Alfreda mounted the revival of Sir Kenneth’s Sleeping Beauty for ENB. He will be greatly missed.

Since our last newsletter, the news of the death of Frederic Franklin has been announced. Members may have seen him in the Ballet Russes film and will remember that he staged the revival of part of Devil’s Holiday for the Royal a few years ago. He died in early May at the age of 98.

At very emotional performances of Mayerling the Royal Ballet said farewell in London to Principals Leanne Benjamin, Alina Cojocaru, Mara Galeazzi and Johan Kobborg and Soloist Brian Maloney. Leanne and Mara danced their last performances in Manon in Monte Carlo and Alina, Johan and Brian make their final appearances in Tokyo. The news that Alina and Johan were leaving the Company to pursue their careers elsewhere was made at very short notice and will have come as a great shock to many members. We have sent them presents. In thanking us, Johan writes, “We are very touched, but think we will find better use for the money than spending it on us… We will come up with something.” They hope to come to talk to us at a meeting towards the end of next season.

It has just been announced by English National Ballet that Alina Cojocaru is to join them as Lead Principal next season. Her debut with the Company will be in their new restaging of Le Corsaire. She will dance the role of the heroine Medora on the opening night in Milton Keynes on 17 October, as well as performing in Nutcracker, the Lest We Forget programme and Romeo and Juliet. She will continue to make guest appearances with Hamburg Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Speaking of her new role, Alina said:

I am very excited to be joining English National Ballet next season. I am attracted by the opportunities the repertoire offers, the combination of the classics and the chance to work with choreographers I really admire. I have always enjoyed dancing and performing in the UK and am delighted that English National Ballet will give me the chance to reach new audiences outside London. Not shy of challenges, I look forward to what the future might bring. Sharing Tamara's passion for the art form and for artistry, I am excited about what lies ahead.

Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of English National Ballet said:

I am so happy to welcome Alina to the Company. She is one of the dancers I most admire. Her exquisite technique, dramatic qualities and artistry have been a constant inspiration to many, including me. I know that the dancers in the Company will be thrilled to have an artist of her stature join us and I am sure that we can give Alina the artistic challenges and opportunities she seeks.

It also came as a shock to most when, at our Annual Dinner, we announced that Brian was retiring from dancing. Talking about the future, Brian writes:

I am going to be working with two sports scientists, who I did all my rehab work with, and will relate the work more closely to ballet. (They have been at the ROH for a few years.) Putting to good use all that I learned during multiple injuries! I am excited about helping the dancers be the best and healthiest dancers they can be.

We hope he will talk to us next season along with his girlfriend Hayley Forskitt.

We had already announced that Leanne and Mara were leaving. Mara wore the necklace that she had purchased as our gift at our annual dinner. She has written:

Dear David and friends. I just want to thank you immensely for my gift. I really appreciate your generosity and your support for all these wonderful years with the Royal Ballet. I thought I would put the money to the charity, but decided I will buy something that will always remind me of you all. I will miss it and miss you so much but I will be around and maybe one day you can come and see my future ballet company if it is going to happen (let's hope). I will come to the 40th year dinner of course. I couldn't possibly miss it. Thank you. Lots of love, Mara

As Leanne announced at the dinner, she has decided to donate her present to The Royal Ballet School. She has written:

Dear David and Members of the Ballet Association. I wanted to thank you for your incredibly generous gift of £200 and when I contemplated what I would buy myself that would remind me of you all, I thought the best way of using it would be to donate it to a ballet student. I would be very grateful if you would give it to The Royal Ballet School (and I would like for it to benefit a student in need). Please know that throughout my career, the Association’s support has meant a great deal to me and I am so very grateful. Yours sincerely, Leanne.

If you would like to donate towards our gifts for these dancers, a collection will be held at the next meeting or send a cheque payable the Ballet Association to our Chairman.

Also, The Royal Ballet has announced that Principal Dance Notator and Répétiteur Grant Coyle left at the end of the season. In addition to Natalia Osipova, who joins as a Principal, and Anna Rose O’Sullivan, Luca Acri and Marcelino Sambé, who joined from the Royal Ballet School earlier in the season, Annette Buvoli, and David Donnelly join as Artists at the start of next season and Masaya Yamamoto joins as a Prix de Lausanne dancer. In addition, Melissa Hamilton has been promoted to First Soloist, Olivia Cowley, Elizabeth Harrod and Fumi Kaneko to Soloist and Hayley Forskitt, Francesca Hayward and Tristan Dyer to First Artist.   

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced that Principal Ambra Vallo, First Soloist Victoria Marr and Artists Kristen McGarrity and Laura Davenport left the Company following their Giselle performances in Birmingham and Dublin 2013. This is in addition to Matthew Lawrence and Carol-Ann Millar who left earlier in the season to join Queensland Ballet as a Principal and pursue a career in dance teaching respectively. After 17 years with BRB, Ambra Vallo leaves to pursue a full-time career as a yoga instructor. She was the guest of the joint meeting with Birmingham Friends during our visit to BRB on 19 June. Victoria Marr leaves after almost 17 years to pursue a career as a businesswoman and co-founder of Kristen McGarrity leaves to train as a dance teacher and pursue her passion for choreography, music and songwriting. Laura Davenport has accepted a place at University of Leeds and will study midwifery. Joining BRB for next season are Nikita Ruhl, Mariko Sasaki and Yaoquian Shang from The Royal Ballet School and former Elmhurst student Miles Gilliver as Artists and Yasuo Atsuji, who rejoins the Company from the National Ballet of Japan as a First Artist. Momoko Hirata and Tyrone Singleton have been promoted to Principal and Yijing Zhang to First Artist. We send our congratulations to all in both companies who have been promoted and our best wishes for the future to all who have left.

We send our congratulations to Gailene Stock, Director of the Royal Ballet School, on being awarded a CBE and to former teacher Richard Glasstone, who received an MBE. Dance was well represented in the awards, with five others also receiving awards. We also send our congratulations to second year Upper School student Samuel Zaldivar who has starred as Tadzio in ENO’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice.

Members will have heard that Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett is to choreograph a new work for English National Ballet as part of their programme marking the Centenary of the start of the World War I. He is also creating works for New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Norwegian Ballet. Members may be interested to hear that former Royal Ballet Principal Alessandra Ferri is returning to dance at the age of 50 in her own work, The Piano Upstairs, in Spoleto and, next season, will create the role of Eleanora Duse at La Scala in a new ballet by John Neumeier. In June, Principal Steven McRae performed the role of Lankendem in Le Corsaire with American Ballet Theatre, in an exchange which will see ABT Principal Cory Stearns perform with the Royal in December.

Love Tomorrow
Members will be pleased to hear that the film Love Tomorrow is to be released, at long last, in the UK and Ireland by Soda Pictures in November after a London Premiere in association with Sadler’s Wells. The film stars former Royal Ballet Dancer Cindy Jourdain and English National Ballet Principal Arionel Vargas. We will provide more details when they become available.
Dancers: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Ballet
A spectacular journey to the heart of the Royal Ballet, Dancers is an intimate photographic record taken by Royal Ballet dancer Andrej Uspenski. For two years Andrej has taken luminous photographs of Royal Ballet dancers in rehearsal and on stage. The book contains more than 200 photographs, black & white and colour, including backstage images and breathtaking glimpses taken from the wings.

This stunning collection of pictures, highly stylised and charmingly informal, is a must for any ballet fan. Daily Mail
Uspenski’s volume shows the company in moments of unguarded intimacy that only a fellow dancer could capture. Daily Telegraph

ISBN: 978-1849433884. Special Price: £21 (RRP: £35.00) plus postage £2.75. Ballet Association members can get 40% off DANCERS with the following discount code: OnBallet. Simply enter the code when you check out: Or buy direct from our distributors and quote ‘OnBallet’ over the phone: +44 (0)1235 465547.

Visit to BRB and Elmhurst School for Dance
Over forty members attended an excellent couple of days in Birmingham on our annual visit. On the Wednesday morning, we watched Wolfgang Stollwitzer teach men’s class, at the end of which our President Marion Tait welcomed us. We presented Marion with a cheque for BRB. Members then had lunch together in a local restaurant. Before the evening performance of David Bintley’s production of Giselle, with Jenna Robertsand Iain Mackay, we joined BRB Friends for an interview of Principal Ambra Vallo. Our visits to BRB have been organised by their Friends’ Coordinator Sheila Hitchman. Sheila leaves at the end of this season after 22 years. We presented her with flowers after Ambra’s talk. David Bintley writes:

Dear David, I’m writing to thank the Ballet Association for the very generous donation of £400 to Birmingham Royal Ballet following their visit to see the Company, attend our friends talk given by departing Principal Ambra Vallo, and spend some time in our associated School, Elmhurst. Please convey my thanks to all concerned, especially Brian Don, who I understand was the Group Organiser. I do hope that the Ballet Association will continue its interest in Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst and that we may enjoy the pleasure of your company before too long. Best wishes David Bintley.

The next day we were welcomed at Elmhurst by our President, Artistic Director Robert Parker and School Principal Jessica Ward. During the day we had the opportunity to watch a mixed class with the graduate year, taken by former Royal Ballet Principal Errol Pickford as well as girls’ classes with years 10 and 6.2, and a rehearsal of a new work for the forthcoming school performances. Over an excellent lunch, we presented the 2013 Ballet Association Award to Riho Majima. Robert Parker described Riho as a delightful girl and one of the hardest working he has ever seen. We were able to watch her in class after lunch. She has since written:

I would like to appreciate for the amazing award. I am honoured to receive this award. The first time I came to Elmhurst, I could not understand everything including English. However, I could also find and learn new things at the same time. Now, I am very happy to study here. My dream is to become a ballerina who can give audiences the feelings as if they also joined our stages. I really look forward to seeing you again. Yours sincerely, Riho Majima.

Many of the school’s teachers and our former award winners Nastasia Phillipou and Eri Nishibara joined us for lunch. They both performed Odette in Swan Lake at the School’s end of year performances, as well as dancing in two new works, Suite No 1 by Mikaela Polley and Proud Mary by Michelle Blair, and in David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café.  They join companies in the Czech Republic and Romania respectively next season.

At the end of the day, we presented the school with a cheque, the proceeds from a collection held during the day. We have heard from Jessica and Robert, who wrote:

We are writing to thank you for the Ballet Association’s generous donation of £700 towards Elmhurst School for Dance training and education provision for young dancers, as well as for your award to Riho Majima. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Ballet Association’s trip to Elmhurst and we were very pleased that so many members were able to travel from London to visit us. Your continued support for the School and our work is very much appreciated. We are looking forward to next year’s gathering already and we wish you a relaxing and enjoyable summer.

We hope next year’s visit will be 4-5 June to include BRB’s Darkness and Light programme, which features Ashton’s Dante Sonata, Les Rendezvous and Façade.   

Visit to Royal Opera House Exhibitions
Members of the Association had a very interesting morning in June being shown round the current exhibition in the Opera House by the curator, Cristina Franchi, who has a wealth of knowledge to share both of the items on show but also the wider work of the Collections. Part of the exhibition space features Nadia Nerina, the majority of the items coming from Nadia's personal collection which was donated to the Collections after her death. The costumes needed a great deal of conservation but are now in excellent condition. There are also some wonderful photographs of her dancing and also a reply to a fan letter that she had written to Beryl Grey when she was a young girl in South Africa.

We also watched a 20 minute film that has been made for the exhibition and shows extracts of Nadia dancing Fille and Sylvia amongst others and interviews with various ex-members of the Company who had known her. The film is being shown on the televisions in the Amphitheatre corridor during the day when the house is open until the end of the exhibition on the 17 August.

We also looked at the work of the artist Isabel Rawsthorne, who was the wife of Constant Lambert. However, before that she initially worked in the studio of Jacob Epstein, and when she lived in Paris was in the same artistic circles as Andrei Derain, Picasso and Giacometti. After the war, and back in London, Rawsthorne designed a number of operas and ballets for the Opera House and became interested in drawing dancers in rehearsal, notably Margot Fonteyn, Antoinette Sibley and Svetlana Beriosova. It is these drawings that are shown in the Amphitheatre Gallery, some of which are studies, some final drawings and some paintings.

Monies that the Association donated to ROH Collections in thanks for the last exhibition tour that we were given have been used to frame two of the drawings of Antoinette Sibley and one other drawing.

Visit to The Museum of London
In May, members of the Association had a wonderful outing to the Museum of London to look at a selection of the Ballet Russes costumes that are held in storage there. Due to their age, the costumes are in quite a fragile condition and so are handled as little as possible. We therefore felt very priviliged that the costumes had been taken out of storage for us to see. The senior curator of the Fashion and Decorative Arts department of the Museum talked in a most interesting fashion about the history of the collection and of the challenges of storing and conserving costumes while Caroline Hamilton, a ballet costume historian, gave a fascinating and detailed commentary on the particular costumes that we were looking at.

We saw a number of costumes from the famous Ballet Russes production of The Sleeping Princess designed by Leon Bakst that premiered in London in 1921; the costumes for the Spanish Prince, the Countess in the Hunting Scene and for Carabosse. The latter was once worn by Enrico Cecchetti, who had created the role in the original production in St Petersburg, and who danced the role with the Ballet Russes to celebrate his 50th anniversary on the stage.

We also looked at the black velvet doublet worn by Vaslav Nijinsky in Les Sylphides, designed by Alexandre Benois from 1909. We saw the costume used by Lubov Tchernicheva for the Miller's Wife from Le Tricorne from the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo's version of the ballet by Massine and designed by Picasso. (Members may have seen this displayed as part of the Picasso and Modern British Art exhibition at Tate Britain last year, the first time that costume has ever been exhibited there). The last highlight was a costume which had been catalogued in the 1960's as a corps costume for The Firebird, but which has been recently identified as the original Prince Ivan costume, worn by Fokine in the Bakst-designed 1913 version of the ballet but subsequently altered for later versions.

Members who were unfortunate enough to miss this visit may like to know that all of the costumes can be viewed on the Collection's Online facility on the Museum of London's website. For those who are interested in the Ballet Russes, Caroline Hamilton recommended a book called The Diaghilev Ballet 1909-1929 by Serge Grigoriev, the regisseur of the Ballet Russes, for its readibility and insight into the inside stories of the company's history.

Annual Dinner 2013
We had a very successful Annual Dinner in May at which we presented leaving presents to Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi and Brian Maloney. We also made small presentations to our Founder Chairman Shane Tyler to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Association and to our former Membership Secretary Joan Seaman, who celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this year. We had a splendid array of guests and have received many messages from members and guests indicating how much they enjoyed the evening. Sadly, Stage Manager Johanna Adams Farley and her husband, former Royal Ballet Principal and photographer Richard Farley, had to drop out at the last minute as a consequence of difficulties connected to the staging of Raven Girl which Johanna had been working on that day. We hope to welcome them to the dinner next year.

Our final guest list was: Kevin O’Hare, Jeanetta Laurence, Jonathan Cope, Dame Monica Mason, Robert Parker, Christopher Saunders, Samantha Raine, Leanne Benjamin, Mara Galeazzi, Nehemiah Kish, Roberta Marquez, Arionel Vargas, Elizabeth McGorian, Deirdre Chapman, Yuhui Choe, Ryoichi Hirano, Claire Calvert, Brian Maloney, Laura McCulloch, Eric Underwood, Nathalie Harrison, Erico Montes, Romany Pajdak, Andrej Uspenski, Claudia Dean, Nicol Edmonds, Hayley Forskitt, Elsa Godard, Tierney Heap, Mayara Magri, Tomas Mock, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Anna Rose O’Sullivan, Marcelino Sambé, Donald Thom.

As usual, we had photographs taken of the guests on each table during the evening. The photos are available for members to purchase at future meetings (25p each 7” x 5”) and some will be placed on our website. 

Mara Galeazzi, Ballet Gala, VERONA Italy, July 23
On 23 July in the evocative open air evening al-fresco setting of Verona’s Teatro Romano, Mara Galeazzi will host a star studded gala with colleagues from The Royal Ballet Sarah Lamb, Marianela Nuñez, Gary Avis, Steven McRae, Thiago Soares and Edward Watson. Mara and her friends will dance selections from the classical and contemporary repertoire.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain
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