A masterclass of ballet

After lots of fundraising the dancers at Jane Keenans School of Ballet have their costumes all set for La Fille mal Garde� at the Maltings
After lots of fundraising the dancers at Jane Keenans School of Ballet have their costumes all set for La Fille mal Garde� at the Maltings

The first performance of the Berwick Ballet Initiative takes to the Maltings stage this weekend.

Local ballet teacher Jane Keenan, the Maltings’ Ross Graham and Ballet Pod (based in Wales) choreographer Richard Slaughter and dancers Ann and Michael Wall, joined forces to take ballet to schools in Berwick, thanks to a grant from Simpson McCreath Trust.

Under the leadership of Pod director and choreographer Richard Slaughter, professional dancers Ann and Michael demonstrated a series of ballet warm ups and dance sequences before performing a piece for world famous ballet ‘The Nutcracker’.

Tweedmouth West, Belford First School, Holy Trinity First School in Berwick and Berwick Middle pupils all took part in workshops following the demonstrations by Ballet Pod dancers.

Richard choreographed a routine called ‘Squirrel Dance’ for ‘La Fille mal gardée’ and initially it had been hoped that children who were interested in performing at The Maltings would get the opportunity to take part in the performances. However, issues of time and rehearsal space proved too difficult to overcome and this part of the initiative will take place at another date.

Berwick dancer Daniel Clelland (15) took part in the workshop demonstrations at the schools and he will perform one of the lead roles in the Ballet Pod and the Jane Keenan School of Dance production of ‘La Fille mal gardée’ at The Maltings for two performances on Saturday.

“I’ve been wanting something like this to come to Berwick for a very long time,” said Jane Keenan.

“It’s an amazing privilege for the town to be able to host such a fantastic company.

“It’s a great way of making ballet more accessible to children and really engaging with them.

“The children have been asked to perform some pretty tough moves in the workshops but they’ve been so committed; one boy even moved me to tears he was that good.

“As a teacher it’s great for me to watch dancers like Ann and Michael and see the fantastic training they’ve had from Richard.

“And watching Daniel has made me incredibly proud. It’s an amazing, incredible opportunity for him.”

La Fille mal Gardeé is one of the greatest comedy ballets ever created. For this new version, Jane Keenan and Richard Slaughter are the choreographers and rehearsal directors, Jacqueline Thompson costumiere and wardrobe supervisor, Emily Hicks-Watkins, stage manager and Jim Herbert, in charge of scenery.

The widow Simone has decided her daughter Lise will marry the local rich landowner’s simpleton son Alain (local dancer, Daniel Clelland); however, Lise has fallen in love with Colas a poor farmhand.

With cockerels, hens, maypole and clog dancers this delightful ballet is a treat for all the family. Former Royal Ballet dancer Richard Slaughter will dance Widow Simone and Ballet Pod dancers Ann and Michael Wall are Lise and Colas plus there is a cast of over 70 brilliantly costumed young dancers from the Jane Keenan School of Ballet, who packed bags and gave impromptu performances at supermarkets around the town to raise the money for the costumes.

Performances are on Saturday, November 1, at 2.30pm and 5pm - stalls £10/£8 concs, circle £12, box seat £14, child £6, family £30.