Liam Scarlett’s Latest Work

Liam Scarlett

The Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, recently appointed as the Royal’s Artist in Residence, has choreographed again for Miami City Ballet following his last work for the company, having made the transition to choreographing full-time. Hanging up his ballet shoes in the performing sector, Scarlett has seamlessly transferred to the arena of choreography.

Scarlett is seen to be in demand all over the world, most recently premiering his new work Euphotic for Miami City Ballet, which opened on 11 January 2013. Having concluded the company’s Programme II, the performance also featured works by George Balanchine and Marius Petipa, two of the most influential modern and classical ballet choreographers respectively. Euphotic is said to be a ‘closing ballet’, which finishes three classical ballets as a statement for the audience and set to a score of Lowell Liebermann. Scarlett himself designed the scenic and costume designs, with Miami City Ballet blogging the process of working towards Scarlett’s vision and dyeing various pieces of fabrics blue and yellow, representing the sea and the light of the sky.

Last season Scarlett showed off his Viscera for Miami City Ballet, featuring principal dancer Jeanette Delgado, who is also cast as the lead for this season’s Euphotic as a sequel work of twenty-eight dancers. There are three principals and their partners in total leading the movement, fulfilling four movements of dance. The four ballets including Euphotic will also be presented at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida as Programme I in addition.

Who knows what is next for Scarlett’s choreographic adventures, but he has certainly hit the ground running, now to build on his creativity and spread his talent further.

Image courtesy of ROH at Flickr.

Paris Opera Ballet’s New Director

Opera National de Paris LogoIt has been announced that the Paris Opera Ballet will be taken over by Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer and a former principal at New York City Ballet, in September 2014. The previous director, Brigitte Lefèvre, will retire at the end of the 2013-14 season after nearly ten years at the top.

Millepied trained at the Lyon Conservatory, going on to join the School of American Ballet. His professional career as a dancer was spent with New York City Ballet, where quickly became a principal dancer in 2002. He then retired in 2011 in order to focus on choreography, and founded the L.A. Dance Project last year.

2014 will see Millepied inherit one of the world’s greatest classical companies, complete with 150 talented and tutu clad dancers, and a fantastic history: the company is the result of the very beginnings of ballet at Louis XIV’s court. The dancers of the company almost all come from the Paris Opera Ballet school, and they rarely leave to dance elsewhere once they have achieved a position in the company.

Millepied has had much professional experience. He has created touring groups, and has organised choreographic projects and festivals with musicians and artists. As a choreographer he has created works for major companies which include American Ballet Theatre, NYCB and the Paris Opera Ballet, and has also worked on Black Swan, the blockbuster film. Millepied has created two works for the Paris Opera Ballet and has a third commissioned for next season, ahead of his role as director. When he does step into the role, he will maintain a strong focus on contemporary ballet repertory for the classical company in order to develop a new identity and develop in-house choreographic talent, similar to Tamara Rojo’s aim at English National Ballet.

The future of ballet looks set for a lot of evolutionising!

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2013 Choreographics Performance

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet recently presented its 2013 Choreographics performance on 10 January 2013 as a unique programme of ballet created by BRB dancers. Rather than donning their usual tutus, tights and pointe shoes, programmes of this kind give the dancers the chance to develop their artistry in a related but separate avenue of dance performance and create to their own tastes.

The pieces, danced by members of the Company, were performed in the studio theatre at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, with the six dancers choreographing announced as Kit Holder, Matthew Lawrence, Brandon Lawrence, Ruth Brill, Kristen McGarrity and Lachlan Monaghan. The dancer-choreographers choreographed pieces specifically for the event, to music of their own choosing. The projects provide a welcome opportunity to experiment creatively, try new things out with unlimited freedom and take a breath of fresh air from the rigours of the studio, filled each day with leg warmers and buckets of sweat.

Kit Holder, who has previously contributed to the Choreographics evening of 2010, subsequently had one of his pieces Printer Jam included in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Royal Gala and the launch of the Drum’n’Bass awards in Birmingham, before being expanded into a longer piece as part of International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012. Kit is a clear example of the heights emerging choreographers can reach, and especially those usually contained in a classical environment, rather than a more experimental one. In addition to this, Matthew Lawrence has previously had the opportunity to choreograph gymnastically, demonstrating the doors which may be available to the dancers, should they extend their career to choreographing. Royal Ballet dancer Liam Scarlett is also a demonstrator of this, having recently choreographed for Miami City Ballet.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2013 at Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells Logo

2013 will mark the 15th anniversary of the current Sadler’s Wells building, and the venue aims to celebrate with very special events throughout the year, with all 14 of the theatre’s associate artists contributing to the varied and entertaining programme.

Following its success in 2012, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch will return to the London venue with Bausch’s Two Cigarettes in the Dark, which was created in 1985, and the 2006 creation Vollmund. The Sadler’s Wells flamenco festival is also celebrating this year with its 10th anniversary, castanets and fans galore, in addition to the National Ballet of Canada appearing with their pointe shoes, ready to present the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet. The centenary of The Rite of Spring will also be celebrated with A String of Rites, a series of new productions and revivals which will include Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre in Michael Keegan-Dolan’s staging, as Keegan-Dolan becomes the 15th Sadler’s Wells associate artist.

In addition to a number of performances, Sadler’s Wells has announced a new wave of associate artists of the theatre, alongside the existing associate programme of established performers and choreographers. The new young artists will receive a bespoke programme which is tailored to their needs, including much studio time to fulfil those legwarmer needs, in addition to advice and financial support. The aim of the programme is to provide an artistic home for the artists involved: for the first year of the scheme Sadler’s Wells will be supporting Rocio Molina, Random Dance|Wayne McGregor dancer and choreographer Alexander Whitley, Brussels based choreographer Daniel Linehan, visual artist and performer Hetain Patel, Chinese contemporary company TAO Dance Theatre and dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Wilkie Branson.

The 2013 Theatre Scene

London's West End Theatre Scene

With a number of new productions hitting the stages of the West End in 2013, casting for roles has reached new appendages. Social media has been utilised more and more recently in order for performers to advertise their skills, recent work and aspirations, making the casting process for directors both easier and harder.

With all this toe-tapping talent on display, it may be easy to imagine that there is a lot of information to compare at the push of a few buttons. However, using social media in order to have an idea of casting for a new production may also mean that less and less talent is promoted, and more so an idealised version of the performer angling for work. Despite this, it is clear that social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube are extremely useful in communicating messages about roles, rehearsal processes, and reviews, for example, but may not be as useful for other aspects of the production process.

The recently released cast list for the leg-warmer and leotard wearing A Chorus Line is just one of those emerging in 2013. The Broadway classic which is returning to the West End for the first time since it was first staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, shouts three leading ladies: Scarlett Strallen as Cassie, Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana. Other entries for 2013 are Book of Mormon, Dear World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and tours such as The Full Monty, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ghost and Wicked.

If the musical theatre scene was not enough to entice audiences, other names which will be appearing on London stages throughout 2013 are Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirrren, Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law, Rupert Everett, Felicity Kendal, Vanessa Redgrave, James McAvoy, Rowan Atkinson, Lee Evans, Zoe Wanamaker, and Sheila Hancock.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Diablo Ballet’s Web-Made Ballet

Diablo Ballet Logo

The world’s first “web ballet”, the brainchild of Diablo Ballet, has begun. Merging dance and technology, Diablo Ballet is calling ballet and dance fans all over the world to assist in creating the world’s first ballet of this kind.

Not dissimilar to the ideals of postmodern dance pioneer Merce Cunningham, the ballet of Diablo Ballet, named The Web Ballet, will be the first dance work developed from suggestions made on the internet, and will premiere this March in the US. Internet users can participate from anywhere and be fully involved in the creation of the piece, without having to dust off their leotards or legwarmers.

The Web Ballet will be based on the choreographic ideas submitted to Diablo Ballet’s Twitter page from 8 January 2013, welcoming budding choreographers and enthusiastic fans to submit their ideas and see them transformed into a fully-fledged work. The Twitter hashtag #DiabloWebBallet has been suggested in order for users to communicate ideas such as the mood of the work, the emotion and expression of the dancers and the movement vocabulary itself, using a separate tweet for each suggestion. Users can also vote for their favourite musical accompaniment as one of three works on Diablo Ballet’s YouTube page.

The Web Ballet will be created by Robert Dekkers, a Diablo Ballet dancer, and one of Dance Magazine’s 2011 25 to Watch artists.  Submissions end on 14 February, when Dekkers and Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director, will select seven choreographic suggestions. Dekkers will have two weeks to assemble the winning ideas, and create a new dance work. Those who tweeted the winning artistic suggestions will receive tickets to the performance, and a photograph of the completed work, autographed by Dekkers.

This is truly combining Twitter with the tutus!

N.B. All idea submissions become the property of Diablo Ballet.

2013 National Dance Awards

National Dance Awards Critics' Circle

28 January 2013 saw the 13th National Dance Awards winners announced at The Place, London. Considered by many as one of the most comprehensive list of dance achievements, 2013 certainly did not fail to deliver, providing a roundup of all the great work that was seen in 2012.

The awards are decided by the 60 members of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle after an extensive round of nominations and voting. To be eligible to win an award, performances had to take place in the UK between 1 September 2011 and 31 August 2012.

The 2013 winners are as follows –

DANCING TIMES AWARD FOR BEST MALE DANCER
Akram Khan (Akram Khan Company)

GRISHKO AWARD FOR BEST FEMALE DANCER
Marianela Nuñez (The Royal Ballet)

STEF STEFANOU AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING COMPANY
Royal Ballet Flanders

BEST CLASSICAL CHOREOGRAPHY
Annabelle Ochoa (A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet)

BEST MODERN CHOREOGRAPHY
Arthur Pita (The Metamorphosis)

OUTSTANDING FEMALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)
Ksenia Ovsyanick  (English National Ballet)

OUTSTANDING MALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)
Zdenek Konvalina (English National Ballet)

DANCERS PRO AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)
Teneisha Bonner (Zoonation)

DANCERS PRO AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (MALE)
Tommy Franzén (Zoonation and Russell Maliphant Company)

BEST INDEPENDENT COMPANY
Ballet Black

DE VALOIS AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
Robert Cohan

DANCE UK INDUSTRY AWARD
Jeanette Siddall

The Chairman of the Awards committee, Graham Watts OBE, spoke at the event, and dedicated the 2012 awards to the memories of the late Charles Hedges, John Percival and Freda Pitt, all of whom have died since the last awards. In the year of the Centenary of the Critics’ Circle, the combined years of membership for the three critics totalled a century.

American Ballet Theatre Announces Dancer Exchange

ABT Logo

The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae and Royal Danish Ballet’s Alban Lendorf are set to dance with American Ballet Theatre in spring 2013 as part of an artist exchange programme at the Metropolitan Opera House.

In return for these tights-and-tunic dancers, American Ballet Theatre will be sending the principal dancer Cory Stearns to The Royal Ballet and soloist Isabella Boylston to dance in the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker to appear as Exchange Artists.

McRae and Lendorf will be dancing in the spring season, with McRae dancing the role of Lankendem in Le Corsaire in June, and Lendorf dancing the role of Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty in July. As part of the exchange program with The Royal Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s Stearns will appear with The Royal Ballet, and Boylston will dance the roles of Dew Drop and Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker in December. This exchange of dancers not only presents the skills and talents of the dancers to another audience but also enables the dancers to hone their technique under unfamiliar circumstances and in unfamiliar surroundings.

During his career, McRae has had the opportunity to perform roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Lensky in Onegin, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, James in La Sylphide, Des Grieux in Manon, Prince Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty, Colas in La Fille mal gardée, the Prince in The Nutcracker and Cinderella, Blue Boy in Les Patineurs and The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring. Lendorf has equally danced roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Prince Désiré in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Sleeping Beauty, Gennaro in Napoli, James in La Sylphide, Armand in Lady of the Camellias, the title role in Apollo and principal roles in Etudes, Other Dances, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Le Corsaire pas de deux.

English National Ballet’s Rebranding

ENB Rebranded Logo

Following the appointment of The Royal Ballet Principal Tamara Rojo as Artistic Director of English National Ballet, the company has been a world of change, from the management to the pointe shoe clad dancers themselves. As part of her new position, Rojo set both the tutu twirling dancers and those behind-the-scenes a very simple and inspiring vision.

Announced during the company’s first press call with Rojo at the helm, the message was clear: she aimed for English National Ballet to be the most creative and most loved company in the UK through what was produced for stage in cherishing ballet traditions, and also aspiring to the new. January has seen English National Ballet rebrand, discarding their black and white logo for one which is a pink and red quotation mark/pointe shoes, a gentle reminder that everyone has something to say.

In addition to a fresh logo, an important part of their new identity is the focus on collaborating with creative artists outside of the ballet world, such as with fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. This iconic British fashion house has worked closely with the company to eclectically style the dancers, with the images to be used across advertising and marketing material for 2013. Achieving this new vision will also be fulfilled through collaborations with choreographers, designers, artists, and partner organisations.

By presenting the company in a very different light to the world, Rojo aims to bring the artistry of ballet to as many people as possible, and transform the company along its journey. Whilst some may argue that the rebrand will diminish any form of the company’s previous prestige and influence, Rojo’s bold determination and confident creative leadership cannot be faulted. Her aspirations to ensure the company’s artists continue to excite, innovate and challenge mean that the company will be dancing to conjure wonderful, beautiful visions individually.

The Next Speaker in the YPIA Lecture Series

Akram Khan

Young People in the Arts has announced that the next speaker in its YPIA lecture series in association with the Southbank Centre is dancer-choreographer Akram Khan. Founded in 2008, YPIA is a social network for arts professionals at the outset of their careers, running a monthly programme of talks, debates and professional development opportunities, including the chance to network with others who work in the arts.

As one of the most celebrated and respected dance artists, Khan has created work that has significantly contributed to the arts sector in just over a decade. As a dancer with his roots based firmly in the South-East Asian style of Kathak, Khan’s most recent success was at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Khan’s reputation has been built on years of success and dedication, delivering highly accessible productions such as DESH, Vertical Road and zero degrees to audiences all over the world, of many other cultures and artistic disciplines. Previous collaborators of Khan’s include the National Ballet of China, actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographer/dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composer Steve Reich. His work in zero degrees even forms part of the UK dance curriculum today, with the duet becoming an awe-inspiring and extremely moving piece of work.

Khan has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout his career including the Laurence Olivier Award, the prestigious ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) Distinguished Artist Award, the South Bank Sky Arts Award and the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award. Khan was awarded an MBE for services to dance in 2005 and is also an Honorary Graduate of Roehampton and De Montfort Universities, and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban.

Images courtesy of Andy Miah at Flickr.