The Launch of the Female Choreographers’ Collective

Female Choreographers' Collective

Holly Noble and Jane Coulston, both professional dancers and choreographers, recently asked the question: where are all the female choreographers? In recent years it has been a recurring topic of discussion in modern dance as an industry that is predominately female and as an art form particularly pioneered by women, such as Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp, let alone the rest of the dance sector. In a bid to answer this, be it choreographers of pointe shoe and tutu, leotard and leggings or any other dancewear background, the pair have launched the Female Choreographers’ Collective, an organisation that is looking to reverse the apparent skewing of opportunities toward male dance makers.

Noble and Coulston are making a stand in response to the dwindling number of female choreographers receiving regular funding or support in the same league as their male counterparts through the FCC, with the sole purpose and mission of the collective to support, encourage and spearhead work created by female choreographers across the UK. They are aiming to contact all female choreographers in the UK and organise forums, networking opportunities and platforms to showcase the abundance of female talent currently creating work.

In addition to their championing of the female dance artist population, the pair are also committed to investigating the reasons behind the inequality, calling on all female choreographers that are interested in highlighting this issue to share their experiences being a female choreographer in the dance industry today. The issue has been discussed over the last few years, with Dance Umbrella hosting a forum on the topic in 2009. In this heated debate everything from childcare to sexualisation and ego of the male choreographer were thrown into the arena. Whilst Noble and Coulston currently only have theories, they hope the FCC will provide clear answers on the shift with the support of female choreographers in order to provide female choreographers with the opportunity to stand alongside their male peers and gain higher profile choreographic commissions and opportunities.

The FCC will support female choreographers of all genres, whether they are just starting out on their creative journey or are fully established choreographers, having presenting an FCC women’s choreographic platform on 13 October 2012 to offer a platform for female choreographers and to celebrate the FCC launch. The pair are aiming to run a women’s platform regularly, for example three times a year or more.

Holly Noble

Holly trained at The Arts Educational School in Tring and at Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich specialising in Ballet and Contemporary. She has had a diverse career in Theatre, TV and Film working as a freelance dancer, choreographer, actor and teacher. As a dancer she has worked with various choreographers such as Ashley Wallen, Lynne Page and Michael Voss.

Holly is founder and Artistic Director of A.D. Dance Company, a neoclassical touring company of eight dancers. Alongside this Holly Directs and Produces ‘Platform A.D’.

Holly has most recently joined English National Ballet as an Associate Dance Artist and has been appointed as Artistic Director for English National Ballet Youth Company.

Jane Coulston

Jane Coulston in is the Director Choreographer of Beyond Repair Dance, a contemporary dance company.

After finishing her training at Laban Jane worked internationally as a dancer and choreographer, working and studying further in New York. Working with the New Amsterdam Dance Theatre, Stagedoor Theatre Arts and various dance theatre companies in the USA. This work included off Broadway productions and work with the American academy of film London.

The New Home of London Studio Centre

London Studio Centre LogoThe London Studio Centre recently announced confirmation that it would be moving its headquarters to artsdepot in North Finchley from the start of the 2012/13 academic year, in addition to all the leg warmers, leotards, ballet shoes, jazz pants and noisy tap shoes it will also be transporting through means of its new and returning students. With the new term and year well underway, such a resourceful and ‘giving’ venue seems perfect for such an organisation.

The performing arts college has also announced that it is delighted to be working work closely with this first class performance venue which is also home to the performing arts of Barnet College and Middlesex University’s third year dance performance showcase once annually. artsdepot will provide lecture halls, a library, rehearsal studios and performance space for London Studio Centre, giving the students fantastic facilities to hone their craft in. The building also facilitates the opportunity to develop interesting and innovative collaborative work with other artists, adding yet another strand to the college’s outlook.

artsdepot will house the London Studio Centre’s foundation, first and second year students temporarily while negotiations for the fit out of its proposed new premises in West London are completed, which will provide it with purpose built studios and state of the art facilities. The London Studio Centre has moved from its York Way studios after 26 years due to the Kings Cross area redevelopment but looks forward to creating a new home in Acton with brand new studios in the near future.

The History of the Tutu

Alexandra Ansanelli in a Pancake Tutu (Royal Ballet 2008)

Since the beginning of ballet history and up to the present day, tutus have been the centre point(e!) of all classical ballet, be it in a little girl’s dream in pretty pink tights and shoes or even in the snazzy modern costumes of George Balanchine’s ‘Rubies’ in Jewels. Tutus have changed in design over the years but have always retained the certain illusive quality that surrounds ballerinas. To many, tutus epitomise the ethereal, magic aura that surrounds ballerinas on stage, and without a tutu, the performance may be quite different.

The term “tutu” derives from the audience members in cheaper seats, which were originally at the front of the auditorium. These viewers were able to see beneath the ballerina’s tutu: the length of these was dictated by the ballet patrons who wished to see the dancers’ spectacular feats whereas those in the cheaper seats had a view of the ballerina’s derriere, or the French “cucu”, which eventually became “tutu”.

It is said that the first tutu was the Romantic tutu worn by Marie Taglioni in the 1832 performance of La Sylphide – the Romantic era – which showed off her footwork. This style of tutu was and still is of three quarter length in a bell shape, also seen in Giselle. The Classical tutu followed, which is a shorter and stiffer skirt of a slight bell shape ending just above the dancers knees and extending outwards from the hips, seen in Balanchine’s Jewels worn by the ‘Emeralds’. Next was the Classical Pancake tutu which is short and extends straight outwards from the hip. It may also contain a wire hoop along with extra stitching to keep the layers stiff and flat together. The Balanchine/Karinska tutu was next, also known as the “powder puff” as a short skirt with no hoops and a fuller appearance. By no means least, and certainly not the last for ballet as it is known today is the Platter tutu, with its flat top which sticks straight out from the ballerina’s waistline, with skirts continuing to define both the shape and style of tutus.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dancers’ Career Development… Dancers Selected!

Dancers' Career Development (DCD) LogoFollowing on from the announcement of the Dancers’ Career Development project to mentor twenty dancers, a hugely popular application process has seen the dancers selected, all nominated by their peers as future leaders (wearing a variety of dance shoes and an array of leotards).

The dancers’ mentoring scheme saw the dancers selected by a panel of dance professionals to take part in Dance UK’s new scheme in partnership with Dancers’ Career Development and with the support of Arts Council England. As a result of the scheme’s popularity, Dance UK is seeking further funding to extend the programme to Scotland and to also raise further funding to repeat the scheme in 2013 and 2014 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, enabling even more dancers and their leg warmers to take part.

The dancers selected to take part this year are:

1. Kate Coyne, dancer, Michael Clark Company
2. Shane Shambhu, Dancer, Actor and Artistic Director of Shane Shambhu Company
3. Neil Westmoreland, Resident Director for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures
4. Kit Holder, first artist, Birmingham Royal Ballet
5. Jonathan Goddard, independent dancer
6. Laura Jones, dancer for Stopgap Dance Company
7. Lee T Johnston, dancer, National Dance Company Wales
8. Henrietta Hale, independent dance artist
9. Sonia Sabri, Artistic Director of Sonia Sabri Company and independent dancer, choreographer and teacher
10. Malgorzata Dzierzon , dancer, Rambert Dance Company
11. Jonathan Payn, First Soloist, Birmingham Royal Ballet
12. Hannah Bateman, Leading Soloist, Northern Ballet
13. Angela Towler, dancer, Rambert Dance Company
14. Catarina Carvalho, dancer, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
15. Anusha Subramanyam, Artistic Director of Beeja, performer and choreographer
16. Emma Dunn, independent dance artist
17. Naomi Cook, member of Springs Dance Company, and a freelance dancer, teacher and rehearsal director
18. Catherine Bennett, independent dance artist
19. Dena Lague, independent dance artist
20. Nicole Watson, dancer and creative director at Surface Area Dance Theatre

The selection panel, which was Chaired by Dance UK included Pedro Machado, Co-Artistic Director of Candoco Dance Company (who personally benefitted from the mentoring scheme in 2006), Marie McCluskey MBE, Founder and Artistic Director of Swindon Dance; Sue Wyatt, experienced arts manager and dance company leader; Benjamin Dunks, Artistic Director of Attik Dance; Dr Scilla Dyke MBE, Senior Lecturer, Royal Academy of Dance and Trustee of Dancers’ Career Development; Monique Deletant, Administrative Director, Akademi South Asian Dance UK; and Jan De Schynkel, former dancer, teacher, choreographer and Arts Council England Relationship Manager

Over eight months the dancers will be provided with a paid mentor who is a high profile leader from the arts world or beyond the sector.

The Genée International Ballet Competition

The Genée International Ballet Competition 2012The Genée International Ballet Competition, the prestigious competition of the Royal Academy of Dance, is fast approaching at the end of 2012. December will see many international applicants don their pointe shoes and ballet tights in order to take part in one of the most highly-thought of ballet competitions all over the world. Taking place in Wellington, New Zealand, tickets for the semi-finals and finals are fast selling out, with competitors preparing themselves for a week of masterclasses, coaching and finally, performing, ready to take the next steps in their ballet careers and present themselves in the most positive light.

Whilst behind-the-scenes organising is constantly going on for the 2012 competition, the RAD has just announced that the 2013 Genée International Ballet Competition will be held for the first time in Glasgow in September. The RAD will be working in partnership with Scottish Ballet, with its newly appointed Artistic Director Christopher Hampson, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to stage a very exciting competition, with the enthusiastic support of the City of Glasgow. With Glasgow hosting the competition, it will mean that the Genée will return to the shores of Great Britain for the first time in three years, and will be Scotland’s first Genée competition.

Scottish Ballet previously announced this exciting news and partnership at a press conference in late September, including the announcement of their new Artistic Director, a confirmation of their firm commitment to making the 2013 Genée a very special event full of leotards, practice shoes and tiaras, especially for the extravagant final. Hampson has already made an extensive and long-standing contribution to the Genée over the last nine years and is personally very enthusiastic about the collaboration.

To get some idea of what the Genée is all about, take a look at the following video:

The RADC Autumn tour

The Place

The Richard Alston Dance Company Autumn tour 2012 sees the company’s 10 dancers taking to the stage for 16 performances throughout UK, and in the US, leotards and all. The tour opens in London at The Place, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, (3-6 October), for the annual At Home season, and ends in New Jersey, at Montclair State University, (13-16 December), as part of the internationally renowned Peak Performances series.

Prior to the tour’s beginning, the company took part in the Design Museum Ball as part of the London Design Festival 2012, performing a one-off special event of contemporary dance on 21 September. A series of dance moments was created especially for the evening with the dancers wearing a set of dazzling crystal-encrusted costumes created for them by fashion designer Julien MacDonald. The audience discovered dance episodes scattered throughout the museum with sculptural forms, digital projections and crystal-inspired visual effects creating a dramatic backdrop against which the dancers engaged with the space. The event was inspired by the literary heroine, Miss Havisham for Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, with those wearing a wedding dress, rather than leg warmers, rewarded free entry to the ball.

The tour following this event will contain pieces ShimmerIsthmus and MadcapShimmer is danced to the music of Ravel, played live with Julien Macdonald’s jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes illuminating the choreography in a beautiful piece of theatre. The barefoot dancers emanate thoughts of fairy dust with magical effect. Isthmus will be performed for only the second time following its premiere at A Celebration for Bob Lockyer at The Place in April 2012. Alston uses the music of Jo Kondo, whose composition Isthmus moves with rapid light rhythms, both sharp and delicate to present nimble and breathtaking precision. Following his recent commission by Scottish Ballet to mark the 2012 Olympics, Martin Lawrance has created Madcap as an original, new choreography, creating a powerfully charged work.

Image courtesy of The Place.

Step into Dance’s Musical Theatre Company

Step into Dance, a partnership programme between the Royal Academy of Dance and The Jack Petchey Foundation, are holding auditions on Sunday 7 October to recruit students into their exciting new Musical Theatre Company. Students in the company will be able to meet other like-minded, talented young people and also perform at prestigious venues across London.

Step into Dance is a fully inclusive community dance which currently runs in 187 secondary schools over 32 London Boroughs and Essex. The programme offers weekly extra-curricular dance lessons to students who would not otherwise have access to quality dance, jazz shoes, or flared dance trousers.  From a pilot of 28 schools, it is now a fully inclusive programme delivered in 187 schools, including Special Educational Needs schools and Pupil Referral Units. Step into Dance is the biggest secondary school dance programme in the UK, unique in offering and performance opportunities throughout the academic year. Each of the 187 schools engaged in the programme pay an annual fee, contributing to the running costs of the programme.

Step into Dance, through its extended programme such as Watch this Step, Step into Battle, the Step Borough Events and its showcase end of the year event, Step LIVE! Step into Dance is responsible for creating over 20 unique, inclusive performance opportunities each year. The events develop the participants’ creative experience, showcasing Step into Dance to a wider audience.

The new Musical Theatre Company, complete with top hats and New Yorkers, will be lead by Sonny Ward as teacher and choreographer. Ward trained at Millennium Performing Arts and with the National Youth Theatre, with his choreography credits including West Ham FC Dancers at Upton Park, Dance Expressions at Sadler’s Wells, Christmas Cabaret for MD2000, Flashmobs for Walkers Crisps and Littlewoods Christmas TV Adverts 2011. Ward also teaches at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and is Co-Director of Eaton Ward Agency, having trained young students that have gone on to perform in MatildaBilly Elliot and The Lion King.

Image courtesy of Step into Dance.

Akram Khan

Having returned to full form for the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Akram Khan has recovered from the notorious injury to his Achilles tendon and is set to perform DESH at the UK’s leading dance house in October 2012. The performance was originally postponed due to Khan’s injury but the UK premiere of the production is going full steam ahead to the delight of many dance fans decked out in their leggings and leotards. Sadler’s Wells, renowned for presenting dance in all its forms to the widest possible audiences, will also be including in its October highlights three critically acclaimed works returning to the theatre.

As an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, Khan’s latest work, linen trousers and all, made its world premiere in 2011 to unanimous critical praise. The Olivier Award-winning DESH is a full length bare-footed contemporary solo, and Khan’s most personal work to date. Meaning “homeland” in Bengali, DESH draws on multiple tales of land, nation and resistance, all converging in the body and voice of one man trying to find his balance in an unstable world. Moving between Britain and Bangladesh, Khan weaves threads of memory, experience and myth into a surreal world of surprising connection.

For DESH, Khan joined forces with visual artist Tim Yip (production designer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, writer and poet Karthika Nair, Olivier Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook and slam poet PolarBear to create a powerful work which has since defined his career. A collaboration of extraordinary proportions.

Images courtesy of Andy Miah at Flickr.

Beyoncé Vs. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Despite much time elapsing between the esteemed choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s next moves in the dance world and the similarities of her work with a high-heeled music video of Beyoncé’s, it still seems fit to draw upon the links between the almost chilling uniformity of De Keersmaeker’s Rosas Danst Rosas and Beyoncé’s Countdown music video, seemingly inspired by the choreographer. This connection between the contemporary dance world and the pop culture to which Beyoncé belongs is becoming shorter, with both choreographers and music artists being inspired by alternative stimuli.

De Keersmaeker, 52, whose company Rosas is full of fierce and dynamic dancers, trained in both Brussels and New York and could consequently be called the godmother of the Belgian contemporary dance movement that spawned such offspring as Jan Fabre, Alain Platel and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Although she’s an acclaimed figure in the dance world – however not for her leotard and leg warmer wearing persona – she is less of a household name outside it, but that changed late in 2011 with her work ‘borrowed’ by Beyoncé for the music video to promote her new single. The two videos are very similar in terms of movement vocabulary, setting and intention, with another sequence in the music video strongly resembling choreography from Achterland, a filmed version of which won the Dance Screen award in 1994.

Regardless of claims of stealing, plagiarism and copyright, it is clear to see that references to other artistic elements are frequent among the producing element of art, including references to modern dance. On a positive note, the choreography of Rosas Danst Rosas was able to reach mass audiences in an altered format, which a dance performance could never achieve, enabling new audiences to inadvertently appreciate De Keersmaeker’s talent and skill emanating throughout the dance world.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s New Season

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet has been busy polishing its tiaras and digging out repertoire tutus in preparation for the 2012/13 season, seeing in both brand new works inspired by Olympic sporting endeavours to classics such as Giselle and Coppélia. The senior management team, such as Director David Bintley CBE, has been very excited about the repertory that will emerge throughout the season, setting every pointe shoe fan alight with anticipation too.

The season began on 19 September with the company staging six performances in four days of the enduring and timeless story of Swan Lake at The Lowry in Manchester. This is ahead of moving the company home to the Birmingham Hippodrome on 2 October ready for the winter. Swan Lake is a sure ballet favourite of dance fans and non-dance fans alike, and a classic that is rarely missed from a classical ballet company’s repertoire. BRB (originally Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet) first performed Swan Lake in 1981 almost 100 years after it premiered in Moscow. A new insight will be brought to the 2012/13 Company with at least two new casts with many new artists dancing the leading roles.

Bintley has maintained that keeping audiences surprised is a constant test for the company, in addition to drawing audiences in to see the show in the first place. With such a variety of work planned for the coming season, there is no doubt the audience’s appetites will be satisfied, with the seasons being planned many years in advance. A modern production of Aladdin will grace the stage through the company as well as Faster, the production inspired by the theme of the Olympics and the physiological aspects of sport and performance. Bintley has collaborated with Australian composer Matthew Hindson to produce a ballet that celebrates speed and power which is a fitting tribute to the Olympians that showcased their incredible athleticism in London in July and August.

Faster is one of three productions for the Autumn Celebration, which is being staged at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth; Sadler’s Wells, London; and Wales Millennium Centre in October. It also features The Dream and The Grand Tour.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.