Martin Harvey – Wacky For Wind In The Willows

Martin HarveyWhat better way to celebrate the festive period than with the Royal Opera House’s “The Wind in the Willows” at the Vaudeville Theatre. Martin Harvey joined this year’s production to take on the role of Ratty…

Harvey’s extensive dance career has included numerous principal roles with the Royal Ballet from Mayerling, Onegin and La Fille Mal Gardée, to Manon and Romeo and Juliet. Harvey’s acting credits include his award-winning performance as Johnny Castle in the West End production of Dirty Dancing, as well as multiple roles in New York, including Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen for the Metropolitan Opera, Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Away and David Michalek’s Portraits in Dramatic Time.

What’s your dance background?

I started dancing at around four years old in a local school and then I went to the Royal Ballet School at the age of 11 where I trained until [I was] 16. I then started in the Royal Ballet Company at 16. That sounds like a lot of ballet but I did most forms of dance, but specialised in ballet.

What was a typical day like?

A typical day included three to four hours of dancing with ballet class, a pas de deux class, and loads of other forms of dance and choreography. It also included four hours of academic work every day. So that was eight hours a day, six days a week. We would also go Morris dancing on a Sunday. You usually had dance homework as well where you would do stretches and practice on your own. Dance cramming, like trying to do the splits until you split.

What’s a typical day like for you now?

So different. I live in Harlem, Manhattan in New York. On a typical day, I get up and spend time with my wife and our Yorkshire Terrier. I then meditate for about 45 minutes to an hour. I do it as part of my warm up as an actor; meditation spills into actor training but I also do general meditation. I then go and take a class at Steps in New York, normally an hour and a half of ballet or something physical. I will then go for an audition or do some voiceover work or a commercial. I then teach a ballet class for students and in the evening, I go to The Pit in New York and either do a three hour drop-in class or an hour and a half comedy improve.

Have you always wanted to be a performer?

I think that’s got to be true. When I was three (I don’t remember this but my Mum has told me) I used to bang on our TV, it was this little black and white TV and I would sit down next to it and bang on it and ask how I would get inside! So clearly I wanted to do something like that!

When did you start performing professionally?

My first professional gig was when I was seven. I played Michael Darling in Peter Pan at the Aldwych Theatre in London with Bonnie Langford. This production went on tour so I was travelling on tour when I was seven with Tinkerbell, The Lost Boys and Bonnie Langford! After that I worked every year until I went to the Royal Ballet School. I would say that acting was my first love before dance but I think that both arrived at the same time and you can’t distinguish between them as they are both necessary to each other.

What are your rehearsals like for Ratty?

Sweaty, detailed, exhausting and hilarious.

What are the best and worst parts of the creative process for you?

The best part of any creative process is the laughter. The worst part is when it’s not creative. When it’s going well and everyone’s laughing it’s brilliant, but when it’s not creative, that’s just it and the issue is it can’t always be creative.

What are you most looking forward to about the performances?

We get to see our audience quite a lot and seeing the kids really enjoy it and watching their parents so excited about the kids’ reactions is brilliant. It’s like a chain reaction and it is so brilliant to watch. For the actor in me, I get to spend two hours living in a fantasy land! I look forward to seeing kids’ faces light up and also I get to be a kid for two hours and be as wacky as Ratty!

What’s the best thing about performing?

That’s the best thing about performing, but the whole reason I do what I do is characters. Even when I am dancing, singing, performing, I am living and seeing through someone else’s eyes. It’s the ultimate escapism. Some people go swimming or running but for me, when I’m performing I’m completely in a moment, completely immersed in fantasy land. Spending time living life through someone else’s eyes.

What’s one thing you would change about the industry?

Omg, do I only get one?!

What is your advice to an aspiring dancer?

If you love it, don’t look back and don’t take no for an answer.

Mariinsky Ballet To Visit London In 2014

Mariinsky LogoThe Mariinsky Ballet has announced plans for its London season in the summer of 2014: the season will run from 28 July to 14 August at the Royal Opera House, opening with the classic tale Romeo and Juliet. The company will also dance a triple bill of The Firebird, Marguerite and Armand and Concerto DSCH, Swan Lake and a George Balanchine double bill of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the first time the company has danced this work in the UK – and Apollo. The season will end with the London premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, a production eagerly awaited by London audiences.

The Mariinsky Ballet is a classical ballet company based at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Founded in the 18th century and originally known as the Imperial Russian Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet is one of the world’s leading ballet companies. Internationally, the Mariinsky Ballet is most commonly known by its former Soviet name the Kirov Ballet; the Mariinsky Ballet is the parent company of the Vaganova Ballet Academy, a leading international ballet school which has recently been subject to employment scandals.

The Imperial Theatre School as it was originally known, was established in 1738 and was the predecessor of today’s Vaganova Ballet Academy to create a school which would train young dancers to form the first Russian ballet company. The first group of students went on to form what would become the predecessor of today’s Mariinsky Ballet. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Imperial Russian Ballet soon rose to prominence and would employ some of the most influential and famous names in ballet history including Marie Taglioni, Enrico Cecchetti, Jules Perrot, and Carlotta Grisi.

Despite later name changes and pressures of the Russian revolution, the present day Mariinsky Ballet is still linked to the school, which is now known as the Vaganova Ballet Academy.

The Royal Opera House Ballet Series

The Royal BalletThe Royal Ballet has recently hit cinemas all over America and is continuing to do! Select cinemas throughout the United States will present the 2013 ‘Royal Opera House Ballet Series,’ featuring 3, one-night-only screenings of the new Don Quixote staged by and starring Carlos Acosta, Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Peter Wright’s classic production of The Nutcracker. High definition cameras are used to film the performances, which provide multiple points of view including close-ups and wide shots with a Royal Opera House production truck transmitting the live feed via satellite to the US.

Don Quixote

Inspired by the adventures of Cervantes’ bumbling knight, Don Quixote tells the tale of Kitri (danced by Marianela Nuñez), her sweetheart the barber Basilio (danced by Carlos Acosta), and their adventures as they attempt to avoid Kitty’s father Lorenzo’s attempts to marry her off to the rich Gamache.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Pre-recorded in April 2013 and starring Sarah Lamb, Alice encounters out of the ordinary characters down the rabbit hole, including the Queen of Hearts, who performs her own version of the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty, to dancing playing cards and a tap-dancing Mad Hatter.

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is an essential part of Christmas for audiences everywhere, despite the many versions available. The classic tale is suitable for all ages and loved by many. Originally seen at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1984, this production by Peter Wright is grand with elaborate costumes, a large cast, and one awe-inspiring Christmas tree.

The Wind In The Willows In The West End

The Wind In The Willows

Beginning its journey at the Royal Opera House, Will Tuckett’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows is set to transfer to the West End for Christmas 2013.

Kenneth Grahame’s story of Toad of Toad Hall is the ROH’s first transfer, heading for the Duchess Theatre in December. It is the first time that a ROH production has transferred commercially to London’s West End, and may be the instigator of many more! With so many shows coming and going from the heart of the capital’s Theatreland, it is great news that the piece based on the movement vocabulary of ballet is destined for other stages.

Running for eight weeks, the classic story sees the outrageous and sometimes criminal adventures of the reckless Toad and his friends Ratty, Mole and Badger, told through dance, song, music and puppetry, set to delight audiences young and old. Transforming the much-loved story into an exciting production is a great development, with the piece originally just a small-scale Christmas production, the first to be created for the then newly opened Linbury Studio Theatre a decade ago. Through its popularity the piece has been brought back into the repertory in Covent Garden three times since as a fantastic theatrical show for the whole family.

The West End transfer will open up the production to even more audiences, and will be directed too by the choreographic brains behind the vision, Tuckett. The piece was inspired by the music of George Butterworth with a score created by the talented Martin Ward, with Willows having already played more than 100 performances since it was commissioned. The Wind in the Willows will follow the West End transfer of The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui starring Olivier Award winner Henry Goodman, following a run at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2012.

Ballet’s Live Cinema Season 2013/14

The Royal BalletFollowing much success of previous live cinema seasons which first emerged in 2007, and even outdoor screenings of ballet productions, The Royal Ballet has released its live cinema season for 2013/14, much to the delight of ballet fans all over.

Five ballets will be presented in association with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, beginning in October with Don Quixote as a new production by Carlos Acosta, then moving to December with Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. January of the New Year will see Peter Wright’s Giselle hit the screens, Monica Mason and Christopher Newton’s The Sleeping Beauty in March and then closing in April with The Winter’s Tale, a new production by Christopher Wheeldon.

The ROH Live Cinema Season 2012/13 featured nine productions broadcast to more than 35 countries in over 900 cinemas worldwide. The UK network has grown from 45 sites in September 2009 to 240 sites in October 2012, making it one of the widest releases of alternative content in the cinema in the UK. The next season will then see the Live Cinema project thoroughly expanding through a new partnership with Mr Wolf Presents which will build on the achievements of Royal Opera House Cinema to date and accelerate global growth. Mr Wolf Presents produces, co-produces, finances and manages distribution of live events and music-based feature films.

It is estimated that the ROH Cinema Season will reach its widest ever global audience in the 2013/14 season, with five live ballets and five live operas. With over 32,000 people watching in the UK, The Nutcracker, which was broadcast live on Thursday 13 December 2012, was the second highest grossing film that night, sitting between The Hobbit and Skyfall in the UK Box Office chart. However, the best performing broadcast to date is the ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was broadcast live on Thursday 28 March with almost 40,000 people watching the screening in the UK.

The Royal Ballet 2013/14 Season

The Royal Ballet

Artistic Director Kevin O’Hare’s second season at The Royal Ballet has seen the announcement of the programming of The Royal Ballet’s 2013/14 season. In view of the artistic decisions, the company is leveraging its current strong box office position to focus on new, full-length works which will make up six world premieres, and this will also protect the company’s heritage.

Guest Principal Carlos Acosta is currently working on his new production of Don Quixote: Acosta has danced the lead role in many countries and has vast experience and knowledge of the role and narrative. Acosta’s production of Don Quixote will be the company’s own production for the very first time, and O’Hare’s decision to open the new season with this is hoped to be a successful one.

Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon will premiere his second full length work for the company based on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, with Wheeldon collaborating with the team responsible for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. O’Hare has also extended another invitation to former Royal Ballet School student and Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer David Dawson, who will create a new work as part of the first triple bill of the season, alongside Wayne McGregor’s Chroma and Kenneth MacMillan’s Rite of Spring to complete the bill. Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets will return in a triple bill alongside Wheeldon’s DGV : Dance a Grande Vitesse and George Balanchine’s Serenade but Scarlett has no new work programmed for the season.

The final triple bill of the season will see a new work by Alastair Marriott, following his success in the Titian collaboration. Frederick Ashton’s The Dream and Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, which has not been seen at the Royal Opera House for 10 years, will then complete the programme. Full works will intersperse the triple bills, with Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Peter Wright’s Giselle and Monica Mason and Christopher Newton’s The Sleeping Beauty each making an appearance.

Once the London season has closed after The Nutcracker and Balanchine’s Jewels at Christmas, the company will tour to Moscow making a temporary home in The Bolshoi Theatre.

Changes Within The Royal Ballet

The Royal BalletFirst Artist Jonathan Watkins is set to leave The Royal Ballet on 23 February to embark on a freelance career as a choreographer/director. Watkins joined the company in 2003, with his interest in choreography sparking as a student at The Royal Ballet School and continued in his transition to larger ballet shoes as part of the company. Watkins has, most recently, choreographed Diana and Actaeon as part of Titian: Metamorphosis 2012 with William Tuckett and Liam Scarlett. His many outside commissions to date include two short films for Channel 4 and serving as movement director for Alan Bennett’s latest play People at the National Theatre. Next for Watkins are numerous projects such as choreographing new works in Russia and America, and a collection of theatre and film projects.

Principal Dancer Mara Galeazzi will also leave, hanging up her pointe shoes and passing down her tutus when she retires in July 2013 at the end of the current season. Galeazzi will focus on new projects, teaching dance and her work for her charity foundation Dancing for The Children which raises funds for sick children in Africa. Galeazzi joined the company in 1992 and was promoted to Principal in 2003. She has danced a wide range of the repertory, both classic and contemporary, including works by Ashton, MacMillan, Cranko, Balanchine, McGregor and Wheeldon. Galeazzi is most well-known for her dramatic interpretation of many leading roles in Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets including Juliet, Mary Vetsera and Marie Larische in Mayerling, Manon and Lescaut’s Mistress in Manon, and the Woman in The Judas Tree. Galeazzi’s farewell performance at the Royal Opera House will be as Mary Vetsera in Mayerling on 13 June, and her final performance with The Royal Ballet will be in Monaco where she will perform the title role in Manon on 29 June.

Liam Scarlett: The Royal Ballet’s First Artist in Residence

Liam Scarlett

Liam Scarlett, a First Artist of The Royal Ballet, has been appointed the first ever Royal Ballet Artist in Residence, allowing him to focus solely on his choreographic work. Scarlett will take up the position with immediate effect and make his last appearances with the Company as a dancer in the current run of Swan Lake, donning his ballet tights and tunic for the last time.

Scarlett’s latest work Viscera has since received its UK premiere at the Royal Opera House as part of a Mixed programme also featuring Wayne McGregor’s Infra and Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise, with past works including Sweet Violets, Asphodel Meadows and Diana & Actaeon from Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 earlier this year.

Over its expansive history, The Royal Ballet has been very lucky to receive generous support for new choreography, most recently through the New Ballet Works syndicate, launched in September and a scheme which will also work to support three new works being created by Scarlett, McGregor and Wheeldon. Donations received so far have raised over £450,000, which goes an extremely long way in enabling the extensive time and resources required when creating new choreography, especially for those as exciting as Scarlett’s.

His performance and choreographic talents have developed both on and off stage since Scarlett’s time at the Royal Ballet School and Company over the past sixteen years and subsequently as a member of the Company with previous Artistic Director Monica Mason’s encouragement. Now Scarlett has even more opportunity to concentrate full time on his choreographic work under new Director Kevin O’Hare and embark on some intriguing new projects in the future.

Image courtesy of ROH at Flickr.

The Royal Opera House’s Student Ambassador Scheme

Royal Opera HouseThe Royal Opera House has just launched its Student Ambassador scheme, open to all students from across the UK and giving them, as Ambassadors, access to a whole host of exciting and exclusive benefits. The ROH has invited students from all over the UK to apply to be a Royal Opera House Student Ambassador for the coming academic year as an exciting new dance activity to engage with.

The ROH searched for passionate, creative and confident students who will advocate for the ROH at their universities this year as the first ever ROH Student Ambassadors. The ambassadors will promote exciting productions from the Main Stage, the Alternative programme and the ROH Cinema Season throughout the year by ensuring that the Royal Opera House is represented in the right places and at the right times on and around their universities. The ROH hopes that this will give all students access to world-class productions at the ROH, whether it be in London or at cinemas nationwide, pointe shoe clad or solely leotards.

The Ambassadors will receive access to discounted and complimentary tickets to ROH productions, a fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s greatest opera houses, the opportunity to meet and network with other Ambassadors and arts professionals and the opportunity to get an insight into the ROH creative departments, in addition to the possibility of being awarded a week long work placement at the ROH in the summer of 2013. Successful applicants who will have been informed recently of their new positions will be able to start the scheme off by The Royal Ballet’s Mixed Programme featuring VisceraInfra and Fool’s Paradise.

The Royal Opera House Student Standby scheme is generously made possible by the Bunting Family and the Robey Family.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dame Monica Mason’s Retirement

Monica Mason's Retirement
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As Monica Mason retires as Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet company, she has fully completed 54 years with the company. Beginning as a dancer in the corps de ballet, Mason rose through the ranks to a five-star ballerina, who has also accomplished many more notches on her ballet shoes as becoming a celebrated teacher and choreographer’s assistant.

There has been a spectacular exhibition at the Royal Opera House which detailed her fantastic career through photographs and tutus, demonstrating both dynamism and tradition through her vast career with the company. Some have argued that Mason has swerved from British ballet tradition by employing Random Dance choreographer Wayne McGregor as Resident Choreographer in 2006 to work with her dancers, swapping their tights for black block pointe shoes. However, others have noted Mason as respectful in keeping with classical tradition, and merging it with innovation in the twenty-first century as the seventh Artistic Director of the company.

Mason has maintained the high standard of The Royal Ballet, and has now handed over the ballet-shoe-ribbon-reins to Kevin O’Hare, having stood in her role since 2002. As a great classical company, the Royal has developed its stars much as many other companies have done, promoting new choreography and staying true to originals, such as Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan’s. Boasting previous Artistic Directors such as Ninette de Valois, between 1931 and 1963, The Royal Ballet has a history steeped in talent and vigour, as well as variety, and now combining influences of modern dance in its repertoire through McGregor.

Mason’s sense of humour, intelligence and sense of history looks set to carry the company through this upcoming transition period, in which she is stepping down from a highly-valued post in which there are very few females. Despite this, O’Hare has booked Mason to coach four MacMillan ballets next season, so Mason’s influence is far from gone.