The Chelmsford Ballet Company Presents The Nutcracker

Chelmsford Ballet CompanyCelebrating its 65th anniversary, The Chelmsford Ballet Company is proud to present its version of The Nutcracker from 19-22 March at the Civic Theatre in Chelmsford. Some of Tchaikovsky’s most famous melodies set the scene; the story of a little girl’s magical Christmas present. Battle the Mouse King and travel with Clara to the Magical Kingdom of Sweets. Delight in the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, be captivated by the Waltz of the Flowers, the flurry of Snowflakes and the candy striped Merlitons, a spectacle for any time of year.

The Company was founded in 1947 by Joan Weston as the Broomfield YMCA Ballet Company in order to give the more senior students at her existing dance school the opportunity to learn and perform to the public. It was after its 1949 performance of Coppelia that the then-mayor of Chelmsford suggested the name ‘The Chelmsford Ballet Company’. Today the Company is led by Artistic Director Annette Potter, a former dancing member. Annette danced many leading roles with the company before moving on to teaching and choreography. She continues to present the high standards of dance and performance for which the Company is recognised.

Since that first performance in 1949, the Company has staged a full-scale production every year as an event in its own right. In 1984 The Chelmsford Ballet Company presented its version of the Royal Ballet film The Tales of Beatrix Potter. This was the first time the ballet had been performed on stage; it was not until 1992 that the Royal Ballet staged its own production at Covent Garden.

The Company has announced that Richard Bermange will return to dance this year as the dashing Cavalier. His Sugar Plum Fairy will be Emma Lister and to complete the exciting Guest line-up, Michael Budd will dance the Mouse King.

Richard trained at Central School of Ballet, London. As a student he danced with Northern Ballet and Ballet Central, and since graduation he has worked with English National Ballet, K-Ballet, Tokyo, Tivoli Ballet, Peter Schaufuss Ballet and The National Ballet of Ireland. Most recently he has worked with Ballet Ireland as an Associate Choreographer.

Emma Lister trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. Upon graduation she danced with The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and since moving to London, Emma has worked with English National Ballet and with the English Youth Ballet, having danced the lead roles in Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Les Sylphides, Giselle and Swan Lake.

Michael trained at The Royal Ballet School for 7 years. After graduating from the Upper School he toured with London Studio Centre in Images of Dance. He has since danced with many companies including European Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, English National Ballet, Vienna Festival Ballet, Balletomania, Anya Ison Wallace Dance company, The Johann Strauss Gala and Debbie McGee and Paul Daniels’ ballet company, Ballet Imaginaire.

Tickets are on sale from the Civic Theatre Box Office 01245 606505 or online from Chelmsford City Theatres

En Avant Foundation

En Avant FoundationThe En Avant Foundation is a new non-profit foundation for specialised ballet coaching, mentoring and the awarding of scholarships in the sphere of classical ballet. As a new initiative formed with a specific purpose to promote classical ballet by offering specialised ballet coaching via Master Classes and Workshops, En Avant Foundation is able to offer dancers the means by which to propel their careers.

The En Avant Foundation utilises eminent artists from the ballet world who are known for their brilliant careers and qualifications; their wealth of knowledge is immeasurable and they are willing to pass it on in order to aid the next generation of artists. It is the Foundation’s goal to contribute to the existing potential of young dancers by providing them with unique opportunities through mentoring and scholarships.

En Avant Foundation, whose artistic director is the renowned Cynthia Harvey, has the support of a number of prestigious artists who have agreed to become the Advisory Committee: Darcey Bussell CBE, Ángel Corella, Isabelle Guérin, Dr Linda Hamilton, Steven Heathcote, Desmond Kelly OBE, Violette Verdy, and Edward Villella.

The Foundation will consequently present masterclasses and workshops for pre-professional and professional dancers. The artists of the Advisory Committee will present some of the masterclasses and workshops, with some taken by those who have expertise in related fields. These will take place in a number of cities worldwide in future years.

The Foundation’s first event will be held in New York City on 7 and 8 June, with Edward Villella, Isabelle Guérin and Cynthia Harvey as teachers and coaches, including Dr Linda Hamilton, Advice Columnist for Dance Magazine, presenting a lecture on “Overcoming the Stresses of Performance”.

English National Ballet My First Ballet: Coppélia

Following the My First Ballet series, English National Ballet and English National Ballet School are presenting Coppélia from April to the delight of young children everywhere. From 5 April–25 May 2014 the Peacock Theatre in London and a national tour will see Coppélia visit Shrewsbury, Manchester, Tunbridge Wells, Woking, Aylesbury and Bromley.

My First Coppélia is the third in the My First Ballet series, the comic tale of an eccentric toymaker and his mechanical doll, based on Ronald Hynd’s original production. The dancers will wear the beautiful costumes from the professional company’s full production, giving audiences the look, feel and quality of a classic ballet, but understandable for all. The adapted story and choreography will make the ballet more approachable and fun for younger audiences.

Last year’s creative team of Gavin Sutherland and ENB’s Associate Artist George Williamson, a graduate of ENBS, will be collaborating again to bring young audiences their first taste of ballet, with captivating music and beautiful choreography performed by the students. George’s first major commission was Firebird for English National Ballet. He returns to the My First Ballet series after choreographing last year’s My First Cinderella.

Children aged 3 and over can get their first taste of classical ballet with this magical production. The simplified version builds on the great success of My First Sleeping Beauty and My First Cinderella, developing the audience of tomorrow and establishing long term relationships with the arts.

English National Ballet was awarded a £114,520 grant from the Leverhulme Trust in 2013. The grant was awarded to support two years of the series and English National Ballet are delighted that the funding will also support My First Ballet: Coppélia, helping to develop the dancers of the future and enable students with outstanding potential to gain vital skills by working with a professional company.

The Dancing Plague

The Dancing PlagueAlmost 500 years ago a whole town was overcome with a “Dancing Plague” that saw people dropping dead from dancing, exhausted. This phenomenon has parallels with Romantic classical ballet Giselle, with Hilarion forced to dance to his death by the Wilis. Protagonist Albrecht, meanwhile, is saved by Giselle, her love for him just as strong in death.

The summer of 1518 saw a Strasbourg woman named Frau Troffea begin dancing intensely in the street, and refused to stop even after many hours and days. Within a week, one hundred people had been overcome by the same compulsion to dance and after a month, 400 people found themselves obsessively dancing into exhaustion without no explanation for their actions.

The authorities in Strasbourg even encouraged the dancers by hiring musicians to accompany them in the belief that they would recover by continuing to dance. It wasn’t long before dancers collapsed and died from heart attacks and exhaustion, and the dancing plague subsided after a few weeks. Some explanations for the epidemic include drugging (by psychotropic mould growing on stalks of rye that people accidentally ingested), cult involvement and mass hysteria.

1518 was not the first dancing plague of its kind: in that part of Europe cases stretched back to the late 1300s. Some suggest that the dancers were in a trance-like state, which allowed them to continue dancing despite their exhaustion due to the contemporary belief in St. Vitus (the patron saint of epileptics) who was believed to take over people’s minds and inflict compulsive dance. Already under psychological strain from the famine and disease that was common in Europe, it could be that people’s fear of the curse caused them to believe they had been possessed and induce themselves into a dancing trance.

These instances of dancing mania eventually died out in Europe, having claimed many lives.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Smart Move For Dutch National Ballet

Dutch National BalletThe Dutch National Ballet and game studio Game Oven are developing Bounden, the first two-player dance game for smart phones giving mobile users a first in this form of dancing technology. Similar to that of Merce Cunningham’s use of technology to choreograph, most notably for one of his last works, Biped, Bounden lets people dance with each other.

In a mix of ballet and the well-known party game Twister, phones are used as a guide to dance or get entangled with someone else. In addition to using your thumbs to move in synchronisation to dance together, Bounden brings together programmers, choreographers, music composers, filmmakers, and visual artists. Each choreography is accompanied by classical music specifically composed for the game.

Ernst Meisner, the artistic coordinator of Dutch National Ballet’s Junior Company, will be one of the choreographers from the company creating choreographies exclusively for the game. This will open up both mobile users and dance lovers to a whole new level of dance and the use of technology. Whilst Bounden is just a game there is a clear possible progression route from the game, using modern technology to greater avail within dance and performance.

Game Oven, the game studio in association with Dutch National Ballet, makes games that makes users sweat, previously such as Fingle, Bam fu, and Friendstrap. The company is based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and consists of just four people that make games with new, weird and unique ways for people to interact with each other. For Bounden, dance is at the centre of their work.

Bounden is supported by the Dutch grant program Game Fund and will be available in May 2014 on iOS and Android.

Steven McRae Named Young Australian Achiever of the Year

Steven McRae and Miyako Yoshida Performing in The NutcrackerThe Royal Ballet’s Principal dancer Steven McRae has been awarded Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK by the Australia Day Foundation. Marking Australia Day abroad has taken in a whole new meaning for him being named with this prestigious title, as he continues to aim inspire children to chase their dreams too.

Just 28, McRae has a dream dance career. He began with jazz and tap classes as a child following an impromptu dance class aged seven. He went on to tap at the Sydney Olympics, and later become the Royal Ballet’s youngest Principal dancer. He has performed as a guest Principal with many renowned international ballet companies and still has a notable number of years to achieve even more.

The Australia Day Foundation accolade is especially significant for McRae in 2014, as he will be performing his favourite role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet with the Queensland Ballet in July. For someone of McRae’s age to have achieved so much and to have represented Australia on the world stage is truly remarkable and an inspiration to young people everywhere, prompting the award from the Australia Day Foundation. Steven’s long list of dance achievements include the top prize at the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland. The Royal Ballet School offered him a full scholarship in 2003 and he graduated and joined the Royal Ballet Company the following year.

The Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK has been awarded annually since 2005, recognising the achievements of a young Australian in the UK. Australia Day marks the day in 1788 of the first Governor of the colony of New South Wales. Australians across the country and overseas celebrate Australia, reflect on achievements and what they are proud of. In the UK, it is also a day to celebrate British heritage and the close links between the nations.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Andrew Lloyd Webber To Fund Arts Apprenticeships

Andrew Lloyd WebberAndrew Lloyd Webber’s charitable foundation has announced six grants which will support apprenticeships within professional arts organisations. The grants total more than £150,000, meaning young people will be able to gain better access to the arts, and gain a better chance of success with funds behind them as part of organisations.

Five theatre organisations and one music festival will receive funding: Shared Experience will receive £105,000 over three years to support one trainee director and producer per year as a result of paid six-month apprenticeships; Tangled Feet will receive £14,000 over two years to help fund its participation programme for young people; Manchester Royal Exchange’s Young Company will receive £10,000; Chickenshed will receive £15,000 towards its Young Creators Programme; Icon Theatre in Medway will receive £9,000; and the Lake District International Summer Music Festival will receive £10,000. There is great variety in the organisations which have gained support, meaning benefits will be across the board of the arts industry.

Since the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was re-launched in 2011, it has donated over £8.5 million to more than 120 projects. The foundation’s support of these projects will give young people valuable experience within professional arts organisations, and not just those which place performers on stage. It seems relatively common that talented individuals working behind the scenes are forgotten or glanced over. However, as the trust advocates, it is equally important to provide training for these skills as it is for performers, because without those behind the scenes – or in other, equally important, areas of the performing arts industry – there would be no show for the performers to work in.

As a result of the grants by the foundation, arts across the UK can continue to produce to high standards having provided solid training and opportunities for those aspiring to work in the arts.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The London Ballet Circle

The London Ballet CircleThe London Ballet Circle provides financial support to student dancers, raising funds by hosting events such as talks by dancers, choreographers and company directors where members can find out from artists about their life and work. The events of the LBC offer a range of prestigious industry artists as speakers at the events, and the LBC also arranges private visits to ballet schools so members can observe students in training, and their incredible discipline and dedication devoted to their art. All of the LBC events raise vital funds to assist the education of the next generation of talent.

LBC was founded in 1946 by Stanley Hawkins and its founder President and first Patron was the founder of the Royal Ballet, Dame Ninette de Valois. Dame Alicia Markova – founder of English National Ballet, as it is now known – succeeded Dame Ninette. LBC also aims to promote interest in dance, rather than just ballet, and the associated arts by arranging a broad range of talks amongst other exclusive events. Recently LBC has hosted talks by world famous stars such as Marianela Nunez, Thiago Soares, Mara Galeazzi and Edward Watson.

Recent visits include watching classes and rehearsals at the Royal Ballet School, English National Ballet School, Tring School for the Performing Arts, the Central School of Ballet and the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School. LBC has also organised private guided tours of dance-related exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Ballet School Museum at White Lodge.

Funds raised by the events provide financial support to gifted student dancers whose school principals have identified as greatly benefiting greatly from high level tuition, such as that provided by the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School, the Wells Weekends, and other summer schools run by the country’s leading ballet companies.

The New Year’s Honours List 2014

OBE Image: New Year's Honours 2014The New Year’s Honours List 2014, released on 30 December 2013, included nine honours for dance professionals, championing their work for the arts sector. Dance UK runs the dance sector’s Honours Advisory Committee which is a group of dance professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to ensure dance professionals are regularly nominated from across the rich and diverse world of dance. Teachers, dancers, managers and choreographers can all be nominated, recognised for their hard work in all dance forms.

Choreographer and former dancer Gillian Lynne CBE was made a Dame as part of the New Year’s Honours List for services to dance and musical theatre, acknowledging her dedication to the industry which spans decades. Dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta, received a CBE for services to ballet, recognising his work in the dance world. Assis Carreiro, former Director of DanceEast in Ipswich, was awarded an MBE for services to dance. Assis is now Artistic Director of Royal Ballet of Flanders. In addition, Liv Lorent, founder and Artistic Director of balletLORENT based in Newcastle, received an MBE for services to dance.

Other honourees included Lady Patricia Marina Hobson MBE awarded an OBE for services to ballet & philanthropy, Margaret Jaffe founder of Northern Dance Centre awarded the British Empire Medal for services to dance, and Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance, Theatre and Performance Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum: Jane was awarded an MBE for services to the arts. Jane curated the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes exhibition at the museum and was archivist for both English National Ballet and Rambert.

Mariinsky Ballet To Visit London In 2014

Mariinsky LogoThe Mariinsky Ballet has announced plans for its London season in the summer of 2014: the season will run from 28 July to 14 August at the Royal Opera House, opening with the classic tale Romeo and Juliet. The company will also dance a triple bill of The Firebird, Marguerite and Armand and Concerto DSCH, Swan Lake and a George Balanchine double bill of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the first time the company has danced this work in the UK – and Apollo. The season will end with the London premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, a production eagerly awaited by London audiences.

The Mariinsky Ballet is a classical ballet company based at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Founded in the 18th century and originally known as the Imperial Russian Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet is one of the world’s leading ballet companies. Internationally, the Mariinsky Ballet is most commonly known by its former Soviet name the Kirov Ballet; the Mariinsky Ballet is the parent company of the Vaganova Ballet Academy, a leading international ballet school which has recently been subject to employment scandals.

The Imperial Theatre School as it was originally known, was established in 1738 and was the predecessor of today’s Vaganova Ballet Academy to create a school which would train young dancers to form the first Russian ballet company. The first group of students went on to form what would become the predecessor of today’s Mariinsky Ballet. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Imperial Russian Ballet soon rose to prominence and would employ some of the most influential and famous names in ballet history including Marie Taglioni, Enrico Cecchetti, Jules Perrot, and Carlotta Grisi.

Despite later name changes and pressures of the Russian revolution, the present day Mariinsky Ballet is still linked to the school, which is now known as the Vaganova Ballet Academy.