The Launch of the Female Choreographers’ Collective

Female Choreographers' Collective

Holly Noble and Jane Coulston, both professional dancers and choreographers, recently asked the question: where are all the female choreographers? In recent years it has been a recurring topic of discussion in modern dance as an industry that is predominately female and as an art form particularly pioneered by women, such as Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp, let alone the rest of the dance sector. In a bid to answer this, be it choreographers of pointe shoe and tutu, leotard and leggings or any other dancewear background, the pair have launched the Female Choreographers’ Collective, an organisation that is looking to reverse the apparent skewing of opportunities toward male dance makers.

Noble and Coulston are making a stand in response to the dwindling number of female choreographers receiving regular funding or support in the same league as their male counterparts through the FCC, with the sole purpose and mission of the collective to support, encourage and spearhead work created by female choreographers across the UK. They are aiming to contact all female choreographers in the UK and organise forums, networking opportunities and platforms to showcase the abundance of female talent currently creating work.

In addition to their championing of the female dance artist population, the pair are also committed to investigating the reasons behind the inequality, calling on all female choreographers that are interested in highlighting this issue to share their experiences being a female choreographer in the dance industry today. The issue has been discussed over the last few years, with Dance Umbrella hosting a forum on the topic in 2009. In this heated debate everything from childcare to sexualisation and ego of the male choreographer were thrown into the arena. Whilst Noble and Coulston currently only have theories, they hope the FCC will provide clear answers on the shift with the support of female choreographers in order to provide female choreographers with the opportunity to stand alongside their male peers and gain higher profile choreographic commissions and opportunities.

The FCC will support female choreographers of all genres, whether they are just starting out on their creative journey or are fully established choreographers, having presenting an FCC women’s choreographic platform on 13 October 2012 to offer a platform for female choreographers and to celebrate the FCC launch. The pair are aiming to run a women’s platform regularly, for example three times a year or more.

Holly Noble

Holly trained at The Arts Educational School in Tring and at Laban Conservatoire in Greenwich specialising in Ballet and Contemporary. She has had a diverse career in Theatre, TV and Film working as a freelance dancer, choreographer, actor and teacher. As a dancer she has worked with various choreographers such as Ashley Wallen, Lynne Page and Michael Voss.

Holly is founder and Artistic Director of A.D. Dance Company, a neoclassical touring company of eight dancers. Alongside this Holly Directs and Produces ‘Platform A.D’.

Holly has most recently joined English National Ballet as an Associate Dance Artist and has been appointed as Artistic Director for English National Ballet Youth Company.

Jane Coulston

Jane Coulston in is the Director Choreographer of Beyond Repair Dance, a contemporary dance company.

After finishing her training at Laban Jane worked internationally as a dancer and choreographer, working and studying further in New York. Working with the New Amsterdam Dance Theatre, Stagedoor Theatre Arts and various dance theatre companies in the USA. This work included off Broadway productions and work with the American academy of film London.

The New Home of London Studio Centre

London Studio Centre LogoThe London Studio Centre recently announced confirmation that it would be moving its headquarters to artsdepot in North Finchley from the start of the 2012/13 academic year, in addition to all the leg warmers, leotards, ballet shoes, jazz pants and noisy tap shoes it will also be transporting through means of its new and returning students. With the new term and year well underway, such a resourceful and ‘giving’ venue seems perfect for such an organisation.

The performing arts college has also announced that it is delighted to be working work closely with this first class performance venue which is also home to the performing arts of Barnet College and Middlesex University’s third year dance performance showcase once annually. artsdepot will provide lecture halls, a library, rehearsal studios and performance space for London Studio Centre, giving the students fantastic facilities to hone their craft in. The building also facilitates the opportunity to develop interesting and innovative collaborative work with other artists, adding yet another strand to the college’s outlook.

artsdepot will house the London Studio Centre’s foundation, first and second year students temporarily while negotiations for the fit out of its proposed new premises in West London are completed, which will provide it with purpose built studios and state of the art facilities. The London Studio Centre has moved from its York Way studios after 26 years due to the Kings Cross area redevelopment but looks forward to creating a new home in Acton with brand new studios in the near future.

Dancers’ Career Development… Dancers Selected!

Dancers' Career Development (DCD) LogoFollowing on from the announcement of the Dancers’ Career Development project to mentor twenty dancers, a hugely popular application process has seen the dancers selected, all nominated by their peers as future leaders (wearing a variety of dance shoes and an array of leotards).

The dancers’ mentoring scheme saw the dancers selected by a panel of dance professionals to take part in Dance UK’s new scheme in partnership with Dancers’ Career Development and with the support of Arts Council England. As a result of the scheme’s popularity, Dance UK is seeking further funding to extend the programme to Scotland and to also raise further funding to repeat the scheme in 2013 and 2014 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, enabling even more dancers and their leg warmers to take part.

The dancers selected to take part this year are:

1. Kate Coyne, dancer, Michael Clark Company
2. Shane Shambhu, Dancer, Actor and Artistic Director of Shane Shambhu Company
3. Neil Westmoreland, Resident Director for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures
4. Kit Holder, first artist, Birmingham Royal Ballet
5. Jonathan Goddard, independent dancer
6. Laura Jones, dancer for Stopgap Dance Company
7. Lee T Johnston, dancer, National Dance Company Wales
8. Henrietta Hale, independent dance artist
9. Sonia Sabri, Artistic Director of Sonia Sabri Company and independent dancer, choreographer and teacher
10. Malgorzata Dzierzon , dancer, Rambert Dance Company
11. Jonathan Payn, First Soloist, Birmingham Royal Ballet
12. Hannah Bateman, Leading Soloist, Northern Ballet
13. Angela Towler, dancer, Rambert Dance Company
14. Catarina Carvalho, dancer, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
15. Anusha Subramanyam, Artistic Director of Beeja, performer and choreographer
16. Emma Dunn, independent dance artist
17. Naomi Cook, member of Springs Dance Company, and a freelance dancer, teacher and rehearsal director
18. Catherine Bennett, independent dance artist
19. Dena Lague, independent dance artist
20. Nicole Watson, dancer and creative director at Surface Area Dance Theatre

The selection panel, which was Chaired by Dance UK included Pedro Machado, Co-Artistic Director of Candoco Dance Company (who personally benefitted from the mentoring scheme in 2006), Marie McCluskey MBE, Founder and Artistic Director of Swindon Dance; Sue Wyatt, experienced arts manager and dance company leader; Benjamin Dunks, Artistic Director of Attik Dance; Dr Scilla Dyke MBE, Senior Lecturer, Royal Academy of Dance and Trustee of Dancers’ Career Development; Monique Deletant, Administrative Director, Akademi South Asian Dance UK; and Jan De Schynkel, former dancer, teacher, choreographer and Arts Council England Relationship Manager

Over eight months the dancers will be provided with a paid mentor who is a high profile leader from the arts world or beyond the sector.

The RADC Autumn tour

The Place

The Richard Alston Dance Company Autumn tour 2012 sees the company’s 10 dancers taking to the stage for 16 performances throughout UK, and in the US, leotards and all. The tour opens in London at The Place, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, (3-6 October), for the annual At Home season, and ends in New Jersey, at Montclair State University, (13-16 December), as part of the internationally renowned Peak Performances series.

Prior to the tour’s beginning, the company took part in the Design Museum Ball as part of the London Design Festival 2012, performing a one-off special event of contemporary dance on 21 September. A series of dance moments was created especially for the evening with the dancers wearing a set of dazzling crystal-encrusted costumes created for them by fashion designer Julien MacDonald. The audience discovered dance episodes scattered throughout the museum with sculptural forms, digital projections and crystal-inspired visual effects creating a dramatic backdrop against which the dancers engaged with the space. The event was inspired by the literary heroine, Miss Havisham for Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, with those wearing a wedding dress, rather than leg warmers, rewarded free entry to the ball.

The tour following this event will contain pieces ShimmerIsthmus and MadcapShimmer is danced to the music of Ravel, played live with Julien Macdonald’s jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes illuminating the choreography in a beautiful piece of theatre. The barefoot dancers emanate thoughts of fairy dust with magical effect. Isthmus will be performed for only the second time following its premiere at A Celebration for Bob Lockyer at The Place in April 2012. Alston uses the music of Jo Kondo, whose composition Isthmus moves with rapid light rhythms, both sharp and delicate to present nimble and breathtaking precision. Following his recent commission by Scottish Ballet to mark the 2012 Olympics, Martin Lawrance has created Madcap as an original, new choreography, creating a powerfully charged work.

Image courtesy of The Place.

Step into Dance’s Musical Theatre Company

Step into Dance, a partnership programme between the Royal Academy of Dance and The Jack Petchey Foundation, are holding auditions on Sunday 7 October to recruit students into their exciting new Musical Theatre Company. Students in the company will be able to meet other like-minded, talented young people and also perform at prestigious venues across London.

Step into Dance is a fully inclusive community dance which currently runs in 187 secondary schools over 32 London Boroughs and Essex. The programme offers weekly extra-curricular dance lessons to students who would not otherwise have access to quality dance, jazz shoes, or flared dance trousers.  From a pilot of 28 schools, it is now a fully inclusive programme delivered in 187 schools, including Special Educational Needs schools and Pupil Referral Units. Step into Dance is the biggest secondary school dance programme in the UK, unique in offering and performance opportunities throughout the academic year. Each of the 187 schools engaged in the programme pay an annual fee, contributing to the running costs of the programme.

Step into Dance, through its extended programme such as Watch this Step, Step into Battle, the Step Borough Events and its showcase end of the year event, Step LIVE! Step into Dance is responsible for creating over 20 unique, inclusive performance opportunities each year. The events develop the participants’ creative experience, showcasing Step into Dance to a wider audience.

The new Musical Theatre Company, complete with top hats and New Yorkers, will be lead by Sonny Ward as teacher and choreographer. Ward trained at Millennium Performing Arts and with the National Youth Theatre, with his choreography credits including West Ham FC Dancers at Upton Park, Dance Expressions at Sadler’s Wells, Christmas Cabaret for MD2000, Flashmobs for Walkers Crisps and Littlewoods Christmas TV Adverts 2011. Ward also teaches at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and is Co-Director of Eaton Ward Agency, having trained young students that have gone on to perform in MatildaBilly Elliot and The Lion King.

Image courtesy of Step into Dance.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s New Season

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet has been busy polishing its tiaras and digging out repertoire tutus in preparation for the 2012/13 season, seeing in both brand new works inspired by Olympic sporting endeavours to classics such as Giselle and Coppélia. The senior management team, such as Director David Bintley CBE, has been very excited about the repertory that will emerge throughout the season, setting every pointe shoe fan alight with anticipation too.

The season began on 19 September with the company staging six performances in four days of the enduring and timeless story of Swan Lake at The Lowry in Manchester. This is ahead of moving the company home to the Birmingham Hippodrome on 2 October ready for the winter. Swan Lake is a sure ballet favourite of dance fans and non-dance fans alike, and a classic that is rarely missed from a classical ballet company’s repertoire. BRB (originally Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet) first performed Swan Lake in 1981 almost 100 years after it premiered in Moscow. A new insight will be brought to the 2012/13 Company with at least two new casts with many new artists dancing the leading roles.

Bintley has maintained that keeping audiences surprised is a constant test for the company, in addition to drawing audiences in to see the show in the first place. With such a variety of work planned for the coming season, there is no doubt the audience’s appetites will be satisfied, with the seasons being planned many years in advance. A modern production of Aladdin will grace the stage through the company as well as Faster, the production inspired by the theme of the Olympics and the physiological aspects of sport and performance. Bintley has collaborated with Australian composer Matthew Hindson to produce a ballet that celebrates speed and power which is a fitting tribute to the Olympians that showcased their incredible athleticism in London in July and August.

Faster is one of three productions for the Autumn Celebration, which is being staged at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth; Sadler’s Wells, London; and Wales Millennium Centre in October. It also features The Dream and The Grand Tour.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

English National Ballet’s 2012/13 Season Under Tamara Rojo

Tamara Rojo

On 24 September, English National Ballet held its first press conference set in the ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel in the heart of London. It highlighted new Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s next steps, alongside a Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty performed by Shiori Kase and Yonah Acosta. ENB are on the brink of their 2012/13 season, and it is Rojo’s first in the role, laying down her pointe shoes momentarily before she joins the cast later in the season.

Rojo coincidently danced with ENB fifteen years ago as a young, aspiring ballerina, eventually making her way to The Royal Ballet and continuing her journey adorned with tights, tutus and tiaras. Rojo spoke of her time with ENB, helping her to create her dance values through its ethos “to bring ballet to the widest possible audience”. It had a lasting influence on Rojo’s own views of the responsibility and impact of art toward society. Consequently throughout the press conference, Rojo not only presented the seasonal preview of ENB but also her own vision and aspirations for the next few years of the company.

Rojo outlined her ambition to transform ENB into the most creative and loved ballet company, embracing and commissioning new work whilst keeping the classics relevant in a balance to move forward artistically whilst paying homage to the past simultaneously. Rojo also aims to build on the company’s tradition of being an institution which nourishes artists and collaborates with others working artistically to maintain excellence, creation and imagination.

The repertoire to be covered by ENB in the upcoming season includes The Nutcracker at Christmas, the Albert Hall Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. This is alongside some London based mixed bills presenting repertoire such as Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and My First Cinderella, to be choreographed by George Williamson (choreographed Firebird for ENB earlier in 2012) which follows on from and My First Sleeping Beauty earlier in the year. Williamson will also be responsible for the Emerging Dancer Award and will develop collaborations with other organisations.

Image courtesy of Scillystuff at Flickr.

Sleeping Beauties

The Sleeping Beauty - The Royal Ballet 2008

Whilst the legendary classical ballet creation The Nutcracker is usually in abundance during the holiday season all over the world, it seems there may be another contender for 2012 in the form of The Sleeping Beauty.

English National Ballet has just publicised its casting for the 2012 production. Newly appointed Artistic Director Tamara Rojo has not laid her pointe shoes and tutu aside just yet, as she will be filling the shoes of Princess Aurora on selected dates, partnered by the young, talented Principal Vadim Muntagirov. As one of the world’s favourite fairytales, the ENB version of the plot sees the enchanting magic of castles and curses, with fairy interludes. Accompanying this well-loved tale, Tchaikovsky’s score is featured heavily amongst Kenneth MacMillan’s unmistakeable choreography, as well as including the score of Once Upon a Dream as used in the trademark Sleeping Beauty version by Walt Disney.

On the alternative side of the coin, Matthew Bourne will be re-imagining the classic story with the world premiere of his own version of Sleeping Beauty, in the culmination of New Adventures’ 25th birthday. This particular production of Bourne’s will complete his tiara trio of ballet masterworks that began with Nutcracker! and progressed to the international smash hit Swan Lake. As with all Bourne’s works, the timeless fairytale from 1890 is turned on its gothic head and jumps forwards a century to the present day. The now supernatural love story pushes beyond the constraints of time in true Bourne style.

Spreading the influence of The Sleeping Beauty this year includes a host of Sleeping Beauty events from ENB, enabling ballet fans to experience the world of ballet through talks, masterclasses and dance workshops in theatres on tour and in London, allowing even the smallest Lilac Fairies to don their tights and satin shoes. For Bourne’s production, to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, Sadler’s Wells has hosted talks throughout the year focusing on aspects of Bourne’s work and his long association with the theatre, with Sleeping Beauty being the final instalment. In this particular talk, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director Alistair Spalding will talk to Bourne about the premiere, as well as his plans and hopes for the next 25 years of New Adventures.

Whichever version you choose, The Sleeping Beauty is not to be missed!

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Chorus Line Revived

"A Chorus Line" Original Broadway Windowcard

With shouts of “…and 5, 6, 7, 8” resonating all over the country, the legendary Broadway production A Chorus Line is returning to the UK. Dust off your leotards as Michael Bennett’s Tony Award-winning production will be revived for the first time in 35 years, in London next year, opening at the West End’s London Palladium on 19 February 2013.

Full of high-cut leotards and tan character shoes, A Chorus Line is to be directed by Bob Avian, who also directed the 2006 Tony-nominated Broadway production, with this production being dedicated to Marvin Hamlisch, the composer who wrote the music, who died in August this year. Avian was Bennett’s long-term collaborator and his co-choreographer on the original production, and again for the long-rumoured revival. A Chorus Line won nine Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it opened on Broadway in 1975 and went on to become the then longest-running musical on Broadway, reaching 6,137 performances. It transferred to the West End the following year, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.  In 1985, it was made into a Hollywood film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Michael Douglas as the demanding director putting his dancers – including one ex-lover – through their paces.

The story focuses on 17 hopefuls auditioning for just eight places in a new Broadway musical with its famous score including number such as “I Hope I Get It”, “Sing!” and, most memorably, “One (Singular Sensation)”. The auditionees describe the events which have shaped their lives and their decisions to be dancers. Based on true stories, A Chorus Line revolutionised Broadway.

The London revival is booking until 13 July 2013, with open auditions being held on 1 October 2012 for male and female performers aged 18 to 35… so grab your legwarmers and take to the stage!

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Scottish Ballet’s Plans Under Christopher Hampson

Scottish Ballet

Under its new Artistic Director, Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet has recently unveiled its plans and aspirations for the foreseeable future.

Scottish Ballet is the national dance company of Scotland, albeit the smallest of the national ballet companies in the UK, but this does not mean that Scottish Ballet are treading lightly on the rest of the ballet shoes of the dance community. The Company is looking forward to enriching, enthusing and engaging with communities, participants and audiences, tutus and all. In partnership with the Royal Academy of Dance and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, it was announced Scottish Ballet will present the Genée International Ballet Competition in Glasgow in 2013 from 20- 29 September.

Commissioning new work is just one of the other ways that Scottish Ballet is extending its reach with many female choreographers such as ex-dancer with Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt Helen Pickett, Associate Choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater Crystal Pite and Royal Ballet Soloist Kristen McNally, in addition to Scottish Ballet being among the first to commission a brand-new work from 22-year-old London Contemporary Dance School graduate James Cousins who has just presented his first work at Sadler’s Wells. Cousins won the New Adventures Choreographer Award, set up by director and choreographer Matthew Bourne OBE and coincidently co-judged by Hampson. The Company will be working with a wide range of choreographers that will allow the Company to broaden the existing repertoire and produce new work in original ways for the usually leotard and tights clad dancers. The Company is also in talks with major international promoters and arts festivals in order to explore innovative ways to present their work.

For the first time, Scottish Ballet will present the work of five-time Olivier Award-winning Bourne which will grant the Company an exclusive license to Bourne’s Highland Fling, inspired by La Sylphide. Scottish Ballet will tour Highland Fling across Scotland in spring 2013, spreading both Bourne’s and the Company’s influence.

Hampson’s creative leadership will not only see him choreograph, but also embrace the imagination of the people of Scotland and beyond. Beginning in autumn 2012, Scottish Ballet will launch Hansel & Gretel, and Me, a new project that connects creation to education and merges artistic expression with real life, giving communities the chance to participate in ballet in the broadest possible sense.

Image courtesy of the www.theedinburghblog.co.uk on Flickr.