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On Monday night lil’sis & I went to the Coliseum, London home of the UK’s premier touring company, the English National Ballet, to watch a working rehearsal (with full orchestra) of their new production of Swan Lake.

The tickets had been given to me by Swarovski as a going home present from an early screening of Black Swan that they hosted, as Swarovski didn’t just make Black Swan sparkle, they are a sponsor of ENB too – last Christmas’s Nutcracker had more than 100,000 Swarovski crystals woven into the costumes.

Although I’ve seen Swan Lake several times, at the Royal Ballet and abroad, I’ve never had the opportunity to see a rehearsal before. I found it utterly mesmerising. Some of the dancers were in costume, some in warm-ups, and the action was frequently halted to change the characters’ blocking on the stage, or to get the pace right. To get that kind of insight into what makes a production work was a real privilege and, oddly, without full costume and makeup one could really focus on the technical skill of the dancers.

Although this was a very short run of Swan Lake (the final performance was last night), I would urge any ballet lovers to become a friend of ENB. That’s because it exists solely to tour, meaning that productions can be seen over the breadth of the British Isles – and membership costs just £30 (£25 concessions). For that you get a whole host of benefits which include invitations to attend open classes and stage rehearsals, backstage tours and events to meet the dancers and staff of the Company.

Judging by our experience on Monday night, access to rehearsals is well worth the cost alone – and, of course, you are supporting one of our best ballet companies. (The late Diana, Princess of Wales, was the Patron of the ENB, and it was one of the six charitable organizations to which she remained publicly attached when she withdrew from most of her public commitments following her divorce in 1996.)

And if you’d like an enthralling look at the world of the ENB, BBC4’s Agony & Ecstasy: A Year with English National Ballet (UK only, I’m afraid), is up on the BBC iPlayer at the moment.

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7 comments

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Thanks for this post! As an arts administrator it makes me happy to see the bloggers I like talk about arts and culture in such a strong and supportive way.

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Would love to see it, especially in magical London!!

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Amazing production and the BBC4 series “Agony & Ectasy” is a real insight into the hard-working life of a Ballet dancer and the English National Ballet company – totally awe inspiring.

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Good advice, if we enjoy ENB we should try to support them seeing as their govt funding has been cut.

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I’m so glad you enjoyed the rehearsal. I was there too but backstage working. I often work at ENB and it is one of my favourite jobs. The BBC4 series was very well done, it really shows how hard those dancers work. A true vocation not just a career and some of the nicest performers I have had the pleasure to work with in my 20 odd years in wardrobe.

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I’ve been obsessed with the Agony and the Ecstasy- I wish they would make more- and more programmes about ballet generally. I enjoy watch ballet on television but I think profiles of the dancers and about the ballets are also very interesting. I found quite a few people at work and so on who would never go to a ballet enjoyed these programmes and these together with Black Swan even had some people saying they might go to their first ballet- hooray!

I went to see a programme of three short pieces a couple of Saturdays ago, I haven’t managed to write it up yet but it was magic.

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I saw this last Tuesday, wasn’t it wonderful. I usually go to ballet at the ROH, this was the first I’d seen at the Coliseum and I would certainly go again. I was slightly disappointed with the waltz scene and the cheap-looking costume of the sorceror, but the swans were absolutely magical.

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