De Valois Super Sunday
On Sunday, 19 February ballet teachers had the opportunity to learn the Ninette de Valois advanced girls syllabus from former teacher of The Royal Ballet School, Denise Winmill.
De Valois - affectionately known as ‘Madam’ - founded The Royal Ballet School and Companies in 1926 and began passing on her wisdom to ballet teachers in 1947 at a time when there were no other forms of dance teacher training.
In April 2011, 2nd Year Upper School students had the opportunity to learn her advanced syllabus at the first ever conference in her name: Ninette de Valois: Adventurous Traditionalist. Interest was so keen that the School’s Head of Outreach and Teacher Training, Mark Annear, decided to schedule a session as part of the School’s Outreach Programme.
Winmill guided teachers through four practical sessions, punctuated by much-needed coffee breaks and screenings of the conference DVD. Participants found Madam’s intricate exercises to be difficult, with rapid changes of direction and complex rhythms making even simple steps a challenge.
The de Valois’ syllabus emphasises accurate weight placement and posture whilst also encouraging a sense of individual performance. Winmill highlighted the importance of using the eyes to lead a movement, with dancers projecting their vision to ‘draw the audience in’. The exercises also promote the development of musicality and strength.
Mark Annear, Head of Outreach, stated: “It is wonderful to come together as a community of teachers to share our heritage 65 years after de Valois’ initial work in teacher training, and her syllabus is still proving an inspiration for dance teachers”.
Super Sundays are a regular part of the School’s Outreach Programme, designed to broaden the reach of the vocational training programme. In the past, they have featured some of the top names in ballet including Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Steven McRae, Elisabeth Platel to name a few.
Pictured: Denise Winwill demonstrating to the participants in the Linden Studio at The Royal Ballet Upper School
Photo: Mark Annear