With the English National Ballet’s Alina Cojocaru at Markova House
Now and again I manage to write a blog post on a non-political subject – typically the ballet, a keen interest of mine. And I get readers complaining that they visit my blog for the politics, and don’t give a hang about ballet. To those readers I say: please look away now!
Not that we seem to be able to keep politics out of anything. There have been a number of stories in the press recently lamenting politicians’ lack of knowledge of – and interest in – the arts. But in my case I can say: Not Guilty, Guv!
Last week I was privileged to have been invited to visit Markova House, by the Royal Albert Hall, where the English National Ballet has its rehearsal rooms. Whilst doing the tour (and having marvelled at the wonderful work going on in the costume department — more sequins than Strictly!), we paused outside the door of a rehearsal room, and my guide said “That’s Alina Cojocaru rehearsing”.
I’m a huge fan of Alina, absolutely one of the best ballerinas dancing in the UK today (along with Tamara Rojo, of whom I’m also a great fan — they’re both now with the ENB). I’ve seen Alina live, dancing Medora in Le Corsaire, and in many DVD’s, including Aurora in Sleeping Beauty; Clara in Nutcracker, and Giselle in Giselle.
She has a commanding stage presence, coupled with a lightness and fragility which are astonishing. So I was amazed, meeting her face to face, to realise quite how tiny she is. I was only with her briefly, but she was quite charming, despite the pressures of rehearsal, and very kindly agreed to a quick photo-op. Not only is she a great dancer, but she also has remarkable dramatic talent. The final scene of Giselle, in which she (or rather, her shade) protects the very man who betrayed her, is extraordinarily moving. Real tears-to-the-eyes stuff, and Adam’s music tugs the heart-strings.
I went on to another rehearsal room where for best part of an hour I was able to watch the rehearsals for Nutcracker, that perennial seasonal favourite, which opens at the Coliseum on December 11th. Of course ballet companies rotate their principals, so there were several ballerinas rehearsing the same sequences of the same rôle. It was magical to watch. I’ve always seen dance in terms mainly of the steps and the lifts, but watching the rehearsals close-up I was struck by the extraordinary elegance of the posture and shaping. I shall be seeing it with new eyes — which is a good thing, because I have tickets for the London opening on December 11th.