Ballet Association Annual Dinners
Dame Monica Mason, Jonathan Cope and Christopher Saunders at the dinner in 2009
The Ballet Association's annual dinner is a long-standing event which provides an informal occasion for members to meet and mingle and enjoy the company of invited guests from the Royal Ballet companies.
Visit to BRB and Elmhurst, June 2014
Once again, the Association had a very successful visit to Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst School for Dance with around 50 members attending. Wolfgang Stollwitzer gave a very energetic class with BRB men, who continued to impress us well after class was scheduled to finish. Our President Marion Tait came in to welcome us, but had to rush off to teach before the men finished. We then had a very long lunch. Before the evening performance, our Chairman interviewed Artist Alys Shee, who delighted members. A protégée of Evelyn Hart from Canada, she entertained members with her enthusiasm and many amusing stories. We look forward to following her career in the Company. After the talk we watched a performance of their Ashton programme, Darkness and Light, with Dante Sonata, Les Rendezvous and Façade.
On the second day, our President Robert Parker and the staff of Elmhurst provided us with another fascinating day watching class and rehearsals. As always, we were well looked after and had an amazing spread for lunch. Before lunch our Chairman presented our Annual Award to Mami Hagihara, a student in Year 6.2 from Japan, whom Robert described as “a delightful performer, a very good technician and an incredibly hard worker.” We had a good choice of activities to observe from Year 8 girls through to the graduate year and members showed their appreciation by donating £950 to the collection held during lunch. Robert writes, “Your continued support for Elmhurst School for Dance and our provision for young classical dancers is most appreciated.” Our thanks go to committee member Brian Don who organises these annual visits and to the School and Company for accommodating us.
A few weeks after our visit, students gave very successful school performances, including a Gala Performance where former Elmhurst students, Royal Ballet dancers Melissa Hamilton and Nicol Edmonds danced the pas de deux from Two Pigeons to great acclaim.
Visit to BRB and Elmhurst, June 2013
Over forty members attended an excellent couple of days in Birmingham on our annual visit. On the Wednesday morning, we watched Wolfgang Stollwitzer teach men’s class, at the end of which our President Marion Tait welcomed us. We presented Marion with a cheque for BRB. Members then had lunch together in a local restaurant. Before the evening performance of David Bintley’s production of Giselle, with Jenna Roberts and Iain Mackay, we joined BRB Friends for an interview of Principal Ambra Vallo. Our visits to BRB have been organised by their Friends’ Coordinator Sheila Hitchman. Sheila leaves at the end of this season after 22 years. We presented her with flowers after Ambra’s talk.
David Bintley wrote:
Dear David, I’m writing to thank the Ballet Association for the very generous donation of £400 to Birmingham Royal Ballet following their visit to see the Company, attend our friends talk given by departing Principal Ambra Vallo, and spend some time in our associated School, Elmhurst. Please convey my thanks to all concerned, especially Brian Don, who I understand was the Group Organiser. I do hope that the Ballet Association will continue its interest in Birmingham Royal Ballet and Elmhurst and that we may enjoy the pleasure of your company before too long. Best wishes David Bintley.
The next day we were welcomed at Elmhurst by our President, Artistic Director Robert Parker and School Principal Jessica Ward. During the day we had the opportunity to watch a mixed class with the graduate year, taken by former Royal Ballet Principal Errol Pickford as well as girls’ classes with years 10 and 6.2, and a rehearsal of a new work for the forthcoming school performances. Over an excellent lunch, we presented the 2013 Ballet Association Award to Riho Majima. Robert Parker described Riho as a delightful girl and one of the hardest working he has ever seen. We were able to watch her in class after lunch. She has since written:
I would like to appreciate for the amazing award. I am honoured to receive this award. The first time I came to Elmhurst, I could not understand everything including English. However, I could also find and learn new things at the same time. Now, I am very happy to study here. My dream is to become a ballerina who can give audiences the feelings as if they also joined our stages. I really look forward to seeing you again. Yours sincerely, Riho Majima.
Many of the school’s teachers and our former award winners Nastasia Phillipou and Eri Nishibara joined us for lunch. They both performed Odette in Swan Lake at the School’s end of year performances, as well as dancing in two new works, Suite No 1 by Mikaela Polley and Proud Mary by Michelle Blair, and in David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café. They join companies in the Czech Republic and Romania respectively next season.
At the end of the day, we presented the school with a cheque, the proceeds from a collection held during the day. We have heard from Jessica and Robert, who wrote:
Visit to BRB and Elmhurst, June 2012
We are writing to thank you for the Ballet Association’s generous donation of £700 towards Elmhurst School for Dance training and education provision for young dancers, as well as for your award to Riho Majima. We all thoroughly enjoyed the Ballet Association’s trip to Elmhurst and we were very pleased that so many members were able to travel from London to visit us. Your continued support for the School and our work is very much appreciated. We are looking forward to next year’s gathering already and we wish you a relaxing and enjoyable summer.
This year over 30 members attended the visit which was ably arranged by committee member Brian Don, with great support from BRB Friends’ Co-ordinator Sheila Hitchman and our President Desmond Kelly and the staff at Elmhurst.
On the first morning we watched Ballet Master Dominic Antonucci take a men’s class. Before class we were privileged to have a brief talk with the Company’s Director David Bintley. Interviewed by our Chairman, he spoke about Far from the Madding Crowd, his new Olympics ballet Faster and his production of Prince of the Pagodas which had premiered during the season with his Japanese Company.
After a relaxing afternoon, we gathered again in a studio where David Bain interviewed Artist William Bracewell. Will proved a very amusing speaker with many anecdotes about his training and short career. We then moved to the theatre for the opening night of Far from the Madding Crowd, a long overdue revival of one of David’s great narrative ballets.
The next morning we gathered at Elmhurst where we were warmly welcomed by Artistic Director Desmond Kelly, Principal Jessica Ward and other staff. We watched teachers Samira Saidi and Errol Pickford rehearse Upper School students in Ashton’s Les Rendezvous for their School performance. After this rehearsal, we were delighted to watch Lower School girls perform Samira’s new ballet Les Jeunes Filles, which was partly funded through our leaving present (from BRB) for Desmond. We wish Samira great success in her new role as Director of English National Ballet School from the start of next term.
During lunch David Bain presented the 2012 Ballet Association Award to 2nd year 6th Japanese student Eri Nishibara. We had been very impressed by Eri’s dancing in the lead role in Les Rendezvous and look forward to following her progress in the future. After lunch, we watched a lively mixed Year 11 class taught by Lee Robinson, formerly of ENB. After this very long class, we had an opportunity to ask questions during tea, where we met again last year’s award winner Nastazia Phillipou and wished Desmond success in his new role (not retirement!). We also presented the School with the results of a collection held during lunch.
Following the visit, Eri wrote:
I am writing to thank you for choosing me for this award. I would like to express my profound gratitude. When I was told about the award, I was really excited and appreciated it. I am very glad and proud, and I was really happy to dance for you. I think it will be of great value to me. I am going to keep practising hard and try to improve the quality of my dance. I hope to dance for you in the future. Yours sincerely Eri Nishibara.
We have pencilled in next year’s visit for June 19 & 20, where the BRB performance will be David Bintley’s Giselle. Put it in your diary now!
Fuller details of the visit are in the July newsletter.Visit to BRB and Elmhurst, June 2011
Towards the end of June, 37 members joined a fantastic trip to Birmingham. On the Wednesday we watched Ballet Master Wolfgang Stollwitzer take a male class at BRB, after which the group had lunch in a local restaurant. Before the evening performance, David Bain interviewed First Soloist Jenna Roberts. From Australia, Jenna gave us a delightful account of her career so far. We then watched the opening night of Allegri Diversi and Carmina Burana.
Next morning, we were welcomed at Elmhurst School for Dance. Unfortunately, our President Desmond Kelly was away teaching in Japan, but we were splendidly looked after by his Assistant Denise Whiteman and Fundraising and Development Officer Anna Hainsworth and other members of staff. In the morning we watched Samira Saidi and Alain Dubreuil rehearse second and third year sixth form students in extracts from David Bintley’s Flowers of the Forest. After a short tour of the school, we were given an excellent lunch and met a number of the school’s staff.
During lunch David Bain presented The Ballet Association’s Annual Award to Nastazia Phillipou. From Cyprus, Nastazia is a first year sixth form student. Our award will help towards the cost of her taking part in the Genée competition later this year in South Africa. Nastazia enchanted members, talking informally with them during lunch. After which we watched her in class with the other first year sixth form students taught by ex-BRB dancer James Grundy. We have had letters from both Denise and Anna, stating that 'our students enjoyed performing to such a well-informed audience!' We also left a cheque for Desmond Kelly, rather belatedly his present from the Association for when he left BRB, which will be used for the school in his honour. It has been announced that Desmond will retire from his role as Artistic Director at the end of next season, although he will continue his contact with the school as Artistic Advisor.
Visit to BRB and Elmhurst, June 2010
To ensure close links are maintained with the Birmingham company, 31 members took part in a very successful trip to Birmingham to visit Elmhurst School for Dance organised by committee members Belinda Taylor and Brian Don on behalf of the Association. Thanks to BRB Friends’ Coordinator, Sheila Hitchman, on the first day we watched Ballet Master Wolfgang Stollwitzer take men’s class and before the evening performance of On Their Toes, which included Theme and Variations, Grosse Fugue and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, David Bain interviewed Soloist Momoko Hirata.
The following day was spent at Elmhurst. Our President, Desmond Kelly’s warm welcome set the tone for our whole time there. As well as touring the building and watching classes and rehearsals, we were entertained to lunch and met teachers and students. These included the first recipient of our Elmhurst Ballet Association Award of £500 towards his studies, which was presented to Year 7 student Ricardo Castellanos from Spain. Ricardo’s grandmother and father were principals of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, his father being a role model for Carlos Acosta, who is now a Vice President of Elmhurst.
Ricardo Castellanos with Desmond Kelly (Artistic Director), Michael Ho (Ballet Teacher), Elaine Brook
(Principal) and David Bain
We made small donations to BRB and Elmhurst to thank them for their hospitality and have received letters of thanks from BRB’s Communications Director Keith Longmore, Elmhurst Principal Elaine Brook and Artistic Director Desmond Kelly. Elaine wrote to say that our donation will be put towards a new video camera and said "I do hope that we can make today’s event an annual one." Desmond Kelly wrote:
"Dear Ballet Association, I felt that I had to write to you all and say that we at Elmhurst enjoyed your visit to the School immensely. One usually looks forward to a large crowd coming to the school rather like a visit to the dentist but on this occasion it was a real pleasure. Your interest was inspiring and your obvious enjoyment of the day palpable. Thank you for contributing to a happy day and again a huge thank you for the Ballet Association award."