Sadler’s Wells Elixir Festival: Court Whispering
Posted on by Dance is the Word
“The dance is over, the applause subsided, but the joy and feeling will stay with you forever” W. M.Tory
This is how I, and my friends from English National Ballet’s Dance For Health group, felt after our April performance of Court Whispering at the stunning Banqueting House. I thought nothing could replicate that experience. But, when English National Ballet contacted us to say we’d been selected to dance Court Whispering in the Elixir Festival at Sadler’s Wells, I was incredulous. How wonderful to have a three-day celebration of ‘mature artists’. Sadler’s Wells is practically my second home I see so many shows there, but I never dreamed one day I might actually dance there.
It is lovely to be reunited with class members, English National Ballet, Open Age and Chris Tudor, the choreographer who created this elegant and fun 300-year anniversary celebration of the Georgians. Our class is all aged over 60, some well over, and with limited dance experience. It’s therefore a huge privilege for us to work with such talented professionals at this stage of our lives.
Go to set Historic Royal Palaces and Open Age. Court Whispering at Banqueting House
Twelve of us (including one lucky man) happily reconvened in the studio at English National Ballet School. Our first rehearsal was barely a month before our performance in ‘Elixir Extracts’ on 13 September and we have a break in the middle: no pressure! I thought we’d only have to remember what we did four months ago (tricky enough with memories not as sharp as they once were) but the whole piece is being re-worked for the Lilian Baylis proscenium stage. I now know how many minuets, fleuret steps and movements can be included in just 10 minutes (a lot!) and how long it takes a new sequence to sink in. However, we were reasonably reassured on learning that this performance has a similar overall structure; a minuet, a section with fans and a finale including an 18th century country dance and farandole.
Rehearsals on the first three afternoons started with a warm up followed by some of the new minuet and fan choreography that we tried to execute with something approximating our choreographer’s vision. Having worked with us previously our teachers are able to take individual abilities, as well as any rehearsal absences, into account. It’s fascinating to see the dance evolving to Chris Swithinbank‘s original music, now suitably adapted.
We’re looking forward, somewhat nervously, to our performance. If all goes well (and we trust our teachers will achieve another small miracle) I’m sure we’ll once again experience that ‘joy and feeling’. Hopefully, we’ll have many more years in which to become proficient dancers. Dancing makes me so happy that I intend to continue as long as I can move. With the help of companies like English National Ballet and Sadler’s Wells, there’s no stopping us now. As they say, nothing is impossible.
By Maggy Piggot, dancer in Court Whispering and alumni writer for Dance is the Word