Performances, Special Courses, Workshops & Master Classes

Solenne Boyce and Will Ashdown in a pose from Don Quixote.

Photograph by Malcolm Tinn

The Harlow Ballet Association organises the performances in the Harlow Playhouse and other venues.  Every Easter the Association performs a major production.  The first major ballet produced by the Association was The Sleeping Beauty in 2000 and this was revived very successfully in 2006. The Nutcracker was performed in 2001, 2005, 2009  and 2015; Coppélia,​ mounted by Thelma Litster and based on Cecchetti's 1894 production was shown in 2002, 2010 and 2016; Giselle was performed in 2004, 2012 and 2017 in a version close not only to the original choreography, but also to the original libretto by the Marquis de Saint Georges and Theophile Gautier. The company's first original full length production was Cinderella, to the glorious and little known music of the Waltz King, Johann Strauss, which Michael Branwell choreographed in 2003, with revivals in 2011 and 2018. Swan Lake followed in 2007, with the "white acts" closely following the original choreography of Lev Ivanov. in 2014 Snow White, choreographed by Hayley Burns, was an original full length dance-drama, while 2019 saw the first Harlow production of Don Quixote, which is reviewed below.

Special dance courses have until recently been held during times when school-age pupils are on holiday, giving young dancers the chance to spend all day, every day in a professional theatre, learning to dance in a safe and controlled environment.  There was another very successful course at half term in October/November, culminating in two performances on October 28th and 29th, reviewed below. There was a fascinating combination of new choreography and a tantalising preview of Giselle, the full length ballet chosen for performance in 2017.

Reviews of Don Quixote

Here is the selection of reviews and e-mails I have received since Don Quixote. There is an American saying that, “If it all goes bad, I did it. If it goes semi-right, we did it. But if anything goes really good, then YOU did it.” And you certainly did it brilliantly well. Thank you all. Here are the excerpts from the e-mails I received in the order that I got them:

 

“Mr B., The choreography was wonderful and the dancers were a joy to watch! Having said that, Mr. B., you stole the show! Bravo!”

 

“That was superb, you should be very, very pleased with yourselves.   I would be happy to see it again, and again.”

 

“Costumes were magnificent!  Clever Henrietta! Many congratulations!  I loved it.”

 

“Well, we already knew that Don Quixote was a fabulous show so it is now very rewarding to hear back from our first audience of the week. My daughter’s family who were in last night said they thought that it was the best Harlow Ballet show they had seen and this must be the 10th main stage production they have been to.”

“Our neighbours just said it was brilliant!”

“Even Darcy is saying how proud she is of her fellow performers, especially those that are struggling through, despite injuries. I think we need to strike up a sponsorship deal with a well-known chemist with the amount of plasters, supports, heat sprays and pain killers we have back stage!”

“As far as I know, and I checked regularly with the other Chaperones, all is under control backstage; a bit of emergency pinning and stitching but all the new recruits are shaping up nicely.”

“Wow!! Just wow. A truly stunning production. The music, costumes, scenes beautiful. From the little villagers right up to Mr B, your expressions and stage presence was breath-taking. Will and Solenne, I could watch you both dance forever. You have all worked so hard and it shows. Even with injuries you would never have known. Everyone and everything was on 'pointe'. I am one very proud mummy Katie and Sean amazed and delighted me. And little Nellie loved it. Thank you all for a stunning performance. Can't wait to watch again on Saturday keep up the hard work.”

 

“I'm still buzzing from the excitement: it was the best ballet I have seen you all do. Well done Mrs B., Mr B., Claire and everyone that helped to create a very memorable performance. Definitely going out with a bang, Mr. B. You can be very proud of your ballet family”

 

“Bravi bravi! as they say in Collaboration! I thoroughly enjoyed last night. What a great evening. I loved the colour and the movement and the spectacle. The dancing was excellent and the magic was great fun. I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect - my experience of ballet is minimal - but I was enchanted and really glad I came along. Congratulations to everyone involved and all the best for the rest of the run.”

 

“It was so lovely to see all the little children so excited back stage. Well done everyone on the first show and looking forward to doing it all again tonight.”

 

“I'm so proud and happy for you and your wife and the students at your school. It will just get better!! How fantastic. 💕💕”

 

“2nd show tonight so proud of my boys - love watching them shine.” 

 

“Hi Frances & Steve. My friend Jane & I thoroughly enjoyed the Don Quixote ballet performance last night! It was great to see you both dancing. You have such a lot to do. All the costumes & dancing were truly spectacular! Good luck with the remaining 2 performances! Gill”

 

“So proud to be a part of this ballet. Thank you so much for letting me join the family. My girls were really impressed with this amazing show. I will be really sad to do the last performance tomorrow.” 

 

“So looking forward to the last show but also sad it’s over what a lovely family the Harlow Ballet is and a joy to be part of. Good luck everyone.”

 

“I have just returned from the show with my family and wanted to say what a fantastic production it was.  Everything was so colourful and spectacular and Phoebe playing the lead with William were an absolute delight to watch. I particularly loved Phoebe’s expressions and smiles and her footwork was impeccable.”

 

“Hi, What a fab production! I came to the Saturday afternoon performance and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was such fun - I was chuckling away at the comic scenes. Congratulations to all involved.”

 

“Congratulations, Don Quixote was a wonderful show, thoroughly entertaining.  I thought the costumes were particularly colourful and beautiful this year.  You have lots of excellent dancers and I was proud of them all. Well done, and thanks for giving our children the opportunity to perform in such a great show.”

 

“I did get to see Don Q on Sunday (and it was wonderful). It was lovely, there are so many talented dancers now!”

 

“Thank you for asking me to join the production of Don Quixote.  I enjoyed it greatly, and you are rightly proud of a spectacular and epic show.”

 

And, finally, the review that I hope will appear on line and on the Harlow Ballet web page:

 

“Wow! And double Wow!  I had the great pleasure to see this latest offering by Harlow Ballet not once but twice.  Brilliantly, vibrantly colourful, Henrietta Branwell must have slaved over her sewing machine until it was red hot, day after day, to achieve such results. I wonder how many of their students appreciate the great opportunity they get by being taught and encouraged to perform parts that they could not get in a fully adult company for years. I do hope so. Firstly the tiny ones, no obvious mistakes, lots of beaming faces attesting to the great pleasure they were getting in being a part of such a deftly engineered ensemble.  Five young men soon, I am sure, going to grow into very useful dancers. I must single out Damian Fry by virtue of his solo, tremendous confidence and elevation for one so young, a name to remember in the future. As I came to see the show on both the Thursday and Saturday, I know that I only saw half of the soloists. The others must forgive me as only time caused their omission from this review. Will Ashdown’s Basilio was all that one could have wanted and more, great assurance and strength, acting ability also, his face mirrored his character’s thoughts.  His pas de deux with the delightful Solenne Boyce who danced Kitri, was not just good technically but they seemed to be genuinely delighting in each other’s company.  Solenne also charmingly appeared as the spirit of the Don’s great love Dulcinea, while Catriona McLeay ably portrayed the adult version. With so many excellent performances it is difficult to single out any one but special mention must be made of Millie Ashdown as Mercedes, her solo pointe work was memorable, Katie Attewell as the charming flirt Frasquita, finally nailing the rich man Gamacho, danced by new comer to the dancing world, Jack Downey.  Their difference in height adding another amusing dimension to their characters and last but by no means least Darcie Tyler personifying Cupid.  The magician, El Bondini, entertained not only the village children but the audience also.  Just how did he get that silver ball to balance on the edge of the scarf? The champagne magnums and the silver ball, they were magic.  Harlow Ballet always manages to attract and retain a core of adult dancers, led by Michael Branwell’s charmingly confused old buffer as Don Quixote himself and Stephan Donovan’s delightfully inept thief, Sancho Panza, they support the younger dancers and make this company a homogenous entity, thus enabling them to perform convincingly ballets otherwise difficult to stage. As a member of the audience I have to thank them all for their support.”

© 2012 by Harlow Ballet

Harlow Ballet Association photographs © Claire Hickles, Michael Branwell, William Potter and Malcolm Tinn

Harlow Ballet School

Tel: 01279 639170

Harlow Ballet School

c/o The Playhouse

Harlow

Essex

CM20 1LS 

Harlow Ballet Association

Tel: 01279 639170

Harlow Ballet Association

7 Home Close

Harlow

Essex

CM20 3PD

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