English National Ballet friends and benefactors enjoyed the chance to observe rehearsals for the upcoming Beyond Ballets 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”.
Company artistic advisor 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 wrist 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. The ending involves a number of rapid entrechat sixes (beated jumps) and balances. 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 ENB Director of Learning, Fleur Derbyshire-Fox, thanking the repetiteurs and dancers for their insight into the rehearsal and staging process.