Easter Course Day 4

April 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access) (, )

Taking a Bow

The final day of the Easter Course dawned with yet more sun streaming through the windows at West Park. Thirty-one weary looking dancers arrived bright and early to start the final stages of the creative process. After a shorter class than usual, the group worked on the choreography for a short section in the middle of the piece. Earlier in the week they had devised some duets, looking at how counter-balances and lifts could be used, and these were re-worked to fit to Philip Feeney’s music.

All too soon it was time for the group to break for lunch and then, after getting changed, have a couple of final rehearsals of the piece. Shortly after 2.30pm eager friends and family began to arrive. With well over seventy people in attendance the hall was buzzing with chatter and anticipation, providing a really wonderful atmosphere for the first full showing of the piece to an audience. Although there will be re-workings of the piece at later stages, this was the first ‘draft’ and was certainly a testament to the hard work and creativity of the dancers (and Caroline). The audience was also treated to a duet performed by Joe Barnes and Jay Jones, which they had developed during the course and particularly stood out amongst those created by the dancers. It was certainly a sight to behold – at times Jay almost appeared to be tossing a seemingly weightless Joe around in the air, drawing many gasps from family and friends!

As the dancers left West Park to spend time relaxing after a busy week, they were sent home with information about reforming the group and showcasing the piece at a number of events in the future. The development of Northern Ballet Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre’s new headquarters has been a key inspiration for the final piece and it will be absolutely wonderful for it to be performed at the official opening of the new dance centre. We hope that the additional rehearsals and performances will give the dancers an opportunity to consolidate what they have learnt during the course and also cement the friendships made along the way! For now though, as I sort through the lost property left behind (!), I leave you with a wonderful photograph of the final performance last Friday.

Philippa Plumtree-Varley
Learning & Access Coordinator

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Easter Course Day One!

April 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm (Easter course, Events, General Information, Learning & Access) (, , )

 

This morning saw the West Park Centre buzzing with activity, as 31 budding young dancers arrived at NBT’s headquarters for the annual Easter Course.  The early start and the fact that it is the beginning of the school holidays did not seem to deter anyone taking part, the group was raring to go!

The morning began with a short introduction by our Dancer Education Officer, Caroline Burn, who is leading the course.  Caroline introduced other members of the team who will be around during the week – including Megan, Selina and Mike (Michael Berkin, Company dancer) who are going to be ‘on hand’ to provide advice on movement and help develop the choreography.  The group also met the man himself, Philip Feeney, who has written the music on which the final piece is to be based.  Despite the threatened rail strikes, Philip made it up from London to accompany the course today and will be back again on Friday. 

Caroline took the group through a couple of exercises to ‘break the ice’.  One of these exercises involved all 31 dancers putting themselves in order of their birthdays without speaking – simply through miming and using hand signals.  Despite some of the group trying to get away with whispering to each other (tut tut!), it was remarkable how quickly they successfully lined up in more-or-less perfect order.  After a short break it was time to begin daily class.  Although the inclusion of a couple of press-ups was a challenge after a weekend of Easter eggs, the varied exercises got the dancers warmed-up, their muscles stretched, and limbs moving before the serious work began! 

Once the group had heard the music Philip has composed, it was time to brainstorm ideas for the piece including possible themes, types of movement and its general overall dance style.  The creativity continued after lunch with the group learning a small section of choreography to the music, which they then had to expand and develop in smaller groups.  Having looked at partnership work during the morning, the dancers were able to get together in pairs to experiment with lifts, counter-balancing, and explore different contact-points between their bodies.  Dancer Mike Berkin was on hand to help them, giving advice and suggestions to groups as they developed their ideas. 

From a quiet start with little chatting between the course participants, I have just left a hubbub of noise down in the main hall at West Park.  Everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and coming up with some wonderful ideas for the piece.  More tomorrow…

Philippa Plumtree-Varley

Learning & Access Coordinator

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Boys Wanted!

March 5, 2010 at 1:03 pm (Easter course) (, , , )

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

In the Learning & Access department we are currently busy putting together all the arrangements for our forthcoming Easter Course – answering phone enquiries, sending out information, and processing incoming applications… Whilst drinking plenty of cups of tea and eating some yummy biscuits!  A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make the Easter Course happen, not only involving the stuff Caroline is currently doing on the ‘artistic’ side but purely in administrating the course.  Everyone has to be in the right place, at the right times, and with the right music, equipment and space to work in otherwise the course just simply couldn’t go ahead!

Having been on a number of Easter Courses at Northern Ballet Theatre when I was younger, I am finding it interesting as the new Learning & Access Coordinator to see all the activity that goes on to make such a course happen.  It makes me wish I wasn’t too old to take part!

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

We have had a number of applications so far for this year’s course – from young people spread right across the 11 to 16 years age range, as well as those with a great variety of dance experience.  Some have simply done dance classes at school, whilst others attend training on a weekly basis, but all you really need to take part is enthusiasm and a willingness to move about and be creative!

There is one snag with the applications we have received so far though… There is a definite lack of boys!  I imagine men in tights and girls in tutus may be the first thing many people think of when they hear the word ‘ballet’, but this is certainly not the case with the Easter Course!  Not only will one of the company’s leading male dancers be helping to deliver the course, but it will also be a great way to make new friends, unleash your creative side, try out different styles of movement, and get active.  Dance is far from ‘girlie’ – did you know that many rugby and football teams take their warm-up techniques from ballet and admire the great strength dancers have to carry out their daily work?  So lads, why not come and try creative dance out for yourself!

Philippa Plumtree-Varley
Learning and Access Co-ordinator

Photo: Brian Slater

Photo: Brian Slater

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Easter Course Update…

February 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm (Easter course, Learning & Access) (, , , , , , )

Places on this years Easter Course are starting to fill up and I’ve just had an exciting trip down to London to meet up with composer Philip Feeney. We met at Ballet Central where Philip is resident pianist and composer. He is currently working on a full length ballet score for Michael Pink, Artistic Director of Milwaukee Ballet.

We discussed some words that would describe the feeling of the piece and Philip is now going to come up with some short snippets of music. One thing he is going to try is creating a track digitally that will not have one of the parts (instruments) on it. That part will then be played over the track adding a live element to the music but still having the excitement of lots of instruments.

He took me down to his office, where there was an assortment of equipment. On one side of Philip was an electric piano, on the other side computers that he uses to orchestrate the music he creates on the piano. For example he can play something on the piano then let us hear what it will sound like played on strings. It’s really useful software as it can give us an idea what the music will sound like with a number of different instruments playing.

This will be very good for us once Philip has written the music. He will record the music on the computer so that when we are rehearsing we can hear what it will sound like when musicians from NBT’s orchestra play the piece. (At the opening of our new building)

I am not going to give away too much, but I left feeling inspired and excited! I will however share with you that Philip is able to come up to Leeds and play for the course on the 6th and 9th April. This means that you will be able to hear the music played live by the composer and we will be able to make any changes we need as we create our piece.

Don’t forget to book your place as this Easter Course is going to be very special.

Caroline

Dance Education Officer

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NBT Easter Course

March 19, 2009 at 12:54 pm (Events, General Information, Learning & Access, Music) ()

Spaces are filling up quickly for Northern Ballet Theatre’s 2009 FootNotes Easter Course.

Open to all young people aged 11 – 19 this course will give you the chance to work with the professionals to develop either your dance or music skills and create some original pieces.

So do something different this Easter holiday and book your place before the closing date next week.  Call Jo Dean on 0113 274 5355  for more information.

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