Sheila Zajac

It is with the deepest sadness that we report the passing of one of our devoted trustees Sheila Zajac, who has given YBSS the most wonderful support over the last ten years.

She will be sorely missed.

Beyond the Barre Newsletter. Edition 7 - June 2015

2015 continues with the good news that the University of York has awarded the Director an honorary doctorate. Not only is this a wonderful affirmation of Marguerite’s contribution to dance in York, it is a welcome acknowledgment of the place of YBSS in the community. Congratulations, Marguerite.

We have focused recently on emphasising our connection to York and the news Marguerite gives in the Director’s Update about this year’s audition in York shows that this is paying off – more than double the number of students came to the York audition than attended the first one last year.

We are delighted to invite you to join us for a Pledge Evening during this year’s Summer School to thank you for your loyal support. There will be performances by past and present YBSS students and the evening will be hosted by surprise celebrities – well, surprise, that is, until you read the Director’s Update! We hope that as many of you as possible will come.

The Director’s Update

Dear Friends,

It has been a busy and eventful year so far, with some lovely and exciting news to tell you. The Auditions for Scholarships and Bursaries, held in York and London, both went extremely well. We had 50 applicants in York and 74 in London. The students came from far and wide, and were from a vast range of different schools and backgrounds. The standard was extremely high and impressive. We had lots of “little ones” this year, more than ever before, which was a joy, tiny tots as young as 9. The quality of the applicants, the teachers and the panels was equally high at both auditions and it’s particularly important to me that we decided last year to hold auditions in York.

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

We gave a placement to a lovely student who attended the York audition, but not a scholarship. Her mother accepted the place, but a few weeks later wrote to say that, due to unforeseen circumstances, she would have to withdraw. I was sad about this and told her that I would see what I could do. The very next day I received a letter from Xander and Demelza Parish, both of whom attended YBSS for many years, and are both now very successful, Demelza in the Royal Ballet, and Xander in the Marinsky Ballet in Russia. They felt they wanted to ‘give something back’ by way of a thank you for what they had gained from YBSS, and sent a cheque for £515, for a week’s scholarship.

It was very moving and both Barbara (my PA) and I were moved to tears. How rare a thing to have such thoughtful and kind a deed. It gave me SUCH pleasure to be able to give this student the news, and she wrote a heart wrenching letter of thanks to Xander and Demelza.

The London audition was held at the Rambert School in Twickenham. It also went very well, though as hard as we try to choose days without any kind of rail disruption or road works, it always seems to be a problem, and there were some tales to tell of dramatic journeys. Still, they arrived in cheerful mood, and the day was delightful. The classes were given by the wonderful Patricia Linton, and the eminent panel of judges included Lara Turk and Elizabeth McGorian (both with the Royal Ballet), Dr Wayne Sleep, Laura Connor and myself.

We gave around 56 weeks worth of scholarships and bursaries this year. It is a privilege to be able to do so, and the students are truly appreciative. I always ask them to write letters to their sponsors, and it has been a pleasure to see how they have done so.

Finally, I am delighted that our dear friends Sir Derek Jacobi and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey’s Carson) have agreed to host our Pledge Evening. This special evening is my way of thanking you all most sincerely for all your continued and wonderful support. Full details appear below.

Warmest wishes
Marguerite Porter MBE

2015 Summer School

© Sophie Harris-Taylor

As we reported in the last Newsletter, operating at Askham Bryan has led both Askham Bryan and us to review and revise our procedures, to ensure the wellbeing of our students, while giving them the best tuition that we can. Askham Bryan is an active campus – this year there is the added attraction of their zoo, due to open in the summer! You will see more YBSS staff, both teaching and pastoral, supporting the Summer School and visitors will be asked to wear wrist bands to identify you as supporters of YBSS.

Inevitably, this has led to an increase in our costs, not least in the acquisition of a new dance floor for the Sports Hall. We are very proud, however, that, even as YBSS has grown over the years, we continue to have only one employee – the Director –assisted by the part time support of her PA to manage the organisation of the Summer School every year. The changes we’ve made are a solid investment towards the continued success of YBSS.

We are very pleased with the teachers this year, all with huge experience and wisdom. Yosvani Ramos, Patricia Linton, David Pickering, Jay Jolley and Christopher Tudor are all coming back to us, and Kevin Haigen at last returns, after an absence of far too many years. Belinda Hatley, who gave a stunning Master Class last year, is also returning, this year to teach. We are fortunate indeed to have such wonderful teachers. Laura Connor, Marguerite’s “right hand (and left) woman”, will of course be with us offering her usual joyous support to all concerned.

Edward Watson, Principal with the Royal Ballet, is returning to give a Master Class, as are Sir Anthony Dowell and Donald MacLeary.

Student news

Marguerite is delighted that Matthew Ball, who performed Lensky (a great, but difficult, role) extremely well in Onegin with the Royal Ballet , is now to dance Romeo at the Royal Opera House in September. He has also been given a leading role in Carlos Acosta’s new production of Carmen. It’s particularly satisfying, since he started his time with the Royal Ballet with a knee injury, and it took him a good 8 months before he was able to perform properly.

Brandon Lawrence continues to do more and more leading roles with Birmingham Royal Ballet and is cherishing every moment.

Lauretta Summerscales also continues her success with ENB.

Grace Blundell

Grace Blundell now has a full contract with the Royal Ballet after a year’s apprenticeship. Grace first came to us when she was a ten year old, sweet and serious, and incredibly hard working from a very young age. It is wonderful to see her now as a talented young dancer in the company she so longed to join.

Sean Bates

Sean Bates continues to flourish with Northern Ballet Theatre.

Reece Clark had a big success in the glorious Symphonic Variations at the Royal Opera House.

There are many more happy student stories too numerous to mention, but it is lovely that they all keep in touch.

Pledge Evening at Askham Bryan on Friday 24 July at 6.30pm

On Friday 24th July, we are holding a Pledge Evening as a token of our heartfelt thanks to all our loyal supporters, and hopefully to inspire more “Friends” to join us.

We will begin with drinks in the Conference Centre, followed by a short performance in the Sports Hall at 7.00pm. This will include students from the 2015 Summer School and Brandon Lawrence. We hope also to show some short film clips of more alumni in performances marking their own career successes. Afterwards, there will be a Reception back in the Conference Centre with a light supper, so that we can all have a chance to speak to one another.

Sir Derek and Jim will host the evening. There is no charge for joining us but we can rely on Sir Derek and Jim doing their best to urge you to pledge to renew your memberships and much more!

It would be lovely to have as many people attending as possible, and hopefully we can bring into our fold some new supporters. To reserve your places – and places of guests who you think may be interested in supporting what we do – please email Numbers have to be limited so do book early and by 15 July at the latest!

How to apply to come and see this year’s Summer School

Priority tickets are available to watch class in the Conference Centre at Askham Bryan during the 2015 Summer School (between 19 and 30 July, excluding Friday afternoon 24 July and Saturday 25 July). Please apply between 1 and 14 July by email to Applications will be dealt with on a first come first served basis and please remember that priority seats are limited, so be ready to apply on 1 July!

If you don’t get priority seats, a limited number of seats are available on each day (except Friday afternoon 24 July and Saturday 25 July) – just come to Askham Bryan on the day.

All tickets are £12 for the day and £9 for half a day, payable in cash at the door.

Patrons and 100 Club Members may also apply to watch the evening Master Classes in the Conference Hall, starting at 6 pm. Edward Watson’s Master Class will be held on 20 July. Donald MacLeary's will be held on 22 July. Please contact for the date, as yet unconfirmed, of Sir Anthony Dowell's Master Class.

For directions on how to find Askham Bryan, go to There is ample parking at Askham Bryan. Public transport is by Coastliner bus numbers 840, 843 and 845, which all stop at Askham Bryan roundabout, about 6 or 7 minutes walk from the campus. For details, go to Alternatively, taxis from York centre cost about £15 each way.

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