The Merce Cunningham Trust, established in 2000 to further the iconic American choreographer’s legacy, has announced an award of $250,000 to the Baryshnikov Arts Centre, and $375,000 to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Both organisations were seemingly highly important to the choreographer during his life, especially the Foundation for Contemporary Arts as it was founded by Cunningham’s partner John Cage, and Jasper Johns, a longtime collaborator. The Foundation provided vital support to Cunningham over the many years he worked before his death in 2009. Equally so did Mikhail Baryshnikov, who performed Cunningham’s work and assisted fundraising. Baryshnikov heads the Baryshnikov Arts Centre.
These generous donations mark the first – and perhaps only – time the Merce Cunningham Trust has awarded cash grants: it may not happen again. The Merce Cunningham Trust works to support the legacy of Cunningham’s work, and much work is done to support the licensing of the work. The recent donations awarded have arrived without any criteria by which to work with the donations, despite the Trust’s aims, not even to encourage the teaching of Cunningham’s technique.
Meanwhile, the Baryshnikov Arts Centre has been raising funds to establish a Cage-Cunningham fellowship, and will also rename its largest rehearsal space the John Cage and Merce Cunningham Studio. In focusing on its own fundraising for the fellowship, it seems the Merce Cunningham Trust donation was a surprise from the sister institution, especially a provision of this size to aid its work. The Centre aims to advance the next generation of ‘rigorous artistic rule-breakers and innovators, in the names of Cunningham and Cage’ and can do so through the award.
The Foundation for Contemporary Arts will use the grant to establish a biennial Merce Cunningham Award, the first recipient of which will be choreographer Yvonne Rainer; Jasper Johns has particular memories of Rainer dancing in Cunninhgam’s old 14th Street studio.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
The abundance of dance competitions around the country does not even go someway in measuring against those taking place in the United States. One particular example is The Dance Awards, presented by Break the Floor Productions. Occurring during the summer season, it is a prestigious awards ceremony that recognises excellence in the past year of dance. Competitors from all the Break the Floor events, such as Jump and 24Seven, are invited to gather in one of two entertainment capitals—Las Vegas or New York City.
This year, The Dance Awards celebrates its 5th year, hosting the Las Vegas event from 26 June-3 July, and the NYC event from 5-12 July. As part of this annual celebration of dance, there will be over $100,000 in cash and prizes awarded to dancers and dance training studios. Set in a prestigious theatre, awards are presented for outstanding individual or collective efforts in up to 30 categories. The events are like no other and are a fantastic celebration of talent. The high standards of the events are maintained by the scores for The Dance Awards, monitored by an international auditing firm.
In addition to The Dance Awards being transparent and ethical, it also gives its dancers who are taking part the chance to participate in workshops with iconic professionals: favourite dancers and choreographers. Faculty and judges include big names such as Mia Michaels, Mandy Moore, Travis Wall, Stacey Tookey, Kenny Wormald, Sonya Tayeh and tWitch. The huge events are great participatory events for aspiring dancers, inviting them to make new dance friends and to push themselves as dancers.
For more information on the 2015 Dance Awards, visit www.thedanceawards.com.
There were three dance-related citations in the December 2014 New Year Honours list, of a total of 1,164 honours. Jeanetta Laurence, Associate Director of the Royal Ballet has been awarded an OBE for services to dance, Marguerite Porter, Director of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School has been awarded an MBE for services to ballet and Janet Smith, Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance has also been awarded an MBE for services to dance.
Jeanetta Laurence works closely with the Director of the Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare, and was formerly a dancer with the company. During her time there she has worked alongside former directors Anthony Dowell, Ross Stretton and Monica Mason. Laurence is also a Trustee of the Frederick Ashton Foundation, which exists to perpetuate the legacy of the Founder Choreographer of the Royal Ballet, and of the Royal Ballet Benevolent Fund and the Benesh Institute Endowment Fund. Laurence has worked for the Royal Ballet for over 46 years and will retire in June 2015.
Marguerite Porter, Director of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School, is a British ballet inspiration. She joined the Royal Ballet aged 17 and has even partnered ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev during her career. Porter’s ballet life has been full of iconic and memorable moments, and it now finds her at the helm of the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School. She took over as Director in 2005 having danced with the Royal Ballet company for 20 years. Following this period she remained with company for three further years as a guest artist.
Janet Smith left her position as Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre in 2012 to become the current principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Northern School of Contemporary Dance is a unique dance training institution offering a select group of students the opportunity to develop and excel as dance artists in a conservatoire environment.
In December there was the controversial announcement that the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, the most important opera house in Belgium and a source of some of Europe’s most cutting-edge productions, may stop all dance programming after a forthcoming production by iconic Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
Choreographers reacted strongly to this, the reason given that the cut is a result of the steep reduction in funding to the Brussels opera house since 2009, with further cuts announced in mid-October by the newly formed Belgian coalition government.
Senior management at the venue has not expressed a wish to stop producing dance, however the combination of less money and the need to further reduce personnel make prolonging dance difficult. Fewer technical staff will mean each production takes more time to prepare and will have to run for longer to recoup the costs. The venue has no resident dance company and now can no longer offer money to invest, and time on stage.
The potential break with dance is a huge blow to the theatre which has had exceptionally strong links to dance since 1960 with Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the Twentieth Century. In 1988 American choreographer Mark Morris made a home for his company at the theatre and De Keersmaeker and her company, Rosas, followed in 1992, establishing an international reputation at La Monnaie. Dance has regularly been programmed and supported, including other Belgian and international choreographers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Sasha Waltz.
Belgian choreographers in particular have expressed pessimism about dance’s future in Brussels, and whether their work can be continued there. Any current audiences in Belgium will be lost to other art forms and new ones must be established elsewhere.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
The first National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries is to be established at the High House Production Park in Thurrock, with backing from the government, it has been revealed. The college will open in September 2016 and will provide specialist training for the technical skills needed by the artistic industries.
It will be managed by Creative and Cultural Skills on behalf of industry employers including the Royal Opera House, Live Nation, White Light and the Association of British Theatre Technicians. Coincidentally, High House Production Park is also home to the Royal Opera House’s set and scenery workshop and costume centre. This first for artistic education should be a great asset to the industry, providing opportunities for aspiring learners to gain the skills they need for this type of work.
The college is one of four employer-led national colleges announced by business secretary Vince Cable in December, with other colleges including centres for advanced manufacturing, digital skills and wind energy. It is important to nourish the talent which brings plays, operas and films to life on stage and screen, as it is the driving force behind our world-leading creative sector. By continuing to invest in the next generation of talent, we are prolonging the industry for the future.
The four colleges will receive up to £80 million capital funding that will be matched by employers, and will cater for around 10,000 students by 2020. High House Production Park will become an important centre for young people to develop the technical skills the creative and cultural sector needs, as well as ensuring the creative sector grows for the long-term. By developing these opportunities and having professionals and training facilities in backstage and technical skills in one place is unmatched and will help enormously in equipping people with the right skills for jobs in the creative industries.
Stage Door, an on-demand radio series presented by West End stars including Louise Dearman and Killian Donnelly, will launch in January 2015, it has been announced. The project was originally planned as a 24-hour service dedicated to musical theatre when it was first announced last year, however organisers failed to reach the set fundraising target of £145,000, which they had intended to raise through crowdfunding. It was always maintained that the organisers wanted to make a musical theatre radio station for fans of the genre, not for shareholders wanting to make money.
As a result, just over £3,000 was donated to the fundraising initiative and plans for the station were scaled back. The project will now comprise of a series of individual programmes hosted by West End talent such as Richard Fleeshman, Lauren Samuels and Alistair Brammer. The presenters will play tracks from shows they have appeared in, and talk about their experiences working in musicals.
This resource for musical theatre fans will provide a wealth of knowledge and anecdotes for listeners as a welcome addition to their interest in musical theatre. Despite being a small one, Stage Door is a positive step towards bringing the musical theatre world into the limelight and championing all it does for fans old and new alike. Making the content readily available will also ensure there is easy access to learning more about musical theatre and its stars.
The content will be available on internet site Mixcloud or through Stage Door’s Facebook page. Stage Door is a partnership between production company Wise Buddah and management company Mothership Management.
Edward Degas’ sculpture ‘The Little Dancer’ is one which every dancer is familiar with. Created in 1881, the model was a 14 year old student at the Paris Opera Ballet School named Marie van Goethem. The figure of the girl, standing in a casual fourth position, arms clasped behind her, has appealed to people – not just dancers – everywhere. It is also largely admired by dancers for its correct depiction of turned out limbs.
Now the story of the model and the artist has been brought to the stage in a new musical, directed and choreographed by the legendary Broadway choreographer Susan Stroman. It is now running at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC until the end of November, with the expectation that the new musical will transfer to New York in the near future. The lead role of the young Marie has been created for Tiler Peck, a principal dancer of New York City Ballet who has recently been trying her hand at musical theatre. It has been maintained that this will be one of the rare Broadway musicals not based on a film.
In more news for NYCB, Christopher Wheeldon will be directing and choreographing a stage version of one of the most iconic musical films of all time: An American in Paris. NYCB principal Robert Fairchild, an exceptionally versatile performer, will take on the Gene Kelly role as the leading man.
The much-loved Gershwin songs guarantee a first-rate score, and it will be exciting to see how Wheeldon handles the pressure of a big Broadway musical, bringing the film’s characters to life in the 21st century, despite being much better known as a classical ballet choreographer. An American in Paris opens in Paris at the Théatre du Chatelet in December and arrives on Broadway in April next year.
Scottish youth arts have benefitted from £1 million from the Scottish government. The Scottish Government has helped secure the future of Scottish Youth Theatre with the announcement of the money, to be used over three years for the youth arts in Scotland. Following so many funding blows for the arts in recent years, the announcement that the Scottish government is to give such a substantial sum is extremely good news.
The funding, £250,000 of which comes from the private sector, will be used to support Scottish Youth Theatre, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and YDance, the Scottish youth dance organisation. Scottish Youth Theatre was one of the unsuccessful applicants for funding in Creative Scotland’s recent creation of a tier of Regularly Funded Organisations, after previously being a “foundation organisation”, receiving £220,000 a year. However, the other three national youth companies were on similar amounts and successfully applied for RFO status.
The positive announcement for Scottish Youth Theatre comes after a period of time in which there has been increasing public condemnation of the monetary decision by Creative Scotland, criticised by Scottish Youth Theatre alumni. However, the two organisations continue to be in negotiations about alternative routes of support, which is positive news for Scottish theatre too.
Creative Scotland has made it clear that the new funding package had evolved quickly as a government initiative, and has maintained that Scottish Youth Theatre is an important organisation that would be able to apply for project funding. Despite this, there is no indication of how the £1 million package will be split between the four organisations.
A new research project that aims to analyse the mental processes used by dancers while they are performing has been launched in order to develop a better understanding of creative techniques. The three-year project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, is being led by Plymouth University and will work in collaboration with Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London and Coventry University.
The project will assess contemporary dance students throughout their training, examining how creative decisions are made and attempting to speed up the process by which dancers can recognise if an idea is “new and useful” for them. Often dancers think they are moving intuitively or spontaneously, without being aware of the hard, mental work that goes into being creative. Ultimately here is a lot of memory involved in movement of this kind, using existing inspirations rather than innovating. It is difficult to see if such a subjective process can be uniformed in such a way at this early stage.
The first stage of the project, which began in November, will observe dancers over a period of a year and a half to understand the mental process that goes into movement. A second stage of the research project will take another set of trainee dancers, over the same amount of time, and provide them with workshops to see if that particular training will affect their experience of “making movement”.
Part of the analysis comes from asking dancers to write down what is at the forefront of their minds at various points during a movement session. This is in order to develop a more strategic use of mental imagery for teachers and dancers: if they are more conscious of how they use imagery in their teaching or how they learn, this could dramatically affect dance teaching across the country.
Washington Ballet is set to make a historic debut when it presents iconic ballerina Misty Copeland at the helm of its production. In April 2015, many firsts will be seen for the 70 year old company, none more prominent than the premiere of star ballerina Misty Copeland in the leading roles of Odette/Odile. The production will also launch performances by musical artists of S&R Foundation’s Evermay Chamber Orchestra in Washington Ballet’s first-ever full length production of this quintessential ballet.
Recently Copeland has been on the rise to stardom as one of the US’s most celebrated ballerinas, only the second African-American ballerina to be promoted to soloist at American Ballet Theatre. Recently she was a guest judge on the television show So You Think You Can Dance, and was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.
As an artist, Copeland is changing the paradigm as to what a ballerina should look like, with delicate physicality, fantastic technique and a natural stage presence to make her one of the most important female dancers in the US today. As a classical dancer she is now redefining the typical notions of what a ballet dancer should look like, and is a model for where classical ballet is going, ultimately artistic and physically powerful.
Washington Ballet will be dancing Kirk Peterson’s adaptation of Swan Lake, which draws heavily on the 1934 adaptation of the 1895 original Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake. Peterson is widely regarded as a specialist in re-staging full-length classical repertoire such as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Giselle and Coppélia through years of research and dedication to ballet. For Swan Lake, Peterson aims to revive the original intent of Swan Lake and breathe new life into what he calls “a damaged icon.”