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February/March 2015 newsletter

AT OUR FEBRUARY MEETING we were delighted to welcome Royal Ballet Principal Steven McRae. Steven provided us with a very entertaining evening, almost exactly 12 years since he won at Prix de Lausanne. He spoke about the influence of Gailene Stock in bringing him to London and supporting him at the Royal Ballet School. He then talked about all aspects of his career, including dancing new work by a variety of choreographers and his many partnerships with Company and guest ballerinas. He spoke about the opportunities Liam Scarlett had given him to dance very different roles in Sweet Violets and Hansel and Gretel. Steven also talked about fatherhood and was accompanied by his wife Lizzie Harrod and their nine week old daughter Audrey.  

Future meetings
At our meeting on Wednesday 11 March we are delighted to welcome Royal Ballet Principal Natalia Osipova as our guest. This is Natalia’s second season with The Royal Ballet and has included many debuts, as in Onegin and Manon this season. Born in Moscow, where she trained, Natalia joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 2004 and was promoted to Principal in 2010. She has performed as a guest artist around the world and was a Principal with the Mikhailovsky Ballet and ABT before joining the Royal Ballet in 2013. She has created many roles, including in Alastair Marriott’s Conectome and Wayne McGregor’s Tetractys – The Art of Fugue, and previously in works by Possokhov and Ratmansky. Last summer, she performed new works at the Coliseum in Solo for Two with Ivan Vasiliev to great critical acclaim. We can expect a fascinating evening.

Please note, this meeting is preceded by one of Bloomsbury’s free concerts at 6 p.m. – Aether Twentieth Century French Vocal Music. If you wish to attend the concert, please arrive before 6 p.m. and pay entry for the meeting at the end of the concert. Otherwise, please do not arrive before 6.55 p.m.  If you arrive early, please wait quietly in the foyer as any talking will be heard in the concert.
Provisionally, the dates for the rest of this season are Thursday 30 April, Tuesday 12 May, Wednesday 27 May, Wednesday 10 June. Please note that the first two dates are new and replace meetings originally scheduled for 15 April and 6 May which now clash with Royal Ballet Insight evenings.

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 p.m. Doors open for the meeting at 7 p.m. 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 Hikaru Kobayashi and Federico Bonelli on the birth of their daughter Juna. Congratulations also to BRB Principal Natasha Oughtred and her husband on the birth of their daughter Laurie Grace and to former BRB dancers Lee Fisher and Jenny Murphy on the birth of their son, Harrison.

Birmingham Royal Ballet welcomes two new Artists, Rosanna Ely from Elmhurst School for Dance and Lorena Agramonte from English National Ballet School.

Congratulations to BRB Artist Yaoqian Shang on being awarded the 2014 Mulan Young Achiever Award, an annual award presented to a high-flying young person of Chinese origin.

2015 is the 20th anniversary of David Bintley’s directorship of Birmingham Royal Ballet and the 25th anniversary of the Company’s move to Birmingham. We send congratulations to both David and the Company.

Philip Gammon, former principal pianist with The Royal Ballet is talking on A Pianist’s Life at the Royal Ballet, at Grim’s Dyke Hotel, Old Redding, Harrow Weald, Middlesex, HA3 6SH on Thursday 9 April at 7.30pm. Cost £10. For more information their website is

Members will be pleased to hear that two of our Royal Ballet School award winners will be performing with the Royal Ballet next season. Our 2013 award winner Chisato Katsura joins the Company as an Artist and 2014 winner Harry Churches joins as an Aud Jebsen Young Dancer. Congratulations are sent to them.

Members are reminded that Royal Ballet dancers and friends will be performing in the inaugural Gala performance in support of the Ann Maguire Arts Education Fund at Sadler’s Wells at 7 p.m. on Sunday 22 March. As well as an array of Royal Ballet dancers, special guests include Miguel Altunaga, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg.    

At the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards, the Ballet Association’s Award for Best Classical Choreography was won by Christopher Wheeldon for The Winter’s Tale for The Royal Ballet. At the Awards Ceremony our Chairman presented the award to Kevin O’Hare who received it on Christopher’s behalf as he was in New York. Natalia Osipova won the awards for Best Female Dancer and Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) and Francesca Hayward the Emerging Artist Award. Former Royal Ballet Dancer Xander Parish won the Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) for his Apollo. We send our congratulations to them all.

Members may be interested to know that Royal Ballet Soloists Lizzie Harrod and Christina Arestis talked about pregnancy, motherhood and dancing in the Huffington Post.

Visit to the Royal Ballet Upper School, Wednesday 29 April at 9.15am-2.45pm
Once again, we have arranged a visit to the Upper School in Floral Street to watch classes and rehearsals 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. As usual, this will be a joint visit with members of London Ballet Circle.

Timings for the day are provisional. We expect the day to start at 9 a.m., with the second session starting at either 10.30 or 10.45. Following a break for a short lunch, the third session will finish at approximately 2.45 p.m. If a 9.30 start is a little early for you, then you are free to join us at 11 a.m. in time for the second class. Please arrive by 8.45 a.m. (or 10.15 or 10.30 if you would prefer to miss the first class). Exact timings will be confirmed in the April newsletter and when we confirm that your application for tickets has been successful.

The cost of the visit will be £12.50 for members and £20 for guests. If you would like to attend, 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. Places will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis. All monies collected will be donated to The Royal Ballet School to provide additional funds for students. We will not be issuing tickets. Your name will be placed on a list which will be held at the door. We will contact you nearer the time to confirm timings for the day and whether you have been allocated a place. Please note, applications will not be processed until 15 March.

Annual Dinner 2015
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 p.m. A private bar is available from 7 p.m. 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.

If you haven’t already applied, please print and complete the linked application form and send it with your cheque and a stamped addressed envelope to Melanie Shipton, The Ballet Association, 7 Dutch Gardens, Kingston, Surrey, KT2 7TT. Please note, if you fail to send a stamped addressed envelope you may lose your place if we are over-subscribed.

Visit to Elmhurst School for Dance & Birmingham Royal Ballet, 23-25 June, 2015
Our annual visit to Birmingham is always very popular. If you are interested in attending, please print and complete the linked form.

Unfortunately, we have had to make some alterations to the arrangements. BRB are no longer able to offer attendance at a class on the Wednesday morning. For those who wish to come up a day earlier, they will offer attendance at the Director’s Appeal rehearsal of Sylvia at 7 p.m. on Tuesday 23 June as an alternative. This will obviously require a second night in the hotel if you wish to take up the offer. 

On the Wednesday, we will now have a late lunch together at 2.30 p.m. in the Letruc restaurant near the theatre, have an interview of a BRB dancer at 6 p.m. and watch a performance of David Bintley’s Sylvia at 7.30 p.m. For those travelling up on the Wednesday, this will enable you to check into the hotel before lunch.

Arrangements for the Thursday remain as before. 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 p.m.

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.

If you have already sent a form and wish to make changes to your requirements, please ring Brian Don on 020 8368 4419.

CHAIRMAN: David Bain
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