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August-September Diary 2003

August-September Diary 2003

by Cassa Pancho


It has been a very busy summer what with preparing for our next performance (28th and 29th of October at the Cochrane Theatre – buy tickets now!), going to Tobago and turning twenty-five, but I have managed to filter it down into exactly 1,143 words. Here goes…

It’s My Company & I’ll Cry If I Want To…

I am a crier. I cry when I’m upset, I cry when I’m angry, I cry if someone has been mean to me and I even cry if I’ve been mean to them. I cry when I’m hungry and when I’m tired. Just writing that I cry makes me want to cry. Pass me a tissue. Not for me any brave soldiering on and quiet suffering– oh no – if I’m unhappy, chances are you’ll know about it. Of course I don’t always cry buckets (mascara ain’t cheap these days). For the lesser things (hunger, boredom, tiredness) I usually just well up a bit then eat a sandwich and I’m fine. I also swear a lot – so, when I’m not blubbing chances are I’m turning the air blue around me. The worse thing is when I’m so outraged that I cry and swear – then I’m just an incoherent, watery mess. I have changed though. The Ballet Black Fundraiser (see December diary) toughened me up considerably. And if memories of the goings on at the Fundraiser aren’t enough to remind me that sometimes shit happens, I try to remember three things told to me by very different people:

1) “You’ve got to be somewhere” (Virginia Fowell, my best friends mum)

2) “Stick to your guns girlie” (my Mum)

3) “No matter what those f****** c**** do or say, give them hell and if you’re gonna go down, grab them by the balls and take them with you” (My Dad – who swears even more than I do – and I can assure you he does not cry).

My Dad also said something about twisting as well as grabbing but that’s for another diary. I love, love, love all of those pearls of wisdom and try to apply them frequently. Anyway. Back to the crying:

“You’ve got to be somewhere” (Virginia Fowell, at a gig somewhere, 2002)

For the first time ever in my life, I cried tears of pure stunned, astonished awe, in an “oh my God it can’t be true” way, the day I was shown Ballet Black’s new home…at the Royal Opera House. Yeah baby! You heard right – we are now officially residing at the Opera House following a fabulous meeting with Deborah Bull just before the summer. I was shown around the following day and kept saying stuff like, “are you sure this studio is for us?” (on seeing the Ashton Studio) and “Oh…my…God..!” (the Fonteyn Studio) and “Yikes!” (The Clore). I did manage to stem the flow of tears and just had very shiny eyes until I made it out onto Floral Street and was completely overwhelmed. Raymond Chia (our coach/guest ballet teacher) said on our first day “I always prayed that I would teach in these studios. I had hoped it would be with the Royal Ballet, but I guess this will do.”

We’ve done class next door to the Kirov, spied the Royal Ballet in rehearsal and I even, nearly tripped over Gillian Revie’s baby! I know! Studios built to the size of the Opera House stage, air-conditioning and the sounds of the Royal Opera Co. floating on the air. I think I died and went to Ballet Heaven. I can’t believe that we, me and Ballet Black are there. But I guess you’ve got to be somewhere.

“Stick to your guns girlie” (Trish Pancho, in my brother’s room, 2003)

Work is well underway and in some cases, pretty much done regarding our October show. All four ballets are finished if you can believe it. Our choreographers are Stephen Sheriff and Patrick Lewis (plus me and Denz). The proofs for the (may I say FABULOUS) posters/flyers are done. Our lighting designer, David Playter (Donmar Warehouse) and all costume designers and makers are busy as can be and our musicians are probably drunk somewhere. All going according to plan there then.

I am doing crazy amounts of overtime at my job as Practice Manager at Pilates off the Square. It’s such a great/bizarre place to work. I really believe that at some point in time, every face you know will pass through the doors of our studios. Everyone from Melanie Griffiths to Matthew Hawkins has been in for a Pilates class or a bit of applied kinesiology (try saying that after a few vodkas). The overtime is, of course, to help fund the Ballet Black show and although it can be tiring, it was all worth it the day one of the fabulous comedians from “Smack the Pony” (Channel Four sketch show) came in. Of course, I am unable to say which fabulous laaaaaaaaaaady it was, but needless to say it cannot be long until there is an episode involving black ballet dancers…? Celebrities aside, it can make for a fairly long day, but when my Mum advises me to stick to my guns, I bloody well do. Move over Annie Oakley.

“No matter what those f****** c**** do or say, give them hell and if you’re gonna go down, grab them by the balls and take them with you” (My Dad – at any given time, 1978 to present day)

The day the Arts Council responded to our funding application with the words “we do not think your project is value for money” I was pretty mad. But then I thought, hey – we are the only black ballet company around in the UK, we work like crazy every single moment, of every single day for the past two years, we have a school dedicated to providing great ballet classes and encouraging more black and Asian kids into dance, have created professional relationships with brilliant musicians, established links to the Trinity College of Music so that their students receive degree credits if they work with us, have weekly open classes that allow any black or Asian dancer to improve their ballet technique, are producing four brand new ballets, we stick to what we believe is artistically right, we have the full support of a professional physiotherapist, Pilates trainers and additional ballet coaches, we put on our own fundraiser, performed as part of other shows, built a website, produced our own t-shirts, have our own photographer, press department, our own designers, have done interviews with British Satellite News for the Foreign Office, are being turned into a documentary, have a regular diary on AND we rehearse at the Royal Opera House…

(HUGE pause for breath…)

We even received a letter of commendation from Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State.

Of course we’re not value for money.