Long-runners

You have got your first job as a professional dancer, in a long-running theatrical production. Whilst this is not always the preferred option with performers – due to the monotony of the day-to-day repetition of movement and life itself – working in a theatre on a production which has its feet under the table can be very rewarding.

However, if you are worried you may not last in your first job in a long-running production, there are ways to survive! It is important to get into your own routine quickly, one which enables you to get enough sleep and eat regular meals, and also conserve energy for the show. Most of the time you won’t be required at work until late afternoon, so ensure you do not become complacent and jeopardise your discipline and stamina required for working on a long run. In addition, it is also helpful to have a life away from the theatre, so you are not living and breathing the profession constantly. Life in a long run can get very claustrophobic, both physically and mentally, seeing the same faces over again and facing and company politics.

Make time for yourself whilst you are working on a long run. It is easy to feel like you have no influence on the production if you have a smaller role or are understudying. Take some time aside to work on something you are passionate about, be it part of the industry or not, such as writing or even forging alternative careers. Even if doing something for yourself means taking classes, they will help keep you feeling fresh, through something such as yoga, Pilates or even an alternative dance technique. It will help with your health, wellbeing and sanity!

Above all, listen to others. Don’t go into autopilot mode and and just go through the motions, or even try to manufacture spontaneity. The director is there to help and advise you, and many theatre notes are often for the long-running performers.

McQueen’s transfer to the West End

The Alexander McQueen biopic will transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket this August, following its successful run at the St James Theatre. Stephen Wight will reprise his role as the fashion designer in James Phillip’s play, alongside Carly Bawden (Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory) as Dahlia for the West End run from 13 August–7 November. Wight originally starred alongside Glee’s Dianna Agron when the show premiered in May.

Taking audiences on a journey into the visionary imagination of one of Britain’s most legendary designers, McQueen follows the story of a girl who climbs down from the tree in which she’s been watching him and breaks into McQueen’s Mayfair home to steal a dress. Catching her in the act, McQueen has the chance to call the police but instead they embark on a journey through London, visiting figures – both dead and alive – encountered throughout his troubled life.

Directed by John Caird, and with choreography by Christopher Marney, McQueen will open at the Haymarket following the current run of the Broadway transfer The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper, which closes on 8 August. Tracy-Ann Oberman and Laura Rees, who both appeared in the show’s original run, will reprise their roles as Isabella Blow and Arabella alongside Wight, with Michael Bertenshaw (Anne Boleyn, Shakespeare’s Globe) joining the cast as Savile Row tailor Mr Hitchcock.

The popular theatrical notion is that if a production plays successfully at the Chichester Festival Theatre, it is very likely the show will receive a West End transfer. Here McQueen breaks the mould, transferring from a London venue to the very heart of Theatreland. Playwright Phillips has spoken of his opportunity to refine some things from the original production, with the show set to delight audiences yet again through this McQueen insight.

Utopia: Bloomberg Summer at the Roundhouse

This summer will see Bloomberg dedicate its annual festival at the Camden Roundhouse to introducing new audiences to innovative culture, opening with Utopia, a major new installation. Alongside the installation, the Roundhouse presents two thrilling and enchanting evenings of dance, circus, cabaret and spoken word as part of Utopia Live Lates, a series of evening events that will be based around a different provocation and theme from the installation.

Curated around the concept of a genderless world, Circus Director Paul Evans will premiere a brand new circus aerial piece ‘Don’t Mention The F Word’, and Zoonation Youth Company will be joined by Roundhouse street Circus Collective and Tommy Franzen to perform a mash-up of ballroom and street dance in an electric brand new commission choreographed by the legendary Arlene Phillips.

6 August in particular presents a Late which will celebrate the genderless world through circus and cabaret. The anti-drag queen David Hoyle will bring a special performance that promises to be provocative and highly funny, and performance artist Andie Macario will also take to the stage. Fresh from headlining the Block9 field at Glastonbury this year, infamous international DJ Honey Dijon will take partygoers into the night with her distinct Chicago sound with the deep New York underground, mixing classic house and disco, techno and tech house.

A second Late on 12 August will see money, inheritance and celebrity put in the spotlight through dance, spoken word and live art. Tommy Franzen, ZooNation Youth Company, Roundhouse Street Circus Collective and established ballroom dancers will perform a mash-up of ballroom and street dance in a brand new commission especially created and choreographed for Utopia by Phillips. The commission will bring together dancers of all generations as Phillips will also deliver her impassioned provocation, for a world without material inheritance.

Glee meets Made in Chelsea

A new reality TV show about West End performers – which currently has the working title Life’s A Stage – is being developed for a pilot filming session during August. The show has been commissioned by a major broadcaster: if the pilot is well-received, it is expected to be commissioned for a full series.

Production company Znak and Jones is now casting for the pilot episode, which will not be broadcast, and is seeking performers of any experience, aged 18 to 35. Znak and Jones was set up by former ITV head of factual Natalka Znak and Simon Jones, former chief operating officer of Syco Television USA.

The inspiration for the show was the West End casts performing at the Royal Variety Performance, the annual fundraising gala. Casts change so rapidly for West End shows, as well as the life expectancies of the shows themselves. Life’s A Stage will therefore centre around a cast of West End performers living together in one house, with the juxtaposition of the glamour of the stage and the reality of living. As well as documenting both the work lives and social lives of actors, musicians and dancers, the show will also include planned performances of songs from West End shows.

The show is not set to be a documentary about actors, but it also will not be as scripted as shows such as Made In Chelsea and The Only Way Is Essex, which are heavily constructed. Scenes will not be set up for the real-life actors to interact with each other, but will be a real reflection of life and their real actions and reactions will remain. A simple storyline will be added using the talents of those involved, making for an entertaining insight into the world of showbiz.

Balé de Rua’s Marco Antônio Garcia – company ideals

Dancing since the age of 12, Marco Antônio worked as a petrol pump attendant and supermarket employee before going professional. A stint as a lighting technician for a public theatre in Uberlândia resulted in his passion for lighting design. Marco Antônio is a self-made artist who learned his first dance steps in the streets of Brazil as a hip-hop dancer, and is now responsible for Balé de Rua’s choreography, costume and set design.

When he founded Balé de Rua with Fernando and José Marciel, Marco Antônio was provided with the opportunity to develop his skills as a professional choreographer, without attending formal dance school. The main aim of Balé de Rua was to invent an identity, a dance free from all types of classification. In this sense, the company is still a free space in which he develops his ideas. While Marco Antônio continued to dance in the early stages of Balé de Rua, he has been dedicating more time of late to the creation of lighting, sets and costumes for all the company’s shows. As a multi-talented performing artist, he sees a connection between everything on stage. He already won many prizes in Brazil and abroad presenting his creations in 13 countries all over the world.

Balé de Rua’s Baila Brazil is playing at the Southbank Centre from 5–15 August as part of the Festival of Love.

Have you always wanted to be involved in dance?
I have wanted to be involved in dance since I was a teenager, around 14 years old.

Where did you train and what was it like?
I learned from the streets of Uberlândia, with my friends. After some time I started to see and appreciate other kinds of dance too, like ballet and modern dance. I started researching different types of dance, looking into different techniques to understand it better and to broaden my horizons. Dance came very naturally to me. At first it was a pleasure. Then it became a necessity.

What was a typical day like?
Lots of blood, sweat and tears. Every day was hard work. Stretching. Exercises. Training. Studying. Repeating and repeating. Going further. Pains, and sometimes tears of joy.

What is a typical day like now?
Every day is a challenge. To be touring is amazing but it is also very hard. It demands a lot of work and energy. A dancer must be very strong to face it and sometimes we have to deal with injuries and sickness. It is also difficult to be far away from home and family.

Tell me more about your dance ethos and Balé de Rua.
Our philosophy is simple: respect each other, humility, faith in God and union. The company became a life ideal to us and so the community is more important then the individual. We remember every day to keep the ideal alive: our love for dance. We are like family and we take care of each other.

What is your favourite thing about dance?
The movement. The body in motion. The feelings that come with it. To express ideas and emotions through movements. Dance is ritual, ecstasies and trance. To dance is to be connected with a higher level of existence. It’s to be real.

What or who inspires you most on a daily basis, and in terms of dance too?
The dancers of the company are my biggest inspiration. Everything comes from them, from living together with them, from our talks.

What advice would you offer to an aspiring dance artist?
To believe in their dreams of becoming a dancer. To be dedicated. To go deeper and deeper and to work hard. Nothing comes easy.

What’s next for you after the Southbank Centre?
The ongoing work we do in Uberlândia is very important to the company. Our “New Talents” project is like a dance school where we teach new dancers. We pass on our philosophy and our style of making dance to new generations. We give them dance and respect and they give us back a lot of energy. We would love to build a theatre dedicated entirely to dance. A building that will last forever.

Hypermobility, and how to train with it

Hypermobility is not always something to aspire to. Although it is useful for a dancer to be flexible to enable the body to achieve what it is asked in dance, the swayback knees, flexible spine and high arched feet can also have their drawbacks. Dancers who have these attributes generally don’t have to work hard to be flexible, due to their inherited joint flexibility (their connective tissue which binds the body together is not as tightly woven together).

Whilst it may seem a hardship to have to work for flexibility, there are clear drawbacks to hypermobility and far reaching consequences. Dancers who are hypermobile will also have flexibility where they do not need it, such as in their finger joints, wrists, elbows and knees, even their skin. As a result, it is difficult for these dancers to build strength, control and stabilise their bodies; wear and tear and even dislocation can take place.

All dancers need good stability around joints, but the hypermobile dancer needs it even more to counteract the lack of restriction and protection in their ligaments. The condition must therefore be handled with care, in order to coordinate their bodies and so not to compromise balance and correct alignment. If this is not ensured, overuse injuries and trauma can occur.

It is important to understand the requirements of the hypermobile body, so the beautiful lines and flexibility can be displayed once strength, stability and coordination have been acquired. It is clear in dance that different body types require a different emphasis on certain part of training, so understanding the hypermobile body means dancers can train with realistic aims. Ensuring there is stability and control in the dancer through increased strength is imperative, meaning cross training is necessary for this particular body type.

Apex Rising – a weekend festival of dance

Sadler’s Wells’ National Youth Dance Company, and guests, are set to present Apex Rising, an eclectic mix of choreographers such as Jasmin Vardimon, Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Wayne McGregor, Hofesh Shechter, Anna Kenrick and Kerry Nicholls on 4–5 September.

The special weekend of dance will be hosted by the National Youth Dance Company, celebrating the innovative and exciting work being performed and created by young dancers today. This inaugural Apex Rising festival will unite some of the most highly esteemed figures in contemporary dance, including the three past NYDC Guest Artistic Directors, Vardimon, Khan and Cherakoui in the line-up.

Featuring work by four national youth dance companies from around the UK and abroad, the festival sees these internationally acclaimed artists illustrate their commitment to young dancers and to initiatives that build exceptional artistic talent, and nurture the dance landscape of tomorrow. This new annual festival consists of two contrasting programmes that capture the power young dancers have in shaping the future of dance.

The second programme of the festival, following the first including the NYDC, is an evening featuring a confluence of styles and energy, staging work by youth dance companies of France, Scotland, Wales and England. Leading French youth dance company Groupe Grenade – Josette Baïz performs extracts from Entity by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist McGregor, and Uprising by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Shechter. The evening also sees National Youth Dance Company of Scotland perform Stuck in My Throat by YDance Artistic Director Kenrick as part of the company’s 2015 tour, and Dawns Genedlaethol Ieuenctid Cymru / National Youth Dance Wales perform a newly commissioned piece by Nicholls. It is completed by NYDC’s restaged excerpt of Akram Khan’s Vertical Road.

The experience young dancers gain through initiatives like NYDC not only supports them, but pushes them further into the world of dance to aspire to achieve more.

Pilates for dancers

Many dancers are great fans of Pilates, even elite dancers who have already reached the height of physical fitness and undertake eight or more hours a day of dancing activity. Pilates supports their day-to-day technical requirements, but with a different focus on their bodies.

Pilates is a physical fitness system which was developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century; it is currently practiced by over 11 million people worldwide. Pilates does not build bulky muscles, which dancers prefer, instead championing strength of the entire physical structure. Pilates can be used to release and work through tension in the body, as well as to increase strength and flexibility.

Pilates benefits elite dancers because it works against the tolls of dance on the body, helping them to correct imbalances and find space outside the studio to release and reconnect. Pilates is a subtle technique, which also helps dancers to rehabilitate injuries and become stronger for the challenges of rehearsals or performances. Many dancers believe Pilates is the key to having a healthy strong body to keep up with the physical demands of dance.

Following careers on stage, many dancers retrain to become Pilates instructors once they have hung up their shoes, especially ballet dancers. They have felt the benefits personally and enjoy the journey of discovery and focused work Pilates endorses. Pilates is a perfect match for ballet, considering the core strength with focus on alignment and length. Pilates gives dancers more awareness and understanding of what they are asking the body to do. It provides security and freedom in dancing through strength and control, as well as lengthening the muscles, improving coordination of breath and becoming more aware of engaging the mind’s awareness of the body.

Wayne McGregor for the London Curriculum

Iconic choreographer Wayne McGregor, alongside the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, has launched a new dance module for the London Curriculum at City Hall this month. The London Curriculum is an initiative for secondary schools in the capital, aimed to help pupils learn more about their city and experience the wealth of cultural opportunities London has to offer. Running alongside the National Curriculum, the programme already includes modules in English, Art, Music, Geography and History.

Developed in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, the new dance module for 11 to 14 year olds will involve visits to organisations including the Royal Opera House, as well as dance classes and workshops with artists and choreographers, offering a wealth of artistic opportunity to the students. The London Curriculum is an exciting programme that will bring the new national curriculum to life, ultimately inspired by ‘London’s people, places and heritage.’

McGregor maintains the importance of enabling children to learn about dance within education, as it nurtures creativity, helps with self-expression and boosts confidence and self-esteem. It is clear that dance inspires young people to work in the creative industries: people who study dance become more focused, motivated and disciplined throughout the rest of their lives.

Teachers are encouraged to register in order to receive the high-quality teaching resources to help learning in and outside school, developed by the Royal Geographical Society, Museum of London, Institute of Education and other experts; exclusive evening sessions for teachers at leading London venues including the National Portrait Gallery, British Library, British Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe, inspiring teachers to use the city to enrich their teaching; and competitions, events and other opportunities for students to showcase their learning.

The London Curriculum currently supports key stage 3 in English, Music, Art and Design, Geography and History. New resources in STEM subjects will be available from July. Languages, Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), citizenship and RE will follow in 2016.

The West End’s Sondheim Theatre

Theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh has unveiled his theatrical vision for the West End’s new Sondheim Theatre, which he aims to turn into a home for shows from subsidised venues around the UK that would otherwise be under threat of vanishing following their runs. Named after the esteemed Stephen Sondheim, the site is expected to flourish under Mackintosh.

The gap for a flexible, small-scale theatre in central London is clear: it is something which often limits other venues, such as the National Theatre, and the Sondheim space could provide a non-proscenium arch home for many of its productions which originate in the subsidised sector. The venue would be an important West End venture to provide subsidised theatres with a home away from home.

The reimagined theatre will host productions for runs of between eight and 16 weeks, and is being created to give shows from venues such as the Donmar and studio spaces at Sheffield Theatres and Leicester’s Curve a future life. In order for it to take shape, the Ambassadors Theatre will be redeveloped, with a flexible performance space with around 450 to 475 seats. The building will also have a new floor built above the auditorium that will house a rehearsal space for larger shows.

It will also include a redeveloped foyer, new dressing rooms and a cabaret space, which will be created in the basement bar; the theatre’s current ceiling will be dismantled and repositioned as part of the redevelopment. The theatre is planned to open in 2017, and will be able to accommodate around four or five shows a year, programmed a year or more in advance. There will also be one slot left available for a surprise show which may arise that that needs a London space.