One of the few benefits of lockdown has been the proliferation of dance teaching material online.  The ability to watch and sample ballet classes from all over the world has enabled comparison and reflection on the characteristics and relative merits of different methods of schooling, which one would normally have little opportunity either to observe or experience.  Recent trawling for fresh ideas for my Zoom teaching lead me to look closely at films documenting the classes and pedagogic approaches of two established and respected teachers from the Paris Opera Ballet and its school, Alexandre Kalioujny and Raymond Franchetti.  Of Russian origin but born and brought up in Prague, Kalioujny had a long association with the company, initially as a dancer, but later after a distinguished performing career as a teacher of its leading dancers, forging a close relationship with Rudolf Nureyev who greatly respected his work.  His alumni include luminaries Elisabeth Platel and Charles Jude, who for the film La Classe d’ Alexandre Kalioujny teach a class demonstrating and explaining some of the principles and concerns which informed his teaching, shaping future generations of French ballet dancers. 

Discussion about this prompted a colleague to point me to a documentary about the teaching of Raymond Franchetti, himself a pupil of the renowned French teacher Gustave Ricaux, and dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, before becoming a hugely respected teacher in his own right and subsequently Director of Dance at the Paris Opera in the 1970s.  A short but very informative documentary follows a class taught by Franchetti, interspersed with his own forthright observations on ballet technique and pedagogy, interview material, and reminiscences of historic dance studios. On 27th January the Paris Opera Ballet staged its grand opening Gala in the Palais Garnier; having studied these classes I was very keen to watch this programme, to see how the ethos and technique of the dancing visible in the studio translated into performance. 

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An interesting mix of performances in the flesh and on the screen last week with two cinema visits for 20th century classics and new works transmitted by the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet framing live performance of German contemporary dance from Sasha Waltz and Guests at Sadler’s Wells. If I dislike the cinema transmissions’ overhyped introductory promos and some excessively effusive commentary, I do enjoy seeing the interiors of other theatres, and some of the informative interview and documentary material provided. Close-ups highlight intriguing details of the dance, although sometimes at a price of losing their relationship with the wider stage environment; differing camera angles risk obscuring spatial design and choreographic architecture.

The Royal Ballet’s first transmission of a mixed bill marked the final farewell of much loved Carlos Acosta from the Covent Garden main stage starring as Don Jose in his own new version of Carmen. (more…)

Enjoy four short ballets in one evening with this quadruple programme from The Royal Ballet, in a live Screen Arts transmission showing at the Phoenix Picturehouse.  Carlos Acosta focuses on the dramatic essentials of love, jealousy and revenge in his new production of Carmen. As well as choreographing the production, Acosta will dance the lead role.  Liam Scarlett has used Lowell Liebermann’s thrilling Piano Concerto No.1 as the inspiration for his similarly audacious choreography in Viscera.  Debussy’s evocative score is the inspiration for Jerome RobbinsAfternoon of a Faun, which depicts two ballet dancers as absorbed by their own reflections as they are attracted to each other.  George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky pas de deux uses a fragment of music composed for the 1877 production of Swan Lake for a display of ballet bravura and technique.

Date:  Thursday 12th November 2015, 7.15pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AE

Book tickets online here or phone 0871 902 5736