English National Ballet gets ready for Big Dance 2012…

Dance is the Word writer Claire Woodward gets an insider’s perspective on the exciting projects happening in West London during Big Dance 2012…

“A catch up at the gym with my best friend, a demolished brick wall and a meeting with a lovely polish kitchen fitter; my Friday morning was shaping to be an eclectic one!

Eagerly I rush to London to be part of English National Ballet’s team of newly recruited volunteers for Big Dance 2012.  As the West London hub for Big Dance, English National Ballet had asked for enthusiastic volunteers to help deliver a busy summer programme of community based projects and I was hoping that I also met the brief!

As I ran past a tasty looking cupcake shop I was already late and finding Markova house (which is tucked away in South Kensington) always seems like a daunting task on the Crystal Maze! Anyhow, I arrived just in time to see the company in rehearsal for Dance GB and the Flawless collaboration Against Time.

Reaching up to the opulent high ceilings the nine female dancers were encouraged to feel their weight, anchored in juicy pliés.  Movement vocabulary was obviously contemporary and the challenge for the ballerinas was to show rather than elude the effects of gravity on their body.  This was a tricky puzzle for some to fathom and the choreographer continued to encourage dancers to push their weight off-balance and thud their feet audibly into the sprung floor.  This was in contrast to leg extensions, held in high positions without hesitation or any obvious sign of physical exertion.  The volunteers watched in delight at the dancer’s dedication to get each phase perfected.

Innovation is something that sets English National Ballet apart from traditional ballet companies, not being afraid to try something different and to take risks with new commissions and grass-roots work. In the green room among us ‘ordinary folk’ we join company dancer’s who flop onto the wide black leather chairs that line the room. This open door policy is infectious and the volunteers, quickly at ease in the surroundings, casually chat about their reasons for giving up their spare time in spite of no financial gains. An English National Ballet T-shirt may be a wonderful souvenir, but the motivation for many is to share their love affair with dance with people who have not yet had the chance to discover it and site specific performances, and pop up flash mobs certainly mirror this ideal.

I started the day as the white rabbit, with the impending feeling that despite all my efforts I would still be late. But as the afternoon closes, thanks to English National Ballet and the excitement of the next few months I am more like curious Alice and I can’t wait to see more of wonderland.  Thank you for being brave enough to open your doors English National Ballet… the summer looks like an exciting one!”

Claire Woodward