Backstage in Chelmsford with Tom!

In this special blog entry, our dancer Tom Broderick tells us about Ballet Central’s performance in Chelmsford!

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Chelmsford, to me was always going to be the most important show, purely due to the fact it is the nearest to my home town of Southend-On-Sea. With over forty people coming to support me, many of which hadn’t seen me dance since I first moved to London to attend Central three years ago, the pressure was certainly on. For the first time I was dancing the Prince in the Cinderella Pas de Deux, as well as appearing in Mapping #3, Insinuare & anon. These had all gone well in rehearsal, so on Wednesday night, in apprehension of the 5.45 am wake-up call, I tried to ignore the multitude of mixed feelings  whirring around my mind and get some sleep.

I certainly hadn’t been wrong. When my alarm rang through my ears at that ungodly hour it took a lot of self control to not simply roll over and ignore it, but by the time I got to school and was on the coach I began to feel a little more alive. The journey wasn’t long and the ‘Welcome to Essex’ sign did seem to drum up some excitement in me and the three others who originate from our palatial county, so once the extra shots of coffee had kicked in we were ready for the get in. Here lay our first problem.

One part of Ballet Central, is not only do we perform at each venue, but also partake in a team whereby we aid the setup and get out of the show. This helps broaden our knowledge of the theatre. I am on the wardrobe team which means, simply, that we look after all the costumes, unpack and prepare them for each show. In practicality this often proves more problematic than expected, with small items such as cufflinks and earrings disappearing constantly. At Chelmsford however the costumes decided to step up their game in the disappearing  act, with a pair of bespoke footballers boots going missing, with no suitable spare. This meant a mere pair of shoes caused seven frantic teenagers to scramble through trunks, bags and boxes, whilst still attempting to steam and iron the hundreds of other items. Did I mention by this point it’s only 9.30 am? The dramas of a touring ballet company!

After what seemed like hours of standing behind a steamer, de-creasing costumes and hanging them on their assigned rails we were finally done. A quick trip to a coffee shop later for more caffeine, a miraculous change of attire and there we were on stage doing class. The hour and a half for me, whizzed by. This was the point where the nerves were starting to creep in, not helped by the steady stream of bleeps coming from my phone. Various tweets, texts and emails flooding in from friends along the lines of “Can’t wait to see it tonight! Better be good!?”… No pressure eh??

So class finished and it was onto a run through. As each new venue is different with varying stage and wing sizes, an afternoon run through is always a necessity to iron out any creases in the running of the show before the evening performance. Believe me there are normally a few. This run went fairly well, for me at least, with only a few notes such as spacing for the Pas de Deux so that we finished in our allotted spot light. The main issue was just that the wings were a lot smaller than previous venues, but with some close packed quick changes and slight adjustment of curtains we managed.

There we go, preparation finished. The time had reached 5.45pm, we as a company had been going for twelve hours and sustenance was in order. Consequently with my parents arrival I was soon in the nearest pub for a scoffed dinner. Maybe it wasn’t sensible to go for the large fish and chips before a show, then again dancing has never stopped my food consumption before! The joys of a fast metabolism!

Back at the theatre again, gosh this day seems to be never ending and we haven’t even got to the show yet! I forgot to mention earlier that I am the one member of the company shall we say lucky enough to be on two of the theatre teams so once back in the theatre I proceeded to grab the front of house case and set up our merchandise stall before the rest of the team joined me. Somehow I didn’t actually get much selling done, mainly due to the crowd of friends and relatives now piling into the foyer. I was stuck in an almost constant embrace, going from one to the next for almost ten minutes and by that time the half hour warning had been called so in the blink of an eye my makeup and costume were on, I was warmed up and standing in the wings watching the first piece finish and seriously considering running away right there and then.

I managed to stick it out and myself and Giulia performed our debut of the Cinderella Fireside Pas de Deux. The five and a half minutes were over in a heartbeat and as we took our bow the roar from my friends and family was simply amazing. Pure elation is the only way I can really describe how I felt when I came off. As we saw Heidi shedding a tear as we left the stage all we wanted to do was bounce up and down like hyperactive six year olds, but I only had one more piece until I was on again so it was of to get changed. The rest of the show continued in the same way, with everything going perfectly and by the time I finished anon, I was both shattered and extremely happy. The fairy god mother must have been watching over me as well as Cinderella because it really couldn’t have gone any better.

Now it was time to do the whole process in reverse. Back into the foyer; hugs and kisses left, right and centre, a quick drink to celebrate, backstage, help to pack away, on the coach and finally back to London. As I got in bed I  glanced at the clock which read 11.45. Eighteen hours and possibly one of the best days of my life. It certainly was time for some sleep, after all we needed to be back in school at ten the next day for rehearsals. Hertford’s show was only two days away. As my mother constantly reminds me “Well, you will choose these careers Tom!”

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Backstage at Cambridge!

Backstage at Cambridge

May I welcome you to the blog about Ballet Central’s fourth performance of their tour in the wonderful city of Cambridge.  Enjoy!

10.15: Local café in Cambridge

The Get-in appeared to go very smoothly this morning. For those readers who don’t know, the Get-in is the process where the company set up the theatre ready for the performance (including the stage, lights, sound, costumes and front-of-house). One student noted ‘I am learning so much about what it takes to put on a performance’.  Once the Get-in was done, one of the best parts of touring is exploring the city you are performing in and the time between the get-in and class offers that opportunity.  Cambridge is best known for its University and is peppered with buildings dating as far back as 900AD mixed amongst the more modern shopping developments. Needless to say, the most important mission was to locate the nearest coffee shops, all of which were luckily within walking distance – success! The time went quickly and before long it was time to make our way back to the theatre. 

1pm: The stage, ADC Theatre

Company class with Bill Glassman was taken on stage at the ADC Theatre. The ADC is a lovely theatre located in the heart of Cambridge, we really enjoy being there as the theatre staff are so friendly. With the rousing music by Phillip Feeney, the company were ready and prepped for the dress rehearsal.

5.15pm: Auditorium, ADC Theatre

The rehearsal is finished! During the rehearsal one student seemed to turn her ankle but she carried on regardless and apart from an ice pack or two, she was fighting fit by the time the rehearsal was over.  As the final corrections were given, and the lights and sound tweaked, we found out that the performance was sold out! Yay!

7.15pm: Front-of-House and Backstage, ADC Theatre

The eager audience are starting to trickle in now and they seem very excited.  No one was more excited than a 6-year-old who had dressed up in a sparkly dress for the occasion! Programmes were bought in a flurry of interest and it was nice to have so many audience members coming up and declaring that this is their fourth or fifth time of seeing Ballet Central.  Backstage, the energy is high and mixed with slight nerves. Everyone was ready to perform – getting into the zone, focussing on what they needed to do for the evening.

8.30pm: Front-of-House, ADC Theatre

First half done – and this time the mood was jubilant both backstage and front of house.  The little girl declared to me that she wanted to be a ballet dancer and other audience members made their way to the students who were front-of-house and were effusive in their praise for the company. Backstage, wave after wave of students came off the stage saying that it was so far their best performance.  They are loving the responsive audience!

9.30pm: On the coach back to London

It was a flurry of activity backstage as costumes were taken off, organised, the stage floor rolled, the lights dismantled and the merchandise packed away.  The ADC theatre came alive tonight – the performance was a great success!

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Backstage with Carys!

May I welcome Carys Applebee to our blog!  Hope you enjoy the interview:

1. What has the Ballet Central tour been like so far?Image

It has been really good fun.  Being on tour, seeing different theatres, being backstage and helping the technical crew has been great! The supportive atmosphere is just amazing – even the early starts and late finishes are worth it!

2. What have been your favourite moments?

The opening night dancing Insinuare, the piece by Leanne King and Sara Matthews, has definitely been a highlight.  The performance went so well and being backstage and being part of the excitement was fantastic!

3. What pieces have you been learning?

I have been learning as many pieces as I can because I want to have as many opportunities to perform as possible.

4. What is your favourite piece and why?

My favourite piece is Chris Marney’s anon. – the rehearsal process has been so rewarding.  His piece is a narrative so we were able to explore and develop our skills as actors as well as dancers, which I really enjoyed. I also appreciated how he really took time to work with us individually, giving all casts opportunities to practice and push our boundaries. 

I also love doing Insinuare – the rehearsal process was collaborative meaning that we as dancers were able to input our own ideas into the piece, a fantastic experience and insight into the world of choreography.  This was great for me as I really enjoy choreographing myself. I have recently had the opportunity to choreograph a duet for a project called ‘Design for Dance’ where dancers from Central School of Ballet collaborate with design students at Central St Martins to create and perform a new piece. Working with different dancers, I really started to understand the hard work behind each piece of choreography. 

5. What has it been like working with different choreographers?

It has been interesting to see how the choreographers have different ways of working. The contrast between working on a narrative piece like Chris Marney’s anon., working creatively on Insinuare and then putting on the pointe shoes for the technically demanding Florestan Pas de Trois, can only be experienced at Ballet Central

6. When did you start dancing?

I started when I was 3 years old in Dorset and then I moved to Chichester where I started taking class with Teresita Marsden who was such an inspiration.  As I got older, I became more determined to dance and did the CAT scheme at The Place and Pre-Senior programme at Central.  It was during that time that I decided to audition for Central as I really loved the classes I was doing.

7. Who inspired you to dance?

I think I have been very lucky with the teachers I have had who have all been so inspiring in many different ways.  Also reading articles about dancers who have overcome adversity to follow their dreams – I know it sounds a little clichéd but it helps me when I am having a bad day to think of those people and know that I can do the same.

8. What’s the best advice you can give to future dancers?

Be open-minded! When I was younger I was determined to do ballet and only ballet, so when I first had the opportunity to do some contemporary I used to try any excuse to skip the classes – I feel ashamed to admit this now! Doing the Pre-Senior programme at Central really opened my eyes to the many facets of contemporary dance and now it is my favourite type of dance! I feel I can really express myself in ways that ballet sometimes cannot.

9. Any plans for the future?

I am very excited to be starting as an apprentice with Springs Dance Company.  It will give me a lot of opportunities to perform as well as to explore choreography which I am really keen to continue. I’m really looking forward to it!

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Backstage on Opening Night!

7.15: Front-of-House, Platform Theatre, London;
So here it is – the opening night and the atmosphere front-of-house is palpable with excitement. All the months of preparation, rehearsal and sheer hard work culminates to this point. The tickets are sold, programmes are sorted, the merchandise is out and the audience is ready with anticipation…what will this year’s group of talented Ballet Central students perform tonight?

7.29: Backstage, Platform Theatre, London;
Walking backstage, I am greeted with a sense of excitement! The usual collection of items expected of a touring dancing company are all present…hair grips, hair ties, hair extensions, wigs, used foundation, lipstick, pancake make-up, the odd pointe shoe, and holey pairs of ballet tights as well as some welcome bunches of flowers and good luck cards. One thing I did notice was that there were no costumes lying about – the wardrobe department seemed to be working very hard to make sure that all costumes were perfect…to the point that Richard, the Resident Costume Designer, was fashioning a torchlight on his head! And now I hear a cheer emanating through the dressing rooms as the opening bars of Kennth Tindall’s piece, Signature 31/30 are played through the speakers. It has finally started.

7.40: Backstage, Platform Theatre, London
First piece done and a resounding agreement that the dancers believed they had ‘smashed it’ (I think that’s a good thing!). So far so good.

8.15: Backstage, Platform Theatre, London
Every wave of dancers returning from having performed their pieces enters backstage with excitement, adrenaline and a sense of relief. The consensus is that it is going very well – everyone was doing their best performance and everything was coming together. As the final piece before the interval closes (the exciting Mapping #3 by Darshan Singh Bhuller), I wonder how the dancers are feeling at this point. Remarkably, the atmosphere backstage is focused but calm. There seems to be little evidence of nerves, no short fuses and an overwhelming sense of comradeship and supportiveness – eavesdropping on conversations between dancers one was remarked as saying ‘that was the best you have ever done it…your acting is amazing’ and another ‘you killed it tonight, phenomenal’. It was a privilege to witness such encouragement.

8.45: Auditorium, Platform Theatre, London
Having experienced backstage in all its glory, I am now roving as an audience member…I am going over to the other side of the curtain. Having spent some time wandering front-of-house in the interval, I have been able to hear some amazingly positive comments from audience members – one said ‘it blew my mind’, another said ‘the best I have seen of Ballet Central and I have been coming for the past 11 years…they just keep getting better and better’. So, sitting in the audience now it feels wonderful to know that they are enjoying it as much as the dancers are performing it. But now the lights are dimming and the curtain has gone up…and the stage is filled with warm light as two ballerinas in salmon pink, glittering tutus, Guilia Pazzaglia and Kotoko Yamamoto holding on to a decoratively adorned Tom Edwards stand ready to dance.

10.00pm: Kings Cross Tube Station
What a night – we were treated to the traditional Florestan Pas de Trios, the languid Insinuare and the Chris Marney’s energetic anon...as the curtain fell down and the audience remained clapping and cheering willing for it not to end. From what I could tell, there were no dramas, no wardrobe malfunctions, no lighting hazards. Everything went as smoothly as it could go. ‘I feel spoilt!’ one member of the audience said…I think that sums up the evening for everyone!

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Backstage with Bookee!

Opening night is tonight!! To celebrate this, let me welcome our lovely next interviewee Bookee Suksathaporn.
Ballet Central; Audition Photos
1. How is Ballet Central going? I am enjoying it – it is quite strange being in third year because you are in this in-between state of being treated like professional dancers but still within a school environment. I love that each day is different and there is more of a focus on artistry than on the daily rigours of technique (although we can never escape the daily ballet class!).

2. What pieces are you learning? I have been learning Darshan Singh Bhuller’s piece (Mapping #3), anon. by Chris Marney, and Florestan Pas de Trios from Sleeping Beauty.

3. What is your favourite piece and why? I think my favourite is Darshan’s as I feel so free and natural, and it is all about how you move and respond to the music. In a strange way it is quite an internal piece – I really have to delve into my inner self, tapping into my emotions in order to project on stage. I also love the music and its modernity and I am very excited to see how the projection works (an exciting part of the piece that incorporates video projection and the dancing on stage). I also really enjoy dancing the classical ballet pieces like Florestan, as there is always something to work on like turn-out, timing, technique etc. I like that challenge!

4. What is it like working with different choreographers? I find it very interesting to learn how to adapt to different styles of choreography. As a dancer you have to be a chameleon and learn how each choreographer wants a certain step, so you have to alter yourself to match their intention – it makes you very selfless as you have to constantly think of pleasing the choreographer rather than yourself. I value it when a choreographer goes over things repetitively, which might be boring for some people but it means that the steps can be set into my muscles and then I can concentrate on the artistry.

5. When did you start dancing? I am from Bangkok but the basics of ballet don’t change wherever you are from. I started when I was 4½ years old, in my pink leotard, pink frilly skirt, picking up flowers, pretending to be a fairy! I originally started because I was quite an energetic child and I also had some problems with my feet and legs that ballet really helped to correct. It turned from a hobby into an ambition when I was doing Grade 5 RAD at around the age of 11. I had been recommended by several teachers about continuing my training in England and I read about all the major schools from Dance magazines. I auditioned in earnest and one of those schools included Central. I initially didn’t get in but when I auditioned a couple of years later, I was accepted and started my three year training with the school. I value that time between auditioning the first and second time because I really grew as a dancer in maturity and experience. It also meant that the audition process was slightly less scary the second time round.

6. Who inspired you to dance? There wasn’t one dancer or inspiring character but I think my friends and family supporting me were and continue to be my biggest inspiration.

7. What’s the best advice you can give to future dancers? I had quite a tough time in Second Year with various injuries – however I now really value the experience because it has made me understand myself more and also I learnt to appreciate all the reasons why I love to dance. So I suppose all I can say is that the downsides will always be balanced by the upsides.

8. Opening night is tonight! – how are you feeling? Really excited – after so many months of rehearsals, I am really looking forward to finally performing on stage to an audience. Saying that though, opening night has come round so quickly!

9. What are you most looking forward when you start touring?I am really looking forward to working backstage, doing the get in and the get out and also seeing the UK and all the different venues.

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Backstage with choreographer Christopher Marney

©Sarah Londonwww.sarahlondonphotography.co.uk

Chris came to dance in his early teens, and eventually trained at Central School of Ballet, London, under the direction of Christopher Gable. After graduating he joined Matthew Bourne’s company and was soon dancing main roles in Swan Lake and The Car Man before joining BalletBoyz as a founding member. He then moved to Europe where he was a dancer with Gothenburg Ballet and Ballet Biarritz, dancing in productions of The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, L’Apres Midi d’un Faun. Chris then returned to London, working freelance as a dancer and choreographer with commissions for Ballet Black, Images of Dance and our very own Ballet Central. During this he has also continued to perform regularly creating the title role in Will Tuckett’s dance-play, The Thief of Baghdad and guesting for Bern Ballet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the direction of Cathy Marston. He has also remained a part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures as a principal and rehearsal director.


1. When did you start to dance?
I didn’t start ballet until I was 14 but from the age of 11 I was doing jazz and drama. I wanted to go down the musical theatre route but I decided I wanted to hone my training and have a good basis from which to build my dancing career. Therefore I applied for Central School of Ballet!

2. So you, yourself, were part of Ballet Central. What is your abiding memory of the experience? I was in Ballet Central the year that the co-founder of the school Christopher Gable sadly passed away. There was therefore a special poignancy to the whole experience of Ballet Central, particularly the piece we opened with Celebration, the last piece he choreographed. He was such an inspiration to me – a performer in every sense of the word in dance, acting and choreographing. His artistic aims focused on creating a well-rounded dancer and performer, not just concentrating on technique but developing the artistic side as well. His ethos has and continues to inform my career as a dancer and choreographer.

3. What are your career highlights? My first highlight was joining New Adventures with Matthew Bourne, straight after being at Central and then being asked to learn the Prince from Swan Lake after only a few weeks – the experience I gained with Ballet Central helped to cope with the demands needed for the role. Then, going to Europe particularly at Gothenburg Ballet and learning pieces by Jiri Kylian and William Forsythe helped to build my technique making me a better and more mature dancer.

4. When did you start choreographing? At Gothenberg Ballet, there were opportunities to choreograph for some dance workshops. With such a fantastic resource of keen dancers and a great theatre, I could play around with lots of ideas. Returning to the UK, I had several commissions from a variety of companies so I was able to develop my style even more.

5. How would you describe your style? My style is narrative, definitely. I love creating a piece around a strong plot, particularly with a contemporary theme so that the audience can be drawn in emotionally. A narrative also gives an awful lot of scope for different movement and opportunities to play with the audience’s humour. Even without an obvious storyline, there has to be an intention, an emotive purpose to every movement.

6. What inspired this piece? I have always been interested in trying to bring sport and its physicality together with dance in some way – and then I heard a piece from the ballet Sylvia by Léo Dilebes and I really began to explore my idea further. I was also impressed by the strength of the dancers in Ballet Central and knew that I could use them to create a strong narrative piece.

7. How did you choose the music for your piece? My starting point was the music from Sylvia. From there I outlined a story about a girl, who reads many books and whose imagination sends her on many adventures. So I chose pieces like Aquarium from the Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns and a romantic Shostakovich waltz, both of which gave ample opportunity to be creative with the piece. Philip Feeney, the musical director has also kindly composed some parts to link all the pieces together.

8. When choosing dancers, what do you look for? I particularly looked for dancers who could act and tell a story through their body. I was confident that every dancer could do the steps I set, but I was looking for that something extra special – the ability to physicalise their emotions and relay a character on stage. For example, I set a particular combination I told them that I wasn’t looking at their legs and feet but I wanted them to look into each other’s eyes and respond to each other through movement.

9. What advice would you give to an aspiring dancer? I think the best advice I could give is to follow instructions –sometimes key details can be lost and the choreography becomes something entirely different to what you were intending, which can be quite frustrating when you have a vision for your piece. Though, I think it is great when dancers can give their own interpretation and put their own mark to the movement you have set, it mustn’t be to the detriment of the choreography and overall intention of the piece. Needless to say, Ballet Central has been fantastic with balancing this fine line.

10. What has been the highlight of working with Ballet Central? The dancers have been great to work with – they are so eager and willing to do your piece justice and do their best that it has been a joy to collaborate with them. I have also really valued and feel lucky to be working with the entire Ballet Central team including Philip Feeney, Richard Gellar in the wardrobe department and Ed Railton Ballet Central’s lighting designer.

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Backstage with Jack

May I welcome you to our second interview with Jack Cussans!

1.How is Ballet Central going?
Really well. We have started learning most pieces for the tour. It’s a massive change from 1st and 2nd year but really fun.

2.What pieces are you learning?
I am in Kenny Tindell’s and Dane Hurst’s pieces. Both are equally challenging but really enjoyable nonetheless.

3.What is your favourite piece and why?
I love Kenny’s piece – the movement, expression and intention is wonderful to learn. I particularly enjoy bucking the trend of conventions and doing pas de deux with the guys in the piece – in all honesty it is much easier to lift a guy than a girl!

4.What is it like working with different choreographers?
Kenny and Dane are both very different to work with. Dane expects us to work very hard for the entire rehearsal. If he is working on a particular part with someone else, the people not used have to work at the side either listening to what is going on or working on bits and pieces that we have just been taught. I find this approach challenging, but on the plus side it is really good to learn new ways of processing information and helps with sustaining concentration.
Kenny works with groups in intensive bursts, getting the best out of us on an individual basis. Last week I was able to work with him for private coaching with my pas de deux partner, Victoria, which was really helpful and a fantastic experience.

5.When did you start dancing?
I started dancing at 4 years old. I lived in Newcastle and was training in football at the Newcastle Academy but for convenience and to keep fit when I wasn’t doing football, I joined my sister at her dancing classes. We then moved to York and I carried on dancing and eventually my teacher recommended going to The Hammond School, which teaches performing arts to 11 year olds and upwards.

6.Who inspires you to dance?
Watching other dancers and new choreography is my biggest inspiration – watching Steven McRae is always a pleasure but I love watching pieces by Akram Khan – they really push the boundaries of what dance means.

7.What’s the best advice you have been given?
I know this sounds like a cliché but the phrase ‘never give up even when you have setbacks’ really resonates with me. At the end of 2nd year I was given the news that I may have to repeat the year due to having a growth spurt. Obviously I was really disappointed but I sat down with one of the teachers and just talked it all through and realised that it wasn’t a setback but rather an opportunity to keep learning and training. I have to say that extra year helped me enormously grow.

8.What are you most looking forward at Ballet Central?
Going on tour – being on the road is something I am really looking forward to and to experience all the different theatres and audiences…I can’t wait!

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