The 2017 Strictly Come Dancing line up

Strictly Come Dancing’s professional dancer line-up for series 15 has now been unveiled, with three new female dancers taking to the nation’s screens alongside the return of viewers’ old favourites too. The three new professional dancers are all champions from the Ballroom and Latin world; Dianne Buswell from Australia, Nadiya Bychkova from Ukraine and Amy Dowden from Wales. They will join Strictly Come Dancing when the award-winning series returns in September to BBC One.

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Cirkopolis by Cirque Éloize

Cirque Éloize will return to the Edinburgh Fringe this year after an 18 year break: it will mark Cirque Éloize’s second time at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and follows a critically-acclaimed 1999 run of Circus Excentricus. This year the company will present Cirkopolis, an imaginative and humorous show seen by over 450,000 in 100 cities in 30 countries. It won the Drama Desk Awards for Unique Theatrical Experience in 2014.

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Sadler’s Wells Family Weekend

Family Weekend, Sadler’s Wells’ annual two-day festival of family-friendly events, was back on Friday 14 & Saturday 15 April, taking over the theatre building and offering something for all ages with fun activities, arts & crafts and workshops. These complemented Aracaladanza’s Vuelos on the Sadler’s Wells stage, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s quest to make man fly. Suitable for ages five and over, Family Weekend continued to see the theatre transformed into a magical space for children and their families as an unmissable jam-packed day out.

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Norfolk & Norwich Festival – full programme

As the flagship arts event for the East of England, Norfolk & Norwich Festival showcases some of the world’s most renowned international artists alongside regional talent, drawing audiences from across the UK. The full 2017 programme was recently announced, including five world premieres and large-scale free outdoor events.

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The Theatreland Trail

Theatre ticket organisation TKTS, and annual ticket project Kids Week, have teamed up in order to bring theatre lovers a fun Theatreland Trail. Touted as perfect to do with the family, with a group of friends or even on your own, the Theatreland Trail will take participants on a journey throughout London’s Theatreland, where you can meet famous playwrights, see a whole host of theatres and enjoy the sights and smells of the West End.

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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!

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
  • 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 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”!