The Royal Opera House’s Student Ambassador Scheme

Royal Opera HouseThe Royal Opera House has just launched its Student Ambassador scheme, open to all students from across the UK and giving them, as Ambassadors, access to a whole host of exciting and exclusive benefits. The ROH has invited students from all over the UK to apply to be a Royal Opera House Student Ambassador for the coming academic year as an exciting new dance activity to engage with.

The ROH searched for passionate, creative and confident students who will advocate for the ROH at their universities this year as the first ever ROH Student Ambassadors. The ambassadors will promote exciting productions from the Main Stage, the Alternative programme and the ROH Cinema Season throughout the year by ensuring that the Royal Opera House is represented in the right places and at the right times on and around their universities. The ROH hopes that this will give all students access to world-class productions at the ROH, whether it be in London or at cinemas nationwide, pointe shoe clad or solely leotards.

The Ambassadors will receive access to discounted and complimentary tickets to ROH productions, a fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s greatest opera houses, the opportunity to meet and network with other Ambassadors and arts professionals and the opportunity to get an insight into the ROH creative departments, in addition to the possibility of being awarded a week long work placement at the ROH in the summer of 2013. Successful applicants who will have been informed recently of their new positions will be able to start the scheme off by The Royal Ballet’s Mixed Programme featuring VisceraInfra and Fool’s Paradise.

The Royal Opera House Student Standby scheme is generously made possible by the Bunting Family and the Robey Family.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Strictly Come Dancing Online Game

Strictly Keep DancingWith the autumn 2012 season of Strictly Come Dancing well underway and with some contestants already voted off the show, a complementary element has been launched by the BBC for fans of the show to indulge themselves in the sequins, feather boas and Latin and ballroom shoes the show encompasses. It has even been rumoured that Strictly Come Dancing recently beat The x Factor in terms of viewers.

The Strictly Come Dancing online game is a game version of the extremely popular show featuring Dancing With The Stars (the US version of the show) professional Mark Ballas and Strictly dancer Artem Chigvintsev, enabling fans to engage even further in the show. The game “Strictly Keep Dancing” allows users to pick from their favourite professional dance partner, in which fans who wish to tango and salsa can do so dressed in their choice of sparkly outfit and outlandish dance show make-up.

The game, which coincided with the launch of the Dancing With The Stars online game too, allows users to choose their own dancing partner from a list that includes current real-life stars of the show. Closely based on the BBC series, the game will allow players to compete on the dance floor as they try to excel to higher levels, collecting points as they go and living out their dance star dream.

Users logging on to the website have been advised that they ‘may experience glitches or problems when they play’ because the game is still in its trial BETA stages.

Celebrating Dance 2012 at the RAD

RAD Celebrating Dance 2012

Dance students will have the chance to participate in ‘Celebrating Dance 2012’, a day of dance to be held at the Royal Academy of Dance on 11 November to raise funds for the Frank Freeman Scholarship fund.

The day will consist of a masterclass led by Steven McRae who is a Principal of The Royal Ballet, providing a unique opportunity to experience Steven’s artistry and experience of dance, and the ballet shoe and tights shenanigans it entails. The masterclass is open to students studying RAD Advanced 2 or the equivalent, and teachers are also able to either observe or participate. The class will be followed by a Q&A session with Steven.

Running in addition to the masterclass is the London & Middlesex Senior Awards Day, a competition for 16-22 year olds who are currently studying or have passed RAD Advanced Foundation or above (or equivalent), performed in front of a live audience. Candidates will be judged on their performance in the class and variation by Lynn Wallis, the RAD’s Artistic Director and Gary Avis, Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master at The Royal Ballet. The winner will be awarded £150 and the runner-up £50, to be put towards RAD activities or materials.

Income from the Celebrating Dance 2012 event will support the Frank Freeman Scholarship, in memory of the RAD devotee, which will give the opportunity for one boy from the London & Middlesex region to be awarded a week’s free tuition on an RAD summer school in 2013. Frank Freeman was an international freelance teacher, choreographer and Vocational Grades Examiner for the RAD, in addition to being a member of the artistic sub-committee and board of trustees, and received a fellowship of the RAD in 2000. Entirely trained at The Royal Ballet School, Frank was also a member of The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet companies and a founder patron of The National Youth Ballet of Great Britain.

Find out more from the RAD website.

Hollywood Costume

Victoria and Albert Museum Hollywood Costume Exhibition

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s major autumn 2012 exhibition, Hollywood Costume, is set to be a fabulous and incredibly insightful event. The landmark show will open after five years of sourcing and identifying items to be part of the treasure trove of exhibits.

During the Golden Age of Hollywood (from the 1930s to 1950s), costumes would be removed to vast costume storage once the filming was complete and were subsequently rented, remade and re-styled for new productions, rather than maintain their significance for the original production they were intended for. When the Hollywood studio system declined in the 1960s and 1970s, costume archives were sold making the curator’s job for the V&A exhibition even more challenging. However, some iconic costumes have been tracked down for showcasing with even some private collectors loaning their treasures to the exhibition for the general public to see up close.

The earliest costume in the exhibition is from the first MGM sound film, The Broadway Melody, which was released in 1929, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and the film was followed by many successful sequels. The costume displayed was worn by Bessie Love as one of the Mahoney sisters as a vaudeville act, complete with character shoes and shiny show tights. The film A Broadway Melody was a huge catalyst for change in the film industry in the transition between silent films and sound. Another iconic costume on display is the gingham pinafore dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, having been held in a secure bank vault in London’s Fleet Street. One of the pairs of Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers are in demand for the exhibition, having taken on mythic status since 1970 when MGM sold a pair for $15,000, and it is unclear how many shoes remain in existence.

Other costumes which will be creating the sum of the V&A exhibition include those from Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963), the mink and sequined dress designed for toe-tapping Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark (1944), Hello Dolly! (1969), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), along with the musical Chicago complete with stylised black costumes, such as Renée Zellweger’s floor-length gown for her performance of Nowadays.

For more information about this exhibition, visit the V&A website.

Image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Quicksilver – Rambert’s Youth Dance Company

Following in the footsteps of Rambert Dance Company’s recent stint at the Sadler’s Wells is Quicksilver: Rambert’s youth dance company, complete with their leotards, tights and fresh inspiration. Quicksilver is a group of talented young dancers aged 15-24 who focus on new contemporary works as well as learning Rambert repertoire, led by Rambert Animateur Laura Harvey. Previous performances by the Quicksilver company have included the opening of the Eurostar from St Pancras International Station, various dance platforms at the Lilian Baylis Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, as well as performances for Richdance festival and Big Dance.

As part of Big Dance 2012, Quicksilver worked in association with Age UK towards a performance at The Watermans Theatre in Brentford in a new collaborative piece choreographed by, simultaneously, Artistic Director Laura Harvey. Over the summer of 2012, Quicksilver has been performing their new piece Trapeze, most recently shown at the final sharing for Move-In at The Clore Ballroom at the Southbank Centre. In addition to this, Quicksilver has also taken part in the flashmob Shh… It’s a Secret at the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush involving over 200 dancers aged between nine years and 90. This appearance was also led by Laura Harvey, bringing the shopping centre to a standstill for the seven minute piece which showcased a range of dance styles.

Another flashmob which took place recently featuring the Quicksilver dancers was at St Pancras Station to champion the work of the London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers and the legacy created from their work throughout the Olympic and Paralympic events. The flashmob included both the Quicksilver dancers and the volunteers, joined together in an uplifting and inspiring piece for both the press and the early morning commuters at 8am.

Strictly Secrets

Strictly Come Dancing

In the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing series 6 in 2008, Camilla Dallerup and partner Tom Chambers were crowned the winners, with Dallerup going on to reveal some Strictly secrets.

The shoes worn by the contestants, including those who have just begun their 2012 stint on the show have been developed over many years by top shoe manufacturers with the input of world class dancers, designed to give them support in the right places and so they can be balanced correctly. The shoes are one of the core elements of making any dance successful – a tap dance performed in pointe shoes, let alone a tutu, would not have quite the same meaning or effect! Latin dancers, as a result, wear specific shoes which enhance their movements and become an extension of their foot.

It is interesting to note that ballroom dancers wear a lower height heel than latin dancers, as latin dancers need their weight further forward onto the balls of their feet… this is just the females alone, with around 3.5 inch heels. The men’s shoes also have Cuban heels which are higher than those worn for ballroom to ensure that their weight is forward toward the front of their foot too. However, ballroom dancing does not require this due to the specific hold the dancers must maintain and the closeness with their partner, with just 2.5 inch heels.

The soles of the shoes worn are made of suede so they have long lives: dancers can also be seen brushing them with a special steel brush to make them non-slippery, or alternatively leave them to their own devices to get shiny and much more slippery. It was revealed, however, that many latin dancers also put castor oil on the soles of their shoes to achieve the ideal non-slip shoes.

National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey

National Resource Centre for Dance (University of Surrey)The University of Surrey, renowned for its higher education dance programme, has presented its schedule of its next National Resource Centre for Dance courses for Continuing Professional Development for dance teachers, be they of the ballet shoe, tap shoe, or jazz pant discipline.

The first of the sessions was A2 Dance: Focus on West Side Story and Jerome Robbins, held on 13 October. The course examined Robbins as a practitioner and the context of West Side Story in relation to the development of Musical Theatre as a dance genre, tutored by Gill Graves. Graves trained at the Roehampton Institute and has been teaching in further and higher education for 17 years across a wide range of Performing Arts and Dance. She is also an examiner and course team leader for A Level Dance and is the Head of Vocational Studies at the Royal Ballet Upper School.

The 14 October saw A2 Dance: Focus on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, course examining the Area of Study Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 1958-current providing historical and cultural context. There was specific focus on identifying key practitioners and their stylistic characteristics through practical and theoretical exploration, including include ideas for preparing for Dance Appreciation and the solo based on a practitioner for the Performance task.  The course was tutored by Gillian Lenton, who has an MA from the University of Surrey and teaches KS3 & 4, AS and A Level Dance and A Level Theatre Studies at Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls, also GCSE and A Level Dance at the Royal Academy of Dance.

The next in the schedule will take place on 10 November for GCSE Dance: Raising Standards in Choreography and Performance. This workshop will be a mixture of practical and theory, focusing on identifying how to help students understand how to successfully integrate performance and choreography into course planning. Penny Perrett will be leading the course who has led courses for teachers in all phases of education and was part of the team who produced the teaching framework for dance for Youth Dance England. She was also a member of the board of the National Dance Teachers Association for many years.

The next will be A2 Dance: Focus on Zero Degrees (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Akram Khan, 2005) on 24 November.  It will provide a contextual overview, key points and analysis in addition to warming up in an appropriate style and exploration of the repertoire practically and theoretically. The course leader will be Lorna Sanders who has a PhD from the University of Surrey, constructing a theoretical reconceptualisation of the subject of dance in education, looking specifically at GCSE and A Level Dance which she taught, moderated and examined for many years. Sanders is also a dance writer of articles, educational publications and two books, having been assistant editor for the 2nd edition of Routledge’s Fifty Contemporary Choreographers published in 2011.

The last in the series will be A2 Dance: Focus on The Royal Ballet, 1956-1977 examining the Area of Study The Royal Ballet 1956-1977 providing historical and cultural context. There will be a specific focus on identifying key practitioners and their stylistic characteristics through practical and theoretical exploration on 25 November, again presented by Lenton.

A worthy set of useful and insightful information courses to inspire any teacher.

Audition Tips

Dance AuditionThe time of year has begun again, when dance students all over the world are beginning to audition for dance schools, vocational colleges, conservatoires, institutes and universities. Even the most professional performers can feel nervous before important auditions or performances, but there are a few sure-fire ways to make sure that your tutu stops trembling and knees in those show tights stop shaking.

The first thing to ensure you are doing is breathing. This will calm your nerves as you take long and slow breaths, and will mean you are concentrating on something else rather than the task in hand! Make sure that you are standing correctly and have good posture by standing up straight and tall, whilst pulling your stomach muscles in towards your spine. Your weight should be distributed evenly over your feet will your toes relaxed and spread on the floor.

Relax your shoulders, as these begin to tense subconsciously when we feel anxious or nervous. Make sure you are pulling your shoulders blades down and are opening up your chest to project yourself, making sure that your ribs are pulled in to your body. You should feel as though you are pulling up all of your muscles and are neat and well-presented. You will appear more confident by having good poise, and able to carry off that brand new leotard to perfection!

Make sure you are fully warmed up by the time the audition starts as this will ensure you will not have any body-related worries to contend with, meaning you can fully focus on the person taking the audition and what they require from you. Make sure your muscles are warm and supple and keep breathing, as this will maintain the oxygen travelling around your body in your blood, and feed it into your brain too. It is easy to be distracted by other dancers in the room, but it is important to concentrate on yourself and show yourself off to your best ability, rather than worrying about making mistakes.

Good luck!

The Hospital Club Top 100

The Hospital Club

It has been revealed that choreographer Wayne McGregor, Former Director of The Royal Ballet, Monica Mason and First Artist of The Royal Ballet Liam Scarlett have been nominated for the Hospital Club Top 100 list, an annual list which celebrates those who have influenced the creative industries over the previous year, be it through pointe shoes, jazz pants, tutus or tap shoes. The list is spread over ten categories from Art & Design and Performance to Fashion and Film.

As The Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Wayne has created a number of pieces for the company, including Carbon Life and Machina from the Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 collaboration with the National Gallery. Over the coming season, Wayne will present Infra and Raven Girl which is a collaboration with The Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger. This will be in addition to presenting FAR with his own company Wayne McGregor|Random Dance.

Mason retired as the Director of The Royal Ballet at the end of the last season after spending 54 years with the Company as both a dancer and in an administrative capacity, with Kevin O’Hare stepping into her ballet shoes to take over the reins. As well as dancing with The Royal Ballet, Scarlett has choreographed a number of pieces for The Royal Ballet, including Diana & Actaeon from Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, Sweet Violets – which was seen being rehearsed during The Royal Ballet live broadcast on YouTube – and Asphodel Meadows. Within the 2012/13 season, Scarlett will be presenting Viscera, a piece originally choreographed for the Miami City Ballet, in addition to a yet untitled new work.

The final list will be announced at an event at the Hospital Club in early November and is decided by public vote. All voters will be entered into a draw to win a day’s access to the Hospital Club and £150 to spend in any of the club’s bars or lounges. Voters are able to vote online as to who they feel should make the final list.

Image courtesy of The Hospital Club.

Dance Proms 2012

Dance Proms 2012

Dance Proms is back for 2012, ready for a sparkle filled event as a unique and exciting collaborative project that celebrates the wealth of talent among the nation’s young dancers and will culminate in a gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall on 4 November. As a partnership project between the International Dance Teachers Association, Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, Royal Academy of Dance and the RAH working together in celebration of dance, this year’s participants of the 26 acts are set to raise the bar even higher, be it through tutus, tap shoes or coloured leg warmers.

Dance Proms was launched last year to find the UK and Ireland’s most talented dance students – in all dance genres, from ballet to ballroom, salsa to street dance and jive to jazz dance – and offer them a unique opportunity to perform  an original piece of choreography on the stage of one of the world’s most prestigious and iconic venues. The event is supported by many top names from the dance world and the Dance Proms patrons include Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, Matt Flint, Len Goodman, Wayne Sleep OBE and the RAD’s President Darcey Bussell CBE. The gala performance will feature a diverse variety of acts to celebrate the dedication of the nation’s dance teachers and to showcase their students’ abilities, giving an amazing opportunity to young dancers.

This year’s 450 students will go on to perform alongside guest appearances from Strictly Come Dancing’s Darren Bennett & Lilia Kopylova, and Top Hat‘s Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen. Dance Proms 2012 will be hosted by TV presenter Chris Hollins.