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, TICO # 1892647

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Doors Open Toronto: Ballet

Canada's National Ballet School

Architecture & Design, Arts & Cultural Centre, Educational Institution, Built in 1800s, Built since 2000
400 Jarvis St (map)
416-964-3780

Days Open

Saturday, May 24: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Last admittance: 4:15 pm

Architecture

Year: 1800's
Style: Revival (1800-Early 1900), Modern (1880+)
Original Architect: Unknown
Subsequent Architect(s)/Consultant(s):KPMB and Goldsmith Borghal

Building Description

Canada's National Ballet School's campus showcases historic, heritage buildings surrounded by modern, glass structures, allowing the public to witness students dancing in the light-filled studios fronting onto Jarvis Street. The heritage buildings were formerly home to CBC radio and Ladies Havergal College and have been fully restored. The 12 modern studios provide magnificent training spaces for dance students while the Mona Campbell Town Square at the heart of the School is frequently used to host events and is the gathering place for staff, faculty and students alike.

Visitor Experience

Visitors to NBS’ campus will be guided in small groups around the facilities. Tours begin in the historic Mona Campbell Square with an introduction to the School and its compelling combination of heritage and contemporary architecture. Proceeding to the 6th floor to catch a view of Lake Ontario from the terrace, visitors will see the studios animated with dance classes as they make their way back down – peeking across Radio City’s outdoor public art to the former Ladies Havergal College, now home to NBS academics. Passing by the wardrobe room, a display will showcase costumes created onsite for some of the School’s annual Spring Showcase performances. Pointe shoes and dance wear are available for dancers of all ages at the School's retail store, The Shoe Room. Lasting approximately 20 minutes, each tour provides opportunities for photographs of the architectural facilities.

Tours

Guided tours are offered throughout the day.

Photography / Filming

Interior photography permitted , including tripod
Interior filming not permitted , without tripod

Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement

Architecture & Design, Arts & Cultural Centre, Educational Institution, Sports & Recreation Facility, Built 1900 – 1945
6 Noble St (map)
416-533-3706

Days Open

Saturday, May 24: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Last admittance: 4:30 pm
Sunday, May 25 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Last admittance: 4:30 pm

Architecture

Year: 1930
Style: Modern (1880+)
Original Architect: Unknown
Subsequent Architect(s)/Consultant(s):Philip Beesley

Building Description

Originally built in 1930 as a workshop for a furniture maker, the original structure is reminiscent of the period of Bauhaus in its use of geometric shapes using different coloured bricks. After two extensive renovations, the original walls of the space and a few of the old industrial windows remain. The original footprint grew from 9,000 to now 13,700 sq. ft. In 2003, Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement was able to secure a lease and engage architect Philip Beesley to design the inside of the building. It now houses four studios, features an ample lobby/gallery, while the west side of the building is a small black box theater that seats an audience of 100. Over the 10 years that the school has made 6 Noble St. its home, it has established itself as an artistic hub in Parkdale that opens its doors to young dancers, as well as to artists of different disciplines.

Visitor Experience

Enter though big glass doors and prepare for a treat in the arts. Tour the lobby/gallery, view the artwork of local artists. Visit three studios and observe classes in progress. In studio B there is an opportunity to "join the dance" (open class for adults and children). Studios C & D allow visitors to observe rehearsals in progress for the school's annual Let's Dance Festival. The tour continues to the Scotiabank Studio Theatre to enjoy a short performance by YMI Dancing, the school's pre-professional youth company.

Tours

10:30 am, (45 minutes)
11:30 am, (45 minutes)
2:00 pm, (45 minutes)
3:30 pm, (45 minutes)

Photography / Filming

Interior photography permitted , including tripod
Interior filming permitted , including tripod

Other Information

Wheelchair access through rear

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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National Ballet of Canada Cinderella casting 2014

James Kudelka's Cinderella at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto.

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Cinderella 
Prince Charming
Stepmother
Stepsister 
Other Stepsister
June 4th @ 730 pm
Sonia Rodriguez
Guillaume Côté
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Tanya Howard
Rebekah Rimsay
June 5th @ 2 pm
Jillian Vanstone
Naoya Ebe
Rebekah Rimsay
Stephanie Hutchison
Tiffany Mosher
June 5th @ 730 pm
Xiao Nan Yu
McGee Maddox
Rebekah Rimsay
Krista Dowson
Shaila D’Onofrio
June 6th @ 730 pm
Sonia Rodriguez
Guillaume Côté
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Tanya Howard
Rebekah Rimsay
June 7th @ 2 pm
Jillian Vanstone
Naoya Ebe
Rebekah Rimsay
Stephanie Hutchison
Tiffany Mosher
June 7th @ 730 pm
Xiao Nan Yu
McGee Maddox
Rebekah Rimsay
Krista Dowson
Shaila D’Onofrio
June 8th @ 2 pm
Sonia Rodriguez
Guillaume Côté
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Tanya Howard
Rebekah Rimsay
June 13th @ 730 pm
Xiao Nan Yu
McGee Maddox
Rebekah Rimsay
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Shaila D’Onofrio
June 14th @ 2 pm
Jillian Vanstone
Naoya Ebe
Rebekah Rimsay
Stephanie Hutchison
Tiffany Mosher
June 14th @ 730 pm
Sonia Rodriguez
Guillaume Côté
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Tanya Howard
Rebekah Rimsay
June 15th @ 2 pm
Xiao Nan Yu
McGee Maddox
Rebekah Rimsay
Alejandra Perez-Gomez
Shaila D’Onofrio

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tanaquil LeClercq documentary to air on PBS

The recent film Afternoon of a Faun, about the life of Balanchine muse Tanaquil Le Clercq, will be airing on the "American Masters" series on PBS stations in June (and possibly online). Listings vary by city.
Since the PBS website is very cumbersome to negotiate, the best way to be sure not to miss it is to set your PVR (if you have one) to record "American Masters" whenever it comes up.
In Toronto, one station accessible to Bell subscribers is KCTS Seattle, which is airing this on Sunday 22 June at 3 pm (and repeating it Friday 27 June at 9:30 pm), both times Pacific Time.

New York metro area,  Friday 20 June at 9 p.m. (Eastern Time) on THIRTEEN.

Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte - June 26, 8:00 PM
Phoenix - June 27, 9:30 PM


WNED Buffalo, Sunday July 6 at 3:30 pm or Wednesday July 9 at 230 am (WNED seems to think that ballet lovers are insomniacs!)  

Film also available for rental on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video US, Google Play, with more services to follow, and film available for purchase on Kino Lorber, iTunes or Amazon.com!
http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Afternoon-of-a-Faun-Tanaquil-Le-Clercq/70298351?trkid=1660
 


If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Bolshoi New York July 2014 casting

Swan Lake


Odette-Odile
Prince Siegfried
The Evil Genius
The Fool
Tuesday, July 15th @ 8 pm
Svetlana Zakharova
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Wednesday, July 16th @ 8 pm
Anna Nikulina
Artem Ovcharenko
Denis Rodkin
Denis Medvedev
Thursday, July 17th @ 8 pm
Svetlana Zakharova
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Friday, July 18th @ 8 pm
Olga Smirnova
Semyon Chudin
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov
Saturday, July 19th @ 2 pm
Anna Nikulina
Artem Ovcharenko
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov
Saturday, July 19th @ 8 pm
Ekaterina Shipulina
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Sunday, July 20th @ 2 pm
Olga Smirnova
Semyon Chudin
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov

Don Quixote




Kitri
Basilio
Don Quixote
Sancho Panza
Gamache
Espada
The Queen of the Dryads
Tuesday, July 22nd @ 8 pm
Maria Alexandrova
Vladislav Lantratov
Alexey Loparevich
Alexander Petukhov
Denis Savin
Denis Rodkin
Olga Smirnova
Wednesday, July 23rd @2 pm
Ekaterina Krysanova
Semyon Chudin
Alexey Loparevich
Roman Simachev
Denis Medvedev
Vitaly Biktimirov
Anna Nikulina
Wednesday, July 23rd @ 8 pm
Ekaterina Shipulina
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexey Loparevich
Sergey Minakov
Denis Savin
Denis Rodkin
Olga Smirnova

All performances at the David H. Koch theatre, Lincoln Center


Spartacus



Spartacus
Crassus
Aegina
Phrygia
Gladiator
Friday, July 25 @ 8 pm
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexander Volchkov
Svetlana Zakharova
Anna Nikulina
Denis Savin
Saturday, July 26th @ 8 pm
Denis Rodkin
Vladislav Lantratov
Ekaterina Krysanova
Maria Vinogradova
Anton Savichev
Sunday, July 27th @ 2 pm
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexander Volchkov
Svetlana Zakharova
Anna Nikulina
Denis Savin


All performances at the David H. Koch theatre, Lincoln Center


If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Bolshoi Spartacus casting New York July 2014

Spartacus



Spartacus
Crassus
Aegina
Phrygia
Gladiator
Friday, July 25 @ 8 pm
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexander Volchkov
Svetlana Zakharova
Anna Nikulina
Denis Savin
Saturday, July 26th @ 8 pm
Denis Rodkin
Vladislav Lantratov
Ekaterina Krysanova
Maria Vinogradova
Anton Savichev
Sunday, July 27th @ 2 pm
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexander Volchkov
Svetlana Zakharova
Anna Nikulina
Denis Savin


All performances at the David H. Koch theatre, Lincoln Center


If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Bolshoi Don Quixote casting New York July 2014




Kitri
Basilio
Don Quixote
Sancho Panza
Gamache
Espada
The Queen of the Dryads
Tuesday, July 22nd @ 8 pm
Maria Alexandrova
Vladislav Lantratov
Alexey Loparevich
Alexander Petukhov
Denis Savin
Denis Rodkin
Olga Smirnova
Wednesday, July 23rd @ 2 pm
Ekaterina Krysanova
Semyon Chudin
Alexey Loparevich
Roman Simachev
Denis Medvedev
Vitaly Biktimirov
Anna Nikulina
Wednesday, July 23rd @ 8 pm
Ekaterina Shipulina
Mikhail Lobukhin
Alexey Loparevich
Sergey Minakov
Denis Savin
Denis Rodkin
Olga Smirnova

All performances at the David H. Koch theatre, Lincoln Center

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Bolshoi Swan Lake casting New York July 2014




Odette-Odile
Prince Siegfried
The Evil Genius
The Fool
Tuesday, July 15th @ 8 pm
Svetlana Zakharova
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Wednesday, July 16th @ 8 pm
Anna Nikulina
Artem Ovcharenko
Denis Rodkin
Denis Medvedev
Thursday, July 17th @ 8 pm
Svetlana Zakharova
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Friday, July 18th @ 8 pm
Olga Smirnova
Semyon Chudin
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov
Saturday, July 19th @ 2 pm
Anna Nikulina
Artem Ovcharenko
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov
Saturday, July 19th @ 8 pm
Ekaterina Shipulina
David Hallberg
Vladislav Lantratov
Igor Tsvirko
Sunday, July 20th @ 2 pm
Olga Smirnova
Semyon Chudin
Artemy Belyakov
Alexander Smoliyaninov

All performances at the David H. Koch theatre, Lincoln Center:
http://www.lincolncenterfestival.org/current-season/swan-lake

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

National Ballet of Canada gala repertoire

The MAD HOT BALLET: Spellbound gala performance features three world premieres by Choreographic Associates Robert Binet and Guillaume Côté.
Repertoire and casting for this one-night only performance:
  • Being and Nothingness (Part 1) by Guillaume Côté, set to music by Philip Glass, with Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson.
  • World Premiere: Dance Me To The End Of Love by Guillaume Côté, to the song by Leonard Cohen, with Second Soloist Dylan Tedaldi.
  • World Premiere: Tonight Will Be Fine by Guillaume Côté, to the song by Leonard Cohen, featuring Corps de Ballet member Kathryn Hosier and Apprentice Felix Paquet.
  • Body of Work by Guillaume Côté, set to music by Beethoven, to be danced by Mr. Côté.
  • World Premiere: These Worlds In Us by Robert Binet, set to music by Missy Mazzoli, with Principal Dancer Jillian Vanstone, First Soloists Keiichi Hirano and Robert Stephen, Second Soloists Skylar Campbell and Jenna Savella and Corps de Ballet member Shino Mori.
  • Act I pas de deux from Onegin by John Cranko, music by Tchaikovsky, with Principal Dancer Xiao Nan Yu and First Soloist McGee Maddox.
  • Act II pas de deux from Cinderella by James Kudelka, music by Prokofiev, performed by Principal Dancers Sonia Rodriguez and Guillaume Côté.

MAD HOT BALLET: Spellbound
June 11, 2014, 6:30 pm
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
145 Queen Street West

madhotballet.ca




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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Of dancers, art, and parking garages

Little did I know when I took this picture a few days ago in the parking garage in Sarasota, Florida:

that it would be the first in a series of " parking garage depictions of dancers". Latest installment: the "Performing Arts Garage" in San Francisco (Gough and Grove Streets). This is a beautiful mosaic.





We should mount a campaign to have artistic representations of dancers on all parking garages near performing arts centres!


If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Of ballerinas and... horses

When I saw the Lippizaner stallions in Vienna, the parallels between dressage and ballet were instantly recognizable (even the fact that there seemed to be "corps de ballet" horses and "principal dancer" horses, and back in LouisXIV's time "horse ballets" were a very important genre. Here a ballet company and an equestrian federation team up:
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/06/sport/ballet-dressage-dancing-horse/

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Update: San Francisco Ballet in Paris

San Francisco Ballet has changed its programming again slightly. To buy tickets:
http://www.lesetesdeladanse.com/reservations-tickets/
 
If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Here is the latest program as of 12 June 2014:
Jeudi 10 juillet
à 20h
Première de Gala
Symphonie classique / Classical Symphony (Possokhov/Prokofiev)
Chaconne pour piano et deux danseurs (Tomasson/Haendel)
No Other (Caniparoli/Rodger)
Pas de deux de Concerto (MacMillan/Chostakovitch)
Alles Walzer (Zanella/Strauss)
Pas de deux de Agon (Balanchine/Stravinsky)
Les Lutins* (Kobborg/Bazzini/Wieniawski)
2e mouvement pas de deux de Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (Balanchine/Brahms)
Voices of Spring (Ashton/Strauss)
Pas de deux de After the Rain (Christopher Wheeldon/Pärt)
Quatrième mouvement et final de Symphony in C (Balanchine/Bizet)
Vendredi 11 juillet
à 20h
Caprice* (Tomasson/Saint-Saëns),
Ghosts* (Wheeldon/Winger),
The Four Temperaments (Balanchine/Hindemith)
Samedi 12 juillet
à 12h30
Cours en public
Samedi 12 juillet
à 15h
Allegro Brillante (Balanchine/Tchaikovski),
Solo (van Manen/Bach),
In the Night (Robbins/Chopin),
Glass Pieces (Robbins/Glass)
Samedi 12 juillet
à 20h
Classical Symphony* (Possokhov/Prokofiev),
Chaconne pour piano et deux danseurs (Tomasson/Haendel),
Ghosts* (Wheeldon/Winger),
Symphonic Dances* (Liang/Rachmaninov)
Lundi 14 juillet
à 20h
Maëlstrom (Morris/Beethoven),
Agon (Balanchine/Stravinsky),
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi)
Mardi 15 juillet
à 20h
Caprice* (Tomasson/Saint-Saëns),
Agon (Balanchine/Stravinsky),
Glass Pieces (Robbins/Glass)
Mercredi 16 juillet
à 20h
Caprice* (Tomasson/Saint-Saëns),
Hummingbird* (Scarlett/Glass),
Symphonic Dances* (Liang/Rachmaninov)
Jeudi 17 juillet 
à 20h
Maëlstrom (Morris/Beethoven),
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi),
Glass Pieces (Robbins/Glass)
Vendredi 18 juillet 
à 20h
Classical Symphony* (Possokhov/Prokofiev),
Chaconne pour piano et deux danseurs (Tomasson/Haendel),
Ghosts* (Wheeldon/Winger),
Piano Concerto* (Ratmansky/Chostakovitch)
Samedi 19 juillet
à 12h30
Cours en public
Samedi 19 juillet 
à 15h
Classical Symphony* (Possokhov/Prokofiev),
In the Night (Robbins/Chopin),
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi
Samedi 19 juillet 
à 20h
Shostakovich Symphony n°9* (Ratmansky/Chostakovich),
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi),
The Four Temperaments (Balanchine/Hindemith)
Lundi 21 juillet
à 20h
The Fifth Season* (Tomasson/Jenkins),
In the Night (Robbins/Chopin),
The Four Temperaments (Balanchine/Hindemith)
Mardi 22 juillet 
à 20h
Allegro Brillante (Balanchine/Tchaikovski),
Solo (van Manen/Bach),
Maëlstrom (Morris/Beethoven),
Piano Concerto* (Ratmansky/Chostakovitch)
Mercredi 23 juillet 
à 20h
Shostakovich Symphony n°9* (Ratmansky/Chostakovich), 
Agon (Balanchine/Stravinsky),
Symphonic Dances* (Liang/Rachmaninov
Jeudi 24 juillet
à 20h
Allegro Brillante (Balanchine/Tchaikovski),
Solo (van Manen/Bach),
Hummingbird* (Scarlett/Glass),
Piano Concerto* (Ratmansky/Chostakovitch)
Vendredi 25 juillet 
à 20h
The Fifth Season* (Tomasson/Jenkins),
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi),
Symphonic Dances* (Liang/Rachmaninov
Samedi 26 juillet 
à 12h30
Cours en public
Samedi 26 juillet
à 15h
The Fifth Season* (Tomasson/Jenkins),
Pas de deux de Concerto (MacMillan/Chostakovitch),
Solo (van Manen/Bach),
Piano Concerto* (Ratmansky/Chostakovitch)
Samedi 26 juillet 
à 20h
Shostakovich Symphony n°9* (Ratmansky/Chostakovich), 
Hummingbird (Scarlett/Glass)*,
Within the Golden Hour* (Wheeldon/Bosso/Vivaldi

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tours en l'air group meets SFB's Damian Smith and former Smuin dancer Darren Anderson

Our Tours en l'air trip to San Francisco got off to a great start with a "Meet the Artist" talk featuring San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Damian Smith, who will be retiring from dancing this coming Sunday.

SFB has fabulous pre-performance talks, which are free and open to the public even without a ticket to the performance, but unfortunately the company buries information about them deep in their website where you can't find them without already knowing they exist, and even then it involves massive much non-intuitive clicking to get there. Here's the shortcut:
http://www.sfballet.org/outreach/adult_education
Meet the Artist interviews and Pointes of View lectures are the pre-performance talks. They are recorded and then posted on the website as podcasts (listed on the same page).

Damian, an engaging speaker, had some great stories to tell.

He talked about the many times he has danced Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain with his frequent partner Yuan Yuan Tan. "The piece is an invitation to the audience to observe the dancers' relationship, rather than the dancers showing off to you; it's all about emotion, feelings, and trust, which parallels my partnership with Yuan Yuan." Apparently every time they have danced it in galas, Wheeldon has been inundated with requests from other dancers for the rights to perform it.
Here they are in this exquisite pas de deux in a stunning setting:
http://youtu.be/VibqEWACdRo


He recounted how his mother in Australia has never seen him perform this live, and it was her hope to come to San Francisco to see his final performance this Sunday, but has been deterred by hip surgery. They have a long history of never being quite able to arrange it so that she and he can be in the same time at the same place. "I think Mum is now expecting Yuan Yuan and me to come to Australia and dance it for her on the front lawn!" he said, to much laughter.

Of Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces, he said that the last movement was so rousing that "if it had words, it's the sort of thing you'd be singing on the way home".

He was asked how dancers managed to keep motivated to do endless Nutcrackers during their career (30 a year in San Francisco). He acknowledged that dancers do have "peaks and valleys" with Nutcracker, and it drives them crazy particularly to hear the music when they are out in shopping malls.  But he said he was inspired by another dancer who pointed out that they shouldn't think about themselves but about the magic they were creating each time for the audience, for many of whom it is their first time seeing ballet. He drew the analogy with dancers who are unhappy that they are not cast for opening night, getting perhaps a matinee performance instead, seen as less prestigious. "For the audience, EVERY performance is opening night".

He had an entertaining story about West Side Story Suite and the fact that not only did he have to sing and talk, but in an American (twangy Brooklyn) accent rather than his native Australian. He practised for hours on this, and took some comfort in the fact that his accent passed muster whereas fellow dancer Pierre Vilanoba, who is French, could only manage "Tek your 'ands off mah sisteurrr" and was asked to keep quiet! [I've always thought that one of ballet's greatest assets is its wordlessness!]

Of Frederick Ashton's Symphonic Variations, Damian said that his eye started twitching just looking at a photo of himself, because he passed so many sleepless nights learning the ballet. Asked to expand on why this was the case, he said that the ballet requires such pure classicism, perfect fifths, white tights, etc., that when he saw his name up on the casting board he was convinced there had been a mistake and said so to the stager, Wendy Ellis-Somes. She reassured him that they would work on the parts he had difficulty with, but nonetheless he described this deceptively simple-looknig ballet as "the hardest ballet I have ever done" [an assessment echoed by Birmingham Royal Ballet's Robert Parker].

Another interesting comment related to how he worked on the characters for dramatic ballets. He said he went home and looked at his facial expressions in the mirror and was surprised at how much they failed to convey the emotion he was feeling. He also said that when working on "villain" roles like Tybalt and Iago, the nastiness which he got in the habit of portraying in the studio and on stage spilled over into his everyday life so he found himself snarling at people on the bus or his mother on the phone!

You can see some great photos of Damian here

http://youtu.be/HoSR96smfIU


http://youtu.be/nkUYsd4-al4



After the talk, we had dinner with Darren Anderson, an Edmontonian who has danced with Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and most recently Smuin Ballet, where he became Community Relations Manager after retiring a couple of years ago.









If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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Pointes of View Lecture Series
Meet the Artist Interviews
- See more at: http://www.sfballet.org/outreach/adult_education#sthash.J8Lg30vN.dpuf
Pointes of View Lecture Series
Meet the Artist Interviews
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Travel tips for ballet lovers: Sarasota, Florida

Ballerina in the parking garage stairwell behind the Sarasota Opera House
 Not to be confused with Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where New York City Ballet and, since last year, other companies, have a short summer run in July, Sarasota is a wealthy resort community on the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida about an hour south of Tampa.

Until 7 years ago, when former Royal Ballet dancer and ardent Frederick Ashton fan Iain Webb became director, later to be joined by his wife, former Royal Ballet ballerina Margaret Barbieri, the Sarasota Ballet, founded in 1990, was a fairly small, undistinguished regional company. Webb and Barbieri have put it on the ballet-lover's map, especially with their devotion to keeping alive the works of Ashton. This repertoire focus provides them with a niche, especially in the North American market, where Ashton is little known (The National Ballet of Canada, ABT, and Houston Ballet perform The Dream and La Fille mal Gardée occasionally). And the Sarasota dancers perform Ashton very well indeed. However, they are not an all-Ashton-all-the-time company, with Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Fokine, Scarlett, and others in the repertoire, as well as commissioned new works by Will Tuckett (who will be creating a Secret Garden for them this summer) and company dancer Ricardo Graziano.

If you're thinking of a winter holiday somewhere warm but don't want to neglect your ballet addiction, you might consider a week in Florida when both Sarasota Ballet and Miami City Ballet (on the east, Atlantic coast) are performing (it is a 3-hour drive between the two coasts). For instance, the last weekend in February 2015, you can catch Miami City Ballet in West Palm Beach performing Carmen (Richard Alston), Sweet Fields (Twyla Tharp), and Allegro Brillante (Balanchine) and Sarasota Ballet in an Ashton work TBA followed by Nureyev's staging of Raymonda Act III. A similar happy coincidence of schedules happens the weekend of November 21-23, with MCB performing Cranko's Romeo and Juliet and Sarasota offering Balanchine, Christopher Bruce's Sergeant's Early Dream, and Will Tuckett's Lux Aeterna. Youth America Grand Prix often has a gala in Florida in January, usually in Tampa. Joffrey Ballet also sometimes tours to Florida.

If you happen to be in Florida when the company is performing, especially if it's Ashton, it's worth a trip from somewhere else in the state. If they do another Ashton Festival like the one just completed, it's worth a trip from MUCH further away just for that. For an excellent detailed review of the festival, with pictures, see this post: http://dancetabs.com/2014/05/sarasota-ballet-sir-frederick-ashton-festival-programmes-1-4-sarasota/

You can ask for a tour of the company's facilities which includes watching some portion of the dancers' daily class. 
 

Sarasota Public Library, opposite the Opera House



Sarasota also has a lot to offer the tourist (in addition to warm temperatures!). There are many publicly accessible beaches of startlingly white sand.
A major attraction is “The Ringling”, the magnificent former estate of fabulously wealthy circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable (so spelled). The Ringling circus wintered in Sarasota. The family home, built in the 20s, imitates a Venetian palazzo, with vast gardens and views out over Sarasota Bay. Their art collection of many European old masters is housed a few steps away in the art museum. A circus museum also on the grounds provides an entertaining history of the art form. Inside the visitor centre, you can see the interior of the historic 18th-century theatre from Asolo, Italy, which was transported to Florida piece by piece in the 50s to be part of the museum.



Interior of the Ringling mansion

Cat on the belvedere

For those who like to shop, there are fancy shops and restaurants galore around St Armand's Circle on Longboat Key, an area that Ringling embellished with statues from his collection, now to be seen standing placidly among the tropical greenery on the boulevards.

Most of the hotels in Sarasota are close to the beaches; there are not many in the downtown area close to the opera house, and the ones that do exist tend to be very expensive, especially in the high season (December to March inclusive). I stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn on the northern edge of Sarasota (8 minutes by car from downtown). It offered reasonable rates ($149/night including a copious hot and cold breakfast) for a large suite including a kitchen so that you can save on expenses by not eating out all the time. The hotel offers a free shuttle to anywhere within a 5-mile radius, which covers any of the three theatres in which the Sarasota Ballet performs. The city of Sarasota also has public transit (SCAT), but I didn't use it so can't comment on how practical it is as a way of getting around.

I only attended performances in the Sarasota Opera House. Seats in row F and back are well-raked, the front rows being quite flat. I would not recommend getting seats on either of the side blocks of seats as they are further out than the edge of the stage.

Although the Residence Inn (along with many other similar hotels) is right across from Sarasota-Bradenton airport, I was not at all bothered by aircraft noise. Indeed, if other attendees at the Ashton Festival hadn't told me they had connected to Sarasota via other cities, I would have thought there was no air traffic at this airport at all. In the off-season, there seem to be direct flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, and New York. But I suspect it is busier in high season; for instance, Air Canada has a direct Toronto-Sarasota flight until mid-April but not in the summer months. Outside of high season, you may find it easier and cheaper to fly into and out of Tampa, an hour north. You can book a car service from Tampa to Sarasota, rent a car, or if you really want to save money, take the Greyhound bus, but this adds complication and a few hours onto the travel time.

Egret sauntering through the grounds of Sarasota City Hall, on the lookout for some tasty lizards


Welcome to the South!


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