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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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More about pointe shoes

An interesting article about major pointe-shoe maker Freed of London. Click here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

New York City Ballet

Another great ballet-packed day on Saturday, this time with our fix of New York City Ballet. The afternoon performance started off with Allegro Brillante.
Next came Peter Martins' Zakouski, a pas de deux set to four violin and piano pieces by four different composers. The title means “hors d'oeuvres” in Russian, and indeed it is a lively appetizer kind of ballet. Although with Martins ballets I often find that they would be improved by some judicious editing, with this one I was surprised to find myself enjoying it so much that I wished it were longer. Joaquin de Luz was typically a showstopper with his expertly timed turns and beaming personality, matched by Megan Fairchild's flirtatious virtuosity, including three amazing jumps with flexed feet landing on second relevé on pointe. This was a very fun ballet and if you have a chance to see it, you should definitely go.
Next came Fancy Free, a ballet which is enjoyable no matter how many times one sees it. A standout in the cast was Robert Fairchild as the somewhat goofy, dreamy sailor whom the other two take advantage of. Finally, Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, the “extended” version of Theme and Variations. In the last movement Ashley Bouder was brilliant. Andrew Veyette was a little shakier, especially in the fiendish principal solo, and I find that he lacks polish and could pay more attention to his hands and pointed feet and the steps in between the big moves.
Before the evening performance started, we were treated to a tour of the David H. Koch theatre by NYCB corps dancer Troy Schumacher, whom the entire group found very charming. In passing we also got to say hello to Principal Jared Angle who was escorting another group, and who had been our tour guide on our last trip to see NYCB, in 2010.
Troy arrived already madeup, explaining that as luck would have it for him, he had learned shortly before that he was being “thrown on” in the first ballet of the night, Donizetti Variations, with only a half-hour emergency rehearsal (though he had performed it a few weeks back, though in a different position in the cast). This was also lucky for us, since it's always great to see someone dancing after you've just made their acquaintance.
He told us how he was from Atlanta, with a jazz musician-turned-chiropractor father and a Broadway singer mother. His love for dance, he told us, started out with an obsession for tap, fired by obsessively (his own word) watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies. Slowly it began to dawn on him that noone was making big Hollywood movies around tap dancers anymore and that the job opportunities in tap were somewhat limited. He wangled his way into an Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker run and thus was exposed to ballet, becoming as obsessive about it as he had been about tap. Interestingly, he said that his original aim was to dance in a company featuring the big story ballets that he watched his idol Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing on his collection of ballet videos, but after joining the School of American Ballet and attending NYCB performances every night he fell in love with the more abstract repertoire, and was thrilled when Peter Martins offered him a job when he graduated (seven years ago now). He explained that NYCB dancers are employed for 38 weeks a year, with 14 weeks of unemployment. As a corps member, he said he gets to dance more often (about 4 times a week) than a soloist or principal, as in addition to dancing corps roles, NYCB corps dancers can often be given a principal role to dance, unlike in some companies where the more rigid hierarchy sees only dancers with the rank of principal dancing the principal roles in a ballet. His favourite role is Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream as it allows him some liberty to invest the role with personality.
As we stood on the stage of the David H. Koch theatre (so now we can all say we have appeared live on stage at Lincoln Center!), he pointed out that the theatre's architect had thought of the theatre as a “jewel box”. We left Troy half an hour before curtain-up, and were very appreciative that he could spare us his time so soon before he had to be on stage.
For an in-depth interview with Troy, click here
We learned another story about being thrown on in Donizetti Variations from the interesting “Fourth Position” pre-performance talk given by two enthusiastic docents. Peter Martins was called on to replace the injured leading man in one performance, with a grand total of 15 minutes to learn the role. Having seen how fiendishly virtuosic it is, performed impressively by Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette, one is astounded that this was even possible. Kudos to Veyette for managing to perform Theme, Donizetti, and Fancy Free all in one day!

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.


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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Great Dutch National Ballet pix

Great slide show of pics from Dutch National Ballet's recent two programs of world premieres here:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kings of the Dance

Our New York trip is off to a fantastic start with a Kings of the Dance performance. I was already excited when Natalia Osipova sat down just two seats over from me but this was nothing compared to what happened on stage. The highlight of the evening for me was Ivan Vasiliev's performance in Patrick de Bana's Labyrinth of Solitude, which was not just a display piece for his astoundingly high jumps (of which there were plenty to admire) but was invested by Vasiliev with deep emotional commitment.  The night offered a variety of dance styles, from very jazzy and contemporary Mauro Bigonzetti to more neoclassical Marcelo Gomes. David Hallberg's beautiful classical line was well in evidence in a few jumps. Hand twitching, however, seems to be a very trendy trend at the moment, and though Guillaume Cote's fluttery hands were very impressive, by that point I was rather thinking, "If I see another hand twitch...". Jorma Elo's Still of King was typical of his choreography, with classical positions morphing before one's eyes into something off-kilter; it was very entertainingly performed by Marcelo Gomes.
Worth the price of admission for Vasiliev alone.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mathieu Ganio interview

Interview (in French) with Paris Opera Ballet star Mathieu Ganio (with some great pics). Click here.

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.


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Why travel to see ballet?

Both Birmingham Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet have presented programs in the last few days which have earned absolutely glowing reviews which you can read by clicking here and here. In addition, The Stage called David Bintley's Hobson's Choice "a production with a feelgood factor that is almost off the scale" (click here for full review). But you would have had to be in Birmingham or Amsterdam to see them! As notoriously hard-to-please dance critic said of the BRB performance: "David Bintley's Hobson's Choice is surely his very best work, unmitigated pleasure for the spectator - an innocent, beautifully executed period comedy full of atmosphere, good characters, a perfect emotional arc and a perfectly brilliant musical score. ...It's lovable, it’s joyous and down-to-earth, it's worth a long journey to see."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beautiful Ballet Films

I just spent the evening being reminded what beautiful ballet films Norman McLaren and others created for Canada's National Film Board. It's definitely worth posting them for a new generation who didn't see them the first time round. The evening was ably hosted by James Neufeld, whose updated history of the National Ballet of Canada, Passion to Dance, is available through amazon. Click here to order:
If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.


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In "Ballet Adagio", McLaren takes the choreography of Asaf Messerer's Spring Waters and films it performed by Canadian dancers Anna Marie Holmes and her husband David Holmes, to spectacular effect in slow motion, set to Albinoni's Adagio.

a striking contrast with the original (possibly the world's shortest pas de deux!):

McLaren is perhaps most famous for this stunning film, "Pas de Deux", choreographed by Grands Ballets Canadiens founder Ludmilla Chiriaeff (dancers Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing pointe shoes

Dancers spend an amazing amount of time preparing their pointe shoes (even though they are usually already custom made for them). And then the shoes last at most a week, sometimes only a performance. In this interesting video from West Australian Ballet, a dancer shows what she does and how long it takes.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Upcoming possible ballet trips: Your input required!

It's that time of year when the repertoire for summer festivals and the 2012-13 season is starting to be announced, so please let me know if you would be interested in any of these possibilities.

1) New York City Ballet in Saratoga Springs
Saratoga was hugely popular last year; you can read all about it here:
 It looks like this year we will have to make it a mid-week excursion rather than a weekend, dates Wednesday 18-Friday 20th July. Performances are Peter Martins' Romeo + Juliet and a mixed program, rep to be announced (doubtless including some Balanchine!).

2) Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur (Quebec)
This would be August long weekend, Friday 3rd - Monday 6th. You can read more about Saint-Sauveur here:
Rep is still to be announced but I hear that the Hong Kong Ballet will be participating.

3) National Ballet of Canada in London
As you may know, the NBOC will be presenting Romeo and Juliet  at the Sadler's Wells Theatre, April 17-21, 2013. Doubtless there will be other ballets on either at the Royal Opera House or the London Coliseum, or possibly a short day trip away.  Please let me know if you would be interested in a trip to "cheer on the team", so to speak.

4) Japan!
Yes, you read that right. I'm just back from my sixth trip to Japan. It is really a fabulous place with some great ballet performances, and I would love to take a group there. I'm thinking of May 2013, when the gardens would be a blooming riot (except nothing is ever riotous in a tranquil Japanese garden). Please let me know if you have any interest in a trip to Japan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Wheeldon Cinderella for SFB and DNB

Christopher Wheeldon will be creating a new Cinderella  for Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet in 2012-13. Click here for more details.

National Ballet of Canada Sleeping Beauty casting

 Princess Aurora/ Prince Florimund/ Lilac Fairy/ Carabosse/ Principal Fairy/ Princess Florine/ Bluebird/ Diamond Woman/ Diamond Man

March 10, 2 pm: Sonia Rodriguez/Piotr Stanczyk/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Rebekah Rimsay/Elena Lobsanova/Jillian Vanstone/Keiichi Hirano/Chelsy Meiss/Nan Wang

 March 10, 730 pm: Heather Ogden/Guillaume Côté/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Rebekah Rimsay/Alexandra MacDonald/Elena Lobsanova/Naoya Ebe/Stephanie Hutchison /Brett van Sickle

March 11, 200 pm:  Greta Hodgkinson/Evan McKie/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Alejandra Perez-Gomez/Elena Lobsanova/Tina Pereira/Skylar Campbell/Stephanie Hutchison/Brett van Sickle

March 13, 200 pm: Jillian Vanstone/Zdenek Konvalina/Stephanie Hutchison/Rebekah Rimsay/Juri Hiraoka/Stacey Shiori Minagawa/Keiichi Hirano/Jordana Daumec/Giorgio Galli

March 14, 730 pm: Heather Ogden/Guillaume Côté/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Rebekah Rimsay/Alexandra MacDonald/Elena Lobsanova/Naoya Ebe/Stephanie Hutchison /Brett van Sickle

March 15, 2 pm: Sonia Rodriguez/Piotr Stanczyk/Stephanie Hutchison/Alejandra Perez-Gomez/Adji Cissoko/Jillian Vanstone/Keiichi Hirano/Chelsy Meiss/Nan Wang

March 15, 730 pm:  Greta Hodgkinson/Evan McKie/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Alejandra Perez-Gomez/Alexandra MacDonald/Tina Pereira/Skylar Campbell/Stephanie Hutchison/Brett van Sickle

 March 16, 730 pm: Jillian Vanstone/Zdenek Konvalina/Stephanie Hutchison/Rebekah Rimsay/Adji Cissoko/Stacey Shiori Minagawa/Keiichi Hirano/Jordana Daumec/Giorgio Galli

March 17, 200 pm: Heather Ogden/Guillaume Côté/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Rebekah Rimsay/Alexandra MacDonald/Elena Lobsanova/Naoya Ebe/Stephanie Hutchison /Brett van Sickle

March 17, 730 pm: Sonia Rodriguez/Piotr Stanczyk/Lise-Marie Jourdain/Alejandra Perez-Gomez/Juri Hiraoka /Shino Mori/Skylar Campbell/Chelsy Meiss/Nan Wang

March 18, 200 pm:  Greta Hodgkinson/Evan McKie/Stephanie Hutchison/Rebekah Rimsay/Elena Lobsanova/Jillian Vanstone/Keiichi Hirano/Jordana Daumec/Giorgio Galli

Fab pic of muscular Matthew Golding

Very cool poster from Dutch National Ballet featuring Matthew Golding.
 How could anyone in their right mind look at this and think that ballet is wimpy and unmasculine?
 (pic by Erwin Olaf)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

National Film Board free events for NBOC 60th Anniversary


From February 21 through February 29, discover the rich past of The National Ballet of Canada with an archival display exploring its history, traditions and triumphs in the NFB Mediatheque's Interactive Lounge, 150 John Street in Toronto.
Free screenings with special guests from the world of dance!
 Celia Franca: Tour de Force
A penetrating profile of the founder of the National Ballet of Canada with some wonderful archival vintage film footage shot in the fifties during the early days of the National Ballet of Canada. Watch a clip here.  
Pas de Deux
 For all who enjoy ballet,  Pas de deux presents an insight into the dance that only dancers ordinarily see. It is an engaging film portrait of the Canadian husband-and-wife team, Anna Marie and David Holmes (also seen in the McLaren film, Ballet Adagio). We see their busy lives as international dance stars, their private interests and, above all, their dedication to the absolute refinement of ballet movement.
Grant Munro | NFB | 1972 | 50 min
Ballet Adagio
A slow-motion study by Norman McLaren of the pas-de-deux adagio, one of the most exacting and difficult dances of classical ballet. A ballet originally choreographed by the Russian ballet master Asaf Messerer is performed for this film by the internationally known Canadian pair, David and Anna Marie Holmes, to the music of Albinoni's Adagio. A film to heighten the aesthetic appreciation of classical ballet and to afford observation of the technique and mechanics of the adagio movements.
Q&A session with former Principal Dancer and Filmmaker Veronica Tennant following the screening.

February 22, 2012 at 4 pm - Tour en l'air & Ballet Adagio

February 22, 2012 at 7pm - Flamenco at 5:15
This Oscar-winning film is a visual and emotional thriller. It is an impressionistic record of a flamenco dance class given to senior students of the National Ballet School of Canada by two great teachers from Spain, Susana and Antonio Robledo. The film shows the beautiful young North American dancers--inspired by the flamenco rhythms and mesmerized by Susana's extraordinary energy--joyously merging with an ancient gypsy culture. 
Cynthia Scott | NFB | 1983 | 29 min
Ballet Adagio & Tour en l'air
Q&A session with writer and historian James Neufeld author of Passion to Dance, the updated history of the National Ballet, following the screening.

February 23, 2012 at 7pm - Tango in a Cold City
While grateful for the prosperity and security of their adopted country, many immigrants to Canada feel the need to define themselves through a return to their roots. For Argentines, the tango will always recall the land they left behind. But it's not only Argentines who gravitate towards tango. Vietnamese barbers, Scottish engineers, Russian violinists, American executives and even native-born Canadians can become entranced by the romanticism of this most sensual of dances. This film introduces us to some of these people and delves into their passion for a dance that has transformed their lives. As the great Argentine dancer Gavito says, "Tango is a feeling, a feeling between a man and a women." 
Dance Class 
Performer (Part I)
Q&A session with writer and dance historian Carol Bishop-Gwyn author of The Pursuit of Perfection, the first full biography of Founding Artistic Director Celia Franca, following the screening.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Good news for Jerome Robbins fans!

The Paris Opera Ballet's "Tribute to Robbins" DVD featuring the sublimely beautiful In the Night, the hilarious The Concert, as well as In G and Benjamin Millepied's Triade, is now available in North America. You can order it through by clicking here.

National Ballet of Canada Fille mal gardee casting

Principal Casting

Lise/Colas/Widow Simone/Alain
Feb 29, 730 pm: Rodriguez/Stanczyk/Mrozewski/Stephen
March 1, 200 pm: Pereira/Hirano/Bowles/Campbell
March 1, 730 pm: Vanstone/Ebe/Mrozewski/Stalzer
March 2, 730 pm: Rodriguez/Stanczyk/Mrozewski/Stephen
March 3, 2 pm: Pereira/Hirano/Bowles/Campbell
March 3, 730 pm: Vanstone/Ebe/Mrozewski/Stalzer
March 4, 2 pm: Rodriguez/Stanczyk/Mrozewski/Stephen

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ballets Russes on TV

The fascinating documentary about the Ballets Russes will be broadcast on British Columbia's Knowledge Network Wednesday, February 15, 9-11 pm Pacific Standard Time (ie starting at 6 pm Eastern Time). Repeats Thursday February 16 at 1 am. Outside BC, if you have Bell satellite TV, this is available on channel 268. Well worth watching, and recording as the DVD is no longer available.