Next Steps For Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures

Matthew Bourne's New AdventuresOne of the most defining choreographers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Matthew Bourne, has revealed his plans to revive his classic productions of The Car Man and Edward Scissorhands. This is addition to opening a new, dedicated rehearsal and studio space for his company New Adventures which currently resides at Sadler’s Wells. This would give the company the opportunity to do much more with their resources, a plan which is hoped to be in place within two years.

As a choreographer who is renowned for his ability to reinvent well-known classics such as his Tchaikovsky trilogy – Nutcracker!, The Sleeping Beauty and the all-male Swan Lake – Bourne is famous for his story-telling. In reviving two more of his older pieces, following his 25th celebrations and the revivals of his very first pieces, Bourne will be able to appeal strongly to young audiences and perhaps even those new to dance in search of alternative productions.

Bourne has been noted to have said that his New Adventures company is also about to enter a period of development and growth over the next two years, which will include the revivals of crowd-pleasing hit shows alongside new large and medium-scale projects. With both The Car Man and Edward Scissorhands, Bourne hopes to excite young people about dance, supporting the fact a recent article online recently claimed that young boys would rather become dancers than take on a role such as a fireman.

Another exciting venture to look forward to for Bourne and New Adventures is as well as rehearsing and workshopping their own shows, Bourne has said a new, potential premises would allow New Adventures to work with emerging choreographers and expand its dance influence considerably. If 2013 wasn’t busy enough for the company, New Adventures is also preparing to launch tours of three shows – Swan Lake, Lord of the Flies and Sleeping Beauty, featuring more than 70 dancers.

Mark Bruce’s Dracula At Wilton’s Music Hall

Mark Bruce Company - DraculaWilton’s Music Hall is the oldest surviving Victorian music hall in London. Set down a little alley in east London, Wilton’s is just a little door in the wall, but step inside and you are greeted with a step back into the capital’s history. Wilton’s Music Hall is a grade II listed building, now a more general-purpose performance space for original theatre.

Wilton’s was the choice venue for the Mark Bruce Company’s production of Dracula, touring the UK throughout October. First published in 1897, Dracula is a gothic Victorian tale of unsettling happenings surrounding the existence of Count Dracula, fitting for the music hall. For the Mark Bruce Company,Dracula was superbly danced by ex-Rambert dancer Jonathan Goddard, now part of the Goddard-Nixon pairing and the New Movement Collective.

Goddard ripped his way through the role, portraying the Count as a desperate and lonely sufferer, smothered constantly by three vampire brides. For Bruce his stories are usually ones of psychological intrigue, managing to get under the skin of his audiences and disturb their preconceptions. For his tour of Dracula, Bruce succeeded again through various uses of stereotypical vampire imagery, made literal by employing garlic, crosses and stakes through the heart to extinguish one, yet all led the audience to the bigger picture of both Victorian society and and the preconceptions of such gothic goings-on.

The company of dancers were a credit to Bruce, thoroughly convincing in emotional, and at times psychotic, performances, as humans, animals and vampires. As a dance production, Dracula was a success, with a group of scores that merged perfectly with Bruce’s apt movement vocabulary. Goddard was transformed into a mostly human Dracula, and back again to his immortal form, constantly running, and running on emptiness.

Spotlight On Peggy Lyman Hayes

Peggy Lyman HayesPeggy Lyman Hayes danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1973 to 1988, featuring in works including Lamentation, Frontier and Acts of Light. She is one of the master instructors at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York and is currently responsible for restaging Graham’s works for the Martha Graham Trust.

Lyman Hayes is now considered somewhat of an authority on Graham having been a former principal with the Graham company, an instructor and repetiteur for the Trust epitomising a lifelong commitment to dance, and the Graham company in particular. 2013 marks Lyman Hayes’ 40th anniversary with Martha Graham and she has been honoured by the Martha Graham School Scholarship Luncheon in New York City, an important annual benefit event for the School, with proceeds supporting the School’s Scholarship Fund.

The teaching career of Lyman Hayes began when she was aged 14, valuing the students’ experience through clear observation, allowing the dancers to explore and develop their technique: Graham has a strong value throughout Lyman Hayes’ teaching. Lyman Hayes has spent much for her adult life sharing this with others, forty years into her association with the company.

Lyman Hayes’ career began performing with ballet companies on Broadway and at Radio City, for example, yet it was when she began training in the Graham technique that she knew it was the technique for her. She discovered that dancing was more than simply moving the appendages, learning the craft of movements such as contraction and release, and learning about the use of the core. It is this physical charisma which Lyman Hayes strives to teach her pupils.

Lyman Hayes celebrates the freedom of the Graham technique, creating a ‘magnetism in the air’ which cannot be taught without emphasising the physicality of the movement, both dramatically and emotionally.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Hofesh Shechter, the next Brighton Festival Director

Hofesh ShechterIconic choreographer Hofesh Shechter has been named as the individual to guest direct Brighton Festival 2014. Running from 3 May to 25 May, the Brighton Festival is an annual mixed arts event that takes place across the city. Whilst full programme details will be announced on 25 February 2014, it is already knowledge that the festival will open with Shechter’s contemporary dance company’s new production, Sun.

Sun has been co-commissioned by Brighton Festival and runs from May 3 at the festival, marking the end of the production’s world tour. Shechter, who is also a composer and musician, is one of the most important choreographers of the twenty-first century, creating many innovative works for his dance company. This is in addition to that for the U.Dance youth company as part of Youth Dance England’s U.Dance 2012 festival at the Southbank Centre last year. Meanwhile, Sun features 14 dancers and a soundtrack composed by Shechter himself, embodying the piece entirely.

The Hofesh Shechter Company was named the first resident company of Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival in 2008, so it is now fitting that 2014 will see Shechter direct the festival. Since 2008 his dance company has been commissioned by Brighton Festival to create works including Shechter’s cornerstone piece Political Mother. Shechter has expressed his fondness of the seaside town as a place where one can develop and grow artistically as an important thing.

The Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival is renowned for having an inspiring, energising and encouraging arts quality, something with Shechter has valued over the last five years. After such a successful time as part of the festival in the past, it seems a natural progression for Shechter to work closer with the festival as a director.

American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plié

ABT LogoAmerican Ballet Theater has announced a diversity programme in beginning a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and regional ballet companies across the country in order to increase the number of minority dancers. Project Plié will offer scholarships to talented young dancers and train dance teachers who work in underrepresented groups and communities, boosting diversity within ballet to reflect the US population.

ABT Soloist Misty Copeland has become the face of the new national initiative following appearances in a Diet Dr. Pepper advert – her stretches and pirouettes viewed almost half a million times on YouTube – and in magazines such as New York, Forbes, and Essence. These have hooked fans from outside the ballet world: ultimately, the company hopes to attract not only more dancers, but also more audience members from minority groups. Copeland values her commercial opportunities which enable her to present ballet as a mainstream not just in a grand theatre where young aspiring children may not have the chance to gain inspiration from ballet dancers’ work.

Project Plié will not just be taking steps to encourage broader participation in classical ballet but also addressing the issue of training access, which can be limited for children by cultural, economic and geographic factors. Project Plié aims to find the next Misty Copeland how she was discovered: by participating in Boys and Girls Club activities when a local dance teacher came to offer free classes, Copeland’s physique was noted and encouraged to begin studying ballet, aged 13. This is considered late by balletic standards yet Copeland had entered American Ballet Theatre’s corps de ballet by 19.

One-hour presentations will be launched at select Boys and Girls Clubs around the country with an introduction to ballet and hands-on play with pointe shoes and tutus, followed by a movement class. Children of high potential will be identified and eligible for one of 10 scholarships that could cover costs such as classes, shoes and transportation, for a year of study with an ABT-certified teacher in their area. Upon completion, those students will be eligible for scholarships to ABT’s Young Dancer Summer Workshop.

Matthew Golding – New For The Royal Ballet

The Royal BalletMatthew Golding, Principal dancer with Dutch National Ballet, is set to join The Royal Ballet as a Principal in February 2014. The Canadian dancer has recently appeared on London soil during English National Ballet’s run of Swan Lake earlier this year in which Golding’s ‘dance’ acting, or lack of, was scrutinised by critics. An expansive dancer with exceedingly long legs, Golding is seemingly the mute prince, unable to express himself through the choreography.

Despite this, Golding’s first performance with The Royal Ballet will be in The Sleeping Beauty later this season, partnering new addition Natalia Osipova on 27 March. Osipova is arguably the coup of the pair of dancers for The Royal Ballet, with her fiery passion and outstanding technical ability. Not to say Golding is without these traits, simply the ability to narrate through his facial expressions.

Golding trained at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Universal Ballet Academy in Washington D.C. In 2002, he was awarded the Grand Prix from the Youth American Ballet Competition and received a prize scholarship at The Prix de Lausanne to attend The Royal Ballet School. Following his studies there he graduated in 2003 and went on to join American Ballet Theatre. He then made the move to Dutch National Ballet in 2009.

Golding made his UK debut with The Royal Ballet last Season in which he danced as a Guest Artist, partnering Zenaida Yanowsky in La Bayadére. The roster of Principal dancers at The Royal Ballet is without a doubt impressive, yet is rivalled considerably by that of English National Ballet. Artistic Director Tamara Rojo – taking on the role following her Principal contract with The Royal Ballet – has done much to build the company up to an even higher status than it held under previous director Wayne Eagling, and looks set to achieve even more before the year is out.

Alan Burkitt: A Fred Astaire For Our Time

Alan BurkittAlan Burkitt, a Fred Astaire for today, covers the lead Jerry Travers in the hit West End show Top Hat. From his beginnings as a young tap extraordinaire, to three years vocational training at Performers College, Alan has become a versatile performer who takes ultimate pride in his work in the capital’s West End. Here he talks about his early dancing years, his incredible life in Top Hat and the exciting venture which is up next for his career…

When did you begin dancing, and why?

I began dancing at the age of five in my hometown of Whitstable, in Kent. It was really something that I wanted to do and after much prancing around the kitchen my parents gave in and shipped me off to a local dance school. Still to this day I’m not quite sure what attracted me to dance as it does not run in our family and my parents are not particularly ‘stagey’… so I guess I got their share too!

What were your early years of dancing and training like?

At the age of 10 I started at the Deborah Capon School of Dance. Unfortunately Deborah passed away last month, taken from us in her prime. She was an exceptional teacher who instilled a depth of knowledge and understanding in me that has stayed with me all through my professional years. I also studied Jazz, Ballet and National and was a Junior Associate at the Royal Ballet School. After Top Hat, I think lots of people see me as Alan: the tapper. It was Deborah that taught me about light and shade, fluidity of rhythm and presentation. Now in my performing years, a dear friend… I will miss her greatly.

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

I performed in many shows and dance festivals growing up. I loved competing and going up to London for the day was always such a valuable and rewarding experience. As I was the only boy at our dance school I had the pick of the girls!

Where did you train? What was it like?

After staying on at school to do my A-Levels I went to Performers College in Essex. I can honestly say I loved my three years there and could easily go back and do it all again! The all-round training I received was excellent and the general atmosphere was something special to be a part of. I had an amazing Classical teacher there called Lorraine Swain. She pushed me technically in a direction I never thought possible and is part of the reason why I have been able to be so diverse in my professional career.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day?! I rise at about 9am… 9.30… ok, 10am! I have a healthy breakfast of a bacon butty and a cup of coffee then get the train into work on a Matinee [afternoon performance] day. (We have three!) We then have one show at 2.30pm, a quick dinner and 15 minutes shut-eye then we do it all over again at 7.30pm. It’s then back home at about 12am ready to do it all again the next day! It is tiring but we do it because we love it, and I think that’s the way performers are programmed and therefore function. We go into work everyday to do a job we love and are proud of… brilliant eh?!

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

I’ll be honest and say not really! I do a lot of teaching however. I am hugely passionate about educating and inspiring others and I treat those lessons as my workout too! I also try to go to the gym to keep up a level of strength… I always find I have more energy and dynamics on stage when I’ve been more active in the day.

What do you like best about performing in the West End?

I love working in the West End because I feel a sense of pride and achievement. It’s so many young people’s dream to ‘make it’ there and I can actually say… “I’ve done that!” It’s lovely to be at home too so you can enjoy home and work life, and try to obtain some sort of balance?!

Which part of Top Hat do you enjoy most?

I love my track in the show but when I go on for the Lead ‘Jerry Travers’… you just can’t beat the feeling!! It is a dream role for me because it is a style of dance that I have adored from such a young age. I remember when I was little I won a tap competition and the adjudicator commented that I was like a mini Fred Astaire… since then I have been a huge fan of his films and to recreate one on stage is both exciting and an honour.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the musical theatre world?

Easy… you have to wake up in the morning and want to do this more than anything else. That means growing a thick skin as there will be rejection along the way, but more than anything you have to live and breath music or dance. It’s hard at times… but trust me, it pays off!!

What would you say is the best part about dance and performing for you?

The best part about performing for me is when you completely let go and immerse yourself in a character on stage. It is an escape from day-to-day life that is so rewarding and diverse. There’s a moment in every show, when after rehearsals you suddenly just relax and ‘become’ that character and no longer have to think about the steps because they just happen… that’s when an audience forget they’re sitting in a theatre and are transported somewhere magical!

Tell us something about yourself we may not expect…

I’ll soon be thirty two!!! Hard to believe one could still look so fresh and young?!

What’s next for you?

I’m currently choreographing ‘Fascinating Aida’ for a new UK tour called Charm Offensive!… plug plug! It’s going to be great and the girls are an absolute hoot to work with. Go and support this wonderful show as they travel to a town near you!

Other than that it’s back to auditioning and planning the next step in my career… I’ll let you know!

Learning To Be Carabosse By Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal BalletBirmingham Royal Ballet, the sister of the capital’s Royal Ballet, is renowned for its outreach and engagement activities. Just recently audiences were able to get a taste of what it is like to be truly ballet wicked, in a workshop with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Assistant Director Marion Tait.

As part of Birmingham’s 4 Squares weekender (6-8 September) participants from the Midlands and surrounding areas were able to engage in an open rehearsal, in which Tait taught the role of Carabosse, the wicked fairy from The Sleeping Beauty. While Carabosse is usually played by a male dancer each member of the rehearsal audience were able to experience the mood and emotion behind the character.

Tait focused on the mime of Carabosse rather than the choreographed steps, making the rehearsal accessible to ballet lovers of all ages and abilities, rather than confusing the process by including the technical jargon of classical ballet. Tait shared many tips and secrets of the role for her varied audience, having been a ballerina in her prime and also a renowned dance actress. The audience were also able to watch a dancer of the Birmingham Royal Ballet within the rehearsal who was being taught by Tait: First Artist Callie Roberts, who will be taking on the role of Carabosse for the first time as part of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s autumn performances of the classic tale.

The weekend-long festival also included a performance by Freefall, Birmingham’s acclaimed company for highly gifted young people with learning difficulties. The performance was also interspersed with Birmingham Royal Ballet dances, led by dancers no longer with the company, and staff from Fox Hollies Performing Arts College. The audience were, again, a special part of the dance here, provided with a rare chance to see this unique company on stage.

The GOlive Festival

GOLive FestivalDonald Hutera, notable arts journalist and dance critic, has been invited to curate the GOlive Dance & Performance Festival currently taking place at the Lion and Unicorn theatre until the end of September. Hutera’s work has appeared in The Times, Time Out and Dance Europe amongst other publications and websites world-wide, making him the ideal candidate to programme this new festival of dance.

The Giant Olive Theatre is a small black box venue of about 50 seats, so the qualities desired when selecting artists to take part were venue and curator specific. Hutera aims to ensure an immediate connection between the performers and the audience, with the performances close-up; risk, intimacy and play underpin the basis of the festival. As critic-turned-curator, Hutera has found the transition smooth as he enjoys championing dance work he believes in on a day-to-day basis.

The GOlive festival looks to be highly rewarding as a result of its conception. George Sallis, the artistic director of Giant Olive Theatre at the Lion and Unicorn pub, questioned Hutera about curating a dance festival earlier this year, meaning Hutera’s desire to do so was met by Sallis’ need. In fact, the pub has a past record of presenting dance as a result of the efforts of George and Antonia Franceschi, formerly a Balanchine ballerina and later a teacher, coach and choreographer. Franceschi is also an actress, playing the ballerina who becomes pregnant in Fame.

Spread across 21 consecutive days and featuring works of over four dozen individuals or companies, the GOlive Festival will include Darren Ellis, Ella Mesma, Renaud Wiser, Anusha Subramanyam, Daniel Hay-Gordon/Eleanor Perry, Shane Shambhu, Nuno Silva, Moreno Solinas, The Dangerologists, Stopgap’s Sg2, Angela Woodhouse, Dog Kennel Hill Project, Mickael Marso Rivière, Jennifer Jackson/Susie Crow and Fred Gehrig amongst many others. Between them they have worked with the likes of Richard Alston, Siobhan Davies, Shobana Jeyasingh, Russell Maliphant, The Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor|Random Dance, Rambert Dance Company, Henri Oguike and Arthur Pita.

The Growth of Lyrical, Contemporary And Jazz

Contemporary DanceWith the now mainstream TV entertainment programmes such as So You Think You Can Dance and Got To Dance, dance culture has shifted in the UK.

Before the emergence of programmes of this type and of this popularity, contemporary dance and lyrical jazz techniques were less ‘discovered’: ruling the day was ballet, tap and modern jazz, with the increasing growth of hip hop and street dance.

Large performing arts institutions offering dance classes on a huge scale, such as Pineapple, Danceworks and Studio 68, offered and continue to offer an abundance of daily classes to all ages and abilities. Whilst lyrical and contemporary classes were on offer to the attendees of the classes, it seems the growth of the dance television programmes has increased their popularity. Moreover, the style of lyrical, lyrical jazz, contemporary and contemporary jazz has shifted completely, with classes now offering both the technical side of these styles as well as the steering the performance qualities seen on the programmes.

Despite the technical side of dance, the television programmes convey a prominent sense of intention behind the movement in addition to a ‘jazzy’ narrative. Telling a story through dance is not a pre-requisite yet it seems for television this is desirable in order to appeal to the entertainment of the mass audiences. This is in addition to relating the movement through screen and making it desirable for its environment, namely a competition. As a result, the dazzling leaps, high kicks and multiple turns have made their way into mainstream, everyday classes; not necessarily a good or bad thing, simply an observation that these movements and choreographies are becoming increasingly popular.

Purely technical classes, however, have not disappeared, just added to by this increase in popularity of the dramatic and heartfelt movement portrayals on television. Dancers who look for both sides of the lyrical dance coin now have the added benefit of a certain sense of performance behind the class.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.