Chelsea Ballet has staged full-length classics including Coppélia, Giselle, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake along with excerpts from other great classes such as Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Le Corsaire, Les Sylphides, Napoli and Paquita and Peter and the Wolf.
This page is dedicated to a number of original works that have been created by members of Chelsea Ballet including the founder, Thelma Litster.
This new ballet for 2014 is a piece of pure dance. Katrina was interested in exploring the possibilities of an ensemble cast of dancers - using a corps not as a background but as the main body of the dance. She was inspired in part by the way in which Balanchine uses ensembles in works such as Symphony in C. The dancers in Black/White wear either black or white costumes, enabling her to play around with the different patterns that can be created. There are no principal roles; instead eight female dancers take it in turns to be partnered by the two male leads.
As seems to be the trademark with Katrina’s choreography, this 15-minute ballet to two Rossini overtures is packed with intricate detail, but she very pleased with the way in which Chelsea Ballet’s dancers have risen to the challenge!
Louise originally choreographed Chi Mai at the age of 12 as part of the Harlow Ballet choreographic competition. Since then it has been performed as a duet and a group piece both by Chelsea Ballet and Elements Dance. Louise is currently teaching Chi Mai to pupils at the British School Muscat.
By 2008 the Company had potentially enough male dancers to meet the requirements of the Cinderella story which Tony had in mind for years and hoped might prove a more marketable fairy tale than the rather obscure Yellow Dwarf produced in 1996. The scenario Tony based on his memories of pantomimes and the Pollock’s toy theatre version, but the impetus came from the sudden idea of using music by Arthur Sullivan, which struck him as being particularly suitable for the subject, and not just the Savoy operas but also the overtures and incidental music from other productions.
Impressions of Inuyasha
This ballet, created by Chelsea Ballet member Cassandra Jacobs, is based on the popular Japanese animated television series, using the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi.
In Cassandra’s eyes Inuyasha was a ballet waiting to be choreographed, Kaoru Wada had done the hard work of providing theme music for each of the characters and she just needed to work out how she could condense all those episodes into a reasonable lengthen ballet. The ballet doesn’t tell the whole story of Inuyasha only parts of it which is why the title has the word ‘impression’ in it. Cassandra chose her favourite moments from the anime. There were many problems she faced when creating this ballet, such as every episode she watched Inuyasha was slicing up demons with his sword, how was she going to bring that to life on stage? Cassandra has come to realise that problem solving brings forth creativity and you need to come and watch the ballet to see how she overcame that difficulty.
Tony was invited, unprepared, to contribute a piece for inclusion in a triple bill. As it happened, a radio broadcast of Rossini’s Armida had delighted Tony that he had bought a recording. So for this ballet the music came first and in need of a story. Eventually he turned up Cyril Beaumont’s synopsis of La Fill du Danube (1836, music by Adam), a three act ballet but with only two essential male characters and a narrative that could be tweaked and compressed into forty minutes. Shifting the action from the Danube to the Rhine allowed the introduction of the Rhine Maidens and, after much deliberation, an altered title: La Strasbourgeoise.
Cassandra was approached by members of Chelsea Ballet asking her to create a ballet so that they could wear different coloured pointe shoes. This ballet is based around colour and emotions ….
|Introduction||MY STORY, MY COLOURS|
|1st Movement||I thought I was... CAREFREE|
|2nd Movement||But I realise I have one deep... REGRET|
|3rd Movement||This makes me... AGITATED|
|4th Movement||I want... REVENGE|
|5th Movement||I am ready to act, I am... MOTIVATED|
|6th Movement||Then I am confronted by... DARKNESS|
|7th Movement||I have fallen into a state of... DESPAIR|
|8th Movement||I need to restore my resolve, I need... HEALING|
Michelle first heard this piece of music by Karl Jenkins many years ago at the cinema; it accompanied an advert for diamonds and struck her at once as a piece that needed to be danced to. The music completely guided her choreography. Michelle heard two themes, intertwining at different times, one which was powerful, controlled and even a little menacing, represented by a strong unrelenting beat, whilst the other was free, uncertain yet growing in confidence, represented in her mind by a more lyrical rhythm. These two musical themes lent themselves to two groups of dancers, the first strong and dynamic, making way to the second more harmonious and tranquil group, who come together at the end of the dance in organised chaos.
Pas de Deesses
Pas de Deesses is a series of pas de deux and solos where three great ballerinas, Lucille Grahn, Fanny Cerrito, Marie Taglioni vie for the attention of Arthur Saint Leon. Thelma choreographed the ballet in the early 1990’s. It has been danced by Ballet Bristol and Harlow Ballet Association with permission of Chelsea Ballet.
Pas de Valse
Pas de Valse is a dance set to the beautiful music from Life for the Tsar and has been in Chelsea Ballet’s repertoire for over 40 years. It has been danced as a trio and quartet and reproduced by Thelma and Louise’s permission by Harlow Ballet School and Association, Ballet Bristol and Allsorts Adult Dance.
Pride and Prejudice
Katrina had the idea at the back of her head for a long while that Pride and Prejudice could make a great piece for Chelsea Ballet. This short work introduces the family members and gives the dancers a chance to establish their characters within a lively group number - long-suffering Mr Bennet, histrionic Mrs Bennet, gentle Jane, witty Elizabeth, gauche Mary, hanger-on Kitty and flirtatious, headstrong Lydia. Rather than being a corps supporting a lead character, the dancers all have their own identities to get their teeth into.
Katrina believes that it is a piece that the audience can immediately connect with, as the story and characters are so familiar, as is the music (from the famous 1995 BBC adaptation).
Ideas are in motion to extend this into a full-length ballet. There is so much to work with - ball scenes, romantic pas de deux, elopement and arguments, plus lots of interesting roles for female dancers of all ages. A lot of fun is to be had with preposterous characters like Mr Collins and Lady Catherine de Burgh. The only snag is the number of male roles entailed - so any budding Mr Darcys, please get in touch!
Chelsea Ballet was invited to choreograph a ballet to specially commissioned music by St Petersburg composer, Natalia Rusu-Kozulina.
Star Wars – the Battle of Yavin
A good friend of Michelle’s, who happens to be a Star Wars fanatic, commented to her twelve years ago that she should choreograph Star Wars-The Ballet! Scared of this daunting task she put off the idea until early 2011 when she finally managed to choreograph one scene; The Battle of Yavin. Michelle watched the film footage repeatedly and has tried to represent the individual Storm troopers as well as the spaceships in this piece. Chelsea Ballet dancers are keen for Michelle to choreograph the full scale ballet so they can have light sabers as props, but the music is so challenging that she doesn’t know if she can live up to the task!
Chelsea Ballet were invited to choreograph a ballet to Chris Mowatt’s brass version of the last six movements Bela Bartok’s Mikrokosmos
On Saturday, 24th September 2011, the Imre Varga statute of Bela Bartok returned to Malvern Court, South Kensington and was unveiled by the Mayor of Kensington and David Mellor. Chelsea Ballet performed The Bracelet to the accompaniment of the Guildhall School of Music Brass Ensemble.
The Red Shoes
While pregnant and taking something of a back seat at Chelsea Ballet, Katrina was asked to create a pas de deux for Wei Li Cheah and Stuart Lorraine. She wanted to draw on the heritage of storytelling that runs through English ballet and has always been one of Chelsea Ballet’s strengths. She hit upon the idea of creating a short dance inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the Red Shoes, which famously features as the ballet within the film of the same name.
In Katrina’s version, a magical shoemaker presents a young girl with a pair of red ballet shoes. She begins to dance for joy, only to discover that the shoes will not stop dancing and cannot be removed. They eventually force her to dance to an exhausted death, leaving the enigmatic shoemaker alone with the shoes and feelings of remorse, pride or awe at what he has achieved - Katrina leaves this for the audience to decide.
She chose peasant-style costumes and music from Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances to enhance the Mitteleuropean, fairytale feel. She also incorporated steps with an earthy, national dance feel to help reinforce this setting.
Katrina enjoyed the challenge of telling a story in just a few minutes and conveying through her choreography the female dancer’s gamut of emotions, from spirited and light-hearted to desperate and finally resigned to her fate. Katrina was lucky to be working with a very expressive dancer with beautiful technique - when she came to dance the role herself she regretted a little just how fast and furious she had made it!
The Seasons was originally choreographed for students attending the Project for Unemployed Dancers in 1985 and performed at the Chaucer Centre. It has been performed a number of times since as a whole ballet and as excerpts. Ballet Bristol have performed a few items from The Seasons with permission of Chelsea Ballet.
The Taming of the Shrew
For Cassandra it is the music that inspires her to choreograph yet this time it was the prop used in the pas de deux, the lute that was her starting point. It lead her to realise the only fitting music for this choreography was if it was played on a lute. The first section of the piece is mainly mime and easily fell into place. It was the second section that tested her ability as a choreographer. The idea to present a formal courtship dance where the female role has no intension of romance. Cassandra found there could be no forward planning of ideas, inspiration only flowed by working with the male dancer.
The Yellow Dwarf and the King of the Golden Mines
This was Tony’s first attempt at a full-length ballet. The choice of subject was restricted by Chelsea Ballet’s perpetual shortage of male dancers, but this story essentially required only two and one being a dwarf made it all the more suitable in view of Tony’s own lack of height in contrast to that of the company’s principal ballerina – although by the time rehearsals started she had left Chelsea Ballet and that visual interest was lost. Another important consideration was the wealth of incident in this story, enough to keep the audience’s attention he hoped, despite his derivative choreography.
Creating the score is always the most enjoyable element and music for this came from Verdi’s Sicillian Vespers, Massenet’s Cendrillon and Shostakovich’s Ballet Suites.
Thelma and her husband, Clive, were on holiday in the Czech Republic when they heard a piece of music by the Czech composer. Thelma decided there and then she would choreograph a ballet for 8 dancers and it has been performed ever since. Louise reproduced Waltz Ballerinas for Harlow Ballet Association.