English National Ballet moves out to the banks of the Lea River which is no 'swan lake'
PUBLISHED: 15:05 03 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 03 September 2019
photo© Danilo Moroni
The prestigious English National Ballet is moving to its new east London headquarters to bring classical dance to the widest audience and shifting its cultural heartland out of the West End.
Top dancers are arriving at the state-of-the-art complex at the London City Island development in Leamouth, by the River Lea, on September 12 to begin rehearsals for their 70th anniversary season this autumn.
The complex has seven full-size studios and a five-storey production studio fitted with a fly tower to rehearse productions with full set and lighting.
One studio is named in honour of Rudolf Nureyev, the Soviet dissident regarded as the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation who defected to the West in 1961 when the Kirov was touring in Paris.
He eluded Soviet security agents at the airport and sought asylum in France, saying the rigid Soviet ballet had limited his opportunities to perform in a variety of roles.
Nureyev, who joined the Royal Ballet in London a year later as permanent guest artist, became Dame Margot Fonteyn's favourite ballet partner. He died in 1993 at the age of 54.
Another studio at the new Leamouth complex near Canning Town Bridge honours Dame Alicia Markova, one of the greatest British classical ballet dancers of the 20th century who died in 2004 aged 94.
The first productions to be rehearsed include Khan's Giselle and Wheeldon's Cinderella, ready for their West End performances this autumn.
The new complex opens to the public later this month as part of English National's community programme.
The ballet company is already running dance classes for the over 50s at five East End community centres with its Dancing East programme which began last year.
The weekly classes organised through LinkAge Plus are free for anyone over 50 living in Tower Hamlets, to help improve their quality of life and their physical and mental wellbeing.
Artists and musicians help them by using ballet as a form of physical exercise, to encourage mobility and improve spatial awareness and balance to reduce the risk of falls.
The classes are held in Age UK's Caxton Hall and the Sundial centre in Bethnal Green, Neighbours in Poplar, St Hilda's Sonali Gardens centre in Shadwell and at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel.