I couldn't sleep last night, I was up till almost 4 in the morning tossing and turning, I felt like a child trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve. I have wanted to go to the White Lodge Museum and ballet resource center since the moment I learned of it's existence and when planning this trip all other adventures and exhibits had to work their way around this one.
Since before the age of two I have sat down with the girls to watch clips of different ballet's, choreographers and dancers. It was only in the past few weeks during one of these viewings that the girls began asking questions about these amazing Russian dancers and the why, hows and who's of dancers that defected. Sometimes the non stop questions of my 2, 5 year old can feel like an interrogation.
So this is how they came to learn of Rudolf Nureyev.
It just so happened that the newest exhibit at White Lodge was "Rudolf Nureyev: In search of Perfection" so I was extra excited that they would be familiar with his work when we got there.
We also have been learning in our Mommy School time about children who actually go away to special school to study dance along with all their other academic studies. The purpose of these schools is to create dancers who will go on to become professionals. White Lodge among it's rich aristocratic history is the home for the Royal Ballet Lower School, where kids ranging from ages 11-16 live and study.
The school is outside of London in a town called Richmond. It may not be far to the city but when traveling by train, subway, bus and then a mile walk it does take some time to get to. But the town is sweet and the walk through the Richmond park is breath taking. I felt like I should be on horse back releasing the hounds to go duck hunting, it was the perfect backdrop for a period piece.
On our walk we played with woolly bears.
and then this beauty decided to join us on our walk. On the hill in the distance you could see between 75 and 100 of them resting and grazing.
Finally we made it to the entrance gate where we met the driver who would take us through the gates. The house was completed in 1730 and became a favorite retreat for George II and his wife Queen Caroline. From there it has a long history of royal occupancy but in 1955 is when it became home to the Royal Ballet School.
Through the french doors that lead to the deck in the photo above is the most gorgeous studio I have ever laid eyes on. This studio is only used for private lessons now but it was in this very room that Edward the 8th was christened.
Estee immediately took off her shoes and began dancing.
We weren't allowed to wonder the halls because it is the home for these kids and their school was in session. Also we were not allowed to photograph the students as they walked the halls but the girls were very excited to wave and say hello to them as they made their way to class holding their character skirts.
Here Estee is dancing in the grass in front of the Margot Fonteyn studio
Margot Fonteyn's Odette costume
Anna Pavlova's vanity
This is a statue of Margot Fonteyn, the middle finger of her hand has faded because it is a ritual among the students to touch her finger every time they pass for luck.
Coppélia held tight before saying goodbye.
Fortunately for us we had a much easier time getting home. The driver of the lodge was kind enough to drive us to the nearest train station and later we transferred to a double decker bus where the girls were able to check off on their "Katie In London" tour.