The International Dance Festival Birmingham is due to run from April 23rd until May 19th, bringing an outstanding line-up of hit shows to the Midlands, such as Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant’s Push, combining elements of ballet, contemporary, capoeira, t’ai chi and yoga; a solo for Louise LeCavalier named Children & A Few Minutes Of Lock created by Nigel Charnock; and the premiere of new work The Impending Storm, featuring dance virtuoso David Toole.
The month-long dance programme is now in its third edition as a major biennial festival produced by DanceXchange and Birmingham Hippodrome, programmed across theatres, streets and public places, creating a wealth of participatory activity for people of all ages by animating the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands, encouraging them to pull on their dancewear and get involved.
The IDFB is one of the largest dance festivals in the world, and is unique in its diversity and internationalism through its programming of exceptional dance from across the globe, and hosting collaborations with international choreographers and artists. The IDFB is set to include additionally engaging features such as the pointe shoes of The Royal Ballet of Flanders (performing Artifact), a screening of the jazz shoe classic West Side Story and the exotic Danza Contemporanea de Cuba from Dance Consortium. Added to the mix is the transferral of urban hoodie-wearing Breakin’ Convention from London to the Midlands, the international festival of hip-hop dance theatre within the IDFB.
The IDFB aims to bring an outstanding quality of work and worldwide attention to the numerous arts organisations and venues in the Midlands and the incredible dance scene which resides there through many partnerships and collaborations. Building on the successes of previous years, the IDFB 2012 aims to be even more distinctive than before, attracting more visitors from across the UK and beyond, consequently benefitting the local economy. With a strong international focus, the IDFB will celebrate artistic excellence, promote artistic exchange and express the youthful, diverse and energetic spirit of dance in the Midlands.
IDFB 2012 image courtesy of IFDB. Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Sadler’s Wells is due to host the Royal Ballet of Flanders with Artifact, nearly thirty years after its premiere. American choreographer William Forsythe has created this subversive new-dance masterpiece, which is due to run at Sadler’s Wells until April 21st. As a 2009 Olivier award winner, the Royal Ballet of Flanders has been performing and touring worldwide for over four decades, renowned for their flawless technique and unconventional productions. The company specialises in classical ballet, neoclassical ballet and contemporary ballet and has done since its inception in 1969. Recently, the company has raised its international profile by adding more contemporary works to its repertoire.
Set to the music of Bach, Artifact was the first ballet that Forsythe created after becoming director of the Frankfurt Ballet 1984, and Artifact has since been described as “a masterpiece”. Forsythe is widely regarded as the most influential practitioner of the art form since Balanchine, creating works which questions the classical aesthetic of ballet and develops it further. As a ballet in four parts, Artifact features the choreography, scenography, lighting, and costumes of Forsythe, completely conveying his choreographic practices. Sporting warm yellow unitards, the dancers display impeccable classical technique, mixing pointe shoes with the bare foot. Artifact is famous for the way it subverts the traditional physical principles of ballet, and for the ways it plays with audiences’ ideas about the forms ballet can take on.
There is not a tutu to be found within Artifact, despite being performed by the only professional classically trained dance company in Flanders, engaging audiences and critics alike from Shanghai to Houston. Within the upcoming season, the company is due to tour to some of the most international ballet capitals of the world, spreading their influence… and airing their leg warmers!
April has been a month of huge proportions for former Royal Ballet prima ballerina Tamara Rojo, having just been appointed as the new Artistic Director of English National Ballet.
The news has flooded the internet and social media since the press release was issued and the official announcement followed. Rojo will be swapping her tutu and pristine tights for this managerial role, although it has been speculated that she may still dust off her pointe shoes and continue to dance professionally in some form.
Rojo has previously advocated her desire to take on this role at some point in her career, and what better company to establish herself with: fifteen years ago, Rojo showcased herself with English National Ballet, shooting to stardom under director Derek Deane. Following the sudden announcement two months ago that current director Wayne Eagling would step down from his post, Rojo’s name was widely rumoured as successor, alongside another star of English National Ballet and Rojo’s regular Opera House partner, Carlos Acosta.
Despite the fact many questions have been raised about Rojo’s youth and relative inexperience in directing a company, it is also arguable that her potentially fresh visions and performance career will complement those of the current dancers at English National Ballet, considering Rojo is at the peak of her dancing career aged 37 with undeniable box office popularity. The first Rojo production for English National Ballet will be the three hour classic The Sleeping Beauty, for which audiences and critics alike will compare it directly with the recent tiara twirling My First Sleeping Beauty and Rojo’s own English National Ballet and Royal Ballet performances of the same work.
Rojo’s hugely successful performing career places her in good popular stead for her new appointment following her final performances with The Royal Ballet. Her multi-faceted skill base as both a dancer and an industry professional indicates she will be successful in maintaining the glamorous image of English National Ballet in both London and on tour.
What do you think about Tamara Rojo and/or her new role?
Whilst straightforward lessons are in no shape of form headed for the archives, dance and drama workshops for children and young people are gaining more and more popularity. At a glance, prestigious companies and organisations such as Rambert Dance Company, Tap Attack and West End Kids are offering their expertise to young, aspiring individuals who are willing to give up their free time in order to receive a worthwhile result. In the mix of leotards and “New Yorkers“, those engaging with the workshop may not ever dust off their pointe shoes and become The Dying Swan, but some may indeed embrace the new leg warmers of their dance life and take on an entirely new path.
Whilst taking part in workshops focus on the fun and enthusiasm the work creates, overall they provide much more. As a workshop leader, being able to noticeably nurture a young person’s desire to perform on stage, or focus their energy into raw talent is immensely worthwhile. Earlier this month in the Guardian online, the Associate Director of Creative Learning at the London Bubble Theatre Company wrote about The Speech Bubbles programme which encourages young children with speaking, listening or communication needs to overcome these barriers with phenomenal results. This may not be the case for all the children who take part on the programme, but to see a small improvement in areas such as emotion, conduct and behaviour is very encouraging to the workshop leaders.
To observe numerous workshops taking place that provide a multitude of resources for young people is extremely heartening; arts organisations, through various sources of funding, are able to support the next generation of artists and continue their line of work through what the leaders offer. Workshops in the art sector are not difficult to come by, with a whole host of successful organisations managing their time in order to provide.
Recently debated by The Arts Desk online was the purpose of ballet school for young students, in the grand scheme of their careers. It was reported that there are fewer than 300 full-time dancing jobs in UK ballet companies, insinuating that there are a lack of “home-grown” dancers taking up these roles and reaching the top of their profession. With the ballet shoe echoing the football boot, it seems stars from afar – rather than the UK – are increasing.
The dancers reaching the top of British ballet companies must survive injury, competition, subsidy cuts and criticism, regardless of the few jobs available in the profession. It must be questioned; are British ballet students reaching the required overall standard required by the ballet companies of the UK? It is naive to think that a brightly coloured leotard and new leg warmers are all that is required to make aspiring students stand out from the crowd, and be selected.
There is seemingly great focus on remaining far from the world of anomalies, where jobs are unlikely to venture. However, being one student of many identical to dozens of others may also be seen as a hindrance, as there may be nothing to make the student shine and be noticed. Is the strict discipline of ballet schools cloning students, providing them with no vigour for professional life? Or is it the “constant” which marks the way for each student’s relative success?
The abundance of the same practice clothing and footwear seemingly merges the crowds of students desperate for a job in a top ballet company, but similarly, if the rules of ballet schools were not present to adhere to throughout training, the required professional “standard” would not be met.
How can the students of today know if either adherence or personality is the winning formula?
Formed in 2006, Tap Attack has since established itself as a prestigious workshop provider. The teaching faculty of 15 have taught tap classes to over 3000 tap dancers in the UK, each teacher with notable achievements in their individual dance fields aside from their tap careers. Many have worked in the West End and on tap-specific shows, such as Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Singin’ in the Rain and 42nd Street.
Tap Attack has achieved remarkable success since its inception. The performance company of Tap Attack – Xtreme Tap – offers a wide variety of exciting performance opportunities. Tap Attack claims its dancers are unrivalled in their ability to entertain; be it a classic tap performance or a more bespoke requirement, Xtreme Tap hosts a team of talented tappers, donning tap shoes and ankle warmers! Apart from traditional tap work, Xtreme Tap have performed at a whole host of corporate and commercial events with additional success performing at fashion shows, product launches and corporate entertaining events. With such a variety to choose from, suddenly the decision of Bloch tap shoes, Capezio tap shoes or So Danca tap shoes seems easy!
The first of Tap Attack’s 2012 “Total Tap Workshops” is in Birmingham on Sunday 29th April at The Dance Workshop, supported by Capezio. The sheer variety of opportunities offered by Tap Attack is emphasised by its Total Tap Workshops, available for 3 standards of tappers. The event is marketed as a fun and informative day for attendees, adding considerable amounts to their tap repertoire. Additionally, the “Rhythm Routes” of 2012 is due to follow up its sell-out success of 2011, as an exciting collaboration between Tap Attack and the ISTD. Rhythm Routes gives participants a chance to experience the best of UK tap as a journey through tap history, designed to inspire teachers and students alike with a range of classes. Rhythm Routes 2012 is taking place on Sunday 20th May, at Preston College; tap shoes at the ready!
Sadler’s Wells is due to stream its annual international hip hop dance festival Breakin’ Convention live on May 7th. This date marks the new on-demand initiative by the Arts Council England – named The Space – in partnership with the BBC that offers audiences a new way to uniquely experience some of the most exciting arts events from across the UK. A great place to scout the latest dance wear trends, Breakin’ Convention has showcased over 400 UK and international companies, and a total of over 3,900 performers to audiences in excess of 75,000 since its inception in 2004, having become one of the most influential hip-hop events of the year.
Breakin’ Convention is The Space’s first dance event, offering audiences the opportunity to observe all aspects of the international hip hop dance festival, from foyer events to smaller performances in the Lilian Baylis Studio and performances on the Main Stage. From urban dance trainers to Breakin’ Convention hoodies, there is much for dance fans to engage with, including workshops, film screenings, DJ demos, impromptu foyer freestyle sessions and live aerosol art.
Breakin’ Convention is in its ninth year, featuring some of the very best UK and international acts in hip hop dance, offering audiences a fashion show of different styles from breaking and popping to locking, b-boying and newer styles such as house dance, devised from the dance floors and born out of club culture.
The line-up for Breakin’ Convention 2012 includes ILL-Abilities, a breakdance company that challenges the misconceptions about people with disabilities; Vagabond Crew who are the current world champions winning both Battler of the Year and the UK B-boy championships in 2011, amongst many other talents.
Audiences will be able to watch Breakin’ Convention live from 4pm on Monday 7 May on www.thespace.org, www.sadlerswells.com and www.breakinconvention.com. It will also be available on demand after the 7 May on www.thespace.org.
Produced by English National Ballet and premiered on April 3rd at the Peacock Theatre, the English National Ballet School presented the magical production of My First Sleeping Beauty, introducing the magic of ballet to children from the age of 3 and showcasing graduating dancers of outstanding potential from English National Ballet School. For many young children, this will be their first taste of satin ballet shoes, glittering tutus and pristine pink tights of the ballet world.
Whilst the arts sector presents a huge variety of dance works and ballets in particular, there will nonetheless be masses of captivated children throughout the UK, privy to a specially crafted version of the usual 3 hour production of Sleeping Beauty. A national tour of My First Sleeping Beauty will travel the country until June 3rd 2012, inspiring children and young people alike in a piece that has been adapted especially for them. Children are encouraged to boo, clap and cheer, expressing themselves through the pantomime elements of My First Sleeping Beauty and becoming part of the story.
Award-winning choreographer Matthew Hart is responsible for creating the wondrous spectacle of My First Sleeping Beauty in all its finery, tiaras and all. Set to Tchaikovsky’s score, the amazing cast of dancers from the English National Ballet School pirouette their way through this shortened version of the original Sleeping Beauty. However, Hart has worked to maintain much of the original choreography in order to educate these new audiences in the link between the School and the Company.
Engaging young children with such a timeless classic as Sleeping Beauty is an innovative creation, with this being the first of a presumable line of “children’s ballets” aiming to inspire families to eventually come and see Sleeping Beauty in its entirety, continuing the story and classical technique.
Internationally acclaimed choreographer Christopher Hampson is due to return to his ballet shoe roots and further step into his role of speaker at the Royal Academy of Dance on April 10th for the Faculty of Education. Hampson is the first of the Guest Speaker Series and will discuss his journey through the dance sector – a story both intriguing and inspiring.
Hampson’s experience of dance began as an RAD student aged six, grasping his first taste of the ballet bug. Swapping his RAD white leotard and navy leggings for more choreographic attire, Hampson is set to take up the role of the Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet in August 2012.
As a former member of English National Ballet, Hampson created numerous works, including Double Concerto and The Nutcracker, going on to win the Barclays Theatre Award and the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography. In addition to ENB, Hampson has choreographed works for The Royal Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, National Theatre in Prague and Ballet Black, among others, and is also a sought-after guest teacher and coach for companies throughout the world, including Hong Kong Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. Hampson’s works for the Genée International Ballet Competition have recently been included to form part of the RAD Solo Seal Award, emphasising the profound influence Hampson holds over the dance sector, from the tutus and tiaras of The Royal Ballet, to jazz shoes and black costume gloves of New Adventures.
At the RAD, Hampson will discuss and show clips of his work, going on to take questions from the audience, inviting dance fans from all over the world to engage with this inspirational dance practitioner. The event is free of charge to Faculty of Education, RAD members and RAD staff, and additionally non-members are welcome to reserve in advance in order to take full advantage of this fantastic opportunity.
Reserve your place by Friday 30th March by contacting Zofie Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
London’s West End is currently in a state of flux. Musical productions continue to close, making way for others to take their place, for sometimes only weeks at a time. At first this seems localised; however, it may be that these occurrences spread outside of London, nationally and even internationally.
From the blue spangled leotards and tap shoes of Crazy For You, to Betty Blue Eyes the singing pig, it is hoped that this does not mark the end of the British musical. Successes such as Billy Elliot – the aspiring young dancer who steps boldly into professional ballet shoes – hold hope that West End musicals contain the magic ingredient that will spell a lengthy run.
However, it is inevitable that there are musical productions waiting left, right and centre ready to fill previous shows’ homes, and fill again those tired tights which once ruled the stage. The level of competition to rule the West End stage is seen to have increased dramatically.
The correlation between a show’s origin and success rate appears irrational. Whether a show’s life is home-grown from “baby ballets” to pointes, its content relating to that of its surroundings, or a production of far-off wonder, it bears no relation on how long it will stay running, which is additionally independent of how much an audience appears to love it. Despite this, even the most least likely musicals such as Thriller have been received spectacularly – if the jazz shoe fits, wear it!
Arguably a certain amount of performance relies on popularity in order to be a triumph, yet another key element of the mix is of course originality, to maintain freshness within the industry. This only further emphasises how unpredictable a show’s success can be and how we cannot predict the future of the British musical industry.