Transitions Dance Company at 40

Transitions Dance Company

In 1972 choreographer Bonnie Bird created the first generation of the Transitions Dance Company, the first course of its type in the UK to bridge the gap between studying dance and the professional world. With many dance schools and conservatoires surfacing throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, observations are often made about the number of graduate dance students attempting to find work in the professional sector of the arts as a whole. However, Transitions – amongst other “bridging” companies such as the London Contemporary Dance School’s EDge – provides aspiring young performers with the opportunity to break into the work-success cycle of the dance world.

40 years, 250 students, and 100s of guest choreographers later, the latest incarnation of Transitions will return to the Laban Theatre on 7th-9th June 2012 with a special anniversary performance which is set to celebrate the inspiring work of the company for individuals embarking on the first stages of their careers. A far cry from the newly worked pointe shoes of ballet academies or New Yorkers of musical theatre conservatoires, Transitions is renowned for the bare footed, leotard-clad approach, showcasing the future stars of contemporary dance.

Eleven of the best young dancers from across the world will perform a mixed bill of choreography as part of the anniversary performance by three international artists. One, Hubert Essakow, has worked in German Tanztheater, another, Martin Nachbar, who is an ex-soloist from The Royal Ballet and the last, Shang Chi Sun, is a choreographer whose work The Others had a successful debut with last year’s company. The dancers of the company have a solid reputation of individuality and passionate enthusiasm, transforming the Transitions tour into an unmissable event.

Cosmetics by The Royal Ballet

Royal Ballet Cosmetics

With dance in the twenty-first century collaborating left,right and centre with artists, musicians and film-makers, the most recent partnering seen in the dance sector is that of The Royal Ballet and a new brand of cosmetics, developed with the Company and consequently used by them. Gone, it seems, are the days when blisters and sore toes were danced on repeatedly, as today the dance industry is developing increasingly unique ranges of care products for sore feet… from pointe shoes, to muscle balm for tap shoe enthusiasts.

The new Royal Ballet body care range, sold by Dance Direct, has been developed as a high performance collection in order to meet the needs of hard working bodies. Alongside leotards and microfiber dance tights, the new specifically designed body care range includes body conditioner moisturiser which works to improve the fitness, tone and elasticity of the skin, also helping to combat cellulite. Additional products in the range are a cooling muscle gel which is said to have excellent moisturising and anti-microbial properties, and an intensive hand and foot cream, which has a high concentration of moisturiser to help strengthen cuticles and nails,which can often take a bruising from excessive work in pointe shoes. With so much else to worry about as a dancer, this new body care range seems set to cover all your skin and ffoott concerns for the rest of your dancing career!

The latest advancement in “dancewear” has now hit the market, and looks set to take the dance world by storm, following in the footsteps of the leotard ranges and cover-ups verging on the fashion runways of mainstream retail, and vice versa.

Diamond Jubilee celebrations at White Lodge

White Lodge Museum

To mark the momentous occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge Museum is presenting a programme of public events to celebrate the rich heritage of the tutus and tiaras of the prestigious White Lodge alumni, which has been the home of the Royal Ballet School since 1995.

The events will include Let Everyone Sing and Dance, a concert of 18th century ballet music by composers such as Bach and Handel, due to be held in the Salon at White Lodge on 3rd May. A far cry from the practice tights and regulation leotards that usually populate White Lodge, this very special celebration is to marry the arts in a unique and utterly memorable event in extra-special surroundings. An evening of illustrated talks entitled Adorning nature: beauty and utility in Humphry Repton’s garden for White Lodge is also to be included on 7th June, adding to the variety of interests celebrated over the period. With so many varied yet thematically simultaneous events, the Diamond Jubilee celebrations at White Lodge appear to be the epitome of the English population, and indeed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

9th June will see in a Diamond Jubilee Open Day where members of the public are invited to visit White Lodge to enjoy a mixture of royal-theme activities, whilst residing in such an artistic and equally aesthetic environment. The day includes a guided tour of the premises and the chance to take part in historical dance workshops in the garden. Whilst visitors may not be the next Darcey Bussell wielding their pointe shoes and new toe pads, the event is set to be fun-filled and glorious.

Image courtesy of sela-v at Flickr.

The Royal Ballet’s Mixed Programme – Ballo Della Regina and La Sylphide

Marie Taglioni in “La Sylphide”

Having opened on 26th May, The Royal Ballet are presenting a three performance stint at the Royal Opera House, with a mixed programme of George Balanchine’s Ballo Della Regina and August Bournonville’s La Sylphide. The sparkling Balanchine work is set to the ballet music which honours the Queen of Spain in Verdi’s opera Don Carlos, marrying opera and classical ballet in an invigorating and inspiring masterpiece.

Balanchine’s exquisite choreography, having choreographed for several Verdi operas at the start of his career, showcases fancy footwork, leaps and turns. The production’s zesty energy lifts audiences’ spirits, with dancers costumed in white and chiffon blue dresses. A superb curtain raiser, the immaculate technique of the dancers is sure to succeed, staged in 2012 by Merrill Ashley who brought the production to The Royal Ballet in 2011. In Balanchine’s original 1978 production, he was specifically inspired by Ashley’s warm yet bold technique for which he created the work, in a powerful combination of strength and delicacy.

La Sylphide sees principal Steven McRae make his debut in Bournonville’s romantic and truly magical fairytale as James the Scotsman, who falls passionately in love with a Sylph. In a flock of romantic tutus and each matching pointe shoe, the artists of The Royal Ballet are taking on a classic piece of ballet history, with Bournonville’s adaptation of the ballet first premiered in 1836 (Filippo Taglioni’s original version premiered in 1832). The uniquely delicate choreography is captured in 2012 by Danish choreographer Johan Kobborg, staging the love of a mortal for an elusive spirit, and the impossibility of this.

Evoked by traditional folk songs in Herman Løvenskiold’s score, the original 1832 La Sylphide was created to showcase the technique of Taglioni’s daughter Marie, one of the great 19th century ballerinas of the Romantic era. Bournonville was the first choreographer to recreate the magical narrative of La Sylphide in the marrying of the folk and the ethereal, and it is his version that has survived. It has been regularly performed by the Royal Danish Ballet since its premiere.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Valentino Garavani to Design New York City Ballet Costumes

Valentino GaravaniItalian designer Valentino Garavani is making his New York City Ballet comeback, set to design all the costumes for the opening of next season’s programme, a far cry from practice tights and cover-ups. Garavani will be travelling back and forth to the Big Apple from Italy to prepare the costumes of the show, ready for an exhibition which will open in London in November which will be completely dedicated to his fashion and works.

At 80 years old, Garavani has much time to enjoy his huge art collection, but it has also led to him taking some time out to work for a ballet company, one of his lifelong passions. Simultaneously, the ballet world will also be privy to passionate work: both sectors complementing each other with the tutus set to dazzle the fall opening. Garavani’s return to the fashion, and consequently, artistic spotlight via the NYCB is speculated to “wow” audiences with his collection of ballet costumes, paired with the perfect pointe shoes of the impeccable company.

The instatement of fashion with ballet is not a new venture within the dance sector, however. Earlier in 2012, English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballet Russes programme saw a new leotard clad Firebird choreographed by young British hopeful George Williamson in his first commission, utilising costumes designed by David Bamber, who has designed for many of the world’s leading fashion houses including Gucci and Tom Ford.

Additionally within the programme, Apollo‘s various costumes – such as the Muses’ layered white dresses – were designed by Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel. Chanel has a long association with ballet, with Coco Chanel herself having designed costumes for both Le Train Bleu in 1924 and the original costumes for Apollo (originally Apollon musagète) in 1929. With a long historic association of fashion with ballet, it is any wonder which direction new collaborations will take.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Flawless and English National Ballet

English National Ballet and Flawless

English National Ballet and World Dance Management are set to join in their collaborative venture Against Time, a co-production created by Flawless and Jenna Lee, soloist and choreographer at English National Ballet. In a spectacular fusion between street dance and classical ballet, the daring national tour will begin this Diamond Jubilee weekend on June 1st at the HMV Apollo Hammersmith. The artists of English National Ballet will be combining their tutus and ballet tights with the dance trainers and urban dancewear of the street crew, showcasing extraordinary dance and acrobatics.

Against Time is supported by makeup brand MAC, Swarovski and The Idlewild Trust, adding sparkle and added excellence to the project. Dazzling costumes paired with the dazzling footwork of Flawless is planned to impress audiences from June 1st to July 8th, following the spectacular performance of English National Ballet with Peace One Day at the O2 in 2011. Against Time tracks the story of the battle between the students of The Academy of Excellence and an evil time manipulator who plans to end dance by stopping time. In a race against time, the students battle against the odds to save the future of dance for 2012 and beyond.

The 10 Flawless dancers and 10 ENB ballerinas pit themselves against each other to show off their skills and in turn admire each others’ talent. The opposing poles of dance aim to generate a groundbreaking dance experience, which follows the group of dancers through the twists and turns of the narrative which will unfold, inspiring audiences all over the country to engage with both sides of the dance spectrum. It is possible that these two dance forms will continue to move closer, perhaps even merging fully.

Image courtesy of Laurent Liotardo Photography.

Birmingham Royal Ballet Summer Season

Birmingham Royal Ballet

The summer season of the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome is set to delight its audiences and ignite the inner dancer in every single person who has the opportunity to see the performance. The residency will showcase polished pointe shoes dancing in the Midlands, from 20th to 30th June. The company’s hometown will host two programmes: David Bintley’s captivating production of Far From the Madding Crowd, and a mixed bill Summer Celebration.

Bintley, as Company Director and the award-winning creator of the Company’s huge Christmas hit Cinderella, enjoyed the world premiere of Far From the Madding Crowd in 1996 performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Sixteen years later, the company is returning to the Hippodrome with this same production, performed at the Company’s home theatre. As a tutu-laden balletic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, passions are set to run out of control in an enticing story of lust, deceit and murder as the ballet tights become tangled. One woman is at the centre of it all, Bathsheba Everdene, entertaining complex relationships with three men as they compete for her love.

Summer Celebration, featuring The Grand Tour, Faster and The Dream, offers audiences a slice of Shakespeare, Noël Coward and Olympic dreams in a visual feast. Choreographer Joe Layton’s The Grand Tour is undoubtedly influenced by the many films and hit Broadway shows he has also been involved with. Evoking visions of the character shoes of the roaring 20s, The Grand Tour is a comical take on the eccentric celebrities that populated England’s stages, screens and newspapers in the era. Faster is a brand new ballet inspired by the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, and comes from the award-winning team behind E=mc². After winning the last ever South Bank Show Dance award in 2010 with E=mc², Company Director David Bintley embarks on a second collaboration with renowned Australian composer Matthew Hindson. This ballet of speed, power and athleticism will be a fitting creation for the lead-up to London 2012, again tying tutus with trainers! Rounding off the triple bill is The Dream. Frederick Ashton’s magical creation rekindles the love and revenge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the comic values that truly enhance Ashton’s choreographic mastery of dance and theatre.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Place Prize 2012

The Place Price 2012The prestigious The Place Prize, sponsored by Bloomberg, has announced the commissioned artists who are to compete, unveiling another year of innovative contemporary dance, semi-professional dancers kitted out in their dancewear and the upcoming choreographic talent of the UK. As one of the most high-status dance awards, The Place Prize is returning for its 5th edition, premiering the commissions during The Place Prize Semi-finals in September.

16 new dance works have been commissioned from over 200 entries, a phenomenal interest and the highest number to date. By the end of summer 2012, The Place Prize will have enabled the creation of 92 pieces of new choreography, with an investment of over £1.2million in British dance. Since the cuts made to Arts Council funding by the government in April 2011, many dance organisations have had to reduce their activity, even preventing many leotards and ballet shoes seeing their familiar studio floor again.

The 16 entrants competing for The Place Prize have been awarded a total commission fund of £100,000 to realise their dance dreams, and the recipient artists will also benefit from free production time and support from The Place Prize team to create their pieces. The commissions encompass a wide range of contemporary styles, reflecting the sheer diversity of today’s dance scene in Britain.

The commissioned artists include former Place Prize Finalists (2011) Riccardo Buscarini and Eva Recacha, and Place Prize Semi-finalists Ben Ash (2006), Ben Wright (2006; 2008), and Darren Ellis (2010). In addition to previous alumni, Jonathon Goddard, the first contemporary dancer to win the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer in 2008 and fellow Rambert dancer Gemma Nixon are also involved. Mamoru Iriguchi, a self-taught performance maker who originally trained as a zoologist, and then a theatre designer, has also been commissioned. His work was first seen on The Place stage during Resolution! 2011, another choreographic platform. As only the 5thversion of The Place Prize platform, who knows what choreographic talent it may uncover.

National Tap Dance Day

Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson & Shirley Temple

November 1989 saw the declaration of May 25th as National Tap Dance Day: as Representative John Conyers of Michigan said, “there ought to be a law to make everyone love tap dancing”. National Tap Dance Day for the US has since become more widely known, and is celebrated as far away as Japan, Australia, India and Iceland, with tap shoes tapping far and wide.

Celebrated on the agreed-upon birthday of legendary tap pioneer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, National Tap Dance Day became a symbol for African American tap, as historically many were unaware of its specific contribution to tap recognised today. National Tap Dance Day was a result of Carol Vaughn, Nicola Daval, and Linda Christensen’s passion for all things tap. After much discussion, the three picked Bill Robinson’s birthday because he was a tap dancer known and loved worldwide for his work onstage and in films. To tap insiders, Robinson was renowned for dancing on the ball of the foot, in split wooden soles, and in perfect time. Tap has evolved considerably since then, and tap shoe brands such as Capezio and Bloch have built up their images as a result.

Carol Vaughn was one of tap’s great impresarios from the 1970s tap revival and once tapped up and down the steps of the Washington Monument in “I Ain’t A’Fred A’staires”. In a 1994 article for the International Tap Dance Association’s newsletter, Vaughn and Daval emphasised that although “tap dance was experiencing renewed popularity, there was still little public awareness of tap beyond a few Broadway shows, old Fred Astaire movies, and the occasional concert or TV special featuring several of the great master tappers”. They felt there had to be a way to increase recognition of tap’s contribution to cultural and artistic heritage, to bring its special appeal to everyone.

Today, tap receives great recognition, and one can only imagine where the world’s tap shoes will be travelling next.

Rambert Dance Company in 2012

Rambert Dance Company

In light of Rambert Dance Company’s move to their new building on London’s South Bank, a time capsule is due to be buried in the foundations as they are being laid, and the company has invited its fans to share their favourite memories of Rambert.  Be it the nude leotards of Rambert’s recreation of Merce Cunningham’s RainForest (1968) or the jazz shoe wearing recreation of Carnival Of The Animals (2008), Rambert has created a multitude of experiences to delight every dance and theatre lover. The time capsule is designed to be opened in 100 years time, a clear indicator of the desire of Rambert Dance Company to continue in such successful stead that is demonstrated today in the 21st century.

2012 alone has been a year packed full of exciting notions for Rambert Dance Company, as every year has revealed to date. For example, dancer Gemma Nixon was involved with the Dance UK healthy eating conference, speaking alongside renowned artistic directors and choreographers and extending the reach of the dance world further than the illusion of the perfectly arched pointe shoe and petite tutu wearing ballerina. Additionally, returning Artistic Director Mark Baldwin has been remembering his ten years with Rambert in a monthly article on the Rambert website, the most recent focusing on 2005, and the continuous success and prestigious work of Rambert Dance Company.

The Rambert programme at Sadler’s Wells of 2012 (15th-19th May) contains four diverse dance works. New work What Wild Ecstasy by Mark Baldwin is set to a new score commissioned by New Music 20×12 as part of the Cultural Olympiad… making it London with leotards! A modern-day take by Rambert on Nijinsky’s 100 year old L’Après-midi d’un faune (1912) is also included, the influential work revived by the Company for the first time in almost 30 years, combining the old with the new and maintaining the professional service of Rambert. Critically acclaimed Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili of multi award-nominated A Linha Curva (2009) is also involved with Rambert’s stint at Sadler’s Wells with Sub, a new work for seven male dancers. Siobhan Davies’ irascibly fast The Art of Touch (1995) completes the programme, often described by critics as “Davies at her best”. One can only wonder what 2013 will bring, let alone the next 100 years!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.