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Purcell's Revenge & Late Junction Tonight!

Mar. 26th, 2015 | 10:06 pm

"The voices are strictly folk club, far from the opera house, and all the lovelier for their earthiness"

'Album of the Week', Sinfini

"Evening Hymn...a beguiling ballade, ravishingly sung
and arranged by Ana Silvera"

The Scotsman

LISTEN HERE





(L-R Jim Moray, James Bowman, Clare Salaman, Susanna Pell, David McGuinness, Pamela Thorby, Oliva Chaney, me, Alison McGillivray and Bill Taylor).


Our album, "Purcell's Revenge" (Delphian Records) has finally hit the virtual and actual shelves! In collaboration with early music ensemble Concerto Caledonia, I sing my reworkings of Purcell's 'Evening Hymn', 'Close Thine Eyes' and an original song, 'Halos' which will debut on Late Junction, Radio 3 tomorrow night (Thursday 26th March).
If you're abroad, you can tune in online and listen back for a few days after here >>
Late Junction Link

I also have a download to offer you from our recording session, a rearrangement of my song 'Letter from New York'. If you're a member of Soundcloud (tho you don't have to be to download), I'd  love it if you signed in and heart-ed or commented on it.


1 WEEK, 2 YEARS & 16 HALLELUJAHS LATER: THE MAKING OF "PURCELL'S REVENGE"

Back in March 2013, I spent a week at Aldeburgh with a 7-strong Concerto Caledonia, plus folk singers Olivia Chaney, Jim Moray and harmonica player Will Pound. The plan was that us singers brought our chosen reworkings of Purcell songs along, plus one or two originals to workshop, and at the end of the week we'd perform and record them.

After sweating over the rearrangements, and
inadvertently trashing the fundaments of baroque music by messing with the ground bass (vague music theory memories of what ground bass is...not fish tartare, something to do with...harpsichords?), I presented leader David McGuiness with the charts, and he didn't chase me out of the Britten Studio brandishing a hurdy-gurdy so that was a good start.




Our concert at Aldeburgh, March 2013

It was a really intense but fun week, and a real privilege to collaborate with such elegant, accomplished musicians, not to mention my outstanding singer cohorts. We were also joined for the concert and recording by legendary countertenor James Bowman, who regaled us with entertaining stories and showed us how Purcell should be done 'proper'. I am particularly grateful to James, who, after I lost track of the number of Hallelujahs I was meant to sing mid-song, mid-concert - 16 of them! 16!!! awkward! - kindly reassured me backstage that 'it's happened to the best of us, darling'. You can hear me singing the correct amount on the album :)

I hope you enjoy the music as much as we enjoyed making it!

Lots of love, and till soon,
Ana xx

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7 Things I Learnt in 2014

Dec. 25th, 2014 | 02:30 am

"Well maybe it's just the time of year/or maybe it's the time of man/I don't know who I am/but you know life is for learning" - JONI MITCHELL




1. Copenhagen, where I've spent a bit of time this year, is the capital of Europe's happiest nation. Probably because of things like...there's a day every year where big trucks drive around and give the city FREE CHRISTMAS BEER! Also, there's loads of words for normal things in Danish that sound really filthy in English – here's a little selection for you.


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2. New York in March is very nippy, but the surrounding countryside upstate is freezing. Check beforehand when on an artist's retreat whether you're sharing a room with a stranger, especially if you have an aversion to sharing rooms with strangers, and the beds are situated just a foot apart. Also, expect a lot of sincere and very un-British emoting about Art and Being and Sharing. As well as great fun, helpful talks, impromptu jams and red wine.

When back in New York proper, don't wear 4 inch heels to Carnegie Hall if your seat is located on the top balcony, or if you have a fear of heights as you will spend the first half of, say, Kronos Quartet's 40th Anniversary Celebration fearfully adrenalised due to your near miss with death as you walked down the stairway.  Afterwards, you will google 'Carnegie Hall Balcony death by falling' and 'Carnegie Hall no safety rail' and be astonished that this yields no significant results.

Below: Garrison, NY // Carnegie Hall Death Drop


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3. Ballet dancers count everything in sets of 8. Even if it's three bars of 5/4 and then a bar of 7/8, to their ears it'll just be “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8'. Stranger than strange. I have also developed a new found respect for Beyonce et al. Dancing and singing is hard. Dancing and walking is hard. I'm sure if you ever asked Britney, she'd tell you that lip-synching and any kind of simultaneous ambulation is also a challenge. I'm also not so great with left and right, so performing the role of Cassandra was a challenge, though a fascinating one.

Scene from Cassandra, Royal Opera House with Olivia Cowley and Thomas Whitehead. Picture by Becs Andrews
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4. So there's a clause in the contract you sign with Royal Ballet, promising in the months leading up to the concert not to partake in any 'hazardous pursuits', including recreational flying, or activities that may 'affect any normal policy of insurance on the composer's life'. So it was with regret, that I forgo-ed (forwent?) the eating of pufferfish, my passion for hot air-ballooning and my weekly parkour meet ups.


Left: Forbidden fruit // Right: Hot Air Balloons. I wasn't permitted to sail in a single one of these.

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5. Here's my patented way to write funding applications. Get a stop watch. Set it to five minutes and hit start. Splurge every relevant thought into the little box you need to fill, ensuring the words 'diverse', 'multi-faceted', 'interdisciplinary' and 'passionate' are in there somewhere. When the alarm goes do a little jig of self-congratulation and refill tea/coffee cup till the application is roughly done. Repeat the same procedure the next day, fine-tuning your sentences until they are smoother than a baby seals' behind.

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Above: Aim for this kind of texture when writing Grants Applications

6. Some people will love what you do, some people won't like it one little bit. I know a lot of you reading this are Practitioners of Art, but I think this also applies to any field of endeavour. If you should find yourself getting bogged down with others' opinions, I discovered it's worth looking to those who are masters/mistresses in their field, and seeing what they've had to say about all this business.

One of my favourite quotes (thanks to my friend Rob for this) is from poet John Keats’s letter to his publisher, after receiving harsh reviews of his work, Endymion. He wrote:

Had I been nervous about its being a perfect piece, and with that view asked advice, and trembled over every page, it would not have been written. [!...] I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the soundings, the quicksands, and the rocks, that if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice. I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.

And in a more contemporary vein, I love what composer Philip Glass says at the beginning of director Scott Hicks' brilliant film portrait of him:

I never was a captive to other people's ideas about me. Whatever they thought, it didn't matter to me. I've been that way my whole life and it's saved me a lot of trouble. You know, there's a whole lot of music in the world, you don't have to listen to mine. There's Mozart, there's The Beatles, listen to something else!

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Above: Philip Glass and John Keats - unlikely to have been separated at birth.

7. Thank you for reading this far! I'm very touched. And so to celebrate it's time for a Youtube Video: Ladies, Gentlemen, I give you the mimic octopus, one of the most extraordinary creatures dwelling upon our planet, who I discovered on the world wide web this very year.

Check his moves here

As a wise friend once said to me: "Life is not a problem to be solved...it's a mystery to be lived".

Sending you much love for Christmas, and a wonderful year filled with joy.

Ana xx

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Working from Home

Dec. 3rd, 2014 | 01:59 pm

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Greenwich Pier - tonight on Late Junction, Radio 3 at 11pm

Jun. 26th, 2014 | 11:00 am

I sketched out this song a few days before the Late Junction session and kept working and working on it even up to the day itself. I had been away from London for quite a while and returned to stay at my friend Rob's flat in May, near the river Thames in Southwark. Something about the blustery, but humid weather, something about the heavy skies but sense of urban summer life, like a slumbering beast just beginning to stir, made me think back to the many (often rainy) summers of my past. Melancholic and beautiful and infuriating, especially as it was always raining on my birthday (August 25th).
So, this song is a love letter to those birthday summers, and also to those I shared it with, once upon a time. Lyrics below.
I was delighted to get to perform it in its first form with Laura Moody on the cello and Maya Youssef on the kanun.
During the session, Laura also wrote and performed a haunting and ethereally beautiful song, 'Dark Days', on which I had the pleasure of singing some suitably spooky backing vocals, and Maya performed a heart-wrenchingly gorgeous tune of hers, 'Syrian Dreams', on the kanun which is a kind of Middle-Eastern zither like instrument, and upon which she is a virtuoso. Myself and Laura finally managed to nail an almost impossibly complex section of the piece, so we could sing (and in Laura's case, play) along (we had to invent some eccentric counting systems to make this happen!) and I also got to play with the awesome selection of keyboards at the studio including celesta, (a popular choice with Late Junction-ees as you can imagine), Wurlitzer, Rhodes and grand piano.

Highly recommended! - you can hear more of Laura's music here: www.lauramoodymusic.com
and more of Maya's here: www.mayakanunplayer.com


We had a lovely day full of laughter and excitement at Maida Vale and I'm looking forward to sharing our three songs with you!

A xx


Post-session
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Bing Crosby Studio Mid-session
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The space station...

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The song itself!

GREENWICH PIER

 Greenwich pier; 9am

End of summer storms again

Marshy water, cloudy lens

High-rise ghosts around each bend

It was raining cats and dogs

Tears and gales and trees and fog

Running for square nearby

Patchwork quilts and homebaked pies

Buckles, beads and silver chimes

For my birthday, gull grey skies

come in love its cold outside

I washed up upon your shore

Flotsam, timber, broken oar

Not seaworthy, not at all,

Dirty river in each pore,

Deadman's lace and rainbow wrack

Ill wind blowing at my back

For my birthday, gull grey skies

come in love its cold outside

Years that I can still recall

Windfall apples on my grandma's lawn

With my brother, gathered them all

Nails pitch black with Bridlington soil

Velvet nights and pinhole stars,

sweet red kisses at the local bar

reminisces now gather me up

before they pour the final cup..

Greenwich pier; 9am

Wandering down these streets and then -

Squalls and sunbeam, words unsaid

Silting up our riverbed

Here's the same bridge that we walked

Tourists pose and traders hawk

Workers, lovers, broken men

Trying to get home again

All trying to get home again

For my birthday, gull grey skies

when our love was at high tide

For my birthday, gull grey skies

once our love was at high tide

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Little Boy

Dec. 7th, 2013 | 01:04 pm

The memories undig themselves
Uncurl themselves
In this small part of a large town
Like earthworms
Brought by sudden rains
Emerging, pink and raw in the mud
Leaving spring trails...

And oracles
That would take me down
To where feet resound
By the pool and the auction house
Galleons cast on painted seas -
Oh, like Ulysses
How I longed for that sadness to pass...
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Little boy
If I could pin
Your butterfly wings
To the page of our past
I would give,
Give anything
To catch you spindle-legs
Home from the park

Hold my breath
Fingers and thumbs
Count to a thousand and ten
Till you come home again
But the bunting is down
And just one candle burns instead…

When you were young
Our mother held
You up to see
A palace that was burning
Oh golden haze
And timbers blazing
Wheels that raced
Up the hillside all that morning


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If only they
Had caught the spark
The fatal mark
That seemed to give no warning
If only I
Had seen the sign
Oh darling I -
I could have stopped the falling
The falling
The falling...?


Little boy
If I could pin
Your butterfly wings
To the page of our past
I would give,
Give anything
To catch you spindle-legs
Home from the park

Hold my breath
Fingers and thumbs
Count to a thousand and ten
Till you come home again
But the bunting is down
And just one candle burns instead

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Cassandra Gallery - August 11th - 22nd 2013

Sep. 19th, 2013 | 12:48 pm

Ancient Cassandra (Dominique Baron-Bonarjee)  - photo by Lauren Franklin

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Day 1 at Royal Ballet School - Kate Church & Mara Galeazzi warming up

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Me & Mara having a stretch

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(Clockwise from left) Mara Galeazzi, Sebastian Goffin, Lauren Cuthbertson, Kate Church, Thomas Whitehead

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Bridge of Aspiration connecting Royal Ballet School where our initial workshopping took place, to Royal Opera House

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Tutus!

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Ludo choreographing Lauren Cuthbertson and Thomas Whitehead

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Essential debrief with cocktails on Queen Street (KC, me, KP, Ludo)

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Day pass!

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August view over London from Royal Opera House terrace

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Day 9 - Confusion setting in at Notes Cafe

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Happy faces post-sharing session @ The Clore studio, ROH

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The stellar crew - from left to right: Jo Hyde, Tom Rogerson, Alex Ward, Jasper Hoiby, Kate Keara Pelen, Sebastian Goffin, Kate Church, Ana Silvera, Ludovic Ondiviela, Mara Galeazzi, Lauren Cuthbertson, Thomas Whitehead

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Shooting Cassandra Day #1

Jul. 20th, 2013 | 12:11 pm

Our first proper Cassandra day was at the Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead, generously loaned to us by owner Leonie Scott-Matthews. Dominique, aka the Cassandra of antiquity. A magnificent team effort under sweltering conditions.

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Cassandra Project: Magic & Accident

Jul. 17th, 2013 | 07:36 pm

How on earth am I going to start writing about this project? I mean, it's so sort of, massive in every respect. In what it means to me and to us, the team that has gathered around it. The origins, its inception - a good decade ago in a café mid-winter near Kollwitzplatz, Berlin where I was living at the time, sitting with my dear friend Joanna and talking about the power of dance to communicate certain things that words can not. Certain extreme states - madness, transcendence, overwhelming sadness and beauty. Yes, that's what music is also for, but to combine those two elements...well, wow.

So I could hardly have imagined that many years on from that initial, rich and fascinating discussion (you know, the kind where you feel sparks are literally flying about the table, and the flow of ideas are seamlessly interconnected), I would be sitting in a meeting at the Royal Opera House with RB dancer Ludovic Ondiviela, and the director Kevin O'Hare, discussing ways of bringing this project into reality with some of the best dancers in the world.

Once again, the chain that led me to that meeting came about through a series of coincidences - Kate Church, my long time film-making collaborator and great friend trained at the Royal Ballet School (yep, it really is as tough as it's reputed to be, children getting picked off each year if they fail to meet the rigorous standards required) and brought Ludo along to a concert of mine at the Vortex. Beforehand, during sound check, I'd been playing a song of mine, 'Halos', and I could see Kate dancing beautifully to the music, out of the corner of my eye. "We have to do a project with you dancing!" I said. So that got the ball rolling. And once Ludo expressed enthusiasm (he's rapidly moving from Royal Ballet dancer to in-demand choreographer), that was it.

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Me and Ludo at the Royal Opera House // Me and Kate Keara Pelen enjoying the Welsh sea front // Kate Church in Kensal Green cemetery during the shoot of Oracles, 2011

From there, it was an absolute no-brainer to get another talented long-term collaborator (as visual artist/photographer/singer/glockenspiel-ist) and also great friend, Kate Keara Pelen on board (she and Kate C have been close friends since University, and may be referred to for convenience as DupliKate). As the core team of 4, we have developed the concept of this project, entitled 'Soliloquy for Cassandra', and will also be co-directing it. It's astonishing how in synch we all are with the vision of this piece, whilst having our own particular perspectives to enrich the process as a whole.

The title, "Soliloquy..." refers to a poem by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, who was introduced to me by my terrific (and terrifically erudite) friend Benjamin Ramm. I received a book of Szymborska's poems from him as a present, and was extremely struck by the image of the mythic character who loses her mind when granted the gift of prophecy thanks (?) to Apollo. This legend marks a starting point in our work for a reflection on what it means to be "insane" in our modern-day world; how society reacts to this state of being; and the complexity of the experience itself. Of course this theme has deeply personal resonances for me, and more on that as we go. But perhaps this quote from Pascal sums it up for now: ‘Men are so necessarily mad, that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness’ - (Les Pensées).

We start our official 10 day R&D period with all the dancers at the Royal Opera House on the 12th August, including our own Kate C, Royal Ballet principals Lauren Cuthbertson, Mara Galeazzi plus soloist Tom Whitehead. We're on a last minute search for dancer number 5 so candidates, please step forward. (Do you do a great Macarena at weddings? Always thought you have an unusual capacity to star jump? Maybe it's you?).

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Lauren

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Mara

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Tom


For the past few months, the core foursome (and our names satisfyingly create the acronym ALKK...mmm, cocktails) have been busy working, composing, envisaging, conceptualising, chatting excitedly, occasionally annoying each other and making up and hugging (trees, dogs, each other, you know..) and we're all super excited that the wheels are now properly in motion.

Today (Wednesday) is our first day properly "Cassandra-ing', shooting a video component to the piece at Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead with dancer Dominique Baron-Bonarjee whom I met in a bar in Dalston a few years back. We stayed in touch a little over the years, and amazingly she's now coming on board to play the onscreen role of Cassandra. She's trained for the past few years in Japanese Butoh, a mesmeric dance form that uses slow, hyper-controlled movement, so it should be a really interesting meeting of worlds.
Coincidentally, her parents live in the same place that Ludo is from in France (Perpignon). This morning they will meet for the first time to work through some movements, and then we will begin shooting.

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Dominique

Kate Church and I went to scope the theatre out on Monday. It's run by an old friend of my late mother's, Leonie Scott-Matthews, and she had as many tales to tell as the number of nights the theatre has been up and running (since 1968...you do the maths!). Disastrous marriages, the hilarious one-upmanship of actresses, small time drug dealers and stories of her own Technicolour life, lived with a commitment to (capital A) Art, bohemian Hampstead in the 70's, her son who left home never to appear again, and her daughter who searched for him on the advice of a psychic in India and Paris for months on end, in vain. She also fondly recalled my mother in the following way: "Ah yes, your mother, she was so beautiful. Terrible attention span though. Did some work for me, a bit of typing, attention wandered after 5 minutes. But what a 60s child, I'll always remember her, with her scent of patchouli and her long dark hair falling over her face, perched on a bar in the Hollybush pub up the road waiting for a bloke to buy her a drink. It never took very long". Kate, who never met my mother, said it made her laugh as Leonie was describing her in precisely the way she'd seen her in her mind's eye.

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Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead

I performed in a production of Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Intimacy' 10 years back at Pentameters, and by strange coincidence the exact same production is about to be reprised with the very same actresses I worked with all that time ago. It was also the year Leonie's son went missing.

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Kate and fluffy mog on Monday, Well Walk, Hampstead

Yesterday we were at the Royal Opera House for one last meeting before the R&D begins and to talk through tomorrow's shoot.

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Kate & Ludo at my favourite cafe, Notes (white chocolate brownie just in shot)

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London, as seen from Royal Opera House backstage

and we bumped into Mara and her sweet baby daughter, who may be joining us for some rehearsals (who knows, maybe she'll land a part...).

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Let the dancing begin!

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JULY

Jul. 3rd, 2013 | 02:03 pm



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On a baking July day
I watch your skin turn the colour of toast
Lemonade skies, girls making eyes
Who can blame them? I don't, when it comes to you, love...

You were earning for a journey down south
While I was aiming for the sweet climes of your mouth
Who were you then, with your secrets kept hidden
As razor clams, under the shell of your heart?

Roaring pines and unmade minds
We drove back to your house for a coffee and smoke
Where your father planted the vine that grew long as the years
He was missing the most

You were burning to get out of here
Well, I was happy just to share a little air
Who was I then, with my secret love hidden
As crocuses under the snow of my heart?

I see you standing, by the mountains and the moon
Tracing out my life line, while the stars were spread like runes
And everything was changing, like the clouds that swept our view
Changing your face, from gold into blue
Changing your face, from old into new

Who were we then, with our secrets kept hidden?
Who were we then, with our secret love hidden?

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Soliloquy for Cassandra

Jun. 12th, 2013 | 08:03 pm

So some of you may have noticed I've been very quiet on the gigs/updates front recently. I can finally announce what I've been working on now - I'm absolutely thrilled to be developing a new project (as singer/composer/performer) with dancers from the Royal Ballet  and co-created with two previous collaborators, whose names many of you will be familiar with - Kate Church (who directed the Oracles film, and who will also be dancing in this piece) and Kate Keara Pelen (often lending her sweet harmonies to my songs, as well as my principal photographer/ designer) alongside talented choreographer (and dancer with RB) Ludovic Ondiviela. The project's working title is 'Soliloquy for Cassandra'.

In the next blog I'll explain how this all came about plus pictures from our rehearsals! Check back soon xx

Picture Book!

We are blessed to have not one, but two Royal Ballet principals involved, Lauren Cuthbertson and Mara Galeazzi

Lauren:

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Mara:

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as well as Royal Ballet soloists Thomas Whitehead

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and Paul Kay

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