Cork City Ballet makes great leaps forward

 Cork City Ballet director Alan Foley has helped ensure that his home city is blessed with visiting stars. Picture: Miki Barlok
Cork City Ballet director Alan Foley has helped ensure that his home city is blessed with visiting stars. Picture: Miki Barlok

Cork City Ballet has come a long way since its foundation, as evidenced by the fact that international stars are willing to accept invitations to perform here.

Credit for this must most certainly go to founder and director Alan Foley, who started his own training at Joan Denise Moriarty’s ballet school in teenage days and later studied at the Harrison School in London and the Balanchine in New York before returning to JDM as both principal dancer and teacher.

He was also the first Irish male dancer to train at the legendary Kirov Ballet Summer School. “I never thought they’d accept me, but they did, and it was an experience I’ll never forget,” he says. “There were dancers there from all over the world, and we worked day and night. I was emaciated when I came back.”

Foley set up Cork City Ballet in 1991 and when he got sufficient funding from the Arts Council, took the brave step of making it a full-time professional company. Since then, he has been the most indefatigable of promoters, keeping classical dance at the forefront of the Irish cultural scene, presenting professional performances and bringing in guest stars of international renown to grace our stages. In the company he assembles for each gala performance, the Diploma in Dance he directs at Colaiste Stiofain Naofa, and his ballet school, here is a man who has never faltered in his drive to ensure that the genre holds its rightful place in this country.

It comes at a cost, though. “People love to have the ballet there, to be able to go to performances and enjoy it all, but they don’t always realise just how expensive it is to put on each performance. I used to get tutus from New York but they cost £1,000 each. Now I go to the Perm or the Kirov, and visiting dancers often offer us costumes as well, which are always gratefully accepted.”

For this very special occasion, he is planning a gala performance with a programme to suit all tastes, including excerpts from Swan Lake, Paul Simon’s Bodyguard and Patricia Crosbie’s superb creation, Playboy of the Western World. He has also finalised arrangements to bring over prima ballerina Lucia Lacarra and her partner Marlon Dino to Cork Opera House in November.

Spanish-born Lacarra was just 15 when she danced Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante with the Victor Ullate company in Madrid. From there she joined Roland Petit´s Ballets de Marseille, and is now star of the Bavarian State Ballet. Her Albanian-born partner, Marlon Dino, trained at the School of Choreography and Ballet in Tirana before joining the Genève Dance Centre and then the Ballet of the Vienna State Opera. He is now principal dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet. “It’s wonderful to have two such stars coming over to help us celebrate our 21st birthday,” says Foley. “And it will give our audiences the opportunity to see the finest that ballet can offer today.”

It is also of huge benefit to his company, he points out, as well as the young and eager students in his ballet school. “They can come to classes with the visiting stars, see them working at the barre, learn so much from them. You don’t get opportunities like that at every dance academy.”

* Ballet Spectacular Gala, Cork Opera House, Nov 21-23. 021-4270022 or www.corkoperahouse.ie

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