Visitors to the gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse now have the unique opportunity to watch dancers creating a groundbreaking new ballet.
Over the next three weeks, the gardens become a giant and inspirational ‘rehearsal room’ for five ballerinas.
The producer of the ballet they will be shaping is Barnsley-born Tara Lee-Turton, who in 2016 became the third British woman to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. She also dances in the production.
Tala, whose mother is from Barnsley and father is from Hong Kong, has since performed with some of ballet’s biggest companies.
The outdoor rehearsals will lead to a live 40-minute one-act ballet entitled No Time Like The Present, which will be performed in the gardens of the Grade I listed Rotherham stately home in summer 2022.
Tala aims to present classical dance in a fresh light, championing diverse voices and making dance relevant. The creative team of five dancers, a choreographer, composer/musician and costume designer is all-female, over half are of minority ethnic heritage – and all dancers are trading their satin slippers for trainers!
“Trainers are so much more comfortable, and safer when you’re dancing outdoors,” laughs dancer and producer Tala. “Dancing en-pointe is a beautiful, technical part of classical ballet, but not conforming to this is another way I hope the production will challenge tradition.”
Tala, now 25, was only four when she began ballet classes with the Fearons Middleton School of Dance in Cudworth, Barnsley. She showed such talent, by 11 she was studying ballet at a vocational school in southern England and at 16 was Moscow-bound and about to train for four years with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.
She returned to the UK in 2019 to dance in the English National Ballet’s performance of Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall and was due to perform in the company’s version of Swan Lake when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. She came back to live in her family home in Broomhill, Sheffield.
In the first lockdown, the concept for No Time Like The Present came to her and she has worked relentlessly on it since.
“The arts suffered immeasurably due to Covid; I wanted to provide much-needed work for artists and create a production that brings innovative, high calibre classical dance to South Yorkshire in a very accessible way,” said Tala, 25.
“This is my first big work as a producer and I’m making some significant statements. The world of classical ballet has antiquated views and values which are entrenched – it’s high time it stepped into the 21st century and I wasn’t going to sit and wait for that,” she says. “My generation has to make the changes.”
She chose Wentworth Woodhouse as her setting to bring more recognition for the stately home she knew from childhood walks. “We have this incredible stately home on Barnsley and Rotherham’s doorstep and still many people don’t know about it,” she commented.
“By creating the ballet in its gardens, literally in front of people’s eyes, we are dispensing with the walls of the theatre and hope to change the minds of those who think ballet is not for them.”
Her team includes choreographer and American Ballet Theatre soloist Zhongjing Fang, dancers Winnie Dias Pinto, Shoko Ito, Lowri Shone and Gabriella de Souza Jacquet, composer/musician Grace Stubbings and Sheffield Hallam University design student Isabelle Burton.
The dancers will be trying out numerous spots in the 55-acre gardens of the mansion’s hidden West Front as the location for their ballet, but Tala admits she’s already fallen for the charms of the Summer Border, created by head gardener Scott Jamieson.
The research, development and rehearsals of the ballet are now running Wednesday to Sunday afternoons until September 3 (except Aug 21 and 28) and garden-goers are welcome to form impromptu audiences.
‘Wentworth Woodhouse has a wonderful history of dance and so it is really exciting to welcome Tala and colleagues to our gardens and watch them create No Time Like The Present. The event aligns with our mission to be a world-class cultural destination,” commented Sarah Mcleod, CEO of Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.
For ballet rehearsal times and to book tickets for Wentworth Woodhouse gardens, see here.
Caption: Ballerina Tala Lee-Turton rehearsing in the gardens of Wentworth Woodhouse