The Prix Benois de la Danse

Prix Benois de la DanseOne of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Prix Benois de la Danse is awarded at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia every year in order to give credit to the best of dance talents in the world for their achievements over the past year, such as best choreographer, as well as the best male and female dancer.

Arguably on par with the Oscars, the awards credit the world’s stages’ most prestigious and outstanding talent. The 2013 ceremony at the Bolshoi saw many high achievers collect their awards. Choreographer Hans van Manen was honoured for his Variations for Two Couples with the Dutch National Ballet, and Christopher Wheeldon was also honoured for his production of Cinderella with the Dutch National Ballet. Congratulations were also awarded to John Neumeier, who is the director and choreographer of the Hamburg Ballett, for his Life Achievement award for dance.

In terms of dancers, ballerina Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi Ballet was acknowledged for her roles performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, such as Nikia in La Bayadere, Aspicia in The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and Anastasia in Ivan the Terrible. Additionally, Alban Lendorf of The Royal Danish Ballet was applauded for his role Armand Duval in The Lady of Camellias and Vadim Muntagirov was also honoured for his role as the Prince in English National Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty when he danced alongside the company’s artistic director Tamara Rojo.

The Prix Benois de la Danse was founded by the International Dance Association in Moscow in 1991, taking place annually and judged by a dance jury consisting of the ‘top’ ballet folk whose members change every year. The competition recognises exceptional events and incredible talent with monetary awards, based on the previous year of the industry, including choreographic accomplishments in addition to recognising dancing roles.

Dancing On Ice Gets The Boot

Dancing On Ice 2014It has been announced that 2014, as the 30th anniversary of Jane Torvil and Christopher Dean’s Olympic Bolero performance, will mark the last series of Dancing on Ice. Torvil and Dean, the series’ mentors, felt it made sense to end the show, as a mark of the anniversary of their groundbreaking dance at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.

The final series of Dancing on Ice will be followed by the last Dancing on Ice tour around the UK, as per every series of the show, in March 2014. Despite a fierce following from its supporters, the viewing figures dramatically decreased for this year’s series, drawing just half of the show’’s audience at its peak in 2008 at 11.7 million viewers. It is arguable as to whether the show has reached the end of its natural life after its eighth consecutive series, having recruited a number of very watchable contestants over the last few series, those notable such as Olympic athletes, actors, actresses and other recognisable TV faces. The show has also been a prime-time success in eight different countries.

The show pairs up these celebrities with professional figure skaters and the duets are pitted against each other for the duration of the competition. The celebrities and their partners perform a live ice dance routine and the judges are required to judge each performance and give a mark between 0.0 and 10.0 (0.0 to 6.0 between series 1 and 5), depending on the performance, with the two lowest placed couples competing in a final showdown known as the “Skate Off”, where they perform their routine again. Once the couples have performed their routines for the judging panel, the judges decide on who deserves to stay and cast their votes, based on the second performance.

It seems Dancing on Ice has been voted off!

Queensland Ballet’s exciting season

Queensland BalletQueensland Ballet has announced an exclusive season coming up for dance fans in Australia by obtaining two very current stars, each in their own respects, for new work in the coming year for the company. Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet will be staged and will star Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta for the season which will run from 27 June to 5 July 2014. This is fantastic for the company and a huge achievement for Queensland Ballet’s artistic director, Li Cunxin.

Financially speaking, the season will be supported by the Queensland Government’s new Super Star Fund that will invest $3 million over four years to support local performing arts companies in engaging with internationally renowned artists. As a hugely supportive concept, it seems that Australian dance companies can continue in this vein in developing their work and engaging with overseas stars in renowned and iconic works. For Queensland Ballet, the season will take place at the Lyric Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and will be presented with sets and costumes from the Birmingham Royal Ballet production back in the UK.

MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet is widely considered the best in the world, despite being rarely seen outside of the UK. The work has never been performed in Australia so it is indeed a huge coup (as Li Cunxin states) for Queensland Ballet to secure the exclusive production and perform alongside two of the world’s great ballet dancers.

It is rather fitting that Queensland Ballet be granted this season by the government, in Li Cunxin’s own journey to Australia. Beginning his training in China and later releasing his autobiographical novel Mao’s Last Dancer detailing his childhood and subsequent ballet life, it seems Li Cunxin has also been smiled upon by ballet gods, being able to journey overseas and relish in his ballet career despite the strict Communist regime back in his homeland.

Toronto Technology For Ballet

Canada's National Ballet SchoolBallet has taken a new leap into technology, with students from 18 international schools having performed together virtually at a conference in Toronto. The students from Toronto were linked through dance and livestream with dancers in Amsterdam as part of a curriculum Canada’s National Ballet School has worked into the Assemblée Internationale, a week-long conference in Toronto with student dancers from ballet schools around the world. As a collaborative conference, it will bring students together to form bonds and learn about working together just as they are thinking about where they will be dancing professionally in a few years, with technology central to what they do.

Assemblée Internationale is an ambitious conference that involves 72 Canadian students and 109 from international schools, and among the young dancers in the Canadian class are dancers from London, Paris, Sydney, Havana, Copenhagen and New York. The conference allows the dancers to be involved in a new creation as a huge opportunity in the preparation for their professional careers where they will be working with many new choreographers. In addition to this, the project involves several aspects of technology which will broaden the horizons and expectations of the students who are so ingrained in the system of classical ballet. In addition to the improvisation required by the piece, it also needs the dancers to be in the moment of the movement and completely present, physically reacting to what they see on the screen.

In another leap into the unknown, in order to prepare the ballet students to perform the new work, Stream, NBS instructor Shaun Amyot has tried to teach his class to improvise, which is not a regular occurrence in the disciplined and precise world of classical ballet. For the conference itself, the dancers in Toronto were required to improvise, reacting to a screen showing dancers in Amsterdam performing to music. Amyot collaborated with Amsterdam-based choreographer Michael Schumacher to create Stream, and the Dutch National Ballet Academy danced the work in the studio in Amsterdam to fill the screen, which was proportioned to the height of the human body.

English National Ballet and the The Coronation Festival

ENB Rebranded LogoIt has been announced that English National Ballet will take part in three Gala performances in the grounds of Buckingham Palace as part of the Coronation Festival in July this year, performing Tempus, a specially commissioned piece paying tribute to Her Majesty The Queen to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.

Tempus, choreographed by Associate Artist George Williamson to a new score by composer Christopher Mayo, will be danced by Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, alongside other Principals and Artists of the company such as Esteban Berlanga, Daria Klimentová, Vadim Muntagirov, Fernanda Oliveira, Zhanat Atymtayev, Bridgett Zehr, Ken Saruhashi, Ksenia Ovsyanick and Junor Souza. The work will be inspired by incredible era of change during her reign and a sense of transition and memories in order to celebrate the Queen’s years and simultaneously look to the future of the art form.

The Gala will form part of the Coronation Festival , which is to be a unique public event hosted by The Royal Warrant Holders Association and will encapsulate the Festival’s themes of excellence and innovation with a particular focus on youth, in a celebration of the past 60 years of performing arts. The Festival will be open to members of the public from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 July and the Galas will be broadcast on TV and radio, with a Royal Preview on Thursday, 11th July for invited guests.

The Coronation Festival is being hosted by The Royal Warrant Holders Association, and will showcase over 200 of the companies who have supplied goods or services for at least five years to the Households of The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh or The Prince of Wales.

Alina Cojocaru For Hospice of Hope

Aina CojocaruAlina Cojocaru, back in 2008, launched the fundraising for the Bucharest Hospice Appeal through her first gala for Hospice of Hope, a Romanian charity operating to prevent the abandonment of sick children. This donation of so much of her time and effort is in an entirely different vein from her Royal Ballet status.

Now for 2013, Cojocaru will be providing Sadler’s Wells with another unique evening in the completion of the project and another gala performance in aid of the charity. This incredible evening of artists will work to celebrate the past, present and future of dance, and will include highlights from classical repertoire in addition to some rarely seen works , such as those choreographed by Marius Petipa, Tim Rushton, and her fiancé and dance partner Johan Kobborg, amongst others.

The programme will include 101, Don Quixote, Carmen Fantasie for Violin and Orchestra, Excerpts from Sleeping Beauty, Salute (UK premiere), Dying Swan solo and Les Lutins amongst many more. In turn, dancing these pieces on 12 May will be internationally renowned dancers, giving the gala audience the chance to see many talented stars of the classical ballet industry perform under one roof and for one night only. These stars include Isabelle Ciaravola (Paris Opera Ballet), English National Ballet Principals Erina Takahashi and Vadim Muntagirov, Steven McRae, Johan Kobborg, Akane Takada, Frankie Hayward, Marcelino Sambe and James Hay (Royal Ballet), Sergei Polunin (Stanislavsky Ballet), Xander Parish (Mariinsky Ballet), Matthew Golding (Dutch National Ballet), Ana Sendas and Stefanos Bizas (Danish Dance Theatre) and violin virtuoso Charlie Siem will also take to the stage.

Alina recently travelled to Bucharest to see the progress of the Hospice of Hope building site, in addition to The National Ballet School of Romania, in which some of its students will perform a fragment of Johan Kobborg’s Salute.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gillian Lynne: A Dance Legend

Gillian Lynne with Peter Land (2008)Beginning as a soloist under Dame Ninette de Valois in the original Sadler’s Wells Ballet, going on to become a star dancer at the London Palladium, acting opposite Errol Flynn in films and dancing on television, it seems Gillian Lynne has done the lot!

Gillian’s career took off when she danced the role of the Swan Queen in Swan Lake aged 16 and was spotted by de Valois. She entered Sadler’s Wells Ballet aged 17 and rose through the ranks to become a leading dancer, with her roles including the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, one of three ballerinas in Symphonic Variations, Queen of the Willis in Giselle, Black Ballerina in Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial, and Black Queen in de Valois’ Checkmate. Gillian went on to set herself on the dance map as a performer, choreographer, director and innovator.

Gillian was instrumental in the development of jazz dance in Britain and her distinctive style, which is a fusion of classical and jazz, lead to her fantastic work on the world famous musical Cats – for which she is probably most well-known – and also on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s worldwide hits Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love, which she staged and choreographed. Aside from these huge hits which took the West End by storm in their heyday and continue to do so today, Gillian has also worked on shows such as Cabaret, Pickwick, Hans Christian Andersen, My Fair Lady, Songbook and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and for the Royal Shakespeare Company, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, The Boyfriend and The Secret Garden. In addition to the West End stage, her ballets included The Bröntes, On Such A Night (Northern Ballet) and Journey (Bolshoi Ballet), and feature films include A Wonderful Life, Half a Sixpence and Gillian also staged many of the famous Muppet Shows.

Gillian still has the same vigour and passion for life in her late eighties, most recently being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Olivier Awards and giving the keynote speech at the Royal Academy of Dance’s Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing conference, the syllabus under which she originally trained. Gillian was honoured by the Royal Academy of Dance with the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award in 2001, and was awarded the CBE in 1997.

Image courtesy of shakespearetheatreco (Shakespeare Theatre Company) on Flickr.

ZooNation’s New show!

ZooNation Dance CompanyZooNation, the hip hop dance company founded by Kate Prince in 2002, will perform the world premiere of new production Groove on Down the Road at the Southbank Centre in London this summer. The new show is written and directed by Prince, and has been commissioned by the Southbank Centre, described as a “unique twist” on The Wizard of Oz.

Prince’s production will include music from the 1978 film The Wiz, and will be re-mixed with current hits by DJ Walde. The cast will comprise dancers under the age of 19 and two 11 year-old dancers, Arizona Snow and Portia Oti, will share the role of Dorothy, taking to the stage and unleashing their talents. This cast is born from the ZooNation Academy of Dance, which Prince trains each week, an admirer of their capability and talents at such a young age. The dancers have had huge amounts of access to hip hop dance and the culture which surrounds it, and the wealth of information that comes too. As a result of this, the group is made up of a whole new breed of dancers who have a raw, authentic and fearless skill and passion for dance.

The show marks the return of the hip hop dance company to the venue after it last performed there in 2010 with smash-hit Into the Hoods, a take on the musical Into the Woods. Into the Woods was created in 2005 and was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells to be performed for the first time in 2006 at the Peacock Theatre. The show then opened on the West End in 2008 and therefore became the first hip hop dance show on the West End and the longest running dance show in the history of Theatreland.

Groove on Down the Road will run from August 10 to September 1 at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

News from New Adventures

New AdventuresThe 25th anniversary of Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures was 2012, and was perhaps one of the busiest in the company’s history. With the continued success of Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty in 2013, it seems there is no stopping the contemporary, theatrical company.

New Adventures recently announced that Sleeping Beauty will tour the United States from September this year, playing two week seasons in Cleveland (Playhousesquare), New York (City Center) and Los Angeles (Ahmanson Theatre) in addition to a week-long engagement at the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Opening at the Civic Center in Des Moines on 27 September, the three month tour will also travel to Schenectady (Proctors) and Charlotte(Blumenthal Performing Arts). The US tour will follow the current record-breaking UK tour of the production, which is also due to visit The Ravenna Festival in Italy (29 May – 2 June) and the company’s fifth visit to The Chekhov International Festival in Moscow (11 -16 June).

Holiday plans have also been announced, with the original cast of Sleeping Beauty being filmed at the Bristol Hippodrome in May for later broadcast on UK and International television over the Christmas period. This will be followed by a subsequent DVD release: the film will be directed by Ross MacGibbon, who has collaborated many times with Matthew Bourne on previous award-winning New Adventures films, including the recent Imagine Documentary, “A Beauty Is Born”.

In the unveiling of another production for the company, Scottish Ballet will be presenting Highland Fling having been granted the rights to perform it. Highland Fling was originally produced in 1994, and was revived in 2005 before the exclusive 2013 Scottish Ballet production as an imaginative reworking of the classic romantic ballet La Sylphide with a wickedly wry Scotch twist.

NYCB’s Next Season

New York City Ballet LogoNew York City Ballet company, founded in 1948, has announced its 2013-14 season, and it is set to be incredibly exciting for eager ballet and dance fans of all genres. The new season is set to include the world premieres of ballets by Peter Martins, Justin Peck, Angelin Preljocaj and Liam Scarlett, a good result due to the speculation surrounding his absence from the next Royal Ballet season.

NYCB has carved its fantastic reputation as one of the foremost dance companies in the world, with a company of dancers who excel in their field and are unparalleled in their talent and repertory. As a result of the founders George Balanchine and Lincoln Kerstein’s dedication and commitment in its early years, the company quickly became renowned worldwide for its athletic, modern and contemporary style.

The season for NYCB will also include 22 works by company co-founder and the esteemed choreographer Balanchine, with an additional 7 works by choreographer Jerome Robbins. The iconic and traditional production of Balanchine’s Nutcracker will also run for the annual season over Christmas as part of the company’s 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, which has been the Company’s home since the New York State Theater (now the David H. Koch Theater) opened in April 1964. In total, the season features performances of 50 ballets in the celebration.

First up for the season, beginning on 17 September, will be 6 performances of Martins’ Swan Lake and a gala performance with a premiere of work by Preljocaj. This season will also incorporate a family programme which will feature Christopher Wheeldon’s Carnival of the Animals, Martins’ Jeu de Cartes and Robbins’ Four Seasons. In the New Year, there will be a week-long festival of 21st-century choreographers, with 11 ballets by 10 choreographers, showcasing Peck’s world premiere and also including 2 fully Balanchine programmes.

Image courtesy of New York City Ballet.