La La Land’s choreography

New hit La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, is a movie musical for the 21st century full of tap, waltz, foxtrot, and with a huge nod to the 20th century musical classics. Choreography is a strong element in any musical, and the opening of La La Land depicts a typical, Los Angeles traffic jam, bumper-to-bumper traffic until the drivers get out of their cars and begin to sing and dance!

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Ballet Black at artsdepot

Ballet Black will present a triple bill of bold choreography on 28 March, founded in 2001 as Cassa Pancho’s award-winning, neo-classical ballet company. The bill will blend classical and contemporary choreography which is both narrative and abstract. The company celebrates international dancers of black and Asian descent and aims to bring ballet to a more culturally diverse audience by showcasing the talent of these dancers from around the world.

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Rosie Kay Dance Company’s new work

Rosie Kay Dance Company recently premiered new work MK ULTRA, focusing on the generational gap in knowledge about mind control conspiracies within pop culture today. The work is therefore inspired by pop-culture conspiracy theory and the Illuminati, a shadowy elite cult that brainwashes child actors and singers, and controls mass opinion through puppet performers (who brainwash with music videos and mass entertainment vehicles). This sits on a hotbed of ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts’ which often create headlines.

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The Theatreland Trail

Theatre ticket organisation TKTS, and annual ticket project Kids Week, have teamed up in order to bring theatre lovers a fun Theatreland Trail. Touted as perfect to do with the family, with a group of friends or even on your own, the Theatreland Trail will take participants on a journey throughout London’s Theatreland, where you can meet famous playwrights, see a whole host of theatres and enjoy the sights and smells of the West End.

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Taking The Next Step II

CBBC is offering young dancers aged 9-15 from across the UK a special opportunity – to audition for the chance to be part of a television show, performing with the cast of the hugely successful series, The Next Step. In order to apply, after gaining parental permission, all dancers need to do is complete an application form and send in a video of their best dance moves. Dancers must be aged between 9 and 15 years old on 1 April 2017.

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Sergei’s Project Polunin

March will see Project Polunin take to the Sadler’s Wells stage in London, with internationally acclaimed and notorious dancer Sergei Polunin dancing at the venue from Tuesday 14–Saturday 18 March. Project Polunin will draw together world-class artists for this new production, aiming to challenge perceptions of dance through live performance. In addition, the production hopes to act as a catalyst for a new generation of dance artists to explore what the future may bring.

Produced by the Polunin Partnership in association with Sadler’s Wells, Project Polunin is a triple bill of classical and modern pieces. The programme will include the UK premiere of Vladimir Vasiliev’s Icarus: The Night before the Flight, performed by Sergei Polunin and Natalia Osipova, and Tea or Coffee, a company piece choreographed by Andrey Kaydanovskiy. Polunin’s connection with Royal Ballet prima ballerina Osipova has seen his relationship with dance reverse, encouraging him to genuinely engage with the art form again.

The programme will also feature the world premiere of Narcissus & Echo, a piece created and composed by Ilan Eshkeri and co-created with Polunin and photographer and artist David LaChapelle. Polunin previously collaborated with LaChapelle, performing in his interpretation of Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’. Eshkeri wrote the music for Polunin’s biographical film Dancer, which was released in UK and Ireland cinemas on 10 March. It offers a uniquely personal portrait of Polunin, the man who took the dance world by storm and became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal. At the peak of his success, aged just 21, he walked away, his talent more a burden than a gift.

Founded by Polunin in 2015, Project Polunin aims to create new dance and ballet works through the collaboration of dancers with contemporary artists, musicians and choreographers. The ongoing project will help create new works in conjunction with other artists from film and music, and provide continuous support for dancers and choreographers.

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Watkins Dance Company – woman on a mission

Anna graduated from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in 2005. She has worked as a dancer with European Ballet, Neville Campbell, Pair Dance, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, MaxwellDanceProject and Motionhouse for its world premiere tour of ‘Broken’. Anna is a current dancer for Tavaziva Dance, having joined in 2007. She was Rehearsal Assistant from 2009–2010, Project Manager in 2014 and then Project Leader for ZIVA Youth Dance, Tavaziva’s youth company.

As a choreographer Anna has been commissioned to choreograph for several youth organistaions, such as English National Ballet Youth Company, Studio Danza 82 – Italy, Dance City Centre for Advanced Training (CAT), DanceEast CAT, Suffolk Youth Company, Third Row Dance Company, New College Youth Dance Company, Quicksilver (Rambert’s youth company) and LSC Expressive Arts. Anna’s work has been shown across the UK and internationally, and she was recently commissioned by English National Ballet as an associate artist and choreographer for Akram Khan’s Giselle.

Anna formed Watkins Dance Company in May 2011. In 2014 Anna was awarded funding from Grants for the Arts, Arts Council England for a Research and Development project to create work for her future national tour.

Photo credit: Ellen Yilma

Have you always wanted to be involved in dance and the performing arts?

Yes, I have been involved in dance and performing arts from the age of fourIt has always been my escape and ambitionI never predicted where it would take me but always knew it was where I belong.

Where did you train? What was it like?

I trained at the Rambert School. The school was great, and right for me as it offered both ballet and contemporary dance training to a high technical standard. The training pushes you as a dancer and gives you the solid foundation you need for the dance industry.

Who or what inspired you to create Watkins Dance Company?

I have been performing professionally for 11 years and choreography became an interest to me over timeI started to understand that my body can make movement, and how I could structure that to make my own work. This became an interest to make movement on other dancers and form my own company. I was never really taught how to choreograph as such, it is something that just started to happen from absorbing from others. 

My inspiration to create came from choreographer Bawren Tavaziva (Tavaziva Dance), an amazing choreographer for whom I have been a dancer for 10 years. Bawren encouraged and has mentored me throughout my careerI started off organising a platform for choreographers to showcase their work for a night, and went on to apply for funding from Arts Council England to produce a short tour of my work. This was the beginning, forming Watkins Dance Company in 2011.

What is a day in your life like?

A day in my life will vary throughout the year. As the Artistic Director for my own dance company I will be managing projects, choreographing for different organisations, guest teaching, funding applications – the list goes on! As well as this I am still performing outside of my own company work, therefore I will be still doing all of the above as well as rehearsing, teaching and touring. Sometimes I am in the dance studio, sometimes administrator, every day is different! 

What would you say your greatest achievement is?

Receiving Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts funding for my company. It was the most exciting news

What is your favourite part of your work?

To have the freedom for what you do next. Being a freelance artist enables me to take on as many skills as possible in the dance industry and work with different artists. 

What’s the best thing about dance?

I love knowing that I will be inspired when I go to workWhether it’s by music, the artists around me or even myself, it’s a feeling that is beyond all complications that exist in life. Being able to express yourself in such an extraordinary way that also inspires others is the most valuable part of dance. Dance is more than dance, it’s social skills, co-ordination, education, mentorship, communication and integration. 

And the worst thing?

Dance can only be enjoyable, but you have to have the passion and be ready to work hard in this industry. I would say what’s difficult is no artist ever entered it for the money, however there is a constant battle dancers and choreographers have to fight for respectable fees for their work. With maturity and experience this can become an important part of your decisions. 

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I always like to have at least five minutes to myself just to breathe and clear my head, so I can focus on bringing that energy for the show!

What would be your advice to an aspiring dance artist?

As a training dance artist you will receive a great deal of information. I think it is important, which again comes with maturity, to be yourself and take your own journey. There isn’t a fixed path, so break your own boundaries and reject the negativity that blocks possibilities for you. My main advice would be to always stay being an artist, never stop trying new things and be good at self-management.  

Crazy for Caroline Flack

The classic musical Crazy for You is soon to reappear around the UK, as it embarks on a UK tour this summer. Adding to the excitement of the musical reopening, television presenter Caroline Flack will make her stage debut in the UK tour. Flack previously won the 2014 series of Strictly Come Dancing – and trained at Bodyworks in Cambridge – so a step onto the musical theatre stage will not be at all taxing for the performer.

Flack is best known for presenting television programmes such as Love Island and The X Factor, her musical theatre training lending itself well to this line of work. It is not known if Flack’s move into musical theatre will be a permanent one, or whether she will return to presenting after the tour. Whilst involved in the production tour, however, Flack will play Irene. The production will also star Tom Chambers, who will reprise his role as Bobby from the Watermill’s production last year.

Directed by Paul Hart, Ira and George Gershwin’s musical comedy is about a wealthy man who falls in love with the daughter of the owner of a failing theatre in Nevada. It features the songs “I Got Rhythm”, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and “Embraceable You”.

Crazy for You will open at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on 17 August before touring the UK. It will head to Leeds (29 August to 2 September), Cardiff (5 to 10 September), Newcastle (12 to 16 September), Dublin (19 to 23 September), Southend (26 to 30 September), Nottingham (3 to 7 October), Bristol (10 to 14 October), Birmingham (24 to 28 October), Norwich (31 October to 4 November), Sheffield (7 to 11 November), Southampton (21 to 25 November), Manchester (28 November to 2 December) and Liverpool (5 to 9 December).

Annie – starring Miranda Hart

Much-loved comedian Miranda Hart is set to make her West End debut in the musical Annie, playing the notorious Miss Hannigan in Nikolai Foster’s show. Foster will direct the new production of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, London to open in May this year, a distinct change for Hart renowned for her stand-up comedic talents. Musical theatre will be a new string to her bow, with fans anticipated to support the star’s venture into singing, dancing and acting.

Based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie, the musical is set in 1930s New York during the Great Depression, and follows Annie who is forced to live a life of misery in Miss Hannigan’s orphanage. The musical has a book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, and has been recreated from the iconic and original film resulting in a version starring Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan and the addition of some musical numbers.

For Hart, Miss Hannigan, which was played by Carol Burnett in the 1982 film, is a “dream role”. At present Hart is best known for her BBC sitcom Miranda, and her theatre credits include Cruising (Bush Theatre), Come Out Eli (Battersea Arts Centre) and All About Me (Soho Theatre). Hart appears to have found her musical theatre calling, with a new spring in her step a result of the enjoyment she gets from performing and rehearsing the musical.

The last West End production of Annie opened at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1998, so it is many years since the city has seen any version of the musical. It will soon be ready to open again in London, and Annie will run at the Piccadilly Theatre from 5 June 2017 to 6 January 2018, with previews from 23 May.