New Adventures to hit NYC

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping BeautyMatthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, which completed his Tchaikovsky trilogy of the composer’s ballet masterworks, is preparing for a run in New York City in autumn following a hugely successful London season and UK tour. The trio began in 1992 with Nutcracker!, continuing in 1995 with his international hit Swan Lake.

Bourne’s acclaimed reimagining of the iconic classical ballet production will run during October and November at the New York City Center, and will be the company’s New York premiere of Sleeping Beauty. This is following Bourne’s Swan Lake also hitting the City in 2010 after its first visit in 1998 when the production played on Broadway and won three Tony Awards.

The original production of tutus and tights, The Sleeping Beauty, was choreographed in 1890 by Marius Petipa, inspired by Charles Perrault’s fairytale about a young girl cursed to sleep for 100 years. As a result, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker were all re-imagined by Bourne in terms of choreography, set, and interpretation, expanding audiences and combining classic stories with contemporary and theatrical dance.

For Sleeping Beauty, Bourne sets his production in the original year of 1890, setting the christening of the central protagonist Princess Aurora at the height of the fin de siècle period, full of fairies, decadence and vampires which fed into the gothic imagination of the era. The narrative then moves forward into the Edwardian era of with Aurora’s coming of age, and into the modern day with her waking after a century-long sleep.

Bourne’s production of Sleeping Beauty was the fulfilment of a great ambition in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Bourne’s company New Adventures in 2012, and also to complete his choreographing of three great Tchaikovsky ballets.

BGT’s Pudsey – Where Is He Now?

Ashleigh Butler and PudseyThe loveable, fluffy winner of the 2012 series of Britain’s Got Talent has certainly been busy since he danced away from the hit talent show crowned the winner alongside his owner Ashleigh Butler. In December of last year Pudsey, a border collie, bichon frise and Chinese crested cross, brought the house down in a dazzling Bond inspired finale at the Royal Variety Performance, performed before Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

Pudsey’s winning routine on the talent show saw Ashleigh train her pet to jump, dance on his hind legs, weave through her legs and Pudsey even ran across the judges’ table! Ahead of his Royal Variety performance however, Pudsey has been a host of American talk shows and his dancing paws have even experienced Simon Cowell’s private jet!

However, it seems the highlight of Pudsey’s year was being the final act as a dazzling duo to perform at the Royal Variety Show, filmed at the Royal Albert Hall. The pair took to the stage, one in his furry uniform and the other in a bright pink unitard, and performed a routine with a 007 theme, devised to mark the film franchise’s 50th anniversary for 2012. The routine was of an acrobatic formation set to a medley of Bond themes, showing off Pudsey’s daredevil tricks and energetic leaps around the stage. Post-performance, it was thought that the double act was a particular favourite of Her Majesty.

The Royal Variety Performance of 2012 was the Queen’s 36th year in attendance, and may even have seen her pick up a few dog-training tips from the pair! Alongside Pudsey and Ashleigh, the Royal Variety Performance also presented some of the other Britain’s Got Talent winners take to the stage.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dancing for Comic Relief!

Comic Relief

March 2013 has seen £75,107,851 raised through the 25th Red Nose Day to help transform lives in the UK and Africa.

Dancing and fundraising have lent themselves to one another vastly in the past, and 2013 has been no different. Already this year stars have been dusting off their dance shoes in order to raise lots of money for charity, including Ann Widdcombe and Russell Grant in a Strictly Come Dancing special for Children In Need, and Coronation Street actor Anthony Cotton and his performance of Anything Goes for Let’s Dance for Comic Relief. This is without counting the many non-official dance-athons and sponsored swing dances, for example, undertaken by the general public, contributing vastly to this cause.

To help raise money for Comic Relief, slapstick comedy genius Miranda Hart has completed five challenges in five cities in what was aptly named ‘Miranda’s Mad March’. Of particular interest for dance fans everywhere, Miranda completed a Strictly Come Dancing evening in the Manchester Town Hall with Strictly professional Pasha Koyalev, with the daunting task of dancing a Latin American routine to the iconic dance track I’ve Had the Time of My Life. Organising and performing at this special Strictly event from the all-time favourite dance film, Dirty Dancing!

Of course a dance performance without a few worries would be unheard of, so Miranda’s knee injury cropping up before her challenges had even started meant that she worked extra hard to complete the Dirty Dancing challenge and even attempt the iconic lift! With Pasha a worthy contender for the legendary Patrick Swayze, Miranda also created magic with her co-star Sarah on the dance floor, and they could even be contenders for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing!

Matt Mattox: A Dancing Life

Matt Mattox

Matt Mattox, the renowned dancer, choreographer and teacher who helped shape contemporary jazz dance in the United States and Europe, died on February 18, 2013 in France aged 91. Perhaps known under the auspice of ‘Matt Mattox technique’, Mattox’s interpretation and approach to jazz dance has been practiced and delivered by many students and professionals, and will no doubt continue to be. Mattox taught his brand of dance to generations of pupils, first in New York and later in Europe.

Mattox had a prominent career dancing in films and on Broadway in the 1940s, and afterwards, despite being less well known than some of the celebrated Hollywood dancers of his era, such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Despite this, he was every inch their competitor in making his mark on the art of dance throughout the twentieth century, even appearing in the 1954 film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, amongst others, choreographed by Michael Kidd. For his role in Seven Brides, Mattox can be seen performing a dazzling series of leaps and splits above a sawhorse.

Mattox went on to build on jazz dance’s aesthetic traditions and kinetic vocabulary by developing the work of his mentor, prominent choreographer and teacher Jack Cole, envisioning the body as a straight line with curving lines of light energy. As a result, Mattox, as a primary protagonist, built on Cole’s traditions and reshaped them as his own. As a dancer, and later choreographer, Mattox was celebrated for his ease of movement and precision, in addition to his fantastic agility. Mattox helped conceive a dance genre that was subtler, more rhythmically complex and far more eclectic, combining his own extensive training in ballet with tap dance, modern dance and folkloric dance traditions from around the world. What resulted was a new, fluidly integrated art form Mattox called ‘freestyle dance’.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Medical Website

Rudolf Nureyev Foundation

The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation medical website has recently been launched, dedicated to dancers and the medical and health professionals who care for dancers. The website provides access to recent and archived articles from leading professionals in the field, in addition to listing up-to-date research and conference proceedings, resources and information and links to international specialist healthcare provision.

The website is currently administered through a partnership between Dance UK and the Rudolf Nureyev Foundation, having been updated as a result of a dance survey conducted to assess the existing digital resources in dance medicine and science. As a result of a successful collaboration with leading dance organisations, as well as a Medical Advisory Board of leading senior health and science professionals dance practitioners, dancers everywhere will be able to benefit from the website’s service. Whether they wear leotards and tights or tutus and pointe shoes, dancers will have access to much information which will aid them throughout their dance studies and beyond.

The website will also be developing the International Dance Healthcare Directory to provide a listing of health professionals with experience in treating dancers, which can be searched by location, name, dance style and in which treatment they specialise. As a result, the website will provide links to existing national listings such as Dance UK’s Medical Practitioners Directory.

Nureyev established the Foundation in 1975 as ‘The Ballet Promotion Foundation’, aiming to invest and manage the Foundation’s endowment fund and to distribute grants to beneficiaries. The Foundation also served to promote ballet through the support of individual dancers, or companies, and performances. The Foundation received its current name in 1994 and remained keen to help young and talented dancers through their studies and in the development of dance as a whole. In addition to this, the Foundation was renowned for supporting medical, scientific and humanitarian projects.

The Royal Ballet School’s End Of Year Performance

The Royal Ballet SchoolThe Royal Ballet School’s end of year performance on 14 July 2013 at the Royal Opera House will see a world premiere performed. The one-act ballet entitled La Destinée has been commissioned especially to be performed alongside works by Maurice Béjart, Jiří Bubeníček and Valentino Zucchetti.

La Destinée will feature a new score by young British conductor and composer, Michael England, and has been choreographed by Mark Annear, The Royal Ballet School’s Head of Outreach and Teacher Training, with sets and costumes designed by former student Gary Harris for the students so used to the regulatory pink tights, ballet shoes and leotards. La Destinée will showcase the exceptional talent of students from all three years of The Royal Ballet Upper School. The piece is not essentially narrative, but will serve to demonstrate the versatility of the company of young dancers.

Excerpts from Maurice Béjart’s Seven Greek Dances will also appear. Having premiered in 1983, this version has been restaged especially for The Royal Ballet School by Jean Yves Esquerre who was a member of Béjart’s company. The young Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček will stage his Canon in D Major. The piece was originally part of a longer work entitled Le Souffle de l’Esprit, created in 1992 and inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s studies of the human body. Currently a Principal Dancer at the Semperoper Ballet, Dresden Jiří Bubeníček’s choreography has been performed by New York City Ballet, Zurich Ballet, Vienna State Opera Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, The National Ballet of China, North Carolina Dance Theater as well as for his company in Germany. Former student of The Royal Ballet School, Valentino Zucchetti will stage his Sonata for Six. A Soloist with The Royal Ballet, Valentino Zucchetti first choreographed a piece for the Company’s Draft Works at the Linbury Studio Theatre in 2011: Sonata for Six is a development of the original creation.

The climax of the end-of-year show will be Grand Défilé, featuring all 225 students of the school in a fantastic display of virtuosity.

The World Of Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright is a musical theatre choreographer achieving more and more prominence in the theatre world. Most recently nominated for, and winning, Best Choreographer for Singin’ in the Rain at the Palace Theatre in the What’s On Stage Awards 2013, he is creating fantastic and entertaining work, and looks set to stay at the forefront of the musical theatre industry.

Aside from Singin’ in the Rain, Wright has also recently worked on the High Society and Wonderful Town UK tours, with 2013 alone demonstrating his choreographic talent in encompassing all aspects of the performance industry. Wright has also worked with artists such as Elaine Paige, Jane McDonald, Idina Menzal and Caroline O’ Connor, and worked alongside such directors as Jonathan Church, Paul Kerryson, Braham Murray, Nikolai Foster, Phil Wilmott, Richard Frost and Lisa Kent.

Before choreographing, Wright trained at the Arts Educational School, London, and went on to have his own fair share of West End performance stints. He performed for thirteen years, in shows such as Mary Poppins, Cats, Follies, Anything Goes, Mack and Mabel and Beauty and the Beast, and now works as a full-time choreographer in his own right. To date his career has encompassed a wide range of productions from West End musicals to arena events, working with 400 strong choirs to intimate cabarets of one person. In addition to 2013, 2012 saw Wright nominated for the Best Theatre Choreographer Olivier Award, with his work continuing to spread throughout London and the south.

Next up for Wright will be welcoming Jennifer Ellison to the cast of Singin’ in the Rain as Lina Lamont, taking over from Katherine Kingsley for the West End cast. Other cast members will also be altering, such as those playing characters Kathy Selden and Cosmo Brown, completing the trio made famous by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner in 1952 MGM musical film.

Martha Graham Dance Company Vs Hurricane Sandy

Martha Graham Dance Company

The Martha Graham Dance Company was just one affected by Hurricane Sandy, yet despite all odds the company is drawing itself back up to full height, long skirts and contractions included. The storm flooded the company’s production office, and sets and costumes were severely damaged.

The repertory, created by one of the pioneers of American modern dance, Martha Graham, is one which examines humanity, the soul and all the emotions in between. In order to fulfil the practicalities of being a full-fledged dance company, the company needed many items which were damaged for upcoming performances. Dancers, staff and a crew of volunteers worked to recover items from the company’s basement in order to restore order. Some costumes, many of which are original garments and some even worn by Martha Graham, returned to their pre-Sandy state, whereas others had to be entirely reconstructed.

So far the company has not missed a deadline or a costume requirement due to the sheer effort and support of others. However, Hurricane Sandy has also presented opportunities for the company, such as dancing without sets. The company has been able to experiment in many ways, for example, staging Graham’s 1947 classic Errand Into the Maze without its usual set of a large piece resembling a U-shaped tree that the dancer climbs all over. This enabled a reimagining of the famous setting whilst remaining true to such distinct choreography: the company meanwhile has time to recover more of its belongings.

Sets like those for Errand Into the Maze would have been replaced over time due to normal wear and tear, but Hurricane Sandy forced this to happen in quick succession. Performances in 2013 so far have meant the company borrowing items and solving problems: American Ballet Theatre even loaned its costumes for Graham’s 1949 Diversion of Angels, which has been the ABT repertory since 1999.

Changes Within The Royal Ballet

The Royal BalletFirst Artist Jonathan Watkins is set to leave The Royal Ballet on 23 February to embark on a freelance career as a choreographer/director. Watkins joined the company in 2003, with his interest in choreography sparking as a student at The Royal Ballet School and continued in his transition to larger ballet shoes as part of the company. Watkins has, most recently, choreographed Diana and Actaeon as part of Titian: Metamorphosis 2012 with William Tuckett and Liam Scarlett. His many outside commissions to date include two short films for Channel 4 and serving as movement director for Alan Bennett’s latest play People at the National Theatre. Next for Watkins are numerous projects such as choreographing new works in Russia and America, and a collection of theatre and film projects.

Principal Dancer Mara Galeazzi will also leave, hanging up her pointe shoes and passing down her tutus when she retires in July 2013 at the end of the current season. Galeazzi will focus on new projects, teaching dance and her work for her charity foundation Dancing for The Children which raises funds for sick children in Africa. Galeazzi joined the company in 1992 and was promoted to Principal in 2003. She has danced a wide range of the repertory, both classic and contemporary, including works by Ashton, MacMillan, Cranko, Balanchine, McGregor and Wheeldon. Galeazzi is most well-known for her dramatic interpretation of many leading roles in Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets including Juliet, Mary Vetsera and Marie Larische in Mayerling, Manon and Lescaut’s Mistress in Manon, and the Woman in The Judas Tree. Galeazzi’s farewell performance at the Royal Opera House will be as Mary Vetsera in Mayerling on 13 June, and her final performance with The Royal Ballet will be in Monaco where she will perform the title role in Manon on 29 June.

The Dance Again Foundation

The Dance Again Foundation2012 saw the launch of the Dance Again Foundation, a charity which was created specifically to provide support and advice for professional dancers to help them return to the stage post-injury. Through its work, the Foundation aims to help each dancer manage each injury they have, and even prevent minor injuries develop into major ones through early intervention and enhanced rehabilitation. The injury does not have to have a dance-related cause: for many dancers who have experienced injury through accident, the Dance Again Foundation works to help dancers access the appropriate treatment and therapy to enable them to return to dance.

Luckily for dancers everywhere, the Dance Again Foundation has been able to establish a firm financial base over the last 12 months in order to help dancers achieve optimum recovery with the goal of enabling them to return to their career. The dance community is able to assist this work by becoming involved with fundraising and publicising the charity’s work, and dance teachers are able to particularly assist, making sure their students are aware of the Foundation’s existence. Seeking assistance for injuries, however small, can be made much easier. Several low-key fundraisers are planned for 2013 in addition to corporate sponsorship and other sources of fundraising being investigated. A large-scale gala concert is also being organised for the spring, and a line of dancewear and accessories for male dancers is also being designed.

The Dance Again Foundation initially came into being through the experience of one particular family, whose son was an apprentice with Bern:Ballett, and the Dance Again Foundation was able to assist with addressing the financial and facilitating situations of the family. Dancers dealing with these problematic injuries may find the finances and facilities are limited, yet the Dance Again Foundation works to ensure the dancer will be able to dance again.