Tag Archives: Advent Calendar 2005

10 fabulous ballet women for International Women’s Day 2018

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Picture of a rose

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I was frustrated that journalists and historians tended to focus only on the big names: the stars, the directors, the choreographers, the “game-changers,” the critics and scholars, while leaving out the people who did so much of the heavy-lifting:  ballet mistresses, teachers, coaches, notators, assistants. Another category:  those  dancers who come over during a rehearsal and help you out when those at the front charged with doing so don’t know how to.  Insiders know that ballet is a joint enterprise,  and that on the dancing side, these are the people who make the ballet world go round, who hold it together, who support and lift everyone in it, who keep the ship afloat and motivate the crew in stormy seas badly navigated.  

I wanted to do two things: to say thank you to the people who had explained the ballet world to me when I was floundering, particularly at  the beginning of my career; but also, to disrupt the web search results, so that some of the people I admired most would come out of the footnotes to other people’s biographies. It was the early 2000s, and at the time, people  believed (perhaps they still do?)  that if you couldn’t be found on the web, you didn’t exist. 

Disappearing Acts

They weren’t all women, but the fact that men in these roles are also overlooked has, I believe, a lot to do with gender, with the tendency to dismiss supportive, other-directed, compassionate, nurturing and emotionally intelligent behaviour as unimportant “women’s work,”  compared to the more attention-grabbing projects of choreography, composition, or building new premises.   Joyce Fletcher writes about this in Disappearing Acts

[C]ertain behaviors “get disappeared”—not because they are ineffective but because they get associated with the feminine, relational, or so-called softer side of organizational practice. This implicit association with the feminine tends to code these behaviors as inappropriate to the workplace because they are out of line with some deeply held, gender-linked assumptions about good workers, exemplary behavior, and successful organizations. In other words, the findings [of Fletcher’s research among female design engineers] suggest that there is a masculine logic of effectiveness operating in organizations that is accepted as so natural and right that it may seem odd to call it masculine. This logic of effectiveness suppresses or “disappears” behavior that is inconsistent with its basic premises, even when that behavior is in line with organizational goals. The result is that organizations adopt the rhetoric of change—moving, for example, to self-managed teams—but end up disappearing the very behavior that would make the change work, such as recognizing the effort involved in helping a team work together effectively. 

As an example, she cites a discussion in a manufacturing firm where everyone agrees that “the ability to bring people together, to resolve differences, and make team members feel at ease with each other is something that is very important in getting a diverse group of people working well together,” (p.2) yet these do not get added to a list of core competences because “they are not measurable or something that could be written into one’s objectives.” If you’ve ever had to write learning objectives, or been told to make your goals S.M.A.R.T. you’ll know what it feels like to have to bring yourself kicking and screaming into line with this way of thinking.

This isn’t about giving some occasional column inches to “unsung heroes.”  The concept of lone heroes and solitary geniuses is part of the problem. As Mary Beard said recently in an interview in the LARB about women and power: 

This is about women who want to be listened to and taken seriously and to make a difference to the ordinary workplace. Power isn’t just stratospheric. It’s not just about the glass ceiling. There’s quite a lot of women who feel so far from the glass ceiling that that metaphor is a real turn off. This is about how we operate together at every level in the culture, whether that’s around a university seminar, or high school, or a retail store, or whatever. It’s about thinking about who we take seriously, how, and why.

This list is 13 years old, and I could add many, many more to it now (I won’t, because if I start, I’ll end up doing a new Advent Calendar) but it’s wonderful that I still know,  work or  catch up with most  of them today, and they are still every bit as fabulous. 

10 Fabulous Ballet Women for International Women’s Day

References


HAPPY CHRISTMAS 2005

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall HAPPY CHRISTMAS!
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur Ann Hogben Graham Bond Tania Fairbairn

There’s a wonderful restaurant in Prague called Restaurace Století where I’ve spent many a happy time with friends and colleagues from the ballet masterclasses. Each dish on Století’s menu is named after a particular luminary of the 20th century. In the same spirit, and as the finale to this dance inspirations advent calendar, may I present to you my Christmas Dinner Class Menu. Each piece of music reminds me in a special way of the person they are associated with below, for reasons which I’d go into if I didn’t have to put a turkey in the oven myself. Happy christmas, and bon appetit!

Potage du Jour

Warm-up Jackie Barratt: – Georgia on my mind

Les hors d’oeuvres

Pliés Belinda Quirey – Minuet in B minor J S Bach

Pliés Pat NearyTonight from West Side Story

Slow tendus Malcolm Williamson – Blue Moon

Faster Tendus Christopher HampsonNon, monsieur je n’ai pas vingt ans

Battements glissés David Wall Rondeau from Les Biches

Battements glissés Tania Fairbairn Turkey in the straw

Ronds de jambe à terre Irena Pasari? Ne vrijedi plakati (starogradska pjesma)

Battements fondus Thomas Edur Mazurka in C major from Les Sylphides

Battements frappés Klaus BeelitzIch wöllt’ ich wär’ ein Huhn

Ronds de jambe en l’air Betty Anderton Adèle’s laughing song from Die Fledermaus

Petits battements Woytek LowskiIch bin die fesche Lola!

Grands battements Mark Morris Take back your mink

[Veuillez prendre place au milieu]

Les Entrées

Tendus & pirouettes Ann Hogben – Waltz from The Haunted Ballroom

Pirouettes Graham Bond – Pigtail Girl from Graduation Ball

Pirouettes en diagonal PussyWunderbar from Kiss Me Kate

Adage Victor Alvarez – Chopin: Prelude in D flat (‘Raindrop Prelude)

Les Plats Principaux

Warm-up jump Harald KrytinarIf I only had wings

Petit allegro Susie CooperFlat foot floogie with the floy, floy

Allegro John O’Brien Zwei dunkle Augen

Batterie Gillian Cornish – Last movement from Beethoven piano concerto No. 5 (The Emperor)

Les Desserts

Grand allegro Wayne Sleep – Coda from Diane & Acteon

Grand allegro Ivan Nagy – Tarantella from Etudes

Manège Daniel Jones There is nothing like a dame

Tania Fairbairn

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This is December 24th in my Dance Inpirations advent calendar

Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall  
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur Ann Hogben Graham Bond Tania Fairbairn
Picture of Hungarian dancer doing the czardas

Not Tania, but a Hungarian csárdás dancer in Budapest, c. 1991

As it comes to the end of this advent calendar, I’m left with a very difficult decision: I still have all kinds of people I’d love to pay homage to, but advent is advent, and I’ve got to stop because tomorrow’s christmas. So I applied a criterion – it had to be someone, or an event involving someone, which I find myself constantly referring to in conversation with friends and colleagues.

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Graham Bond

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 23rd in my Dance
Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur Ann Hogben Graham Bond 24

Me & Graham Bond - and if you click on the link, the singer James Meek, too - after a performance of Robert North's A Stranger I Came (with me & James doing the Schubert songs), Swansong & Etudes in the opera house in Budapest, 1991

What works on a piano in the studio very often doesn’t work on stage with an orchestra, so that the first day a conductor comes to rehearsals in the lead-up to a show is a bit like your parents coming home early to find you getting drunk with your teenage schoolmates on their duty-free Campari. It’s only a baton, but you can almost hear the dismay:
“Look at this rubato all over the place! You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“I told you that Boris was a bad influence. I don’t care how many pirouettes he can do, you keep in tempo like you’ve been taught!”
“How dare you help yourself to my presto?! I was saving that for the coda!”
“Now your mother and I are going to try and sort this ballet out. From now on, you’ll do as your told and play when I tell you to”

What I learnt from Graham Bond, however, was that it can sometimes the other way around. I have a tendency sometimes to play through music somewhat peremptorily, forgetting how healthy it is to let it breathe. In my early days at ENB, where Graham was my boss, I was also pretty clueless about how to make a pas de deux work between the music and the dancers, and as a result was quite heartless, without meaning to be, about tempo.

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Ann Hogben

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 22nd in my Dance
Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur Ann Hogben 23 24
Picture of Ann Hogben's hands playing the piano

Ann Hogben at the piano c. 2000

It was to Annie that David Wall sent me to pick up some tips about playing for class when I was floundering about hopelessly at the RAD as a novice dance accompanist back in 1986. Apart from the fact that Annie was a good pianist and accompanist, she was a good choice as a teacher because she had a large repertoire of music for class from popular classics & songs, which made it easy to point at something and say “that’s the kind of thing to play for grands battements” or “that’s quite nice for adage”.

 

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Thomas Edur

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 21st in my Dance
Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris Thomas Edur 22 23 24

Thomas Edur on tour in Budapest 1993, doing his 'spy' look. Nearly every picture I have of Tom is like this - he improvises anything but a regular smile for the camera! My website hasn’t yet become what I once intended it to be, having been hijacked by exigencies and the mundane, but the fact that it’s here at all is thanks to a conversation with Thomas Edur. Some years ago I was chatting to him & Yat Sen Chang in a corridor at a party, having an animated discussion about musicality. It annoyed me at the time – as it still does now – that in some ways, it’s not that complicated an issue, despite the ink & frowns that are expended on it. All it needs is for people to address it, and in practical terms, keep music and musicality high on the agenda in the studio – what’s complicated & difficult is trying to get it there in the first place. I’ve met plenty of people whose approach to music, musicality in performance, and sensitivity to music is exemplary – Tom chief amongst them – and yet they are not often called upon to share it or discuss it, except for the occasional insight like this one from Thomas in a Radio 3 interview – “I remember being told when I was eight years old; “If you can sing the melody, then you can dance it.”

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Mark Morris

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 20th in my Dance
Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric Mark Morris 21 22 23 24

Mark Morris in rehearsal at ENB for Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. Photograph © Asya Verzhbinsky, reproduced with her kind permission. www.asyav-images.com Photo © Asya Verzhbinsky, Reproduced with permission
On a Saturday lunchtime around this time last year, I walked out of the Sadler’s Wells stage door & up Rosebery Avenue feeling like Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. I’d just played my first class for Mark Morris & his company (I’d already played for Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes in 2003, but never for a class), and it was – I’m not exagerrating – a mindblowing experience.

I guess you have to understand that ballet class is something that has bugged my curiosity ever since I first walked through the doors of the RAD nearly 20 years ago. When I left there 9 months later, I tried to explain to the then director, Julia Farron, that much as I liked dance and was grateful for my job, I was frustrated because I felt that class could be so much more than it currently was, but there seemed to be no way of doing it.

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Irena Pasarić

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 19th in my Dance
Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey Irena Pasaric 20 21 22 23 24

Irena Pasaric from Croatian National Ballet (HNK). This picture is taken from the HNK site and links directly to Irena's biography there

If it weren’t for Irena Pasarić, I would probably still hate Swan Lake as much as I hated it before I met her. Playing for rehearsals of the Act II pas de deux is often an experience similar to what Richard goes through in Keeping up appearances when he has Hyacinth as a passenger: “Slow down! Mind that arabesque! Don’t go so fast! Watch that pirouette! Stop! Don’t stop! Now, stop now! Not now, when I say so!”

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Belinda Quirey (1912 – 1996)

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Woytek Lowski Gillian Cornish John O'Brien Malcolm Williamson Jackie Barratt Pussy (Diana Payne Myers) Christopher Hampson David Wall This
is December 18th in my Dance Inpirations advent calendar
Susie Cooper Daniel Jones Ivan Nagy Wayne Sleep Betty Anderton Harald Krytinar Victor Alvarez Pat Neary
Klaus Beelitz Belinda Quirey 19 20 21 22 23 24

Louis XIV as Apollo in The Ballet Royal de la Nuit, from the Library of Congress exhibition, Treasures from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France

It says a lot about Belinda that the story I’d most like to tell about her famous classes in Historical Dance at the RAD is unprintable. Her definition of dance history was broad enough to include occasionally testing the students’ knowledge of the extramarital shennanigans of ballet stars. I think she wanted to make sure they didn’t get overwhelmed by the superficial glamour of the royal institutions with which they came regularly in contact. In the middle of an explanation of contrapposto she might suddenly say in her deep voice which owed something to Edith Evans, “Now, my darling treasures, which star of the Royal Ballet famously….”

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Klaus Beelitz

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bode.jpg
This is Dec. 17th in my dance inspirations advent calendar. Opened already: December 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th 15th 16th

One of the advantages of dance being a silent art is that what two people sense or read in each other, and the ethereal conversation that happens between dancer and dancer, dancer and musician, teacher & pianist is so much more interesting, poignant, fleeting, deep and moving than anything one might say with words. As a musician in class, you often end up reading people and ‘talking’ to them and they with you, with music. You might never actually talk to them, but at some level you’ve had a musical encounter more direct and meaningful than a thousand conversations.

Maybe I read it all wrong, but when I first met Klaus, who was ballet master at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (now subsumed under the Staatsballett-Berlin), I got the feeling that maybe he got a bit tired and overwhelmed by the predominantly English culture that had taken over there. Rehearsals were conducted entirely in English, there were only a handful of Germans in the company, and with a couple of exceptions, most of the foreigners couldn’t be bothered to learn German. As an example of how bizarre that situation was, one pianist there had spent time and money in her native Azerbaijan learning German in preparation for the move to Berlin, only to be berated by one of the anglophone staff because she ‘only’ spoke German (rather than English).

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