A highland fling

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Dear readers: sorry this week’s update has been so long in coming.

It’s mainly because I’ve been in Scotland, venue for this year’s Genee International Ballet Competition, which is RAD’s flagship event.

Last year the Genee was held in Wellington NZ, the previous year London, and before that Cape Town, Toronto and Hong Kong to name just a few. In 2013, it’s Glasgow’s turn.

Around 60 15-19 year olds will compete in September for one of the prestigious Genee awards…often a stepping stone to a career in dance (Royal Ballet Principal Dancer Steven McRae is a former Genee medallist).

I spent a couple of exhausting days darting about town checking out venues and hotels and potential sponsors and all the accoutrements that come with staging a big event like this.

First appointment of the day was with Scottish Ballet, one of the partners we’re working with this year. After a productive meeting, I was given the guided tour of their new premises in a converted industrial building called The Tramway.

It’s now an extraordinary facility that houses every element of staging a ballet, from performance spaces to dance studios to set design and storage vaults.

I was particularly struck by the costume department. Scottish Ballet manufacture and store all their costumes on site…this apparently is something of a rarity. So they have separate rooms for making, fitting, dyeing and laundering and the whole place is strewn with visual treats like the rooms which are equipped with both fluorescent ‘task’ lighting and more glamourous stage-style flood lighting to show the costumes in – literally – their best light. The costumes reveal their detail in the former, but truly sparkle and shimmer in the latter.

My favourite image of the day was the box of ‘mouse tails’ from an archive performance of the Nutcraker. Carefully archived of course, and in transport-ready containers so going on tour isn’t too much of a chore.

The lessons continue of course and I promise next week a fuller update on my progress to date. I was listening to Desert Island Discs recently though, and the castaway was Jonathan Agnew, famous as the cricket pundit who collapsed into uncontrollable giggles with Brian Johnson when he observed that “Botham just couldn’t quite get his leg over”.

Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I tried to master my battement tendu (an exercise in which the leg is extended to the front, side or back ) I couldn’t help but feel for Botham.

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