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May/June 2015 newsletter

SINCE OUR APRIL NEWSLETTER the Association has been very busy. We have had three meetings, our Annual Dinner, our annual visit to the Royal Ballet School and attended two events as guests of the Royal Ballet.

At our first meeting in May, we were delighted to welcome Guest Artist Alessandra Ferri. She had last spoken to the Association in 1982, early in her career. We had an excellent meeting, where she spoke about her training, her early years with the Royal Ballet and her careers at ABT, La Scala, Milan, as a guest around the world and as Director of Programming at Spoleto. It was fascinating to hear her talk about working with Kenneth MacMillan, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jerome Robbins, Roland Petit, Julio Bocca, Roberto Bolle and many others. She gave us some insights into working with Wayne McGregor on Woolf Works, for which she has since received critical acclaim, and of her performances in Martha Clarke’s Chéri, which comes to the Linbury in the Autumn. She also spoke of her daughters and balancing her career with her family life. It was a very special evening.

At our second meeting of the month, we welcomed Robert Parker, the Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance. Always a popular guest, Robert had last spoken to us in 2007, just before he took a sabbatical to move to America and train as a Commercial Airline Pilot. Robert spoke about the challenges of taking the directorship of the School and the changes that had taken place since his arrival, which culminate in the 10th Anniversary Celebrations this summer and the shows at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in July. He then spoke about gaining his commercial pilot’s licence and why he returned to BRB after only one year, before speaking more generally about his training and career. He emphasised the differences in training, between what he experienced and what students experience now. He then spoke about some of the highlights of his career, with particular reference to roles in David Bintley’s ballets, including Cyrano, which he had created at BRB and reprised in the first year he returned. Robert hopes that all Association members will come and see the Elmhurst performances this summer and more details are included later in the newsletter.

At our third meeting of the month we welcomed 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. He spoke about his training, competitions and his injury towards the end of his time at the School before joining the Company. Since joining the Royal Ballet, Matthew has danced Lensky in Onegin and is cast as Romeo in the Autumn. He spoke at length about working on new work, including Alastair Marriott’s Connectome, Christopher Wheeldon’s Winter’s Tale, Hofesch Shechter’s Untouchables and Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works, giving us an insight into the ways different choreographers work. We had a very interesting meeting.

A summary report is available 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.

If you wear a hearing aid, and sometimes find it difficult to hear at our meetings, you should switch your hearing aid to ‘L’ or ‘T’ or ‘LOOP’. You will then get a much clearer sound as the signal then comes direct from the microphone to your hearing aid. If you do not know how to switch the aid over, and the instructions are unclear, please consult your supplier who will demonstrate how it works. Remember to switch your aid back to normal when you leave the hall.

Future meetings
As the Royal Ballet go on tour, on Wednesday 10 June we are very pleased to welcome Jonathan Gray, the Editor of Dancing Times, as our guest. Born in Wales, he studied at The Royal Ballet School, Leicester Polytechnic, and Wimbledon School of Art, where he graduated with a BA Hons in Theatre Design. For 16 years he was a member of the curatorial department of the Theatre Museum, London, assisting on a number of dance-related exhibitions, and helping with the recreation of original designs for a number of The Royal Ballet’s productions including Danses Concertantes, Daphnis and Chloë, and The Sleeping Beauty. Jonathan has also contributed to the Financial Times and The Guardian and is co-author of the book Unleashing Britain: Theatre gets real 1955-64, published in 2005. After many years writing reviews, Jonathan took over as Editor of Dancing Times from Mary Clarke, who died earlier this year. We can expect a very interesting evening hearing about his ballet related career and the editing of a Dance magazine.

There will be no meeting in July. Provisionally, the dates for next season are Thursday 13 August, Wednesday 26 August, Wednesday 9 September, Thursday 15 October, Friday 30 October, Tuesday 10 November, Thursday 26 November, Thursday 3 December, Wednesday 27 January, Thursday 4 February, Thursday 18 February, Wednesday 9 March, Thursday 24 March, Thursday 7 April, Friday 22 April, Thursday 5 May, Thursday 19 May, Wednesday 8 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.

At our Annual Dinner, we were able to pay tribute to Associate Director Jeanetta Laurence, Music Director Barry Wordsworth and First Artist Pietra Mello-Pittman who, as we have previously announced, are leaving or, in Pietra’s case, have left the Royal Ballet this year. Jeanetta has used her gift from the Association to buy some gold earrings, which she wore to the dinner. Pietra has used hers to frame the gift she was given by her fellow dancers. We gave Barry a bottle of vintage port. All three expressed their appreciation of the Association in their speeches at the dinner. We were delighted to hear that Barry will return as a guest conductor with the Company next season.

Since the dinner, we have heard that First Artists Elsa Godard, Michael Stojko and Andrej Uspenski will be leaving the Company at the end of the season and that First Soloist Melissa Hamilton will be taking a leave of absence for 2015-16 to join Semperoper Ballett, Dresden as a Principal. We have sent flowers and a card to Elsa and Melissa and more substantial presents to Michael and Andrej, as they have been with the Company for more than 10 years. We have received a brief text thanking us from Andrej. Michael wrote a longer message:

I just wanted to say thank you for your generous gift, it was unexpected and so lovely of you and the Association. I am currently studying for a BA honours degree in English literature which requires a huge amount of online work. Laptops are great but not always practical when you are on the go, so I am going to put your gift towards a tablet which would be most beneficial to my continued studies. Once again thank you so much for your gift, yours sincerely Michael.

At the start of this season, Kenta Kura left the Company to take up a post teaching at the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge. We have just received a message from Kenta:

I’m sorry for not contacting you for a long time. I have used the cheque from the Ballet Association to buy three pairs of my teaching shoes. I am enjoying my new job and having great challenge at White Lodge every day. Thank you so much again for your great gift. Could you please send my love to other members of the Ballet Association. Lots of love Kenta Kura xx.

If you would like to make a donation towards any of the presents given to dancers please do so at a meeting or send a cheque payable to the Ballet Association to our Chairman.

We send congratulations to Edward Watson, Christopher Wheeldon and Joby Talbot for winning Best Male Dancer, Choreographer and Composer respectively at the Benois de Danse 2015 Awards for their parts in The Winter’s Tale.

Ballet Association and Rhapsody
As members are aware, annually we give money to the Royal Ballet for Draft Works and to the Director’s Appeal for Birmingham Royal Ballet to encourage new choreography. Following discussions between our Chairman and Kevin O’Hare, our Committee has agreed to donate £5,000 towards the revival of the original sets and costumes, with some minor alterations, for Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody. We were able to present the cheque to Kevin at the Annual Dinner and hope that this will be the first of what become regular sponsorships by the Association. When membership renewals are collected in the Autumn we will be asking members to add on donations to help us support such sponsorships.

Open Rehearsal – The Royal Ballet
On Wednesday 20 May, about 130 members were privileged to watch rehearsals of Jerome Robbins’ In the Night and Afternoon of a Faun. Both ballets were rehearsed by John-Pierre Frohlich, from the Robbins Rights Trust, with Ballet Master Christopher Saunders assisting on In the Night. We watched Sarah Lamb and Federico Bonelli rehearsing Afternoon of a Faun and Emma Maguire, Alexander Campbell, Zenaida Yanowsky, Nehemiah Kish, Marianela Nunez and Thiago Soares in In the Night. We are extremely grateful to Kevin O’Hare for inviting us once again to share a studio rehearsal and to all involved for giving us a fascinating insight into these ballets.

Draft Works – National
On Tuesday 19 May 60 members attended the launch of Draft Works, National in the Linbury Studio Theatre. As we only had a week’s notice of this event, the invitation was only given to those who attended the Robert Parker meeting or receive their newsletter by e-mail. Unfortunately it was not possible to notify others who receive their newsletter by post. During the evening we watched eight works by young choreographers from The Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, Rambert, Scottish Ballet and Northern Ballet, followed by a reception, where we able to talk with the choreographers and some of the dancers. Again, we are very grateful to all involved for the invitation to this event.

Annual Dinner Monday 20 April 2015
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 caused through illness or injury:- Kevin O’Hare, Jeanetta Laurence and her husband David Perry, Jonathan Cope, Dame Monica Mason, Robert Parker, Christopher Saunders, Sir Peter Wright, Barry Wordsworth, Samira Saidi, Alain Dubreuil, Anita Young, Carlos Acosta, Gary Avis, Alastair Marriott, Genesia Rosato, Tristan Dyer, Jonathan Howells, Fumi Kaneko, Beatriz Stix-Brunell; Jacqueline Clarke, Kevin Emerton, Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Pietra Mello-Pittman, Michael Stojko, Lara Turk, James Wilkie, Sander Blommaert, Hannah Grennell, Calvin Richardson and Leticia Stock.

We had photographs taken of the guests on each table during the evening by our authorised photographer John Pirie. The photos will be available for members to purchase at our May and June meetings and some will be placed on our website.

Visit to the Royal Ballet Upper School, Wednesday 29 April
Around 160 members of the Ballet Association and London Ballet Circle attended our joint annual visit to the Royal Ballet Upper School in Floral Street, where we were able to watch classes, which included 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. In the morning we were privileged to watch Paul Lewis teach first year boys and Daria Klimentova teach second year girls.

In the afternoon, we were hugely entertained by a third year pas de deux class taught the White Swan pas de deux by our Presidents Jonathan Cope and Jay Jolley, with 3rd Year teacher Nicola Tranah. Those present will treasure the memory of Jonny’s interpretation of Odette. We are very grateful to Director Christopher Powney and all the teachers and students for making this a most entertaining day. We were able to present the School with a cheque for £1,897.

Elmhurst School for Dance Summer Shows
As part of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations at the School, Elmhurst is delighted to present its summer shows at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Thursday 2nd July, Friday 3rd July and Saturday 4th July. Showcasing the vast talents of their students of all ages, the performance embraces everything from Flamenco to Jazz and Ballet; including the exceptional Act III of Sir Peter Wright’s celebrated production of Coppélia. Professionally staged by the Birmingham Royal Ballet production team in partnership with the Rep; the programme is an exciting amalgamation of tradition and innovation mirroring the message of the School’s 10th Anniversary; reflecting the past, celebrating the present and looking forward to the future. Tickets range from £12.50 - £25 with concessions available on all price bands. To purchase, please call the REP box office on 0121 236 4455 or visit

Genée International Ballet Competition
The Genée, one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, is returning home to London in September. Over 50 talented young ballet dancers are expected to compete for the coveted gold medal, in front of a panel of eminent industry professionals. Our judges for 2015 include Dame Monica Mason (former Director, Royal Ballet), David Nixon (Artistic Director, Northern Ballet), David Bintley (Artistic Director, Birmingham Royal Ballet) and Jeanetta Laurence (Associate Director, Royal Ballet).

The dancers will be put through their paces at the Semi-finals on 16 and 17 September at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, competing for a place in the Final on 19 September at Sadler’s Wells. Tickets are now available to buy at

CHAIRMAN: David Bain, 23 Capstan Square, Stewart Street, London E14 3EU
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