Beyoncé Vs. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker Despite much time elapsing between the esteemed choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s next moves in the dance world and the similarities of her work with a high-heeled music video of Beyoncé’s, it still seems fit to draw upon the links between the almost chilling uniformity of De Keersmaeker’s Rosas Danst Rosas and Beyoncé’s Countdown music video, seemingly inspired by the choreographer. This connection between the contemporary dance world and the pop culture to which Beyoncé belongs is becoming shorter, with both choreographers and music artists being inspired by alternative stimuli.

De Keersmaeker, 52, whose company Rosas is full of fierce and dynamic dancers, trained in both Brussels and New York and could consequently be called the godmother of the Belgian contemporary dance movement that spawned such offspring as Jan Fabre, Alain Platel and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Although she’s an acclaimed figure in the dance world – however not for her leotard and leg warmer wearing persona – she is less of a household name outside it, but that changed late in 2011 with her work ‘borrowed’ by Beyoncé for the music video to promote her new single. The two videos are very similar in terms of movement vocabulary, setting and intention, with another sequence in the music video strongly resembling choreography from Achterland, a filmed version of which won the Dance Screen award in 1994.

Regardless of claims of stealing, plagiarism and copyright, it is clear to see that references to other artistic elements are frequent among the producing element of art, including references to modern dance. On a positive note, the choreography of Rosas Danst Rosas was able to reach mass audiences in an altered format, which a dance performance could never achieve, enabling new audiences to inadvertently appreciate De Keersmaeker’s talent and skill emanating throughout the dance world.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain © MGM

23rd August marked the 100th anniversary of legendary dancer Gene Kelly’s birth date, in addition to him also being a legendary actor, singer, director and choreographer! One of Kelly’s most memorable dance films is Singin’ In The Rain in which he dons his tap shoes as actor Don Lockwood, splashing through the puddles and sunshine of Hollywood glamour and love. Throughout the film Kelly is athletic, acrobatic and an incredible performer, just as he was in other productions, performing perhaps one of the most famous film dancers of all time.

It may or may not be a well known fact that in Kelly’s rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain”, he was sporting a fever of 103 degrees when the number was shot. In that year, 1952, the Motion Picture Academy gave him an honorary award — his only Oscar — for “versatility”, providing some recognition of his fantastic work in the performing arts industry, despite not flaunting his athletic dancer’s body in a leotard and men’s tights!

Kelly also starred in other ‘dancing films’ such as An American in Paris, dancing “I Got Rhythm”, with the film winning won six Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1951. In addition to dancing, singing and acting in An American, Kelly also choreographed, mixing elements of ballet, tap, soft shoe and shuffle, all performed with vigour.

Five years after his acclaimed performance in the rain, Kelly’s final MGM musical, 1957’s Les Girls, saw him dance with Mitzi Gaynor and again demonstrate incredible dance talent and fitness: skidding across a table on his bottom, scooting across the floor on one knee, leaping to the top of the bar on one foot, sliding down the bar on his right side and grounding himself for the remainder of their duet. Kelly’s masculinity and on and off-screen power was dominating and talent-filled, despite the fact dancing was very foreign to American popular culture at the time. Kelly proved that male dancers did not have to be effeminate, championing dance for the talent and skill involved rather than a particular gender, making his dancing look completely effortless yet powerful.

Image courtesy of the MGM.

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

Nigel Charnock

Nigel Charnock, one of the founders of DV8 together with Lloyd Newson, recently passed away at the age of just 52. Charnock was and is still seen by many of one of the true originals who kept contemporary dance bright and evolving, preventing it from becoming stagnant. His complete dedication to extremes and the pushing of artistic boundaries was what many of his audiences and fans were drawn to, in his rejection of the theatrical, the jazz boot, jazz hands and leg warmers.

To some Charnock may have appeared fearless, and may even have been feared, often creating dance extremely controversially. It has been argued that his on-stage eccentricity may also mirror that of his real-life, blurring the boundaries between entertainment and a personal need for output, be it artistically, emotionally, or both. British contemporary dance twenty and thirty years ago presented many talented performers who engaged with and embraced homosexual identity in theatrical dance, extending the limits of entertainment, and indeed art itself, Charnock singing, dancing and making jokes amongst others such as Newson, Michael Clark and Javier de Frutos.

DV8 was founded in 1986, a combination of physical and dance-theatre. DV8 since presented a number of provocative and emotive pieces, such as establishing its breakthrough with Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, a gruelling and yet graceful all-male work, including a young Russell Maliphant. In addition, the subsequent acclaimed production Strange Fish featured strongly Charnock’s powerful persona on stage and film. Charnock then presented a number of personal pieces which have been likened to stand-up comedy, such as Hell Bent, Original Sin, Resurrection, Human Being, and Frank in small London theatres. In a more commercial enterprise, Charnock was commissioned for the integrated dance company Candoco and became artistic director of the Helsinki Dance Company for three years, indicating that not only will Charnock’s legacy live on, but it will flourish and become even more well-known.

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


Some Like It Hip Hop

Some Like It Hip Hop
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ZooNation Dance Company’s Some Like It Hip Hop is returning to the Peacock Theatre in London from 20 – 13 October 2012 following its world premiere last year. Sporting urban dance trainers and tracksuit bottoms, in some cases, the company earned widespread critical praise and standing ovations in 2011. Following in the footsteps of the company’s 2006 smash hit Into the HoodsSome Like It Hip Hop will return ahead of an extensive tour to locations including Salford, Truro, Canterbury, Guildford, Edinburgh, Bradford, Leicester, Nottingham and Wolverhampton.

Kate Prince directed and co-choreographed Into the Hoods, which first premiered at the Peacock Theatre in 2006, later opening at the Novello Theatre in 2008. It became both the first ever hip hop dance show to open in the West End and the longest running dance show in the West End’s history. Prince was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer, and the show won the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance.

The Olivier award-nominated production Some Like It Hip Hop unites fantastic dancing with an engrossing storyline, telling a tale of love, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and revolution through ZooNation’s trademark style of hip hop, comedy and physical theatre. ZooNation Dance Company is directed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Prince, founded by her in 2002 to provide a permanent base for street dancers working in the commercial music industry. Amongst the jazz trainers, leotards and glitter hairspray of some of the commercial industry today, ZooNation has since performed at festivals and events around the world, such as Breakin’ Convention, Sadler’s Wells’ annual international festival of hip hop dance theatre. In 2010, ZooNation became a Resident Company at Sadler’s Wells.

The show’s original cast is returning for the production’s second London run led by Tommy Franzen from the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance.

Darcey Bussell is Back!

Darcey Bussell

Five years ago, Royal Ballet principal ballerina Darcey Bussell, arguably the greatest British dancer since Margot Fonteyn, retired and moved to Australia, putting away her pointe shoes. She has now returned to the UK and has recently been elected, tutu training and all, as the new president of the Royal Academy of Dance, one of the world’s most influential dance training organisations. Bussell is also due to resume her role as a judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in the autumn, digging out her New Yorkers and fishnet tights again.

The RAD, which was founded in 1920 to reinvent dance teaching, has a syllabus that is now taught to 250,000 students in 79 countries. The RAD aims to promote knowledge, understanding and practice of dance internationally, and Bussell follows in the ballet shoe footsteps of another former prima ballerina, Dame Antoinette Sibley, who retired after 21 years as President. Already Bussell talks of the RAD approaching an even wider range of dance styles in order to remain at the forefront of the evolving arts scene. Bussell is already re-entering the world of British ballet in additionally becoming a patron of The New English Ballet Theatre which is dedicated to supporting home-grown performers.

Bussell cites Sir Kenneth MacMillan as her dance inspiration, one of the great choreographers of the twentieth-century, who helped revive full-length ballets in Britain. He was first to recognise Bussell’s potential and as a result she became the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal ballerina at 20 years old. Years on, Bussell’s energy is still impressive, and her post-retirement activities have included a children’s dancewear range, the Magic Ballerina series of children’s books, and pilates. She is the new face of Sanctuary Spa skincare and has been working on an autobiographical picture book.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.


Dame Monica Mason’s Retirement

Monica Mason's Retirement
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As Monica Mason retires as Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet company, she has fully completed 54 years with the company. Beginning as a dancer in the corps de ballet, Mason rose through the ranks to a five-star ballerina, who has also accomplished many more notches on her ballet shoes as becoming a celebrated teacher and choreographer’s assistant.

There has been a spectacular exhibition at the Royal Opera House which detailed her fantastic career through photographs and tutus, demonstrating both dynamism and tradition through her vast career with the company. Some have argued that Mason has swerved from British ballet tradition by employing Random Dance choreographer Wayne McGregor as Resident Choreographer in 2006 to work with her dancers, swapping their tights for black block pointe shoes. However, others have noted Mason as respectful in keeping with classical tradition, and merging it with innovation in the twenty-first century as the seventh Artistic Director of the company.

Mason has maintained the high standard of The Royal Ballet, and has now handed over the ballet-shoe-ribbon-reins to Kevin O’Hare, having stood in her role since 2002. As a great classical company, the Royal has developed its stars much as many other companies have done, promoting new choreography and staying true to originals, such as Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan’s. Boasting previous Artistic Directors such as Ninette de Valois, between 1931 and 1963, The Royal Ballet has a history steeped in talent and vigour, as well as variety, and now combining influences of modern dance in its repertoire through McGregor.

Mason’s sense of humour, intelligence and sense of history looks set to carry the company through this upcoming transition period, in which she is stepping down from a highly-valued post in which there are very few females. Despite this, O’Hare has booked Mason to coach four MacMillan ballets next season, so Mason’s influence is far from gone.

Chicago the Musical

Chicago the Musical
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Chicago the Musical, having run in London’s West End for almost 15 years, has recently posted closing notices at the Garrick Theatre for 1 September 2012, just weeks shy of its 15th birthday on 18 November. A sexy and thrilling musical, Chicago has had three homes throughout the West End and one of only six musicals to have played more than 15 years in the West End, alongside Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera.

Celebrities from far and wide have starred in the musical throughout its lifetime, such as Kelly Osbourne, Brooke Shields and Denise Van Outen playing razzle-dazzle murderess Roxie Hart, with other musical theatre stars including Bonnie Langford and Ruthie Henshall each donning their black character shoes and fishnet tights in turn. The final actor to play slick and suave lawyer Billy Flynn will be British Olympic ice-skating champion Robin Cousins, swapping his ice skates for tap shoes and feather boas. He is the first Olympian to star on stage in the home city of the Games, and during the event itself.

As a musical revival, Chicago has had a record run, originally opening in 1997 following its move from New York City’s Broadway to London’s West End more than two decades later, having premiered in 1975. Chicago was originally choreographed by American dance pioneer Bob Fosse, famous for his iconic pelvis-based, loose-limbed movement and glove-covered fascinating hand movements, with Ann Reinking echoing Fosse’s high-kicking hit in the UK. Fosse is also known for his choreography of extremely successful musicals such as Sweet Charity, Pippin and Cabaret, with Chicago being seen by 17 million people worldwide. As an Olivier-award winner of Outstanding Musical, Chicago is a dazzling production that is not to be missed in its final few weeks.

New English Ballet Theatre

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New English Ballet Theatre is a new company formed by director, choreographer and dancer Karen Pilkington-Miksa for recent graduates of dance training programmes in 2010, hiring dancers for a period of 3 months and commissioning new works for an annual programme. The company offers 20 young dancers an opportunity to tour their ballet shoes professionally and to work with established choreographers including English National Ballet’s former Artistic Director Wayne Eagling, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Michael Corder and English National Ballet’s emerging choreographer Jenna Lee.

Of the 200 young dancers graduating from ballet schools every year, only four are selected by main companies; New English Ballet Theatre provides dancers at the start of their career the chance to dance principal roles, be they tutu-clad or tunic-and-tights. In their recent programme Synergies at the Peacock Theatre, 4 of the 9 contributing choreographers to the repertoire were female, which is a rare occurrence. Having the opportunity to choreograph, for both males and females, is a promising signal that the arts are continuing to flourish and succeed, especially considering the loss of Arts Council funding by so many dance organisations.

New English Ballet Theatre itself has no funding, but boasts a patron list that includes Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez, Mara Galeazzi, Darcey Bussell and Wayne Eagling, in addition to support from Sadler’s Wells as a platform which is celebrated internationally. The company champions young dancers, choreographers and designers in a huge showcasing of talent and innovative work in its first year of project-based work. With dancers who have trained at esteemed dance training schools and conservatoires such as the Rambert School, London Studio Centre, English National Ballet School and the Conservatorio Professional de Danzxa in Seville, New English Ballet Theatre aims to give emerging young artists a full professional experience rather than touring within a school environment, such as Ballet Central or Ballet West. Through the company’s environment, the dancers are keen to bring classical styles to a much wider and less conservative audience as those involved try new things and experiment for the dance world.


American Ballet Theater’s Apprenticeship Programme

ABT Apprenticeship Programme

American Ballet Theater has just announced an apprenticeship programme in order to develop young dancers, which is to be new focus for the esteemed company, extending its current range of pointe shoes, leotards and tutus. The creation of the programme will benefit six dancers, enabling them to work as apprentice members of the company’s corps de ballet, gaining the relevant skills required to work as a fully-fledged member of American Ballet Theater, creating and promoting new talent.

The selected dancers will train under American Ballet theatre Studio Company’s artistic associate Kate Lydon, as well as Clinton Luckett, American Ballet Theater’s ballet master. The apprentice course will run for ten weeks beginning in September, and the dancers will then go on to advance to the apprentice level with the company during its performance of The Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The training will provide full immersion into the ballets in the repertoire of the company, including tutorials in ballet story lines, history, style and mime. In addition, dancers will attend seminars in hair, makeup and company etiquette in preparation for entering the main company, upholding the high, professional standards of American Ballet Theater in the arts world. The students’ apprenticeship will continue throughout American Ballet Theater’s performance season ending July 2013.

The dancers will be selected first from among the students at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, second from among Summer Intensive students and by audition, requiring them to pull on their best performance tights and shine for all they’re worth.