PRINT (requires Adobe Reader)

July 2014 newsletter

SINCE THE LAST NEWSLETTER we have had two very entertaining meetings. In May we welcomed Soloist James Hay, who spoke about his training, his success in competitions and his career with the Royal Ballet. Amongst the highlights he discussed were dancing the Fool in Prince of the Pagodas, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel and, most recently, Rhapsody with Francesca Hayward. Another highlight was dancing Steven McRae’s role in Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins in Havana at a day’s notice with Sergei Polunin and Alina Cojocaru. He also spoke of the injury which has kept him out for much of the last season. James gave us a very enjoyable evening.

At our last meeting of the season, it was a pleasure to welcome former Soloist David Pickering, who had last spoken to the Association early in his 24 year career with the Company. David retired from dancing earlier in the season to concentrate on his role as Education Administrator and Teacher. From Yorkshire, David had been a chorister in his youth and studied dance after school and at weekends as a junior Associate. As well as talking about his training and long dancing career, David gave us fascinating insights into the work with education in which Royal Ballet dancers are involved. This often gives young dancers the opportunity to be coached in principal roles which they perform in schools. He spoke about his teaching including Chance to Dance, a regular class for partially sighted and blind adults and work with communities abroad, including one in Rio de Janeiro. He was joining the Royal Ballet’s tour to Shanghai to teach community groups soon after his very interesting talk to us.

Future meetings
At our first meeting after the holidays on Thursday 28 August, we are delighted to welcome First Soloist Melissa Hamilton as our guest, a few weeks before her debut as Manon. Born in Belfast, Melissa was brought up in Dromore, County Down. At the age of 16 she moved to Elmhurst School for Dance for a year before moving to Athens for private coaching with Masha Mukhamedov. She won the Youth America Grand Prix in 2007 and soon after joined the Royal Ballet. She was promoted to First Soloist in 2013. In the same year she was part of a Royal Ballet group that performed in Derry as part of its celebrations as UK City of Culture. As well as creating roles in many of Wayne McGregor’s ballets, Melissa’s other roles include Mary Vetsera, Juliet, Sugar Plum and Lilac Fairy and, most recently, in The Concert. Melissa last spoke to the Association three years ago, since when she has danced many different roles. She will, as always, provide us with a very entertaining evening.
On Thursday 11 September we have our annual meeting where two of the younger members of the Company not only talk to us about their training and careers, but also tell us about the end of season tour to Moscow, Taipei and Shanghai. This year it is a pleasure to welcome two former Royal Ballet School Association Award winners, Annette Buvoli and Reece Clarke. With Italian parents, Annette comes from Boulder, Colorado, where she trained before joining the Royal Ballet Upper School a year early. She won the Association’s Award in 2012 when in her First Year at the School and moved directly into the third year before joining the Royal Ballet at the start of last season. In her graduation performance she danced the lead role in Mark Annear’s La Destinée.

The youngest of four brothers from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, who all attended the Royal Ballet School, Reece won the Association’s Award in 2013 at the end of his second year at the Upper School, and joined the Royal Ballet last December part way through his third year. He returned for the recent School Matinée to partner fellow award winner, second year student Chisato Katsura in Raymonda Act III. Annette spoke to us whilst a student, but Reece was unable to do so, as he had already joined the Company and was required for a stage call. These meetings with young dancers are always a very entertaining start to our season. So attendance can be highly recommended.

Provisionally, the dates for next season are Thursday 25 September, Thursday 2 October, Friday 21 November (this meeting will be preceded by our AGM), Tuesday 9 December, Tuesday 13 January, Wednesday 25 February, Wednesday 11 March, Wednesday 1 April, Wednesday 15 April, Wednesday 6 May, Wednesday 27 May, Wednesday 10 June. Please note that these are slightly different from those quoted in the last newsletter and may be adjusted if they clash with other events.

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 walk up Endell Street and cross over Shaftesbury Avenue and walk past the opticians. Doors open at 6.45 p.m. unless otherwise stated. (Please note, most Wednesday meetings are preceded by a free concert which starts at 6.00pm. Doors open for the meeting at 7.00pm on these occasions, though you are welcome to attend the concerts.) Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

Annual Dinner Photos
If you ordered photos from this year’s Annual Dinner, these will be available at the next meeting. Albums of photos from which to order are available at the first few meetings and some photos can be seen on our website.
Annual Visit to Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst School for Dance
Once again, the Association had a very successful visit to Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst School for Dance with around 50 members attending. Wolfgang Stollwitzer gave a very energetic class with BRB men, who continued to impress us well after class was scheduled to finish. Our President Marion Tait came in to welcome us, but had to rush off to teach before the men finished. We then had a very long lunch. Before the evening performance, our Chairman interviewed Artist Alys Shee, who delighted members. A protégée of Evelyn Hart from Canada, she entertained members with her enthusiasm and many amusing stories. We look forward to following her career in the Company. After the talk we watched a performance of their Ashton programme, Darkness and Light, with Dante Sonata, Les Rendezvous and Façade.

On the second day, our President Robert Parker and the staff of Elmhurst provided us with another fascinating day watching class and rehearsals. As always, we were well looked after and had an amazing spread for lunch. Before lunch our Chairman presented our Annual Award to Mami Hagihara, a student in Year 6.2 from Japan, whom Robert described as “a delightful performer, a very good technician and an incredibly hard worker.” We had a good choice of activities to observe from Year 8 girls through to the graduate year and members showed their appreciation by donating £950 to the collection held during lunch. Robert writes, “Your continued support for Elmhurst School for Dance and our provision for young classical dancers is most appreciated.” Our thanks go to committee member Brian Don who organises these annual visits and to the School and Company for accommodating us.

This annual visit is becoming increasingly popular, so we can give you advance notice of next year’s which will be on 24 and 25 June and will include a performance of David Bintley’s Sylvia. A few weeks after our visit, students gave very successful school performances, including a Gala Performance where former Elmhurst students, Royal Ballet dancers Melissa Hamilton and Nicol Edmonds danced the pas de deux from Two Pigeons to great acclaim.

Royal Ballet School Graduation
We are sure that members will have enjoyed this year’s Royal Ballet School performances both in the Linbury and the Annual Opera House Matinée, which included last year’s Ballet Association Award winners Chisato Katsura, Reece Clarke and Adam Russell-Jones. Reece is already in the Royal; Adam joins Stuttgart Ballet after the holidays and Chisato moves into the graduate year.

After the Annual Performance, our Chairman attended the Graduation Ceremony where he presented our 2014 Awards to 1st Year Upper School student Kiely Groenewegen and 2nd Year students Grace Robinson and Harry Churches. Appropriately in a year where Liam Scarlett’s Classical Symphony honours Gailene Stock, all three are Australian, Kiely from Melbourne and Grace and Harry from Sydney. We look forward to meeting all three at a meeting later in the year. Amongst those collecting their diplomas having completed the teaching course were the Royal Ballet’s Itziar Mendizabal and Helen Crawford and former Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers Kristen McGarrity and Juliana Moraes. Daria Klimentova had also completed the course but wasn’t present at graduation. All students in the graduate year have obtained contracts and we wish them success in their respective companies.

The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet have announced promotions, joiners and leavers. We congratulate all who have been promoted and who are joining one of the companies and wish every success for the future for those who are leaving.

At The Royal Ballet Akane Takada and Valentino Zucchetti have been promoted to First Soloists, Francesca Hayward, Yasmine Naghdi, Tristan Dyer and Fernando Montaño to Soloists and Jacqueline Clark, Elsa Godard, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Luca Acri, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton and Marcelino Sambé to First Artists. Joining the Company from the start of the season will be Calvin Richardson from The Royal Ballet School, as well as former School Alumni Mariko Sasaki from Birmingham Royal Ballet and Hannah Grennell from Dutch National Ballet. The Royal Ballet also welcomes five dancers for the 2014/15 Season as part of the new Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme. The programme provides the opportunity for up to six recently graduated dancers to receive a year’s contract to work alongside the corps de ballet, receive mentoring and coaching and have opportunities to perform with the Company. This year’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers are Grace Blundell and Grace Horler from the Royal Ballet School, Ashley Scott and Ashleigh McKimmie from English National Ballet School and Maria Barroso from Semperoper Ballet, Dresden. David Navarro Yudes joins as a Prix de Lausanne Dancer.

As well as First Artist Sabina Westcombe and Artist Claudia Dean, who we have previously announced are leaving, so are Artist Ruth Bailey and Soloist Kenta Kura. Kenta retires after 17 years to take up a new role as Boys’ Artistic Teacher at White Lodge. Kenta is a graduate of The Royal Ballet School’s Professional Dancer’s Teachers Course. We will be sending Kenta a leaving present and will let you know what he chooses to purchase with it in a future newsletter. First Artist Leanne Cope will take a sabbatical for next season to play the part of Lise Dassin in An American in Paris, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. It will receive its world premiere in December at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and transfer to Broadway in the Spring.

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the following promotions. Samara Downs is promoted to First Soloist, Yasuo Atsuji, William Bracewell, Kit Holder and Delia Matthews are promoted to soloist and Ruth Brill and Brandon Lawrence to First Artist. Joining the Company as Artists are Alexander Bird and Edivalso Souza da Silva from the Royal Ballet School, Sofia Rubio Robles from Dutch National Ballet, Maki Sekuzu from Elmhurst School for Dance and Daria Stanciulescu from Zurich Ballet. Callie Roberts and Nathaniel Skelton have left the Company.
We also send our congratulations to English National Ballet’s Shiori Kase who recently won the Gold Medal at the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Shiori is a former Ballet Association Royal Ballet School Award winner.

Congratulations also go to The Royal Ballet who in May were presented with the Royal Academy of Dance’s highest honour, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, which was first conferred on Dame Ninette de Valois.

It has been announced that Carlos Acosta is to star in an Australian film Tackling Romeo later this year.

As well as Kenta Kura moving to teach at the Royal Ballet School, the School has announced that former Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal Carol-Anne Miller will become Girls’ Artistic Teacher at White Lodge and former English National Ballet Principal Daria Klimentova will join the Upper School as a teacher. Our President Jay Jolley who has been Acting Director for the last eighteen months becomes Artistic Teacher and Programme Manager at the Upper School.

Devonshire Summer School
Former Royal Ballet School student Layla Harrison has asked if any Ballet Association members could help towards purchase of portable barres for her annual summer school in Devon. Layla performed with many companies including the Royal Ballet, ENB and Scottish Ballet before moving to a career in musical theatre. She is currently in Phantom of the Opera, sometimes playing the role of Meg. Since graduating she has run various courses including her Devonshire summer school, where she brings various artists to work with students. This year Lauren Cuthbertson will be teaching and former ENB dancer Jenna Lee will choreograph on the students. She has purchased over £900 worth of barres and is also looking for someone who would donate towards an award for the most promising student. If you would like to contribute to this you can either send a cheque made out to Layla Harrison via our Chairman or to the stage door of Her Majesty’s Theatre.

White Lodge Museum
The late Noreen Mummery, née Sopwith, has left a bequest to The Royal Ballet School. Anna Meadmore, Curator of White Lodge Museum and Head of Academic Dance Studies is very keen to gather as much information as possible about Noreen Sopwith, “our generous benefactor.” If any members can help with any recollections, photographs or other information, please get in touch with Anna. As reported last year, Noreen died at the age of 80 in March 2013. She became a student of Sadler’s Wells Ballet School in October 1945 aged 12 and left the school aged 16 at Easter in 1949, when she joined Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet. She left in March 1950 to join Ballet Rambert, where she danced Principal roles until 1957, when she joined The Royal Ballet as a member of the corps. Anna writes, “It would be so nice if those who knew Noreen as a dancer and personality could let us know more about her!” If you have any reminiscences, etc. could you please pass them on, either to Anna direct at White Lodge or through our Chairman. (

CHAIRMAN: David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU
Tel: 020 7515 1254 Mobile: 07855 82392
Email: or