A musical adaptation of Germaine Shames’ beautiful book is set to bring a forgotten ballerina’s life to the stage…
American author Germaine Shames began researching the narrative of her biographical novel You, Fascinating You nearly a decade ago. This powerful tale reveals the hidden epic behind a timeless love song and provides an insight into the life of headstrong Jewish ballerina Margit Wolf.
First published in 2012, the book won an Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society.
Now, a future on Broadway beckons. The true story of this unforgettable Hungarian woman and her romance with an up-and-coming Italian composer has been adapted as a musical that is currently being prepared for its stage debut.
As an English National Ballet Dance is the Word writer, I was asked to write an article describing my experience of meeting other journalists, bloggers and writers and watching this year’s nominated Emerging Dancer competitors in rehearsal and performance.
My piece, Dance is the Word: An Inside Perspective, was featured on English National Ballet’s website as a post on their blog.
YOUNG, TALENTED AND EMERGING
It can be hard for junior members of a ballet company to leave a lasting impression. Most of the dancers who reach the top companies will spend their career in the corps de ballet. This term (which literally means ‘body of the ballet’) refers to the dancers who generally work in a disciplined group, undifferentiated from each other. The objective is to blend in – not stand out.
Companies tend to grade their dancers (artist, first artist, soloist and first soloist, principal, lead principal) and nineteenth century ballets (which are still the foundation for most companies’ repertoire) were created to showcase those at the top of the hierarchy. Of course, talent does pay off and the most talented dancers will eventually receive promotion. However, for the public, opportunities to really see what junior artists are capable of are limited.
This is why English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer competition is so warmly received by balletomanes. The competition is an annual opportunity for English National Ballet to nurture and showcase the talent of its up-and-coming dancers.
English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer participants for 2014: (l to r) Vitor Menezes, Junor Souza, Alison McWhinney, Senri Kou, Joan Sebastian Zamora and Madison Keesler (Photo by Laurent Liotardo)
English National Ballet’s dancers leave audiences awestruck night after night.
As mere mortals, we cannot fully appreciate the constant scrutiny these exceptionally talented performers put themselves under. Once the applause subsides (and they have had a night’s sleep to recover) Company dancers return to the studio the morning after a performance. Here they will challenge themselves to jump higher, turn faster and balance better.
I was given the chance to gain further insight into this quest for perfection on Saturday, during a visit to English National Ballet, ahead of Emerging Dancer 2014.
English National Ballet, Markova House, 17th May 2014
Emerging Dancer, now in its fifth year, is an annual competition to recognise and nurture talent within the Company. It began in-house (with just English National Ballet funders invited) but tickets were sold to the general public for the second year and Emerging Dancer is now an exciting evening that should be marked on every balletomane’s calendar.
Tucked away behind the Royal Albert Hall is Markova House – the home of English National Ballet. It is here that the six Emerging Dancer finalists – chosen by the Company’s artistic, music and administrative staff, and the principal dancers – take daily class and squeeze rehearsals for the competition into their packed schedules. (As well as Emerging Dancer to prepare for, rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall, Choreographics at The Place and performances of Lest We Forget at the Barbican Theatre have been keeping English National Ballet’s dancers busy.)
Madison Keesler, Senri Kou, Alison McWhinney, Vitor Menezes, Junor Souza and Joan Sebastian Zamora will each perform a solo and a pas de deux in front of a judging panel of industry experts at London’s Lyceum Theatre this evening (Monday 19th May).
Dance is the Word
Words are wonderful. Put them together in a certain way and the end result can have the power to express all manner of emotions. The careful ordering of words is much like the combinations of steps in dance. A witty wordsmith can elicit a response through the mastery of language, just as a clever choreographer merges movements in a unique and meaningful way.
Dancing and writing are what I do. Writing about dance allows me to share my insights and enjoyment and, as I have grown more established as a writer, I have started to forge links with companies and make contacts within the industry.*
English National Ballet perform extensively – both on tour and in London – and I have had the opportunity to review productions (including The Sleeping Beauty, the world premiere of Le Corsaire and Nutcracker) and interview English National Ballet dancers (such as Tamara Rojo and Daria Klimentová.
A press invite to English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer (an annual competition held to recognise and nurture young talent within the Company – scheduled to take place at Lyceum Theatre, London, on Monday 19th May) arrived in my inbox the other day. This was swiftly followed by an offer to attend English National Ballet’s series of Dance is the Word dance writers’ events. A couple of confirmation emails later and Saturday (10th May) saw me pirouetting into the capital for the first writers’ session. Selected dance writers, journalists and bloggers were invited to Westminster Reference Library by English National Ballet to discuss our experiences of writing about dance, consider best practice and share ideas.
World-renowned dance journalist Donald Hutera led the discussion.
Renowned dance journalist Donald Hutera at English National Ballet’s ‘Dance is the Word’ with writer Georgina Butler