Tales from Touring - London
Last week the Company was in London, and what a week it was! Our first ever performances in Covent Garden and our first triple bill outside of Leeds in recent years!
After being invited to watch the Mixed Programme rehearsals during the previous week I was already highly anticipating our arrival at the Royal Opera House (ROH) and by the time my delightful Cockney cabbie pulled up outside on of London's most famous buildings I was absolutely jittering with excitement.
As I've mentioned before, the first challenge with any new venue is to navigate your way backstage and ROH is no exception. In fact the building is a lot bigger inside than you think it is, with maps and sign posts on the wall, coloured lines on the floors for you to follow to find your way and a lift that has 10 floors to choose from. I really needed Google maps! Luckily, the Linbury Studio Theatre is one of the destinations that has a line in the corridor (green!) for you to follow.
As usual, I had arrived at the theatre laden with essentials for the dancers and technical team; a box of Green & Black's miniatures and Haribo Tangfastics which I left in the backstage area of the Linbury Studio Theatre. The dancers were in their dressing rooms when I arrived, getting into hair, make-up and costume ready for the dress rehearsal which was due to begin at 1.45pm. The Linbury stage is actually three floors below the level of the main stage (a phone signal nightmare) and it was here that the dress rehearsal would take place giving us the first opportunity for us to see the full run in costume and to finally get some images of Concerto Six Twenty-Two. It was attended by eight photographers in all and the constant clicks of their cameras added an extra beat to the music although the dancers didn't let it distract them. We got some stunning photographs and Jeremy Curnier and Rachael Gillespie were the first to make the papers with this stunning photograph in The Times on Saturday...
Following the rehearsal the dancers had a short break before the evening's performance, the first in the run, which I unfortunately did not get to see owing to an event at Kew Gardens, but more on that later.
Friday was the busiest day from my perspective as that evening was the press performance and so there was a lot to prepare. That morning, after staying up until 1am to download all the photos from the previous day's dress rehearsal, I hot-footed it back to Covent Garden all the way from Kew Bridge. The first item of the day was a photo shoot at the Royal Opera House itself to mark our first visit to the venue. I was joined for the shoot by Matthew Topliss, Abigail Prudames, Joseph Taylor, Rachael Gillespie and Matthew Koon who were unphased with the idea of posing on top of chest-height tables. In fact, one of the dancers (who shall remain nameless!) suggested that they could jeté across the bar in the room where the shoot was held, another dancer (again nameless!) suggested that they should sample some of the tipples behind the bar. Professional to the end (and drinking water only!), the shoot was done in thirty minutes and we returned back down to floor -3 where the dancers would take class on stage.
Whilst class was ongoing I met with David Nixon to show him the photographs from the dress rehearsal. Every photograph that Northern Ballet publishes has to first be approved by David who, among other things, uses his technical eye to check the dancers' positioning and line in each photo. With that done and after allocating the press tickets for the evening, I returned to the auditorium in the hope of slipping in quietly to watch the end of class. However the dancers, who were on a break by then, quickly twigged that I had all the photos from their rehearsal on my iPad and a long game of 'pass the tablet' ensued! One of the photos in particular caused a massive outbreak of laughter, it would seem there was something funny about one of the dancer's foot in one of the photos. I laughed along but between you and me, I still have no idea what was funny about it!
After a short break for lunch/dinner (not sure what you call it when it's at 4pm!) and an hour at the hotel to get pretty, it was time to return to the theatre for press night where we would be joined by more than 30 dance critics, radio and TV producers, magazine editors and bloggers all eager to see the performance. There was a standing ovation for Luminous Junc•ture and the audience were extremely impressed by the quality of the performance. The reviews started coming in thick and fast within days, beginning with Jeffery Taylor's four star review in the Sunday Express.
Saturday was a double show day, meaning that class was earlier at 11am with performances at 2pm and 7pm. I returned to the theatre before class with a few more bags of Tangfastics to replenish the stocks and provide the much needed sugar required to get through a double show day. Usually when we perform we have around three different casts so that the dancers are either not performing in every show, or they at least get a less demanding role to give their bodies a break. This was not so at the Linbury with just one cast for Concerto Six Twenty-Two and Luminous Junc•ture. Concertante had a second cast who would perform in the matinee but other than that it was the same dancers at every performance. A special mention has to go to Hannah Bateman, Jessica Morgan and Giuliano Contadini who were cast in all three pieces and performed in every show (except Concertante on Saturday afternoon). I'm sure they must have been absolutely exhausted but their last performance was every bit as good as their first so the audience would never tell.
A large chunk of the audience on Saturday night was made up of our current dancers not involved in the performances, former dancers who had come to say hello and offer their support, and friends and family members of the performers so the auditorium had a very friendly atmosphere. I am well informed that the audience provided another standing ovation to mark a great end of a fantastic tour to London, although I didn't see it as I was giving my own standing ovation from the wings from where I had watched the performance (it had sold out, no seat for me!). But it isn't time to rest just yet! As the theatre emptied and Team Linbury emerged into the (rather windy) London night, thoughts turned to fairies and magic potions in preparation for the opening night of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Norwich which would take place just four days later.
Meanwhile in Kew...
On Thursday 8 May, while Team Linbury were gearing up for the first performance of the Mixed Programme, two little fairies by the names of Olivia Holland and Isadora Valero Meza were at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew for the launch of Taylors Tea new fruit teas which had been created in collaboration with Kew Gardens.
Northern Ballet were invited to take part in the launch using two fairies from A Midsummer Night's Dream and so just two weeks prior to the event Olivia and Isadora performed a short dance piece which was filmed in one of our Leeds studios for use at the event.
On the night, our smiley fairies greeted VIP guests at Kew Gardens where the new teas were available to sample. After a short time to try the teas and mingle with guests the evening culminated with Olivia and Isadora's performance which was projected onto a water fall at Kew Gardens giving the effect of ballerina fairies dancing on water much to the delight of all who attended.