Dance Ambassador Johanna Hadley took part in BRB’s worshop accompanying The Prince of the Pagodas; read all about her expereince.
Whenever Birmingham Royal Ballet come to visit The Lowry, they also offer a workshop for students (from Ballet Grade 2 to Advanced levels) with one of their company’s ballet mistresses and a live pianist, based on their current touring production. This time around, it was the turn of BRB’s brand-new production, Prince of the Pagodas – and so I went to join in the ‘Advanced’ workshop to experience it for myself.
We were taken to the Compass Room – a large, stunning room with 360 degrees of floor-to-ceiling windows. The view out of these windows was amazing, stretching as far as the eye could see: the Quays sit directly below, while MediaCity – home to the BBC and ITV – spreads all around. With sunlight streaming in through the windows, we went and placed our bags down at the edge of the room and began individually warming up. The teacher, Andrea Tredinnick (ex-Royal Ballet School and ex-Birmingham Royal Ballet for twenty four years, eighteen of which as a first soloist), then invited us all to follow her in a warm-up in the middle of the room before all taking our places at the Barre to commence class.
The class took the classic ballet class structure – barre work, centre practice, adage, pirouettes and allegro. Andrea effectively adapted the class to make it challenging enough for the more advanced students, while not overwhelming the students who, although still advanced, had less experience. She was always very helpful, and always gave us corrections and tips throughout the class.
Once we had completed class, we were taught some of the repertoire from Prince of the Pagodas. Today we were performing Act 2, where Princess Sakura journeys through the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water; we were to learn ‘Flames’. Swooping, twisting, pushing hips out of line – everything our ballet teachers have been nagging us not to do for years had to be momentarily forgotten when performing this dance. Performed in groups of four people, and with lots of patterns to be perfected, we soon realised that this was no fairy-tale-like dance once we started learning it – we had to be fierce!
The music, composed by Benjamin Britten, was spectacularly played by Elaine Li on the piano – after all, Benjamin Britten is not exactly known for composing ‘easy’ music! Even we, as the dancers, had a challenge on our hands – some counts were quite regular, then we suddenly had to change to counting one lot of five, before returning to regular phrasing, only for this to happen all over again with different countings. You absolutely couldn’t let your concentration slip, even momentarily!
At the end of the two hour workshop, our parents were invited to come and watch us perform the dance in our groups – it was wonderful to show our parents what we had achieved in only two hours! You could tell by both the students’ and parents’ beaming faces that they absolutely adored participating in and watching this workshop respectively.
I would certainly recommend Birmingham Royal Ballet workshops to any keen ballet student, and advise that they definitely look out for these workshops next time BRB visit The Lowry.
Johanna Hadley – Lowry Youth Dance Ambassador