Tours en l'air organizes ballet-themed escorted holidays to see the best companies perform great ballets in beautiful places. You can join a trip from anywhere. A highly knowledgeable balletomane who has enjoyed 100s of performances in over 20 cities around the world,I speak English, French, and German, and am a Travel Industry Council of Ontario certified Travel Counsellor. I also teach ballet appreciation courses. Twitter: @thewordlady Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katherine.barber.37
Tours en l'air Ballet Holidays are offered in partnership with CWT Victor Travel, 101 - 8800 Dufferin Street, Concord, ON L4K 0C5, 416-736-6010, TICO # 1892647

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Tours en l'Air on Classical 96.3 FM in Toronto

Jean Stilwell will be interviewing me about the planned ballet trips for 2010 on Classical 96.3 FM on October 1 at 810 am.

Mao's Last Dancer

I saw the opening of Bruce Beresford's film Mao's Last Dancer at the Toronto International Film Festival last night. Beresford was in attendance for a Q&A, as were several of the actors including Chi Cao of Birmingham Royal Ballet who starred as Li Cunxin in the title role. The film was received enthusiastically by the sellout crowd, who became instant fans of Chi Cao's when they saw his virtuosity in a dazzling Don Quixote pas de deux. Other choreography in the film was by Australian Graeme Murphy, including an unusual Swan Lake.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cyrano

A hot tip for anyone visiting the UK this fall: BRB's Cyrano is a must-see ballet. David Bintley masterfully translates the play into dance, creating a ballet that makes you laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. Lovely music by Carl Davis, sumptuous costumes, beautiful pas de deux and solos, great macho leaping about for the male corps, this is the best new story ballet I have seen in years. If you get a chance to see Robert Parker in the title role, GO FOR IT. Here are the dates; for more info visit www.brb.org.uk.

Birmingham Hippodrome
30 September - 3 October 2009

Belfast Grand Opera House
13 - 17 October 2009

Plymouth Theatre Royal
22 - 24 October 2009

Sunderland Empire Theatre (near Newcastle)
6 - 7 November 2009

Sadler's Wells Theatre, London
12 - 14 November 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Quanz ballet

On Friday September 4 I had the privilege of seeing a run-through of a new ballet by Peter Quanz set to Steve Reich's Double Sextet, created on dancers of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for a commission by the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (premiering Friday September 11 with 2 more performances on September 12). For an interesting archive of the creation of this piece, visit peterquanz.com.
The ballet is very high-energy, reflecting the driving rhythms of the music. Principal dancer Vanessa Lawson was a standout, with focus, commitment, and incredible strength and speed making clean work of the limit-pushing choreography.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My review of the Stuttgart Ballet's 60th Birthday gala for Reid Anderson

Former dancers strapped on pointe shoes they hadn't worn for years. Audience favourites, unbeknownst to Reid Anderson, flew in from as far away as Chile and Australia to perform. Choreographers nurtured by the company (Kylián, Neumeier, Forsythe, Bigonzetti) were represented. The Stuttgart Ballet knows how to throw a party, and for this gala, billed as Anderson's "Surprise 60th birthday party", they outdid themselves. For almost a year, Stuttgart's dancers and choreographers had been creating and rehearsing in their lunch hours and evenings, if need be stopping on a dime to disguise what they were doing if Anderson walked by. And, from the moment the irrepressible Márcia Haydée broke into an impersonation of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday, the surprises never stopped coming, for without a printed program, only surtitles announced the work and the performers before each of the 20 pieces started, a circumstance that certainly added to the audience's excitement and anticipation.

Resident Choreographer Christian Spuck's knack for creating entertaining gala pieces alongside his more serious works was once again confirmed by his goofy Ständchen ("Serenade", definitely not to be confused with George Balanchine's work of the same name) in which the bumbling trio of Stefan Stewart, Roland Havlica, and Alexander Zaitsev, outfitted in metal conical birthday hats and bedevilled by coughs, sneezes and many other bodily noises, endeavoured to get their act together so as to sing "Happy Birthday". Another favourite Spuck gala piece, the spoof classical Grand Pas de Deux, brought former principal Julia Krämer out of retirement and reunited her with Jason Reilly, a red handbag, and a stuffed cow.

Reilly, due to join the National Ballet of Canada in the fall of 2009, was much in evidence, replacing an injured Evan McKie at short notice in company principal Douglas Lee's creation Fanfare LX, which exploited Alicia Amatriain's more than 180-degree extensions and plastic fluidity to the full. In Legende, a pas de deux perfectly suited to the beautifully lyrical Sue Jin Kang, Cranko's trademark high lifts, executed one-handedly and apparently effortlessly by Reilly, brought spontaneous gasps and applause from the audience.

Kang was reunited with Robert Tewsley in the exquisite white pas de deux from John Neumeier's Lady of the Camellias, danced with the tenderness, passion, elegance, and musicality that made theirs such a special partnership while Tewsley, now a freelancer, was in Stuttgart.

In contrast, a recurring theme was lust on a couch. In Itzik Galili's The Sofa, former company dancer Eric Gauthier, now director of his own Stuttgart-based company, is at first the would-be seducer of Lisa May and then has the tables (or in this case the sofa) turned on him as he is stalked by the hilariously camp William Moragas. Hans van Manen's equally funny but somewhat more bittersweet take on the theme, Sunday, saw Haydée, as an ageing housewife with curlers, down-at-heel slippers and knitting (but still proving by the mere arch of an eyebrow what a consummate dance actress she is), rejecting the advances of another Stuttgart Ballet legend, Egon Madsen, in pyjama bottoms and an undershirt. The fact that Haydée and Madsen had created the roles danced in the immediately preceding number by Kang and Tewsley only added to the poignancy.

Fun, beauty, emotion, lyricism, explosive energy, creative new choreography, a wealth of talented dancers too numerous to mention, a charming défilé by the students of the John Cranko School culminating in a cleverly choreographed representation of the letters HAPPY BIRTHDAY REID. Proof positive that Reid Anderson has been keeping the spirit as well as the repertoire of John Cranko alive. By the end of the almost 5-hour long evening, the Stuttgart audience, whose extraordinary appreciation and support for their beloved company should not be overlooked as part of the Stuttgart miracle, felt like children who had gorged themselves on a friend's birthday cake.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ballet Films at the Toronto International Film Festival

TIFF is offering two films this September of interest to ballet fans: Mao's Last Dancer, starring Birmingham Royal Ballet principal Chi Cao in the title role, and a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet.

Metro Movement Dance Studio

Today I took a ballet class taught by Stelio Calagias at Metro Movement Dance Studio in Toronto. It was a fun class, with a very supportive atmosphere created by both Stelio and the other students. I'll be back as a regular. If you're looking for a drop-in intermediate level ballet class for adults in Toronto, I recommend it, and it's very conveniently located about a minute's walk from Broadview subway station. Ballet classes are 1030-1200 on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.