Having opened on 26th May, The Royal Ballet are presenting a three performance stint at the Royal Opera House, with a mixed programme of George Balanchine’s Ballo Della Regina and August Bournonville’s La Sylphide. The sparkling Balanchine work is set to the ballet music which honours the Queen of Spain in Verdi’s opera Don Carlos, marrying opera and classical ballet in an invigorating and inspiring masterpiece.
Balanchine’s exquisite choreography, having choreographed for several Verdi operas at the start of his career, showcases fancy footwork, leaps and turns. The production’s zesty energy lifts audiences’ spirits, with dancers costumed in white and chiffon blue dresses. A superb curtain raiser, the immaculate technique of the dancers is sure to succeed, staged in 2012 by Merrill Ashley who brought the production to The Royal Ballet in 2011. In Balanchine’s original 1978 production, he was specifically inspired by Ashley’s warm yet bold technique for which he created the work, in a powerful combination of strength and delicacy.
La Sylphide sees principal Steven McRae make his debut in Bournonville’s romantic and truly magical fairytale as James the Scotsman, who falls passionately in love with a Sylph. In a flock of romantic tutus and each matching pointe shoe, the artists of The Royal Ballet are taking on a classic piece of ballet history, with Bournonville’s adaptation of the ballet first premiered in 1836 (Filippo Taglioni’s original version premiered in 1832). The uniquely delicate choreography is captured in 2012 by Danish choreographer Johan Kobborg, staging the love of a mortal for an elusive spirit, and the impossibility of this.
Evoked by traditional folk songs in Herman Løvenskiold’s score, the original 1832 La Sylphide was created to showcase the technique of Taglioni’s daughter Marie, one of the great 19th century ballerinas of the Romantic era. Bournonville was the first choreographer to recreate the magical narrative of La Sylphide in the marrying of the folk and the ethereal, and it is his version that has survived. It has been regularly performed by the Royal Danish Ballet since its premiere.
Italian designer Valentino Garavani is making his New York City Ballet comeback, set to design all the costumes for the opening of next season’s programme, a far cry from practice tights and cover-ups. Garavani will be travelling back and forth to the Big Apple from Italy to prepare the costumes of the show, ready for an exhibition which will open in London in November which will be completely dedicated to his fashion and works.
At 80 years old, Garavani has much time to enjoy his huge art collection, but it has also led to him taking some time out to work for a ballet company, one of his lifelong passions. Simultaneously, the ballet world will also be privy to passionate work: both sectors complementing each other with the tutus set to dazzle the fall opening. Garavani’s return to the fashion, and consequently, artistic spotlight via the NYCB is speculated to “wow” audiences with his collection of ballet costumes, paired with the perfect pointe shoes of the impeccable company.
The instatement of fashion with ballet is not a new venture within the dance sector, however. Earlier in 2012, English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballet Russes programme saw a new leotard clad Firebird choreographed by young British hopeful George Williamson in his first commission, utilising costumes designed by David Bamber, who has designed for many of the world’s leading fashion houses including Gucci and Tom Ford.
Additionally within the programme, Apollo‘s various costumes – such as the Muses’ layered white dresses – were designed by Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of Chanel. Chanel has a long association with ballet, with Coco Chanel herself having designed costumes for both Le Train Bleu in 1924 and the original costumes for Apollo (originally Apollon musagète) in 1929. With a long historic association of fashion with ballet, it is any wonder which direction new collaborations will take.
English National Ballet and World Dance Management are set to join in their collaborative venture Against Time, a co-production created by Flawless and Jenna Lee, soloist and choreographer at English National Ballet. In a spectacular fusion between street dance and classical ballet, the daring national tour will begin this Diamond Jubilee weekend on June 1st at the HMV Apollo Hammersmith. The artists of English National Ballet will be combining their tutus and ballet tights with the dance trainers and urban dancewear of the street crew, showcasing extraordinary dance and acrobatics.
Against Time is supported by makeup brand MAC, Swarovski and The Idlewild Trust, adding sparkle and added excellence to the project. Dazzling costumes paired with the dazzling footwork of Flawless is planned to impress audiences from June 1st to July 8th, following the spectacular performance of English National Ballet with Peace One Day at the O2 in 2011. Against Time tracks the story of the battle between the students of The Academy of Excellence and an evil time manipulator who plans to end dance by stopping time. In a race against time, the students battle against the odds to save the future of dance for 2012 and beyond.
The 10 Flawless dancers and 10 ENB ballerinas pit themselves against each other to show off their skills and in turn admire each others’ talent. The opposing poles of dance aim to generate a groundbreaking dance experience, which follows the group of dancers through the twists and turns of the narrative which will unfold, inspiring audiences all over the country to engage with both sides of the dance spectrum. It is possible that these two dance forms will continue to move closer, perhaps even merging fully.
The summer season of the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome is set to delight its audiences and ignite the inner dancer in every single person who has the opportunity to see the performance. The residency will showcase polished pointe shoes dancing in the Midlands, from 20th to 30th June. The company’s hometown will host two programmes: David Bintley’s captivating production of Far From the Madding Crowd, and a mixed bill Summer Celebration.
Bintley, as Company Director and the award-winning creator of the Company’s huge Christmas hit Cinderella, enjoyed the world premiere of Far From the Madding Crowd in 1996 performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Sixteen years later, the company is returning to the Hippodrome with this same production, performed at the Company’s home theatre. As a tutu-laden balletic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s famous novel, passions are set to run out of control in an enticing story of lust, deceit and murder as the ballet tights become tangled. One woman is at the centre of it all, Bathsheba Everdene, entertaining complex relationships with three men as they compete for her love.
Summer Celebration, featuring The Grand Tour, Faster and The Dream, offers audiences a slice of Shakespeare, Noël Coward and Olympic dreams in a visual feast. Choreographer Joe Layton’s The Grand Tour is undoubtedly influenced by the many films and hit Broadway shows he has also been involved with. Evoking visions of the character shoes of the roaring 20s, The Grand Tour is a comical take on the eccentric celebrities that populated England’s stages, screens and newspapers in the era. Faster is a brand new ballet inspired by the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, and comes from the award-winning team behind E=mc². After winning the last ever South Bank Show Dance award in 2010 with E=mc², Company Director David Bintley embarks on a second collaboration with renowned Australian composer Matthew Hindson. This ballet of speed, power and athleticism will be a fitting creation for the lead-up to London 2012, again tying tutus with trainers! Rounding off the triple bill is The Dream. Frederick Ashton’s magical creation rekindles the love and revenge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the comic values that truly enhance Ashton’s choreographic mastery of dance and theatre.
The prestigious The Place Prize, sponsored by Bloomberg, has announced the commissioned artists who are to compete, unveiling another year of innovative contemporary dance, semi-professional dancers kitted out in their dancewear and the upcoming choreographic talent of the UK. As one of the most high-status dance awards, The Place Prize is returning for its 5th edition, premiering the commissions during The Place Prize Semi-finals in September.
16 new dance works have been commissioned from over 200 entries, a phenomenal interest and the highest number to date. By the end of summer 2012, The Place Prize will have enabled the creation of 92 pieces of new choreography, with an investment of over £1.2million in British dance. Since the cuts made to Arts Council funding by the government in April 2011, many dance organisations have had to reduce their activity, even preventing many leotards and ballet shoes seeing their familiar studio floor again.
The 16 entrants competing for The Place Prize have been awarded a total commission fund of £100,000 to realise their dance dreams, and the recipient artists will also benefit from free production time and support from The Place Prize team to create their pieces. The commissions encompass a wide range of contemporary styles, reflecting the sheer diversity of today’s dance scene in Britain.
The commissioned artists include former Place Prize Finalists (2011) Riccardo Buscarini and Eva Recacha, and Place Prize Semi-finalists Ben Ash (2006), Ben Wright (2006; 2008), and Darren Ellis (2010). In addition to previous alumni, Jonathon Goddard, the first contemporary dancer to win the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer in 2008 and fellow Rambert dancer Gemma Nixon are also involved. Mamoru Iriguchi, a self-taught performance maker who originally trained as a zoologist, and then a theatre designer, has also been commissioned. His work was first seen on The Place stage during Resolution! 2011, another choreographic platform. As only the 5thversion of The Place Prize platform, who knows what choreographic talent it may uncover.
November 1989 saw the declaration of May 25th as National Tap Dance Day: as Representative John Conyers of Michigan said, “there ought to be a law to make everyone love tap dancing”. National Tap Dance Day for the US has since become more widely known, and is celebrated as far away as Japan, Australia, India and Iceland, with tap shoes tapping far and wide.
Celebrated on the agreed-upon birthday of legendary tap pioneer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, National Tap Dance Day became a symbol for African American tap, as historically many were unaware of its specific contribution to tap recognised today. National Tap Dance Day was a result of Carol Vaughn, Nicola Daval, and Linda Christensen’s passion for all things tap. After much discussion, the three picked Bill Robinson’s birthday because he was a tap dancer known and loved worldwide for his work onstage and in films. To tap insiders, Robinson was renowned for dancing on the ball of the foot, in split wooden soles, and in perfect time. Tap has evolved considerably since then, and tap shoe brands such as Capezio and Bloch have built up their images as a result.
Carol Vaughn was one of tap’s great impresarios from the 1970s tap revival and once tapped up and down the steps of the Washington Monument in “I Ain’t A’Fred A’staires”. In a 1994 article for the International Tap Dance Association’s newsletter, Vaughn and Daval emphasised that although “tap dance was experiencing renewed popularity, there was still little public awareness of tap beyond a few Broadway shows, old Fred Astaire movies, and the occasional concert or TV special featuring several of the great master tappers”. They felt there had to be a way to increase recognition of tap’s contribution to cultural and artistic heritage, to bring its special appeal to everyone.
Today, tap receives great recognition, and one can only imagine where the world’s tap shoes will be travelling next.
In light of Rambert Dance Company’s move to their new building on London’s South Bank, a time capsule is due to be buried in the foundations as they are being laid, and the company has invited its fans to share their favourite memories of Rambert. Be it the nude leotards of Rambert’s recreation of Merce Cunningham’s RainForest (1968) or the jazz shoe wearing recreation of Carnival Of The Animals (2008), Rambert has created a multitude of experiences to delight every dance and theatre lover. The time capsule is designed to be opened in 100 years time, a clear indicator of the desire of Rambert Dance Company to continue in such successful stead that is demonstrated today in the 21st century.
2012 alone has been a year packed full of exciting notions for Rambert Dance Company, as every year has revealed to date. For example, dancer Gemma Nixon was involved with the Dance UK healthy eating conference, speaking alongside renowned artistic directors and choreographers and extending the reach of the dance world further than the illusion of the perfectly arched pointe shoe and petite tutu wearing ballerina. Additionally, returning Artistic Director Mark Baldwin has been remembering his ten years with Rambert in a monthly article on the Rambert website, the most recent focusing on 2005, and the continuous success and prestigious work of Rambert Dance Company.
The Rambert programme at Sadler’s Wells of 2012 (15th-19th May) contains four diverse dance works. New work What Wild Ecstasy by Mark Baldwin is set to a new score commissioned by New Music 20×12 as part of the Cultural Olympiad… making it London with leotards! A modern-day take by Rambert on Nijinsky’s 100 year old L’Après-midi d’un faune (1912) is also included, the influential work revived by the Company for the first time in almost 30 years, combining the old with the new and maintaining the professional service of Rambert. Critically acclaimed Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili of multi award-nominated A Linha Curva (2009) is also involved with Rambert’s stint at Sadler’s Wells with Sub, a new work for seven male dancers. Siobhan Davies’ irascibly fast The Art of Touch (1995) completes the programme, often described by critics as “Davies at her best”. One can only wonder what 2013 will bring, let alone the next 100 years!
World-renowned Prima Ballerina Darcey Bussell CBE has been elected as President of the Royal Academy of Dance, becoming the fourth President in the organisation’s 92 year history. RAD is an international dance teacher education and training organisation with approximately 13,000 members in 79 countries. The Academy promotes the knowledge, practice and understanding of dance internationally through educating and training of dance teachers and dance students and providing examinations to reward achievement and spread the influence of dance further.
Whilst not returning to her tutu and pointe shoes, Bussell follows in the footsteps of Dame Antoinette Sibley who retired in April after 21 years. As one of the world’s most influential dance training organisations, Bussell is to join RAD at a time of growth and increasing public interest in all forms of dance, encouraging more and more people to engage with the art and dust off their dance shoes. Since her retirement from the stage in 2007, Bussell has continued to be active in the dance world, embodying huge passion and vigour for the sustainment of the art form in light of the many cuts to funding made by the Arts Council England in April 2011. Despite much disappointing news for dance organisations all over the country, tap shoes, character shoes and jazz shoes alike prevailed, continuing to dance and transforming 2012 into a huge “dance year”.
Bussell’s passion for all forms of dance makes her the ideal candidate for the role of President, and an ideal role model to lead RAD towards its centenary in 2020, investing in the future of dance for the whole sector. As an organisation that engaged with national and international projects alike, RAD hopes to remain at the forefront of dance education and training, providing a wealth of resources for all its members and making an outstanding contribution to dance. RAD prides itself on providing some of the very best quality of training for dancers worldwide, combining quality with enjoyment and the love of dance.
As part of the Big Dance 2012 Schools Pledge, Sadler’s Wells will join schools and venues across the world in an attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Dance Routine – Multi Venue’, on 18th May at 1:00pm, to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic torch relay in the UK. Big Dance is one of the world’s biggest and most influential dance festivals, featuring dance in unusual spaces and showcasing the diversity of dance styles in the capital and across the UK.
The Record Breaker event will see thousands of school children dancing a specially created 5 minute work by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, CBE Wayne McGregor. In light of the upcoming Olympic events, sport and dance have never been combined so closely, seemingly working to encourage children and young people to don their dancewear, pop on their jazz sneakers and get involved. Over 60 local residents and children from local schools are expected to gather in Sadler’s Wells’ main foyer. The current record is held by the Netherlands with 264,188 people in 1,472 locations and it is estimated around 600,000 school children across 20,000 schools in the UK will be taking part in the attempt, with schools in 55 other countries around the world also taking part.
The choreography has been devised to depict different Olympic sports, including fencing, rowing, running and basketball, emphasising the accessibility of dance aside from the stereotypical leotard and ballet shoes. Big Dance is one of the principle projects of the Cultural Olympiad’s London 2012 Festival, and the record attempt will mark the official countdown period to the Big Dance Festival (7th – 15th July). This will be concluded with another mass Wayne McGregor performance on 14th July, when one thousand school children will perform a specially commissioned McGregor work in Trafalgar Square. Such a fantastic and fun opportunity cannot be passed by, especially by those who have never had the opportunity before to engage with dance. A unique moment will be shared by all those involved, conveying the utmost passion and unison with regards to the art form that has prevailed throughout history.
May 4th marked the showcasing of the spectacular work born of the Youth Dance England Young Creatives at the Royal Opera House, demonstrating the sheer talent of young choreographers. 12 works were premiered in a variety of dance styles created by the participants selected to take part in the programme, delivered by Youth Dance England in partnership with the Royal Opera House and The Royal Ballet School.
Each year, YDE Young Creatives aims to support young choreographers aged 15-19 and their dance passions in order to improve their skills and understanding of choreography, and consequently create a dance piece. The programme included a Skill Boosting Weekend, which took place in January, where participants had the opportunity to improve their understanding of the choreographic process. A 3 month mentoring period followed this, where the young choreographers were each paired with professionals for their new creations, enabling them to gain an insight into the world of choreography and increase their knowledge of the sector. The penultimate experience was seen through a 4 day residential at The Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge, where the participants sported their dance practice-wear and took part in workshops, working closely with their peers and the experienced professionals to refine their pieces.
The Young Creatives’ journey culminated with their performance at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre, performed by their dancers and shown off to the audience, the dance genres hosting fantastic tap shoe, ballet shoe and leotard-clad talent. The performance was introduced by renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor, Artistic Director of Wayne McGregor|Random Dance and the Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, the epitome of “choreography”. McGregor’s fusion of pointe shoes and his fluid, abstract contemporary dance represents an important strand of the Young Creatives ethos, famous nationwide for the refreshing creativity of its participants and the high standards of performances.