World Ballet Day

World Ballet DayOn 1 October, the first World Ballet Day will see a fantastic collaboration between five of the world’s leading ballet companies: the Australian Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet. On the first day of October, each company will stream behind-the-scenes action live from their rehearsal studios. Starting at the beginning of the dancers’ day, each company will take the lead with a four-hour period, streaming from their headquarters.

The day will begin with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne, before the live link passes across time zones from Melbourne to Moscow, London, Toronto and finally to San Francisco. The backstage access will highlight the differences in style between the five companies – as leaders in their field – as they follow a similar routine but approach choreography and performance in individual ways. Starting with morning class, the day will be a celebration of dance as they move onto rehearsals.

World Ballet Day is a development of Royal Ballet Live, a nine-hour live stream via YouTube and the Guardian website. Watched by 200,000 people, there have been a total of 2.5 million views on YouTube to date. World Ballet Day will be the first time that the other four companies have taken the cameras backstage in this way, and the first time that YouTube has streamed so much content. The day’s streaming will be repeated on YouTube in full, so viewers around the world can catch up on any parts of the day they missed; edited highlights will then be made available for further viewing, increasing the reach of the day further.

Full details of the day are yet to be confirmed, however The Royal Ballet’s section will include Marianela Nuñez and Federico Bonelli rehearsing for Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, which opens at the Royal Opera House on 26 September.

The Royal Ballet Graduate Scheme

The Royal BalletThe Royal Ballet is set to launch a year-long training scheme for graduate dancers, aimed at providing female ballerinas in particular with an “extra chance” to gain employment in the industry.

The number of female graduates entering the dance industry has been the topic of many conversations, so the steps to be taken by the Royal Ballet look to ease the problem and provide employment solutions for some.

The scheme is to be called the Aud Jebsen Young Dancer Programme; it will commence in September 2014 and will offer up to six paid work placements to dancers who have graduated from ballet school. There will be opportunities to work with the company’s corps de ballet, teachers, coaches and young choreographers, enabling young graduate dancers to begin to work their way up the dance career ladder and secure a healthy start.

Participants of the scheme will also be able to perform with the Royal Ballet, gaining invaluable performance experience as they continue on their dancing journeys.

Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare said that the organisation would initially look to the Royal Ballet School for recruits, but would also encourage graduates from other training providers to apply. The programme is to be open to both male and female dancers, however O’Hare hopes to see more female ballet dancers applying because it is hoped to then encourage them to continue their career either at the Royal Ballet or another dance company.

The competition between female dancers is extremely high, simply because there are so many of them. Men tend to appear more successful in their endeavours because there are less of them in the ballet world, with seemingly more jobs to go around a smaller number. The Royal Ballet graduate scheme aims to give female dancers an extra chance, setting them up to either join the Royal Ballet or any other company around the world.

The Royal Ballet 2014/15 season

The Royal BalletThe Royal Ballet 2014/15 season has recently been announced. It will include three world premieres (with only one likely to be classical) including a new full length ballet by Wayne McGregor, a new one act ballet from Liam Scarlett in November, alongside Kim Brandstrup’s Ceremony of Innocence, and a work by Hofesh Shechter.

Carlos Acosta’s Don Quixote will return to the stage, as will Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon in a 40th Anniversary revival. La Fille mal Gardée will then be presented in Spring 2015 and will be part of the live cinema relays programme (along with Manon, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Swan Lake).

Draft Works returns in February 2015, in which works in various stages of choreographic development will be performed without full sets and costume, giving audiences an insight into the graft of the process of choreographing.

Royal Ballet dancer (First Artist) Ludovic Ondiviela will present a new work in the smaller Linbury space with guest dancers, and the Company will tour to Washington, Chicago and New York.

The highlight of the upcoming season seems to be the return of Alessandra Ferri (former Royal Ballet Principal) in the summer of 2015 to dance Wayne McGregor’s new full length ballet, entitled Woolf Works. The piece will be based on the writings and life of Virginia Woolf, with a new score by Max Richter, with whom McGregor has previously collaborated on his critically-acclaimed work Infra.

Closing the season, alongside Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun and In the Night, will be MacMillan’s Song of the Earth as a third of the triple bill.

Steven McRae Named Young Australian Achiever of the Year

Steven McRae and Miyako Yoshida Performing in The NutcrackerThe Royal Ballet’s Principal dancer Steven McRae has been awarded Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK by the Australia Day Foundation. Marking Australia Day abroad has taken in a whole new meaning for him being named with this prestigious title, as he continues to aim inspire children to chase their dreams too.

Just 28, McRae has a dream dance career. He began with jazz and tap classes as a child following an impromptu dance class aged seven. He went on to tap at the Sydney Olympics, and later become the Royal Ballet’s youngest Principal dancer. He has performed as a guest Principal with many renowned international ballet companies and still has a notable number of years to achieve even more.

The Australia Day Foundation accolade is especially significant for McRae in 2014, as he will be performing his favourite role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet with the Queensland Ballet in July. For someone of McRae’s age to have achieved so much and to have represented Australia on the world stage is truly remarkable and an inspiration to young people everywhere, prompting the award from the Australia Day Foundation. Steven’s long list of dance achievements include the top prize at the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. The Royal Ballet School offered him a full scholarship in 2003 and he graduated and joined the Royal Ballet Company the following year.

The Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK has been awarded annually since 2005, recognising the achievements of a young Australian in the UK. Australia Day marks the day in 1788 of the first Governor of the colony of New South Wales. Australians across the country and overseas celebrate Australia, reflect on achievements and what they are proud of. In the UK, it is also a day to celebrate British heritage and the close links between the nations.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Johan Kobborg Appointed Director Of The National Romanian Ballet

Johan KobborgJohan Kobborg has recently been appointed as director of the National Romanian Ballet, taking up his new post in February 2014. This announcement came after the first night of Kobborg’s production of La Sylphide for the company, which opened on 7 December, meaning Kobborg will be at the helm of the company, steering it in an exciting direction.

Both Kobborg and his fiancé Romanian ballerina Alina Cojocaru, who danced the first night La Sylphide with The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae, left The Royal Ballet as Principals this summer in order to pursue other artistic challenges: Cojucaru joined English National Ballet and has since danced Principal roles in Le Corsair and The Nutcracker.

Born and trained in Denmark, Kobborg joined The Royal Ballet in 1999, along with Cojucaru, where they danced throughout the classical, Ashton and MacMillan repertoire and in many new ballets. The dancers gave many memorable performances as members of The Royal Ballet, both at the Royal Opera House and around the world. Over the past ten years, their unique partnership has developed and the couple’s last UK performance as members of The Royal Ballet was in Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling on 5 June. In July they danced on tour with the company in Tokyo.

Kobborg has praised the National Romanian Ballet company, saying on Twitter that “Romanian Ballet has more natural born Sylphs than any other company I ever worked with”; his directing of the company looks set to hold lots in store for the lucky dancers. In recent years, Cojocaru has staged galas to raise money for Romanian Hospices of Hope and she has also given the Romanian National Ballet 50% of its annual supply of pointe shoes.

In the past Kobborg has also worked around the world as a producer and choreographer, staging Bournonville’s La Sylphide and Napoli and creating his own ballets.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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.

Xander Parish – Russian Romeo Debut

Mariinsky LogoFormer Royal Ballet dancer Xander Parish made his debut as principal in the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet on 18 October in St Petersburg, having been scouted by Artistic Director Yuri Fateyev three years ago. As a British dancer, Parish trained at the Royal Ballet School and consequently joined the Royal Ballet. After five years, in 2010, Parish was invited to join the Mariinsky, with Fateyev sufficiently impressed by Parish’s artistic potential.

Parish made his Mariinsky debut as Béranger in the ballet Raymonda, going on to dance classic roles such as Giselle (Count Albrecht), Swan Lake, La Sylphide,The Nutcracker (Elegant Cavaliers), Études, Apollo (Apollo), Serenade, Symphony in C and Jewels (Emeralds, Diamonds). Non-classical roles for Parish also include those by Alexei Ratmansky, Benjamin Millepied and Angelin Preljocaj.

As a result, Parish’s role as Romeo will mark the first time this highly acclaimed young dancer – the first British dancer ever to join the Mariinsky – will perform a leading role in a three act ballet, a true presentation of classical choreography marrying Mariinsky technique with British drama. The classic role is a test not only of technique and artistry, but also of endurance. Parish has demonstrated his readiness to take on more leading roles to Fateyev, with this classic tale a rather personal debut.

Being part of the Mariinsky Ballet means Parish has extensive opportunity to tour and perform as a guest with other ballet companies too. The level of opportunity at the company’s home is additionally opportunistic; last season he danced 11 principal, 35 soloist and 21 corps de ballet performances which included 9 debuts. Parish has toured to Germany, the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Italy and the United Arab Emirates with the Mariinsky Ballet, and Fateyev is eager to give Parish more exciting opportunities.

Matthew Golding – New For The Royal Ballet

The Royal BalletMatthew Golding, Principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet, is set to join The Royal Ballet as a Principal in February 2014. The Canadian dancer has recently appeared on London soil during English National Ballet’s run of Swan Lake earlier this year in which Golding’s ‘dance’ acting, or lack of, was scrutinised by critics. An expansive dancer with exceedingly long legs, Golding is seemingly the mute prince, unable to express himself through the choreography.

Despite this, Golding’s first performance with The Royal Ballet will be in The Sleeping Beauty later this season, partnering new addition Natalia Osipova on 27 March. Osipova is arguably the coup of the pair of dancers for The Royal Ballet, with her fiery passion and outstanding technical ability. Not to say Golding is without these traits, simply the ability to narrate through his facial expressions.

Golding trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington D.C. In 2002, he was awarded the Grand Prix from the Youth American Ballet Competition and received a prize scholarship at The Prix de Lausanne to attend The Royal Ballet School. Following his studies there he graduated in 2003 and went on to join American Ballet Theatre. He then made the move to Dutch National Ballet in 2009.

Golding made his UK debut with The Royal Ballet last Season in which he danced as a Guest Artist, partnering Zenaida Yanowsky in La Bayadére. The roster of Principal dancers at The Royal Ballet is without a doubt impressive, yet is rivalled considerably by that of English National Ballet. Artistic Director Tamara Rojo – taking on the role following her Principal contract with The Royal Ballet – has done much to build the company up to an even higher status than it held under previous director Wayne Eagling, and looks set to achieve even more before the year is out.

Focus On Leanne Benjamin

Leanne BenjaminLeanne Benjamin, the recently retired Principal of The Royal Ballet Company, is perhaps one of the recently departed dancers who will be the most greatly missed. She recently appeared in Carlos Acosta’s Classical Selection, dancing roles in extracts from some of the best-loved classical and neo-classical pieces such as Mayerling and Manon, with passionate vigour and full commitment to the production.

The Australian Benjamin trained at the Royal Ballet School from the age of sixteen, and won the prestigious Adeline Genée (now Genée International Ballet Competition) prize and the Prix de Lausanne on her way to the top. She joined The Royal Ballet as a First Soloist in 1992 after dancing with Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, Deutsche Oper Ballet and London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet). She was promoted to the rank of Principal in 1993 and since then has danced all leading (and very dramatic) classical roles such as MacMillan’s Manon, Romeo and Juliet and Mayerling. In addition to this Benjamin has had a number of roles created on her by choreographers including Wayne McGregor for his athletic Qualia, Christopher Wheeldon, Kim Brandstrup and Alexei Ratmansky.

This fiery and versatile dancer is renowned for excelling in the MacMillan repertory, yet Benjamin also worked with Frederick Ashton and Ninette De Valois: as a result she was awarded an OBE in 2005 for services to dance. Benjamin felt that performing Mayerling was the perfect way to step out of her ballet career as it was the piece which brought her into the company by Kenneth MacMillan, who died backstage soon after she joined the company. MacMillan acted as a mentor to Benjamin, changing her dancing career forever in seeing her potential at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper Ballet.

Benjamin give her final Covent Garden performance with The Royal Ballet with Mayerling earlier this year in June, a dramatic portrayal of false love and, equally, passion.

Carlos Acosta: Back And Not Alone…

Carlos AcostaCarlos Acosta’s return to the London Coliseum in August is highly anticipated, particularly as the casting and classical repertory has recently been announced, forming Acosta’s Classical Selection. Running from July 30 to August 4, the run is full of huge ballet stars and iconic works.

Acosta’s new show will be presenting highlights from his career in celebration of his 40th birthday, which is marked by 2013. For Classical Selection, the thrilling Principal will be joined on stage by some of his past dance partners and stars of The Royal Ballet, including principal dancers Marianela Nunez and Nehemiah Kish, ex-Royal Ballet Principal Leanne Benjamin, first soloists Ricardo Cervera and Yuhui Choe, soloists Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood and first artist Meaghan Grace Hinkis. The programme looks set to be captivating, and every ballet fans’ dream.

The pieces on offer throughout the run are some of the most iconic of the classical ballet world. Performances such as extracts from ManonWinter DreamsMayerlingGloria and Requiem were originally choreographed by one of the greatest ballet choreographers of the 20th century, Kenneth MacMillan. Also part of the programme is an extract from George Balanchine’s Apollo and from Rubies, and an extract from one of Frederick Ashton’s last works, the Rhapsody. The programme concludes with fellow Cuban choreographer and Rambert dancer at Miguel Altunaga’s 2009 solo Memoria, extracts from Mikhail Fokine’s Diana and Actaeon and Christopher Wheeldon’s Tryst. 

Acosta is currently performing as a Principal Guest Artist with The Royal Ballet, having also danced with English National Ballet in 1991/2 as a Principal – where his nephew now dances – the National Ballet of Cuba in 1992/3, and was a Principal with Houston Ballet from 1993/8. Acosta then joined The Royal Ballet and became a Principal Guest Artist in 2003.

Image courtesy of scillystuff on Flickr.