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.
Alongside Vaslav Nijinsky, Vladimir Vasiliev and Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. He returned to the London stage last week, not as a dancer, but reading the poetry of Nobel Laurate Joseph Brodsky, who was one of the first people Mikhail meet in New York when he defected from the Soviet Union in 1974.
Joseph was a huge influence on ‘Misha’ In the years the later revolutionised and popularised ballet as a performer and choreographer, while launching a successful parallel career as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination playing Yuri Kopeikine in the 1977 film THE TURNING POINT. Their relationship forms the basis for Latvian director Alvin Hermanis’s experimental theatre piece, BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV in which Mikhail reads his friend’s poetry in the original Russian. After productions in Riga, Te Aviv and New York Mikhail, performed the show for five nights at the Apollo Theatre in London, where I managed to meet him at the stage door and he signed my sketch.
The Ukrainian urban rebel, iconoclast and ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin is regularly acknowledged as the greatest dancer of his generation. His astonishing power and poise saw him become the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal at 19. At the peak of his success he rocked the arts establishment with his shock departure from the Company in 2012.
The ‘bad boy of ballet’ made the art form go viral, walked away, driven by stardom and self-destruction, his talent more a burden than a gift. How can you be free to be yourself when you are ballet’s ‘hottest property’?
He is now the subject of Oscar nominee Steven Cantor’s latest film DANCER, which premiered last month. It includes David LaChapelle’s 2015, video sensation TAKE ME TO THE CHURCH. Coinciding with the release of the documentary, Sergei performed PROJECT POLUNIN for five nights at London’s Sadler’s Wells where he signed and dedicated my sketch.
English ballerina Cordelia Braithwaite has been a regular with Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company productions since 2013. In a few short years, the 23 year-old has played both the Italian and Spanish Princesses and the Girlfriend in Sir Matthew’s production of SWAN LAKE before playing Mercedes, Frankie and Lana in THE CAR MAN, followed by Aurora and Hibernia in SLEEPING BEAUTY. She is currently sharing the lead role of gifted ballerina Vicky Page with Ashley Shaw in THE RED SHOES, which completed a sell-out, two-month run at Sadler’s Wells, where she signed my sketch before embarking on a national tour.
Sir Matthew Bourne’s full-length ballet adaption of the 1948 film THE RED SHOES is currently touring the UK after a sold-out, two-month season at Sadler’s Wells in London where it had it’s World Premiere over the Christmas period. It is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about Vicky Page, a young dancer, who is forced to choose between fulfilling her dream and falling in love. Australian ballerina Ashley Shaw plays the lead role, fresh from featuring in Sir Matthew’s dazzling re-imaging of the ballet fairytale SLEEPING BEAUTY which has smashed box office records across the UK and US. She signed this sketch for me at Sadler’s last week.
Spanish ballerina Elisa Badenes is a Principal dancer at the Stuttgart Ballet and a Guest Artist with the English National Ballet. She has just competed the London Coliseum leg of the UK tour of Abram Khan’s production of GISELLE. After attending the Conservatorio Profesional de Danna de Valencia in her home town she won a scholarship at the Prix de Lausanne in 2008 to study at the Royal Ballet, graduating a year later. She joined the Stuttgart Ballet and quickly rose to her current Principal position. I left this sketch at the stage door on Sunday, just before Elisa danced the final performance and it arrived back yesterday, signed and dedicated.
Minsk-born ballerina Ksenia Ovsyanick was awarded a scholarship to study at the English Royal Ballet School in London after performing at the 2005 Prix de Lausanne. After graduating three years later she joined the company, becoming a Soloist in 2014. This year she left the ENB to become a Principal with the Berlin Staatsballett which starts its 2016/17 season this weekend.
One of the highlights of her time at the English Ballet was performing the title role in the World Premiere of FIREBIRD at the London Coliseum in March 2012 as part of the BEYOND BALLET RUSSES programme. This sketch is based on that role with Ksenia wearing the distinctive headdress and winged harness. She signed it for me at the ENB before leaving for Germany.