Tag Archives: Royal Academy of Dance

Judith Espinosa, the fishermen’s wives and the waltz

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As allegro was about to begin during a ballet class yesterday, I started to smirk thinking about something I’d read in Derek Parker’s fascinating book, The First 75 Years of the Academya brief history of the Royal Academy of Dance published on its 75th anniversary in 1995. It was a reminiscence about the teaching methods of Judith Espinosa, who “spoke Cockney in the old Dickensian manner” (pronouncing the letter v as w, apparently), and was rarely seen without a cigarette. For those used to universal smoking bans, it’s hard to believe that this was probably in a ballet studio, but even I remember having an ashtray on the piano during company class. In addition to chain-smoking and speaking Dickensian cockney, she also shouted so loud that people feared for her vocal health. 

Put all these together, and now imagine the way that she set her choreographic “scenas” in class:

“You’re fishermen’s wives—you’re waiting on the beach for the boats, but there’s news that all the men have been drowned in a storm; you’re wild with grief. [To the pianist] We’ll have a waltz.” The First 75 Years of the Academy, p. 12

The style is hilarious, but what I was smirking at just as much was the familiarity—to anyone who’s played for class—of the abrupt return to musical mundanity with “we’ll have a waltz.” 

 

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
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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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