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.

Liam Scarlett’s Latest Work

Liam Scarlett

The Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett, recently appointed as the Royal’s Artist in Residence, has choreographed again for Miami City Ballet following his last work for the company, having made the transition to choreographing full-time. Hanging up his ballet shoes in the performing sector, Scarlett has seamlessly transferred to the arena of choreography.

Scarlett is seen to be in demand all over the world, most recently premiering his new work Euphotic for Miami City Ballet, which opened on 11 January 2013. Having concluded the company’s Programme II, the performance also featured works by George Balanchine and Marius Petipa, two of the most influential modern and classical ballet choreographers respectively. Euphotic is said to be a ‘closing ballet’, which finishes three classical ballets as a statement for the audience and set to a score of Lowell Liebermann. Scarlett himself designed the scenic and costume designs, with Miami City Ballet blogging the process of working towards Scarlett’s vision and dyeing various pieces of fabrics blue and yellow, representing the sea and the light of the sky.

Last season Scarlett showed off his Viscera for Miami City Ballet, featuring principal dancer Jeanette Delgado, who is also cast as the lead for this season’s Euphotic as a sequel work of twenty-eight dancers. There are three principals and their partners in total leading the movement, fulfilling four movements of dance. The four ballets including Euphotic will also be presented at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples, Florida as Programme I in addition.

Who knows what is next for Scarlett’s choreographic adventures, but he has certainly hit the ground running, now to build on his creativity and spread his talent further.

Image courtesy of ROH at Flickr.

Paris Opera Ballet’s New Director

Opera National de Paris LogoIt has been announced that the Paris Opera Ballet will be taken over by Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer and a former principal at New York City Ballet, in September 2014. The previous director, Brigitte Lefèvre, will retire at the end of the 2013-14 season after nearly ten years at the top.

Millepied trained at the Lyon Conservatory, going on to join the School of American Ballet. His professional career as a dancer was spent with New York City Ballet, where quickly became a principal dancer in 2002. He then retired in 2011 in order to focus on choreography, and founded the L.A. Dance Project last year.

2014 will see Millepied inherit one of the world’s greatest classical companies, complete with 150 talented and tutu clad dancers, and a fantastic history: the company is the result of the very beginnings of ballet at Louis XIV’s court. The dancers of the company almost all come from the Paris Opera Ballet school, and they rarely leave to dance elsewhere once they have achieved a position in the company.

Millepied has had much professional experience. He has created touring groups, and has organised choreographic projects and festivals with musicians and artists. As a choreographer he has created works for major companies which include American Ballet Theatre, NYCB and the Paris Opera Ballet, and has also worked on Black Swan, the blockbuster film. Millepied has created two works for the Paris Opera Ballet and has a third commissioned for next season, ahead of his role as director. When he does step into the role, he will maintain a strong focus on contemporary ballet repertory for the classical company in order to develop a new identity and develop in-house choreographic talent, similar to Tamara Rojo’s aim at English National Ballet.

The future of ballet looks set for a lot of evolutionising!

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2013 Choreographics Performance

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet recently presented its 2013 Choreographics performance on 10 January 2013 as a unique programme of ballet created by BRB dancers. Rather than donning their usual tutus, tights and pointe shoes, programmes of this kind give the dancers the chance to develop their artistry in a related but separate avenue of dance performance and create to their own tastes.

The pieces, danced by members of the Company, were performed in the studio theatre at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham, with the six dancers choreographing announced as Kit Holder, Matthew Lawrence, Brandon Lawrence, Ruth Brill, Kristen McGarrity and Lachlan Monaghan. The dancer-choreographers choreographed pieces specifically for the event, to music of their own choosing. The projects provide a welcome opportunity to experiment creatively, try new things out with unlimited freedom and take a breath of fresh air from the rigours of the studio, filled each day with leg warmers and buckets of sweat.

Kit Holder, who has previously contributed to the Choreographics evening of 2010, subsequently had one of his pieces Printer Jam included in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Royal Gala and the launch of the Drum’n’Bass awards in Birmingham, before being expanded into a longer piece as part of International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012. Kit is a clear example of the heights emerging choreographers can reach, and especially those usually contained in a classical environment, rather than a more experimental one. In addition to this, Matthew Lawrence has previously had the opportunity to choreograph gymnastically, demonstrating the doors which may be available to the dancers, should they extend their career to choreographing. Royal Ballet dancer Liam Scarlett is also a demonstrator of this, having recently choreographed for Miami City Ballet.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2013 at Sadler’s Wells

Sadler's Wells Logo

2013 will mark the 15th anniversary of the current Sadler’s Wells building, and the venue aims to celebrate with very special events throughout the year, with all 14 of the theatre’s associate artists contributing to the varied and entertaining programme.

Following its success in 2012, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch will return to the London venue with Bausch’s Two Cigarettes in the Dark, which was created in 1985, and the 2006 creation Vollmund. The Sadler’s Wells flamenco festival is also celebrating this year with its 10th anniversary, castanets and fans galore, in addition to the National Ballet of Canada appearing with their pointe shoes, ready to present the European premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet. The centenary of The Rite of Spring will also be celebrated with A String of Rites, a series of new productions and revivals which will include Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre in Michael Keegan-Dolan’s staging, as Keegan-Dolan becomes the 15th Sadler’s Wells associate artist.

In addition to a number of performances, Sadler’s Wells has announced a new wave of associate artists of the theatre, alongside the existing associate programme of established performers and choreographers. The new young artists will receive a bespoke programme which is tailored to their needs, including much studio time to fulfil those legwarmer needs, in addition to advice and financial support. The aim of the programme is to provide an artistic home for the artists involved: for the first year of the scheme Sadler’s Wells will be supporting Rocio Molina, Random Dance|Wayne McGregor dancer and choreographer Alexander Whitley, Brussels based choreographer Daniel Linehan, visual artist and performer Hetain Patel, Chinese contemporary company TAO Dance Theatre and dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Wilkie Branson.

The 2013 Theatre Scene

London's West End Theatre Scene

With a number of new productions hitting the stages of the West End in 2013, casting for roles has reached new appendages. Social media has been utilised more and more recently in order for performers to advertise their skills, recent work and aspirations, making the casting process for directors both easier and harder.

With all this toe-tapping talent on display, it may be easy to imagine that there is a lot of information to compare at the push of a few buttons. However, using social media in order to have an idea of casting for a new production may also mean that less and less talent is promoted, and more so an idealised version of the performer angling for work. Despite this, it is clear that social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube are extremely useful in communicating messages about roles, rehearsal processes, and reviews, for example, but may not be as useful for other aspects of the production process.

The recently released cast list for the leg-warmer and leotard wearing A Chorus Line is just one of those emerging in 2013. The Broadway classic which is returning to the West End for the first time since it was first staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, shouts three leading ladies: Scarlett Strallen as Cassie, Leigh Zimmerman as Sheila, and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Diana. Other entries for 2013 are Book of Mormon, Dear World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and tours such as The Full Monty, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ghost and Wicked.

If the musical theatre scene was not enough to entice audiences, other names which will be appearing on London stages throughout 2013 are Dame Judi Dench, Helen Mirrren, Daniel Radcliffe, Jude Law, Rupert Everett, Felicity Kendal, Vanessa Redgrave, James McAvoy, Rowan Atkinson, Lee Evans, Zoe Wanamaker, and Sheila Hancock.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Diablo Ballet’s Web-Made Ballet

Diablo Ballet Logo

The world’s first “web ballet”, the brainchild of Diablo Ballet, has begun. Merging dance and technology, Diablo Ballet is calling ballet and dance fans all over the world to assist in creating the world’s first ballet of this kind.

Not dissimilar to the ideals of postmodern dance pioneer Merce Cunningham, the ballet of Diablo Ballet, named The Web Ballet, will be the first dance work developed from suggestions made on the internet, and will premiere this March in the US. Internet users can participate from anywhere and be fully involved in the creation of the piece, without having to dust off their leotards or legwarmers.

The Web Ballet will be based on the choreographic ideas submitted to Diablo Ballet’s Twitter page from 8 January 2013, welcoming budding choreographers and enthusiastic fans to submit their ideas and see them transformed into a fully-fledged work. The Twitter hashtag #DiabloWebBallet has been suggested in order for users to communicate ideas such as the mood of the work, the emotion and expression of the dancers and the movement vocabulary itself, using a separate tweet for each suggestion. Users can also vote for their favourite musical accompaniment as one of three works on Diablo Ballet’s YouTube page.

The Web Ballet will be created by Robert Dekkers, a Diablo Ballet dancer, and one of Dance Magazine’s 2011 25 to Watch artists.  Submissions end on 14 February, when Dekkers and Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director, will select seven choreographic suggestions. Dekkers will have two weeks to assemble the winning ideas, and create a new dance work. Those who tweeted the winning artistic suggestions will receive tickets to the performance, and a photograph of the completed work, autographed by Dekkers.

This is truly combining Twitter with the tutus!

N.B. All idea submissions become the property of Diablo Ballet.

2013 National Dance Awards

National Dance Awards Critics' Circle

28 January 2013 saw the 13th National Dance Awards winners announced at The Place, London. Considered by many as one of the most comprehensive list of dance achievements, 2013 certainly did not fail to deliver, providing a roundup of all the great work that was seen in 2012.

The awards are decided by the 60 members of the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle after an extensive round of nominations and voting. To be eligible to win an award, performances had to take place in the UK between 1 September 2011 and 31 August 2012.

The 2013 winners are as follows –

DANCING TIMES AWARD FOR BEST MALE DANCER
Akram Khan (Akram Khan Company)

GRISHKO AWARD FOR BEST FEMALE DANCER
Marianela Nuñez (The Royal Ballet)

STEF STEFANOU AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING COMPANY
Royal Ballet Flanders

BEST CLASSICAL CHOREOGRAPHY
Annabelle Ochoa (A Streetcar Named Desire for Scottish Ballet)

BEST MODERN CHOREOGRAPHY
Arthur Pita (The Metamorphosis)

OUTSTANDING FEMALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)
Ksenia Ovsyanick  (English National Ballet)

OUTSTANDING MALE PERFORMANCE (CLASSICAL)
Zdenek Konvalina (English National Ballet)

DANCERS PRO AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (FEMALE)
Teneisha Bonner (Zoonation)

DANCERS PRO AWARDS FOR OUTSTANDING MODERN PERFORMANCE (MALE)
Tommy Franzén (Zoonation and Russell Maliphant Company)

BEST INDEPENDENT COMPANY
Ballet Black

DE VALOIS AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
Robert Cohan

DANCE UK INDUSTRY AWARD
Jeanette Siddall

The Chairman of the Awards committee, Graham Watts OBE, spoke at the event, and dedicated the 2012 awards to the memories of the late Charles Hedges, John Percival and Freda Pitt, all of whom have died since the last awards. In the year of the Centenary of the Critics’ Circle, the combined years of membership for the three critics totalled a century.

American Ballet Theatre Announces Dancer Exchange

ABT Logo

The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae and Royal Danish Ballet’s Alban Lendorf are set to dance with American Ballet Theatre in spring 2013 as part of an artist exchange programme at the Metropolitan Opera House.

In return for these tights-and-tunic dancers, American Ballet Theatre will be sending the principal dancer Cory Stearns to The Royal Ballet and soloist Isabella Boylston to dance in the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker to appear as Exchange Artists.

McRae and Lendorf will be dancing in the spring season, with McRae dancing the role of Lankendem in Le Corsaire in June, and Lendorf dancing the role of Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty in July. As part of the exchange program with The Royal Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s Stearns will appear with The Royal Ballet, and Boylston will dance the roles of Dew Drop and Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker in December. This exchange of dancers not only presents the skills and talents of the dancers to another audience but also enables the dancers to hone their technique under unfamiliar circumstances and in unfamiliar surroundings.

During his career, McRae has had the opportunity to perform roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Lensky in Onegin, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, James in La Sylphide, Des Grieux in Manon, Prince Florimund in The Sleeping Beauty, Colas in La Fille mal gardée, the Prince in The Nutcracker and Cinderella, Blue Boy in Les Patineurs and The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring. Lendorf has equally danced roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Prince Désiré in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Sleeping Beauty, Gennaro in Napoli, James in La Sylphide, Armand in Lady of the Camellias, the title role in Apollo and principal roles in Etudes, Other Dances, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Le Corsaire pas de deux.