Billy Elliot the Musical is Auditioning!

Dance Auditions

It’s that time of year again for young dancers everywhere – audition time!

Billy Elliot the Musical is currently looking for boys aged 9 to 13 years to audition for the roles of Billy and Michael, and girls aged 9 to 12 years to audition for the role of Debbie in the West End production. In addition to these ballet shoe donning roles, the team is also touring the country in search of toe-tapping youngsters, visiting:

  • Leeds on 12 January 2013,
  • Newcastle on 2 February 2013,
  • London on 9 March 2013,
  • Bristol on 20 April 2013
  • and Manchester on 18 May 2013.

It’s time to pull on your ballet tights and pirouette your way to the nearest audition!

For Billy and Michael, as part of the on-going audition process, tap and ballet experience are a bonus. Candidates must be a maximum height of 5ft, with no broken voices. For Debbie, candidates must be 9 to 12 years of age, and under 4ft 8. Some ballet experience is required for the role of Debbie, which is only being auditioned in Newcastle.

Candidates need to come ready to dance first and possibly sing afterwards, wearing comfortable clothes with all dance shoes and trainers, rather than the usual Lycra, leotards or jazz pants!

There are also ongoing auditions for Small Boys, a Tall Boy and Ballet Girls. Small Boys, as an ensemble role, must be aged 6 to 10 years being no taller than 4ft for this acting role, which requires no singing or dancing. Tall Boy must be aged 10 to 12 years, being no taller than 4ft 10, and this role is again an acting role, with no singing or dancing required. Lastly, Ballet Girls should be between 9 and 13 years of age, less than 5ft and have achieved a minimum of Grade 4 in tap and ballet. Candidates for these roles must live within an hour of London.

For further information or to arrange an audition, please email Children’s Casting Director, Jessica Ronane at billy@jessicaronane.comstating your location and date of choice in the subject box.

Is Dance Becoming Mainstream?

Dance in the Mainstream

From the dazzling tutus and glittering tiaras of the big ballet classics to the modernised works of flesh-coloured leotards and soft ballet shoes, the popularity of dance appears to be increasing rapidly. Arguably as a result of the viral nature of social media and the innovative experimentation that is taking place in studios all over the world, the dance world and its audience are privy to fantastic creations and experiences which provide for their expectations.

Despite the modernisation that ballet is undergoing, for example as a result of Wayne McGregor of Random Dance’s instatement as Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet in 2006, it is clear that the classics of the ballet world are also able to satisfy the hungers of audiences. McGregor’s influence over twenty-first century dance is undeniable, and whilst his work is technically outstanding and completely compelling, the repertoire of the Royal is also made up of works that have resided there for centuries. Classics such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker are three of a number of well-known and loved productions which are presumed to stay within ballet repertoire for years to come.

Classical ballet was once seen as a high culture, rather than a popular one, yet this is also changing. The Royal Ballet LIVE was screened online in 2012, providing 200,000 dance-lovers and non-dance fans alike with the opportunity to take a peek into the working lives of professional ballet dancers. The iconic film production Black Swan starring Natalie Portman also took the ballet world by storm, depicting a violent and manipulative ballet environment, but ultimately extending ballet’s reach to wider audiences, increasing its popularity. The London 2012 Olympic Games also demonstrated a cultural shift, with ballet proving to be an influence in more than one area. Team GB swimmer Liam Tancock revealed that regular ballet classes were included in his cross-training, and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal Matthew Lawrence created a routine for the five times British champion gymnast Frankie Jones for the Rhythmic Gymnastics British Championships ahead of the Games. Dance is clearly demonstrated to appeal to and provide for a wide audience reach.

Dance has also been able to reach audiences through social media, making it ultimately accessible. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and various other platforms are able to translate the art of performance and reception to many who may not have the opportunity to access dance originally. For example, many dance companies have Twitter accounts clocking up thousands of followers, who are able to connect with and access a valued insight into the life of the company, rehearsals and classes – even the founder of Twitter is a ballet fan!

Pas de Deux: The Secrets Behind the Success

Misty Copeland and Matthew Prescott

Whilst pas de deux may seem to be the most dynamic and exhilarating part of a dance performance, it is also the most demanding, technically, physically and emotionally. Whether it is classical in a tutu and pointe shoes or contemporary in unitards, the art of pas de deux does not seem to be a strand of dance that is easily conquered.

In terms of basic preparations, balances and trust are inseparable and must come as one. Considering lyrical and jazz techniques that are easily available to view on television media, it is understandable that a common misconception of pas de deux is that it about awe-inspiring lifting only. Drawing classical ballet into the mix, however, demonstrates that much of the work is based on core strength and the ability to be centered, either by yourself or your partner. The skill of finding a balance in a partner is very difficult, for example, over the female’s supporting leg in a pirouette or arabesque. The female must be responsible for securing her positions in order to create a strong partnership, physically and mentally.

It may be concluded that partner work is more difficult for males than females, as they have to adapt their skills, and even adapt their approach to their dancing, to work as one with their partner and not become uncompromising or tricky to work with, support and lift. Within classical ballet, it may even be necessary for males to employ a parallel or turned-in position, which goes against the usual expectation of turn-out yet is required for stability.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Past Dance Practices

Thomas Wilson's "Correct Method of German and French Waltzing" (1816)

Viewing traditional dance from many countries around the world can be eye-opening. It is a refreshing change to view other techniques, hear different music and see different costumes as a source of inspiration. For the performer and choreographer, traditional dance practices from other countries and cultures can often be a learning curve in their methods of working.

There is a wealth of information within different dance practices, and especially those regarded as traditional, in order to inform and progress the art form. These practices are extremely different from the urban dance forms, dance sneakers and nude leotards we see in today’s dance scene, yet some are still very popular, considering Strictly Come Dancing and similar television shows for example and how mainstream it has now become.

For instance, what is now called the Viennese Waltz is the original form of the waltz which emerged in the second half of the 18th century. It was the first ballroom dance performed in the closed hold or “waltz” position, derived from the Ländler in Austria. The dance that is popularly known as the waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced at approximately 90 beats per minute, whereas the Viennese Waltz is danced at around 180 beats a minute. As the waltz evolved, some of the versions that were performed at the original fast tempo came to be called a “Viennese Waltz” to distinguish them from the slower waltzes. Today dances of Ballroom or Latin origins still play a large part in social cultural context, and are accessible too.

South East Asian dance, also plays a big part in today’s dance scene. Bharata Natyam and Kathak dance are both highly influential in choreographers’ work, such as Akram Khan, seen in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Bharata Natyam is a classical Indian dance, denoting various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of Cathir, the art of temple dancers. As a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and poses, today Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world. Similarly, Kathak is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, with the dance form tracing its origins to ancient India. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement, using its past as a catalyst for new.

Today’s strong notions of Kathak, and many other forms of dance, in choreographers’ and performers’ work demonstrates the sheer strength and legacy of dance, and how much the past influences the present in every single dance discipline.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Judges Announced for ENB’s Emerging Dancer

ENB Emerging Dancer Competition 2013

The judging panel of English National Ballet’s prestigious Emerging Dancer Competition 2013 has been announced, as the annual event moves into its fourth year within the classical ballet diary.

Judging the developing yet hugely accomplished six dancers of the Company will be Darcey Bussell CBE, new President of the Royal Academy of Dance and Strictly Come Dancing judge, Tommy Franzén, runner-up of BBC1’s So You Think You Can Dance and choreographer of ZooNation’s Some like it Hip Hop, Luke Jennings, Author and Dance Critic at The Observer newspaper, Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre and Tamara Rojo, newly appointed Artistic Director of English National Ballet.

The Emerging Dancer competition, taking place on 4 March 2013 at the intimate venue of the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, allows ENB to publicly recognise and praise its upcoming talent, nurturing and encouraging excellence within the Company’s ranks. Last year’s winner was the nephew of renowned Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, Yonah Acosta, who has since achieved more success throughout 2012, most recently in the Company’s production of The Nutcracker. The young, talented nominees receive the opportunity to perform in an exciting live final with two solos in front of this eminent panel of expert judges. The winner is announced at the end of the evening along with the recipient of The People’s Choice Award, which is voted for by members of the public, closing on 9 February 2013.

Competing in The Emerging Dancer’s Competition for the top spot will be Alison McWhinney, Guilherme Menezes, Nancy Osbaldeston, Ken Saruhashi, Laurretta Summerscales and Nathan Young.

Image courtesy of ENB.

The Evolution of Dancewear

Evolution of Dancewear

Whilst there is much negative stigma about the dance experiences in Physical Education, dance within P.E. lessons has proven itself to be successful, not only encouraging students to take part, but also contributing to today’s dancewear scene. Many teenage girls who were perhaps unwilling to participate in sports have been seen to thoroughly engage in dance and consequently excel, in parallel to, for example, disruptive boys who have found their forte in the strength and skill of break dance during P.E. Many lessons also, for example, consist of street dance, appealing to students as they are able to express themselves through the up-to-date movement and their urban dance sneakers, tracksuit bottoms and the occasional sweatband, meaning dancewear has received more attention and popularity. The days of gym knickers are far behind us!

Dancewear has evolved significantly, however early influences can be identified. Early ballet, dating as far back as the 1800s, saw courtly influences of much longer skirts than are seen today and satin ballet slippers for females. Similarities here as well as that of male tights and long-sleeved shirts demonstrate the loyalty dance has to its originators, and how practical the first instances of dance were. The mid-1800s saw choreographer of La Sylphide August Bournonville designing the ballet slippers for males that are still worn today with a V-shaped vamp to give the illusion of a long and pointed foot. The Romantic tutu also made an appearance, but under another name originally. Today, the traditional ballet style has been adopted and also brought into the fashion world, with ballet pumps and tutu style skirts echoing ballet’s origins.

The 1890s saw the emergence of Jazz dance, and it became increasingly popular, taught in numerous dance studios. Costumes were experimented with, open to more adventurous design work and became more practical, highlighting the dancers’ lines in addition to looking effective and eye-catching, also mirrored in practice wear. In addition, Modern dance, now known as contemporary dance, developed as a result of Isadora Duncan’s rejection of the tight bodices of the tutus of classical ballet in favour of Greek-style tunics. She believed tight clothing was a restriction to the body’s natural movement and to this day we see this trend, especially clothes of the hip hop world and on television programmes such as So You Think You Can Dance.

Big Dance 2012 Volunteers Honoured in the Diamond Jubilee Awards

Big Dance 2012

Hundreds of people who volunteered their services for Big Dance earlier in 2012, one of the highlights of the London 2012 Festival, have been honoured through The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award 2012, acknowledging their fantastic efforts throughout the summer. 60 awards selected by Her Majesty The Queen were announced, with a formal event to be held at Buckingham Palace in spring 2013.

Big Dance held over 3,500 events across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, reaching approximately four million people, and encouraging dancers and non-dancers alike up and down Great Britain to don their dancing shoes and get involved with such an enormous event. Big Dance included television programmes, performances and events in the streets and public spaces, in theatres and schools, and in the heart of communities across the UK.

Some of the UK’s leading choreographers and dance artists created work for Big Dance, including Wayne McGregor CBE, who created an Olympic-inspired dance routine aimed at schools and performed by thousands of children and young people around the world. In light of the recent parliamentary discussions surrounding the place of dance in the curriculum, this is clear evidence of the encompassing nature of dance and what it is able to produce.

The Big Dance 2012 volunteers were essential in producing a successful and uplifting experience for all involved, in helping to run events, organising publicity, providing transport, making costumes, and all of the other things needed to complete large-scale community events, especially as part of such a huge scheme. People of all ages and backgrounds volunteered, with organisers receiving overwhelming responses of enthusiasm and positive interest. Many have developed skills as a result of the summer of 2012, such as those in event management, marketing, and administration, having been great ambassadors for dance and community celebrations.

10 Years of Breakin’ Convention

Breakin Convention 2012

It’s time for the next generation of dancers to shine at Breakin’ Convention, with 2013 marking its 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this special occasion, Breakin’ Convention will be offering two different opportunities for youth dancers in the new year, meaning it is time to don those new urban dance trainers and hit the studio! The festival will run from Saturday 4 – Sunday 6 May 2013.

“Breakin’ Convention 10 x 10” signals the start of a fantastic new platform in the creation of a special Breakin’ Convention crew of ten 10 year olds. An exclusive one-off performance will follow, on the main stage of the Breakin’ Convention festival at Sadler’s Wells. Young dancers will have the opportunity to show off their skills and perform at one of the biggest hip hop dance events in the world in front of an audience of nearly 2,000 people. Members of the crew will have the opportunity to learn from some of London’s most talented and successful artists including Boy Blue’s Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey, and Bruno ‘Boom’ Perrier.

In addition, “Future Elements” will be a scheme aiming to showcase some of the UK’s best up-and-coming youth dance companies that have taken the future of funk in their hands and channelled it through their dancing. Saturday 9 March 2013 will see the best youth dance companies from in and around London present their work, with submissions for Breakin’ Convention’s Future Elements Night now open.

Past companies and dancers who have performed at Future Elements have included:

  • Da Bratz – Boy Blue Entertainment’s next generation of dancers
  • Enigma Dance Company – founded by Botis Seva of Far From the Norm
  • ME:I – Myself Dance Company’s up and coming youth group
  • Kieran Lei – member of K-Lic and star of forthcoming street dance film, AllStars

So far 2013 is looking like a wealth of opportunity for dancers everywhere!

The 120th anniversary of The Nutcracker

Nutcracker Google Doodle December 2012

Just before Christmas 2012, the 120th anniversary of one of the epitomes of classical ballet, The Nutcracker, was celebrated by Google, which launched a doodle to commemorate the first performance of the ballet. The doodle worked to depict a few of the scenes of the ballet, particularly apt in the run up to Christmas with dancers everywhere becoming sugarplum fairies in their tights, tutus and tiaras.

The Nutcracker premiered at the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg on 18 December 1892 to a score by Pyotr Ilyich-Tchaikovsky, which has become world-famous and is instantly recognisable. Today The Nutcracker is performed all over the world by many different ballet companies, become various versions for film and even screened to cinemas in the UK recently. However, the ballet was poorly received before US-choreographer George Balanchine re-imagined the original choreography by Marius Petipa, transforming it completely.

As a result of this, it is presumed that much of the original choreography of Petipa’s production debut is no longer seen by audiences, flocking to theatres worldwide to experience this festive production full of magic and sparkle. Balanchine’s version of the ballet saw new elements make their way into the choreography and synopsis for the New York City Ballet in the twentieth-century, gradually spreading around the world.

Alternative versions of this ballet favourite include Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986), The Nutcracker Prince (1990), Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001), and The Nutcracker in 3D (2010), in addition to Matthew Bourne’s version as Nutcracker! and Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut as additional re-imaginings.

Unfortunately Tchaikovsky died aged 53, less than a year after The Nutcracker’s release, meaning he was unable to enjoy the ballet’s success, yet today there is plenty of opportunity to experience the captivating production.

The Promotion of Vadim Muntagirov

English National Ballet Logo

Following an outstanding performance of The Nutcracker this December, Vadim Muntagirov of English National Ballet was awarded with a new Lead Principal title on stage by Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, in recognition of his exceptional dance ability. This new category for Muntagirov makes way to acknowledge the Company’s new artistic direction under Rojo, who has lots in store for 2013.

Muntagirov comes from a family of ballet dancers – both his mother and father were Principal dancers – and was trained at the Perm Ballet School, of which his father and sister were both graduates. In 2006 Muntagirov joined the Royal Ballet School and in his final year Wayne Ealing (former Artistic Director of ENB) offered him a contract with the Company as a First Artist. Muntagirov progressed through the ranks, promoted to First Soloist in 2010 and Principal in 2011.

Muntagirov’s first performances with the Company were in Barcelona where he partnered Senior Principal Daria Klimentová in the lead role of the Poet in Les Sylphides as part of the Ballets Russes centenary celebration. He has continued this phenomenal partnership with Klimentová across his career with ENB, including roles such as Albrecht in Giselle, and as her Prince in The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty. With ENB, Muntagirov has received the challenging role in Derek Deane’s Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall as Prince Siegfriend, originally intended to partner world renowned Polina Semionova, but later dancing with Klimentová on opening night.

Muntagirov is captivating on stage, having flourished as a technically assured and commanding performer, attacking the most difficult roles in classical ballet repertoire. It seems his work has only just begun, presenting even more challenges by ENB and encouraging him to emerge even further as one of the most prominent male ballet stars of the twenty-first century. Muntagirov was the winner of the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Male Performance (Classical) in 2010.