Sunday, 22 February 2015

Sergei Polunin

In June 2010, at the age of only 19, Sergei Polunin became the Royal Ballet's youngest ever principal dancer. Two year later, he shocked the ballet world by resigning the Royal Ballet with immediate effect. Here are a few of the things he's gotten up to since:

Sia and Maddie Ziegler

I love Sia's music videos with Maddie Ziegler. She is such a talented and expressive dancer. I can't believe she is only 12!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Elena Gibson - a ballerina turned pole dancer

Elena Gibson was a ballerina with the Canadian National ballet until an accident ended her career. The process of rehabilitation lead her to pole dancing. Now she is one of the world's leading pole dancers and has her own school in London. This short video tells her story. It also shows just how beautiful pole dancing can be. I love it! 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

An American in Paris, December 6th, 2014, Theatre de Chatelet

I'm not a fan of musicals, but if Christopher Wheeldon decides to direct one, I WILL get on the Eurostar to Paris to see it.
An American in Paris is Wheeldon's first foray into the realm of musicals. The plot is based on the 1951 musical film, but the choreography is new. Wheeldon cast two ballet dancers (Leanne Cope, first artist of the Royal Ballet, and Robert Fairchild, principle dancer at New York City Ballet) in the lead roles.
The strength of this musical was always going to be in the ballet. In fact, the other elements are on the weak side. The plot is a standard love triangle set in post WW2 Paris. There's light humour and a gentle attempt at a deeper message about personal courage.  The singing is so-so. The fake French accents are atrocious. (However, the fact that two ballet dancers, on top of being immensely talented dancers, can sing and act at all is pretty impressive.)

But the ballet element is beautiful. My favourite scene is when Lise auditions to be part of a ballet. She stands at the back of the room, performing the same steps as the other dancers, but gradually makes small changes until the steps are completely her own, and the audience is left without a doubt that she is a very special dancer. Her style is reminiscent of the Diaghilev era. In fact, the whole musical has a very stylish art deco feel to it.
Another great scene is the ballet within the ballet. In a feat of clever stage design, the backdrop - a red velvet curtain identical to the house curtain - opens to reveal conductor and audience within the ballet. We watch the audience watch the ballet.
The ballet within the ballet is Wheeldon doing what he does best. Personally, I would prefer if Wheeldon would stick to pure ballet - not because this musical wasn't good, but because Wheeldon is too good at making ballets to not make them! However, I'm guessing the people of Paris, who received An American in Paris with standing ovations, will not agree with me.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

World Ballet Day

If you missed the World Ballet Day live stream you can watch some of the highlights on Youtube. Here is a selection of videos. (If anyone finds the video of the San Francisco Ballet rehearsing William Forsyth please let me know - it was so good!)

Highlights from the Australian Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet in full

The Royal Ballet

Highlights from the Canadian National Ballet

Insights: Ballet Evolved

A few months ago, I posted a video of the Royal Ballet's Insight series called "Ballet Evolved". Today, I got to attend the actual event in the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio. The event comprised a lecture with demonstrations by members of the Royal Ballet, which helped to illustrate the points being made. The lecture was given by Ursula Hageli, a former ballerina and now ballet mistress with the Royal Ballet. She has been running the Ballet Evolved series for a few years now. She was also joined by Dr Giannandrea Poesic, a ballet historian and lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire. 

The theme of the lecture was the ballet class and how it evolved over the last four centuries. According to Hageli, the ballet class is the most important part of a dancers day: it is where dancers warm up, strengthen and generally prepare their bodies for all to come. Dancers attend class every day. As ballet itself evolved (more turnout, higher arabesques, more complicated spins, point shoes), class, too, evolved to ensure dancers were equipped with the necessary skills. For example, Marie Taglioni was the first ballerina to go en pointe, but this was before the invention of point shoes. Thus, this required an immense amount of ankle strength! (Interestingly, point work, though first introduced in France, really took off in Italy because it was where, thanks to the shoes makers Italy is generally so famous for, the point shoe was developed!)

The evolution of ballet was demonstrated by dancers of the Royal Ballet, among them Gemma Pitchley-Gale, who was wearing bloomers under her knee length tutu - part of the 18th century ballet uniform, designed to maintain the ballerina's modesty by not revealing too much leg! Also, the lovely Fumi Kaneko, for whom today was the first time performing in front of an audience after returning from injury. And Marcelino Sambe, who, in addition to being a great dancer, is hilarious! It was really nice to get to see the dancers personalities come through!

Ballet Evolved was interesting, informative and entertaining ,and I shall definitely attend the next event! The event was filmed, and videos should be going up on Youtube soon. I will post them here when they become available.