My Vision for Powerhouse Ballet

Happy Easter to all my readers!  Especially to my teachers and fellow students at KNT, Northern Ballet Academy and all the other ballet schools up and down the country and beyond who have welcomed me and tolerated my shambling, hirpling, ursine movements.  I am aware of today's date but this post is no April's fool's joke It explains why I think we need an amateur ballet company for the North.

One of the most delicious moments in my life was appearing before a living, breathing and indeed paying audience at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds for Northern Ballet Academy's end of term show (see The Time of My Life 28 June 2914 Terpsichore).  The experience did not pall the second time I appeared before an audience the following year even though it was no longer a novelty. Nor the next time or the time after that in Manchester.  I am currently rehearsing with my classmates at KNT every Tuesday evening for a show at the Dancehouse on Oxford Road on 19 May.  It takes me nearly 2 hours each way to attend those rehearsals whether I drive or take the train. It disrupts my afternoon and evening. It costs me over £10 in fares, petrol or parking however I come.  But I hate to miss the rehearsals. When I do for unavoidable reasons like a hearing in London or a client meeting I feel terrible. I feel I am letting down not just Karen our choreographer but also Simon, Katie, Tyson, Raven and the rest of the cast.  I also feel I am letting down myself.

The reason I love to take part in shows is that ballet is intended for the theatre and unless one appears on stage at least once in one's life your one's balletic experience is incomplete.  All those pliés, tendus and even pirouettes and grands jetés in the studio are nothing more than keep fit exercises.  There is nothing wrong with keep fit, of course. but the only way one can feel part of a 200-year tradition and a worldwide community is to rehearse regularly and perform in public.  Moreover, I have been watching ballet regularly and reading voraciously about it ever since I was an undergraduate but until I started to attend classes first at St Andrews and many years later as an over 55 adult dance student I really did not understand it.  I have learned far more about ballet from my weekly classes at KNT and Northern Ballet than I had previously gained from a lifetime in the stalls.

If the experience of appearing on stage means so much to me how much more must it be for a talented young man from Rawtenstall or young woman from Heckmondwike with the talent to take them to White Lodge, the Upper School and beyond. Kay Jones set up Duchy Ballet to inspire young dancers of tomorrow. Chelmsford Ballet does the same and I have seen the results for one of my most inspiring teachers and choreographers Cara O'Shea danced Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty with that company. One of the objects of Powerhouse Ballet is to give Northern kids the same opportunity that Cara enjoyed.

And we can't start too young or end too old.   Children who are far too young to dance Aurora or even Clara could still be soldiers, mice or guests at Mr and Mrs Stahlbaum's party.  Over 55s like me could still audition for roles like the granny and granddad or Mr and Mrs Stahlbaum in The Nutcracker or maybe even Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty even if we can never be the Lilac Fairy or Sugar Plum.  Those roles could be performed by bright young Northern talent from the professional ballet schools or CAT programmes.  And there are bound to be roles for everyone in between in the divertissements.

My vision for Powerhouse Ballet includes not just those with balletic and dramatic skills but students from costume design courses at the art schools, computer, engineering and technology students who are interested in lighting, constructing properties and special effects. Maybe we can inspire another Lez Brotherson.  Chelmsford Ballet has brilliant stage designs and properties. The computer-generated encroaching forest in The Sleeping Beauty was breathtaking.  Our schools, colleges and universities must have plenty of students who can do the same.

I also hope we can incorporate dancers with disabilities into our productions so that they too can experience the heat of the spotlights and the exultation of applause at the reverence.

So this is an ambitious programme.   If it succeeds Powerhouse Ballet may well need to divide on geographical, age or other lines to give everyone a fair chance of performing on stage. But that's for the future.  My immediate aim is to fill a studio with talented dancers and from there, perhaps, to aim to produce our first show which could be The Nutcracker in January or February 2019.   Summer schools, intensives and other good things can follow later.  We will have an inspiring teacher for the first class who will work us hard over 90 minutes in Huddersfield. So let's begin there.

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