A wonderful crisp spring afternoon at The White Lodge in Richmond Park with performances together and separately by children from the Royal Ballet School and from Dagenham Park Church of England School, a partnership under the auspices of the aDvANCE project which offered collaboration between the Royal Ballet School and people learning dance in different contexts.
The standard achieved in terms of both movement and musicality by both groups was amazing. They had clearly learned much from each other. I am old enough to have seen Margot Fonteyn dance on the stage but rarely have I seen such an exciting performance. The children from the RBS were lithe – the girls all with their hair pulled tight in a bun at the top of their heads and the boys with short – not shaved – hair. The children from Dagenham C of E school ranged from slender to frankly plump with frizzy hair, hair in cornrows, some bleached and some straight.
After only a term’s coaching they had achieved coherence and style. The ideas came from the children and edited into performance standard by the RBS choreographer. They danced to Over You and On the Nature of Daylight, while the RBS children danced to the Mazurka from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Percussion by Don Ricardo Garcia. Their joint performance was to excerpts from Swan Lake.
Sitting in Richmond Park within easy reach of Central London, The White Lodge looked at its best, herds of deer grazing in the distance. The building was originally constructed as a hunting lodge for George ii, and particularly memorable for me were the painted portraits and photographs of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who lived there while they were still the Duke and Duchess of York. Growing up in London, as I did during WW2, I have very fond memories of the Pathé News showing the King and Queen visiting the East End bomb sites I knew only too well. When two bombs landed in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace the Queen said “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel we can look the East End in the face“.