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!

Strictly 2016

Strictly Come Dancing is always a highly anticipated event in both the dance and the popular culture calendar. With celebrities vying to win the contest ahead of their star-studded peers – and impress the panel of judges too – it makes for entertaining viewing full of wonderful costumes and eye-catching routines. The professional dancers taking part in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing have already been announced, with three brand new dancers joining the returning favourites. New to the line up are World Champion Katya Jones, Ukrainian Champion Oksana Platero and Spanish dance professional Gorka Marquez.

Returning to Strictly are Anton du Beke, Brendan Cole, Kevin Clifton, Pasha Kovalev, Aljaž Škorjanec, Giovanni Pernice, Karen Clifton, Natalie Lowe, Joanne Clifton, Janette Manrara and Oti Mabuse. Tristan MacManus, Ola Jordan, Kristina Rihanoff and Aliona Vilani announced at the end of last series that they would not be returning to the show, as well as Gleb Savchenko, who has other commitments. Head judge Len Goodman also announced recently that 2016 will be his last Strictly series, disappointing news for many, and now much speculation as to who will fill his shoes in this position.

There has been much speculation also as to who the celebrity dancers will be for this series of Strictly, pairing up with the professional dancers in the Autumn. Names that have so far emerged from the rumour mill include barrister and daytime TV phenomenon Judge Rinder, and TV presenter Angelica Bell, who has now been confirmed as signed up for this year’s contest. Other names include Downton Abbey actress Michelle Dockery and American pop singer Anastasia, adding to the clan of performing arts professionals who will no doubt shine in the spotlight!

Annual World Hip Hop Championship to hit Vegas

The 15th Annual World Hip Hop Championship is set to hit Las Vegas in August, where the world’s top hip hop and street dancers will be competing at the 2016 World Hip Hop DANCE Championship and World Battles. Otherwise referred to as “the Olympics of hip hop dance”, it will see a record number of 3,500 dancers representing 50 countries compete.

The championship will take place in early August, and competitors will be aspiring to win the gold medals and the world title, and score the perfect 10. The championship will begin with the USA Hip Hop DANCE Championship to determine those who will represent America. Over 100 Crews (made up of five to eight dancers) and MegaCrews (made up of 15-40 dancers each) from throughout the US will travel to Las Vegas to compete for the top three spots advancing to the World Championship.

The championship continues with the World Hip Hop DANCE Championship which will see over 250 Dance Crews and MegaCrews from 50 nations compete in qualifying rounds at the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort, leading up to the World Finals at Thomas & Mack Centre. Here the World Battles will witness the world’s best street dancers go head to head for world titles for B-boys, Poppers, Lockers and All-Stylers.

The championship was created by Hip Hop International, the originator of the most respected and largest street dance competitions in the world, as well as the creator of “America’s Best Dance Crew”. Founded in 2001, Hip Hop International highlighted street dance, pushing it to the forefront of mainstream popular culture. The world championship is therefore viewed as the ultimate competition in street dance, launching the careers of dancers for artists and companies such as Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Rhianna and Cirque Du Soleil.

Summer University At Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells LogoLaunched in 2010, Sadler’s Wells Summer University supports the development of professional dance artists interested in extending their dance practice. The first edition of the project ran successfully between 2010-2014 and the organisation is now recruiting for the second edition starting in Summer 2015. The Summer University graduates (2010-2014) was a combination of notable dance names, and the second batch looks set to mirror this result.

Summer University offers 15 dance professionals the chance to take part in a four year project, meeting for two weeks each year to share work, hear talks, explore methodologies and philosophies of performance making and extend their own dance practice through self-study. As a free course, it is open to dance makers and other artists involved in the performing arts who are interested in developing their own choreographic practice. Also focused on is the future possibilities of dance as an art form.

The course is open to artists based in the UK, with no more than five years professional experience as a dance maker. Directed by the admired choreographer Jonathan Burrows, in collaboration with Eva Martinez, Artistic Programmer for Sadler’s Wells, the course encompasses guest speakers and experienced professionals from the worlds of dance, theatre, visual arts, philosophy and artistic development in sharing their knowledge.

The second edition of the Summer University will take place between 14-27 September 2015 at Sadler’s Wells, a unique opportunity for dance artists and dance makers to immerse themselves in the art and develop their practice further. Applications for the Sadler’s Wells Summer University are currently open: deadline to apply is 22 May 2015 at noon.

Future4Youth

Future4YouthFuture4Youth – the brainchild of Impact Dance’s founder and Artistic Director Hakeem Onibudo – is an exciting partnership between Impact Dance and the African Cultural Exchange Dance and Music. It is calling youth dance companies from all genres of dance to be selected to embark on a unique journey which will focus on dances of the African Diaspora and its relationship with hip-hop.

Twenty youth companies from the UK will be invited to take part in two workshops in May and June in Birmingham and London; following these stages ten companies will be invited to perform at a youth celebration platform in October. The workshops will be lead by Vicki Igbokwe (UCHENNA), Kenrick Sandy (BOY BLUE), Alesandra Seutin (VOCAB), Impact Dance and ACE Dance and Music. The focus will be on working with leading artists in these genres, and one youth company will go on to perform at Peacock Theatre, London, in February 2016. Running parallel is a Mentoring/Leadership programme for the young dancers in the companies, forming part of Impact Dance’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations.

Youth Companies must have members between the ages of 11-19, and the companies that are successfully chosen to perform at the platform in October can be represented by a maximum of 12 dancers. The initial 20 companies that are selected will receive a bursary of £400 per company to cover travel, and the ten successful companies who progress after July to the October platform will receive an additional bursary of £300 per company.

The opportunity offered by Future4Youth is one which aims to both develop youth dance in the genres of the African Diaspora and its relationship with hip-hop, as well as performances for young, aspiring dancers who will simultaneously gain experience in working as part of a team for the same end.

CDET’s Dance Careers Conference

CDETTaking place on 10th May, CDET’s Dance Careers Conference is not an event in the dance calendar to be missed. Hosted at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, the event offers a unique and informative one-day event providing high-quality, relevant and up-to-date information and guidance about further education, training and career opportunities in the dance and musical theatre industries.

Three bespoke strands will run independently through out the whole day. Students will each receive a ballet, jazz and musical theatre class, and gain an insight into what it is like to audition for a vocational college. They will also have the opportunity to take part in seminars providing them with information on choosing a course and college, as well as the audition process involved. Parents and carers’ seminars will include information on how to choose a vocational school, the different qualifications on offer, as well as auditioning, funding and careers information after training.

Additionally, teachers will be able to engage in technique class, often a rarity for busy teachers with hectic class schedules! Sessions focusing on how to create solos for student auditions will be held, as well as seminars on how to advise students when they are in the process of choosing a professional training school. Numerous industry professionals will also be involved with the busy conference, hosting sessions on building a dance business and how to market dance schools.

As with MOVE IT – the annual dance exhibition at London’s Olympia – a number of CDET Accredited Schools will be present to talk to attendees during the conference. These include Urdang Academy, Performers College, Northern Ballet School, Liverpool Theatre School, Bird College, Laine Theatre Arts, Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Cambridge Performing Arts, LIPA, The Centre Performing Arts College, London Studio Centre, Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama, Hammond School and Elmhurst School for Dance.

English National Ballet’s Choreographics

English National Ballet ChoreographicsEnglish National Ballet’s platform for emerging dance makers, Choreographics, will take place at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio on 19 and 20 June, a programme celebrating young choreographers. The initiative of the event focuses on the development of up and coming choreographers both within and outside the Company, offering them the opportunity to progress their skills as creators and discover their own choreographic language.

Recent debate regarding the absence of female choreographers in the dance industry has been heartfelt and passionate, so it is encouraging to see female dancer Stina Quagebeu as part of the programme, following Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s additions to the debate. For the first time, Choreographics is open to artists outside of English National Ballet in 2015, and sees work presented by Morgann Runacre-Temple, choreographer in residence at Ballet Ireland since 2009, who has created four full-length ballets for the company; and Renato Paroni de Castro, who has previously choreographed works for Sarasota Ballet and London Studio Centre’s classical ballet performance group, Images of Dance.

The six works programmed are completed by company dancers, inspired by the theme of post war America, from English National Ballet artists Fabian Reimair, who created We Are Free for last year’s programme; James Streeter, who’s work In Living Memory was performed at Latitude Festival in 2014; Quagebeur, who’s Vera was selected by The Breaking Glass Project and performed in New York, and who recently worked on English National Ballet’s second Dance Journeys project at Sadler’s Wells; and Max Westwell, making his debut as a choreographer in a professional setting.

Each choreographer will receive mentoring from award-winning choreographer Russell Maliphant and dancer, choreographer and teacher Kerry Nicholls. Musical guidance will be received from English National Ballet’s Music Director Gavin Sutherland, and each piece created will be performed by English National Ballet company members, ensuring the roots of the competition continue to flourish.

Teens In Tutus

Youth America Grand PrixThe Lincoln Centre is set to be overrun by thousands of teenage dancers, and many in tutus, as the Youth America Grand Prix begins in April.

6,636 young ballet dancers – aged 9 to 19 – have danced around the globe in preparation for the YAGP. 1,204 finalists are now heading to New York in April for a finals week culminating on stage at the David H Koch Theatre at the Lincoln Centre, a huge showcase for youth dance in uncovering future professionals.

The Youth America Grand Prix is the world’s largest student ballet competition, inviting aspiring young dancers to go head to head in competing to excel their dance careers. Young dancers come from across Asia, Australia, Europe, America and Africa, as well as the best ballet schools in the USA, hoping for an eventual place in one of the world’s best ballet companies. Following the conclusion of the competition, dozens of past winners have gone on to join companies such as American Ballet Theatre, the Mariinsky Ballet, New York City Ballet, and many others.

The Youth America Grand Prix is also one of the world’s largest dance networking events. The final round will give audiences a unique chance to see some of the world’s best young dancers perform before they go on to study around the world as a result of the $300,000 in scholarships presented annually. Since its founding in 1999, the competition has seen over 70,000 young dancers participate.

The full week for 2015 will include the finals, the Youth America Grand Prix annual ‘Stars of Today Meet the Stars of Tomorrow’ Gala and ‘David Hallberg Presents – Legacy’, all happening at the Lincoln Centre.

Cohan At 90

Robert Cohan At 90The end of March saw the iconic Robert Cohan CBE, the father of British contemporary dance, celebrate his 90th birthday. As part of the celebrations, The Place announced the inaugural Cohan Lecture and re-launch of the Cohan Scholarship at the gala event on Thursday 26 March, and again on Friday 27 March when the event was open to the public too. The special gala event celebrated the immense contribution the legendary choreographer continues to make to dance in the UK, premiering a new work choreographed for 2015 on Liam Riddick of Richard Alston Dance Company.

The Place’s lecture series aims to cultivate lively debate around topical issues, named as the Cohan Lectures, in honour of the lively and enquiring mind of its founding Artistic Director and Patron, Robert Cohan. The first of these, entitled ‘What Matters?’, will see two of the great creative thinkers of our time, Sir Ken Robinson and Cohan, debate this question on Thursday 11 June at The Place. The lectures will run annually, inviting high profile speakers from a broad range of industries and backgrounds to continue this debate.

The re-launched Cohan Scholarship aims to support driven, talented students at London Contemporary Dance School who are in their final year, at the brink of their professional careers, to realise their potential. With donations made by supporters and guests in advance of the event, over £18,000 has already been raised, and the fund is now open for future donations. The scholarship is a way of making sure talents are excelled and potentials as independent artists are realised. The Cohan Scholarship will be awarded annually to students from London Contemporary Dance School’s BA Hons programme to support their training. The scholarship will support named students with exceptional potential in performance.

Dance To The Edinburgh Festival!

Edinburgh International FestivalThe Edinburgh International Festival has announced its 2015 programme, including some exciting dance highlights. These include Sylvie Guillem, Israel Galván, Zürich Ballet and Les Ballets C de la B. This year’s festival runs from 7-31 August, and is an artistic delight for all culture vultures.

Les Ballet C de la B will dance Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke’s En Avant, Marche!, a work which starts in the rehearsal room of an amateur brass band in Flanders. Ballet Am Rhein will dance Martin Schläpfer’s Seven, set to Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, and the iconic Guillem will perform her farewell show, Sylvie Guillem – Life in Progress. In addition, Galván will dance Lo Real, which explores the plight of the Roma and Sinti people in fascist Spain in the 1930s and 1940s.

The Festival provides a huge variety of artistic offerings to those who descend upon the city during the summer. In terms of dance 2015 is an important year, especially for those hoping to catch Guillem performing for the last time. Guillem will also be performing at Sadler’s Wells and the Birmingham Hippodrome as part of her farewell tour.

Also at the Edinburgh Festival, Zürich Ballet will perform a double bill of company director Christian Spuck’s Sonett which uses speech and music by Mozart and Philip Glass to explore Shakespeare’s sonnets, in addition to Wayne McGregor’s Kairos, set to Max Richter’s reimagining of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with designs by Idris Khan. TAO Dance Theatre will perform Weight x 3, created by its founder Tao Ye to music by Steve Reich. Richter will also perform his Vivaldi work in concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. There will also be a dance element in a new production of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, conducted by Iván Fischer with choreography by Veronika Vámos.