Masterclass at Markova House

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English National Ballet friends and benefactors enjoyed the chance to observe rehearsals for the Beyond Ballet Russes season in a Masterclass at Markova House.

Balanchine Trust repetiteur Nanette Glushak took dancers through the opening section of Apollo, a ballet which she describes as “classic but modern”. Vadim Muntagirov is performing the title role earlier than planned due to another dancer’s injury and so urgently needs rehearsal time. Glushak complimented him on his power and finesse, advising the three muses (Senri Kou, Adela Ramirez and Erina Takahashi) to allure him with their femininity. Apollo should in turn be entranced by the gorgeous women, looking at them as if to say “these babes are all for me”.

Glushak described working with Balanchine as being “in the presence of genius”. His works are all about musicality and he believed that only people who could read music should be choreographers.

Company repetiteur Maina Gielgud then took Begoña Cao through the Cigarette solo from Suite en Blanc, where movements carve out the shapes of smoke rings. Gielgud highlighted important moments, including Don Quixote poses and rist flicks that are like tossing a cigarette into an ashtray.

At three and a half minutes in length, the solo is much more protracted and strenuous than most female variations. Cao stated “it’s not easy at all” and Gielgud encouraged her to curl her body over with movements to conserve energy. Cao wasn’t happy with her performance but Gielgud reminded her of the importance of not becoming “so obsessed with details that the joy of dancing is lost”, as the audience enjoys the dynamism of the choreography more than technique.

Gielgud stages Suite en Blanc across the world and knows the ballet very well; she will be taking it to San Francisco next. She worked with choreographer Serge Lifar herself and describes him as a “wonderful, Russian, extraordinary” person. She loves Suite en Blanc because it encourages pleasure in music and dancing and “gives so much to everyone in all ranks of the company”.

The evening was rounded off by Director of Learning, Fleur Derbyshire-Fox, thanking the repetiteurs and dancers for their insight into the rehearsal and staging process.

Laura Dodge