The Ballet Retreat April 2019 general and Day 1

Regular readers of this  blog will probably be aware of The Ballet Retreat... but may be unsure of what it actually is ... This post  may end up rather longer than the usual  bite size posts i make - but i want to cover as much as I can. it's ended up so long  even with day 1 ...

in Hannah's own words

The Ballet Retreat produce two and three day, adult ballet courses, held at world class professional studios for dance enthusiasts, facilitated by industry experts "
So what does that actually mean for the people participating?

- 'World class professional studios' means exactly that, the 2 and 3 day retreats are held at either Northern Ballet in Leeds or the Rambert Company Studios on London's South Bank.

The one day Corps de Ballet retreats- which began last year are hosted just across the road  from Northern's building at the very fabulous 'New York Loft style'  studios of Yorkshire Dance

-'Facilitated  by industry  experts' as discussed in Like a track day... on this blog  the list of  world class professionals involved in facilitating TBR just gets longer and longer as this weekend's edition added Northern Ballet soloist Kevin Poeung to the list ... this also means that the day (after a warm up / activation/ stretching led by one of the other faculty members) begins with a 'company class' taught by David Kierce with live accompaniment by a company pianist , this class is taught in a way and to a level that fits with the levels of skills, knowledge and experience of the  participants, however it  is conducted much in the way  that a Ballet Master/Mistress/Rehearsal Director would conduct a newer company class for a company - i say newer here as when you look at Company Classes towards the end of a season / term   the  running order is so engrained  it  can run almost without the ballet master.  The  Morning class has the typical exercises  one expects in a 'full length'  (90 minute) ballet class and with individual corrections and teaching points for all demonstrated using the dancers in the class, David has a remarkable ability to manage a class for 40+ dancers (hence the reason TBR uses the  big studio at Rambert and  the 'Stan And Audrey'  is studio mode at  Northern

'for dance enthusiasts' - well yes,we, the participants, are enthusiasts, but that doesn't mean that we are all highly experienced, technically brilliant dancers - I don't know the demographics exactly but ages range from 18  to 70+, time dancing  from less than a year to 'forever', technical level from beginners to people who could hold their own with pre-professionals if not pros...

So, what  does the average ballet retreat  weekend look like for Nicola ?
April 2019's  ballet retreat was the 6th and 7th of April in Leeds  (at Northern Ballet)

While in theory I could 'commute'  it'd be nearly 300 miles of driving  over the weekend ( and  400 + for the  3 day August one), so I usually get a hotel,  there are  plenty of Hotels in Leeds, the  two closest are the Ibis budget and the Vicar Lane Travelodge (however neither have baths if that is part of your  post full day in the studio regime), but  there are dozens more in the city itself of all budget / price points ... and even if all the city centre ones are full  Leeds has good  public transport so a more peripheral room isn't a problem. That's not to say that those who live in Yorkshire, or up or down the M1 and A1 a bit less than I do or live in the Manchester-y type bits of the Northwest don't 'commute'  (although getting into Leeds for 0930 on Sunday/ bank holiday mornings can be challenge by public transport).

This time it was the Vicar 
Lane Travelodge which for those who know Leeds  it's frontage is on vicar lane and the back of the hotel  looks at the back of the grand Theatre... I've previously  stayed in the Leeds Central Travelodge a number of times, the new Premier inn the 'other' side of the Railway station and in a hotel that is out towards Bramley but on the bus route... Leeds has plenty of accomodation for all budgets.

I'd been at work on a day shift on the Friday so having packed  all my stuff into the car before work I travelled straight up  the A1 to the M62 and then across  to Leeds ...  I quick wash and brush up saw me head out to meet up with some none ballet friends in Leeds (it being First Friday) for a drink or two...  but like a good girl bed before pumpkin time because of the relatively early start ...

So early start  Saturday and foreswearing the Travelodge breakfast because  while they are usually reasonably decent breakfasts getting £8.95's worth and then going  and dancing can end up as a short  cut to spending time chatting on the porcelain telephone ...  so something a little lighter and less pricey is consumed before heading to St. Cecilia St.

The timetable for The Ballet Retreat starts at 10am, that's 10am 'ballerina time'  which is rather like 'army time' i.e.  in the Studio ready to go, I generally aim to arrive between 0915 and 0930  even if I don't need to get changed... as this gives time to get a cuppa (included in the price you pay for the weekend as is lunch and  copious snacks at break time - you'll need them - you will be worked hard) and catch up with the 'TBR family' (which this time would be an entirely literal description...)

For those travelling in each day or arriving in Leeds on Saturday morning or  departing on Sunday (or Monday if it's August) afternoon who may be concerned by AoNB's public classes saying they don't have changing facilities other than the toilets, this isn't generally the case for The Ballet Retreat and you may get a pleasant surprise as to the facilities made available...

Earlier in the post i said the 10am start is 10 am in the studio ready to go - ready to go for a warm up / activation session, normally  these sessions  in Leeds are lead by Hannah but that is not a given...   these sessions usually 20 or so minutes in duration to get people warm and stretched ready  for the day...

So after a quick 5 -10 minute break to set barres up, it's time for a 90 minute 'daily' / 'company' class generally taught by David Kierce and accompanied by our  pianist of the weekend. The elements of this class will be rather familiar to those who have taken Improvers or Improvers Plus class with David at Central or taken class with some of the other teachers around who have taught for Academy of Northern Ballet or danced with Nixon/Ichino era Northern Ballet (which is quite a long while!) as David was a Principal and then Ballet Master at Northern...

The musical treats of the weekend begin with this class, as like a Company Class with a company the accompaniment is provided by a company level pianist.  This class follows the standard format of the classical/neoclassical ballet class, 45 minute barre covering all the typical barre exercises you would expect... Then a 45 minute centre with exercises that often reflect technique points from the two variations chosen for the weekend... The class itself is at an accessible level for  those who are improvers  ( it you  are beginner who doesn't turn  and  doesn;t do  inside leg / change of weight in your barre  you may find your learnign curve to be quite steep ) and modifications are more than allowed they are encouraged so if you don't feel confident  with an exercise on demi pointe do it flat,  you aren't going to get yelled at  for not  doing a  double  pirouette...  ( well not until David knows you well enough to  know  you can do doubles and should be encouraged to do them )

15 minutes to grab a  snack and a  cuppa (included  in the price of the weekend) and then introduction to the rep -  TBR doesn't tend to publicise the rep until relatively close to date, but then, as with  pro companies - where there is video of the  variation  there's a rep reveal with a link to the variations - as discussed in the 'like a track day' post)...

The 'classic' TBR (as opposed to the one day Corps TBR) has 2 variations one 'male' and one 'female', however that designation just reflects the original choreography and people can choose whichever piece they wish to choose,  something that my ballet buddy Liz (as seen in the why the equality act is not enough post) takes full advantage of with her passion for grand allegro and  pretty damn decent tours en l'air ...

for April 2019  the rep pieces were

Serenade by Balanchine

Ladies Solo. from 6.06 - 7.30

Who Cares? by Balanchine

Mens Solo. 

So back to the introduction to the Rep class, 90 minutes working on parts of both variations as teaching points... If you aren't used to learning rep you might find the class odd as it's straight into learning parts of the rep; but equally you are still warm and flexible from having just done 'company class' the 90 minutes will fly past, if you are a beginner to improver you'll likely learn something new in this class if you didn't learn something new in 'company class' and depending on the rep the improver to Intermediate dancer will  either learn something new or  revisit and  cement something you may have touched on in your regular class

Then Lunch !

Leeds TBR Lunches are buffet style, and depending on  other building users are  either taken in the atrium if the building is quiet  or in one of the more controllable  communal areas of the building if there are  multiple other  activities going on in the building - as other than the August bank holiday TBR, the  activities of AoNB and other regular users of the building carry on as normal - with TBR's presence notable only by the  addition of around 50 extra people including TBR faculty and  the studio and room bookings displayed on the screens around the building

As an aside TBR London lunches are a sit down lunch at which is literally a few feet from the front door of the Rambert Studios as the Rambert building has fewer suitable communal spaces and I'm not sure if they have a tame catering provider in the way Northern do...

After lunch time for more class - usually 2  to 2.5 hours class - a quick  re-warm-up and then more time working on the rep  and  rounding the afternoone off with an other 20 or so minute  warm down / stretch  ...


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