Tait Awardees, Rebecca Blenkinsop and Breanna Foad join English National Ballet

Below is an article recently published in Ballet News about Tait Awardee, Rebecca Blenkinsop. Rebecca has been supported by an award from the Tait funded by Australian Impressario, John Frost AM. We are delighted to see she has had such great success.

Good news come in twos as another Leanne Benjamin Awards recipient, Breanna Foad has also been offered a contract from the English National Ballet.

Breanna was born and lived on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia until the age of 14. She was then accepted into The Australian Ballet School, Melbourne Australia for full time ballet studies. In January 2016 Breanna auditioned for the chance to be accepted into the English National Ballet School in London and was one of only three Australians to be selected and offered a place. She then left The Australian Ballet School and started in September 2016 into 2nd year of a three-year full time course in London.

We are thrilled for them both!

From Student To Star | Rebecca Blenkinsop | The Royal Ballet School

Rebecca Blenkinsop

Rebecca Blenkinsop

From Student to Star is an interview series featuring graduates from vocational ballet schools as they begin their professional careers. The questions have been updated to reflect reader feedback; I hope you find them helpful.

Rebecca Blenkinsop, The Royal Ballet School, 2017, Credit: Johan Persson

Rebecca Blenkinsop, The Royal Ballet School, 2017, Credit: Johan Persson

You’ve been studying at The Royal Ballet School. When did you join the School and what made you decide to train there?

I joined the school in September 2015 and I decided to go there due to its renowned classical ballet training and it had been a dream of mine.

Prior to joining RBS, where did you train, and how early did you start ballet ?
Before I joined RBS I trained at The Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School at the age of 11.
What do you think are the important things to focus on during training if you hope for a vocational career as a ballet dancer?

I personally believe during training that it is so important to focus on yourself and your own personal journey without comparing yourself to others, everyone progresses at different rates. Listen to your body and be aware of aspects of your training which you need to improve and focus on that. Also take advantage of any performance experiences that you get and cherish these moments as a chance to develop yourself as an artist. And finally never forget why you do what you do, find constant inspiration in other dancers around you and professionals that inspire you.

Have you entered any competitions during your training and if so, which ones, and what would you say about your experiences ?

In 2015 I participated in the Prix de Lausanne from which I was fortunate enough to receive a place at The Royal Ballet School. I have to say this was one of the best experiences of my life. I particularly liked the process of the competition as it gives all of the dancers an opportunity to be seen in classes throughout the week as well as onstage in a performance setting. I was lucky enough to make it through to the finals which was an incredible experience, although I must say I found dancing on the raked stage incredibly challenging as I was not used to working in these conditions; however I still really enjoyed the performance. I highly recommend this competition as it is a platform for students to be chosen by the best schools in the world.

Rebecca Blenkinsop and Harris Bell dancing Robert Binet’s Self & Soul. ©2018 The Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

Rebecca Blenkinsop and Harris Bell dancing Robert Binet’s Self & Soul. ©2018 The Royal Ballet School. Photographed by Tristram Kenton

You’ve accepted a contract with English National Ballet. Congratulations ! What was the process you went through to be awarded the contract and and when do you start work?

Thank you, I was fortunate enough to be seen by Tamara Rojo during ballet class at my school where she offered me a contract. I begin working at the beginning of August this year.

What do you know about English National Ballet & have you spent any time with them yet ?

I have seen the company perform multiple times in London and was amazed by the technical standard and performance of the dancers. I also love the company’s classical repertoire combined with many modern contemporary works. I have not yet spent any time with the company but look forward to starting the season.

What are you looking forward to about joining the company?

This season I am very excited to learn and perform in Manon, Swan Lake, Cinderella and Akram Khan’s Giselle. I am also looking forward to the international tours to Chicago and Russia. I love to travel and can’t wait to see many new places with the company.

How do you think company life will differ from your student days?

Obviously no more uniform which I am very excited about. In a company you have to draw from skills that you have learnt as a student to maintain and improve your technique as you do not receive feedback and corrections as often as in school. Also I am going to have to prepare myself for finishing late at night after shows, and performing constantly, which is very exciting.

What do you think you will bring to the company?

I hope to bring my enthusiasm and passion for dance to the company and wider audiences through my  performance.

How are you preparing yourself for your first professional contract?

Sewing lots of pointe shoes! But on a serious note as I have three weeks before I begin, I am going to the gym to complete a fitness program created by the sports scientists at RBS focusing on cardio, leg strength and abdominal work to maintain my fitness levels over the holiday period. I plan on doing holiday classes as well before the season commences.

What are you your best achievements as a student?

My best achievements as a student include being a finalist of the Prix de Lausanne, dancing Robert Binet’s Self and Soul on the Royal Opera House stage for the RBS end of year show and of course being offered a contract for English National Ballet.

Why ballet?

I love the technical challenges of classical ballet and the physicality of the art form. For me there is honestly nothing more rewarding than performing a piece on stage that you have worked so hard to achieve. I love the feeling of taking the curtain call and feeling proud of how I danced. I was also attracted by the beauty of the art form and how such complex movement can appear so graceful on stage.

Do you have a dream role and/or dance partner and if so what/who are they?

I have a few dream roles/works I would love to dance including Manon, Juliet, Aurora, After the Rain by Christopher Wheeldon and Petite Mort by Jiri Kylian.

What would you say to students entering their graduate year ?

Work hard, stay focused and enjoy every opportunity you are given. In terms of auditioning for companies I would say to be confident in your abilities, make an effort to stand out and focus on yourself and not the other dancers in the room, and always remember you never know what directors are looking for so never give up on what you want to achieve.

Where would you like to be this time next year and how will you measure your progress over the year?

I would like to continually improve my technique, become a stronger dancer and to have enjoyed my first season as a professional dancer.

Rebecca Blenkinsop

Rebecca Blenkinsop

Chloe Keneally on dancing role of Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake – English National Ballet

Following the opening of My First Ballet: Swan Lake in London last week, hear from one of its stars, English National Ballet School student Chloe Keneally. She performs the iconic role of Odette in this version of the classic ballet for young children.

What or who inspired you to take up ballet? Can you remember the first lesson or performance you attended?
My older sister danced which made me want to. I started aged 4 and loved it, I enjoyed the freedom. I saw Sleeping Beauty first and loved it, it became my favourite ballet.

What did it mean to you to get a place at English National Ballet School?
It is a sacrifice being away from my family back home in Australia, but being here is a dream come true. Everything I’d been working for paid off. I loved the school, it was the only one I auditioned for.

Chloe Keneally as Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake © Laurent Liotardo

What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to dance in My First Ballet: Swan Lake?
Amazing. It feels like the first steps into the rest of our lives, it shows us what we can do in the future. The artistic team are very supportive which is great.

Tell us about the role you have been rehearsing – what are the best bits and the challenges?
I’m rehearsing Odette – it’s my dream role. It’s hard to remember it all but I’m embracing the challenge. I’m loving doing an entire ballet and building the character. I feel like I can relate to this character – falling in love, learning about trust and vulnerability.

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Source: Chloe Keneally on dancing role of Odette in My First Ballet: Swan Lake – English National Ballet

Chloe Keneally wins prize at the English National Ballet School

We are delighted to report that Chloe Keneally; Tait Awardee, recipient of a Leanne Benjamin Award; has successfully completed year one at the English National Ballet School.

She appears to be flying through her studies having been awarded the First Year Female Student Progression Award/Most Progressed.  Well done to Chloe and we look forward to hearing more about your progression into Second Year.

To learn more about the Leanne Benjamin Awards please go to our website here (Photos: Victor Gonzalez)

Chloe Keneally, Biography

Australian ballerina, Chloe Jane Keneally completed her first year at the English National Ballet School and is about to start her second in September.

With the English National Ballet School, Chloe is currently studying around 50 hours per week and is working towards a Diploma in Professional Dance at Level 5. She has had many performance opportunities such as being chosen to dance for the Slaughter and May performance, perform her own choreography solo in the Christmas Show and perform in the finals of the Choreography Competition. Prior to this she trained at the Debra Whitten School of Dance completing her RAD Advanced 2 exam achieving 96%, Advanced Foundation 98% and Advanced 1 95%.

In April 2016, Chloe competed in the 2016 Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York and was offered a scholarship to The New Zealand School of Dance.

Some recent achievements include:

  • In 2015 Chloe was selected to participate in the Royal Ballet (Upper School) Summer School in London.
  • Participated in the City of Sydney Eisteddfod and was a Finalist in the Robert and Elizabeth Albert Scholarship (top 8%) and then placed 2nd (out of 80) for the 15 years’ classical section.
  • Received the encouragement award for the 2015 RAD Jacqueline Morland Awards and was awarded the most outstanding classical dancer of Brisbane Eisteddfod
  • Was part of the Australian Ballet School Interstate training program from level 1 through to “Invitee”, and also continued to train weekly with the Queensland Ballet Junior training program (since 2012).
  • Danced the lead role of the Sugarplum fairy in 2015 in my ballet school end of year concert, dancing the challenging Grand Pas de Deux and variation with a professional male ballet dancer as guest artist.

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Connor Barlow – 3rd Year, English National Ballet School

The Tait Memorial Trust are delighted to support Connor Barlow for the 3rd year of his studies at the English National Ballet School. We support two other dancers in 2013, Calvin Richardson and Sophie Moffatt both at the Royal Ballet School.

Connor Barlow started dancing at a local Sydney School at age six; taking classes in all forms of dance. His teachers encouraged him to view dance as a challenging and athletic activity, as well as a performing art.

Connor Barlow, Ballet
Connor Barlow, Ballet

 

Connor attended The McDonald College of Performing Arts and began his classical ballet training under the guidance of Ms Josephine Jason and Mr Alan Cross in 2007. Later he joined the Australian International Ballet Academy and the Premier State Ballet, where he performed the lead role of ‘Basilio’ in their 2010 Production of Don Quixote.

In March 2011 Connor travelled to Europe to audition for several prestigious ballet schools and was accepted into the 3 Year ‘Diploma of Professional Dance’ at the English National Ballet School (ENBS), in London.

Since September 2011 Connor has been tutored by a number of renowned international ballet tutors under the direction of Samira Saidi. Some of the most significant tutors that has Connor has worked with include, Chris Wright, Ivan Dinev, Cynthia Harvey, Yohei Sasaki, David Wall and Alain Dubreuil.

With the English National Ballet School, Connor performed the lead in Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Soiree Musicales’ and in Frederick Ashton’s Les Rendezvous and several original works by Nuno Campos and Stina Quagebeur.

In June 2013 Connor travelled to Fiori in Italy to represent the ENBS at the Dance Gala at the historic Treatro Alessandro Bonci in Cesena, performing the ‘Grand Pas Classique’.

When he is not dancing, Connor loves to surf with this Dad at Cronulla Beach in Sydney or read a good book.

Connor’s aim is to become a professional ballet dancer and / or choreographer, with a leading international ballet company.

We, at the Tait Memorial Trust, wish Connor well and hope the support that we have provided these past three years will make the journey to a professional career that much more easier.

Connor’s award is kindly provided by the Thornton foundation.

Tait History

The Tait Memorial Trust was formed in 1992 by Isla Baring OAM in memory of her father Sir Frank Tait and his four brothers who played such an important part in the establishment of theatre and the performing arts in Australia. It also recognises with an annual award the major contribution of her mother, Viola, Lady Tait – who died in 2002 – as a founding patron of the Trust.

Sir Frank and Viola, Lady Tait ca. 1960
Sir Frank and Viola, Lady Tait ca. 1960

The Trust offers awards/grants for post-graduate study, performance opportunities to young Australian musicians and performing artists, and general help in the furtherance of their careers while resident in the UK. Through the Royal Over-Seas League it grants a scholarship to ‘the Australian musician showing the most promise’ in the Annual Music Competition. The Trust also grants a prize to the winner of Opera Foundation Australia’s Covent Garden National Opera Studio Scholarship. The Trust also contributes financially to the Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Foundation, Bel Canto Awards and will provide a concert platform in London to the winner.

In 2013 the Trust created a new scholarship at the Royal College of Music to be known as the ‘Tait Scholar’. In addition to this, the Trust continues to support its numerous existing awards: the Sir Charles Mackerras chair with the Southbank Sinfonia; grants to young Australian dancers with the Royal Ballet School, English National Ballet School and the Rambert Dance Company; grants to singers with the Wales International Academy of Voice and a special award to a finalist in the Mietta Song Recital Award in Melbourne.

The Trust has helped many young singers, dancers and instrumentalists who have subsequently performed with British orchestras and in leading opera houses and ballet companies, including Li-Wei, Lauren Easton, Miranda Keys, Morgan Pearse, Jayson Gillham, Liane Keegan, Tristan Dyer, Benjamin Bayl, Amy Dickson, Duncan Rock, Grant Doyle, Valda Wilson, Julian Gavin, Derek Welton, Claire Howard, Kate Howden, Lisa Bucknell, Helena Dix, Elena Xanthoudakis and Joanna Cole.

To ensure its continuance the Trust arranges regular fund raising events and concerts, invariably featuring the talented young winners of the various awards, and relies a great deal on financial support from the business sector, private donors and other loyal supporters. The Tait Performing Arts Association, formed in November 2011 in Australia, the Tait Performing Arts Association supports the same ideals as the Trust. Please help us to build our new Foundation in Australia so we can work together to spread our wings and help nurture our young talent to survive in this competitive world.

Tait Brothers

The five Tait brothers

In Melbourne, Australia, three years before the turn of the century, a family of five sons of John Turnbull Tait, a sheep farmer in Lerwick, Shetland who had emigrated to Australia in 1860, emerged into the entertainment world to become the dominating influence in the theatrical scene for the next seventy years.

One of their earlier ventures, in 1905, was to make the world’s first full length feature film – a 9,000 ft film on the capture of the notorious Ned Kelly Gang. The film was a sensation and was played in every Australian capital city until the films wore out ­ only fragments remain.

J & N Tait Concert Management was formed in 1906. From concert management the Tait brothers amalgamated with J C Williamson in 1920 to form the largest theatrical empire in the world, offering a constant flow of ballet, drama, grand opera and musical comedy.

They presented world famous celebrities such as Melba, Chaliapin, Flagstad, Pavlova, Harry Lauder, David Oistrakh, Margot Fonteyn, Menuhin and many others. In 1957, Frank Tait was made a Knight Batchelor by the Queen in recognition of the major contribution he and his brothers has given in their dedication to Australian theatre.

It was Sir Frank’s ambition to present Dame Joan Sutherland to the Australian public after her international acclaim. The Sutherland Williamson Opera Company was formed in 1963. Richard Bonynge as Artistic Director engaged a team of world renowned principals and internationally successful Australian artists. One of the principals was Luciano Pavarotti, a young tenor from Modena. The chorus was all Australian. There was no government subsidy and the fate of Williamson’s future rested on the success of the venture.

Sir Frank lived to see his ambition fulfilled. The triumphant Melbourne opening heralded the return of Dame Joan to her homeland. It was a season never to be forgotten. In Richard Bonynge’s words: “Sir Frank Tait has done the greatest service to Australian Theatre and to the arts of anyone we know.”

Sir Frank died at the age of 81 after the Melbourne season finished and while the company were in Adelaide. It was the end of an era in the history of Australian theatre.

Viola, Lady Tait (1911-2002)

Viola. Lady Tait
Viola. Lady Tait

Lady Tait’s zest for life was an inspiration. These qualities remained with her always together with a remarkable memory, clarity of mind and youthful outlook. She was a champion of new and emerging talent, adjudicating for numerous scholarships and awards both in Australia and overseas. As an adjudicator for The Mobil Quest in 1950, Viola was instrumental in launching Joan Sutherland’s careerAnother of her loves was writing and researching theatre history. She amassed a formidable collection of theatre memorabilia and was the author of The Family of Brothers (1971), which chronicled the contribution of the Tait brothers to Australian theatre.

Her last book, Dames, Principal Boys and all that: A History of Pantomime in Australia (2001) was lavishly launched at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, the home of the Tait-Williamson empire. When Viola’s death was announced the illuminated sign outside the Theatre read “Farewell Lady Tait, Star”.

Isla Baring OAM

Isla Baring with Jason Donovan

9 JUNE 2009 — AN HONOUR RECOGNIZES THE TAIT TRUST

ISLA BARING has been awarded the Order of Australian Medal (OAM) general division for her service to the arts — supporting young Australian musicians and performing artists!

Isla Violet Baring OAM founded The Tait Memorial Trust in 1992 in memory of her father, Sir Frank Tait and his brothers, who played such an important part in the establishment of theatre and the performing arts in Australia. Isla’s mother, the singer Viola Tait, inspired her to organise a fundraising concert in support of a young Australian singer, Liane Keegan, who was newly arrived in London. It kicked off with a Christmas Concert at Australia House. The concert was a great success, became the foundation of our yearly events and Liane is now singing major roles in Berlin.

The Tait Memorial Trust has since then raised more than £150,000 to help support young Australian musicians and dancers who need financial assistance while they are studying in the U.K. The Trust offers grants for study, performance opportunities to young musicians and performing artists as well as general help in the furtherance of their careers while resident in the UK. Many of the young Artists continue to achieve world recognition and perform at the Tait’s Rush Hour concert series which regularly presents emerging and established Australian talent.

Isla Baring is proud to be founding patron of the London Lyric Opera now in their fifth year and founded by James Hancock. The London Lyric Opera is a young company with ambitions to fill a niche in the UK opera scene by producing high quality concerts in the United Kingdom.

Isla lives in London and France, travels frequently to Australia and other spots around the world.