Tours en l'air organizes ballet-themed escorted holidays to see the best companies perform great ballets in beautiful places. You can join a trip from anywhere. A highly knowledgeable balletomane who has enjoyed 100s of performances in over 20 cities around the world,I speak English, French, and German, and am a Travel Industry Council of Ontario certified Travel Counsellor. I also teach ballet appreciation courses.
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Tours en l'air Ballet Holidays are offered in partnership with CWT Victor Travel, 101 - 8800 Dufferin Street, Concord, ON L4K 0C5, 416-736-6010, TICO # 1892647


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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz answer

The ballet master in Degas's famous painting The Dance Lesson is which of Giselle's choreographers?
a) Jules Perrot

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

The ballet master in Degas's famous painting The Dance Lesson is which of Giselle's choreographers?
a) Jules Perrot
b) Jean Coralli
c) Marius Petipa
d) Peter Wright

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Fabulous Manon images

 Robert Tewsley and Akiko Tachiki in Noriko Kobayashi Ballet Theatre's performances of MacMillan's Manon in Tokyo, August 2011.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An important Fille mal Gardee performer in his "dressing room"

Thanks to Steven Monteith of Birmingham Royal Ballet for this adorable picture of the pony awaiting his star turn in La Fille mal Gardee outside the theatre in Plymouth where BRB is currently performing.
For more about this particular star pony, visit BRB's entertaining post on their touring blog. and this post from the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

German TV spot about Roberto Bolle
 The beautiful Ballet Man
Many of the posters of Roberto Bolle advertising the performances of "Orpheus" at the Hamburg Ballet have been stolen. What makes the dancer so popular? We met him during rehearsals.
Since he has been dancing on the world's ballet stages, it's become clear: seldom has ballet been so sexy.
His charisma is so appealing. His style is so virtuosic.  Roberto Bolle has enchanted Presidents, the Queen, and the Pope. Now the Hamburg audience can swoon over his Orpheus.
Since the age of 7, he has danced. He doesn't smoke or drink and follows a strict diet.
"My whole life always revolves around dancing. Even when I'm on holiday by the sea, I work out, even if it's just swimming."
Two years ago, John Neumeier created on him the role of Orpheus, a mythical story of fate, confronting love and death. Then he injured his back and had to cancel his performances. Once he was back on his feet, he was so busy with engagements around the world that only now can he find his way back to Hamburg to carry on with this particularly emotional choreography, where every movement is imbued with feeling. Yet the worry that he could still injure something remains.
"A ballet dancer is an athlete. We always have to deal with injuries and pain. But you learn that quickly, right at the beginning of your career, you just have to live with physical pain."
Only the icy autumn wind is  too cold for this Italian. Besides, in Hamburg he's happy he doesn't have to hide behind a hat and sunglasses. In Italy everyone recognizes him. Of course he is pleased by that but on the other hand he enjoys the moments where he can do what he wants in peace. For example, forbidden things. His only vice: dark chocolate.
"Of course there are moments when I let myself go. For example Christmas... panettone, cream cakes. I break the rules with a clear conscience!"
He buys two chocolate bars. He could eat them all at once. But he'll make them last for two days.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer

The music for Giselle's first-act solo is by:

b) Ludwig Minkus

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Miami City Ballet on PBS October 28

Balanchine's "Square Dance" (music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli) and "Western Symphony" (music by Hershy Kay) and Tharp's "The Golden Section" (music composed and performed by David Byrne). Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp airs Friday, October 28 at 9 p.m. as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival
Check your local PBS station for times.

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

The music for Giselle's first-act solo is by:
a) Adolphe Adam
b) Ludwig Minkus
c) Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer
d) a wealthy patron of the Paris Opera

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Almost 2000 ballet performances in Europe and N America

Check out my master calendar, now updated to include La Scala and Rome 2012 season and ABT spring season, by clicking on the "What's on in Ballet" tab.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An interview with Karen Kain

Karen Kain was recently the guest at the Star Talks series at the Toronto Public Library:

Evelyn Hart drops in

I was teaching my "Introduction to the National Ballet of Canada Season" ballet appreciation course last night at the NBOC's headquarters in Toronto, the Walter Carsen Centre. We were watching a video of the Rose Adagio when who should waft in from passing by in the corridor but former Royal Winnipeg Ballet superstar Evelyn Hart. She told a delightful story about being Aurora: "On the morning of the performance, 9 o'clock, you choose your pointe shoes for the Rose Adagio and you think, yes, these are PERFECT, just right. Then by noon you start thinking, oh no, maybe those aren't the right ones. By 5 pm, you're thinking, oh for sure they aren't right, and an hour before the performance you're going through 30 pairs of pointe shoes trying to figure out which ones will do! But of course it's all psychological because you're just so worried about those balances!" Here she is, performing the Rose Adagio in what clearly were the right pointe shoes!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer

The peasant pas de deux was introduced into the scenario of Giselle
a) so that the mistress of one of the Paris Opera's wealthy patrons could have a solo

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

The peasant pas de deux was introduced into the scenario of Giselle

a) so that the mistress of one of the Paris Opera's wealthy patrons could have a solo
b) so that fashionable Parisians could spend more time eating and drinking before arriving just in time for the mad scene
c) so that the mistress of the choreographer Jean Coralli could have a solo
d) because audience members complained that the original production was too short and they weren't getting their money's worth

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kings of the Dance and NYCB weekend

 101 - 8800 Dufferin Street, Concord, ON L4K 0C5
TICO Ontario registration #1892647

Tours en l'air
Ballet Holidays

escorted by
Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber

New York
24 – 27 February 2012
4 days, 3 nights
2 ballet performances (+1 optional)

Guillaume Côté and the Kings of the Dance
New York City Ballet
See 5 of the hottest male ballet stars in the world, 
PLUS the world-famous New York City Ballet performing its signature repertoire,
meet an NYCB dancer and visit the NYCB wardrobe 

New York City Ballet Donizetti Variations. Photo © Paul Kolnik
  Guillaume Côté and David Hallberg, photo © Nikolai Krusser
the mind-blowing Ivan Vasiliev 
Friday 24 February
Arrive New York, check in to the 4-star Park Central Hotel, steps from the City Center theatre. Evening: 3-course welcome dinner. Performance: Kings of the Dance: Opus 3 showcases the power, athleticism and artistry of five of today’s most celebrated male ballet stars:
Guillaume Côté (National Ballet of Canada)
David Hallberg (American Ballet Theatre, and now the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet)
Ivan Vasiliev (Mikhailovsky Ballet, formerly Bolshoi Ballet)
Denis Matvienko (Mariinsky Ballet)
Marcelo Gomes (American Ballet Theatre)

Program (subject to change, casting subject to change):

JAZZY FIVE (Choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti)
Performed by David Hallberg, Marcelo Gomes, Guillaume Côté, Ivan Vasiliev, Denis Matvienko


KABURIAS (Choreography and Costume by Nacho Duato)
Performed by David Hallberg

TUE (Choreography by Marco Goecke)
Performed by Guillaume Côté

GUILTY (Choreography by Edward Clug)
Performed by Denis Matvienko

LABYRINTH OF SOLITUDE (Choreography by Patrick De Bana)
 Performed by Ivan Vasiliev

STILL OF KING (Choreography by Jorma Elo)
Performed by Marcelo Gomes

WHO I THOUGHT I WAS (Music by Guillaume Côté; Choreography by Marcelo Gomes)
Performed by Leonid Sarafanov

KO’d (Music by Guillaume Côté; Choreography by Marcelo Gomes)
Performed by David Hallberg, Guillaume Côté, Denis Matvienko, Ivan Vasiliev, Leonid Sarafanov

Saturday 25 February
Day at leisure.
Optional afternoon performance of
New York City Ballet:  
Allegro Brillante: a bravura piece set to Tchaikovsky's 3rd Piano Concerto about which Balanchine said: "It contains everything I know about the classical ballet in 13 minutes."
Zakouski (Martins)  

Fancy Free (Robbins)
Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3
(Balanchine, includes Theme and Variations)
Evening: 3-course dinner, then
meet a New York City Ballet dancer who will give us a tour of the David H Koch theatre, followed by a “First Position” discussion before the New York City Ballet performance of:
Donizetti Variations:
Balanchine's cheerful and sunny tribute to Bournonville
Agon: one of the major ballets of the 20th century, Balanchine's homage to modernism Fancy Free: the entertaining story of three World War II sailors on shore leave that launched Jerome Robbins' career as a choreographer and formed the basis for the musical On The Town.
Sunday 26 February
Day at leisure
Monday 27 February
Visit to New York City Ballet costume shop.
Check out of hotel and depart New York.

Total Package CA$1199 per person based on double occupancy
Single supplement: CA$250
All prices valid till 19 December 2011

LAND-ONLY PACKAGE allows you the flexibility of arranging
travel from your most convenient departure point,
on the dates and times you prefer. Extend your stay if you wish.
CWT Victor Travel's experienced agents will be happy to help you.

Package price includes:
Excellent orchestra seats for 2 ballet performances
Pre-performance talk and tour of the David H Koch Theater by an NYCB dancer
First Position” pre-performance talk
3 nights double-share accommodation (one king or two queen beds) in the Park Central Hotel
3-course welcome dinner with wine
3-course pre-performance dinner
Visit to New York City Ballet costume shop
Hotel porterage
Ballet enrichment notes and informal post-performance reviews with tour leader
All taxes, service fees, and surcharges
Not included:
Items of a personal nature, e.g. phone calls
Meals and transfers not specifically mentioned in this itinerary
Ticket to optional 2nd NYCB performance
Beverages with meals
Cancellation and hospital/medical insurance

Terms and Conditions:
Non-refundable payment in full of CA$1199 per person is required at time of registration, no later than 19 December 2011.** Single supplement, optional second NYCB performance ticket, and optional cancellation and hospital/medical insurance also payable at this time.
All cancellations must be received in writing at CWT Victor Travel to the attention of Lucy Nati (
RBC out-of-province health insurance and trip cancellation insurance are available through CWT Victor Travel and STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. Price will vary according to birthdate. Premium must accompany payment for the package and is non-refundable.

For more information or to receive a registration form by email or regular mail, please contact me: or 416.693.4496

**The payment is fully refundable 
in the event of cancellation of the trip by the travel agent.

For preliminary information on our April trip to Stuttgart and Munich, please click here.

Some videos to whet your appetite: 
Kings of the Dance:

Agon: (snippets here, though the soundtrack of the video is not the music for the ballet):
Fancy Free:

Allegro Brillante
Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (the expanded version of Theme and Variations, seen here performed by Dresden SemperOper Ballet:

NEW!! March Break Ballet-fest in London

The group who just went to London enjoyed it so much that I have decided to add a London March Break trip, offering the chance to enjoy absolute must-see ballets like MacMillan's Romeo and Ashton's Two Pigeons (by now you know this is one of my all-time favourite ballets!) However, because of ticket issues at the Royal Opera House, I need to know ASAP if there would be sufficient interest to pursue the planning of this trip. Please email me at At a guesstimate the price would probably be somewhere between $3000 and $3500 Cdn. (As usual, the more people in the group, the lower the price, so please encourage your friends!)

Friday March 9- Sunday March 18
This is March Break week for schools in Ontario and some other provinces; you would need to depart on the night of Thursday March 8.

Royal Ballet: Romeo and Juliet (MacMillan)
                        Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Wheeldon)
Birmingham Royal Ballet: Daphnis and Chloe, The Two Pigeons (both Ashton)
Watch BRB class on stage and meet a BRB dancer
Visit to the Royal Ballet School Upper School
Daytrip: Visit to White Lodge Museum at Royal Ballet lower school, with visit to Kew Gardens or Hampton Court Palace
Backstage tour of Royal Opera House

Please note that this overlaps completely with the National Ballet of Canada's
Sleeping Beauty performances in Toronto, unless we were to miss the Alice performance and come home on the Saturday instead of Sunday. Please let me know your preferences.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A conversation with Birmingham Royal Ballet's Robert Parker

On my recent Tours en l'air trip to England, I had the great honour and privilege of interviewing Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Robert Parker for an event for BRB's Friends. (For information on becoming a Friend of BRB, click here.) I have been a huge fan of Robert's since I first saw him in The Two Pigeons when BRB participated in the Lincoln Center Festival's Ashton Festival in 2004, and also since seeing his outstanding performance as the eponymous hero in Bintley's Cyrano (a real shame that no DVD was made of this). I am not alone in this, as he is definitely an audience favourite, being a fabulous dancer, wonderful actor, and warm and charming person. Here is an account of our conversation:
KB: We would all like you to continue dancing forever, but it has recently been announced that you are to take over from Desmond Kelly as Director of the Elmhurst School of Dance in September 2012. Tell us about how you decided to apply for that position?
RP: I first started thinking about what I would do after my dance career when I was recovering from my second knee operation. I had always loved flying so I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a pilot. To be a commercial pilot you have to take full-time training so I retired from BRB for the first time and moved to Florida to take a commercial pilot's course.  The timing was not great; I finished my course just as the market crashed and demand for pilots dropped off drastically. I remember one particularly momentous day. We had heard that hundreds of pilots were about to be laid off from the major airlines. My flight instructor, whom I admired greatly, I thought of him almost as a god, told me that even he had work for only two more weeks and that after that he'd be out of a job. He told me, "Look, if there's ANYTHING ELSE that you know how to do, you should do that.". Dismayed by these dismal prospects, I thought, "Oh dear, I am going to have to go home to Rachel [former BRB dancer Rachel Peppin, his wife] and break the news to her that after all this, I'm not going to be able to get work as a pilot after all." So I thought I'd better stop by the liquor store on the way home to pick up a bottle of wine to soften the blow. The liquor store clerk recognized my uniform from the flying school, and when I asked him how he was familiar with it, he said "I'm a graduate". And he was working as a liquor store clerk! When I got home, before I could say anything, Rachel said, "There's a letter from BRB for you". "Dear Mr. Parker," it said, "Your one-year sabbatical is coming to an end; please let us know if you plan to return to BRB or not". All in one day! It was a sign.... So I came back and danced again, but time marches on, and I have a family to support now, so when the position came up at Elmhurst I thought it was something I would find very fulfilling and the timing is right. I've just finished a degree course with Birmingham University, and I've been teaching one day a week at the school and find it really enjoyable.
Question from the audience: How will it be for you to give up performing? I saw you last night as Captain Belaye in Pineapple Poll and you had us in the audience in the palm of your hand [you can see why in this video clip], and you must know that. Won't it be difficult to give that up?
RP: What we do is a drug, there's no doubt about it. And if someone could give me bionic legs, of course I would never give it up. But there's also an immense, if different satisfaction, in giving a student a correction, seeing them assimilate it and then, wow, their turn is better or their jump is higher or whatever because of something I was able to give them.
KB: What sorts of things do you have in mind for the school?
RP: I want to make it one of the top schools for ballet in the world! Ideally I would love it to be located right across the street from the theatre, connected by a little bridge.... [as the Royal Ballet School is to the Royal Opera House]. Funding is going to be difficult at the moment, so that will definitely be a big challenge. One of the things I have started investigating is the idea of a performance by the Elmhurst students supported by the orchestras of the King Edward's schools. They're very keen. Desmond Kelly has said he is happy to keep advising me any way he can.
Question from the audience: Will we still be seeing you dance this season?
RP: Mr Bintley has made it quite clear that I am still under contract as a BRB dancer till next September!
KB: Let's talk a little about what you consider some of the highlights of your 18-year career.
RP: That Two Pigeons performance in New York was definitely one. Throughout the first part of the ballet we weren't sure how the audience was reacting, they seemed kind of quiet. But then when the curtain came down at the end, we all heard the roar from them [the audience leaped to its feet as one after the final pas de deux];  the girls in the company were crying during the curtain calls, they were so moved. Also Cyrano was the best experience I have ever had with a ballet. Your character makes such a journey from a swashbuckling swordsman to a sensitive lover; you get to feel everything: love, jealousy, regret, death. It was fabulous. [Note from KB: if you ever get a chance to see Cyrano, grab it!!!]  There was one time at a performance in London when my nose fell off.... One of the reviewers went on at great length about how this happened at a crucial juncture in the ballet to show symbolically how I rose above my disfigurement!
KB: Speaking of unforeseen incidents, you must have some good pigeon stories to tell us... Two Pigeons  is on the program again in February. Tell us about the particular challenges of dancing with a pigeon on your shoulder...
RP: You should never perform with children or animals!!  You know, I used to wear my hair quite long at the back (people call it my mullet days), and you have to spray your hair with hairspray, which made it kind of like straw. So the pigeon sitting on my shoulder would think "Hey, great material for making a nest with!" and start pecking away at it... There are actually four different birds, they're each trained to do a different part of the ballet. There's a point in the ballet where I have to hold out my hands to the front for the pigeon to fly on to and perch, and you have to hold your hands right in the spotlight because that's what the bird aims for. This didn't happen to me but to Wolfgang Stollwitzer; he held out his hands, the bird flew onto them but then decided that the auditorium looked more interesting and took off heading towards the audience. For some reason the bird has a long thin wire attached to its legs, so Wolfgang grabbed a hold of the end of the wire just in time and hauled the bird back in, flapping and squawking. The pigeons we had in New York City, I don't know where they came from, they looked like someone had just picked them up in Times Square, not like the nice white doves we have here. One of them had a bloodshot eye. And they weren't very well trained. In the final pas de deux, the second one is supposed to fly in and land on the chairback with its mate. It just flew to the centre of the stage and started pecking around! But amazingly, just as the final chord of the music swelled, it remembered where it was supposed to go and flew to perch on the chair above my and Nao's intertwined arms, it was almost as if it was planned that way!

[For a lovely photo gallery of Robert in Two Pigeons, click here, and for a (pigeonless) rehearsal video of the final pas de deux, with Nao Sakuma, click here; for a BBC audio item on how the pigeons are trained, click here]
KB: Tell us about your daughter Olivia. Is she dancing?
RP: She's definitely dancing, I just don't know what genre you would call it! She's three and a half, and she's recently started to get really interested in ballet. I took her on the tour to York, and of course all the ballerinas made a fuss over her, trying their tiaras on her and so on, and she loved it. For sure I think she should take ballet classes when she's old enough; I think all little girls should take ballet: it's so good for posture, grace, musicality, discipline. And if she really really wants to be a dancer, of course I would support that. I think it's harder for girls wanting to make a career in ballet than for boys, because there's more competition and because of that the schools can be pickier about what they consider the perfect ballet body characteristics. God forbid she has my feet or thighs... But really, if you're determined, you can overcome even that. My entire school career I was told that I didn't have what it took to be a ballet dancer, and it just made me more determined to show them!
Question from the audience: You said "every little girl...". What about boys, do you think they should take ballet as well?
RP: Well of course it offers the same benefits for boys as for girls, but for boys there's still that stigma. It's maybe not as bad as it was but it's still there.
Question from the audience: What's wrong with your feet?
RP: What ISN'T???
KB: I want to talk a little about Japan. I have Japanese friends who are ballet fans, like so many people there, where they're crazy about ballet, and I know it meant a lot to them that BRB didn't cancel its tour to Japan after the tsunami. Many ballet companies and guest dancers did, and the Japanese felt as if they were being abandoned in their hour of need, so the fact that BRB went was enormously appreciated.
RP: Of course we were all concerned, because there was so much conflicting information, especially about the radiation, we didn't know which reports to believe. We weren't so worried about the aftershocks. When we got there, there were these controlled power outages, but really it just meant that maybe one escalator would be stopped while the other was still working. We got the feeling that the audiences felt that perhaps they shouldn't be enjoying themselves when tens of thousands of people had died, so the mood was a little sombre. At one of the performances we dancers actually went out in the intermissions with buckets to collect donations, and it was astounding how generous people were.
KB: I know all of us here tonight have a store of wonderful "Robert Parker moments" in our memories which we will cherish as highlights of our careers as ballet-goers, and we'd like to thank you for all of them.

I also had a chance to chat with Robert before the interview and was able to ask him a few more questions: KB: What particular challenges does BRB's current program hold, in particular Symphonic Variations, which is notorious for testing dancers' stamina.
RP: The opening of the ballet, where the men stand still while the women dance, is one of the most challenging parts, because the muscles cramp up, and it's just hard to hold the same position for almost two minutes, staring at the same spot on the floor.
KB: This is the second time you're retiring. Is it any different, and are you constantly thinking, "Oh, this is the last time I'll perform this role; I'll never have the chance to dance it again"?
RP: I don't do that anymore. Never say never! I remember the first time I retired, I was performing Romeo, and I was constantly thinking that -- "I'll never have the chance to do this again" -- and since then I've danced Romeo six or seven times!

For other interviews with Robert Parker, click here and here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer

If asked “What's the artistically best thing in America?” Balanchine would reply:

a) Cowboys and westerns

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

If asked “What's the artistically best thing in America?” Balanchine would reply:

a) Cowboys and westerns
b) The New York Philharmonic
c) New York City Ballet
d) whatever ballet he had just finished choreographing

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer

Balanchine was particularly proud of one performer he had trained to do stunning grands jetés and tours en l'air, saying, “At last, with Mourka I have a body worth choreographing for!” Mourka was:

c) Balanchine's orange and white cat

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

Balanchine was particularly proud of one performer he had trained to do stunning grands jetés and tours en l'air, saying, “At last, with Mourka I have a body worth choreographing for!” Mourka was:

a) a Russian ballerina
b) a brilliant student at the School of American Ballet
c) Balanchine's orange and white cat
d) Balanchine's wife

Answer will be posted tomorrow.