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Report from the ENB Adult Ballet Day at the Royal Albert Hall


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Well, I'm back from London and the fun experience of doing class on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall. A shout out to Ami, Chinafish, and Trying to Improve who were also there, and about another 35 adult ballet students.


It was really interesting, and at first the space seemed quite over powering, but our teacher was very encouraging and gave us lots of tips about how to dance in such a big space.


So, to start at the beginning. We were met at the Royal Albert Hall Stage Door by one of ENB's wonderful & enthusiastic Education Officers, Rachel, and given ID tags for the rest of the morning. We were ushered through a series of corridors to a place to change and then ushered through more corridors to the auditorium, down some ramps and on to the stage. The RAH is configured at the moment in the round -- or really more like a long oval shape, so we had an imaginary audience all around us. Barres were set up all over the stage, so there was plenty of room.


Our teacher was Laura Hussey, a First Artist in the company, and a really down to earth & talented teacher. She could see how nervous people were in such a big group in such a huge space, and she cheered & cajoled us on. She also set a wonderful class, with lots of slow warming up exercises at the beginning (I particularly liked that we did about 3 different tendu combinations) because it was 9.30am on a Sunday morning after all! :pinch:


The corrections were fairly general, as there were 41 people in the class, and of very different levels of ability. But I learned something from everything we did in class, and I liked the way we started off very simply, but were pushed more and more as the class went on. In the centre, for example, she gave us more or less complex options, and lots of pirouette combinations!!! That I liked a lot. But nothing was so complex that I forgot technical requirements in order to remember the combinations.


In the centre we were encouraged really to try to fill the space, and o help us, we did the first adage and tendu-pirouette combinations in two groups, so there were just 20 of us filling that big space. And Laura stood halfway up in the auditorium, encouraging us to project out to the audience. She also gave us lots of tips about how to dance in such a big space, and find your spot and so on.


Perhaps the most difficult thing (I found) was doing piqué posé pirouettes en manege in two groups. After about 8 turns around the stage, the auditorium kept whirling around even after I stopped! But great fun, really trying to step out, cover the space, but keep in a relatively neat & even circle with other dancers. Our final combination was a very simple grande jeté combination straight down the diagonal; interesting to see how many (or how few) jetés it took to get across the space.


Then we had a coffee break in a meeting room, and were shown some of the costumes used in the current ENB show, Strictly Gershwin, and Rachel explained the complex processes of making, hand dying, and logging uses of each costume. We also got to talk to Laura about her career and her current work on the ENB's ballet for children adapted from Angelina Ballerina. Laura is as dancer, choreographic assistant, and manager of the ENB's Angelina Ballerina Company. It sounded like a fantastic career transition for a dancer into other creative roles, although Laura is still very much dancing -- she told us how she had to step into a role in Angelina at very short notice -- it is a male role, and so she's been learning all about partnering and lifting! She emphasised that the ballet version of Angelina is choreographed and danced as "proper ballet" (pointe, partnering etc etc), and then danced with mouse costumes!! She and Rachel told some funny stories bout dancers' reactions the first time the put on the mouse heads :D.


Then we gt to watch the real dancers take class on stage! Most of the ENB Company were there, and also Tamara Rojo, guesting from the Royal Ballet. I'm afraid I don't know the dancers of the ENB well enough to comment moreon what we saw, so I"ll let otherscomment on that. Mainly what I enjoyed watching was the way a professional class is structured & paced. It started off quite simply, and may dancers were doing their own variations on the combinations set by the Balletmaster, obviously knowing what they needed to do for themselves. And we saw some spectacular turning, and some wonderful "messing about" with big jumps after class! It was a class before a performance, so it was obviously aimed at warming up, rather than extending skills.

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Sounds like a great experience. I was interested to hear that the dancers were doing their own thing rather than what the balletmaster set in class. Last year I watched a Birmingham Royal Ballet company class and was actually quite shocked to see how much the dancers changed (or even ignored) what was set. Is this prevalent these days? When I was a professional you would have been in deep trouble for doing anything like that.

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Well, they were following the structure of each combination, but for the first couple of exercises at the barre, there were some dancers doing variations. But not going their own sweet ways! Obviously getting their bodies warmed up on a Sunday morning, after a performance the night before and a matinée to come. And they appeared not to listen to the ballet master, but in fact by the centre, they were doing exactly what he asked for.

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Thanks for reporting Redbookish! And great to see everyone... Fish, sorry I didn't get more time to speak with you... Trying... I *think* I figured out who you are!


I enjoyed class, but due to a series of unfortunate events (long story... argh!) I had under three hours sleep on Saturday night and could barely stand up in class... I was happy just to make it through. I was also really really sore from my Thursday/Friday class - my hamstrings were SOOOOOOOOO tight! Yuck! The favourite one of these I've done is the first one a few years ago, as the exercises were a more dancey, particularly the last Grand Allegro (there's a thread on that RAH day on the boards). I am trying to figure out why I liked that day more, and I think it was the danci-ness plus the whole new experience thing! The stairs and ramps for the staging also make the stage a bit smaller, so the effect is *slightly* diminished. Nonetheless, it was a fun class... I just wish we did the piques and the grand jetes to both sides! My right ankle is much better these days, but it was a lot of repetitive impact. Laura is great and I liked the pace of the barre. I'm really short and I found it hard to see her sometimes, but here verbal instructions were easy enough to follow.


A note about the combinations... They were all following the balletmaster, but he also allowed for a variations in stretching, etc... and there were variations, but largely within the confines of what he was setting. I realise that sounds like a contradiction, but I say this because it seemed he was more setting the parameters of the exercises at times. Also, I think Redbookish makes a very valid pointe about the fact that this show just opened and the exact same cast had done an intense series of dress rehearsals and performances - including a matinee and an evening show the day before, and were preparing for the matinee that day. I've watched several ENB and RB classes, and I find that in situations like what I just described, there is much more of this variation - much less or almost none in a more 'regular' schedule. I know ENB had issues with one of their rehearsal venues as well in the past two weeks, so I think the dancers have been through a lot. Yesterday was the most variation I had seen, and most of it was by the upper ranks and some of the visiting guests - who also had quite a lot to do in the shows. Not defending anything - just explaining what I've seen with these two companies over the years!


I've watched Vogel in class a few times and on stage, and everytime I'm blown away by his technique. He works hard, but has fun. Same with Tamara Rojo (both are guesting). She has amazing turns, but she doesn't coast through anything, she works hard. A few times, she was working at just staying up, coming down facing any direction (at the end of an exercise) and gaging where her body was - by the end, she was working that timing and placement more, and blasting off with her usual authority. It was lovely to see the dancers be so supportive of each other as well.

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Ami -

I am also lopsided today from only doing the one side on the pique turns and the jetes. But it was worth it - all that space.

I was in blue rolled up trousers and black leo and was hanging out with Fish. Is that who you think I was? (also a head taller than most :-) ).

Didn't get to say hello, but it was nice to put a name ot the face.


On the company class issue and following the exercise, the ballet master did defintely set the barre exercises quite loosely.

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Trying to Improve - I got it right! Your comment on the other thread about being the tall one, plus hanging out with Fish - I could be the next Sherlock Holmes... ha! :(

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I had a lot of fun too :hyper:


My most fun part was definitely able to do more than 2 grand jetes in a roll, and to be given the freedom to do whatever arms I wanted. Not sure how it looked, but it felt great doing it across the stage, "performing" it to hundreds of people red seats!


It would also have been fun if we could have the outer ring going on the right and the inner ring going on the left. :mondieu: Not sure how that would have worked out though, collision everywhere probably!!


So sorry I didn't say bye to you Ami, I was rushing off to rehearsals and didn't want to interrupt you watching class. Am so gutted that I missed the grand allegro.



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