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April 2015 newsletter

AT OUR MARCH MEETING we were delighted to welcome Royal Ballet Principal Natalia Osipova as our guest. She provided us with a fascinating evening, talking in animated and entertaining manner. Whilst Natalia understood all the questions, she felt her English was not good enough to respond in detail and, therefore, replied in Russian. We are very grateful to our member, Olya David, who did a magnificent job interpreting Natalia’s lengthy and detailed answers. Natalia spoke about her childhood, her training in Russia and her time with the Bolshoi Ballet. She spoke warmly of her time with Alexei Ratmansky as Director and choreographer. Natalia talked of her move to the Mikhailovsky Ballet and ABT before joining the Royal Ballet in 2013. She spoke of her various partnerships around the world and at the Royal and of her performances since she arrived in London, including Swan Lake as a guest with Carlos Acosta. She also talked about the success of Solo for Two with Ivan Vasiliev at the Coliseum last summer and her plans for the future. It was a very entertaining meeting.

A summary report is available here on our website once the report has been checked by the guest speaker. If you do not have access to the internet and would like a copy of a report, please send an A5 stamped, addressed envelope to Roger Handley, 12 Pinewood, Willow Grove, Chislehurst, Kent, BR7 5BT.

Members are reminded that interviews should not be recorded or filmed and that photographs should only be taken at the end of the meeting. We welcome dancers speaking freely when they come to meetings. Sometimes they say things that do not wish to see in print and edit this out of the official reports. Therefore, please do not post your own reports of meetings on social media, other than to say you attended, enjoyed, etc., a meeting.

Future meetings
The date of our next meeting has changed. It will now be on Friday 1 May, as there is a stage call for Woolf Works on the 30 April. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes. We are delighted to announce that our very special guest for this meeting is Alessandra Ferri, who returns to the Royal Ballet, where she started her career, to perform the role of Virginia Woolf in Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works. Born in Milan, Alessandra studied at La Scala, before joining the Royal Ballet School at the age of 15. She joined The Royal Ballet in 1980 and was promoted to Principal at the age of 19 in 1983. She created roles in many ballets, including Valley of Shadows, for which she won an Olivier Award in 1982, and danced many lead roles in MacMillan ballets as well as the classics. She joined ABT in 1985 at the invitation of Mikhail Baryshnikov and later was guest principal at both ABT and La Scala, Milan, as well as performing as a guest with many companies, including working with Roland Petit. Alessandra returned to the Royal Ballet as a guest in 2003 to dance Juliet with Roberto Bolle. She retired from dancing in 2007, to become Director of Programming at the Spoleto Festival, but returned in 2013 in her own The Piano Upstairs at Spoleto and as Lea in Martha Clarke’s Chéri. We can expect a very interesting evening.

At our second meeting of the month, we are very pleased to welcome our President Robert Parker, the Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance, as our guest on Tuesday 12 May. (This meeting is advertised in Dance Europe as occurring on 30 April, but has been changed to accommodate the meeting announced above.) Robert trained at the Royal Ballet School and joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1994. He received early acclaim when he danced the Second Seminarian in Carmina Burana at the Royal Opera House in 1996. He was promoted to Principal in 1999 and won the National Dance Award for Outstanding Male Artist in 2003. He created lead roles in David Bintley’s Arthur, Beauty and the Beast, The Nutcracker Sweeties, The Orpheus Suite, The Shakespeare Suite and The Protecting Veil, Stanton Welch’s Powder, Lila York’s Sanctum and Kim Brandstrup’s Pulcinella and danced the lead in many other ballets by David Bintley, Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Ninette de Valois, Kenneth MacMillan, Peter Wright, Twyla Tharp and many others. In 2008, he took a sabbatical and moved to the USA where he successfully acquired his Commercial Pilots’ Licence. A year later he returned to BRB, during which time he started teaching and passed his RAD Professional Dancers’ Teaching Diploma. He became Artistic Director at Elmhurst in autumn 2012. Always an entertaining speaker, we can expect a fascinating evening.

On Wednesday 27 May we are delighted to welcome Royal Ballet Artist Matthew Ball as our guest. Matthew joined the Company during last season, having graduated from the Royal Ballet School in 2013 winning the Gailene Stock and Gary Norman Award for Excellence. Since joining the Company Matthew has danced Lensky in Onegin, and roles in Scènes de ballet and Age of Anxiety. He has created roles in Alastair Marriott’s Connectome and Hofesch Shechter’s Untouchables. Members always enjoy the opportunity to meet young dancers early in their career and we can expect an interesting evening. This meeting will be preceded at 6pm by a Free Concert in the Church. Please do not arrive before 6.55pm, unless you wish to attend the concert.

Provisionally, the dates for the rest of this season are Wednesday 10 June. 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. Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

Members will have been saddened to hear of the death of Mary Clarke, critic and long term editor of Dancing Times in March.

Open Rehearsal – The Royal Ballet
Clore Studio, Wednesday 20 May 12.00-13.30
We are delighted to announce that The Royal Ballet would like once again to welcome Ballet Association members to attend a rehearsal in the Clore Studio on Wednesday 20 May at 12.00 – 13.30. It is a great privilege to be invited to watch a rehearsal during the Company’s normal working day. Last season, we were privileged to watch a rehearsal of The Dream. This year, we are scheduled to watch rehearsals of Jerome Robbins’ In the Night and Afternoon of a Faun, although the content of the rehearsal could be subject to change. There are 160 places for members only. These will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to attend, please apply to our Chairman, David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for return of your ticket.

Draft Works in the Linbury
As in previous years, the Association donated £500 towards new choreography. Kevin O’Hare has written:

Thank you so much on behalf of The Royal Ballet for your generous donation to the Draft Works performance at the Linbury Studio Theatre. As you know encouraging new choreography is at the heart of what we do and the Association’s support is appreciated and valued by all of us here.

Annual Dinner Monday 20 April 2015
We still have places available for our Annual Dinner on Monday 20 April. If you wish to make a last minute application, please contact our Chairman. As we have spaces, we will not be able to refund anyone who is unable to attend unless we can find a replacement. However, if you do have to drop out, please let us know so we don’t leave an empty space on a table. Dinner is at 8pm preceded by drinks which you can purchase from 7pm at the Rubens Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road. If you wish to purchase drinks for your meal, this can be done during the drinks reception. Dress is smart casual. We aim to start speeches at 10.15-10.30pm and finish the evening around 10.45-11.00pm. During the dinner we will mark the retirement from the Company of Jeanetta Laurence, Barry Wordsworth and Pietra Mello-Pittman.

As always, we have a very exciting guest list at this year’s dinner. This includes:- our Patron Kevin O’Hare (Director of The Royal Ballet); Jeanetta Laurence (Associate Director) and her husband David Perry; our Presidents Jonathan Cope (Répétiteur), Dame Monica Mason (Former Director of The Royal Ballet), Robert Parker (Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance) and Christopher Saunders (Senior Ballet Master and Principal Character Artist; Sir Peter Wright (Director Laureate, Birmingham Royal Ballet); Barry Wordsworth (Music Director); Wayne McGregor (Resident Choreographer); Alessandra Ferri (Guest Artist and former Principal with The Royal Ballet, ABT and La Scale, Milan); Samira Saidi (Director of Dance at ENB School and former Principal with BRB); Alain Dubreuil (former Ballet Master and Principal with BRB and Principal with London Festival Ballet; Anita Young (Teacher at the Royal Ballet School and formerly soloist with The Royal Ballet); Principal Character Artists Gary Avis, Alastair Marriott and Genesia Rosato; First Soloist Alexander Campbell; Soloists Tristan Dyer, Jonathan Howells, Fumi Kaneko, Paul Kay and Beatriz Stix-Brunell; First Artists Jacqueline Clarke, Kevin Emerton, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Pietra Mello-Pittman, Michael Stojko, Lara Turk and James Wilkie; Artists Sander Blommaert, Hannah Grennell, Calvin Richardson and Leticia Stock. There may be a few others, but they haven’t confirmed in time to be included in this newsletter. If you have a preference for whose table you would like to be on, please let David Bain know by 16 April. We cannot guarantee to be able to meet everyone’s requests. We will do our best, but only if you give us at least three alternatives.

As usual, we will have photographs taken of the guests on each table during the evening. The photos will be available for members to purchase at a future meeting and some will be placed on our website. As in the past we are happy to allow members to take their own photos at the end of the meal. If you bring a camera, please refrain from taking photos until after the speeches.

Visit to the Royal Ballet Upper School
Wednesday 29 April at 9.00am-2.45pm
There are a few places left for our annual visit to the Royal Ballet Upper School in Floral Street on Wednesday 29 April to watch classes, which we hope will include our 2014 RBS Award winners 2nd Year Upper School student Kiely Groenewegen and Graduate Year students Grace Robinson and Harry Churches and former winner Chisato Katsura.

Timings for the day:
9.00 – 10.15 1st Year
10.45 – 12.30 2nd Year
1.15 – 2.45 3rd Year Pas de Deux
(Whilst there may be changes to the composition of the classes, the timings will not alter.)

If 9am is too early a start for you, feel free to arrive by 10.30 for the second class. All, who have already applied, have been notified of their ticket number. Please quote this when you arrive, when your name is ticked off. If you have forgotten it, please email or ring our Chairman to check.

The cost of the visit will be £12.50 for members and £20 for guests. If you would like one of the last few places, please send your name, address and contact details (preferably an email address) to the Chairman, David Bain, at 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU. Please enclose a cheque made payable to The Ballet Association. All monies collected will be donated to The Royal Ballet School to provide additional funds for students.

Our three 2014 Award winners sent a card at Easter:

To the Ballet Association. We are now approaching the end of our second term and would like to wish you a Happy Easter. School has been very busy with first and second years preparing and completing the appraisals and the graduates preparing for the exchange to New York in April. Thank you for all your support. Love Grace xxx, Harry, Kiely xx.

2015 Visit to Elmhurst School for Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet
24-25 June 2015
There are still a few places on our annual visit to Birmingham. If you are interested in attending please complete the form attached to the previous newsletter or phone Brian Don on 020 8368 4419.

For those who wish to come up on Tuesday 23 June, we are offered attendance at the Director’s Appeal rehearsal of Sylvia at 7.00pm. This will obviously require a second night in the hotel. On the Wednesday, we will have a late lunch together at 2.30pm in the LeTruc restaurant near the theatre, have an interview of a BRB dancer at 5.30pm and watch a performance of David Bintley’s Sylvia at 7.30pm. For those travelling up on the Wednesday, this will enable you to check into the hotel before lunch.

On Thursday, following breakfast, we will arrange transportation from the IBIS Hotel to Elmhurst School for Dance, where Association members will receive a warm welcome. Our President Robert Parker will be our host for the day. Following registration and reception, members will enjoy a day in the school watching classes and rehearsals together with the presentation of the Association’s Annual Award to a student during lunch. The day will conclude at approximately 3.30 pm.

The rates we have negotiated at the IBIS are a considerable discount on their normal rates and additional nights in the hotel can be booked for the same price as our discounted rate. However, you may be able to obtain better rates at the Travel Lodge in Upper Dean Street, where offers vary from time to time. For this apply directly on 0871 984 6468 or take advantage of special rates on the internet. Discounted rates on the railways become available 12 weeks in advance. Information at Senior railcard holders can obtain very cheap tickets, around £4-£5 each way.

Nastazia Philippou, BA Award Winner at Elmhurst School for Dance, 2011
Members will be delighted to hear that Nastazia Philippou, who won our award at Elmhurst School for Dance in 2011 and graduated in 2013 has recently danced the lead role in Johan Kobborg’s production of La Sylphide in Bucharest. Our Chairman wrote to congratulate her and received the following letter in reply.

Dear Mr Bain and members of the Ballet Association,

Thank you so much for your kind email and for all for the support over the years. It has been a long time since I last contacted you and I would like to share the experiences of the past two years. As you might already know, after graduating from Elmhurst School for Dance, I was contracted to work in the Czech Republic at the National Theatre of Brno for a season. I was introduced to a new environment, new culture and new ballets that I hadn't been familiar with before and it was exciting. What I had to gain from that company was vital. The transition from student to professional life was definitely the biggest challenge, both artistically and on a personal level. One must take responsibility; you don't have constant guidance from your teachers as you would at school, so a lot of the time you feel a little lost, feeling like the lack of attention is a consequence of bad work. However, when looking around the room you realise that every person in the company is 'on the same boat'. We are all adults now, responsible for our own bodies and mistakes. It is a job that requires a great amount of dedication, self will, and in a certain way, isolation concerning the work place. One has to be focused in order to move forward, and there are days where you have to fight to find a source of motivation. And of course there is the friendly (sometimes) competition that can either push you to becoming better or break you down into a ball of insecurity. I'll be completely honest and say that it hasn't always been easy. It has taken a great deal of growing up and facing reality but I feel that it's what has motivated me and made me into the person I am now. 

I had been doing well in the company at first, but unfortunately things hadn't worked out in Brno, since there was a change of director mid-season. The new director had a different vision for the company which didn't include certain company members, at that point I felt like my world had crumbled into pieces, but it didn't take me long to move forward to greater things. I decided to audition to places that provoked my interest further. It was a very spontaneous move after hearing that Johan Kobborg was to become the new director of the National Ballet of Bucharest I thought I would send in my application and see what happens. I went in with high spirits, but no high expectations, considering it was my first audition after finding out my contract hadn't been renewed. Perhaps not having my contract renewed was a blessing in disguise and now I couldn't be happier! I feel that my mind and body are fulfilled here. I face every opportunity with a level head, every challenge with integrity and I feel that I am surrounded by the right people. The working environment is very supportive.

Just the other week, as you have seen, I had my first debut in Johan Kobborg's La Sylphide. It was an experience to treasure for all my life! The moment the curtains opened my heart filled with warmth and an an overwhelming feeling I will never forget. Of course it was a privilege having the role taught first hand by Johan Kobborg. 

Ever since I started dancing with the company, I feel that everyday there is something to strive for, there is a reason to be here. Our current repertoire so far for this season included ballets like Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, La Sylphide and a premiere of Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee, were we had the opportunity to welcome the Ballet Master of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Michael O'Hare, to help stage the ballet! At the moment we are rehearsing Don Quixote where I will be dancing as one of the two flower girls this week, and next month the company is looking forward to a new premiere of a triple bill of works by Yuri Possokhov, Jiri Kylian and Frederick Ashton. The season will end with a few performances of La Bayadere and Giselle, a new production by Ethan Steifel and Johan Kobborg, but these have not been cast yet. There is a vast variety of repertoire which keeps us all 'on our toes' both metaphorically and literally one could say! I am very grateful for being a part of ONB. It is a growing company and already it has come a long way since the beginning of the season in September. I look forward to what the future holds! 

On this email are attached a few pictures taken from La Sylphide. It was wonderful hearing from you. I thank you again for all your support and I wish you all the best with the Association! 

My kindest regards, Nastazia

CHAIRMAN: David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU
Tel: 020 7515 1254. Mobile: 07855 823 921.
Email: or