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May/June 2014 newsletter

AT OUR SECOND MEETING iin April, we were delighted to welcome First Artist Francesca Hayward as our guest. She gave a lively account of her training and her time at the Royal Ballet School and in the Company. She paid tribute to her grandparents, who had brought her up, and who were at the meeting to hear her talk. She spoke of the competitions in which she had participated and her many roles, including Clara and in Rhapsody. The meeting was particularly well timed as it recently had been announced that she would be dancing Manon and Alice next season. She provided members with a very entertaining evening.
Future meetings
On Wednesday 28 May we welcome Soloist James Hay. Born in Berkshire, he trained at the Linda Butler School of Dance and The Royal Ballet School. He received the Young British Dancer of the Year Award in 2006, the Lynn Seymour Award for expressive dance and was a Prix de Lausanne prizewinner in 2007. He joined the Company in 2008, was promoted to First Artist in 2011 and Soloist in 2012. His repertory includes the Fool in Prince of the Pagodas, Jester in Cinderella, Beggar Chief in Manon, Benvolio and Lead Mandolin in Romeo and Juliet. He has created roles in ballets by Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon, including Hansel in Hansel and Grettel and Aeternum and also danced at the Erik Bruhn competition in Canada with our April guest Francesca Hayward. We can expect another fascinating evening. This meeting is preceded by a free concert at 6.00pm. If you do not wish to attend the concert, please do not arrive until after 6.55pm.
At our last meeting of this season on Thursday 19 June we are delighted to welcome Education Administrator and Teacher for The Royal Ballet and former Soloist David Pickering. David retired from dancing earlier this season. Born in Barnsley, he trained at the Royal Ballet School before joining the Company in 1990. He was promoted to First Artist in 1994 and Soloist in 1999. He became Education Administrator during the 2008/9 season, whilst continuing to dance. His repertoire has included Von Rothbart, Benno, Paris, Tybalt, Rakitin, High Brahmin and Mouse King amongst many others. As well as involvement with Schools’ Matinées and Insight Evenings, he works with children both here and abroad. The Company will have just left for this summer’s tour when he speaks to us. He will be joining them in China to organise classes for children there. We can expect a fascinating evening.
Provisionally, the first dates for next season are Thursday 28 August, Thursday 11 September, Thursday 25 September, Thursday 2 October, 20 or 21 November, Wednesday 17 December. 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.
Open Rehearsal – The Royal Ballet, Clore Studio, 19 May
Members were privileged to attend this open rehearsal of The Dream taken by Guest Principal Ballet Master Christopher Carr, with Sir Anthony Dowell, Lesley Collier, Ballet Mistress Samantha Raine and Music Director Barry Wordsworth. This was their first full studio call for the ballet and we are very grateful to all concerned for allowing us to watch them at this crucial stage of their rehearsals. We saw Roberta Marquez and Steven McRae as Titania and Oberon, Bennet Gartside as Bottom, Paul Kay as Puck and Laura McCulloch, Nathalie Harrison, Ryoichi Hirano and Kenta Kura as the lovers, along with a full corps of fairies and rustics. This was a truly special end to this season.
Members will have been very saddened to hear the news of the death of Gailene Stock, Director of The Royal Ballet School, from cancer on Tuesday 29 April after a long illness. Gailene was an outstanding Director of the School and a good friend of the Association. There are many dancers within the Royal Ballet Companies and across the world of dance, who excelled because of the support she gave them. She will be missed greatly. We have sent a message of condolence to Gary Norman and his family from the Association. There will be a Service of Thanksgiving on Friday 13 June at Midday at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. If you wish to attend, please register at No flowers please. If you wish to donate, please do so to The Royal Ballet School or to Cancer Research UK. Donations can be made online through the Royal Ballet School website.
On Monday 28 April, we were shocked to hear of the murder of Ann Maguire, mother of Royal Ballet Soloist Emma Maguire, at her school in Leeds. Our thoughts are with Emma and her family at this very sad time. They have set up the Ann Maguire Educational Fund to provide bursaries for students in the arts, dance and language. If you wish to donate, you may do so at and look for Leeds Community Ann Maguire Educational Fund.
You may have heard that First Artist Sabina Westcombe is leaving the Royal Ballet in order to travel. News of her wedding was in the latest Opera House Magazine. We will be sending her a bouquet at a performance before the end of the season and good wishes for her future.
Since printing this newsletter for those members who receive it by post, Artist Claudia Dean has announced that she will be leaving the Royal Ballet at the end of this season to return to Australia. Claudia is a former Ballet Association award winner at the Royal Ballet School and has had an excellent season dancing the lead in Rite of Spring and Myrthe. We wish her well in whatever career she chooses to follow in Australia. She and Sabina will be missed.
Visit to The Royal Ballet School
Our annual joint visit with London Ballet Circle to The Royal Ballet School went ahead on 30 April, despite the sad news of Gailene the day before. We are enormously grateful to all at the school for hosting us at this very difficult time for them. Over 100 members attended. There was a tube strike that day and around 25 members were unable to get there. They missed an excellent day. We watched our President Jay Jolley teach third year boys, then Royal Ballet First Soloist Itziar Mendizabal teaching second year girls. Itziar is undertaking the teachers’ course at the School. After lunch, David Peden taught a second year pas de deux class. Our award winner Chisato Katsura was in both the second year classes. Overall, we were able to donate over £1700 to the School from ticket sales for the day.
Annual Dinner Tuesday 6 May 2014
Once again we had a very successful Annual Dinner at the Rubens Hotel. As usual, we had a very exciting guest list, despite a few last minute changes: Kevin O’Hare, Jeanetta Laurence, Dame Monica Mason, Robert Parker, David Pickering, Lauren Cuthbertson, Natalia Osipova, Roberta Marquez, Arionel Vargas, Melissa Hamilton, Bennet Gartside, Itziar Mendizabal, Miguel Altunaga, Christina Arestis, Olicia Cowley, Kristen McNally, Beatriz Stix-Brunell, Tom Whitehead, Pietra Mello-Pittman, Luca Acri, Matthew Ball, Camille Bracher, Annette Buvoli, Reece Clarke, Teo Dubreuil, David Donnelly, Isabella Gasparini, Solomon Golding, Gina Storm-Jensen, Henry St Clair. We had photographs taken of the guests on each table during the evening by our authorised photographer Janet Radenkovic. The photos will be available for members to purchase at our May and June meetings and some will be placed on our website.
CHAIRMAN: David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU
Tel: 020 7515 1254 Mobile: 07855 823921
Email: or

RESULTS OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE sent to Members of the Ballet Association in Autumn 2013

Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete the questionnaire that was sent out. There were 124 replies. Responses have been expressed as % for ease of understanding. The committee has discussed the results of the questionnaire.
Please note that the committee is always keen to receive suggestions from members, either at meetings, or via email to the Chairman, for anything that you think would improve the running or their experience of the Association. This includes any requests for speakers for meetings.
1. The aims of the Association are to give active support to the Royal Ballet Companies and to promote interest in all aspects of their work. The order of priority that was given to the following actions of the Association was:

1st - Awards to students at the Royal Ballet School (three Awards annually to Upper School overseas students of £500 each);
2nd - Sponsorship of Draft Works (£500 annual contribution towards costs);
3rd - Award to students at Elmhurst (one Award annually to an overseas student of £500);
4th - Sponsorship of the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Classical Choreography (£500 annual commitment for three years);
5th - Leaving presents to members of the The Royal Ballet;
6th - Other financial contributions to the Companies;
7th - Cards sent to members of the company to celebrate engagements, weddings, promotions etc.

Note: Although they are not considered important by the membership, please note that cards sent to Company members are a very good way to continue the personal relationship that the Association tries to engender with the Company. This is felt to be important given that Company members kindly give their own time to the Association in attending meetings and the annual dinner.
2. The votes for the most important things about the Association to members are:

43% - Meetings
15% - Support given to individual members of the Company
14% - Annual dinner
11% - Support given to the Company
10% - Support given to the School
 7% - Outings

3. Cost of membership: 66% thought it reasonable while 34% thought it cheap. Nobody thought it expensive.
Note: It was decided at the AGM to raise the cost of membership for concessions from £7 to £10 from 2014-15 season. The cost for full members remains unchanged at £15 as this was raised before when the cost of concessionary membership remained unchanged.
4. Entry fee for meetings: 75% thought it reasonable while 25% thought it cheap. Nobody thought it expensive.
5. Awards to the Schools: 46% thought more awards should be given to the School and 24% thought that there should be the same number of awards but that they should be of greater value, while 30% thought that no more money should be given. Thus there is a bias of 70% for and 30% against giving more money to the Schools.
Note. The Committee has decided to increase the awards to Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst students to £600 each.
6. If we were to give further contributions to the Company, the main suggestions, in order of popularity, were for:

1st - New choreography including more support for Draft Works;
2nd - Supporting students and young dancers;
3rd - Shoes and costumes;
4th - Important revivals, including protecting Ashton’s works.

7. Meetings:
Frequency: 93% thought it about right, 4% thought meetings were held too often, and 3% not often enough.
Day held: 92% thought meetings are normally held on the right day while 8% had a bias against Wednesdays.
Time held: 85% thought that meetings were held at the right time while 13% thought they should be earlier and 2% thought they should be in the daytime.
Suggestions: More time for questions, a brief introduction to the guest, types of guest, variety of interviewers.
Note: Meetings need to be held after the end of the working day for members of the Company. We try to avoid Mondays and Tuesdays as LBC has priority for these days and to avoid RB/BRB London performance dates, as well as key nights of other companies performing in London. This combined with the availability of the venue and the dancers sometimes leaves little choice in dates. The raffle had been a fund-raising exercise in the previous venue but as meetings are now held in a church, raffle tickets cannot be sold as this would be considered gambling. We have decided to stop the raffle, unless we have quality prizes available. Though the sound system is clear for most people, we are aware that some members find it hard to hear and suggest that they try to sit under the speakers. We will continue to try to do what we can to improve the sound via the microphones or the clarity of those speaking. It is normally not possible to show films or pictures of the dancers, though when we can we do (for example Andrei Uspenski showed his photographs and Pietra Mello-Pitman showed a film she had made.) Meetings re-start in August as this is when the company returns to work and as the dancers have no performances they therefore have more evenings free.
8. Suggestions for broadening membership included placing flyers in theatres other than the Opera House (where they are currently displayed), for members themselves to mention to their neighbours at Opera House performances, for members to distribute flyers to dance centres and theatres in their local area, to advertise in publications other than Dancing Times/Dance Europe, have a more detailed article in Dancing Times, advertise in the RAD magazine, advertise to students doing dance courses, start an Instagram account.

Note: The Association has a Twitter account and a Facebook page which members of the committee keep updated. Leaflets are placed in the Opera House lobby in the position that the Opera House allows us. Meetings are detailed in Dancing Times and Dance Europe when our guests are confirmed by the publication deadline. There is a not insubstantial cost to advertising in many publications which the Association could not afford.
9. Other comments included suggestions for outings and other events; requests for information on RB alumni and students who we supported while at school; a request for clarity on which are the committee members (initially please see the minutes of the AGM or the website); a question on how members can get involved (contact the Chairman); a question on how students are chosen for our Awards (by the Director of the School); a request for a better introduction for new members; a request for existing members to be sociable at meetings to those that they don’t know; to widen our reach to cover other ballet companies (that is the purview of the London Ballet Circle while the Association limits itself to supporting the Royal Ballet Companies and feeder schools).

CHAIRMAN: David Bain
Email: or