The Royal Ballet Receives RAD’s Highest Award

Royal Academy of DanceThe Royal Ballet received the Royal Academy of Dance’s highest award during a fundraising gala recently: the QEII Award – presented annually in recognition of outstanding services to the art of ballet by the RAD – was first conferred sixty years ago upon Royal Ballet founder Dame Ninette de Valois, in 1954.

To celebrate this benchmark in ballet history, the award was presented to The Royal Ballet’s Director, Kevin O’Hare, during a glamorous dinner at Claridge’s in Mayfair, London. Also in attendance were past Genée International Ballet Competition medallists, as well as 19 current Principals of The Royal Ballet, Wayne Sleep OBE (RAD Vice President), Dame Monica Mason DBE (former Director of The Royal Ballet and past QEII recipient) and other celebrities and luminaries of the dance world.

The RAD’s initial projection is that the evening raised £65,000 towards the creation of a new bursary scheme to enable more young people to compete in its flagship event, the Genée International Ballet Competition. The Genée has proved to be a launch pad for a professional career in dance. Since the year 2000, 14 Genée medallists have gone on to dance with The Royal Ballet alone – amongst them current Principal Dancers Lauren Cuthbertson and Steven McRae. The auction proceeds will create means bursaries of up to £3,000 for future Genée International Ballet Competition candidates who cannot afford the costs involved in taking part, as well to develop the competition itself further.

The Daily Telegraph’s joint dance critic Mark Monahan, who delivered the QEII Coronation Award citation, described the former winners of the QEII Award as ‘people, as we all know, without whom British ballet would be unrecognisable today’.

Sylvie Guillem To Retire

Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant in PushThe iconic and ethereal dancer Sylvie Guillem has announced that she will retire at the end of 2015. Having begun as a classical ballet dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet and then becoming a principal with the Royal Ballet, the French ballerina turned contemporary dancer will be sorely missed by her audiences. Guillem joined the Paris Opera Ballet in 1981 where she was singled out by director Rudolf Nureyev: she was promoted to the top rank faster than any other dancer with the company.

Guillem chose to make the announcement through the Japan Performing Arts Foundation; her farewell performance will also be taking place in Japan, which will make it difficult for the rest of her international following to witness the scheduled farewell. Recently Guillem has performed solely contemporary works, creating works with esteemed choreographers such as Russell Maliphant, Akram Khan and many others.

Guillem is now 49 years old, however you would not know considering her fantastic technique and lithe body. Following a rather eventful career Guillem is one of the world’s most famous dancers. This is in part due to her fantastic legs and feet, but ultimately due to her impeccable performances and the artistry, expression and quality that comes as a result of her acclaimed performances. She is also an associate artist of Sadler’s Wells.

November this year will see Guillem dance in a revival of Sacred Monsters, a duet with Akram Khan at Sadler’s Wells, giving London audiences the chance to see Guillem in action once again. Despite this, it is fitting that Guillem’s performance will be in Japan as she feels a particular tie to the country: her 2011 show 6,000 miles away was named for the country to support the earthquakes and tsunami victims in the country.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

63% Say Dance Degrees Are “Valuable”

Dance DegreeA recent survey has revealed that 63% of UK residents consider a degree in Dance and the Performing Arts to be equally as valuable as any other theoretical subject, with a further 56% of parents stating they would take pride in their children pursuing a career in The Arts.

As university fees rose dramatically from an average of £3,225 per year to £8,400, with some universities charging the maximum of £9,000 per annum, along with the recent news that the government loses 45p for every £1 loaned to students, the actual value of higher education has been pulled into the general public’s spotlight.

For many, the opinion may be that degrees should be studied in order to secure the best possible career following graduation, which, for some, may lower the opinion of the value of performing arts and dance, along with languages and other studies of the arts.

However, a recent survey conducted by One Poll on the behalf of Dance Direct, has shown that this opinion is not overwhelmingly negative. Along with the result that 63% of the British public believe that a degree in dance is as commercially valuable as any other theoretical degree, it has also shown that more than a quarter of the 1,000 participants polled believe that pursuing a career in the subject is “sensible”.

Hobby Versus Career

While the results might not show that the British public see a degree in dance as a guaranteed investment for a career path, it is vital that the study of a degree of any kind is not seen purely as an investment for employment.
Underemployment is a significant issue for many graduates, as a study conducted in November 2013 found that almost half of graduates were working non-degree related jobs. While the figures may prove to be depressing for many, they should not necessarily be considered a death toll for those looking to study dance at a high educational level, as the proof shows that the value of the vast majority of degrees has been brought into focus.
In a response to the survey, Paul Franklin, Head of Marketing at Dance Direct, stated: “For the dance industry to continue, we need budding performers not to lose sight of the extremely rewarding career path that dance can bring”.

“Rising university fees are unfortunately a barrier many young people are facing at the moment, and it’s understandable for parents to think that a job in a more theoretical discipline would stand their child in better stead for the future.”

He added: “However, this is not the route many young people want to go down. If their talent lie in dance, they should be actively supported in following the career path that they want to follow.”

Passion in the Arts

A career in dance must be realistically viewed as difficult, with strict competition between those hoping to work in the industry. However, as studies show, there is competition in every role, no matter what the industry is.
Ultimately, passion should be considered as the main indicator of the value of a degree in the performing arts. As a recent study published in The Telegraph shows, 19 out of 20 graduates have changed their career before turning 24, with “creative skills” cited as one of the most valuable assets a potential employee can have.

The noted value of creativity and passion for any role is universally acclaimed, as those students who have perhaps conducted a career which they do not ultimately care for, do not have the motivation to continue in the career.

As an industry, performing arts has always been considered somewhat cut-throat, but through the commitment shown by studying a degree, along with talent and passion, will undoubtedly give young dancers the boost that they deserve into a career.

Dance Direct’s New Look!

Dance Direct's New LookFor over a decade, Dance Direct has striven to provide the best value in dancewear, so dancers can focus more on their training and less on their kit. Although a lot has changed during this time, our ultimate goal of making affordable, high quality dancewear widely available remains at the heart of the Dance Direct brand.

Like you, we are passionate about dance, and we are also inspired by customers such as yourselves everyday. Your feedback drives much of what happens within Dance Direct HQ and has been integral to the launch of our new branding.

With a fresh new look and a new, easy-to-use website soon to be launched, we hope that our continuous desire to remain your No.1 dancewear supplier is clear to see. Our collection continues to offer both amateur and professional dancers great quality and affordable dancewear, perfectly designed for both basic and performance needs.

We look forward to sharing your dance stories, photos and more via the Dance Direct community and hope to hear from you soon!

Project Plié’s First Yyear

ABT Project Plie LogoAs American Ballet Theatre celebrates its 75th anniversary, it will also celebrate the first birthday of Project Plié, its national initiative focusing on increasing racial and ethnic representation in ballet. Even in the US ballet is still incredibly streamlined, with nearly every major ballet company being made up mostly of Caucasian dancers.

Project Plié seeks to combat this issue of deficient racial diversity through dance scholarships for non-white dancers, complimentary training for teachers who work with ethnically diverse populations, partner companies around the country who reach specific populations, free classes for children through Boys & Girls Clubs of America (how ballerina Misty Copeland began) and masterclasses that introduce youth to ABT in each of New York City’s five boroughs.

The initiative aims to assist ballet students from diverse backgrounds reach their full potential by providing them with the support and active engagement of teachers, mentors and current professional dancers. ABT believes that diversifying the art form at its training level will strengthen and broaden the pipeline of future artists and help ensure ballet’s continued relevance in the 21st century. So far the project has been well received with many embracing the mission of the programme and reaching out to get involved.

Since the project began, there has already been a rise in the number of dancers who have auditioned for ABT’s summer and full programmes. In addition, ABT has been able to award 40 merit-based scholarships for talented students. Project Plié was also able to provide six teachers National Training Curriculum scholarships, giving them the means to travel to New York, train with ABT and learn to creatively and collaboratively address barriers to young dancers’ participation in their communities.

Overall, the long-term goals of the many outreach initiatives of Project Plié are to see America’s ballet companies diversify and reflect the country’s multiculturalism to remain relevant, recognising that the demographics of the country are changing.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track

Birmingham Royal BalletBirmingham Royal Ballet has recently celebrated the success of its Dance Track programme, which seeks out and nurtures dance talent from primary schools across the City of Birmingham. It enables primary school pupils to access ballet, opening Birmingham Royal Ballet’s doors to those who would not ordinarily be introduced to the art-form.

Over the 2013/14 academic year Dance Track has reached out to 31 schools across North and South Birmingham and delivered workshops to over 1,700 Year 1 pupils: three Dance Track students are to train full-time at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s associated school Elmhurst School for Dance from September, and one is to train at Young Dancers Academy in London. By participating in schools’ workshops, students’ confidence, communication skills and creativity is greatly enhanced. Dance Track continues to work with students who display a particular talent by preparing them for auditions for ballet schools.

In 2013/14 and over the course of the Dance Track audition process, Birmingham Royal Ballet visited 17 affiliated schools in the south of Birmingham and a further 14 affiliated schools in the north of the city and delivered workshops. From these students, 171 were invited to ‘final’ audition days held at Birmingham Royal Ballet studios. Following the finals, 41 students from the south were selected to start classes at Queensbridge School in Moseley and 30 students from the north started classes at The Lighthouse in Aston.

Some former students now train full time at ballet schools or study dance regularly with associate programmes as a result of previously recognised talent and passion shining through. Not only does Dance Track open participants’ eyes to ballet but also their families, teachers and friends, and the wider community involved. Arts Council England believes that great art should be accessible to everyone and Birmingham Royal Ballet is achieving that with the Dance Track programme.

The London Theatre Report

London Theatre ReportThe recently finalised London Theatre Report, which has been described as the “most comprehensive” study that has ever been published on the size, number and location of theatres in the capital, includes a number of interesting findings. Unlike previous reports, it includes data from non-West End theatres and the fringe too.

Co-commissioned by the Society of London Theatre and the National Theatre, the report shows that in 2012/13, a total of £619 million was spent on theatre tickets by 22 million people in London – up from an estimated £609 million in 2011/12. The report also reveals that at any one time, London’s professional theatres are engaging 3,141 performers, with more than 6,600 people working full-time in offstage or backstage roles. Only 20% of performers are paid national minimum wage in the fringe sector, with around a third being paid nothing at all.

It is hoped the data from within London Theatre Report will be used to conduct meaningful conversations with arts policymakers, so the value of London theatre can be properly reflected, as well as becoming an annual publication. The report maps venues’ size, range and engagement, and considers the activity of all professional theatres across London.

There are 241 professional theatre spaces in London, with more than 110,000 seats. The largest space used for theatre is the Coliseum, with 2,359 seats, while the smallest professional theatre is the Lord Stanley pub in Camden, with 30 seats. Commercial theatre accounts for more than half of all capacity in London, with 56,000 seats in 59 venues. 12 of the largest London venues engage more than 900 performers, equating to almost a third of performers across the capital.

Richard Alston Dance Company’s Autumn 2014 Tour

Richard Alston Dance CompanyThis autumn acclaimed choreographer Richard Alston is reviving his classic piece Overdrive, exhilarating non-stop dance to the pulsating rhythms of Californian minimalist Terry Riley. The ten dancers of Richard Alston Dance Company will perform to Riley’s relentless musical patterning, in intricate movements and sounds.

Overdrive is one of 12 prescribed professional works for GCSE Dance on the AQA syllabus: Richard Alston Dance Company has produced a teacher’s resource pack to accompany this which can be downloaded from the beginning of the school autumn term at Launched in 1994, Richard Alston Dance Company is one of the UK’s leading choreographer-led companies, for which its founder Artistic Director Richard Alston has created over 40 dance-works. Richard Alston is also Artistic Director of The Place, London’s leading centre for contemporary dance, where the company is based. The company focuses on Alston’s new choreography but combines this with the re-creation of past works from Alston’s career.

The company’s upcoming tour opens on 26 September with the world premiere of Martin Lawrance’s brand new commission from the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. This new dance is inspired by the passionately intense Dante Sonata of Franz Liszt, which will be played live by pianist Jason Ridgway. Lawrance is rapidly becoming known for his musically alert and inventive choreography, including last season’s immensely successful Madcap for Richard Alston Dance Company. Alongside Overdrive, the programme is completed by Alston’s most recent work Rejoice in the Lamb.

Another highpoint of the season will be the company’s return to Peak Performances, Montclair State University, New Jersey in that the company has been selected to celebrate Peak Performances’ tenth anniversary. An all-live music evening includes Rejoice in the Lamb, to the music of Benjamin Britten, sung live by Vocal Accord. This is only the third time it has been performed with a live choir. Also performed live will be Hölderlin Fragments, an intimate cycle of Britten songs for voice and piano, and Illuminations, Alston’s 1993 choreography of Britten’s masterpiece.

Xander Parish

Mariinsky LogoXander Parish is the first and only British ballet dancer to have joined the Mariinsky Ballet: he was scouted and consequently taken to Russia in 2009 by Artistic Director Yuri Fateyev, due to his desire to work hard and push beyond his limits. As a former Royal Ballet dancer Xander has now had the opportunity to dance principal roles as a soloist, recently making his principal debut in Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake in London recently in the company’s tour to the UK.

As a British dancer, Xander trained at the Royal Ballet School and then joined the Royal Ballet. After five years he was invited to join the Mariinsky, with Fateyev impressed by his artistic potential. At the Mariinsky Xander now has more chance to perform as a soloist, as Russian ballet rank determines the number of shows danced. His work ethic also places him in good stead, as with many other dancers at the Mariinksy, welcoming invites to learn principal roles to expand their talent and learn new things about performing.

Being part of the Mariinsky Ballet means Xander has lots of opportunities to tour and also perform as a guest with other ballet companies. The level of opportunity at the company in Russia appears fantastic for any young dancer: in 2012, for example, Xander danced 11 principal, 35 soloist and 21 corps de ballet performances which included 9 debuts. Parish has since toured to Germany, the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Italy and the United Arab Emirates with the Mariinsky Ballet, and Fateyev has given Xander many more exciting opportunities as a result of his desire to work hard and achieve.

New Movement Collective

New Movement CollectiveNew Movement Collective, an associate company of Rambert (Britain’s oldest dance company), has recently announced this year’s performances of its 2012 debut work Casting Traces. The company will be joined by a new team of talented performers including Niku Chaudhari (of the Sidi-Larbi Cherkaoui company Eastman), Hannah Kidd (Richard Alston Dance Company) and Eryck Brahmania (Rambert).

Dance, architecture, film and specially commissioned music will meet to create a world of illusion, mystery and shadow play, where nothing is what it seems, with remaining dates in Brighton and Winchester.

Founded in 2009, New Movement Collective is a new generation of choreographers with a long collaborative history. Working as acclaimed dancers and dance-makers, NMC members have a shared history through many of Europe’s leading ballet and contemporary companies including Rambert, Gothenburg Ballet, English National Ballet, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, New Adventures, Scottish Dance Theatre and Company Chameleon.

Creating a nourishing and supportive environment for artistic growth, the collective aims to create refreshing and innovative work of the highest standard. The company aims to develop work that is directly presented in response to different and unusual theatrical settings. As a result, NMC has a strong commitment to collaborative working methods. Blurring the boundaries between dance, architecture, film and music NMC aspires to change and evolve the landscape of contemporary theatre, unlocking performance potential from the hidden parts of cities.

In 2013 the New Movement Collective was nominated for ‘Best Independent Company’ in the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. It’s association with Rambert sets its in good stead for success considering its support and collection of talented performance artists from across the field of dance.