ERNST MEISNER, who previously produced his own show BalletMoves, ran a workshop and performance over a January weekend for 80 children from state schools in Kent. In conjunction with Kent County Council, Ernst held auditions in December and selected children to participate in the dance, design and stage management workshops. The children put together a performance of The Nutcracker, learning the dances and undertaking the workshops on Saturday, rehearsing intensively and performing before an invited audience on Sunday.
The event took place at the Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate, a new performing arts academy with a superbly equipped theatre, following very significant sponsorship from the millionaire philanthropist, Roger de Haan.
The team included Ursula Hageli, Natasha Oughtred and Zachary Faruque (who performed the Clara/Nutcracker pas de deux from Act I and the adage from the Grand pas de deux in Act II), Henry St. Clair (making his debut as Drosselmeyer), ballet designer Karoline Weber and stage manager Clare Henders. The dancers worked closely with the children for the whole weekend, as well as performing with them on Sunday evening.
Most of the children were having their first taste of the theatre and its disciplines. The aim was to show the children all the different aspects that go into putting on a performance. They had the opportunity to take class from the ballet mistress of the Royal Ballet, to work with Henry St. Clair (“conspiratorial”), to be taught how to dress their hair for the stage by Natasha Oughtred, to work a series of magic tricks, growing Christmas trees and falling snow and to alter costumes and to make garlands for the Waltz of Flowers (which were reportedly superior to those used in actual performance by the RB). Zachary Faruque danced the Russian dance with two boys, just as on stage at the Royal Opera House.
The performance, in front of an invited audience of family and friends, received a standing ovation. Many were surprised at the level of professionalism after only one weekend. The workshop was reported on regional television news and attended by Roger de Haan and Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council. Roger de Haan was delighted to see the new theatre operating in professional performance for the first time.
It turned out a great success for everyone and hopefully something else will develop out of this very interesting project.
©The Ballet Association 2007.