Scottish Ballet’s Plans Under Christopher Hampson

Scottish Ballet

Under its new Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet has recently unveiled its plans and aspirations for the foreseeable future.

Scottish Ballet is the national dance company of Scotland, albeit the smallest of the national ballet companies in the UK, but this does not mean that Scottish Ballet are treading lightly on the rest of the ballet shoes of the dance community. The Company is looking forward to enriching, enthusing and engaging with communities, participants and audiences, tutus and all. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it was announced Scottish Ballet will present the Genée International Ballet Competition in Glasgow in 2013 from 20- 29 September.

Commissioning new work is just one of the other ways that Scottish Ballet is extending its reach with many female choreographers such as ex-dancer with Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt Helen Pickett, Associate Choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater Crystal Pite and Royal Ballet Soloist Kristen McNally, in addition to Scottish Ballet being among the first to commission a brand-new work from 22-year-old London Contemporary Dance School graduate James Cousins who has just presented his first work at Sadler’s Wells. Cousins won the New Adventures Choreographer Award, set up by director and choreographer Matthew Bourne OBE and coincidently co-judged by Hampson. The Company will be working with a wide range of choreographers that will allow the Company to broaden the existing repertoire and produce new work in original ways for the usually leotard and tights clad dancers. The Company is also in talks with major international promoters and arts festivals in order to explore innovative ways to present their work.

For the first time, Scottish Ballet will present the work of five-time Olivier Award-winning Bourne which will grant the Company an exclusive license to Bourne’s Highland Fling, inspired by La Sylphide. Scottish Ballet will tour Highland Fling across Scotland in spring 2013, spreading both Bourne’s and the Company’s influence.

Hampson’s creative leadership will not only see him choreograph, but also embrace the imagination of the people of Scotland and beyond. Beginning in autumn 2012, Scottish Ballet will launch Hansel & Gretel, and Me, a new project that connects creation to education and merges artistic expression with real life, giving communities the chance to participate in ballet in the broadest possible sense.

Image courtesy of the www.theedinburghblog.co.uk on Flickr.

The Carlos Acosta Centre for Dance

National Art Schools (Cuba)

Royal Ballet principal guest artist star Carlos Acosta has revealed his brainchild, a scheme to complete the five national arts schools in Havana, Cuba, originally thought up by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in1961. The schools were never finished, but now fifty years later a new project is underway to transform the site into a world class ballet school. Acosta, leaving his own ballet shoes and ballet tights aside, wants to provide a platform and focus for young people to explore hidden talents and develop their skill and help them make positive choices in life, while raising both the awareness and quality of dance to a new level.

The scheme is to be backed by the Cuban government, with the project set to create a new ballet school, with Acosta’s vision aiming for people from all over the world will come to the centre to learn new skills. Students will learn a variety of different styles of dance, from ballet to tango, donning practice shoes and Cuban heels accordingly. There will be workshops and masterclasses and short courses throughout the summer and winter, a sign of how ambitious the project is comes with the cost: a total of $3.5m will be needed just to restore the existing buildings on the site.

Internationally renowned British architect Lord Foster is involved in the project, who will be sticking to the previous plans for the original ballet school at the site. The Carlos Acosta Centre for Dance will complete the legacy of the arts school campus in Havana to inspire future generations of performers, under the talents of Acosta.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Dance Umbrella 2012

Dance UmbrellaIn October this year, Dance Umbrella will present a very different festival than is usually presented, co-curated by Artistic Director Betsy Gregory and choreographer Jonathan Burrows. Dance Umbrella 2012 will run from 5 to 14 October, presented in the Platform Theatre at the new Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in King’s Cross, in addition to two site-specific works in the surrounding area.

Dance Umbrella has been bringing new dance to London since 1978, inspired by the dynamism of the city of London, bringing together artists and events, from ballet shoes, to jazz shoes, to leotards, to foot thongs. Each year, Dance Umbrella succeeds in surprising and thrilling its audiences, once presented in numerous venues all over London, and for 2012 settling in one main venue in the centre of the city. Dance Umbrella champions itself in commissioning, producing and presenting dance events, staging one of the world’s leading international dance festivals.

Dance Umbrella prides itself on the dance experiences it provides for its audiences by presenting a range of affordable and free-to-view events in unusual spaces. The team involved also aims to identify, nurture, support and showcase the most exciting talent in new dance, offering artists the benefits of long-term relationships and identifying the most appropriate platform for the work programmed.

As an accessible, flexible organisation with an incredibly international outlook, Dance Umbrella is committed to collaborating and creating new partnerships in presenting the highest quality new dance, trends and aspirations through performances and participatory opportunities. Just last year Dance Umbrella programmed the world-renowned Merce Cunningham Dance Company as part of their final world tour before the company disbanded on New Year’s Eve 2011.

For 2012, Dance Umbrella will be presenting much new dance, including a Mary Wigman dance evening, Wendy Houstoun’s 50 Acts and Noé Soulier… a programme not to be missed.

Image courtesy of Dance Umbrella.

The Royal Ballet School

Royal Ballet School

Over the next 7 months, The Royal Ballet School will open its doors to teachers, dance students and enthusiasts alike for a series of exciting lectures and masterclasses once a month, with pointe shoes and tiaras optional. This series of “Exploration Days” will examine the pedagogy and training programmes of the French, Italian, Danish and Russian Schools, and how they influenced the development of the English School as established by Ninette De Valois in 1926.

De Valois founded the school with the opening of the Academy of Choreographic Art, which was renamed the Vic-Wells Ballet School in 1931, renamed in 1939 as The Sadler’s Wells Ballet School: when the school was granted its Royal Charter in 1956, the school was given its current name. Each of the Exploration Days will examine the history and style of each of the Schools in turn, including a ballet masterclass to showcase the unique characteristics of the respective School. When developing the School, De Valois extrapolated and collated what she believed were all the strongest elements from the French, Italian, Danish and Russian schools, merging them to forge a new methodology. She hoped by doing so she would create a uniquely ‘English style’ in a fusion of the best of the old European and Russian Schools.

The Royal Ballet School is one of the most prestigious vocational ballet schools in the UK, and one of the foremost classical ballet schools worldwide, offering full-time training programmes to potentially professional dancers. The School acts as a feeder to both The Royal Ballet Company and The Birmingham Royal Ballet, and its graduates have and continue to dance, tutu clad, in internationally acclaimed companies all over the world. The students follow a specifically designed ‘System of Training’ of eight years split into two courses; a five year course at the Lower School (White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey) for students aged 11 to 16, followed by a three year course at the Upper School (Covent Garden, London) for students aged 16 to 18.

The Exploration Days will run on 30 September (French School), 21 October (Italian School), 2 December (Danish School), 3 February (Russian School) and 17 March (English School), led by Directors and Artistic Directors of the specific schools.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The Pavlova 2012 Festival

Anna Pavlova

The Pavlova 2012 Festival was launched earlier this year in June, held at Ivy House in North London, Anna Pavlova’s former home from 1912 until her death in 1931. The festival included a number of special events, including a photographic exhibition and a film season at the British Film Institute, playing tribute to Pavlova’s beautiful art form, exquisite tutu and pointe shoes!

It is over 100 years ago that Pavlova decided to leave Russia and make London her home, with Ivy House being the base from which she conducted her ballet school, training young girls who aspired to be part of her touring company. Once Pavlova had severed links with St Petersburg, she travelled enormous distances – to North and South America, to India, Japan and Australia – continuing to dance almost to the day of her death.

The BFI season of films about Pavlova is part of this year’s centenary celebration of her acquisition of Ivy House, a season stocked with footage of her life and career. Jane Pritchard curated the six programmes, which include documentaries, feature films and recordings of Pavlova on and off stage, and most importantly dancing. The main source of filmed material about her was The Immortal Swan, a tribute put together after her death by Victor Dandré, who may have been her husband as well as being her manager. The film drew on “home movies” made during Pavlova’s travels and on very basic films of some of her repertoire; Pavlova was fascinated by what she realised was film’s potential for recording dance, and extremely open to experiment… more so than most of her ballet contemporaries.

Pavlova’s Imperial Ballet-trained technique was a means in order to convey what truly mattered to her: her expressiveness, rather than the execution of steps. By the time most of the films of her dancing were made in the 1920s, she was relying on very simple choreography without the fifth position, pirouettes or arabesques, but runs on pointe, legs parallel, defining her legendary status beneath her Dying Swan tiara with strong, arched feet and beautiful arms and legs. The Dying Swan, the solo choreographed for her by Mikhail Fokine in 1907 was retained as her signature piece, and she danced it 4,000 times.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Kevin O’Hare next in the RAD Guest Speaker Series

Royal Academy of Dance Logo

Following the success of the first Guest Speaker event with Christopher Hampson in April 2012, the Royal Academy of Dance’s Faculty of Education is due to welcome Kevin O’Hare, brand new Director of The Royal Ballet. O’Hare will be the first “event” of the RAD’s 2012-2013 Guest Speaker Series, open to RAD students, members and non-members alike.

O’Hare was first trained at The Royal Ballet School, donning his practice shoes and ballet tights before stepping into Mason’s Director-ship shoes of The Royal Ballet many years later, following her retirement in July 2012. After his stint at The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare went on to train through an exchange programme with the Royal Danish Ballet. He then joined the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as it was then known, and was promoted to Principal in 1990: it has since become Birmingham Royal Ballet, in 1990.

During O’Hare’s performing career, his repertory included leading classical roles and works by esteemed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Hans Van Manen, Sir Anthony Tudor and Twyla Tharp, in addition to numerous international guest appearances. He also created many performing roles, working with Sir Frederick Ashton, Ninette De Valois, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, David Bintley and Peter Wright, amongst others.

O’Hare lay his leotards and leggings to rest in 2000 when he retired from dancing in order to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, training in company management. He returned to BRB as Company Manager in 2001, joining The Royal Ballet as Company Manager in 2004. In 2009, O’Hare became Administrative Director, with 2012 marking his progression to Direction of the company. In addition to being a governor of The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare has never stepped out of the performing arts sector, and it has certainly paid off.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Dancers’ Career Development

Dancers' Career Development (DCD) LogoThe Dancers’ Career Development, founded in 1974, is a scheme which has been supporting professional dance for 38 years, helping them to make the transition from professional dancing to a new career by giving them the skills to continue working beyond dance as they hang up their ballet shoes. Initially The Dancers’ Resettlement Fund, it aimed to provide support to the dancers from the five Arts Council funded dance companies.

The organisation expanded its work in the 1980s to offer career support to all professional dancers in the UK. Today, the Company Fund provides for dancers who have completed a minimum of five years as a professional dancer with one or more of its nine contributing companies: Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, Richard Alston Dance Company, Scottish Ballet, Siobhan Davies Dance Company and The Royal Ballet. The Independent Trust, however, supports all professional dancers who have performed for a minimum of five years in the UK. Both the Fund and the Trust operate under the DCD.

The DCD offers a range of specialist practical, psychological and financial retraining and career support services, tailored to each individua’s needs, allowing dancers to select the support needed for a successful transition and fulfilling career path. In addition to this support system, the DCD runs a comprehensive outreach and workshop programme in dance schools, companies and commercial productions in order to encourage dancers to expect transition periods within and from their performing careers, be they full of leotards, character shoes, tap shoes or tiaras. With the economic climate dictating funding and job frequency, this is becoming increasingly important, not only to help dancers to retrain in hundreds of different careers post-performing but to maintain an arts-focused arts industry. A 2011 survey showed that 89% of retrained dancers are still working in the profession they retrained in.

The new Dance UK Dancers’ Mentoring programme, funded by Dance UK and in partnership with the DCD is open to mid career dancers who have been identified by their peers as future leaders. Of the 16 dancers who took part when the programme was run five years ago, eight have gone onto leadership positions in companies such as Phoenix Dance Theatre, The Royal Ballet, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Candoco Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company. This specifically indicates that not only is the dance sector full of fantastic performing talent, but also the talent to adjust and contribute in an equally as rewarding capacity.

Image courtesy of the DCD.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

James Cousins

James CousinsJames Cousins (who may be argued as one of the most exciting new choreographers of 2012), is dusting off his practice shoes and preparing to present a programme of new work at Sadler’s Wells, the renowned ‘dance house’ of the UK.

Cousins attended London Contemporary Dance School, graduating in 2010 from three years worth of dance tights and foot thongs, and went on to win the New Adventures Choreographer Award which has set him in excellent stead for a future career in choreography. The award was set up in 2010 to mark Matthew Bourne’s 50th birthday, to be run bi-annually in order to provide young choreographers the chance to develop and hone their choreographic skills under the mentoring of Bourne himself. Whilst training at LCDS, Cousins was awarded the prestigious Robert Cohan Award for the most promising dance artist, as well as co-ordinating the third year touring company LC3, leg warmers and all. His three years also included performing in three different works at venues across London, including Laban and Rich Mix, in addition to Verona, Italy. Cousins was also involved in external projects directed by dance artists and professionals such as Katie Green, Donald Hutera and Darren Johnstone.

Cousins is currently performing too, dancing for Marc Brew Company alongside rehearsing for his own show, whilst Cousins’ choreography has been performed across London and abroad. Cousins’ own double bill at Sadler’s Wells is a result of inspiring teachers and fantastic training at LCDS, enabling Cousins to, for example, perform in Bourne’s Swan Lake on Broadway upon leaving college, as well as appearing in the 3D film version of the iconic show. As a choreographer, a possible highlight of Cousins’ career could be having his work performed at Buckingham Palace for the Duke of York’s 50th birthday… bar Sadler’s Wells!

Image courtesy of the James Cousins Dance.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

Candoco Dance Company and the Festival of the World

Candoco Dance Company LogoCandoco Dance Company was founded in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin, developed from workshops which grew into the first company of its kind in the UK – a professional dance company focused on the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers. The company gained much acclaim from the press, general public and the worlds of dance and education, and between 1991 and 2005 the company toured to over 50 countries within Europe, Australia, North and South America, Asia and Africa.

Artistic Director Dandeker OBE retired in 2007, having commissioned 30 new performance works for the company from internationally renowned choreographers including Emilyn Claid, Javier de Frutos, Siobhan Davies, and Darshan Singh-Bhuller, catapulting the company into the mainstream dance world from the very beginning. A far cry from tutus and pointe shoes or run-of-the-mill leotards and leggings, Candoco has set itself apart from other contemporary dance companies in showcasing talent, skill and physical and emotional strength.

Next up for the company is an evening of bold new dance featuring 12 dancers from China, the UK and Brazil as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World. The evening contains new works by choreographers Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham. The summer long Festival of the World is made up of smaller festivals and weekends, with Candoco belonging to Unlimited. Together the separate ‘events’ create a story demonstrating how art is changing in different and exciting ways. Unlimited is running for 10 days, encompassing and celebrating comedy, dance, performance and art by deaf and disabled artists. This individual festival celebrates the arts on a huge scale, encouraging artists to push beyond by creating work which poses questions and inspires new collaborations.

With the Paralympic Games just around the corner, the arts, culture and sport are able to be mixed into a delightful combination, opening doors and creating new directions for the future.

Image courtesy of Candoco Dance Company.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

New Musicals to Hit London’s West End

London Shows

2012 is set to see two exciting new musicals hit London’s West End Theatreland: The Bodyguard and Viva Forever!The Bodyguard is adapted from the Oscar-winning 1992 film which saw Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner star, whilst Viva Forever is an original story based on the music of the hit British girl band the Spice Girls, opening at the Adelphi and Piccadilly Theatres respectively.

Broadway actress Heather Headley will be making her West End debut complete with New Yorkers and sparkling dresses when she begins her role in The Bodyguard, with the book by Alex Dinelaris and directed by Thea Sharrock. She plays world-famous singer Rachel Marron opposite Lloyd Owen as ex-Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard Frank Farmer who is hired to protect her when threats are made against her life, with love unexpectedly blossoming. Headley is a Tony and Grammy Award winning actress who first became known when she originated the role of Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. She then went on to originate the title role in Aida, for which she won the Tony Award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ (2000), and also took part in the concert production of musical Dreamgirls donning similar high-heeled shoes and big hair.

British television actress Hannah John-Karmen will also make her West End debut in the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever!, based on a book by Jennifer Saunders and directed by Paul Carrington. John-Karmen plays Viva, a young girl who lives on a houseboat with her mother – to be played by Sally-Ann Triplett – and forms a girl band with her friends, entering an X Factor-style TV talent show. John-Karmen took part in the developmental, leg-warmer clad workshops of the musical alongside Triplett and was offered the lead role after impressing the creative team. The 22-year-old actress, a huge Spice Girls fan, trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and is most known for her TV work, most prominently as burlesque dancer Rosa Maria Ramirez in The Hour and Jo ‘the ice-cream girl’ Portman in Misfits, but has also appeared in The Syndicate, Whitechapel and Black Mirror, among others.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.