Well work is finally over for me for 2012 (just this to do) and what a year it has been for EYB! Our last project of the year in Southport was a nice way to finish. Even though the venue is not the easiest technically and required a lot of extra work from us the cast was a joy to work with and rewarded us with excellent performances. The group work and acting was very impressive. We also managed to raise money again for one of the local hospitals again, details of which can be found on our Facebook page.
It was also a very emotional end of the year for us as it was Lorien and Emma’s last performances with us! They will be dancing together in Alaska for the last time doing the Nutcracker and then Lorien will be retiring from performing. He is at the end of his first term as a 1st year physiotherapy student at St George’s University and enjoying the new challenge. Emma will be continue to be a free lance dancer and is also a fully qualified pilates instructor. We all wish them both success in their future careers and thank them for their years of excellent work with us. We have had an audition for their replacements (big shoes to fill) and I think we have finally found the right people. We will let you all know in the new year who they are.
2012 was a big year for us with the adding of Swan Lake to our repertoire. It has proved to be a huge success with both our students and audience with some quite overwhelming responses to the performances. It did take it’s toll though, we were all thoroughly exhausted and quite run down after the performances in Wolverhampton, I think all of us were ill during the 2 week break we had afterwards! I personally was very happy for Miss Lewis, she has long wanted to do a production of Swan Lake and is was great that EYB could rise to the occasion. Not only did we manage to include everything an audience wants to see in a Swan Lake but also made a production that is unique to us as well. The whole EYB team delivered their best work to date for us.
The only real downside this year has been an increase in absenteeism during rehearsals. I don’t think we had a project where we had a full cast until the dress rehearsal! Illness and injury are beyond anyone’s control but over commitment is. Anyway you all know my thoughts on the matter by now.
Next year is underway already. Very successful auditions in Western-super-Mare and Preston (huge as usual) and 2014 is pretty much booked up as well. Lots of familiar and new venues so lots of old and new faces to see! I was reflecting today that after 14 years there are now ex EYB students working in pretty much all of the ballet companies in England not to mention the ones working abroad and in other areas of the entertainment industry. It would be fun to list everybody one day but as we now work with over 800 of you a year keeping tracks on you all is pretty much impossible. I am always thrilled to hear from students and their news on their progress through life.
At the certificate ceremony in Southport commendations went to the Boys for their progress especially Jack Higgins and Matthew Carr, the centre Czardas girl Jenna Thackray and the two morning hour leads Georgia Tuft and Shevaun Cottrill, the 2 Dawn Girls Claudia Maybury and Aisha Stalker and the Coppelia Doll Maddison Pritchard. Group mentions went to the Morning Hours group for improved pointe work, all Dolls and the Betrothal Dance was outstanding.
Two Junior Prizes went to Ellie Burke (Spanish/Night Hour) and Molly-Ann Griffiths (Centre Betrothal/Night Hour). The Senior Prize went to Georgia Tuft (Lead Morning Hour/Czardas). A Miss lewis’ Special Prize went to Lauren Jones (Friend) for the mime with Dr Coppelius in Act 2. All were excellent performers.
I have had messages from Sophie Ward who is continuing her studies with the royal ballet and is now a mid associate, Elena Redmond who will be appearing in Peter Pan with Russell Grant at The Aylesbury Waterside Theatre and has been offered a place with the London Children’s Ballet touring company next year, Ryan Collinson who after performing
Billy Elliot (to great acclaim, Miss Lewis said she had not been so impressed by a young performer before) in the West End started at Tring Park School and will be performing with English National Ballet in the Nutcracker at the London Coliseum and Olivia Tay attended a week at Tring in the Cecchetti Summer School and was accepted into the Cecchetti Senior Associates. Congratulations to all.
Well thats it from me for this year. I will be re thinking the role of this newsletter for next year. With the the Facebook page a lot of what I write about is already available to you all before I get to doing this. If you have any suggestions on changing the format I would love to hear from you. Have a great Christmas and wishing you all happiness and success in the New Year!
Keep working hard (after a good break)
Well we finally made it through the hectic summer season for us! Fortunately we have a little break to recover before we launch into the final project of the year. It all becomes a bit of a blur by the time we reach this point and as we have had big casts this year (especially for Swan Lake) I think we have worked with nearly 800 young dancers this year already!
Aylesbury was our summer “crash course” and the first time we had done Sleeping Beauty as a summer course and performed it for 2 years. Sleepy Beauty is the only production we do that needs 4 rehearsal spaces as there are so many smaller groups in the ballet but the off shoot was as we had the extra space (and they were all dance studios) we were able to rotate a special class every day for various groups. It was nice for me to get to work with the older girls in the big guests group (which doesn’t happen very often any more) and I was very impressed with their hard work and group spirit. I thought the Cryonites were one of the best groups I have worked with although they did have a little difficulty transferring their excellent timing and placing from the studio to the stage, but they got there in the end. The other big first was collecting money after the shows for Children’s Ward 3 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. £2,500 was raised by the audiences at the performances for the ward. The money will help the ward buy more oxygen saturation monitors, there are more details about this on our official Facebook page, but on a personal level I have a good friend (one of the doctors) who works there and I was very proud that we helped out so much.
The performances in Wolverhampton were quite staggering, with the 600+ at the schools dress it was our biggest audience in 5 years and the enthusiasm from the first night to the last was overwhelming. I have to say the 2 large groups (Courtiers and Swans) were outstanding, I don’t think a general audience expects that amount of precision from a youth ballet production but it is VERY impressive to see 40+ dancers hitting those lines with such clarity. Another positive note that I noticed was the cast was much better behaved than in previous years. I’m afraid to say that Wolverhampton has the reputation for being the noisiest place we go to (and not just the students!) but things were better this year and once again we are booked again for 2 years time.
At the certificate ceremony in Aylesbury commendations to Charm/Songbird Group especially the 2 boys Max Penrose and Daniel Ball, all the Guests especially Esme Calcutt, Harriet Rogers, Charlotte d’E Vallancey and Amy Kirtley, Jade Stevens (Russian and Lilac) for performance quality, Eric Cave for outstanding characterization as the photographer, Hannah Owen (Duchess), Hannah Griffiths (Nurse) and Joe Weir (Duke) who all acted well and the Friends as a group who improved their pointe-work.
The Senior Prize went to Sophia Mitropoulos (Solo Jewel). the Middle Prize went to Katie Dunsden (Friend) and the Junior Prize went to Mia Bailey (Songbird).
At the certificate ceremony in Wolverhampton commendations went to all the boys but particularly Lewis Smallman for good performance and bravura quality with nice feet use and Luke Wilson for performance quality, Sasha Woodward (Princess) for strength and attack, Hartriet Ellis (2nd swan on) lovely quality and use of head, Francessca Kennedy (Tall swan) for hard work and improvement, The Cygnets good as a group particularly Jasmine Gill who was much improved and the Swans and Courtiers as groups who were particularly impressive perhaps the strongest so far. The Senior Prize went to Georgia Curtis (1st swan) very responsible, reliable and professional, excellent in the Hungarian dance and picked up styles straight away. The Junior prize went to Summer Seager-Coles (Cygnet) for excellent footwork and concentration.
I have had messages from Cora Vanaman who will be performing in Pantomime in Mansfield as one of the principal dancers, Charlotte d’ E Vallancey who has been accepted back to Central School of Ballet into prep 3 girls on their associate course in September and achieved 98% in her grade 7 RAD ballet exam and Rachael Carrier who has started her 3 year scholarship at Tring park and has got a distinction for her RAD advanced 1. Congratulations too all.
Well thats it again, the year is nearly over, next year is all booked up. The show goes on. Until next time, keep working hard!
We are now in the middle of the busiest time of our year having just completed projects
in Norwich and Nottingham and just about to start in Aylesbury for the crash course and
then straight into Wolverhampton before the summer holidays finish. Barely time to catch
a breath! Our visit to the Theatre Royal in Norwich was its usual joy, I have to say I think
it is the best run theatre in the country. Our performances are always met with great
enthusiasm and it is rewarding to see the cast rise to the occasion. The performances
in Nottingham were almost sold out and it was our biggest audience since the recession
set in. Both venues are now very regular every two years, in fact it was our 6th visit to
Nottingham which means we have been going there for 10 years now! Both projects
generated a lot of press coverage most of which you can find links to on our official
FaceBook page. We were rather plagued with injuries in both venues (an over enthusiasm
for sports because of the olympics?) and in Nottingham absenteeism (School events etc)
which meant we didn’t have a full cast until the dress rehearsal! Always a bit worrying for
us and it means the show takes longer to settle and lots of overtime for the understudies!
Going to the same venue regularly over 10 years gives us the opportunity to see some
of you grow up with us and then your siblings joining in as well! Thinking back to our
2008 project in Nottingham, I think there are at least 5 students from that cast that have
graduated this year from vocational school and moving into the profession.
At the certificate ceremony in Norwich commendations went to the Wilis as a group
as they worked very well together, all boys had improved, Charlie Lee and Ewan
Grummett especially and good attack and acting from Joshua Watson and Charlie
Dade, the 2 Lead Wilis Kezia Coulson and Abbie Thomas for lovely quality and
good turns, Summer Rose (Tsar’s Niece) a really musical child she worked intelligently
at 8 years old, Emily Cahir the littlest Villager who held her own as if she was 8ft tall.
Thanks went to Maddie Coelho who stood in for a Wili who was ill and praise went to Imogen Snowling who danced with a broken toe.
The Junior Prize went to Chloe Round (Scullery Maid) who worked her feet and legs
well and gave a good performance every time.The Senior Prize went to Joseph Press for outstanding acting as Wilfred and having a strong stage presence. The Miss Lewis’
special prize went to the four Friends of Giselle who showed excellent technique and
presentation throughout the performances.
At the certificate ceremony in Nottingham commendations went to the Swans as a group,
the Cygnets for precision and consistency, all the Boys who had improved and danced
well together completely serious and focussed about their dancing, Alice Rathbone (Swan) for concentration and diligence, Paige Read (Nursemaid/Hungarian) for
performance quality, Ashleigh Morris (Spanish) for attack although all were good
in Spanish with skirt swishing! Eleanor Meredith who led Courtiers on and always
knew what she was doing-reliable and attentive, 2 Russian Boys the Alex Bonar and Joshua Tarry who well together and had excellent strong performance and Lucy
McMahon and Hannah Bishop (2 Mariinsky girls with Stagehands) for good dramatic
The Junior Prize went to Benjamin Jones who was the most improved over the
project and had great attack in his stage performance. The Senior Prize went to Megan
Singleton (lead swan) the first one on a responsible part. She gave a memorable
performance, gained technical strength and had an excellent work ethic.
I have had messages from Olivia Devyea who gained a place at the Northern
Ballet School and The Centre of Performing Arts, however, she has accepted a place
on the 3 year BA Hons Degree in Theatre Dance at London Studio Centre, on the
specialized Classical Course, Ben Newman who has got in to the RBS JAs, Shannen
Redmond who after completed her week's summer course at Ballet West in Taynuilt
was offered a place on the 3 year full time course starting September next year, Caroline
Rees who continues to work with European Ballet and will be dancing in the Olympic
closing ceremony, Katelyn Severn who has graduated from Ballet West with a BA
Hons degree with distinction, Charles Brink who has graduated from Tring and is now
performing on a cruise ship and Ellie Waite who has just graduated from Central and is
now in Manila joining the world tour of Phantom of the Opera as one of the ballet girls and
understudy Meg. Congratulations to all! If anyone has news of past students going into
jobs I would love to hear from you or them.
Well thats all from me, keep your news coming in and as always, keep working hard!
Hope you all have being enjoying the recent good weather! We were fortunate to have two glorious week ends in Torquay (which made up for the two very wet previous ones) which was a refreshing bonus for us. After all the stress and hype of getting Swan Lake on it was a bit of a relief to go back o something familiar with Giselle! The cast in Torquay were fun to work with if a little accident prone! Quite a few hobbled into rehearsals after injuring themselves in-between, fortunately all were able to perform so we had a full cast for the shows. The good weather did make the very cramped conditions back stage (especially for the Wilis) rather trying but everyone endured with good spirits and all the staff at the theatre were very helpful so our visit there was very pleasant. The only real drama we had was poor Oli’s plane, train and automobile adventure. Oli flew in from france for the parents showing, the plan was to arrive late on Saturday night and have a good sleep before the show. His flight was badly delayed so when he arrived he could not pick up the hire car he had arranged, he then managed to find another car which promptly broke down near Stonehenge! By the time he was rescued and given a new car (via rather large detour) it was 8am by the time he reached Torquay. He managed to get a couple of hours sleep and then set out for the school and then promptly got a bit lost and then had a puncture! Needless to say by the time he reached us he was not the happiest bunny in the world, but ever the professional he still managed pull of a fine performance for the parents!
On a personal note the parents showing day was also my 50th birthday (I am now officially a grumpy old man). The whole company and parents sang happy birthday to me at the meeting - just revenge for all the students I have embarrassed on theirs - but it was very touching. Thanks to those who gave me cards and gifts. I had a lovely semi surprise party the next day in London organized by Miss Lewis and Julianne, it was lovely to catch up with friends from all the various stages of my career!
At the certificate ceremony commendations went to the Wilis Group for excellent teamwork,
all boys especially Ben Newman and Cyrus Krzywinski (Aristocratic Boys) for very consistent and musical work, the 4 Friends Alicia Sandercock, Imogen Mansfield, Isabella Furness and Shona Plunkett for excellent work, Mia Barclay (the Duchess) for lovely characterization of the role, very aristocratic, Luan Mead (the Cook), Mollie Quintrell (the Housekeeper) and Isobel Thomas (Cheeky Girl) for being very good characters. All the pointe-work improved through hard-work.
The Junior Prize went to Emily Russell (Scullery Maid) for lovely use of head and arms and the Senior Prize to Shona Plunkett (Friend) for lovely quality of movements with a good line.
Miss Lewis’ Special Prize went to Paddy Randall who was concentrated and focused in class, who continually improved and who was suitably noble in the Hunt scene.
I have had a couple of messages from Fred Gunningham who will be appearing in “La Sylphide” at the ROH in May/June and has won a scholarship for the Yorkshire Ballet Summer school and Rebecca Jones who has been offered a place at Tring Park School for the Performing Arts for 6th form. Well done both.
Well thats all for now, keep your news coming in and as always, keep working hard!
This is new production part two! Having finished the performances of Swan Lake in
Dartford (for which we got an excellent review in Dance Europe) we then without pausing
for breath we went up to Newcastle to see if the show could be taught in the normal 10
days we have for EYB projects! Not only that but we had to do it in the Easter Holidays
over 2 weeks, a test of our and the students stamina in normal conditions but more
daunting on a show that had not been road tested yet. We were back in Newcastle within a
year which was a first for us, another venue had dropped out and fortunately the Mill Tyne
Theatre had a slot and were very keen for us to come back as were the parents and
students from the previous year, so we were made to feel very welcome back. Fortunately
the formula held firm and everything was set on schedule (even if I did get some dark
looks for the deadlines set) and that was with some curve balls thrown at us. Firstly Trevor
was unable to be with us for the teaching so his sections had to be distributed amongst the
rest of us and then Julianne had an accident in an open class in London (a student joined
in an exercise half way through and went the wrong way and landed on Julianne’s big toe)
and it was unsure wether she would be able to perform. But as her colleagues in the
profession point out, Julianne is hardcore and she got through the shows but is still
recovering (as I write this she has just flown out to france to rehearse with Oli for the
upcoming Giselle performances!) Our stage manager was so ill during the shows we had
to send him home and for the last shows I had to put on my stage manager cap instead of
being out front! Bizarrely during the first 3 days of rehearsals 3 of the teenage students
decided they were too good to be swans (an insult to professional ballet dancers
everywhere) and dropped out of the production (no understanding of commitment) so 3 of
the Mariinsky girls had to double up parts and stand in for the departed swans which
meant the poor girls got no breaks. They took it with great spirit and as they were of a
higher standard than the girls that left it benefitted both the show and the young women
who stood in as their improvement was evident from the extra work. On the upside it was
great to have so many boys in the production, I was very pleased with the 5 stagehands
and although a handful the 5 Tsar’s nephews had great attack and never ceased to crack
me up, The shows went very well with more good reviews in the local Newcastle papers
and Miss Lewis and our 3 ballerinas where overwhelmed by the lovely flowers the cast
bought them for the final show. So all in all a very successful if stressful couple of weeks!
At the certificate ceremony commendations went to the Swans for their group work, the
cygnets for accurate foot work and good use of legs, the 5 stagehands boys for their
performance and improved use of elevation and credit to the 3 Mariinsky girls Marnie
Byfield, Emma Robinson and Megan Binns for standing in for the Swans. Individual
mentions went to Sophie-Grace Coombes, Katie Hunter and Naomi Johnson (3
Princesses) for good performance quality, Emma Robinson (Mariinsky/1st Swan) always
correct and good improvement, Laura Croucher (Courtier/Spanish) for performance
quality, Olivia Todd (Lead Swan) for improved technique and Somer Hook (Little
Mariinsky) for good performance quality.
Prizes went to Chloe Dickinson (Cygnet) for always giving her all and Stuart Thompson (Stagehand/Hungarian) for excellent head work, style and performance. A Miss Lewis
special prize went to Laura Croucher, Eleanor Monagham, Madeline Squires,Daniel
Clelland, Adrian Lawrence and Harvey Wynn (Spanish Dance) for excellent
I have had messages from Maddie Coelho to say she has a 3 year scholarship place at
Laine Theatre Arts, Grace Carr who will be going to Central in September, Harry Gibbons who is doing well at Hammond, got Distinction for his Intermediate tap and Inter foundation modern as well as getting a choreographic prize at the Cecchetti summer school, Rachael
Ward who was nominated for a IDTA scholarship and reached the final and Emily
Jackson who was with us in Newcastle who was a RAD North East scholarship winner in
Congratulations to all.
That's all from me for now, keep working hard!
It has been a long time since my last letter but you will have to forgive me as we have
been very busy getting that beast known as “Swan Lake” together for it’s premier last
week! It is a long and strange saga so I will attempt to edit it down somewhat! Miss Lewis
has long wanted to do a production of Swan Lake and by the end of 2010 after the
success of our dramatic production of Giselle she felt that EYB was now ready to take on
the task. Miss Lewis, myself and our set and lighting designer Sebastian Petit had our
initial production meeting at the beginning of 2011 and hammered out the concept of our
adaptation (which apart from a few minor tweaks remained the template for the final
production).This is quite a complex process as not only do we have to express the artistic
vision but we have to make it fit the EYB format and include parts for 100+ young dancers
and all the elements you expect to see from an EYB performance! Then the costume
designer Keith Bish was brought in and the ball was set into motion. Throughout 2011
there were more meetings between Miss Lewis and I as music was chosen and edited,
designs approved or redone and set and costumes started. The concept then was
discussed with the principals so they could understand the adaptation (not always easily
done) and eventually we started rehearsals for the principals in Nov. 2011. By Feb 2012 all
the traditional choreography was learnt, the set delivered the students cast and measured
and costumes underway. Then it was time to create the new scenes and allocate the
sections we were going to be responsible for setting or choreographing. As we now have 8
professionals in this production who are all freelance it was quite complex trying to get
everyone together at the same time and there was quite a bit of setting on one cast then
teaching to the other and me standing in for people who could not be there! Then it was
into rehearsals with the students. We had 3 extra days of rehearsal to give time for new
choreography and the interruptions of costume fittings and the fact we did not have a full
cast until the dress rehearsal! During this time there were also auditions for the rest of the
year and casting the next production in Newcastle! Then onto the Orchard theatre in
Dartford. We had an extra day there as well so we could get used to the set (some of
which was bigger than expected), plot the lighting (board crashed) and make sure all the
costumes were fitted and finished (eventually) and have an extra dress rehearsal (for
everyone’s benefit). I have to say the staff and crew at the Orchard theatre were excellent
and everything went remarkably smoothly! We had 700 in the audience for the schools
dress rehearsal, the noisiest audience ever, but you could have heard a pin drop during
the dramatic ending! The shows went well and the cast built from strength to strength as
the shows progressed and we were rewarded with a standing ovation on the Saturday
night. We were all very tired and dazed by the end of it with no time to catch our breath as
we had 2 more auditions this week (a mammoth one in Nottingham) and we start it all
again tomorrow in Newcastle!
At the certificate ceremony in Dartford commendations went to the Courtiers for good style
and concentration, the Swans for excellent lines and improved pointe-work, the Children
for good tambourine playing, Elizabeth Bourner (Hungarian, Nursemaid) for performance
quality George White for his double tour and consistent improvement, Olivia Devyea (main Mariinsky ) for performance quality and strong technique, Betsy Weaver (Spanish
Princess) for presentation upper body poise, Hannah Owen and Rachel Limb (Hungarian and Neapolitan Princess) for good performance quality, the 3 younger boys Harvey Mercer, Alex Limb and James Stewart for strong performances and Isobel Glen (Spanish girl) for a lovely smile and audience contact
Prizes went to Lauren Goodwin (Cygnet) and Charlotte Timbers (1st swan on). A Miss
Lewis’ special prize went to Ella Warren (Child) for reflecting the EYB motto “performance experience” Ella lived her rehearsals and performances from beginning to end, loving
every moment and giving 100% at all times.
I have had messages from Charlie Day who has been awarded a scholarship with Italia
Conti Guildford on their 3 Year Performing Arts Course to include level 3 ISTD 'Foundation
In Dance Instruction' + Level 4 ISTD 'Certificate in dance Education' Level 5, which he
starts this September, Alex Johnson who is at the Royal Ballet School and also
performed nutcracker with the rest of lower school, Kirsty Walker who successfully
passed her RAD Grade 6 Ballet with distinction and has been accepted as a full-time
vocational student in year 7 at Elmhurst School for Dance starting after Easter and Alyce
Wilkinson who passed her grade 2 with 92%. I am going to finish this section with a story
of Alyce’s sister Niamh in her mother’s own words.
“A week after the DVD arrived, we took Niamh to the doctor because a lump appeared on
her neck. Niamh was diagnosed with a type of cancer called Hodgkins Lymphoma. Two
days before she had taken her exams (which she passed with distinctions) and had no
symptoms other than fatigue which we had put down to all the ballet rehearsals and
performances of the previous weeks. She has been tremendously brave, putting up with all
the operations, and other hospital procedures and undergoing intensive chemotherapy. As
a dancer and a young girl who has always loved being a ballerina, losing her hair has
been very upsetting. However she has been determined and positive and is now on the
final cycle of her treatment. We await her scans on 13th February to see if she has beaten
The story fortunately has a happy ending as the scans showed she was clear of the
cancer so I hope you will all join me in wishing Niamh continued good health and applaud
her and her family’s bravery in such traumatic times! Puts things into perspective.
Well thats all I have time for now, more thoughts on the new production after we finish in
Newcastle. Keep your news coming in and as always, keep working hard.