The Royal Ballet 2014/15 season

The Royal BalletThe Royal Ballet 2014/15 season has recently been announced. It will include three world premieres (with only one likely to be classical) including a new full length ballet by Wayne McGregor, a new one act ballet from Liam Scarlett in November, alongside Kim Brandstrup’s Ceremony of Innocence, and a work by Hofesh Shechter.

Carlos Acosta’s Don Quixote will return to the stage, as will Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon in a 40th Anniversary revival. La Fille mal Gardée will then be presented in Spring 2015 and will be part of the live cinema relays programme (along with Manon, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Swan Lake).

Draft Works returns in February 2015, in which works in various stages of choreographic development will be performed without full sets and costume, giving audiences an insight into the graft of the process of choreographing.

Royal Ballet dancer (First Artist) Ludovic Ondiviela will present a new work in the smaller Linbury space with guest dancers, and the Company will tour to Washington, Chicago and New York.

The highlight of the upcoming season seems to be the return of Alessandra Ferri (former Royal Ballet Principal) in the summer of 2015 to dance Wayne McGregor’s new full length ballet, entitled Woolf Works. The piece will be based on the writings and life of Virginia Woolf, with a new score by Max Richter, with whom McGregor has previously collaborated on his critically-acclaimed work Infra.

Closing the season, alongside Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun and In the Night, will be MacMillan’s Song of the Earth as a third of the triple bill.

Breakin’ Convention Launches BCTV

Breakin' ConventionSadler’s Wells’ hip hop dance project Breakin’ Convention has launched an online video channel, BCTV, to capture the full range of Breakin’ Convention’s work and the artists it works with, on Friday 2 May 2014.

Breakin’ Convention is one of the world’s leading hip hop dance organisations, delivering a dynamic programme of events, performances and projects, working with some of the world’s finest hip hop artists. It will present Breakin’ Convention, its critically acclaimed annual festival of hip hop dance theatre, at Sadler’s Wells from 3-5 May 2014, ahead of a UK tour to venues such as Doncaster, Kings Lynn, Inverness, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Blackpool and Bournemouth.

The hip hop community boasts many talented emerging film-makers, but opportunities to train, develop and receive mentorship are limited. Unpaid work and internships are financially unsustainable for most, which makes entry and progression within the industry difficult. Breakin’ Convention therefore aims to plug this gap by offering training and mentorship coupled with paid, creative film-making briefs. Through providing access to quality equipment and mentors, tailored training programmes and bridging relationships with other film production companies, BCTV is not only a fantastic opportunity for film-makers to make dynamic content but a gateway to the larger industry.

The project is part of Sadler’s Wells’ work to ensure a strong legacy beyond the tour. In addition to BCTV, this will include engaging local urban cultural ambassadors who will provide the link between the venue and the local hip hop dance, graffiti, rap and DJ communities in order to highlight lesser-known projects to a wider audience.

BCTV features everything from live performances to interviews, short documentaries, video diaries and conceptual videos, and provides an insight into the world of hip hop dance.

The Place Presents EDge: New Generation Of Dance Artists

The PlaceEDge, The Place’s postgraduate company, has taken to the road with an energetic and dramatic programme of dance from 24 March – 13 July. The 12 talented dancers will perform a selection of work by commissioned choreographers Ben Wright, Joe Moran, Idan Cohen, Maya Levy, and work by Trisha Brown (Canto Pianto (1998)) – the first time this piece has been performed in the UK by a company other than Trisha Brown – and Yael Flexer (The Living Room [an extract] (2010-11)).

The international tour opens in Plymouth and will visit venues such as Hexham, Leeds, Dundee, Exeter, Naples, Salzburg, Swansea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Arcos de Valdevez and London.

The varied repertoire will showcase the artistic and technical excellence of the dancers. With moments of dramatic suspense, tenderness and frantic energy, EDge’s dancers perform a collection of work that’s both light hearted and intense. Accompanied by electronic and operatic sound score the range of narrative and abstract dance is moulded by the selection of internationally acclaimed choreographers.

Led by Artistic Director Jeanne Yasko, EDge, the postgraduate performance company of London Contemporary Dance School is now in its 14th year. Each year new dancers are selected through a rigorous audition process and the most exciting and talented students are chosen to join the company. EDge has built a reputation for embracing a range of different styles of contemporary dance, performed by outstanding artists at a key stage of their professional development.

The period spent with EDge gives each individual an invaluable insight into creating, rehearsing and touring work as a professional company. The programme for EDge students is closely integrated with other postgraduate studies at London Contemporary Dance School, and the range of artist development opportunities for artists at all career stages offered by The Place.

Matt Rudkin: dance maverick

Matt RudkinNaïve Dance Masterclass is Matt Rudkin’s latest project, shown at Canada Water Culture Space.

After previously appearing at the Edinburgh and Brighton fringe, where it was nominated for ‘Best Male Performer’, Inconvenient Spoof have presented Naïve Dance Masterclass down in London too. Naïve, a stand-up and dance-about comedy combining dead-pan wordplay and expert physical tomfoolery, shows off ex-contemporary dance star, Matt Rudkin.

Here he shares his tale of artistic salvation through the exertions of riot duty training and the love of an immigrant hula-hoopist.

When did you begin dancing, where and why?

My first recollections of dancing are from the age of around 4 when I would apparently begin moving to any kind of music. My parents would take me to festivals and I have a clear recollection of the feeling of complete freedom, dancing outside to live music in the rain. There is a some super-8 film of me dancing at a friend’s party on my own in the corner – and my father picks me up to take me home and I keep on dancing, oblivious as he carries me to the car. Maintaining the ability to create this space of total absorption has required much determined effort as I have grown older, and I now have a very specific routine I go through.

What were your early years of dancing like?

In the early years I was not very disciplined technically, but was very connected emotionally. It felt as if the music ‘played me’, so to speak, and I would reverberate with the particular feelings evoked by the melody. I remember one time at my youth dance club I arrived in a very cheery mood and was giggling with friends – but when the teacher put on Henryk Gorecki’s symphony number 3, within seconds I was weeping uncontrollably as I swirled and spiraled around the room. I was also very involved in theatre and have always danced with a very active face.

How long have you been performing? Did you start young?

I began performing publicly at the age of 6 in a youth company called ‘kaleidoscope’. The first production I appeared in was ‘Creation’ and depicted the first 7 days of the Earth. I played the part of an amoeba that turned into a lizard. I remember being terrified the night before, and my mother comforting me as I lay in bed and reminding me that there were 26 other amoebas so I shouldn’t be too worried about making a wrong move – and because mutations were a natural occurrence. I wasn’t sure what a mutation was, but my mother’s tone of voice was very comforting. In my teenage years I became more self-conscious about performing, especially since I went to a big, tough comprehensive school where dancing and acting wasn’t considered particularly cool. I was quite secretive about my dancing in particular, and would often find a room to practice alone with the lights turned off, dancing to the music in my head.

Where did you train and what was a typical day like?

I would rather not be specific about the main institution in which I received my training, as I am now very critical of their core values and pedagogical techniques – but suffice it to say it was a fairly traditional contemporary school. Being from a fairly poor background, I often had to work at weekends and in evenings to make ends meet, so I had some very long days. At one point I worked in a nightclub behind the bar, but also did some shifts as a podium dancer. There were some fantastic dancers in the crowd that went there and I certainly picked up a great deal from watching them.

What is a typical day like now?

Nowadays I am very focused on maintaining my physical and psychological well-being. I begin each day at 6am with a run, followed by a fruit and veg. juice for breakfast and a 20-minute meditation. I normally will then read for a couple of hours; at the moment I very much interested in ‘evolutionary psychology’. In the afternoon I am normally teaching – currently I am delivering a new class called ‘Dancing for Clowns and Clowning for Dancers’. In the evening I will take a class of some kind, do another meditation and then work on writing, props or costumes my studio.

Do you still take classes? How do you keep on top of your technique?

Since I became wholly committed and immersed in Naïve Dance, the only classes I now take are in 5 rhythms and Body Balance. I also regularly go dancing at night clubs (always sober) to pick up new moves – and I also visit Monkey World (near Poole) fairly regularly to observe the natural movements of the primates.

What’s the best part of performing?

The best part of performing is realising I had forgotten the audience – as if waking and realising it was all a dream. I wouldn’t say I ‘enjoy’ performing because during the best moments ‘I’ disappear and my self becomes completely merged with the action. Naïve Dance can often appear to people as being quite funny, but there is often a moment when my self disappears that I think people realise that something very different is occurring.

What would you say was your greatest achievement to date?

My greatest achievement is having discovered a way of being such that I can dance with a complete lack of self-consciousness at weddings receptions, or other public dancing occasions. I have found a way of disappearing into my dance practice such that I have no concern for the impression I make. The proof of this is really when I am aware that people are not impressed with my dancing, and I really don’t care. This is another reason why dance busking is so liberating – people stop and watch or go away and it really doesn’t matter to me.

Which part of dance do you enjoy most?

I love the sense of being in the middle. Like when I go swimming and I’m counting lengths; at the beginning it feels like the ‘oh that’s only 6 lengths, this is so boring’, but at some point I just resign myself to fact that swimming is what I’m doing now; get used to the monotony, and before I know it that I am completely satisfied – in the middle.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the dance industry?

Don’t do what I do! There are very few opportunities to make being a dance maverick work for you – the industry really wants trained and versatile performers. But I would say, look after yourself – eat well, don’t intoxicate yourself, meditate and keep fit – and then you will be happier whatever happens.

What’s next for you?

I am hoping to set up the world naïve dance championships next year in Brighton, and completely give up coffee!

Dance United

Dance UnitedDance United – an award-winning dance development organisation with an international reputation for combining artistic excellence with social concern. It’s collaborations across sectors open up opportunities for participants and develop new ways of thinking in uniting for advocacy. The passion, talent and commitment of its work is quite clearly transforming lives.

Established 14 years ago, Dance United has since worked successfully with marginalised groups using contemporary dance training and performances in order to engage and ignite change. The company’s mission is to be a catalyst for radical and lasting change, working with communities to inspire and unlock potential.

Dance United has been described as one of the most original and successful youth engagement programmes in the UK, aiming to get young people dancing and encourage them to continue, dance bringing positive effect to their lives. As a whole dance-based intervention schemes have increased within the social and health sectors due to the proven physical and psychological benefits of dance and participation.

For Dance United, the higher the artistic quality of the work, the greater the engagement, and therefore the more likely the person in question will take on the challenge and succeed. As a result, the organisation employs professional choreographers and artists to work with the participants in order to create original dance pieces. The work of Dance United has had positive benefits for these artists too: they have all reported great benefits to their personal artistic development as a result of the work with Dance United.

The organisation is striving to continue this work and extend it further, increasing the reach of projects and making sure they are fully embraced by participants. Dance United is now developing dance-based intervention of mental health settings following a successful trial last year, and will continue to promote the use of dance in the youth justice sector.

Ethan Stiefel leave Royal New Zealand Ballet

Ethan StiefelAfter three years as Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Ethan Stiefel has decided to leave the company in order to return to his native USA at the beginning of September to pursue new opportunities. Throughout the three years, Stiefel has made an outstanding contribution to the company and has brought it the success it so deserves. It’s increased international profile has benefited the company greatly as it looks back on the positive influence of Stiefel.

Under Stiefel’s leadership, the RNZB has enjoyed record-breaking seasons of short works and full length ballets, including almost 38,000 tickets sold for The Vodafone Season of Swan Lake in 2013. His acclaimed new production of Giselle, created in collaboration with Johan Kobborg was a landmark in New Zealand dance, and formed the centrepiece of two hugely successful international tours, to China (2013) and the USA (2014).

Stiefel has strengthened the classical ballet company, particularly in full-length works and has focused on building the company to 36 full time members. Not only have dancer numbers increased but so have standards, and Stiefel has also worked to develop the RNZB’s musical resources, including the appointment of Nigel Gaynor as Music Director.

Stiefel’s last season with the RNZB will be Allegro: Five Short Ballets, a programme of classic and contemporary works, including a world premiere from New Zealand choreographer Daniel Belton. Allegro open on 30 July and will tour to a further six theatres around New Zealand. Following their successful US tour, the RNZB is now in rehearsal for Coppélia, the much-loved production which opens on 17 April ahead of an eight theatre New Zealand tour.

An international search for a new Artistic Director is underway and the RNZB Board hopes to confirm an appointment by 1 September 2014.

Image courtesy of notmydayjobphotography‘s photostream on Flickr.

Sergei Filin To Judge The Youth America Grand Prix

Sergei FilinSergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet artistic director who was wounded in an acid attack that shocked the dance world last year, will appear in New York in April as one of the judges of the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition. As an influential figure for classical ballet in Russia particularly, the coup for the Youth America Grand Prix may be a controversial one for the prestigious competition.

Filin is expected to make a couple of public appearances at performances marking the 15th anniversary of the prominent competition, which awards scholarships to young dancers, and was recently featured in the documentary film “First Position”. In addition to this Filin is expected to take a curtain call at the competition’s 15th anniversary gala on 10 April at the David H. Koch Theater, which will feature Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi Ballet, as well as Misty Copeland and other dancers from American Ballet Theater, among the performers. Before the performance, the Russian director is then scheduled to answer questions from the stage the following night, before a performance by several prominent dancers, including Sara Mearns of New York City Ballet, Herman Cornejo of the American Ballet Theater, and Alicia Graf Mack of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The attack on Filin last year outraged the ballet world and threw the Bolshoi Ballet into a state turmoil, watched by the rest of the world as the drama continued to unfold. A former dancer in the company, Pavel Dmitrichenko, was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for ordering the attack, which partially blinded Filin. Despite this, the sight in one of Filin’s eyes is strong enough for him to act as a judge at the Youth America Grand Prix, where the youthful talent of the dance word will perform.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Preserving The Martha Graham Dance Company

Martha Graham Dance CompanyThe Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance announced that its efforts in using technology to help preserve choreography and pass it on from one generation to the next were to be aided by a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will allow the company to build on, digitise and organise its archive of materials on Graham dances.

The grant will allow the center to create “toolkits” to help immortalise individual Graham dances, including videos of generations of Graham dancers in rehearsal and performance; stage drawings; musical recordings and scores; Graham’s choreographic notes; drawings and photographs of sets; costume sketches, and reviews. The kits will also incorporate the center’s recently restored and digitised films and videos, and some materials that were restored after they were damaged by Hurricane Sandy last year, a devastating blow to the company.

Over the next two years the center will create 35 new toolkits which can be used by the Martha Graham Dance Company when it revives a work, as well as by other companies and schools that license them, helping to recreate the magic of the Graham technique and performance without allowing any of it to get lost. The next set of toolkits would be about 34 dances, and the Martha Graham technique. Restoring the critical material – those pieces the company has information on – are hugely important for the company.

The toolkits will also be made available to scholars, critics and artists interested in Martha Graham. Graham is widely renowned as one of four major modern dance pioneers of her time (with Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and José Limón). Throughout her choreographic lifetime, Graham created 181 dances.

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”.