National Tap Dance Day

Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson & Shirley Temple

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.

Rambert Dance Company in 2012

Rambert Dance Company

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!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Darcey Bussell Elected as President of RAD

Darcey Bussell

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.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Big Dance 2012 – Sadler’s Wells and Wayne McGregor

Sadler's WellsAs 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.

Youth Dance England’s Young Creatives

Youth Dance England

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.

One wonders what the 2013 programme will bring!

The Youth America Grand Prix

Youth America Grand Prix The Youth America Grand Prix was formed in 2000 as a non-profit educational organization in order to support and develop world-class dancers from the ages 9 to 19, of all backgrounds and styles of leotards. YAGP aims to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to the world’s leading dance schools for young dancers as a global network of resources and opportunities which connect students, teachers, schools and dance companies.

YAGP has been known to provide students with top-quality education and training from the directors and faculties of some of the world’s foremost companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet. As a result, YAGP refers to itself as the “internet of the dance world”, working to maintain and extend the dance network of the United States, and provide a multitude of prospects for the next generation of dancers, encouraging more to pull on their practice tights and engage with ballet.

Each year, YAGP conducts 12 regional semi-finals competitions throughout the US, and an additional 4 international competitions in Brazil, Mexico, France and Japan. Each season culminates in a week-long ‘New York City Finals’, where only around 500 of the 5000 hopefuls will compete for scholarships and professional job contracts offered. The dancers are renowned for representing 30 different countries on 5 continents, emphasising the sheer expanse of YAGP in the dance world, and just how prestigious the organisation has become since its inception.

First Position

First Position is a documentary film which focuses on seven young, international dance students preparing for the competition, working to showcase the exceptional talents of the dancers rather than focusing on the controversy of ballet competitions and the pressure they create for young people. Director Bess Kargman was inspired to create something that challenged the stereotypes of ballet and highlighted the sheer social and economic diversity of the industry. In choosing the candidates, Kargman felt it was imperative to feature students who would hold audiences’ attentions regardless of their performances throughout the competition, and – for example – the sacrifices made to facilitate ballet training such as parents making tutus and other costumes in order to save as much money as possible.

It is clear that the YAGP is one of the largest, most celebrated and influential dance competitions, presenting young dancers and their pointe shoes with the potential to truly succeed, with a fantastic opportunity in their first steps towards achieving their dance dreams.

Image courtesy of Youth America Grand Prix.

Big Dance 2012

Big Dance 2012Big Dance 2012 aims to be the UK’s biggest celebration of dance, led by the Greater London Authority, Arts Council England and Foundation for Community Dance.

The programme is part of the London 2012 Festival, which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, championing dance throughout the country. Big Dance is delivered by a network of Big Dance Hubs, which are leading dance organisations around the UK, delivering dance to those areas. Whether it is ballet, modern dance, lindy hop, or bharata natyam, Big Dance is sure to provide it, regardless of the extent of your dance ability or dance clothing collection!

In previous years, Big Dance incorporated the Big World Dance, which aimed to encourage people from across London to take part in a mass participation performance that took their dancing shoes from the Southbank Centre to Trafalgar Square for a grand finale which was received by thousands of audience members. Luca Silvestrini of Protein Dance created five pieces of choreography inspired by the five continents which corresponded to an area of London, teaching these to people across the capital. Around 2,500 people registered to take part, with more participants turning up on the day to join workshops at the Southbank Centre, complete with live footage on huge screens.

The Big Dance Schools Pledge, led by Coopers Company and Coborn School, was also a great success. The project encouraged schools to don their dancewear and sign up to complete 20 minutes of extra dance a day to take part in a World Record attempt for the largest dance class in multiple venues. Hakeem Onibudo of Impact Dance created choreography on four different levels to music specially commissioned for the Schools Pledge, of which over 600 schools nationwide with 150,000 students signed up for the pledge. A half hour dance class was completed, culminating with a performance of the Level 1 choreography, emphasising the sheer impact of the power of dance, in bringing people together for one significant cause.

Darcey Bussell To Join Strictly Come Dancing

Darcey Bussell

Prima Ballerina Darcey Bussell CBE is due to join BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing judging panel when it returns in autumn 2012. Having seen her take off her tutu for the last time following her farewell performance from The Royal Ballet in 2007, she will leave her pointe shoes behind in the move to Strictly… swapping them possibly for New Yorkers! Darcey may be regarded as one of the most famous and accomplished ballerinas of Great Britain, performing as a guest artist with leading international ballet companies, such as the New York City Ballet, alongside her Royal career.

Strictly Darcey

Darcey has previously appeared as a guest judge on Strictly in 2009, during which she performed a jive with Strictly professional Ian Waite, demonstrating her inspirational capacity to engage with the wider dance and commercial sector aside from classical ballet. It can be supposed the Darcey’s influence on the judging panel will be one of great force and strength, capturing the nation’s hearts as she does so well, emphasising the virtuosic nature of dance and applying this to the lines of the Strictly characteristics. Her poise and glamour will add to an already sparkling aspect of the television dance scene, with Darcey continuing her central role in the development of quality dance and entertainment.

Dance On TV

The expanse of dance on television is overwhelming; it indicates that dance will continue to spread its influence in this way and gain more and more recognition in all sectors, encouraging more people to don their dance tights and snap up extravagant new leotards. Darcey has the experience and “qualifications” to do this, and constructively critique the participants in a meaningful and insightful way for audiences, in her charismatic and charming manner.

Darcey Bussell will be joining the panel to sit alongside head judge Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, viewed as a fantastic addition to the Strictly team.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

International Dance Day 2012

International Dance Day 2012International Theatre Institute LogoInternational Dance Day was founded by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute in 1982, and has been celebrated every year in Paris on April 29th, which is the anniversary of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810) who is deemed as the creator of modern ballet. The dance sector is constantly evolving, with International dance Day seemingly drawing attention to the magic of dance, and highlighting this throughout the world.

Every year a message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer is circulated internationally, known as the “International Dance Day Message”, inspiring dancers and dance fans alike to re-love their dance, be it wearing their ballet tights, tap shoes or jazz leotard. The professional is selected by the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, which collaborates with the World Dance Alliance. The message aims to celebrate dance as a common language between all people across political, cultural and ethnic barriers in the universality of the art form, emphasising its accessibility. Among many others, prestigious dance figures such as Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Maurice Béjart, Akram Khan and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker have delivered the message and/or participated in the celebration of International Dance Day at UNESCO, Paris.
This year (the 30th anniversary of International Dance Day) the message was delivered from Paris by the Flemish/Moroccan choreographer and founder of the Antwerp based Eastman dance company, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. You can read the full message here: 2012 International Dance Day Message.

The International Dance Council, an umbrella organisation within UNESCO is also active in the support of dance and promotes Dance Day through the voice of its president Professor Alkris Raftis who also delivers a message himself every year. The Council considers that while dance has been an integral part of human culture throughout its history, it is under-prioritised by official establishments in the world, and the influence of dance should be shared throughout the world. Through the instatement of International Dance Day, it seems that the global message of dance can continue to be transmitted and enjoyed by everyone, encouraging them to grab their jazz trainers and engage with more people.

What will you be doing on Sunday?

Images courtesy of ITI.

International Dance Festival Birmingham

International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012

The International Dance Festival Birmingham is due to run from April 23rd until May 19th, bringing an outstanding line-up of hit shows to the Midlands, such as Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant’s Push, combining elements of ballet, contemporary, capoeira, t’ai chi and yoga; a solo for Louise LeCavalier named Children & A Few Minutes Of Lock created by Nigel Charnock; and the premiere of new work The Impending Storm, featuring dance virtuoso David Toole.

The month-long dance programme is now in its third edition as a major biennial festival produced by DanceXchange and Birmingham Hippodrome, programmed across theatres, streets and public places, creating a wealth of participatory activity for people of all ages by animating the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands, encouraging them to pull on their dancewear and get involved.

The IDFB is one of the largest dance festivals in the world, and is unique in its diversity and internationalism through its programming of exceptional dance from across the globe, and hosting collaborations with international choreographers and artists. The IDFB is set to include additionally engaging features such as the pointe shoes of The Royal Ballet of Flanders (performing Artifact), a screening of the jazz shoe classic West Side Story and the exotic Danza Contemporanea de Cuba from Dance Consortium. Added to the mix is the transferral of urban hoodie-wearing Breakin’ Convention from London to the Midlands, the international festival of hip-hop dance theatre within the IDFB.

Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant in Push

The IDFB aims to bring an outstanding quality of work and worldwide attention to the numerous arts organisations and venues in the Midlands and the incredible dance scene which resides there through many partnerships and collaborations. Building on the successes of previous years, the IDFB 2012 aims to be even more distinctive than before, attracting more visitors from across the UK and beyond, consequently benefitting the local economy. With a strong international focus, the IDFB will celebrate artistic excellence, promote artistic exchange and express the youthful, diverse and energetic spirit of dance in the Midlands.

IDFB 2012 image courtesy of IFDB. Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.