Dancers’ Habits

Dancer HabitsAs a dancer, things you may not think twice about may surprise your non-dancing peers. Things like cracking your hips when you stand up, cracking your back, your feet, your neck: to many dancers this is a complete norm but to others this sounds painful and unnatural. There has been much debate as to whether cracking your joints is good or bad for you, but for onlookers it is definitely a bad thing!

Dancers like to practice and stretch at any opportunity while not in the dance studio. You might lie in frog while you’re reading, or watch television whilst sat in the box splits. Brushing your teeth? There’s the perfect opportunity to practice your tendus and relevés! The odd looks you get are part of the process – the obscure positions you take up, however, are completely natural for you. Equally, practising variations around the kitchen as your dinner is cooking may be annoying for those you share with, but essential to your work.

Whilst it is not anatomically healthy to walk in turn out due to the use and strength of the leg muscles, it is still something dancers may do subconsciously if they aren’t actively engaging the legs in order to walk in parallel. Often dancers must consciously walk in parallel rather than leg their legs turn out naturally from years of training, and this also goes for standing in any of the five ballet positions. Standing in fourth of course feels completely natural!

Marking choreography, especially with your hands, is also something dancers do without thinking. If you aren’t practising time steps under the dinner table you’re using your hands to practise a new routine. Aspiring professional dancers who live and breathe dance may even go several steps further than this, and to you it is of utmost importance.

Perform with Candoco Dance Company

Candoco Dance CompanyCandoco Dance Company is searching for 13 guest performers from any background to join the company for an exciting performance project in 2015: applications close on Sunday 9 November 2014 at 12pm.

The work, entitled The Show Must Go On, was created in 2001 by French choreographer Jérôme Bel. The show examines the relationship between art and life, constantly surprising and challenging the viewer’s expectations. Controlled by a DJ and audio feed, the performers follow lyrics of the songs ranging from musicals to well-loved pop songs. Bel is famous for his minimalist productions that use a bare stage to create an honest connection between the audience and the performers. Bel has been described by The Guardian as “a mischievously entertaining conceptualist who is less interested in movement than in messing with your head” – he is famous for challenging expectations and forcing his audience to question dance.

As a result, 2015 for The Show Must Go On will see a local cast of professional and non-professional performers from London, Nottingham, Birmingham and Glasgow embark on this exciting re-staging project. No dance or performance experience is required, just an enthusiasm to share in a creative process with others and promising a commitment to the project. Booking is now open for recruitment workshops in Birmingham, Glasgow, London and Nottingham. Performers should be 18+ but there is no upper age limit.

Candoco Dance Company is looking for a diverse group of individuals with a passion for performance, regardless of previous experience. They will work and perform alongside Candoco’s seven company dancers. The piece will tour to leading UK venues: Sadler’s Wells in London, Nottingham Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre and Tramway Glasgow next year.

For more detailed information, download the information sheet and book for a recruitment workshop using the application form on the Candoco website. Contact the company with any queries on 020 7704 6845.

Are You Dance Direct’s Student Ballet Dancer Of The Year?

Ballet StudentsAs dance forms go, ballet is among the hardest to perfect. It requires coordination, care and balance. Dancers work for years to perfect these qualities, and of course become students to enhance their form and knowledge.

Those who wish to make a career from ballet might study at university or a specialist dance school or college. At Dance Direct we understand how challenging it can be for people embarking on their dream to become a professional ballet dancer and so we are looking to help someone on their way. We’ve started a nationwide competition to find Dance Direct’s Student Ballet Dancer of the Year!

Think you have what it takes?

The competition allows student dancers from universities and colleges throughout the UK to show off their ballet skills in a video submitted to us. The competition will be judged by Dance Direct’s blog writer – Jessica Wilson.

The lucky winner will receive a prize of £250 worth of Dance Direct vouchers, to enable him or her to stock up on essential (or non-essential) dancewear items and a featured article about them on the Dance Direct blog! With a published on-site biography, you will inspire your fellow student dancers, and be an inspiration for younger dancers looking to start their career.

As the prize-winner, this competition will give you the equipment, exposure and the exclusive title of Dance Direct’s Student Ballet Dancer of the Year, to give you a boost to take your career in dance to the next level – as well as giving your college/university the recognition of housing the best ballet dancer in the country!

To enter the competition, you must:

  • Send a video of yourself dancing to competitions@dancedirect.com
  • Include your name, age, the name of the college/university where you’re studying, and the name of your dance course.
  • Video submissions can be made by either WeTransfer for a normal file or, if applicable, a link to your video on YouTube.
  • Your video can be either: an entry made purely for this competition, or a previous audition tape or dance show performance that you’re particularly proud of!

Terms &Conditions

The competition deadline will be at midday on the 30th June. The competition is only open to UK residents only. Entrants must be registered on a certified dance course at a college or university at the time of entering. No monetary value can be given in exchange for prizes. The winner will need to be available for a telephone interview after the competition has closed. The judge’s decision is final. Any queries about this competition should be directed to the competitions@dancedirect.com email address.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Carlton Dance

Alfonso Ribeiro's "Carlton Dance"Eagerly awaited on this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here was The Carlton Dance, made famous by American actor Alfonso Ribeiro during the hit TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. With the IACGMOOH series now over for 2013, it is clear that the contestants bonded from the off and worked together throughout.

Audiences had to be incredibly patient to see Alfonso’s flawless moves, and perseverance finally paid off. Alfonso both demonstrated and taught the Carlton dance to his I’m a Celebrity campmates, injecting some fun and sun into some of the relatively darker mood days. Alfonso, up to this point, had maintained that there “will be no dance until I am voted out” however he burst into action on the reality show after getting a pep talk from fashion designer David Emanuel.

The campmates joined in with great gusto, with the signature dance moves learnt by Olympic Gold Medallist Rebecca Adlington, reality star Joey Essex and professional dancer Vincent Simone also joining in. Rebecca was particularly pleased that Alfonso taught the dance to his campmates having been desperate to learn the routine. The impromptu dance lessons from Alfonso was a welcome distraction from camp life for the campmates following surprise evictions and rising tensions.

The camp’s efforts at learning the dance were rewarded with some music after dinner, and the campmates looked blissfully happy to hear the Tom Jones classic “It’s not Unusual”, with each campmate performing the routine. Thankfully spirits in camp were restored to a higher level than had previously been seem, but not for long as it was revealed the following morning that Matthew Wright and Vincent Simone were out!

For those of you who don’t know “The Carlton Dance” here it is performed by Will Smith and Alfonso in an episode of “The Fresh Princeof Bel-Air”!

Scottish Ballet’s App

Scottish Ballet's iPad AppScottish Ballet has recently launched an app for iPad, free to download for users and full of secrets from behind the scenes of Scotland’s company. The app can be downloaded by browsing for Scottish Ballet in the App Store and tapping FREE followed by INSTALL APP. Once installed, your new app will be sitting on your Newsstand shelf waiting to be read!

The app enables users to uncover the spectacular secrets behind the making of Scottish Ballet’s productions, from choreographic processes to musical scores, with Scottish Ballet’s brand new release on the iPad Newsstand. Audiences can find out more about their favourite productions and the process of staging them for Scottish Ballet.

For this free issue, the app takes a look at Scottish Ballet’s next production of Hansel & Gretel, offering a glimpse backstage with features on the making of the Company’s newest production, including fascinating video interviews, photo galleries, audio excerpts, set and costume designs and the chance to find out more about this enchanting show before you go.

As subscription is free, any changes made to the app will be made evident by notifications of all future Scottish Ballet Newsstand apps for iPad when they’re launched, instructing users to download the new version. New issues will also be complete with free behind the scenes galleries, interviews and much more.

In another strand of success for Scottish Ballet, it was recently announced that three finalists from the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition are now working alongside Scottish Ballet for their new production of Hansel & Gretel. Pascal Johnson, from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, has been offered a temporary contract, and Natasha Watson (bronze medallist) and Katie Rogers are on student secondment from Ballet West and Royal Conservatoire Scotland respectively.

Jersey Boys Star With Board Game Hit!

David McGranaghan & Game For FameJersey Boys actor David McGranaghan, who is currently starring as Nick Massi in the hit West End musical, has launched the board game Game for Fame. David teamed up with fellow actor Joseph Pitcher to create Game for Fame, where you ‘race from rags to riches and end up in stitches’.

The game has gained a large following due to its tongue-in-cheek view of the celebrity world and has recently been ranked in Amazon’s top 5 selling board games. David puts the success of the game down to its originality, inclusivity and humour, with the challenges both competitive and fun. David runs the business during the day with business partner Joe and then stars in Jersey Boys in the evening, which is the best of both worlds for him.

Jersey Boys tells the remarkable true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four boys from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 100 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.

The musical is the winner of 54 major awards worldwide, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The show originally opened on Broadway in 2006, receiving the Tony Award for Best Musical. As well as still running on Broadway and in the West End, Jersey Boys can be seen in Las Vegas, across the United States on its US National Tour, and in Perth, Australia, and will open soon in Cape Town, South Africa and the Netherlands. The musical will be transferring to the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2014, with the last performance at the Prince Edward Theatre on Sunday 9 March.

The Origins Of The Tarantella

Tarantella in Napoli by Enrico ForlenzaMany balletomanes may believe they know of the Tarantella through iconic American choreographer George Balanchine. However the dance, as a wild folk dance of Italy, was once believed to be a cure for tarantula bites, characterised by a fast, upbeat tempo and accompanied by tambourines.

Balanchine’s Tarantella showcases the nimble quickness of the dance and is a virtuosic display in the profusion of steps and quick changes of direction. The origins of the Tarantella are not dissimilar to the display by Balanchine, with the belief in the 16th and 17th centuries that the victims of tarantula bites must perform a frenzied dance to swear the poison out to prevent death and the hysterical condition known as tarantism using very rhythmic music. Today, the Tarantella is simply a dance in which the dancer and the musician constantly try to upstage each other by dancing or playing longer or faster than the other in order to tire the other out.

The first Tarantella dance originated in the Apulia region and spread out across cultures. As a result, the Neapolitan tarantella is a courtship dance performed by couples and featuring cheerful and increasingly faster music, and it is thought that its origins lie in the 15th century fusion between the Spanish Fandango and the Moresque’ballo di sfessartia, with the Tarantella becoming a solo dance.

Notable tarantellas include those in classical music such as that by Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saens and Igor Stravinsky, in literature: a performance of the dance was central to Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, and in film: The Godfather I and II, the musical version of Peter Pan danced by Captain Hook and his band of pirates, referenced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the Fairy Godmother’s song from Disney’s Cinderella is also a tarantella.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The 120th anniversary of The Nutcracker

Nutcracker Google Doodle December 2012

Just before Christmas 2012, the 120th anniversary of one of the epitomes of classical ballet, The Nutcracker, was celebrated by Google, which launched a doodle to commemorate the first performance of the ballet. The doodle worked to depict a few of the scenes of the ballet, particularly apt in the run up to Christmas with dancers everywhere becoming sugarplum fairies in their tights, tutus and tiaras.

The Nutcracker premiered at the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg on 18 December 1892 to a score by Pyotr Ilyich-Tchaikovsky, which has become world-famous and is instantly recognisable. Today The Nutcracker is performed all over the world by many different ballet companies, become various versions for film and even screened to cinemas in the UK recently. However, the ballet was poorly received before US-choreographer George Balanchine re-imagined the original choreography by Marius Petipa, transforming it completely.

As a result of this, it is presumed that much of the original choreography of Petipa’s production debut is no longer seen by audiences, flocking to theatres worldwide to experience this festive production full of magic and sparkle. Balanchine’s version of the ballet saw new elements make their way into the choreography and synopsis for the New York City Ballet in the twentieth-century, gradually spreading around the world.

Alternative versions of this ballet favourite include Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986), The Nutcracker Prince (1990), Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001), and The Nutcracker in 3D (2010), in addition to Matthew Bourne’s version as Nutcracker! and Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut as additional re-imaginings.

Unfortunately Tchaikovsky died aged 53, less than a year after The Nutcracker’s release, meaning he was unable to enjoy the ballet’s success, yet today there is plenty of opportunity to experience the captivating production.

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.

Kids Week

Kids Week 2012

Celebrating its 15th year, Kids Week is back and planning an action-packed month of theatrical fun from 1-31 August 2012 for children aged 16 and under. Kids Week is administered by The Society of London Theatre, which is a trade association that represents the producers, theatre owners and managers of the major commercial and grant-aided theatres in London.

During Kids Week, the magic of London theatre can be truly experienced and engaged with, be it the show-stopping tap shoes of Singin’ In The Rain, the wonderful mix of ballet shoes and boxing gloves of Billy Elliot or the animal print leotards of the inspiring The Lion King.

A fantastic selection of shows can be seen for free at certain performances when children are accompanied by a full price paying adult, including many of the new additions to the West End such as Matilda the MusicalChariots of Fire and Ghost the Musical. Two additional children can also attend at half price, able to take part in the fantastic ethos of Kids Week in all its musical theatre dancewear finery.

There is a fantastic range of free activities and events for children to take part in also, an incredible selection including plays, musicals, comedy and entertainment with packages also available, aside from the fabulous ticket offers available to top London shows. These activities are free to participate in when tickets are purchased as part of a Show & Activity package. Inspirational standalone workshops are on offer too, encouraging children of all ages to don their dance trainers and grab the nearest microphone, connecting with their inner star. Children are given the chance to explore the exciting world of theatre and discover what goes on behind those illusionistic scenes.