Celebrated British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon spotted Leanne Cope in the 2014 Royal Ballet Company’s production of SWAN LAKE and cast her as Lise Dassin, the lead in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It was a role she originated in the Broadway production, which has transferred to London’s West End and is currently running at the Dominion Theatre. After graduating in 2003 from the Royal Ballet School,Leanne progressed to First Artist six years later. Leanne kindly signed a drawing I did of her as Lise earlier in the year and did the same to this one of her from her Royal Ballet days last week.
After twenty-two years with the Royal Ballet, principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky retired last month. The 41 year-old French-born Spanish ballerina’s last performance was in Australia as Paulina in THE WINTER’S TALE at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Royal Ballet’s summer season in Brisbane. She joined the Covent Garden company in 1994 as a First Artist and was promoted to Principal in 2001, performing the leading roles in the classical and contemporary repertory. In 2005 Zenaida was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of the magazine ‘Dance Europe’. I left this sketch for Zenaida to sign at the Royal Opera House stage door, which she kindly did.
“One of this generation’s most complete ballerinas,” is how The Observer’s Sarah Crompton described the Mariinsky Ballet’s star Viktoria Tereshkina in her review of SWAN LAKE and DON QUIXOTE during the St Petersburg – based company’s season at the Royal Opera House this month.
The ‘dazzling’ Viktoria, or as she wrote, the English version ‘Victoria’ on my sketch, graduated and joined the famous Mariinsky in 2001, promoted to Soloist four years later and became a Principal in 2008. She kindly signed my drawing after I left it at the stage door.
Russian prima ballerina Diana Vishneva returned to the London stage this Summer in the Mariinsky Ballet’s season at the Royal Opera House. One of the world’s leading dancers, Diana has made guest appearances for all the major Ballet companies, including The Bolshoi, the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera, Balet Teatroalla Scalia in Milan and Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
The Financial Times wrote, “From Vishneva’s formidable technique to her musicality, her exquisite purity of style and her sheer artistry, she cannot be beaten.” There were only two chances to see Diana during the Covent Garden run, one of them was the title role in Alexei Ratmansky’s ANNA KARENINA. The Telegraph’s Mark Monahan said she was, “more luminous than ever at 41”. After that performance Diana signed this drawing I left at the stage door.
In early 2015 I drew American ballerina Sarah Lamb in the title role of Christopher Wheeldon’s Royal Ballet production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which she kindly signed and I duly posted on this site. Sarah was born in Boston and became Principal of the City’s Ballet company in 2003. She received the Gold Medal from US President Bill Clinton in 1998, being named Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Sarah moved to London and joined the Royal Ballet because it ” offered more visibility and a wider repertoire.” After becoming First Soloist in 2004 she become Principal two years later with leading roles in all the classical, dramatic and contemporary repertoires.
I drew this montage at the same time I did the initial sketch and dropped it into the Royal Opera House, which she also signed and returned to me.
Sarah is currently performing at Covent Garden in the World Premiere of Liam Scarlett’s FRANKENSTEIN, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece.
One of the world’s finest classical dancers performed the world’s favourite ballet this week at the London Coliseum. The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre concluded it’s 2015 International touring programme of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake with prima ballerina Irina Kolesnikova headlining the season as both the Swan Queen ‘Odete’ and the antagonist ‘Odile’ at the iconic venue. The production also included special guest artists from Russia’s legendary Bolshoi and Mariinsky Theatres and the English capitals own Royal Ballet. “It’s Kolensnikova that steals the show,” wrote Londonist’s Tiffany Pritchard, “…with her long, willowy arms, supple back arches and lithe yet perfectly controlled pirouettes on the white swan (Odette), followed in quick succession by the robust, high-spirited sequences of the black swan (Odile).” Originally the two roles were played by separate dancers, but it has become customary for prima ballerinas to perform both parts. The Telegraph’s Vanessa Keys said of Irina’s performance,”Her portrayal of the vulnerable swan queen Odette is almost unbearably vulnerable and her Odile is wickedly seductive.”
I’m a novice when it comes to watching and understanding ballet, but I love drawing dancers and their kinetic effect. This pose of Irina as Odette was striking in its simplicity. I just had to draw it…and naturally meet the dancing Swan Queen herself and have it signed. I waited with a handful of dance devotees at the stage door as a procession of performers flowed out, into the balmy evening air, signing programmes and partaking in convivial conversation. But no one with a ‘long neck and liquid doe-like eyes’ ( as one reviewer described her), resembling Uma Thurman-my reference for Irina-appeared. After an hour and a half, with the time of my last train home fast approaching a Russian gentleman, who was obviously connected to the production and chatting to the more devout of the devotees said, ‘I’ll go and get her.” And he did. I happened to be the first in line. She was very nice and said “Oh” when she saw the sketch and signed it. In the absence of any interpretation I took “Oh” as an expression of approval. Time well spent and I caught the last train.
The Daily Telegraph called French ballet icon Sylvie Guillem “the most charismatic performer on earth”. She has been a star from the age of 19, from the moment Rudolf Nureyev plucked her from the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera Ballet and confided on her the title of étoile (that’s the leading ballet dancer in a company).
In 1988, after performing the title role in a production of Giselle staged by the Royal Ballet to celebrate Nureyev’s 50th birthday, she left Paris for London to become a freelance performer and one of the Royal Ballet’s greatest principal guest artists.
During that time, she was nicknamed ‘Mademoiselle Non’ because of her desire to work independently.
After an unparalleled career that has spanned almost 35 years of both dancing ballet and contemporary work, Sylvie presented her final dance programme in Life In Progress last week at Sadler’s Wells.
Due to extraordinary demand, additional UK dates have been added in London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. “There are some moments that are so extraordinary they defy physical logic,” said The Guardian. She was awarded the Olivier Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her exceptional contribution to dance.
Sylvie kindly signed my sketch at Sadler’s Wells.
Is Francesca Hayward the next great British ballerina? At the age of 22 she is a soloist at the Royal Ballet, and she is already fast-tracked into principal roles. Her repertory includes Manon, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote and The Nutcracker.
Judith Mackrell in the Guardian said, “the self possession and technical command of her performances have fired enormous interest among critics, bloggers and fans and ignited hopes that she may become that elusive thing, the next great British ballerina.”
Francesca began dancing at the age of three and joined the Royal Ballet School seven years later, winning Young British Dancer of the Year in 2010, along with both Silver Prizes and the Audience Choice Award at the Genée International Ballet Competition that same year.