Thursday, 2 July 2009

A higher purpose

St Paul’s Cathedral stands tall and proud across the skyline of London as one of the most instantly recognisable and most admired buildings in the world. It was built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Its sumptuous golden interior is an awe-inspiring reminder of man’s faith in a greater good.

My blog is inspired by excellence and high performance and I have often thought of writing a piece about Cathedrals. They are a testament to vision, planning and leadership that go far beyond what most of us try to achieve in our working lives. St Paul’s Cathedral must surely be one of the most outstanding and lasting examples of what man can achieve.

Tuesday evening saw St Paul’s host worship of a different kind, however. One of our favourite and most accomplished ballet companies danced under St Paul’s magnificent dome to an appreciative audience. English National Ballet was performing at St Paul’s as part of the Festival of London and their ballet was in perfect harmony with their imposing surroundings.

I have made more than passing reference to the inherent excellence of ballet – it is an unforgiving art form that makes high demands on management and dancers alike. Those demands were more than met on Tuesday evening.

A new ballet choreographed by Thomas Edur started the evening – simple and disturbing it was a bold first act that was instantly judged a success by the audience. It was followed by Elena Glurdjidze dancing the Dying Swan to Sans-Saens’ beautiful music. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was in attendance to hear his rousing Orkney Wedding with Sunrise performed complete with a Scottish piper. It gave everyone a chance to enjoy the enormity of our surroundings, as well as the scale of his music.

The evening culminated in Thomas Edur and Agnes Oakes dancing in Les Sylphides, a favourite that I had seen just recently. Already poignant with its prayer-like simplicity, it was made all the more haunting by this being their last performance with English National Ballet. Individually and together they have danced with English National Ballet in principal roles for almost twenty years and will be missed by their many fans and colleagues.

The evening was a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the soul. And a reminder that excellence comes from deep within.

Photograph by English National Ballet


  1. To excel is a passion , yet more it is clearly about our inate values, but the challenge is how to inspire others to achieve similar? can one or is a given?

  2. An interesting question! Can you create a Darcy Bussell or do you just give her the right environment and let her flourish?

    There is a lot of evidence that it is the latter (work on Expertise and Expert Performance) and that we can inspire others to great things.

    Lighting the fire either in ourselves or our team is a wonderful thing.