English National Ballet returns to Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday with Swan Lake.
Moonlit lakeside scenes of romance and despair; the splendour of a royal palace and the spectacle of a corps de ballet of synchronised swans gliding poetically across the stage make Swan Lake a favourite among dance fans and the perfect introduction for first time ballet-goers.
Swan Lake was Tchaikovsky’s first score for ballet and the haunting music is some of the illustrious composer’s best-known work. The ballet’s 1877 premiere was poorly received but it has since become one of the absolute classics, with demanding technical content and a mesmerising story.
A flock of muscular, lyrical, completely masculine creatures took to the stage at Milton Keynes Theatre last night in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, a contemporary re-imagining of an iconic ballet.
Bourne’s Swan Lake is an original take on an age-old favourite. His cheeky re-write ruffled a few feathers among balletomanes when first performed in 1995 but has since collected over thirty international theatre awards and is now regarded as a modern classic.
Traditionally, the ballet is associated with tutu-clad female corps de ballet dancers gliding gracefully en pointe in carefully coordinated formations. Bourne replaces these bourréeing beauties with an ensemble of powerful, bare-chested, male dancers decked out in baggy, feathered, knee-length trousers and shuns the standard prince/princess pas de deux for a duet between two male performers.
Lots of dance on television makes for a cracker of a Christmas
Christmas makes its presence felt as soon as the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing waltzes onto our television screens. When the sequin-covered participants take their first tentative steps onto the dance floor, I just know that the final quarter of the year will whizz by and, shortly, the winner will be lifting the coveted glitterball trophy, before the nation frantically finishes decking the halls.
Pantomime season means flocks of families visit the theatre for some festive cheer, while traditional productions of The Nutcracker (on stage and on screen) attract balletomanes and newcomers alike.
But, once cosseted in our homes for the celebratory period (whether just for the big day itself, or for an extended break), it is more often than not the television that we rely on for entertainment. Dance fans were spoilt for choice with plenty of telly treats this Christmas. If this time of year is all about indulging in what you enjoy, I certainly fulfilled the brief when it came to setting time aside to view some gorgeous productions.
Alina Somova in The Mariinsky Ballet’s 2011 production of The Nutcracker (photo by Valentin Baranovsky, sourced from SpectiCast.com)
Ballet Papier: From one dancer to another…
Georgina Butler introduces ballet fans to an exquisite e-boutique
Ballet Papier is the brand ballet lovers have been waiting for.
Unique and beautiful ballet-themed products can be difficult to find – particularly if the intended recipient is not a child. Insufficient attention to detail can render an otherwise attractive image or ornament undesirable to ballet fans with a keen eye for technique and an unwavering demand for positions to be illustrated in the correct way.
To be a great dancer takes knowledge, dedication, passion and immeasurable talent – and great artists require the same traits. Fortunately, the Ballet Papier range by Berenice Bercelli incorporates artistic flair and careful consideration of dance context to ensure charming, distinctive pieces.
Ballet Papier goodies: My Swan Lake Outlet Package (T-Shirt of my choosing with a surprise notebook and surprise greeting card)
Berenice Bercelli is a Barcelona-based decorative arts brand created by artist María La Placa (an Italian artist now living in Spain).
The trade name encompasses several collections, including Ballet Papier’s beautiful ballerinas, magical fairies (Friendly Fairy), divine angels (Angel Dorado) and much more.
Having discovered the Ballet Papier range, I was drawn to the intricately detailed characters, which take inspiration from the best-loved narrative ballets (including Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty). Pieces also feature designs showing characters in dance class (complete with uplifting messages of encouragement) and The Dance Kingdom drawings capture iconic routines from the current series of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Prima ballerina Daria Klimentová talks to Georgina Butler about pirates, perfect partners and pointe shoes ahead of English National Ballet’s return to Milton Keynes Theatre.
Daria Klimentová is English National Ballet’s senior principal dancer. She has been one of Britain’s best-loved ballerinas for two decades and her clean and pure technique makes her a joy to watch.
Daria was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), and started gymnastics when she was 5 years old. At 10 she entered the Prague State Conservatoire of Music and Dance where she was placed into a training scheme for future principal dancers. Upon graduating she was immediately offered a soloist contract with the National Theatre Ballet Company in Prague. A move to the Capab/Kruik Ballet based in Cape Town, South Africa, preceded three years with Scottish Ballet.
In 1996, Daria was invited by the then Artistic Director of English National Ballet, Derek Deane, to join English National Ballet. Her repertoire includes all the major classical ballet roles and works by many contemporary choreographers.
In 2011 she was featured in two episodes of the BBC documentary series The Agony and the Ecstasy – a fascinating insight into English National Ballet. Viewers followed Daria and her regular dance partner – the young Russian principal Vadim Muntagirov – as they prepared for the famous “in the round” Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The pair have forged a remarkable partnership, which is frequently likened to the Fonteyn/Nureyev relationship. The documentary also showed the chaotic process of creating the Sugar Plum Fairy role for Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker at the Coliseum Theatre, London.
Now in her forties, Daria continues to captivate audiences with her impeccable dancing. As well as being in great demand as a guest artist all over the world, this prima ballerina is also a talented photographer and highly respected director/teacher.
It is with excitement, then, that I learn I will have the opportunity to talk to Daria ahead of English National Ballet’s return to Milton Keynes Theatre for the premiere of Le Corsaire. The chance to interview a classical ballerina of such fame appeals to both my undying love of all things ballet and my ambition to educate the people of Milton Keynes about the wonders of dance. We should be honoured that English National Ballet debuted The Sleeping Beauty with Tamara Rojo here last year and that they have chosen to premiere their latest work in the new city.