English National Ballet’s 2014/2015 season

ENB LogoThere has been lots of exciting news for English National Ballet recently, including its presenting Modern Masters: Icons of 20th Century Choreography at Sadler’s Wells in March 2015 (including works by Forsythe, Neumeier and Kylián), two new regional hubs for English National Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s programme, the My First Ballet series continuing with a brand new version of Swan Lake and a large international tour to take place in 2015.

Modern Masters will include works from two choreographers new to the Company’s repertoire; William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Spring and Fall by John Neumeier. The triple bill also includes Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, first performed by the Company in Ecstasy and Death in 2013. Originally created for Hamburg Ballet, Neumeier’s Spring and Fall is not in the repertoire of any other UK company. Set to Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings in E Major, it features two couples and corps de ballet.

English National Ballet is committed to presenting the very best of both traditional and contemporary ballet to audiences across the UK: bringing these works to Sadler’s Wells continues this commitment and offers the opportunity to reach new audiences. Continuing to develop its work with Dance for Parkinson’s, English National Ballet will expand its regional class programmes to include DanceEast in Ipswich and National Dance Company Wales in Cardiff.

English National Ballet will take its critically acclaimed production of Coppélia to Southampton, Oxford and Bristol, and ahead of its run at the Coliseum in January 2015, Derek Deane’s Swan Lake will tour to Manchester, Milton Keynes and Liverpool. Making ballet accessible to audiences as young as three years old, the popular My First Ballet… series continues with My First Ballet: Swan Lake. The production will run at the Peacock Theatre, London, followed by a six week UK tour.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Autumn Season

Birmingham Royal BalletBirmingham Royal Ballet’s autumn season at Sadler’s Wells has recently been announced, including three one-act ballets touched in some way by war under the umbrella title of Shadows of War, and a revival of David Bintley’s fairytale, Beauty and the Beast

BRB will be returning to its old London home with two fantastic productions for a run from 14 to 18 October. The Company will perform David Bintley’s full length gothic fairy tale ballet, the ever-popular Beauty and the Beast, followed by Shadows of War, the triple bill of ballets inspired by the effects of war.

Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cruel Prince, cursed to spend his life as a Beast. A beautiful girl, a hideous beast, a golden ballroom full of animals, two haughty sisters and a grumpy grandmother dance through Philip Prowse’s stunning storybook set, while Bintley’s rich choreography brings magical transformations to life, wild waltzes, and a relationship between Belle and the Beast that is at first terrifying, but ultimately beautiful.

Shadows of War will include Kenneth MacMillan’s La Fin du jour, Robert Helpmann’s Miracle in the Gorbals and Bintley’s Flowers of the Forest. La Fin captures the glamorous lifestyle of the Depression era with a group of trendy, bright young people ignoring the looming threat of war which will call time on their careless enjoyment and high spirits. The 1944 Miracle is set in a run-down and dangerous Glasgow suburb: after the shock of a girl’s suicide, the arrival of a mysterious stranger is able to bring her back to life. This ground-breaking dance drama is being re-created by Dame Gillian Lynne (a member of the original cast). Flowers of the Forest is a ballet in two parts presenting a light hearted and nostalgic ‘picture postcard’ view of Scotland, and including a more serious note.

Campaign To Boost Live Entertainment

EquityThe union Equity has launched a campaign to increase live entertainment in public houses: pubs around the UK are being urged to host live entertainment – including theatre shows – as part of the new campaign, Live Entertainment Works!

The campaign for more live entertainment is aimed at highlighting changes to licensing laws introduced in 2012, which make it easier for pubs and small venues to host live entertainment, such as music and theatre performances. A number of venues in and around London already host this type of entertainment, however the campaign looks to roll this out across the whole of the UK.

Under the Live Music Act, performances of plays and dance for audiences up to 500 are permitted without a licence. Live music events for audiences of 200 or lessdo not need a licence either, providing the event does not take place before 8am and after 11pm, and if music is unamplified, there is no audience restriction.

According to Equity, live entertainment is likely to attract more customers for a venue and increase profits, expanding the reach of quality entertainment where there may not already be the opportunity for this. For performers, performing in other, alternative venues means more opportunities to stage work and be seen by audiences. It is seemingly a win-win situation for members. Pubs will get more trade through people enjoying the entertainment, the community benefits by joining in a shared activity and Equity members can perform.

According to research conducted by the Musicians’ Union in 2012, 24% of pubs reported an increase in taking of between 25% and 50% on nights they featured live entertainment, with 71% seeing an increase of between 10% and 25%. On average, pubs without music were found to be three times more likely to close.

Queensland Ballet’s London Debut

Queensland BalletAustralia’s Queensland Ballet is set to debut the Olivier and Evening Standard award winning production of ‘La Sylphide’ at the London Coliseum from 4–8 August 2015. Over 30 years since it first captivated the capital’s audiences, the legendary production of August Bournonville’s ‘La Sylphide’ will return to London, performed by the internationally acclaimed Australia’s Queensland Ballet in their London debut.

Schaufuss’ La Sylphide premiered in London in 1979 and has been seen by millions around the world. The production was captured by an award-winning BBC production for TV, whilst a number of leading ballet companies have presented Schaufuss’ provocative interpretation of the Danish classic to widespread critical acclaim. It is one of the world’s oldest remaining ballets, one which paved the way for romantic ballets with its tragic story that has fascinated audiences since the early 19th century. La Sylphide tells the story of a young man who encounters an ethereal sylph on the eve of his wedding: in the pursuit of the seemingly attainable true love and happiness, he abandons everything, including his bride-to-be and ventures into the unknown.

The London debut of Queensland Ballet – Australia’s premier ballet company – is under the direction of international former dancer and author Li Cunxin, known for his bestselling book and movie “Mao’s Last Dancer”. Herman von Løvenskjold’s buoyant score will be performed by a live orchestra led by prominent British conductor Andrew Mogrelia during the 2015 London season. La Sylphide has always evoked strong responses and excited audiences since its very first performance back in 1836 and is set to again in the capital next year with the spectacular and evocative ballet.

The Right Start For The Academic Year

With many young dancers ready to become new students this month, it is important to keep your body healthy and in tip-top condition ready for the training ahead. If you are living away at a college or university and surrounded by other people, it is easy to let good eating habits slip and fall into something that is detrimental to your body.

There are a number of quick and easy breakfast ideas to start your day off in the best possible way so you don’t compromise your nutrition. Eating breakfast has been linked to improved academic performance, better mood, improved concentration and behaviour, as well as stronger athletic performance and higher rates of body fat oxidation. Fuel intake after fasting overnight lets your body know you need energy, and strong muscles, and it is important to get enough sleep for this too.

Eating something is better than nothing, however there are many quick and simple breakfast ideas that will give you the fuel you need for a busy dancing day ahead. Porridge with fruit and nuts/seeds can’t be beaten, however overnight porridge is also time-saving and easy. It is filling and nutritious; mix oats, Greek yoghurt and fruit in a bowl and seal overnight in the fridge. In the morning your porridge will be ready to go!

Fruit smoothies, avocado on toast (healthy fats and calcium for strong bones and muscle function), granola (homemade with seeds, dried fruit and puffed rice cereal) and apples with peanut butter are all perfect ways of getting essential nutrients needed for dance into your body. It can be difficult if you are in a rush but taking 5 minutes to plan ahead really does make all the difference!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Gender Debate

The Gender DebateMany dance artists working in the industry would argue that there are still gender issues for them. Some audiences still retain the thought that dance equates to ballet for girls, full of prejudice and stereotypes. This is despite the leaps that have been made regarding gender equality in dance, leaving the uneducated public. To them, dance requires little to no training or commitment, and could not be a legitimate career.

It is clear to the participants of dance, however, that dance is a difficult vocation that is pursued with commitment, dedication and passion. We know that dance teachers are of different ages and can be women or men, and that the training provided by teachers aims to utilise a student’s potential to have a career in the world of dance.

With the increased popularity of dance over the last few years, there has definitely been an overall improvement in what the general public, students and parents know about dance and dance training. Despite this there still underlying issues with matter of gender when it comes to dance teaching.

If even dance audience and schools discriminate on the basis of gender then what hope is there for parents, students and the general public? This type of conduct is incredibly harmful to the industry and does not support the professionals already working or trying to break into the industry, as they have to fight against gender stereotypes and discrimination from the people expected to support them.

Although the rejection of a job application on the basis of gender is illegal, in the dance world this action is accepted due to the perceived normality of it. To take into account a dance teacher’s gender when considering their application is an out of date mindset, let alone unlawful, as is the refusal to hire them on the basis of gender.

Principal Casting For ENB’s Autumn UK Tour

ENB LogoPrincipal casting for English National Ballet’s autumn UK tour, and performances of the classic The Nutcracker, have recently been announced, with a multitude of pairings to watch once summer is over.

Joining English National Ballet from Boston Ballet, Alejandro Virelles will make his debut as Principal, performing the role of Prince Siegfried alongside Alina Cojocaru’s Odette/Odile in Derek Deane’s Swan Lake. We will also see lead roles from Ksenia Ovsyanick, who was recently promoted to Soloist, and her debut as Odette/Odile with Zdenek Konvalina; Tamara Rojo and the winner of Emerging Dancer 2014 Junor Souza; Fernanda Oliveira and Dmitri Gruzdyev; and Shiori Kase, who was promoted to First Soloist and her debut as Odette/Odile, with Yonah Acosta, who was promoted to Principal. Deane’s traditional production tours to Manchester in October, followed by Milton Keynes, Liverpool and the London Coliseum.

After a critically acclaimed run at the London Coliseum in July this year, Coppélia begins a UK tour to Southampton in October, also heading to Oxford and Bristol. Following their debut performance in the lead roles of Franz and Swanilda, Acosta will also perform alongside Kase on tour. Coppélia is the comic tale of an eccentric toymaker and his mechanical doll. Dr Coppélius, the toymaker, creates a lifelike Coppélia doll and wishes to bring her to life.

Nutcracker returns to the London Coliseum from 11 December 2014-4 January 2015. First performed in 2010 to celebrate English National Ballet’s 60th anniversary, Wayne Eagling’s version has since been seen by over 300,000 people. Principals for Nutcracker include Laurretta Summerscales with identical twins Guilherme Menezes and Vitor Menezes, both making their debuts as the Prince and Nutcracker.

This is English National Ballet’s 11th production of Nutcracker since it performed its first full length Nutcracker in 1950, its founding year. Since then, English National Ballet has established the tradition of performing Nutcracker at Christmas every year.

Students’ Potential Is Within The Arts

Ballet Students

According to new research from University of Sydney academics, the arts are key to unlocking a child’s potential. While this may be the thought of many arts practitioners, especially of those in the education sector, it has not yet been formalised in findings. The study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, tracked 643 primary and high school students from 15 Australian schools and assessed their academic outcomes and personal well-being over two years.

It was found that students who studied creative and performing arts were more motivated, more likely to complete homework, participate in class and enjoy school more than their peers who didn’t participate in the arts. These creative students also had a greater sense of purpose, self-esteem, life satisfaction and educational aspirations: dancing, singing, acting, playing music and so on all greatly benefit a child’s academic performance and overall creativity.

It is clear that the study provides compelling evidence that the arts should be central to education, rather than left to the outskirts of an apparently well-rounded curriculum. In short, the students who participate in the arts excel across the curriculum, so it is paramount that the arts are included in the education system. The research proves that arts education is not and should not be a bonus, but an essential part of a well-rounded education.

Teaching artistic creativity and encouraging children to participate should be mandatory from the off-set through to university, available to all students regardless of socio-economic background. Already, many Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore are investing in improving their schools’ arts education to develop creativity and innovation. While these students rank highly in tests across the board, the Korean government has seen the need to increase their capacity in arts education too.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Wilton’s Strike!

Wilton's Strike!Wilton’s Strike!, a new dance platform, is offering emerging dancers and choreographers the opportunity to develop a piece of work with Wilton’s Music Hall and to perform on its historic stage. Wilton’s is the world’s oldest surviving Grand Music Hall and London’s best kept secret, so this opportunity to work within the building is an incredible opportunity.

The atmospheric building full of history and stories is led by Frances Mayhew and produces an exciting programme of imaginative, diverse and distinct entertainment including theatre, music, comedy, cinema and cabaret. For Wilton’s Strike!, the performances will also be live-streamed on the Wilton’s website and will remain online after the event too.

Running from 25–27 September the programmes presented include:

Ieva Kuniskis ‘They Live Next Door’ (working title)

Ieva Kuniskis creates theatrical dance pieces rooted in Lithuanian theatre, folklore and everyday experiences. Her piece explores the story of an older man embodying and pushing the boundaries of social stereotypes.

Jack Webb ‘Inside Opulence’ (working title)

Exploring the connections between animal and human nature, Jack Webb’s contemporary piece investigates the desire to be seen and fighting for survival in the setting of a modern day Vaudeville show.

Rebecca Evans (Pell Ensemble) and Lorenza Lo (Flock Collective) ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ (working title)

This contemporary piece looks at how modern society is undergoing a metamorphosis in communication through the use of texting, how this new way of interacting is modifying our verbal and physical language and affecting our human stories.

Dane Hurst ‘Finding Freedom’ (working title)

Dane Hurst has an attraction to dramatic works driven by a strong narrative which he translates into beautiful contemporary choreography. This piece is inspired by the narrative of American death row inmate, Jarvis Jay Masters, and his metamorphosis from darkness and isolation to enlightened peace.

The Royal Ballet Receives RAD’s Highest Award

Royal Academy of DanceThe Royal Ballet received the Royal Academy of Dance’s highest award during a fundraising gala recently: the QEII Award – presented annually in recognition of outstanding services to the art of ballet by the RAD – was first conferred sixty years ago upon Royal Ballet founder Dame Ninette de Valois, in 1954.

To celebrate this benchmark in ballet history, the award was presented to The Royal Ballet’s Director, Kevin O’Hare, during a glamorous dinner at Claridge’s in Mayfair, London. Also in attendance were past Genée International Ballet Competition medallists, as well as 19 current Principals of The Royal Ballet, Wayne Sleep OBE (RAD Vice President), Dame Monica Mason DBE (former Director of The Royal Ballet and past QEII recipient) and other celebrities and luminaries of the dance world.

The RAD’s initial projection is that the evening raised £65,000 towards the creation of a new bursary scheme to enable more young people to compete in its flagship event, the Genée International Ballet Competition. The Genée has proved to be a launch pad for a professional career in dance. Since the year 2000, 14 Genée medallists have gone on to dance with The Royal Ballet alone – amongst them current Principal Dancers Lauren Cuthbertson and Steven McRae. The auction proceeds will create means bursaries of up to £3,000 for future Genée International Ballet Competition candidates who cannot afford the costs involved in taking part, as well to develop the competition itself further.

The Daily Telegraph’s joint dance critic Mark Monahan, who delivered the QEII Coronation Award citation, described the former winners of the QEII Award as ‘people, as we all know, without whom British ballet would be unrecognisable today’.