Dance Workshops For Parkinson’s Sufferers

Mark Morris Dance Group LogoThe Mark Morris Dance Group has been holding specific dance workshops for students & Parkinson’s sufferers, namely the company’s Dance for PD (Parkinson’s Disease) programme. Through this community-lead strand, and much like Rambert’s and English National Ballet’s similar work, the companies provide refuge and enjoyment for the sufferers through dance.

Much research has shown that dance can hugely improve the quality of life of people with Parkinson’s Disease, with many rehabilitation programmes focusing on movement and the use of the body to improve experiences whilst suffering with the disease. In particular for 2015, the Mark Morris Dance Group will be bringing its Dance for PD programme to the Sydney Opera House in June, alongside the company’s performance programme for the iconic venue.

For people with Parkinson’s and their carers, a free community dance class lead by dancers from the Mark Morris Dance Group will be held in June, alongside the Australian-based dancer Erica-Rose Jeffery who is the Dance For Parkinson’s Australia programme co-ordinator. Providing improved experiences for the sufferers is paramount to this work, and being able to engage simultaneously with the Mark Morris Dance Group will enhance the experience, much like the ethos of the aforementioned UK programmes.

For dance teachers, there will be a two-day introductory teachers’ training workshop held during June too, aiming to assist in growing the network of teachers qualified to lead dance classes for those with Parkinson’s Disease. The Mark Morris Dance Group will also hold two education workshops for school students, including a dance class for students with physical and intellectual disabilities, and a masterclass for more talented dance school students. The company’s visit to Australia, therefore, seems to be a wholly fulfilling venture, and is not one to be missed.

Merger Body Success For Dance

A Life In DanceIn March it was announced that Arts Council England has awarded a major grant for a new strategic dance body. The three year commissioned grant for a ground-breaking consortium will bring four leading dance organisations together to create a unified “go-to” industry body: Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD), Dance UK, National Dance Teachers Association (NDTA) and Youth Dance England (YDE).

This radical transformation is a response to industry demand, affecting both workforce and the support of talent. As a result, the combined impact of these organisations will be much greater than they can achieve as stand-alone bodies. ADAD, Dance UK, NDTA and YDE will pool their expertise to result in a simplified, strengthened and specialist partnership body nurturing and developing talent and delivering excellence in: education; youth dance; dance of the African diaspora; performance, health and well-being; management, leadership and career development. This will become the subject discussion for dance to further the teaching and learning of dance in schools, embedding education at the heart of the dance sector.

The consortium will support a more coherent national approach to the delivery of dance services and will encourage development across the spectrum, from children and young people’s dance, to professional dance practice and being representative of diversity. This new collaborative working model will directly benefit the 40,000 plus dance workforce, and children dancing in and outside school, and indirectly impact on the millions of adults who participate in dance and watch performances. It will provide a single more powerful voice for dance to policy makers and politicians and a centralised knowledge hub, which is ultimately important for the developing arts sector, to promote best practice and nurture talent.

As a result, children and young people’s dance will be central to the work of the new organisation – as well as providing resources for their teachers – bringing together all areas of the dance sector to support young people right from their first steps. The new organisation will create many more exciting and progressive opportunities for young people and dance professionals.

Amazon For Tickets!

Amazon LogoAmazon has upped its presence in the theatre marketplace recently, announcing it will now sell theatre tickets, becoming further involved with the artistic industry. As a giant global retailer, Amazon appears to see UK theatre – and specifically the West End – as an area into which it can expand.

Despite some cynicism, its entry into the arts could potentially be completely transformative for theatres. Amazon has previously been involved in the area of book publishing, for example, so this is not its first dabble into the arts. It is unlikely that the association of Amazon with the arts would be detrimental; ultimately Amazon will bring a whole new market for theatre tickets, as its customers are hugely global.

Amazon has a huge database to promote the arts and theatre tickets to, and this would also be significantly more diverse than the data of traditional ticket sellers. It is also a master in terms of ease of purchase with its one-click model – something that theatre ticketing websites have often struggled with, so it will be interesting to see these developments as they occur.

For tourists, theatre – particularly in London’s West End – is a huge magnetic pull. For many foreign visitors, it is one of the principal reasons they visit the capital city, in order to experience some of the artistic wealth the London theatre scene offers. It is therefore promising to see mayor Boris Johnson recognising the crucial role theatre plays in making people want to visit the city. Proximity to arts and culture are important to many people, so it is important to recognise this effect as a whole, not just for London.

Shechter Junior

Hofesh JuniorThe internationally renowned Hofesh Shechter Company recently announced the launch of its new company, Shechter Junior. This new venture, providing resource for aspiring professionals, is an apprentice programme for talented, young dancers between the age of 18 and 25 years old. Shechter Junior emerged from Hofesh Shechter and his Company’s commitment to nurturing young artists and creating opportunities for them to gain professional experience in a financially challenged arts scene.

In the demonstration of numerous young talented dancers to Shechter, the decision was made to provide a solid training for them during the period between beginning vocational dance training and graduating, much like Rambert’s youth company Quicksilver. The young dancers will be mentored from longstanding Hofesh Shechter Company members, have access to world-class venues and the stability of an apprentice salary, all self-funded by Hofesh Shechter Company through international touring and other partnerships: a fantastic opportunity. The first dancers involved in the scheme hail from a number of different countries, expanding the reach of the arts and providing for more and more people.

Shechter Junior will make its world debut at at Theatre des Abbesses in Paris this May, with a performance of deGeneration at Theatre des Abbesses (4-20 May), marking the start of a European tour. During their eight month apprenticeship the dancers will also work with Shechter on the creation of a new piece and perform alongside Hofesh Shechter Company in a special event, ‘Hofesh Shechter & Friends’ at HOME, Manchester’s new arts centre. Much hard work is required of the dancers, but the outstanding training and support they will receive as a result is second to none.

From May to November, the deGeneration international tour will take place, in addition to other engagements (venues to be announced).

Public Square Dancing In China

Public Square Dancing In ChinaIt has recently been reported that the millions of people who gather to dance in China’s public spaces will have to keep time with government regulations in future. In a country where censorship and strict regulations are in place as the norm, it seems this could spell the end for public square dancing in China, simply providing citizens with a small artistic outlet for themselves in a public space.

Public square dancing is a popular pastime in China, particularly among older women known as ‘damas’. However damas are considered a nuisance among some local residents, who complain about being disturbed by loud music: while this may echo various other forms of dancing all over the world, it seems this element of Chinese culture may slowly be reduced to nothing.

As a result of the complaints, Chinese authorities have begun to regulate and choreograph the dancing, which has been reported by the state-run China Daily website. Any groups wanting to dance in public will now be limited to 12 government-approved routines, which reads unnecessary censorship and control like nothing else. Despite the fact square-dancing represents a collective aspect of Chinese culture, it seems that the over-enthusiasm of participants has lead to the disputes over noise and venues.

The General Administration of Sport is overseeing the regulation along with the culture ministry, to ‘guide it with national standards and regulations.’ The choreography has been put together by an expert panel, the website says, and more than 600 instructors have been trained, in order to see the dancing performed in a socially responsible way – to a Western culture this discounts many of the artistic endeavours seen during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Some details are still to be confirmed, including when and where people are allowed to dance, and exactly how loud the music can be.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Emerging Dancer 2015

English National Ballet Emerging Dancer 2015The winner of English National Ballet’s 2015 Emerging Dancer Award – the company’s sixth competition – was Jinhao Zhang. Zhang, who joined the Company just last year after graduating from English National Ballet School, performed the Dying Swan which he choreographed himself, and also a pas de deux from Don Quixote with fellow nominee and English National Ballet School graduate Isabelle Brouwers. The evening also saw Laurretta Summerscales named as the recipient of The People’s Choice Award, voted for by members of the public throughout the 2014/2015 season.

The annual competition, held at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, was judged by an esteemed industry panel: Leanne Benjamin AM OBE, Michael Nunn OBE and William Trevitt OBE (BalletBoyz), Wayne Sleep OBE, Didy Veldman and English National Ballet Artistic Director Tamara Rojo. The judges had a hard task on their hands in their requirement to select a winner from such huge talent and strong performances on stage.

The competition allows English National Ballet to recognise and nurture talent and encourage excellence in the Company. The other finalists for 2015 were Anjuli Hudson, Jeanette Kakareka, Katja Khaniukova, Vitor Menezes and Max Westwell, all of whom performed admirably. The finalists are voted for by English National Ballet’s dancers, Artistic team, orchestra and administrative staff, and then perform in front of a panel of eminent judges. The Emerging Dancer Award winner is announced together with the recipient of the People’s Choice Award, which is voted for by members of the public throughout the year.

Before the winners were announced, last year’s joint Emerging Dancer Award winners, Junor Souza and Alison McWhinney, performed a pas de deux from Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land: Junor, who also won the 2014 People’s Choice Award, has since been promoted to First Soloist and performed Principal roles in Swan Lake and Nutcracker. Alison has since been promoted to First Artist.

Matilda The Musical Relaxed

Matilda the MusicalThe Royal Shakespeare Company’s record-breaking production of Matilda The Musical is set to stage its second relaxed performance at London’s Cambridge Theatre in June this year. The specially adapted performance of the hit musical will take place on 14 June, offering full access to theatre and providing a special experience for those who may not usually have the opportunity to attend musicals.

Designed for individuals with autism spectrum conditions, learning disabilities and other sensory and communication disorders, relaxed performances are modified to create a supportive atmosphere for the audience. These include adjusting light and sound level, providing designated ‘chill-out’ areas and demonstrating an understanding attitude towards audience noise and movement.

Matilda The Musical brings Roald Dahl’s classic story to life on stage, charting the tale of a young girl with loathsome parents and an intimidating headmistress who discovers a very special talent. Following 2014’s sold-out relaxed performance, it is great news that there will be a second relaxed performance, almost a year after the first. It is hoped that this becomes a more regular event and is also adopted by other musical companies.

The RSC is said to be planning to present more of these performances across as many of its productions as possible following positive feedback from its audiences. These specially tailored performances are a welcome addition for those audience members who have autism or other disabilities and who find it hard to attend live theatre, and for their families too. The inclusive welcome and relaxed atmosphere give everyone the chance to come and experience the work, and enjoy it too.

Trips to the theatre can pose enormous challenges, however productions – such as Matilda – which are tailored to special audiences and their sensory needs mean whole families can experience theatre together without the usual added pressure of other audiences.

The 2015 Olivier Awards

2015 Olivier AwardsThe nominations for the 2015 Olivier Awards have recently been announced, following a year of the Olivier panel viewing huge numbers of performances across the board.

The nominees for outstanding achievement in dance are Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Crystal Pite for her choreography in The Associates, The Tempest Replica and Polaris – also at Sadler’s Wells – Christopher Wheeldon for The Winter’s Tale at the Royal Opera House, Rocío Molina for Bosque Ardora at the Barbican and The Elders Project, part of the Elixir Festival, also performed at Sadler’s Wells. The Elders Project, one of its kind, is a deserved nominee, having brought ex-professional dancers back to the stage in a special performance.

The nominees for best new dance production are Peeping Tom’s 32 rue Vandenbranden at the Barbican, Mats Ek’s Juliet and Romeo at Sadler’s Wells and James Thierrée’s Tabac Rouge at Sadler’s Wells. Here there are a mixture of nominees, with Mats Ek the only name with a huge grounding of history in contemporary dance. In the best theatre choreographer category, the nominees are Jerry Mitchell for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Musical, Annie-B Parsons for Here Lies Love, Josh Prince for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical and Sergio Trujillo for Memphis the Musical. These new musicals are demonstrative of the West End trend to keep theatres fresh, with a swift turnover of productions generally.

Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s Dance ‘Til Dawn and the vaudeville cabaret show La Soirée are also among the Olivier nominations, for Best Entertainment and Family category. Whilst the productions may not fully fit in this category, it is encouraging to see recognition of the promise of new work. The nominees for the This Morning audience award are Billy Elliot the Musical, Jersey Boys, Matilda The Musical and Wicked.

For a full list of nominees, visit

The Dance Manifesto For 2015

Dance UKMPs have been urged to raise the profile of dance in a new manifesto that came to light during February from stalwart Dance UK. Politicians are now under further pressure to ensure dance plays a greater role in young people’s education, following what has been labelled a constant “undermining of arts subjects” by high-profile MPs.

The new dance manifesto launched by Dance UK calls on politicians to “speak up for the benefits of dance as an essential part of a balanced curriculum for children”. It also calls them to increase the number of PGCE-trained dance teachers in schools, which is encouraging news for the industry following claims by education secretary Nicky Morgan that studying arts subjects can hold young people back.

The manifesto was presented to MPs at an event in Westminster, and comes ahead of a major conference to be launched in April that will see dance leaders come together to debate issues in the sector and devise a new five-year strategy for the industry. The manifesto builds on one previously launched in 2006, aimed at politicians with no knowledge of dance. The dance world is now dealing with government ministers who undermine arts-based subjects in their public speeches whereas the majority of politicians have no idea about the level and amount of dance going on in their constituency. Furthermore, they have not thought about it in terms of public health, education or how popular dance is.

In the manifesto, written by Dance UK member and project manager Jim Fletcher, politicians are urged to make sure dance has the same status as music, maths and English in education. It encourages MPs to ensure primary schools deliver more dance activity, and that there are more affordable spaces for community dance. This sounds resoundingly positive however it now falls to the politicians to act upon the manifesto alongside Dance UK’s incredible work.

New Arts Space From Wayne McGregor

Wayne McGregor | Random DanceIconic choreographer Wayne McGregor is set to create a new world-class arts space in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. The leading company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance has set its sights on 2016 for the space to materialise. Studio Wayne McGregor – to be built within Here East – will be a home for McGregor, his company and collaborators, and a major resource for the arts and for the communities of east London.

Here East is transforming the former Press and Broadcast Centres in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into a world-class centre of innovation and enterprise, driving the regeneration of east London and stimulating long-term economic growth in the UK. It is a space that combines business, technology, media, education and data in the pursuit of innovation. As the first cultural organisation to move into the Park, Studio Wayne McGregor will be a leader for the new education and cultural district being developed.

Comprising three extraordinary studios and additional work spaces, Studio Wayne McGregor will host all of McGregor’s creative work alongside artist development and creative learning programmes based on the trading of space, time and skills: through ‘FreeSpace’, artists will be offered access to world-class studios regardless of funding or stage of development. Space will be offered in blocks of time for rehearsal, creation, research and development. In return, artists will be asked to trade their time to deliver creative engagement for local schools and communities through ‘Free2Create’.

Studio Wayne McGregor aims to be a shared space for making, where artists can exchange knowledge and invent together to collaborate across disciplines. The space will also provide a base from which the company can work with local communities and young people to share experiences and nurture creativity. This is another major step in delivering a combination of education, employment and innovation, and is a major coup for East London in education and the arts.