Since our last newsletter we have had three very different and excellent meetings, as well as our annual trip to Birmingham. At our January meeting, in our Chairman’s absence, Committee member Linda Gainsbury welcomed Soloist Gina Storm-Jensen as our guest. Gina, pronounced Ghina with a hard G, was born in London with Norwegian and German parents, but was brought up and trained in Norway before she joined the Royal Ballet Upper School. Whilst at the School she performed a lot with the Royal Ballet Company and remembered being petrified going on in a small role in Alice.That changed after her first performance in Symphony in Cwhich she loved. Gina spent eight years in the corps, doing roles several times. She feels blessed that during this time she was given some solo roles, such as the Lilac Fairy. She was coached by Dame Monica Mason, a brilliant teacher, who is so patient and wants you to feel comfortable in the role. Gina went on to talk about many other roles, the impact of the pandemic and the warm feeling dancers get from audiences. Gina gave those present a very interesting evening and a real insight into her dancing life.
At our first meeting in February, it was a great pleasure to welcome Cuban-Canadian Cesar Corrales who was promoted to Principal at the end of last season. Cesar gave us a very entertaining evening. After talking about his current rehearsals of Swan Lakewith Mayara Magri, coached by Zenaida Yanowsky, he spoke of the differences that partnership make to a work. He had worked with Mayara before on Manon and Coppelia and saw her as a ballerina who dances with her heart, which is fantastic. Cesar then spoke at length about the role his mother had played in his training and his early career, from the Canadian National Ballet School, performing in Billy Elliot, entering the Prix de Lausanne, joining the ABT Studio Company, Youth America Grand Prix, to the decision to join English National Ballet. Whilst at ENB, he learnt so much from the coaching of Irek Mukhamedov and Loipa Araujo and from dancing Hilarion in Akram Khan’s Giselle. He sees himself as a classical dancer and has a love/hate relationship with contemporary choreography. He then spoke of the transfer to the Royal. Although he thinks most of the highlights of his career are yet to come, there have been some, such as performing La Bayaderewith Marianela Nuñez and Natalia Osipova, dancing Romeo with Francesca Hayward, and the upcoming Siegfried with Mayara.
At our second meeting of the month, we were delighted to welcome the Royal Ballet’s Senior Stage Manager Johanna Adams-Farley who last spoke to the Association nearly fifteen years ago. As when she last spoke to us, Johanna gave us a fascinating insight into the role of a stage manager with The Royal Ballet. She brought with her the annotated score for the Covid version of Nutcracker, known as the ‘Prompt Book,’ and spoke about ‘calling’ a ballet. Opposite the music, the page is divided into three columns. The first lists what is happening on stage, exits and entrances, the middle column when needed has cues for spots and the third the cues for sound, scenery, flies and lighting. Johanna brought all the other paperwork involved with a production, including ‘running lists,’ risk assessments, rehearsal schedules, nightly reports, etc., and gave examples of what had gone wrong during some recent performances. At the end of the evening, members had an opportunity to look through some of the documents. Johanna also spoke about the galas she had been arranging in Lagrasse in France in recent years and the ones in Somerset during the pandemic before talking about how she became a stage manager. It was a very interesting and entertaining evening, despite problems with the sound system in the Church. If you missed the meeting, be sure to read the report.