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    News Jan/Feb 2024


    On Tuesday 23rd January we had our annual meeting with our Royal Ballet School Award winners. Alejandro Muñoz from Spain was joined by two students from the second year, Layla Hothamfrom Manchester and Pietro Zironi from Italy. They were escorted by Pre-Professional Year teacher Stuart Cassidy, who joined the School this September. Two of our 2023 Award winners Yasemin Caynak from Turkey and Sigurd Blystad from Norway were away and will record a message to members, which we will make available later.

    Stuart spoke about his training and how Kenneth MacMillan had worked with him and Darcey Bussell after their School performance. After two years in the Royal, Kenneth chose Stuart to dance Romeo, the highlight of his career. He also worked with Ashton and De Valois and was promoted to Principal after only four years. In 1999, he was one of six dancers who left to form K-Ballet in Japan, where he stayed for twenty years. For much of that time his home was in New Zealand. When asked how the School had changed since his time, Stuart highlighted the student-centred emphasis and how their physical and mental health is looked after.

    The students gave fascinating accounts of why they started dancing and their training. Layla joined White Lodge in Year 7, though initially she had failed to get a place, only hearing a week before the Summer School that she had been given one. Alejandro and Pietro, both joined White Lodge at the start of Year 10. They each picked highlights from their time at the School. For Layla this included dancing with the Company in The Nutcrackerin Years 7 and 8, whilst for all three taking part in the Lynn Seymour competition was a highlight. They provided us with a very entertaining evening, with some thoughtful responses. We look forward to watching them in class in May.


    Future Meetings

    At our next meeting on Monday 19th February we are delighted to welcome New York based choreographer Gemma Bond, whose new ballet Boundless, featuring Yasmine Naghdi and Ryoichi Hirano received its premiere on the Opera House main stage as part of The Festival of New Choreographyon Thursday 15th February. Music is by the Dutch composer Joey Roukens, costume design by Charlotte MacMillan and lighting by Zeynep Kepekli.  


    On Monday 4th March we will welcome a real-life couple, Sae Maeda and Harris Bell, who got engaged in the Summer. Both were promoted at the end of last season, Sae to Soloist and Harris to First Artist. Both joined the Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme, Sae in 2017, Harris in 2018 and were promoted to Artist the following year.


    Upcoming events

    Acosta Dance Foundation, Wednesday 13th March

    At our meeting last September with our President Carlos Acosta, Carlos extended a welcome to members to visit the Acosta Dance Centre in Woolwich. We are pleased to announce that the first such visit will be on Wednesday 13th March, 2.30-4-30pm at Building 40, 1 Artillery Square, Woolwich Royal Arsenal, London, SE18 6DH. We will have the opportunity to tour the Acosta Dance Centre and learn about the history of the building, before watching Acosta Danza in rehearsal and, possibly, students of the Acosta Advanced training hub. We will then head to one of the studios for afternoon tea and to hear more about the work of the Foundation from Director Javier Torres and team.

    This will be a joint visit with members of the British Friends of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. We expect this to be a popular visit. Places are limited, so we hope to organize more visits later in the season. If you would like to attend, please apply to our Chairman, David Bain, preferably by e-mail or text message.  



     We have reserved 15 seats for the above performance.



    Royal Ballet School Award Winner Giacomo Rovero has been promoted to Soloist, and Soloists Ashley Dean and Benjamin Ella were married on Saturday 30th December. We send our congratulations to them all.


    Former Royal Ballet Principal and repetiteur Leanne Benjamin has been appointed as Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet, starting this month. We are also delighted to hear that Alessandra Ferri has been given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Prix de Lausanne, and send congratulations to BRB’s Principal Conductor Paul Murphy on his appointment as their Music Director from 1st July, when Koen Kessels steps down. Koen remains Music Director for The Royal Ballet but will also become Music Director of Dutch National Ballet.


    Members will have been saddened to hear of the death of former Principal dancer Richard Farley on the 9th November aged 88. He joined The Royal Ballet in 1956, subsequently joining the Touring Company. He featured in many television creations of Sir Peter Wright and was in the Cliff Richard film Summer Holiday.He then became a celebrated ballet photographer. We send our condolences to his family, his wife Stage Manager Johanna Adams Farley, their son Tom and granddaughter Gracie. Also, we are saddened to hear of the death of Anthony Russell-Roberts, the Royal Ballet’s Administrative Director from 1983-2009, on 14th January, aged 79. The nephew of Sr Frederick Ashton, Anthony was residual legatee on Sir Fred’s death of many of his ballets. He became a trustee of the Ashton Foundation when it was formed in 2004.


    President and Royal Ballet School Director Christopher Powney has announced that, after 10 years, he will be leaving the School this summer.


    After 43 years Michael O’Hare has retired from Birmingham Royal Ballet. His last performance was in The Nutcrackeron December 8th. His performances will be remembered with great pleasure by our members.


    Former Royal Ballet Dancer Ernst Meisner has been appointed Associate Director of Talent Development with Dutch National Ballet. He remains Artistic Director of the Junior Company, but will step down as Director of Dutch National Ballet Academy.


    Royal Ballet First Soloist Melissa Hamilton is organizing galas in Singapore on 23rd & 24th March, which will include Principals Ryoichi Hirano, Yasmine Naghdi and Marcelino Sambé amongst others.


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