I haven’t got a picture of Pat Neary, but since the first time we met we were working on Apollo, and the second time on Agon, something with an ancient Greek theme seemed appropriate. Also, there’s something about Pat’s pedigree as a dancer & teacher of the Balanchine repertoire, her humour, wit, intelligence, and understanding of life, ballet, art & people that make me think of her as a kind of living oracle.
Saying that someone is your favourite dancer or the best dancer you ever saw is difficult, because some people are your favourites in particular roles, or new people come along who challenge the position, or you just don’t want to be forced to choose between equals. But if my life depended on it, I’d be willing to say that Victor Alvarez is my favourite male dancer, and, for my taste, probably the best dancer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and without any doubt at all, the most musical.
Woytek Lowski once said to Jo (Josephine) Jewkes after her performance of the Prelude in Les Sylphides “Well, once again, you ruined the show – you were so good you made everyone else on stage look terrible”. In the same spirit, Victor has made my life a misery at times: when you know that something can be done as effortlessly, spectacularly and musically as Victor does it, and with such friendly charm and good naturedness, it makes so much else that you do seem like a bad marriage.
I am thankful to Harald and glad to know him for many reasons. I met him in Germany, where we were both employed at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (he currently dances with Ballet Preljocaj ) . He’s an instinctive musician; one of those dancers who hears music so acutely that if you decided to articulate four semiquavers differently today than yesterday, or to put in an extra rubato, he’d notice, and raise a cheerful eyebrow at you as he moved a limb or tendon in a correspondingly different way. It’s those dancers who make being a dance musician worthwhile – well, let’s face it, they make watching dance worthwhile.
As a musician, dancer, sound technician and friend, we had many conversations about music for dance in the various contexts one finds it in a theatre – classes, rehearsals, performances; the problems with conductors, the problems of stage monitors, tempo, sound equipment, cuing shows. As with so many other people in this calendar, I owe much of my understanding of dance and music to these conversations.
The ballet world is that small, and Betty is that well-known amongst dancers that if you say ‘Betty’ to most dancers, it means Betty Anderton. The fact that I can’t find a single recent picture of her teaching, either in my own collection, or on the web, illustrates perfectly my motivation for this advent calendar. Considering the thousands of wonderful classes and rehearsals she has taken for probably thousands of dancers over the last few decades, and that those classes and rehearsals have been behind many of the greatest performers and performances you have seen, it is monstrously unfair and unbalanced that you can’t find more than a handful of sites which just mention her in passing.
This is Dec. 12th in my dance inspirations advent calendar. Opened already: December 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th
I don’t think I have ever worked so hard or so intensely as I have on the many, many projects that Wayne and I have done together. He’s a genius, and geniuses set off litle whirlwinds of activity around them wherever they go and whatever they do. Wayne’s mind moves so quickly, that it’s dangerous to leave the back-of-an-envelope near him in case he has devised a show, a tour and a gala while you were putting the kettle on. As an example, when I was working as his assistant on the World of Classical Ballet tour, we met after the day’s rehearsals to top-line a number which involved arranging a medley of classical & folk tunes into a five minute collage. It didn’t take much longer than five minutes to decide how to do it. “Fabulous…And if we can have that tomorrow….” said Wayne, as I waved goodbye.
I have a huge soft spot for Ivan, not just because he is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but also because he was the first director I worked for as a full-time company pianist. In that capacity, he presided over my debut performance with ENB which was playing for Apollo in Malvern, and I still treasure the chukkas card and present that he and his wife Marilyn gave me. There are only a handful of people who would realise how important & nerve-wracking that first performance would be; for a director to be bothered enough to send a card & a present as well is extraordinary.
The photograph shows Dan holding a copy of Studio Series Intuitions Vol. 3: he’s the person in the picture on the front, and is currently the new face of all the Intuitions CDs produced by the RAD. I had no idea this was going to happen – I just suggested that they redesigned, and the next thing I know is, there’s my best mate Dan on the front. Spooky: we were on tour in Brazil back in 1992/3, just after Dan joined ENB; we had one day in Sao Paolo to look around, and Dan and I spent most of it looking round a market and talking. We’ve been friends ever since, and music has played an enormous part in that, so it’s amazingly appropriate that they should have chosen that image.
Susie is another one of those people that I seem to have had a non-stop conversation with about dance & music since the day we met, which was some time early in 1986. She taught choreography at the RAD, and was what you might call the ‘token contemporary’ teacher, having come from Rambert and therefore partial to the odd lean sideways and music with wrong notes in. I’m being facetious: if there’s one thing that is guaranteed to get me and Susie worked up into a lather, it’s the idiocy of trying to make rigid distinctions between ‘contemporary dance’ and ballet, or ‘classical’ and ‘modern’ music.
I’ve forgotten quite how terrible my first attempts at playing for class were nearly 20 years ago, and what forms that terribleness took. What I do remember, though, as if it only happened this morning, was the effect it had on one of the poor sods I was playing for. I think David Wall, who was a director (with Julia Farron) of the RAD at the time, must have suffered my playing once or twice in silence, but this time, he couldn’t hide his impatience any longer. When I saw him coming towards me in the corridor after the class, I was absolutely terrified. He seemed to be shaking, sweating and glowering, as if one false move on my part would have made him punch my lights out.
This is Dec. 7 th in my dance inspirations advent calendar. Opened already: December 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
I’ve been dreading the day when I get to Chris in this advent calendar, because I simply don’t know where to start, and having started, I could probably continue writing until I retire. We’ve been friends and colleagues since 1992, and without a doubt, he is both my greatest friend, greatest influence, and greatest inspiration. We started working, talking and laughing when he first joined ENB, and haven’t stopped since. Even when we haven’t been working together, we’ve usually found an excuse to come along to each others’ projects anyway, to the extent that it’s quite difficult to remember who was really supposed to be working on what. In any case, we both enjoy our work so much that none of it really feels like work. He has made me laugh longer & harder that anyone else on the planet; the closest I have come to death was driving down Kingsway, and remembering something that he’d said earlier that evening; just the memory of it made me laugh so much I had to pull over before I crashed.