Category Archives: ballet how it should be done

June, speaking numerically…

Wow, I have been a total fail at updating since my last numerical round up! As usual a whole host of half thought out posts in my head that petered out mid way through… Somewhat like my university essays.

Anyway, here’s how June shaped up:

Books read 17 (could do better)
Ballet classes 15 (good, see: going on holiday)
Ballets seen: 10 (nine pieces in the Royal Ballet’s Draft Works programme (let’s talk about how Kristen McNally is a GENIUS of epic proportions) and ENB’s Rom&Jul in the round)
Emotions had over watching Daria Klimentova’s final performance: ALL OF THEM AND THEN SOME. I am still too emotionally fragile to consider discussing it.
Ballet companies seen: 2 (RB & ENB)
Knitting projects completed: 4 (various teeny tiny baby items)
Knitting WIPs: 2 (Mutti’s Christmas present (there’s dedication and organisation for you) and a terribly dull manly tank top for a small person – the pattern’s dull, I adore the aforementioned small person!)
Times left London: 2 (a week’s jolly Holiday in a Cottage – #hiac2014, so cool my friends and I that our holiday have their own hashtag – to Suffolk where we did not get murdered (A+!) and a long weekend back in the Shire being mistaken for a picnic by the local insects)
Times my très adorbz teacher decided that the only way for my battered Achilles to properly understand how to land changements would be to lift me: 2
Times said teacher also completely (inadvertently) scared the wits out of me during turns: 1
Books bought on holiday: 4 (a come down from last year’s 21… Or was it 22?)
Yarn bought on holiday: 50g of some variegated stuff purchased on the last morning. Yes, I almost made it through a whole holiday without buying yarn!



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March, by numbers

The problem with using everything via apps on my phone is that when I try to log into anything properly, I forget my password and get locked out… Sorry, poor neglected blog – especially when April is whizzing by and I haven’t got round to rounding up March yet! So without further ado:

Books 22 (vg)
Books that made me cry in public 2 (the book thief caused ugly uncontrolled sobbing on the train and one moment, one Morning caused all kinds of unanticipated emotions)
Ballet classes 21 (vg)
Pairs of pointe shoes killed dead 1 (grishko proflex)
New pairs of pointe shoes to formed my toes with 1 (Bloch sonata)
Pairs of new flats holey and beyond dead 1 (Bloch pro elastic)
Pairs of new flats still in their packaging 1
Ballets seen 4 (good)
Ballet companies seen 2 (ballet black and Birmingham Royal ballet)
Pieces I cried at during ballet black’s triple bill (excellent, also apparently anticipated… Heh)
Times I left London 2 (good: the Shire and Manchester)
Cuddles with my new Baby Nephew 3 (also featuring a LOT of pacing)
Visits from the Bestest 1 (\o/)
Miles walked during said visit innumerable
Knitting projects completed 2 (a colour work hat for Mutti and a shawl for me, must knit more)
Knitting WIPs 1 (second hat for Mutti which is being quite disastrous)
Viewings of the Dancing on Ice tour 1
Emotions had over watching Torvill and Dean perform Bolero from the front row ALL OF THE EMOTIONS

Well, there you go…



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February, by numbers

Books read: 17 (vg)
Books bought: probably more than 17, ffoqs given: precisely zero
Ballet classes taken: 15 (excellent given I was on holiday for a week)
Times I skived barre stretch during class: 1 (excellent, and it was only because my spine was completely unhappy everywhere)
Pairs of pointe shoes killed: 1, must replace
Ballets seen: 4 (Giselle with Laura Morera in the lead, oh my ~feeeeeeeeeeeels and a triple bill)
Ballet companies seen: 1 (Royal Ballet)
Knitting projects completed: 2 (an iPod cover and a phone case)
Knitting projects cast on and in progress: 2 (a shawl for me and a hat for my mother)
Metres of alpaca silk I bought because my feelings were so strong I almost licked it: 800
Times I cut my own hair off before a job interview: 1
Times I accidentally got a new job in spite of hair cut: 1
Times I made cake for work: 2
Times left london: 3 (vg: Derbyshire, Orkney and Hampshire)
Days spent getting to Orkney: 3
Cameras left behind on Orkney: 1
Nephews acquired: 1

Today it is March which I don’t quite understand. BUT that means tonight I get to go and see Ballet Black! In the LINBURY! Bring on the capslock and the ~feeeeeeeeeeeeeels

Anyway, have a picture o the sea on Orkney:



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January by numbers

Tell me three good things about January, my colleague implored me mere hours into our working lives of 2014. I got as far as ‘the days start to get fractionally longer’ and ‘cheap post Christmas chocolate’ before I ran fresh out of ideas.

For one of my Christmas Snowman (family tradition, long story) presents I was given a beautiful Cath Kidston notebook which I have designated ‘The Big Book of All Things 2014’. It means, lucky for you, I can tell you all the brilliant things about January…

Books read: 23 (vg, although 7 of them were by Laura Ingalls Wilder…)
Books bought: 9, ish. I’ve not really kept track of my amazon spending. Ahem.
Ballet classes taken: 16 (good). I was a couple of classes behind schedule owing to a delayed start back because one of my studios is undergoing extensive refurb (it’s JUST like hogwarts at the moment and that is great).
Ballets seen: 5 (excellent). I saw the Royal Ballet in the Nutcracker (now want to drink pink gin cocktails with Laura Morera’s Rose Fairy), Jewels (Morera perfection in Emeralds and Natalia Osipova/Steven McRae/Melissa Hamilton KILLED it in Rubies) and Giselle (oh. My. Holy. Osipova). I also saw ENB’s Le Corsaire (Daria Klimentova = totally darling) and Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (jolly good fun).
Knitting projects completed: 2 (fail), a stripy slouchy beret and a blanket for my Impending Nephew.
Times I left london: 0. Total fail.
Teevee I loved: Sherlock. Call the Midwife. The Musketeers.
Teevee I continue to have a complex relationship with: Dancing on Ice
Culinary adventures: mostly soup related for lunches but I have instigated ‘Cake of Scientific Inquiry’ at work to try and make us like things in cake that we shouldn’t. So far I have converted at least two people to carrot cake. My next project involves apricots which I claim have no redeeming features…



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2013 By Numbers

Ballet classes: 191 (good but could do better ;))

Pairs of pointe shoes since restarting pointe: three (good, well not the Freed Studios II which, it turned out, were not the right choice for my feet. The Bloch B Morphs and Grishko Proflex were/are great though)

Ballet performances seen: 29 (average)

Ballet companies seen: 11 (vg)

Books read: 221 (could definitely do better)

Knitting projects completed: EXCELLENT QUESTION (why do I have no method for recording this? Must do better)

Baked good produced: my colleagues’ answer to this would be “not enough” and I’d probably be inclined to agree!

TV programmes fallen in love with: Call the Midwife (my ovaries are SO on board the Good Ship Turnadette it’s not funny) and Sherlock. On the downside all my long standing favourites are starting to Jump The Shark (yes, Homeland, I’m looking at you. Also Bones)

Number of times my ovaries were damaged in some, way, shape or form: innumerable (must gird better)

Occasions on which I was forced to break out the CAPSLOCK SQUEE: many

Niggling injuries: numerous (must do better)

2013 has been… well it’s not been terribly bad. It’s had a lot of good points, a few slumps but mostly it’s been a nice year of middling along in an average kind of fashion which suits me just nicely. I don’t think I have many particular aims and ambitions and resolutions for 2014. Well, you know the usual things: Be Less Fat, sleep more, stop playing stupid games on my phone instead of going to sleep, knit more, work harder, keep my bedroom tidy, keep my desk tidy…  oh and BLOG MORE (because I have been a total Slack Alice).Well, maybe there’s a few balletic aims but nothing silly, all (with any luck and a following wind) fairly achievable:

  • manage a pirouette en pointe without getting up to passé and freaking out
  • achieve some kind of consistency with pirouettes (at the minute there are some classes where I just settle for hitting a decent balance and I’d quite like to get over that now thank you)
  • manage an attitude pirouette
  • achieve consistent doubles en dehors both sides
  • get my demi pointe balances more consistent
  • start jumping again (my patella tendon/ITB have been… niggly so jumping’s been out since about October which is galling)

It’s still a bit funny to look back to two years ago when I was in the deep throes of my emo meltdown and all “I NEVER WANT TO DANCE AGAIN”. What a drama queen! Mind you, what a change too. I think 2013, in all honesty, was my happiest dancing year – it’s amazing the change that dancing in the right environment can bring. I have incredible, exceptionally supportive teachers and some completely awesome in class chums and, no matter how lousy the day has been up until Ballet O’Clock, I never fail to leave without feeling at least a little lifted and I know that I am so very, very lucky. Dance wise, there’s a long way to go – at the moment I’m settling for ‘competent. As one of my teachers said “no, not great but definitely better”*.

Here’s to 2014. And “better”.


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Like pink champagne… [Royal Ballet: Raven Girl/Symphony in C]

There’s probably some mileage in the old adage about getting back on a horse when you fall off it, but as I’ve never had any particular desire to get on a horse in the first instance I won’t be testing out the wisdomosity of it. On the other hand, with my ovaries still reeling a little from last Wednesday’s performance of Mayerling (and further compounded by the news that Sarah Kundi is coming up to the end of her last season with Ballet Black *woeface*), I headed back to my spiritual home on Saturday evening to catch the last performance of the Raven Girl/Symphony in C  bill. I tend to avoid Saturday evening performances as a general rule – through sheer laziness rather than anything else, it’s vastly easier to go from work to a performance than motivate myself back into town after a day spent communing with my duvet, knitting and current televisual entertainment. There’s also that whole thing of being the not drunk person getting the train home afterwards – selfish, I know, but if I’m not drunk then nobody else should be either 😉 But on to the ballet…

Wayne McGregor’s new offering Raven Girl, has been subject to a mixed bunch of reviews and reactions so I went with few expectations, figuring that was the easiest way not to be disappointed. Sadly it’s not a tactic that’s worked terribly well with some of his recent offerings (I have such blistering love for both Chroma and Infra that nothing else has been able to match) but actually seemed to hit the spot for Raven Girl. Based on the Audrey Niffeneger story, the ballet has a lot to commend it. Unfortunately it also has a lot that needs to be done to it and it did feel somewhat interminable in places (also: woeful underuse of Edward Watson L). But to focus on the positive: there’s a lot to commend it. The use of the visual effects is stunning and really does help to move the action along. The faceless townspeople are an intriguing concept: either they’re bland and worn down, a comment on their society (à la the LED people in infra) but it also had a feel of Rite of Spring to it, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. The final pas de deux for the Raven Girl and her Raven Prince (incidentally, where on earth did he appear from) was quite lovely. Sarah Lamb’s Raven Girl was stunning and Eric Underwood was a glorious partner for her in the final pas de deux. Thiago Soares’ Doctor was appropriately sinister and creepy (to a slightly worrying extent… such a good actor *sigh*). And there’s just something about Olivia Cowley and McGregor choreography that is a really, really winning combination.

On the other hand, if Raven Girl caused a mixed bag of feelings and an indecisive thumb… Symphony in C was all the thumbs up all round. I really, truly and honestly, feel that this is my favourite ballet in all the world ever, ever, ever. It just… it truly is my happy place. Symphony in C with a G&T is probably my idea of heaven. I read it described as ‘the ballet that keeps giving’ somewhere once and it really is. Just when you think Balanchine can’t pull anything else out of the bag, he does. It’s a half hour of sheer delight and the perfect tonic. Mostly I was being exceptionally appreciative of Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares’ divinely sublime second movement but also Roberta Marquez’s minimum 50,000 megawatt smile. Speaking of Marquez, whoever decided to pair her with Alexander Campbell was an utter genius because that is a partnership that – not entirely unlike a Rice Krispie – definitely goes snap, crackle and pop in all the right places (for the record I really like Rice Krisipes, even more so covered in chocolate with jelly beans and marshmallow…). And then there was Zenaida Yanowsky – she of the gloriously luxurious port de bras and épaulment – and Riyochi Hirano in the first movement with style and panache. And not to mention Laura Morera and Ricardo Cevera blistering their way through the fourth movement completely in tune with each other. All the props also go to the soloists and corps who supported them so gloriously and beautifully. I truly defy anyone to have left that performance without a huge whacking great grin on their face.

And that rounded up my Royal Ballet viewing for the 2012/13 season. It seems funny to think that it’ll be October before I’m back watching them again (I mean fortunately in the interim there’s ENB’s Nureyev triple and the Boston Ballet and Bolshoi are in town so I won’t be ballet starved, hurrah!) for the 2013/14 season. I’ve already got my Autumn dates planned out, scribbled on a post it note and taped to my computer monitor so I have one thing left to say: BRING IT ON. Even Don Quixote*…


*Long term hatred caused by having had to study it for one of my Senior Honours Spanish modules to the extent of coming out in hives etc… fortunately my need to see Osipova/Vasilev when the Mikhailovsky were over earlier this year meant I managed to get over it enough to deal with the ballet. It hasn’t happened with Manon yet though and I have a feeling it never will – hideous, hideous tome.

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Mayerling: a review brough to you by my battered and fragile ovaries

It was a bolt from the blue, a swift and painful kick to the ovaries but the stark words were there and there was nothing to be done about it. Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg to leave the Royal Ballet. This was Monday, their final performance on that stage in my spiritual home last night. Two days, two tiny days to brace myself, to gird my ovaries and face up to the fact this would be the last time I’d watch them break my heart, rip my ovaries out and stamp all over them. It was never going to be enough notice for the couple whose Giselle reduced me to such a sobbing wreck that when I left the auditorium I walked straight into a wall because I still couldn’t quite see straight. I tried to be brave.

It was never going to happen with Mayerling.

Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling draws on the true story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary, well mostly on his relationships with the various women in his life – in particular Mary Vetsera – and his suicide. There’s a brief foray into Hungarian separatist politics as well but really it’s a ballet about Rudolf.

Mayerling opens the day before Rudolf’s wedding to Princess Stephanie with a formal ball type affair – a little like Ashton’s La Valse but far less polite and swirly. Rudolf horrifies the Royal Family by firstly openly flirting with some other Princess and then being found in flagrante with his former mistress, Marie Larisch. The problem is, Rudolf’s impending marriage is just pawn in a political chess game. There’s little wonder his – I suppose respect is the word I want here but I’m not sure – for women is nil to slim and already there’s a sense of his impending downfall. On his initial introduction to Mary, there’s no inkling at all in that relationship of what’s to come. She’s obviously enchanted to meet him – hey, he’s a prince, who wouldn’t be – but no hint that in the end she’ll enter further into his world and games than anyone else.

His unhappiness and despair palpable and almost unbearable, Rudolf goes to his mother – Empress Elisabeth – to protest, air his woes or something. Elisabeth, in fine nineteenth century upper class tradition, is very much all ‘hell nooooooooo boy, you’ll do as you’re told’. It’s not her fault, it’s just the era and the social status and all that but you can’t help but wonder if only she’d been a little more understanding would it all have gone so horribly wrong? As it is, her dismissal of him sends him spiralling further into a spot of madness, going off to Stephanie and pulling a gun on her before taking her to bed. It’s hardly the sort of things a young girl’s dream of romance are made of.

Act 2 opens with Rudolf taking Stephanie to a good old seedy dive of a bar, where she’s blatantly not up for anything and Rudolf winds up sending her packing (he knows how to give a girl a good time) and goes off with his mistress, Mitzi Caspar instead who he tries to embroil in a suicide pact. STERLING WORK, RUDOLF. The Hungarian separatists appear again and there’s a bit of a kerfuffle and the police come along and cart everyone off – bar Rudolf and Mitzi who are hiding behind a sofa in true farce style. Then the Prime Minister appears and Mitzi goes off with him leaving Rudolf behind the sofa so he can sneak out the back whereupon he bumps into Marie and Mary. Now you see where this is going…

Cut to Mary fawning of Rudolf’s portrait and Marie getting all schemey with the tarot cards and promising to give Rudolf a letter from Mary at the royal part shindig she’s off to. Mary is still just a young girl here, a bit infatuated – in today’s terms she’d be fawning over One Direction instead and jumping at the chance if someone said they could get her in with one of them (one of them’s called Harry, right*?). Marie goes off to the party, there’s some fireworks, Rudolf catches his mother having a dance that is deffo not a stately waltz with some bloke called Bay and during a burst of opera singing his emotional turmoil and further descent is both painful and pitiful to watch. Really, the boy just needs a cuddle. After a bit of a tease, Marie gives him Mary’s letter and finally the two get to be alone together in an emotionally charged pas de deux that shows no respect to anyone’s ovaries, real or imaginery.

Back in Act 3 at the shooting, Rudolf goes completely to pieces and from there on in, there is no hope. He has a bit of a thing with Marie, gets caught by Elisabeth who then indulges in an excellent bitch fight with Marie and promptly fires her leaving Rudolf beyond help. When they’ve both left, Mary creeps in. By this stage Mary’s allowed herself to be drawn so far into his world that she doesn’t – unlike Mitzi – balk at his notion of a suicide pact. The final two scenes between Rudolf and Mary really take their toll on the audience’s emotions, feelings and ovaries. I cried ALL THE TEARS and only stopped because my nose was streaming really unattractively and my cardigan was not an adequate hanky substitute. Rudolf kills Mary then kills himself. AND THE PAIN, THE PAIN.

On an ordinary performance, the night could have belonged to any of the cast: Kristen McNally’s haughty, almost indifferent in places, Empress Elisabeth, Emma Maguire’s troubled Stephanie who knows what should be but doesn’t know how to change or escape her fate, Hikaru Kobayashi’s scheming, vindictive Marie Larisch (a real eye opener, I confess), James Hay’s sparkling Bratfisch with his amazing jump. But really the entire evening belonged to Kobborg and Cojocaru. Her Mary Vetsera pushes you to read between the lines of her character – what possesses this seemingly ordinary and sweet young girl to the brink of madness enough to make her agree to a fool’s suicide pact? Cojocaru has this incredible ability to break your heart with every single step, every simple gesture and the way she uses her eyes. Kobborg’s Rudolf is nothing short of genius, a complete tour de force. If some of his dancing didn’t seem quite… right (he’s been out for months with injury, let’s give him a break), it was more than made up for in spades with his acting. Here was a Rudolf cut adrift in a world that makes no sense to him, is it a sign of his upbringing that he places no real value on the women in his life? It’s like that line in Chicago, “that’s because none of us had enough love in our childhood” (“and that’s showbiz, kid”). Kobborg’s pas de deux show that his Rudolf really has no regard for the relationships in his life, the women he ‘collects’ aren’t people to him, merely… things, objects to play with and then throw away when they don’t give into his crazy schemes. Except perhaps his mother, not quite Oedipal, but there’s a sense there of there needing to be something… more. But his most telling moment was during the brief burst of opera in Act 2, there’s no dancing to that but in his stillness, just standing, waiting, watching, and the walls around Kobborg’s Rudolf move in a little closer to crushing him.

Together Cojocaru and Kobborg are electrifying, dancing with a passion that could power the entire country if we just hooked them up to the national grid. No seriously. I barely dared to breathe throughout their pas de deux, not wanting to break the spell of their magic, not wanting this to be the last time I saw this. They communicate on a different level, on a basic level of understanding that needs no words, no gestures, they just know. As the flowers rained down on them at the curtains, it was a kick to the stomach that this was it, the end of an era. My ovaries are still a little painful this morning over the thought that that was the end but I consider myself so very incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to see them dance both together and separately and that, by pure fluke, I’d selected last night as my Mayerling night. I’m sure whatever they go on to will be exciting and interesting and I wish them all the best for the future.



*I am not going to shame myself here by admitting that I know all the names of the 1D boys… oh wait.

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