Many 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.
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.
With 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.
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 Musical, Chariots 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.