The Royal Ballet School

Royal Ballet School

Over the next 7 months, The Royal Ballet School will open its doors to teachers, dance students and enthusiasts alike for a series of exciting lectures and masterclasses once a month, with pointe shoes and tiaras optional. This series of “Exploration Days” will examine the pedagogy and training programmes of the French, Italian, Danish and Russian Schools, and how they influenced the development of the English School as established by Ninette De Valois in 1926.

De Valois founded the school with the opening of the Academy of Choreographic Art, which was renamed the Vic-Wells Ballet School in 1931, renamed in 1939 as The Sadler’s Wells Ballet School: when the school was granted its Royal Charter in 1956, the school was given its current name. Each of the Exploration Days will examine the history and style of each of the Schools in turn, including a ballet masterclass to showcase the unique characteristics of the respective School. When developing the School, De Valois extrapolated and collated what she believed were all the strongest elements from the French, Italian, Danish and Russian schools, merging them to forge a new methodology. She hoped by doing so she would create a uniquely ‘English style’ in a fusion of the best of the old European and Russian Schools.

The Royal Ballet School is one of the most prestigious vocational ballet schools in the UK, and one of the foremost classical ballet schools worldwide, offering full-time training programmes to potentially professional dancers. The School acts as a feeder to both The Royal Ballet Company and The Birmingham Royal Ballet, and its graduates have and continue to dance, tutu clad, in internationally acclaimed companies all over the world. The students follow a specifically designed ‘System of Training’ of eight years split into two courses; a five year course at the Lower School (White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey) for students aged 11 to 16, followed by a three year course at the Upper School (Covent Garden, London) for students aged 16 to 18.

The Exploration Days will run on 30 September (French School), 21 October (Italian School), 2 December (Danish School), 3 February (Russian School) and 17 March (English School), led by Directors and Artistic Directors of the specific schools.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The Pavlova 2012 Festival

Anna Pavlova

The Pavlova 2012 Festival was launched earlier this year in June, held at Ivy House in North London, Anna Pavlova’s former home from 1912 until her death in 1931. The festival included a number of special events, including a photographic exhibition and a film season at the British Film Institute, playing tribute to Pavlova’s beautiful art form, exquisite tutu and pointe shoes!

It is over 100 years ago that Pavlova decided to leave Russia and make London her home, with Ivy House being the base from which she conducted her ballet school, training young girls who aspired to be part of her touring company. Once Pavlova had severed links with St Petersburg, she travelled enormous distances – to North and South America, to India, Japan and Australia – continuing to dance almost to the day of her death.

The BFI season of films about Pavlova is part of this year’s centenary celebration of her acquisition of Ivy House, a season stocked with footage of her life and career. Jane Pritchard curated the six programmes, which include documentaries, feature films and recordings of Pavlova on and off stage, and most importantly dancing. The main source of filmed material about her was The Immortal Swan, a tribute put together after her death by Victor Dandré, who may have been her husband as well as being her manager. The film drew on “home movies” made during Pavlova’s travels and on very basic films of some of her repertoire; Pavlova was fascinated by what she realised was film’s potential for recording dance, and extremely open to experiment… more so than most of her ballet contemporaries.

Pavlova’s Imperial Ballet-trained technique was a means in order to convey what truly mattered to her: her expressiveness, rather than the execution of steps. By the time most of the films of her dancing were made in the 1920s, she was relying on very simple choreography without the fifth position, pirouettes or arabesques, but runs on pointe, legs parallel, defining her legendary status beneath her Dying Swan tiara with strong, arched feet and beautiful arms and legs. The Dying Swan, the solo choreographed for her by Mikhail Fokine in 1907 was retained as her signature piece, and she danced it 4,000 times.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Paralympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony

On 29 August, the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, themed ‘Enlightenment’, took the audience on a journey of discovery through the realm of ideas, science and creativity. The spirit of the Paralympics, parallel to that of the Olympic Opening Ceremony in August was a spectacular celebration presented by Co-Artistic Directors Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey to challenge perceptions of human possibility.

The Ceremony was narrated by Professor Stephen Hawking, featuring deaf and disabled performers as well as more than 3,000 adult volunteers, a children volunteer cast of over 100, and over 100 professionals. Hawking urged the spectators to create a brave new and better world, challenging perceptions and stereotypes that limit the potential of the human body, mind and spirit. In the awe-inspiring spectacle, deaf and disabled artists performed on a world stage and included a fly past by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. Performers were suspended above the stadium, speckled with coloured umbrellas, prosthetic legs and Doc Martins, and an aerial ballet danced disability through the sky with the shine of silver costumes glistening in the night. 50 specialist performers took part in an eight week circus skills training programme taking place at Circus Space in Hackney. The programme was funded by Arts Council England and saw performers with disability, including established artists and people new to the arts such as rehabilitating soldiers and non competing Paralympians, learn circus arts skills.

One of the Executive producers overseeing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is Stephen Daldry CBE, Executive Producer, Creative (Chairman). Daldry began his career at the Sheffield Crucible where he directed various award winning productions, and he has won innumerable awards on Broadway as well as the West End. Daldry made his feature film directorial debut with Billy Elliot, receiving an Academy Award and explaining the huge performance quality of the Opening Ceremony. His stage musical adaptation of Billy Elliot, full of ballet shoes, tights and practice shorts and with music by Elton John, opened in London in 2005. The production opened on Broadway in 2007, winning 10 Tony Awards and is the most honoured British production in the history of the American theatre.

11.2 million viewers saw Channel 4’s broadcast of the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony in the UK, giving the broadcaster its biggest audience for more than 10 years; the world was watching thousands of disabled people in a show that said disability was both something to be proud of and a state that made us no different than anyone else.

Image courtesy of the Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games

2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony

As the world anticipates the London 2012 Olympic Games, performers from across the country are pulling on their dancewear and warm-up cover-ups ready for the Opening Ceremony on Friday 27 July. The Opening Ceremony is a celebration showcasing the best of the Host Nation, London, featuring a parade of all competing nations and the highly anticipated entrance of the Olympic Flame, which ignites the Cauldron and signals the start of the Games.

The eyes of the world are expected to be on London for the Opening Ceremony, providing an opportunity for the world to view the artistic expression of the Artistic Director Danny Boyle and his team of talented young performers, as well as the culture of London and the UK. Certain elements feature in every Ceremony, and the artistic performance of the Ceremony, and the striking costumes of the dedicated, hard-working performers will welcome the world to the Games.

The name of the Olympic Opening Ceremony show will be ‘Isles of Wonder’, saluting and celebrating the immense creativity of the British. The worldwide broadcast will commence at 9pm (GMT), and will no doubt appeal to every jazz sneaker and ballet shoe wearer as well as those interested in sports. The Ceremony will begin with the sound of the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, produced by the Whitechapel Foundry, and the Stadium will be transformed into the British countryside for the opening scene ‘Green and Pleasant’, which includes real farmyard animals. The Ceremony will also include a special sequence celebrating the best of British, featuring volunteer performers from the NHS.

A total cast of 15,000 will take part in the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which will be watched by an estimated audience of four billion.

Image courtesy of the Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Something Happening For Kids

Something Happening For Kids

The Place is set to present Something Happening For Kids, a full day of dance performances and activities specially curated for children aged 11 and under. Taking place on 21 July 2012 at The Place in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre, children will be encouraged to pull on their leotards and leggings and engage with both movement and play.

Choreographer Darren Ellis is restaging extracts of his latest work Long Walk Home, which portrays a series of four women, each at a different stage of their lives, as they analyse their hopes and their dreams, accompanied by atmospheric live music by the folk band Askew Sisters.

Alongside them, The Place’s First Moves, with the youngest dancers aged 5-8, will show two new pieces in the round and up-close from the Children and Youth Dance programme. Something Happening For Kids, especially through First Moves, demonstrates that the art of performance is hidden with everyone of all ages, ready to burst free and present itself centre stage, be it wearing ballet shoes, tap shoes or jazz flares and sweat bands.

Circus dance artist Ilona Jantti will premier the fantastically imaginative HUHU, commissioned by The Place, in which a web of ropes and architectural devices will create the backdrop for an urban chase, combining circus, contemporary dance, animation and the idea of the city’s space, inspiring and interactive.

Author Michael Rosen will recite his much-loved We’re Going on a Bear Hunt in a series of participatory readings, in which the magical story will be brought to life by dance artist Joanne Moven, combining art forms and connecting directing with children.

Shuffle, The Place’s new junior dance company, will complete the programme with Lookout, a dreamy and suggestive site-specific piece, originally created for a window overlooking the river Thames.

In addition, a series of workshops, ranging from percussion and dance will also be available, allowing the young participants to explore rhythms and create movement to live musical accompaniment.

Image courtesy of The Place.