Monday, 29 February 2016

Wimbledon, the Outdoor Theater and Jenny's Incredible Story

Two weeks and two new venues, I didn't think it was possible that there were still theatres that we had not yet performed in.

Last week we took 'The Last Tango' to the Wimbledon new theatre right in the hustle and bustle of Wimbledon town centre. It is always nice to be central as it means there are lots of different options for food which is always a priority, to me anyway.

The theatre was very busy all week and we had some fantastic audiences so thank you to everybody that came to support us. Being so near London it always means that lots of friends, family, agents come to watch the show and so during the whole week the ambience on stage tends to be a little bit heightened which makes for some good performances.

This week is the last week of the first part of our tour and we end at another new venue 'The Hawth' in Crawley. A very modern and new theatre set outside the city centre, therefore a little more planning has to go into, what do we eat? Luckily I was commuting and therefore took a packed lunch with me every day, I had some delicious 'Mistry meals' to keep me going.

As most of you know I love walking and as I was having my packed lunch sitting at a garden table outside the theatre I realised that opposite me was a beautiful forest. Seeing as I'd arrived early and had a little time to spare, I went for a little walk, as I got slightly further into the forest following the muddy paths I came to a most surreal scenario, an outdoor theatre.

It was so lovely to see, there was a stage area and then the surrounding seating was all made of grass. A really clever idea and lovely little surprise for me to come across, if it had been Mediterranean weather I would have suggested taking 'The Last Tango' outside!

As I mentioned earlier, when we perform in venues near London we tend to get lots of friends, family colleagues etc coming to watch the show and this week was no exception. For Vincent and I it's often people we used to teach. So many times we meet people at stage door who say 'you won't remember but you taught us our wedding dance', others who were more regular students you see and recognise straight away. It always brings a smile to our faces as we recall that busy time in our careers. This week we met a lovely couple who we used to teach regularly in our classes. They had contacted me via email and said they'd like to say hello at stage door. Jenny has been through a transformation that simply blew both myself and Vincent away. it's such an incredible achievement that I asked if she would write a few paragraphs for my blog as I felt her story was so inspirational I just had to share it. Even if it inspires just one other person and encourages them, it's got to be worth it, trust me, you will be amazed!

Meet Jenny

After years of struggling with my weight, I was offered a place for a year on a 'Why weight' scheme, which included a suitable exercise programme and a 'for life' eating plan. Their aim was for me to lose 2- 3kg each month, so that the weight would stay off.

At the end of the year I'd lost over 4 stone but then everything just stopped and there
was no advice on what to do next. Having been to the classes at Guildford and also seeing Flavia and Russell Grant talk about it, I bought the Zalza DVD. It suited my level of fitness and I used it daily, I also found that the nutritional advice was compatible with my eating programme.

Eventually I discovered aquarobic classes at a leisure centre, then I joined their gym and two years ago learnt to swim, which culminated in swimming in a Swimathon last year where I swam 1 1/2 Km in under an hour. I've continued to use the DVD as it's
fun and easy to fit into my day.
I've now lost over 10 stone and I'm quite literally half the person I was!
My life now includes regular
visits to the gym, walking, swimming and dancing. I'm now fitter, healthier, happier and more confident than I've been for years,
shopping is also now a pleasurable experience! My only regret is not
doing it earlier.
I'm half the person I was and I've been at my ideal weight for 9 months now and managing to keep it there.I know its the keeping it off that is more difficult than losing
the weight! Jen

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Sunderland, the Life of Rudolf Nureyev and More Adorable Dogs!

Sorry for the late post of the blog this week, I've been busy with various things but better late than never! Last week the last tango tour took us to the Sunderland Empire, another of the UK's beautiful theatres.

Even though the auditorium is ornate and has been kept in its original state, the dressing rooms have been very nicely refurbished. A particularly nice touch is that every room has been named and dedicated to a past performer.
We have been to the Sunderland Empire several times now with our three shows and my dressing room is always Rudolf Nureyev's, you can't really ask for much more can you!
As a performer each week you look for something (even very small) that will inspire you and keep you alive on stage, being in Nureyev's dressing room does the trick for me.

In each dressing room you will find the performers photograph in a lovely frame and next to it a short biography of their life story, Nureyev's always brings a tear to my eye. I had no idea he passed away at the young age of 54 from a terrible illness, and I cannot believe an amazing dancer like him, had to go through such harsh rejection from the audience at this very theatre during his 'farewell tour'. I can only imagine how painful that must have been for him, and wonder if that did not contribute in some way to his health declining further. 

Here is a short biography for him.

"Rudolf Nureyev was born on the trans-Siberian train while his mother Farida was travelling to Vladivostok where his father Hamat, a Red Army political commissioner was stationed. He was raised as the only son in a Tatar family in a village near Ufa in Soviet Republic of Bashkiria. When his mother smuggled him and his sisters into a performance of the Ballet 'Song of the cranes' he fell in love with Dance. As a child he was encouraged to dance and his precocity was soon noticed by teachers who encourage him to train in Leningard, where he trained at the Kirov Ballet School.

Owing to the disruption of Soviet cultural life caused by World War II, Nureyev was unable to enrol in a major ballet school until 1955 age 17, when he was accepted by the Leningrad choreographic School. In his three years with the Kirov, he Dance 15 roles and became one of the Soviet union's best known dances.

In 1961 Nureyev was chosen as the Kirvo's leading male dancer on the European tour and his performances in Paris electrified audiences and critics. Nureyev's first appearance in Britain was at a Ballet matinee organised by the Royal Ballet's prima ballerina Dame Margot Fontaine.

His first appearance with the company was partnering Margot Fontaine in Gizelle on 21 February 1962. Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fontaine became long-standing dance partners and continue to dance together for many years after Nureyev's departure from the Royal Ballet. Their last performance together was in 'Baroque Pas de Trois' on 16 September 1988 when Fontaine was 69 the Nureyev was aged 50. Nureyev once said to Fontaine that they danced with "one body", one soul".

In 1962, Nureyev made his screen debut in the film version of 'Les Sylphides' and in 1977 he played Rudolph Valentino in Ken Russell's 'Valentino'. but he had decided against an acting career in order to branch into modern dance with the Dutch National Ballet in 1968. In 1972, Robert Helpmann invited him to tour Australia with his own production of Don Quixote, his directional debut. The film version (1973) features Nureyev, Lucette Aldous as Kitri, Hepmann as Le Don Quixote and artist of the Australian Ballet.

During the 1970s Nureyev appeared in several films and toured through the United States in a revival of the Broadway musical 'the king and I'. He was one of the guest stars on the television series the Muppet show where he danced in a parody called 'Swine Lake' sang 'baby it's cold outside' in a hot tub duet with Miss Piggy, and sang and danced in the show's finale, 'top hat'. In 1982 he became a naturalised Australian. In 1983, he was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where, as well as directing, he continued to dance and to promote younger dancers. He remained there as a dancer and chief of choreography until 1989.

It was 1991 in the twilight of his career that Rudolf Nureyev came to the Sunderland Empire with his 'farewell tour' Nureyev and friends. Unfortunately the show wasn't well received starting late after last-minute changes in the programme by Nureyev. The production also famously featured a ballet danced in complete silence when a cassette player was not switched on. It was the Empire however that had to cope with outraged fans demanding their money back, it even had to fight successfully a legal battle with one disgruntled theatregoer who sued for the return of his ticket price and travelling expenses

When Nureyev started to become ill he simply denied for several years that anything was wrong. When about 1990 he became undeniably ill, he is said to have tried several experimental treatments. Unfortunately they did not stop his deteriorating health. His final work was a production of 'la Bayadere' at the Palais Garnier in 1992 and for which he received a standing ovation. The French culture Minister Jack Lang presented him with France's highest cultural award, the 'Commendeur de l'Orde des Arts et des Lettres'. A few months later he passed away January to 6th 1993 at the age of 54 years old. He was buried at the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve -Des-Bois, near Paris."

Luckily for me, this week saw the return of 'Tony and Teddy's tea Tours'.
As we were in Sunderland we decided a trip to the beautiful Durham Cathedral was in order. I'd never been to Durham before and seeing as I love visiting old churches iand have visited many in cities all over the world, I was very much looking forward to it.
Durham Cathedral certainly did not disappoint, absolutely stunning in every way. It is known to be amongst the greatest churches ever built. What I always find difficult to digest is that it begun to be built in 1081 and took around 40 years to be completed.

Most of the cathedral was built in the Norman Romanesque style. As we were walking round admiring such incredible architecture we couldn't help but wonder how on earth they ever managed to build such intricacy out of such heavy materials and at such great heights with minimal tools and technology at their disposal, It almost doesn't seem possible. I did have a chuckle to myself as I though about how complicated and expensive it can be nowadays to get a single storey extension built on your house. I do wonder if today's architects and builders would even be capable of creating such beauty out of such impressive materials?

At the end of our visit to Durham Cathedral we decided to go for a spot of lunch, and what better than a Chinese buffet on the beautiful river that overlooks the stunning cathedral.
Very nice it was too, I especially liked my jasmine tea..

In the short time we were there it was clear to see Durham is a very vibrant place to live, with both beautiful historic buildings and at the same time a real buzz of students from the university. A lot of beautiful walks to go on too which is something that's always on top of my wish list.

On the way back from Durham we decided to take a stop at South Shields so Mabel could stretch her legs and have a run around. We stopped off by the coast in a place called Leas right at the edge of a cliff where the drop was certainly extreme. Mabel who is fearless as most dogs are was always venturing that little bit to close to the edge for my liking, but she knew exactly where she was going and what she was doing.
The views were spectacular as you can see from the photos and the drive back along the coast all the way to the Sunderland Empire was the perfect cherry on the cake. Thank you 'Tony and Teddy's tea tours' for another fab day out!

Check these photos out. They certainly put a smile my face this week,

Pets That Are Stuck But Pretending Everything Is Fine

Next week were at the New Wimbledon Theatre come say hi if you're around. See you next week x
Tweets Of The Week
First tweet of the week goes to Melissa Chappell ‏@MellyChaps
Best one yet. @FlaviaCacace and @vincentsimone brilliant in #TheLastTango

Second tweet of the week goes to Norman ‏@BeldomN
@FlaviaCacace @Dilly4 Must get rid of this dog he keeps digging up the garden! LoL

By.Flavia news & tip of the week

This is going to be a very exciting year for the By.Flavia range, I'm still working on and perfecting my sweet almond oil scrub and matching bubble bath. Very much looking forward to sharing these new products with you all once I am completely happy with them. There will also be some exciting promotions in the lead up to Valentine's Day so watch this space for some not to be missed special offers. 

You can see our full range of By.Flavia products by visiting our website here.

Final thought

Check out National doodle day and place your bids x

Hope you have a great week, see you next time.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Do you Believe in Ghosts?

This week we had a Tuesday start at the Bristol Hippodrome theatre, it was officially our busiest week on tour in all the six years we've been travelling around the UKI and Ireland so definitely one to be celebrated. We thank all our audiences very much for continuously supporting us on this journey.

Travelling across the UK we are privileged to perform in some of the most beautiful theatres around the country, the majority of them are very old and have a huge amount of history. The architecture is often incredibly beautiful and I always think back to many years gone by and all the performers that have set foot on stage. The dressing rooms are often left dated, a little cold and tend to have no windows. This might not sound very pleasant however there is always something quite comforting and inspiring about them.
To me they are like my second home when on tour.

We opened the show on Tuesday night and had eight performances in five days which always makes for a tough week, plus some rehearsal time to make sure the show is at its best.

During Tuesday's performance I had a rather interesting experience during our final tango number. Whilst performing on stage I tend not to look at the audience at all because I don't want to break that fourth wall and I like to live in the world that is our stage, I generally try to pretend there is no one there.
However on Tuesday night as I was flicking and spinning around something caught my eye in the lower balcony on the right side of the stage, looking out it was very dark and misty so faces are not visible at all, however, I saw the face of a man, it was grey and lit with little to no hair and his eyes seemed sunken and dark. Obviously I wanted to turn to Vincent immediately and say "can you see that too?" but we were a little busy at the time LOL not sure how I didn't kick him?
The next day during warm up I looked out at the area where I saw the mans face and strangely enough there are no seats there, just a staircase leading to an exit.
Now it may have been an usher waiting to escort people out at the end of the show but why could I only see his face and why was he lit?
I tried doing a little research as often we hear about ghost stories at the various theatres we go to, I couldn't find anything on the Bristol hippodrome but I did find the below write up which I thought you might find interesting. Some of the theatres we are still due to perform at so I'll be keeping my eyes and ears open... Spooky stuff!!!!

Ghost Stories from our Haunted Theatres
Written by Patrick Kennedy

Since theatre began, staff working at theatre venues have unwillingly witnessed a disturbing amount of weird paranormal activity. We take a look at ghost stories from some of our most haunted theatres, from Brighton's Theatre Royal, Bromley's Churchill Theatre, Glasgow's King's Theatre, The Liverpool Empire, Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre, Oxford's New Theatre, Stoke's Victoria Hall, Richmond Theatre, and The Edinburgh Playhouse to New Wimbledon Theatre - Light a candle, grab a cuppa and be prepared for the fright of your life! A few of the spooky stories of some theatres we have visited are below!

Theatre Royal Brighton's ghost story

One dark and spooky night at the Theatre Royal Brighton, a dear member of the technical team was doing his usual evening lockup around the dimmed backstage area. As he finished his checks near the stage he glanced over his shoulder towards the ramp leading to the darkened stage and saw the figure of a young girl. He called to her to inform her that the theatre was closed and she had to leave. She grimmaced at the technician, giggled softly and ran into the darkness of the stage. Our technician chased after her but she was never found. Sometimes that soft giggle is still heard high above in the rafters.

Churchill Theatre Bromley's ghost story

In 1979 the theatre's photographer was commissioned to take some photos of the auditorium. He arrived early and unlocked the auditorium himself and turned on some lights. Some of the front seats had been removed to make space for BBC television cameras. When he developed his film he found a ghostly figure of a man who appeared to be shining a torch where the empty seats were (roughly around seats B7-8).

A past theatre critic, who reviewed shows while the theatre was still called New Theatre, also reported that on several occasions he had also seen a figure of a man standing in front of seat B8, but that this unknown man disappeared when he turned to get a better view of him. Does the New Theatre's ghost still tread the boards of the new Churchill Theatre that stands in the New Theatre's stead?

Liverpool Empire's ghost stories

A little girl with blond hair aged between 8-12 years old, in Victorian dress has been seen many times at the back of the stalls or in the stalls bar. She is often crying, but if approached or spoken to she disappears. Sometimes she is seen being taken away by a tall man with dark glasses or no eyes. Both disappear when they are approached. They are usually seen late at night after the show has ended, as the theatre being locked up. Legend has it that the little girl died falling from the circle to the stalls, but there is no documentary evidence to prove that.
In the old dressing room S (stage right), a number of people reported seeing a black shape or phantom in the mirror when the door was opened. However, when you turned around to look, there was nothing there. The Black Phantom has had a very sinister presence, and lots of people used to refuse to go up there alone. However, dressing room S is now part of the large wardrobe on stage right and the Phantom has not been seen since the refurbishment.

New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham's ghost story

Former Manager Derek Salberg, who died in his office at the theatre, is said to haunt the theatre. Strange occurrences such as knocking on the door and print being knocked over have happened in the Salberg Suite, which was his office. The ghost of a cleaning lady has often been seen sitting in the grand circle and walking up and down the stairs and in the auditorium.

Richmond Theatre's ghost story

Richmond Theatre has a long and terrifying history of ghosts, probably more so than in any other ATG venue. But there is one story that haunts the memory of Richmond staff more than most. Several people, including Richmond's current General Manager Kate Wrightson, have felt someone walking behind them when going up the stairs that lead to the oldest parts of the original theatre. It is here, where the print stores are currently found, that a plaque remains for a man who died at the theatre many decades ago.

Little is known about what caused his death, but reports of related disturbances and strange occurrences here and in the sub-stage have been documented as far back as the 1960s. Staff have come down to the two print stores to find that boxes of flyers and other materials have been switched between the two rooms, even though the doors had been locked up and the keys returned to the box office for the evening. Actors in the dressing rooms above the sub-stage area would claim doors were being slammed post-performances as the theatre was locked up, although no member of staff was in the print store area at the time. One box office assistant spoke of reaching the bottom of the same stairs, only to hear them creaking and groaning with the weight of a person who was simply not there. When the last step had creaked - at the point where the assistant stood - they then felt a sharp chill run down their body as if something was passing through them.

These small incidents have naturally unnerved those working at the theatre, but they didn't see them as connected until a particularly disturbing incident one autumn evening in the late 80s.
One of the theatre administrators was covering stage door while the theatre was dark. Being one of the only members of staff left in the building, they were just packing up to leave when a scratching could be heard on the tannoy.
Assuming this was nothing more than interference with the tannoy system, the staff member left it and the scratching soon stopped. A few minutes later, as the staff member was about to leave out through stage door, the scratching started again but this time the sound was more purposeful, as if someone was running their nails down a piece of wood.
The staff member decided to check back on stage to see what it was, but as they walked through the corridor towards the stage left entrance, they heard the scratching again. This time, however, the sound was coming from a different source - the bottom of the stairs that lead to the sub-stage.
Investigating further, they walked down into the corridor with the print stores and saw a door was open. Walking inside, the staff member turned on the light - to hear the sound of a box being scratched, the sight of nail marks being made on the cardboard, but no one there to make them. The light bulb was then said to have blown and in that moment, the scratching gave way to the sound of the cardboard tearing and through the darkness, the staff member could just about make out a man with his extended arm pulling at the boxes on the top shelf. The terrified staff member ran out just as one of those boxes fell, spilling its contents all over the print store floor behind them.
The next day, the staff member reported what had happened but refused to go back down to recreate what they saw. One of the box office staff ventured down instead, and found the door open. Inside was the box of flyers spilt over the floor, and what could just be made out as two footprints in the dust of one corner. It turned out the man who the plaque had been dedicated to had suffered fatal head injuries after a storage unit of boxes had collapsed on him back in the early 1930s - in that very room.

So as not to leave you all on this note, especially if you are reading this late at night I thought I'd share what I think is probably the funniest review I was shown by someone from our week in Bristol. This will lighten up the mood. Sweet dreams!!


THE LAST TANGO at the Bristol Hippodrome

Outside Primark two friends meet.
Kelly: ‘Ere, Joyce, what you doin’ tonight?
Joyce: ‘Allo Kelly, love. I dunno, why?
Kelly: I saw that Last Tango last night at the Hippodrome.
Joyce: What’s that then?
Kelly: It’s them dancers off the telly. Them Strictly dancers.
Joyce: Good was it?
Kelly: It were Gert Lush. You wanna take your Lee, he’ll love it.
Joyce: Musical is it?
Kelly: Well there’s music – and some singing. They’re right talented, them singers, what with dancing at the same time and that. But that Flavia, you know, the one with the bob, she can’t half dance. Wish I could dance like that: all that leg flicking round the bloke, dead sexy. And that Vincent, wouldn’t mind getting Tangoed with him.
(They both laugh.)
He’s well fit. Mind you she keeps herself trim.
Joyce: All that dancing I expect. And she probably lives off salads. What’s it about, then?
Kelly: Well there’s this fat bloke in an attic, an old geezer, who’s goin’ through ‘is stuff and he pulls out something, from his past like, and they come on and do a dance. So like something reminds him when he met his wife and they dance about meeting. You know, Vincent’s him when he was young, he’s remembering himself.
Joyce: And she’s his wife?
Kelly: That’s it, yeah and it goes through ‘is life, well their life: getting married, having babies, off to war…
Joyce: It’s not modern day then?
Kelly: Well the old bloke’s like now. Comes up to date and she’s dead.
Joyce: That’s a bit sad.
Kelly: Doesn’t stop ‘em dancing though.
Joyce: Just them two is it?
Kelly: No there’s loads of them. They’re brilliant.
Joyce: All doin’ the Tango are they?
Kelly: No, don’t be silly, you couldn’t have just one dance: they do the Charlston, and a waltz and a jive and that skippy one – all of them, like they do on Strictly.
Joyce: Them judges in it?
Kelly: No, I felt a bit cheated, I wanted Len to come on and say ’seven’, like he does. Or that Craig Neville whatssisname to swan on and give them a bollocking.
Joyce: Revel Hall.
Kelly: Horwood!
Joyce: He loves to stick the knife in.
Kelly: I couldn’t tell if they were doing it right or not. They could have been getting up to any old mullarky without the judges to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Joyce: I expect that’s why they do it, to let their hair down, give it some welly without fussing over their feet too much.
Kelly: Mind you I do like a bit of passion.
Joyce: That’s like my Lee; a bit of passion.
Kelly: (Laughing) Take him along, jog his memory, put ‘im in the mood. They’re very passionate when they dance, you can tell there’s something going on. They got a standing ovation at the end.
Joyce: I’ve always fancied doing those Salsa classes: you never know he might just take the hint.
Kelly: Good luck with that. Here’s my bus, see you.
Joyce: Bye. Thanks for the tip.
(They kiss and go their separate ways)

Next week we are at the Sunderland Empire, looking forward to seeing you there x

You can see our Tour ScheduleBuy Tickets and meet the New Cast for "The Last Tango" here

Tweets Of The Week
First tweet of the week goes to Kathryn Ellen @KathrynEPowell
@vincentsimone The Last Tango was phenomenal last night. Thank you so much for your time at SD as well. 💖

Second tweet of the week goes to Issie @IssieHaworthxo
Watched the last tango tonight was absolutely amazinggggg and met @vincentsimone and @FlaviaCacace ❤️🙈

By.Flavia news & tip of the week

This is going to be a very exciting year for the By.Flavia range, I'm still working on and perfecting my sweet almond oil scrub and matching bubble bath. Very much looking forward to sharing these new products with you all once I am completely happy with them. There will also be some exciting promotions in the lead up to Valentine's Day so watch this space for some not to be missed special offers. 

You can see our full range of By.Flavia products by visiting our website here.

Final thought

Check out National doodle day and place your bids x

Hope you have a great week, see you next time.