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November / December 2016 newsletter

WE WOULDL LIKE TO WISH EVERYONE a Happy Christmas and New Year, with many good performances to watch over the festive season.

At our October meeting we were delighted to welcome back Sir Peter Wright as our guest. Peter had last talked to us in 2014 when he spoke about the early part of his career, up to 1964. Since he last spoke Peter has written his autobiography Wrights & Wrongs which has given rise to a certain amount of controversy. During the evening, Peter took us from the 1960s through his return from Stuttgart, his work with the BBC and his various roles with the Royal Ballet companies, including the move of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet to Birmingham. Peter gave us a very entertaining evening with many anecdotes about his long and varied career, working with many of the greats of the 20th century.

At our November meeting, which followed our AGM, we very pleased to welcome former Royal Ballet First Artist Leanne Cope who is back in London after her successful appearances on Broadway and previously in Paris as Lise Dassin in Christopher Wheeldon’s An American in Paris. She opens in the musical in London in the new year. Leanne spoke of her training and time in The Royal Ballet, especially her collaboration with Royal Ballet Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett, who cast her in many of his ballets. She then spoke about the challenges of transferring to the musical stage, her experiences in Paris and Broadway and the future. Always a lively personality, Leanne gave us another entertaining evening.  

A summary report is available on our website once the report has been checked by the guest speaker/s.  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 they 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.

Future meetings
Unfortunately, we have had to cancel our meeting which was planned for Wednesday 7 December because of building work at the Church. Whilst we tried to find an alternative date or venue, this was proving difficult as we near Christmas and rather than give very short notice, we thought it fairer on our guest to cancel altogether. Consequently, we will have three meetings close together in January/February. As all three promise to be very interesting and different, we hope as many of you as possible will come to them.

On Thursday 19 January we hold our annual meeting with our Royal Ballet School Award winners. So we are very pleased to welcome the 2016 winners, second years Julia Conway from the USA, Harrison Lee from Australia and third year Feng Haoliang from China. They will escorted by the Royal Ballet School’s Character Dance teacher Amanda Maxwell who has worked with the students in their first and second years. Amanda trained at the Royal Ballet School and after a career dancing soloist and principal roles, she returned to the Upper School to teach character dance in 2003. Amanda was a founding member of Dance East Development Committee which led to the building of the Jerwood Dance House in Ipswich. Members who attended our visit to the Upper School last season will have been impressed by Amanda’s character class with second year boys. We can expect a fascinating evening. It is always a delight to hear from the students at this stage of their careers.
Our guest the next week on Wednesday 25 January will be former Royal Ballet First Artist James Wilkie who wrote thanking us for his leaving present in our last newsletter. James retired from the Company about this time last year to pursue a different path, which has included help in the mounting of the ballets of Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Like our November speaker, James was born in Bath. He joined The Royal Ballet in 2002, after having participated in the Salt Lake City cultural festival during that year’s Winter Olympics. His 13 years with the Company included many varied role including Puck, a Step-sister in Cinderella, Dormouse, Harlequin and in his final performances, a principal role in Jerome Robbin’s The Concert. As well as talking about his career, James will speak about the challenges involved in the transition from dancing. He will speak about his work over the last year, including mounting Manon in Romania. We can expect a fascinating evening. Please note that this meeting will be preceded at 6pm by a Bloomsbury Free Concert. If you wish to attend the concert, you will be very welcome, if not, please do not arrive before 6.50pm.

At our first meeting of the next month on Wednesday 1 February we welcome Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master Gary Avis as our guest. Amazingly it will be almost exactly nine years since Gary last spoke to the Association. Time flies! Gary originally joined The Royal Ballet in 1989 and was made Principal Character Artist in 2005 and Ballet Master in 2010. In 1999 he left to co-found K-Ballet in Japan and then did two years with English National Ballet before returning to The Royal Ballet in 2004. His partnership with Darcey Bussell included Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à grande vitesse, the Viva la Diva tour, Strictly Come Dancing and the Olympics Closing Ceremony in 2012. He is a Patron of the Choreographic Development Fund at Dance East, the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association and Chelsea Ballet and is on the Board of Trustees of Dance East. In September, Gary Avis and Friends gave two very successful performances in Ipswich to raise money for the Community Foundation and Dance East. Still on stage in many performances, Gary is Ballet Master for many aspects of the Company repertoire. We can expect a very entertaining evening. Being a Wednesday, this meeting will also be preceded by a Free Concert, so please do not arrive before 6.50 unless you wish to attend the concert.

Provisional dates for meetings next season are: Friday 17 February, Thursday 2 March, Wednesday 22 March, Wednesday 5 April, Thursday 27 April, Wednesday 10 May, Wednesday 17 May, Friday 26 May, Thursday 1 June, Friday 9 June Please note that the meeting for Thursday 13 April has been cancelled as it coincides with an event at the Opera House. Meetings 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, cross over Shaftesbury Avenue and walk past the opticians. Doors open at 6.45pm unless otherwise stated. Entrance is £4 for members, £3 for concessions, £8 for guests.

Congratulations to Lizzie Harrod and Steven McRae on the birth of their son Fredrick Charles on 5 November.

Members who attended the opening night of Nutcracker will have witnessed The Royal Ballet’s celebration of the 90th birthday of Sir Peter Wright at the end of the performance. The Association had celebrated this event earlier in the year at our Annual Dinner and Birmingham Royal Ballet celebrated the birthday on the actual date, 25 November.

An exhibition of the work of our former member Brenda Naylor is being held at The Strand Gallery, 32 John Adam Street, London WC2N 6BP. Brenda died in March, aged 89. All her work, from sketches to bronzes, are being sold in aid of charities supporting Dancer’s Career Development and the RNLI. 10 bronzes will be sold by silent auction, by email, telephone or in person at the gallery. They include bronzes of Tamara Rojo, Monica Zamora, Yulia Makhalina, Marion Tait, Yuan Yuan Tan, Brenda Edwards and Patricia Ruanne. Please look at for further information.

Annual General Meeting
At our short AGM on Thursday 24 November the Committee for 2016-17 season was elected:-  David Bain (Events Secretary), Liz Atkins (Membership Secretary), Melanie Shipton (Treasurer), Liz Bouttell (Reporting Secretary), Rachel Holland, Chris Scott, Chiara Gorodesky, Roger Handley, Ann Dawson and Jacqui Sporle. Our Chairman thanked Annette Fraser, who retired from the committee, for the work she has done, particularly in arranging visits to exhibitions in the Opera House and at museums. Since the AGM, Ann Maclennan has been co-opted onto the committee and will take over Annette’s role organising visits. There will be more about this in the next newsletter.

At the first committee meeting after the AGM, David Bain was re-elected as Chairman and Liz Atkins and Ann Dawson were elected to job share the role of Deputy Chairman. Our former Deputy Chairman, Chris Scott, has stood down from the role whilst remaining on the committee as he will be based in Russia for the next 10 months learning Russian.  

Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards
For a fifth year, the Association is sponsoring the National Dance Award for Best Classical Choreography. The nominees are Annabelle Lopez Ochoa for Broken Wings for English National Ballet, Jean-Christophe Maillot for Taming of the Shrew for the Bolshoi Ballet, Cathy Marston for Jane Eyre for Northern Ballet, Will Tuckett for Elizabeth for The Royal Ballet and Joanthan Watkins for 1984 for Northern Ballet.

Amongst the nominees for other awards are Alexander Campbell and Vadim Muntagirov for Best Male Dancer: Francesca Hayward, Laura Morera, Zenaida Yanowsky and former Royal Ballet Principal Tamara Rojo for Best Female Dancer; Reece Clarke and Tierney Heap for Emerging Artist Award; Francesca Hayward in Rhapsody, Tamara Rojo as Frida Kahlo in Broken Wings and Zenaida Yanowsky in Elizabeth for Outstanding Female Performance Classical; and Irek Mukhamedov as Diego Rivera in Broken Wings for Outstanding Male Performance Classical.  

Thank you to all of you who have renewed your membership already and especially to the many of you who have made generous donations towards our next support to a work by The Royal Ballet. If you haven’t already done so, please do so as soon as possible. Renewal forms were attached to the last two newsletters. Renewal forms should be sent to Liz Atkins, 3 Batchwood Drive, St Albans, Herts, AL3 5RZ. If you need another copy please contact Liz or David. So far more than two-thirds of the membership has rejoined. As is usual, most of those who have yet to rejoin receive their newsletter by email, where it is much easier to forget because you haven’t got a printed form to remind you.

Please note that this will be your last newsletter if you don’t renew. The January newsletter will only be sent to those who have renewed.  

To save on costs your committee has decided to only issue membership cards to new members. So please keep your previous card and cross out the date. If you have lost your card please indicate this on your form, enclose a stamped addressed envelope and Liz will send you a new one. If you have a friend who you think might be interested in joining the Association, please give them a copy of the form.

As most of you will be aware, the Association donated £5,000 towards the revival of the original sets and costumes, with some minor alterations, for the Royal Ballet’s production of Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody. We presented the cheque to our Patron Kevin O’Hare at our Annual Dinner in 2015. We hope that this will be the first of what will become a regular donation to the Company, possibly every two years. To enable us to do this, we ask that all members consider adding a donation to their renewal fee. Those of you who have attended the Open Rehearsals over the last three years have experienced a wonderful opportunity to observe the Company at work. Making a donation to the Association enables members to contribute in a small way towards future revivals, etc. We are very grateful to those members who have made donations over the last year.

We used to have membership application forms in a tray in the Opera House Box Office. This is not possible whilst building work is being undertaken and there is only a temporary Box Office. Therefore our only way of attracting new members is by word of mouth. Please encourage your friends and people you sit next to at the Opera House to join.

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