Natalie James – make anything work

Natalie Nicole James is a movement and circus artist. From 2012-2015, Natalie studied at the National Centre for Circus Arts; she received a full scholarship to train and specialise in dance-trapeze, graduating with a BA Honours.

After working with Impact Dance Company and Sean Graham Dance Theatre, Natalie began a performance career as a soloist exploring her own artistic voice whilst performing as part of the Beijing Olympics Torch ceremony.

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Northern Connections at the Riley Theatre

Three emerging dance artists from Leeds and Manchester will perform a triple bill at the Riley Theatre on 27 April, as part of the Arts Council-funded programme Northern Connections. Chapeltown’s Akeim Buck, Leeds’ Daniel Phung and Sheffield’s Keira Martin will perform dance pieces in a bid to demonstrate, nurture and retain talent in the north of England. Now in its second year, Northern Connections has partnered with Spin Arts and Yorkshire Dance to make this professional development opportunity possible.

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Dance to Health

Aesop’s Dance to Health pilot programme has found dancers can be trained to deliver artistic, evidence-based healthcare programmes. It also found reductions in loneliness for participants, and therefore suggests similar arts in health programmes could become sustainable funding streams for arts organisations, as Dance to Health clearly demonstrated the positive outcomes and the lower overall costs of managing falls compared to the primary prevention programme.

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The Flamenco Edition

Following successful tours in 2015 and 2016, Flamenco Edition returns in 2017 with the Ana Morales Flamenco Company. Touring to more venues than ever before and following the success of previous tours – Jesus Fernandez in 2015 and Olga Pericet in 2016 – Flamenco Edition 2017 presents Ana Morales Flamenco Company in Reunión – a brand new show for the UK, touring to Newcastle, Birmingham, Derby, Nottingham and Bournemouth between 9–17 May.

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Melbourne Ballet Company’s ten year anniversary

Melbourne Ballet Company marked its ten year anniversary this month with a contemporary ballet performance presented in Sydney. Choreographed by company director Simon Hoy with Tim Podesta and Lucas Jervies, the three choreographers took inspiration from German philosopher Heidegger and his views on existentialism, as well as their own behaviours and emotions. Sydney also saw Mara Galeazzi (former Principal with The Royal Ballet) and Joseph Phillips (formerly with American Ballet Theatre) perform. Melbourne Ballet Company’s 10th anniversary year will also see the company tour Australia and New Zealand.  Continue reading Melbourne Ballet Company’s ten year anniversary

Data-driven dancers’ health

The Royal Ballet has recently committed itself to sharing its knowledge in caring for dancers, by partnering with the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science. It’s support of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science means that one of its research projects that aims to gather injury and fitness data from dancers at the UK’s major companies and schools can move forward, in a data-driven approach to dancers’ health.

The project hopes to improve care for dancers’ health and wellbeing through this research, and as a result of the partnership The Royal Ballet will share learning from its system that uses specialist digital technology to track dancers’ injuries, health and day-to-day training, which it uses to inform its injury prevention strategies. As they work together it is hoped that the dance industry will better understand the vast breadth and depth of ‘injury’ across the wider dance sector. It is deemed as essential for the development of the industry.

The partnership between the ballet company and the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science will strengthen the valuable work already done in this area, and will go on to further support the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of dancers around the world. The work has been welcomed by the founding partners of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, including One Dance UK and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries. The centre has already begun to align its injury surveillance methods with the Royal Ballet.

The National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science was founded in 2012 to share dance science expertise and provide information, guidance and access to healthcare services. Its other partners include the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the University of Birmingham and the University of Wolverhampton.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella Dreams

Cinderella Dreams, which premiered on 20 February, was the culmination of a six month quest by Birmingham Royal Ballet to find the perfect fit for Cinderella’s jewelled slipper, in a production that brought to life big ballet aspirations of both young and old. The company searched the midlands area in order to stage this new production, which brought together talent from across the generations. In its aim to inspire and develop dancers from across the region, the production adapted David Bintley’s classic choreography to create a new and vibrant version of Cinderella.

Cinderella Dreams worked to showcase emerging talent from those aged eight to 76, working alongside dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet. Over 150 dancers from the age of eight took part in open auditions in September 2016, and a final cast of 65 was selected, to experience the intensive training, rehearsal and eventually performance of a classical ballet. The production was in front of a full audience at the Birmingham Hippodrome, a hugely rewarding outcome for all involved.

The project was developed with the Department for Learning at Birmingham Royal Ballet, under the eye of Project Manager Rebecca Brookes. As a result, Cinderella Dreams has been an inspirational project for all involved, from the youngest to oldest dancers part of the production. There was a huge demonstration of talent, involving those who may not have ever had the chance to be involved in a professional ballet production. Whilst not without its challenges, Cinderella Dreams was a dream come true for many of the dancers involved.

Cinderella Dreams was the perfect production for all those who aspire to dance on the big stage; the benefits of dance are unbounded and this production was no different. As a charming and magnificent showcase, it demonstrated the breadth of dance talent across the area.

How to… improve your pirouettes

With a multitude of dance events and exhibitions taking place up and down the country this year, there is no end to the fun dancers can have attending and seeing what is on offer, be it shopping, browsing dance courses or taking part in pop-up classes.

This year Dance Direct will be present at the Can You Dance? conventions, taking place in a number of cities throughout 2017. It is the biggest touring dance convention in the UK and will be visiting 10 different venues this year. There will be the opportunity to shop the great range Dance Direct stocks, but most exciting is the chance to win big in a pirouette competition! Show us how many pirouettes you can do at our stand, or post it on social media and tag @dancedirect, to be in with a chance of winning a Dance Direct goodie bag, full of lots of freebies!

It’s never too late to start practising: pirouettes are not always a dancers’ favourite part of class, but with a few tweaks you can drastically improve your technique and ensure you are spinning across the studio.

Often pirouettes can go slightly AWOL if a dancer does not have the strength to maintain their turns. A strong relevé onto demi-pointe and using the core to control your centre of gravity can do wonders for the number of turns you can achieve, and your recovery too. Starting at the barre before moving into the centre, practice snatching your working leg onto demi-pointe, and your other leg to retiré. With strength running through your arms too you’ll create a solid base for your turns.

Perhaps the most vital part of succeeding in your pirouettes is the use of your head, and spotting using a point in space ahead of you. Not only does this help you achieve multiple turns by the body following, but it also helps to prevent dizziness – you can then turn some more! Before you turn, decide how many pirouettes you will achieve. If you need a double pirouette then don’t change your mind halfway through – commit to your turns and use your head to whip round twice.

Keep your head up and your shoulders back, and you’ll sail round. Looking at the floor will only mean you will end up down there, and unless it is choreographed, it’s best to stay standing!

Misty Copeland – Disney Star

American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland is set to star as the lead ballerina in the live-action version of The Nutcracker created by Disney. She is well on her way to becoming a household name with what might be her biggest job yet. Having already identified herself as accomplished in a number of balletic roles, this Nutcracker gig is not the first time Copeland has been on screen but is one of a kind for the ballerina.

The film is entitled The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, directed by Lasse Hallström. Hallström’s filmography also includes titles such as The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Copeland is familiar with the role of Clara, dancing the part in Alexei Ratmansky’s production of The Nutcracker. She will be appearing in the film’s dance sequence however there is no word on who the choreographer may be just yet. Also unconfirmed is the release date for the film.

The Nutcracker and The Four Realms will be based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” in which a young girl named Marie watches her toy nutcracker comes to life, fights the evil Mouse King, and is whisked off to a magical land filled with living dolls. The classic ballet, with its iconic score from Tchaikovsky, is based on that tale. It has been adapted for the big screen many times over the past few decades, most recently in 2009, with The Nutcracker in 3D.

Ahead of any filming or choreography schedules, Copeland is keeping herself very busy. Alongside dancing as a principal with American Ballet Theatre, this summer alone she is launching her own dancewear line, named Egal. She is also appearing in a Cosmopolitan magazine feature and even getting married.