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January 2015 newsletter

SINCE OUR LAST NEWSLETTER we have had two excellent meetings. In December, Royal Ballet Principal Roberta Marquez spoke about her career at a time when she was unable to dance in Don Quixote because she had torn her left calf muscle. She spoke about her training in Rio de Janeiro, including the influence of Tatiana Lescova, who had danced with the Ballet Russes, and Natalia Makarova, her career in Brazil and how she came to first guest and then join The Royal Ballet. She also spoke about her collaboration with Tetsuya Kumakawa, dancing with him in his Romeo and Juliet and, most recently, his new production of Carmen. During an entertaining evening, Roberta recalled how she taught, at gunpoint, a car-jacker to drive her car, amongst many other anecdotes. She also talked of tours to Rio de Janeiro and Colombia that she has participated in during the last two summers. The first was an education project with David Pickering and the latter galas organised by Fernando Montaño. In both, opportunities were provided for local children to watch performances.

At our first meeting of 2015 we welcomed the Royal Ballet School’s new Artistic Director Christopher Powney with our 2014 Association Award winners Kiely Groenewegen now in her second year, Grace Robinson and Harry Churches, both in the graduate year. Just back from their Christmas holidays, although Harry had been performing in Alice and Don Quixote, they provided us with a lively and interesting evening talking about their training and aspects of Chris’s very varied career. It is always a pleasure to welcome our award winners and we look forward to seeing them in class and rehearsals on our annual visit in April. It was fascinating to hear Chris speak of the influence of Christopher Gable and Christopher Bruce on his career at Northern Ballet, English National Ballet and Rambert Dance Company and of his transition into teaching both in England and the Netherlands. The students spoke of the changes which were apparent since Chris took over this season, including working with a greater range of teachers than previously, with some from White Lodge teaching some of the time at the Upper School. We look forward to inviting Chris to come again to a meeting in the future to discuss more fully his career and plans for the School.

Meeting reports recently posted online included those on meetings with Jeanetta Laurence, Christopher Wheeldon, Annette Buvoli and Reece Clarke.

Future meetings
At our meeting on Friday 6 February we are delighted to welcome Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae as our guest a couple of months after he has become a father (see later). It is over four years since Steven last talked to the Association, in which time much has happened. In recent seasons he has partnered a variety of ballerinas, including Iana Salenko, Evgenia Obraztsova and Natalia Osipova, as well as Roberta Marquez. He has also created roles in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Sweet Violets, Hansel and Gretel, A Winter’s Tale, Three Songs-Two Voices, Children of Adam, Chroma, Acis and Galatea, 24 Preludes, The Human Seasons, Tetractys – The Art of Fugue, The Age of Anxiety and Connectome, as well as dancing in most of the Company’s repertoire. He joined the Royal Ballet in 2004 and was promoted to Principal in 2009. Last year he was named as Young Australian Achiever 2014. We can expect an interesting evening.

Provisionally, the dates for the rest of next season are Wednesday 11 March, Wednesday 15 April, Wednesday 6 May, Wednesday 27 May, Wednesday 10 June. Please note that these 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.

We have sent our congratulations to Steven McRae and Lizzie Harrod on the birth of their daughter Audrey Bluebell on 6 December and to Associate Director Jeanetta Laurence on receiving an OBE in the New Year’s Honours.

Members will have been saddened to hear the news of the death of former Royal Ballet Principal Derek Rencher on 20 December at the age of 82. Also during December, after a short illness, Laura Morera’s father died. We have sent a letter of condolence to Laura.

Members may have heard former Principal Leanne Benjamin when she was Radio 3’s guest on Essential Classics each day in the week beginning 12 January.

As you will have seen over Christmas and New Year there have been a number of cast changes. We send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to those who are injured. As a consequence, Itziar Mendizabal replaces Lauren Cuthbertson as Tatiana in Onegin.

Christopher Wheeldon’s production of An American in Paris opened to critical acclaim in Paris in December, with First Soloist Leanne Cope playing Lise Dassin there and when it transfers to Broadway. We congratulate both Leanne and Chris on the success of the production. Fellow Royal Ballet choreographer Liam Scarlett has a new full length production of Carmen for Norwegian Ballet opening in March in Oslo.

We send our congratulations to American Ballet Theatre on their 75th anniversary in January.

Members will be pleased to hear that the Association is continuing to sponsor the Royal Ballet’s Draft Works programme in the Linbury Theatre in February.

Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards
The Ballet Association Committee, on your behalf, has agreed to continue our sponsorship of the Best Classical Choreography Award for another three years. The nominees for this award which our Chairman will present at the ceremony on 26 January are:

David Dawson for The Human Seasons for The Royal Ballet
Arthur Pita for A Dream Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Ballet Black
Liam Scarlett for No Man’s Land for English National Ballet
Christopher Wheeldon for The Winter’s Tale for The Royal Ballet.

Members and former members of the Royal Ballet Companies who are nominated for other awards are:

Best Male Dancer: Vadim Muntagirov, Steven Mcrae, Edward Watson
Best Female Dancer: Alina Cojocaru, Marianela Nuñez, Natalia Osipova
Emerging Artist: Francesca Hayward, Marcelino Sambé
Outstanding Female Performance: Alina Cojocaru, Francesca Hayward, Natalia Osipova
Outstanding Male performance: Vadim Muntagirov, Xander Parish

We wish them all the best of luck in their respective categories.

This newsletter is not being sent to those who failed to renew their membership. If you know anyone who forgot to renew, please ask them to contact our membership secretary Liz Atkins at

Royal Ballet School BA Award winners 2014
We have received the following reports on our Award Winners:

“As we have reached the end of the first term of the 2014-15 academic year. I am delighted to provide you with a short report on Kiely Groenewegen, Grace Robinson and Harry Churches.

Report from Kiely Groenewegen’s ballet teacher:
Kiely is a dedicated student with a good work ethic. She has worked extremely hard this term and made good progress in all her classes. Kiely learns quickly, she has a good technique and works hard to apply her corrections. As she continues next term I would like to see her continue to work on her attack and dynamics whilst also placing her attention on finding more elegance and expression in her movements. Kiely danced a lovely solo ‘Queen of the Wilis’ from Giselle by Marius Petipa in the Lynn Seymour Award in December. Kiely is a total pleasure to teach and I look forward to seeing her progress through the School. Daria Klimentová

Report from Grace Robinson’s ballet teacher:
Grace is a lovely girl, she has an excellent work ethic and takes corrections on board with speed. Grace only spent the first half of the term at the School as she was chosen to work with Birmingham Royal Ballet in their Christmas production of Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. She very much enjoyed the experience and this opportunity gave her a taste of life as a professional dancer which will prepare her for the forthcoming auditions. Grace returned home from Birmingham to spend the Christmas holidays with her family and also to audition with Australian Ballet companies. Her experience with Birmingham Royal Ballet will have given her more confidence and technical assurance and I have no doubt she will secure a good contract. I look forward to seeing her back at the School in the New Year. Nicola Tranah
Report from Harry Churches’ ballet teacher:
Harry has worked very hard this term. He is conscientious and takes his work seriously. He has an effortless technique and learns quickly. Harry jumps with great assurance and ease but it could be pushed further. I am pleased he was chosen to work with The Royal Ballet which I am sure will have helped to increase his confidence. I look forward to seeing him progress further next term. Jay Jolley

It has been a good start to the year for all the students, Kiely and Grace have returned to Australia to spend Christmas with their families and Harry will be working with The Royal Ballet over the Christmas holidays in their productions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Don Quixote.

I would like to thank you for your generous support of their training and wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year. Kind regards,

Ana Carlsen, Development and Publicity Coordinator”

Annual Dinner 2015 (members only)
Our Annual Dinner will be on Monday 20th April. Once again, it will take place at the Rubens Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road. Dinner is at 8.00pm. A private bar is available from 7.00pm. The cost this year will be £40, a slight increase on the last couple of years. We expect a heavy demand for tickets, so early application is advised. There will be about 145 places for members and 35 for an exciting array of dancers of all ranks, Company management, etc. We will not be announcing the guest list until the beginning of April. You will then have an opportunity to let us know which dancers you would like to sit near.

2014 Visit to Elmhurst and BRB – 24-55 June 2015 (members only)
Our annual visit to Birmingham is always very popular. On the first day we will attend BRB class, have lunch together in a different venue to previously, have an interview of a BRB dancer and watch a performance of David Bintley’s Sylvia.

On the 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.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU
Tel: 020 7515 1254 Mobile: 07855 823921
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