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.