Step into Dance’s Musical Theatre Company

Step into Dance, a partnership programme between the Royal Academy of Dance and The Jack Petchey Foundation, are holding auditions on Sunday 7 October to recruit students into their exciting new Musical Theatre Company. Students in the company will be able to meet other like-minded, talented young people and also perform at prestigious venues across London.

Step into Dance is a fully inclusive community dance which currently runs in 187 secondary schools over 32 London Boroughs and Essex. The programme offers weekly extra-curricular dance lessons to students who would not otherwise have access to quality dance, jazz shoes, or flared dance trousers.  From a pilot of 28 schools, it is now a fully inclusive programme delivered in 187 schools, including Special Educational Needs schools and Pupil Referral Units. Step into Dance is the biggest secondary school dance programme in the UK, unique in offering and performance opportunities throughout the academic year. Each of the 187 schools engaged in the programme pay an annual fee, contributing to the running costs of the programme.

Step into Dance, through its extended programme such as Watch this Step, Step into Battle, the Step Borough Events and its showcase end of the year event, Step LIVE! Step into Dance is responsible for creating over 20 unique, inclusive performance opportunities each year. The events develop the participants’ creative experience, showcasing Step into Dance to a wider audience.

The new Musical Theatre Company, complete with top hats and New Yorkers, will be lead by Sonny Ward as teacher and choreographer. Ward trained at Millennium Performing Arts and with the National Youth Theatre, with his choreography credits including West Ham FC Dancers at Upton Park, Dance Expressions at Sadler’s Wells, Christmas Cabaret for MD2000, Flashmobs for Walkers Crisps and Littlewoods Christmas TV Adverts 2011. Ward also teaches at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and is Co-Director of Eaton Ward Agency, having trained young students that have gone on to perform in MatildaBilly Elliot and The Lion King.

Image courtesy of Step into Dance.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s New Season

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet has been busy polishing its tiaras and digging out repertoire tutus in preparation for the 2012/13 season, seeing in both brand new works inspired by Olympic sporting endeavours to classics such as Giselle and Coppélia. The senior management team, such as Director David Bintley CBE, has been very excited about the repertory that will emerge throughout the season, setting every pointe shoe fan alight with anticipation too.

The season began on 19 September with the company staging six performances in four days of the enduring and timeless story of Swan Lake at The Lowry in Manchester. This is ahead of moving the company home to the Birmingham Hippodrome on 2 October ready for the winter. Swan Lake is a sure ballet favourite of dance fans and non-dance fans alike, and a classic that is rarely missed from a classical ballet company’s repertoire. BRB (originally Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet) first performed Swan Lake in 1981 almost 100 years after it premiered in Moscow. A new insight will be brought to the 2012/13 Company with at least two new casts with many new artists dancing the leading roles.

Bintley has maintained that keeping audiences surprised is a constant test for the company, in addition to drawing audiences in to see the show in the first place. With such a variety of work planned for the coming season, there is no doubt the audience’s appetites will be satisfied, with the seasons being planned many years in advance. A modern production of Aladdin will grace the stage through the company as well as Faster, the production inspired by the theme of the Olympics and the physiological aspects of sport and performance. Bintley has collaborated with Australian composer Matthew Hindson to produce a ballet that celebrates speed and power which is a fitting tribute to the Olympians that showcased their incredible athleticism in London in July and August.

Faster is one of three productions for the Autumn Celebration, which is being staged at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth; Sadler’s Wells, London; and Wales Millennium Centre in October. It also features The Dream and The Grand Tour.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

English National Ballet’s 2012/13 Season Under Tamara Rojo

Tamara Rojo

On 24 September, English National Ballet held its first press conference set in the ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel in the heart of London. It highlighted new Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s next steps, alongside a Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty performed by Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta. ENB are on the brink of their 2012/13 season, and it is Rojo’s first in the role, laying down her pointe shoes momentarily before she joins the cast later in the season.

Rojo coincidently danced with ENB fifteen years ago as a young, aspiring ballerina, eventually making her way to The Royal Ballet and continuing her journey adorned with tights, tutus and tiaras. Rojo spoke of her time with ENB, helping her to create her dance values through its ethos “to bring ballet to the widest possible audience”. It had a lasting influence on Rojo’s own views of the responsibility and impact of art toward society. Consequently throughout the press conference, Rojo not only presented the seasonal preview of ENB but also her own vision and aspirations for the next few years of the company.

Rojo outlined her ambition to transform ENB into the most creative and loved ballet company, embracing and commissioning new work whilst keeping the classics relevant in a balance to move forward artistically whilst paying homage to the past simultaneously. Rojo also aims to build on the company’s tradition of being an institution which nourishes artists and collaborates with others working artistically to maintain excellence, creation and imagination.

The repertoire to be covered by ENB in the upcoming season includes The Nutcracker at Christmas, the Albert Hall Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. This is alongside some London based mixed bills presenting repertoire such as Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and My First Cinderella, to be choreographed by George Williamson (choreographed Firebird for ENB earlier in 2012) which follows on from and My First Sleeping Beauty earlier in the year. Williamson will also be responsible for the Emerging Dancer Award and will develop collaborations with other organisations.

Image courtesy of Scillystuff at Flickr.

Sleeping Beauties

The Sleeping Beauty - The Royal Ballet 2008

Whilst the legendary classical ballet creation The Nutcracker is usually in abundance during the holiday season all over the world, it seems there may be another contender for 2012 in the form of The Sleeping Beauty.

English National Ballet has just publicised its casting for the 2012 production. Newly appointed Artistic Director Tamara Rojo has not laid her pointe shoes and tutu aside just yet, as she will be filling the shoes of Princess Aurora on selected dates, partnered by the young, talented Principal Vadim Muntagirov. As one of the world’s favourite fairytales, the ENB version of the plot sees the enchanting magic of castles and curses, with fairy interludes. Accompanying this well-loved tale, Tchaikovsky’s score is featured heavily amongst Kenneth MacMillan’s unmistakeable choreography, as well as including the score of Once Upon a Dream as used in the trademark Sleeping Beauty version by Walt Disney.

On the alternative side of the coin, Matthew Bourne will be re-imagining the classic story with the world premiere of his own version of Sleeping Beauty, in the culmination of New Adventures’ 25th birthday. This particular production of Bourne’s will complete his tiara trio of ballet masterworks that began with Nutcracker! and progressed to the international smash hit Swan Lake. As with all Bourne’s works, the timeless fairytale from 1890 is turned on its gothic head and jumps forwards a century to the present day. The now supernatural love story pushes beyond the constraints of time in true Bourne style.

Spreading the influence of The Sleeping Beauty this year includes a host of Sleeping Beauty events from ENB, enabling ballet fans to experience the world of ballet through talks, masterclasses and dance workshops in theatres on tour and in London, allowing even the smallest Lilac Fairies to don their tights and satin shoes. For Bourne’s production, to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, Sadler’s Wells has hosted talks throughout the year focusing on aspects of Bourne’s work and his long association with the theatre, with Sleeping Beauty being the final instalment. In this particular talk, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director Alistair Spalding will talk to Bourne about the premiere, as well as his plans and hopes for the next 25 years of New Adventures.

Whichever version you choose, The Sleeping Beauty is not to be missed!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Chorus Line Revived

"A Chorus Line" Original Broadway Windowcard

With shouts of “…and 5, 6, 7, 8” resonating all over the country, the legendary Broadway production A Chorus Line is returning to the UK. Dust off your leotards as Michael Bennett’s Tony Award-winning production will be revived for the first time in 35 years, in London next year, opening at the West End’s London Palladium on 19 February 2013.

Full of high-cut leotards and tan character shoes, A Chorus Line is to be directed by Bob Avian, who also directed the 2006 Tony-nominated Broadway production, with this production being dedicated to Marvin Hamlisch, the composer who wrote the music, who died in August this year. Avian was Bennett’s long-term collaborator and his co-choreographer on the original production, and again for the long-rumoured revival. A Chorus Line won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it opened on Broadway in 1975 and went on to become the then longest-running musical on Broadway, reaching 6,137 performances. It transferred to the West End the following year, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.  In 1985, it was made into a Hollywood film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Michael Douglas as the demanding director putting his dancers – including one ex-lover – through their paces.

The story focuses on 17 hopefuls auditioning for just eight places in a new Broadway musical with its famous score including number such as “I Hope I Get It”, “Sing!” and, most memorably, “One (Singular Sensation)”. The auditionees describe the events which have shaped their lives and their decisions to be dancers. Based on true stories, A Chorus Line revolutionised Broadway.

The London revival is booking until 13 July 2013, with open auditions being held on 1 October 2012 for male and female performers aged 18 to 35… so grab your legwarmers and take to the stage!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish Ballet’s Plans Under Christopher Hampson

Scottish Ballet

Under its new Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet has recently unveiled its plans and aspirations for the foreseeable future.

Scottish Ballet is the national dance company of Scotland, albeit the smallest of the national ballet companies in the UK, but this does not mean that Scottish Ballet are treading lightly on the rest of the ballet shoes of the dance community. The Company is looking forward to enriching, enthusing and engaging with communities, participants and audiences, tutus and all. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it was announced Scottish Ballet will present the Genée International Ballet Competition in Glasgow in 2013 from 20- 29 September.

Commissioning new work is just one of the other ways that Scottish Ballet is extending its reach with many female choreographers such as ex-dancer with Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt Helen Pickett, Associate Choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater Crystal Pite and Royal Ballet Soloist Kristen McNally, in addition to Scottish Ballet being among the first to commission a brand-new work from 22-year-old London Contemporary Dance School graduate James Cousins who has just presented his first work at Sadler’s Wells. Cousins won the New Adventures Choreographer Award, set up by director and choreographer Matthew Bourne OBE and coincidently co-judged by Hampson. The Company will be working with a wide range of choreographers that will allow the Company to broaden the existing repertoire and produce new work in original ways for the usually leotard and tights clad dancers. The Company is also in talks with major international promoters and arts festivals in order to explore innovative ways to present their work.

For the first time, Scottish Ballet will present the work of five-time Olivier Award-winning Bourne which will grant the Company an exclusive license to Bourne’s Highland Fling, inspired by La Sylphide. Scottish Ballet will tour Highland Fling across Scotland in spring 2013, spreading both Bourne’s and the Company’s influence.

Hampson’s creative leadership will not only see him choreograph, but also embrace the imagination of the people of Scotland and beyond. Beginning in autumn 2012, Scottish Ballet will launch Hansel & Gretel, and Me, a new project that connects creation to education and merges artistic expression with real life, giving communities the chance to participate in ballet in the broadest possible sense.

Image courtesy of the www.theedinburghblog.co.uk on Flickr.

The Carlos Acosta Centre for Dance

National Art Schools (Cuba)

Royal Ballet principal guest artist star Carlos Acosta has revealed his brainchild, a scheme to complete the five national arts schools in Havana, Cuba, originally thought up by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in1961. The schools were never finished, but now fifty years later a new project is underway to transform the site into a world class ballet school. Acosta, leaving his own ballet shoes and ballet tights aside, wants to provide a platform and focus for young people to explore hidden talents and develop their skill and help them make positive choices in life, while raising both the awareness and quality of dance to a new level.

The scheme is to be backed by the Cuban government, with the project set to create a new ballet school, with Acosta’s vision aiming for people from all over the world will come to the centre to learn new skills. Students will learn a variety of different styles of dance, from ballet to tango, donning practice shoes and Cuban heels accordingly. There will be workshops and masterclasses and short courses throughout the summer and winter, a sign of how ambitious the project is comes with the cost: a total of $3.5m will be needed just to restore the existing buildings on the site.

Internationally renowned British architect Lord Foster is involved in the project, who will be sticking to the previous plans for the original ballet school at the site. The Carlos Acosta Centre for Dance will complete the legacy of the arts school campus in Havana to inspire future generations of performers, under the talents of Acosta.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Kevin O’Hare next in the RAD Guest Speaker Series

Royal Academy of Dance Logo

Following the success of the first Guest Speaker event with Christopher Hampson in April 2012, the Royal Academy of Dance’s Faculty of Education is due to welcome Kevin O’Hare, brand new Director of The Royal Ballet. O’Hare will be the first “event” of the RAD’s 2012-2013 Guest Speaker Series, open to RAD students, members and non-members alike.

O’Hare was first trained at The Royal Ballet School, donning his practice shoes and ballet tights before stepping into Mason’s Director-ship shoes of The Royal Ballet many years later, following her retirement in July 2012. After his stint at The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare went on to train through an exchange programme with the Royal Danish Ballet. He then joined the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as it was then known, and was promoted to Principal in 1990: it has since become Birmingham Royal Ballet, in 1990.

During O’Hare’s performing career, his repertory included leading classical roles and works by esteemed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Hans Van Manen, Sir Anthony Tudor and Twyla Tharp, in addition to numerous international guest appearances. He also created many performing roles, working with Sir Frederick Ashton, Ninette De Valois, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, David Bintley and Peter Wright, amongst others.

O’Hare lay his leotards and leggings to rest in 2000 when he retired from dancing in order to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, training in company management. He returned to BRB as Company Manager in 2001, joining The Royal Ballet as Company Manager in 2004. In 2009, O’Hare became Administrative Director, with 2012 marking his progression to Direction of the company. In addition to being a governor of The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare has never stepped out of the performing arts sector, and it has certainly paid off.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Candoco Dance Company and the Festival of the World

Candoco Dance Company LogoCandoco Dance Company was founded in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin, developed from workshops which grew into the first company of its kind in the UK – a professional dance company focused on the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers. The company gained much acclaim from the press, general public and the worlds of dance and education, and between 1991 and 2005 the company toured to over 50 countries within Europe, Australia, North and South America, Asia and Africa.

Artistic Director Dandeker OBE retired in 2007, having commissioned 30 new performance works for the company from internationally renowned choreographers including Emilyn Claid, Javier de Frutos, Siobhan Davies, and Darshan Singh-Bhuller, catapulting the company into the mainstream dance world from the very beginning. A far cry from tutus and pointe shoes or run-of-the-mill leotards and leggings, Candoco has set itself apart from other contemporary dance companies in showcasing talent, skill and physical and emotional strength.

Next up for the company is an evening of bold new dance featuring 12 dancers from China, the UK and Brazil as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World. The evening contains new works by choreographers Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham. The summer long Festival of the World is made up of smaller festivals and weekends, with Candoco belonging to Unlimited. Together the separate ‘events’ create a story demonstrating how art is changing in different and exciting ways. Unlimited is running for 10 days, encompassing and celebrating comedy, dance, performance and art by deaf and disabled artists. This individual festival celebrates the arts on a huge scale, encouraging artists to push beyond by creating work which poses questions and inspires new collaborations.

With the Paralympic Games just around the corner, the arts, culture and sport are able to be mixed into a delightful combination, opening doors and creating new directions for the future.

Image courtesy of Candoco Dance Company.

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

Pop Goes The Musical

Pop Goes The Musical

The BBC’s Children In Need has just announced its star-studded line-up for this year’s Pop Goes The Musical, in which everyone’s favourite pop stars star in some of the West End’s musicals. Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, boy band Blue, soulful Macy Gray and newcomers Stooshe will all take part in this unique charity project that challenges the singers to tread the West End boards, don their jazz shoes and New Yorkers and perform at a very special curtain call.

Halliwell is set to take to the legendary Palace Theatre stage in the classic musical Singin’ In The Rain on 25 October, and has already expressed her excitement at being a part of the project. Fellow popsters Blue will take on the shiny shoes and iconic red coats from 1960s set musical Jersey Boys on 11 October, with Duncan James being well equipped to take on the challenge following starring roles in the West End shows Chicago and Legally Blonde the Musical. The long-running Queen’s Theatre Les Misérables will welcome Burke to centre stage on 18 September, with Burke already being a fan of the show, and Thriller Live audiences will be treated with two separate performances on 15 November by Grammy Award-winning artist Macy Gray and chart-toppers Stooshe.

Each celebrity will perform a song from their allocated West End show following that evening’s performance, which will be held in support of the BBC’s famous charity that supports more than 2,000 projects helping disadvantaged young people across the UK.

Pop Goes The Musical was launched last year with Peter Andre, Stacey Solomon, Dionne Bromfield and Melanie C, another Spice Girl, providing their vocal talents and show tights to help the incredible work of the charity.

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