Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief (Dance Magazine cover photo February 1954)Maria Tallchief, the muse of celebrated choreographer George Balanchine and fantastic ballerina died on April 11th 2013, aged 88. She became one the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, and was even one of Balanchine’s wives, securely marking her place in modern ballet history.

Tallchief was renowned for her work with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, dazzling audiences with her speed, energy and fire. Her stepping stone into fame took place in 1949, in which Tallchief danced the title role in the company’s version of Stravinsky’s Firebird, which was one of many roles that Balanchine created for her during their time together. Many dance fans from world-over may compare Tallchief to British ballerina Margot Fonteyn, each the epitome of their country’s work in the arts.

Tallchief began ballet lessons in Colorado Springs and later took classes in Los Angeles, and from then on a star began its journey into American dance, becoming known worldwide. At 12 years old she began studying with Bronislava Nijinska, a former choreographer for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, formidable but encouraging. From then on Tallchief began dancing roles cast to her by Nijinska, and Agnes de Mille, who later encouraged Tallchief to adopt her name by which she is known.

By 1944 Tallchief had danced mostly with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but this marked the year that she danced in a Broadway musical choreographed by Balanchine. Balanchine went on to remain resident choreographer for the company, casting Tallchief in works such as Danses Concertantes, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Ballet Imperial and Le Baiser de la Fee. Balanchine paid close attention to Tallchief, and in return she admired him as a choreographic genius, marrying him in 1946 but then divorcing him in 1950.

Balanchine went on to create his own ballet company, which Tallchief went on to be one of its acclaimed stars in roles in ballets such as Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Orpheus, the first performance taking place in 1948, and her last in 1965.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Uses Of Swiss Balls

Pineapple Fitness BallSwiss balls, known by a number of different names, are large, heavy-duty inflatable balls used for aiding core strength in dance technique. The balls offer a fun, safe and highly effective way to exercise, and are relatively inexpensive compared to other exercise equipment. Stocked by Dance Direct, for example, the Pineapple ball is burst resistant, and works to keep the entire body in shape, targeting all the major muscle groups and supporting dance work.

The Swiss ball was used as early as the 1960s, originally used by physical therapists and chiropractors in Switzerland to assist with rehabilitation and became known as the Swiss Ball. Through seminars and classes the Swiss Ball was introduced to the USA in the early 1980s and became known as extremely versatile and valuable in terms of dance. In the late 1980s coaches, athletic trainers and personal trainers also realised the effectiveness of the Swiss Ball in developing balance and core strength, and since then the fitness balls have been reported as the most effective method for core conditioning.

Using a Swiss ball will improve the strength of the abs and the lower back, as well as improving balance, proprioception and flexibility. Alignment is improved by the use of additional muscles to maintain stability and balance, abs are worked simultaneously with the back muscles through abdominal crunches on the fitness ball (which have been scientifically proven to work the abs more than the regular crunch), muscle strength, tone and endurance are improved in all of the major muscle groups, core stability is built up through the use of the major and deep muscles which helps stabilise and support the body’s movements, and stretching exercises using the ball as a tool are all fantastic uses of the Swiss ball to aid dance training and beyond to maintain the dancers’ body.

Sleek Technique

Sleek Technique

Sleek Technique, an online, ballet based, fitness programme, has been designed by two professional dancers as accessible dance-fitness programme for everyone. The live classes can be downloaded “on the go” and include authentic barre techniques and ballet bootcamps, as well as downloadable sculpting workouts delivered direct to computers, tablets and mobiles.

The technique prides itself on fitting in with busy lifestyles in order to create and maintain beautifully shaped bodies whenever and wherever you are. Sleek is an entirely portable fitness methodology, perfected for non-dancers by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s professional ballerina and fitness coach Victoria Marr and West End dancer Flik Swan. It combines elements of classical ballet technique and conditioning exercises used by the professionals to sculpt their lean, dancer bodies. The Body Beautiful workouts are delivered live online or are available to download to start transforming shapes, and with a maximum of 5 people in each live class, the founders are able to monitor technique to make sure participants get the most out of every session.

Sleek Technique combines the dancers’ knowledge on which exercises really give a toned and slender body, and the girls are always ready to help transform and aid progress. Sleek uses multi functional dance based exercises which condition and tone muscles whilst improving co-ordination, posture and stamina. These are combined with isolated isometric exercises which work to sculpt individual muscle groups. Sleek Technique is low impact and easy on joints, but high intensity to strengthen muscular structure. Stretching out each muscle group as it is worked then ensures longer, leaner, dancer like muscles are created with no bulk, to show off beautiful lines with curves in the right places.

The Royal Ballet 2013/14 Season

The Royal Ballet

Artistic Director Kevin O’Hare’s second season at The Royal Ballet has seen the announcement of the programming of The Royal Ballet’s 2013/14 season. In view of the artistic decisions, the company is leveraging its current strong box office position to focus on new, full-length works which will make up six world premieres, and this will also protect the company’s heritage.

Guest Principal Carlos Acosta is currently working on his new production of Don Quixote: Acosta has danced the lead role in many countries and has vast experience and knowledge of the role and narrative. Acosta’s production of Don Quixote will be the company’s own production for the very first time, and O’Hare’s decision to open the new season with this is hoped to be a successful one.

Artistic Associate Christopher Wheeldon will premiere his second full length work for the company based on Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, with Wheeldon collaborating with the team responsible for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. O’Hare has also extended another invitation to former Royal Ballet School student and Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer David Dawson, who will create a new work as part of the first triple bill of the season, alongside Wayne McGregor’s Chroma and Kenneth MacMillan’s Rite of Spring to complete the bill. Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett’s Sweet Violets will return in a triple bill alongside Wheeldon’s DGV : Dance a Grande Vitesse and George Balanchine’s Serenade but Scarlett has no new work programmed for the season.

The final triple bill of the season will see a new work by Alastair Marriott, following his success in the Titian collaboration. Frederick Ashton’s The Dream and Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, which has not been seen at the Royal Opera House for 10 years, will then complete the programme. Full works will intersperse the triple bills, with Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Peter Wright’s Giselle and Monica Mason and Christopher Newton’s The Sleeping Beauty each making an appearance.

Once the London season has closed after The Nutcracker and Balanchine’s Jewels at Christmas, the company will tour to Moscow making a temporary home in The Bolshoi Theatre.

Cats The Musical

Cats The MusicalSince Cats the musical opened on the West End stage in 1981 it has become one of the world’s best known and best loved musicals. Originally directed by Trevor Nunn, the show has since been presented in over 20 countries and in around 250 cities, including diverse destinations such as Buenos Aires, Seoul, Helsinki and Singapore, and has been translated into 10 languages for audiences all over the world. The show has translated into Japanese, German, (three versions for Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Hungarian, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish (two versions for Mexico and Argentina) and Italian, with the Swiss production requiring a bilingual cast who performed in German and English on alternate nights

The original production opened at the New London Theatre in the West End on 11 May 1981: eight years later it celebrated its first important milestone and became the longest running musical in the history of the British theatre after 3,358 performances. Within two and half years of the London opening there were productions in New York, Tokyo, Budapest and Vienna, and the first of tour US touring productions had begun. Cats opened on Broadway in 1982 and ran until 2000, with 1997 seeing the show become the longest running musical on Broadway and 1991 marking Cats as the longest, continuously touring show in American theatre history.

In addition to the incredible dance and staging of the iconic production, the musical numbers of the show have also been hugely popular. “Memory” has been recorded by over 150 artists ranging from Barbra Streisand to Johnny Mathis, with Barry Manilow’s rendition was a top-40 hit in the U.S. The Original London Cast Recording of Cats also won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Cast Album, in addition to a number of other awards over the years, and the following year the Original Broadway Cast Recording won the same award.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

New Adventures to hit NYC

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping BeautyMatthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, which completed his Tchaikovsky trilogy of the composer’s ballet masterworks, is preparing for a run in New York City in autumn following a hugely successful London season and UK tour. The trio began in 1992 with Nutcracker!, continuing in 1995 with his international hit Swan Lake.

Bourne’s acclaimed reimagining of the iconic classical ballet production will run during October and November at the New York City Center, and will be the company’s New York premiere of Sleeping Beauty. This is following Bourne’s Swan Lake also hitting the City in 2010 after its first visit in 1998 when the production played on Broadway and won three Tony Awards.

The original production of tutus and tights, The Sleeping Beauty, was choreographed in 1890 by Marius Petipa, inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairytale about a young girl cursed to sleep for 100 years. As a result, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker were all re-imagined by Bourne in terms of choreography, set, and interpretation, expanding audiences and combining classic stories with contemporary and theatrical dance.

For Sleeping Beauty, Bourne sets his production in the original year of 1890, setting the christening of the central protagonist Princess Aurora at the height of the fin de siècle period, full of fairies, decadence and vampires which fed into the gothic imagination of the era. The narrative then moves forward into the Edwardian era of with Aurora’s coming of age, and into the modern day with her waking after a century-long sleep.

Bourne’s production of Sleeping Beauty was the fulfilment of a great ambition in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bourne’s company New Adventures in 2012, and also to complete his choreographing of three great Tchaikovsky ballets.

The 2013 Olivier Awards

The Olivier Awards 2013

Esteemed dancer, choreographer and now Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Dance Gillian Lynne is set to receive Special Awards at this year’s Society of London Theatre Olivier Awards in recognition of her immense contribution to theatre and the arts.

Gillian Lynne began her career as a ballet dancer before earning an international reputation for her innovative choreography and stage work throughout the performing arts industry, including choreographing Cats and The Phantom of the OperaCats the musical is set for revival later in 2013, and it looks as though Gillian Lynne’s achievements are not over yet, with many more years of creativity ahead. Beginning as a Royal Ballet dancer under Dame Ninette de Valois, Gillian Lynne has been a constant stream of creation throughout the arts.

As a result the Society of London Theatre’s Olivier Awards has recognised the prolific work of Gillian Lynne, continuing to have a vital and lasting influence on the theatre and dance stages of the performing arts industry. It is therefore only fitting that this ambassador of British Theatre be recognised with the Special Award at this year’s ceremony.

This year’s Olivier Awards, nominations for which were announced on 26 March 2013, take place at the Royal Opera House on Sunday 28 April, hosted by Hugh Bonneville and Sheridan Smith. The ceremony will be live on BBC Radio 2 from 6.30pm with a highlights package broadcast on ITV later in the evening. Some of the nominations are listed below.

Best Actor

  • Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss
  • James McAvoy – Macbeth
  • Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night
  • Rafe Spall – Constellations
  • Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

Best Actress

  • Helen Mirren – The Audience
  • Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House
  • Billie Piper – The Effect
  • Kristin Scott Thomas – Old Times

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Paul Chahidi – Twelfth Night
  • Richard McCabe – The Audience
  • Adrian Scarborough – Hedda Gabler
  • Kyle Soller – Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Janie Dee – NSFW
  • Anastasia Hille – The Effect
  • Cush Jumbo – Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse)
  • Helen McCrory – The Last Of The Haussmans
  • Nicola Walker – The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

MasterCard Best New Play

  • Constellations
  • The Audience
  • The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
  • This House

Best Actor in a Musical

  • Michael Ball – Sweeney Todd
  • Alex Bourne – Kiss Me, Kate
  • Tom Chambers – Top Hat
  • Will Young – Cabaret

Best Actress in a Musical

  • Heather Headley – The Bodyguard
  • Imelda Staunton – Sweeney Todd
  • Summer Strallen – Top Hat
  • Hannah Waddingham – Kiss Me, Kate

Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical

  • Adam Garcia – Kiss Me, Kate
  • Debbie Kurup – The Bodyguard
  • Siân Phillips – Cabaret
  • Leigh Zimmerman – A Chorus Line

Best New Musical

  • Loserville
  • Soul Sister
  • The Bodyguard
  • Top Hat

Best Revival

  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night
  • Macbeth
  • Old Times
  • Twelfth Night

Best Musical Revival

  • A Chorus Line
  • Cabaret
  • Kiss Me, Kate
  • Sweeney Todd

Best Entertainment and Family 

  • Cinderella (St James theatre)
  • Goodnight Mister Tom
  • Hansel And Gretel
  • Room On The Broom

Best New Dance Production

  • Aeternum by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
  • Cacti by Nederlands Dans Theatre 2 at Sadler’s Wells, choreographed by Alexander Ekman
  • A Streetcar Named Desire by Scottish Ballet at Sadler’s Wells

Outstanding Achievement in Dance

  • Lez Brotherston for the set and costumes for Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, New Adventures at Sadler’s Wells
  • ILL-Abilities company in Breakin’ Convention at Sadler’s Wells
  • Marianela Nunez for Aeternum, Diana & Actaeon and Viscera, The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House

Best Theatre Choreographer

  • Scott Ambler – Chariots Of Fire
  • Bill Deamer – Top Hat
  • Scott Graham & Steven Hoggett – The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
  • Stephen Mear – Kiss Me, Kate

BBC Radio 2 Audience Award

  • Billy Elliot The Musical
  • Matilda The Musical
  • The Phantom Of The Opera
  • Wicked

Special Award

  • Gillian Lynne
  • Michael Frayn

BGT’s Pudsey – Where Is He Now?

Ashleigh Butler and PudseyThe loveable, fluffy winner of the 2012 series of Britain’s Got Talent has certainly been busy since he danced away from the hit talent show crowned the winner alongside his owner Ashleigh Butler. In December of last year Pudsey, a border collie, bichon frise and Chinese crested cross, brought the house down in a dazzling Bond inspired finale at the Royal Variety Performance, performed before Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Pudsey’s winning routine on the talent show saw Ashleigh train her pet to jump, dance on his hind legs, weave through her legs and Pudsey even ran across the judges’ table! Ahead of his Royal Variety performance however, Pudsey has been a host of American talk shows and his dancing paws have even experienced Simon Cowell’s private jet!

However, it seems the highlight of Pudsey’s year was being the final act as a dazzling duo to perform at the Royal Variety Show, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. The pair took to the stage, one in his furry uniform and the other in a bright pink unitard, and performed a routine with a 007 theme, devised to mark the film franchise’s 50th anniversary for 2012. The routine was of an acrobatic formation set to a medley of Bond themes, showing off Pudsey’s daredevil tricks and energetic leaps around the stage. Post-performance, it was thought that the double act was a particular favourite of Her Majesty.

The Royal Variety Performance of 2012 was the Queen’s 36th year in attendance, and may even have seen her pick up a few dog-training tips from the pair! Alongside Pudsey and Ashleigh, the Royal Variety Performance also presented some of the other Britain’s Got Talent winners take to the stage.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Years

Andrew Lloyd WebberITV are set to celebrate Andrew Lloyd Webber’s impressive and vast 40-year career with a 90-minute television special to mark his musical achievements. Stars such as Samantha Barks, Kimberley Walsh, Tim Minchin and Nicole Scherzinger are among the performers who will take part in the show which aims to celebrate the on-stage work of Lloyd Webber, rather than be a tribute to said work, which is sure to continue far into the future.

Aptly named ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber: 40 Years’, the 90-minute programme will be hosted by musical theatre icon Michael Ball, donning his top hat and tails to make sure the show goes down a storm for viewers. The show will include performances of songs from the Lloyd Webber’s shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats and Evita. Both Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats have seen recent revivals for the stage, giving younger audiences the chance to see musicals that they may have been unable to see in the shows’ heyday. However, these examples alone demonstrate the power of Lloyd Webber’s music to communicate with audiences and continue to attract them to fantastic shows up and down the country, and even all over the world.

The evening will also feature the first performance of a song from Lloyd Webber’s forthcoming show, Stephen Ward, and will include Lloyd Webber sharing anecdotes and discussing his musical influences in creating for a blockbuster show. Contributions from those people within the performing arts industry who have worked with him will not be thin on the ground, with the programme detailing Lloyd Webber’s unrivalled contribution to theatre.

Lloyd Webber will be using the ITV programme to celebrate his four decades in the West End with an evening that promises some spectacular performances and a deeper insight into the man himself.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Female Choreographers’ Collective: ‘The Experiment’

Female Choreographers' Collective - "The Experiment"The Female Choreographers’ Collective, founded in October 2012 with the aim of promoting female choreographers in the UK, will launch a two-part forum titled ‘The Experiment’ to be held at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance starting Tuesday 23 April.

The founders, Jane Coulston and Holly Noble, will be asking audience members to watch six pieces of dance work by three male and three female choreographers but without the knowledge of who has created each piece. The audience will then be asked to fill out questionnaires anonymously and the research will be presented at a second event later in the year in order to question the existence of a gender divide in dance.

The founders are committed to building and developing valuable and lasting relationships with male and female counterparts within the industry. Through collaboration, discussion, open dialogue and honesty, they aim to bring all choreographers to a level playing field, regardless of gender.

The research project to take place at Laban theatre aims to strip away perceptions about choreography in dance, with the audience asked to consider the following:

– Are you more inclined to watch male- or female-choreographed work?

– Is there a preference when it comes to male/female choreography?

– Does topic or subject of work matter?

– Does prior knowledge of the choreographer influence decision?

– Does publicity/advertising attract you or discourage you?

– Do you always watch a particular genre of dance?

– What most attracts you to seeing new work?

– Are reviews an important part of decision-making?

– What puts you off going to watch performances?

The information collated throughout the event will be distributed before an all-day seminar later in the year, also at the Laban theatre, with guest speakers, a panel discussion and breakout sessions.

Image courtesy of Trinity Laban.