From May 10th until May 12th 2012, Angelin Preljocaj’s darkly adult take on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White will be showing at Sadler’s Wells, showcasing spectacular costumes by fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier and featuring the symphonic musical score by Gustav Mahler. As one of France’s most successful choreographers, Preljocaj is returning with his award-winning 2008 adaptation, performed as a contemporary ballet by the company of 25 dancers, miles away from the tutu-clad stereotype. Preljocaj’s physical choreography and Thierry Leproust’s dramatic sets transports the audience to a fairytale world of magic, drama and romance, remaining with the classic story but lacking the ballet shoes of a strictly classical company, sporting black unitards and extravagant head pieces.
Since the inception of Ballet Preljocaj in 1985, Preljocaj has created 45 choreographic works, ranging from solos to larger constructions. The company performs internationally and at home in France, where it is recognised as one of the country’s leading dance companies. Snow White has previously been a prize winner at the Globes de Cristal 2009, and in 1996 was welcomed at the Cité du Livre in Aix-en-Provence. Preljocaj’s creations have been restaged by numerous other repertory companies, from which he also receives requests to create new pieces, such as for La Scala in Milan and the New York City Ballet. The collaborations between Preljocaj and numerous other artists have also been notable, extending his influence far beyond his own company.
Beyond the repertory performances, Ballet Preljocaj has been multiplying its local actions in Aix-en-Provence and neighbouring communities in order to share its passion for dance with the broader public. Available are lectures on dance interpretation through video, public rehearsals, contemporary-dance classes and workshops, and dance interventions in urban public space in order to offer the chance to view and understand dance from different perspectives, expanding the company’s reach into the dance sector and beyond.
As one of the UK’s most prestigious and highest profile musical theatre song and dance troupes, West End Kids has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2001, and is now famous nationwide. Formed by Musical Director and specialist vocal coach Martin-Gwyn Williams, WEKs is based primarily on the American model of training young Broadway performers.
WEKs is renowned for providing exceptionally talented young and aspiring performers with the opportunity to advance their talents further, encouraging them to tighten their tap shoes and step confidently in front of the microphone. The WEKs – approximately 20 – are in high demand due to their unfaltering successes, handling an incredibly busy schedule of high profile events, performances and studio recordings. Just recently, WEKs performed at the Charles Dickens bicentenary dinner, providing a professional and slick spectacle, kicking up the heels of their character shoes! They have previously spread their influence at the London 2012 Olympic Games, West End Live, Move IT and Children In Need, amongst hundreds of other events.
Last year, the WEKs were seen and heard by over 1 million people, and through online technology such as Facebook and Twitter, they have a large following throughout the world. Be it leotards, show tights and New Yorkers, or jazz pants and jazz trainers, the WEKs work to tailor each performance to each individual client. Additionally, the WEKs have recorded and released numerous studio recordings, with the most recent being a new arrangement of Aint No Mountain High Enough which is available on iTunes. In 2011 the world-class WEKs performed for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth State Banquet after being selected as the UKs brightest star within youth music theatre; 2012 looks as though it is set to be another year of success and performance for the WEKs!
Many may argue that Theatreland is the ultimate place for suspending belief amongst other audience members also preferring the stage to reality. Over the years, stages have been inundated with reality TV stars and celebrities eager to step into the dancing shoes of their predecessors, potentially forcing out home-grown talent whose skill would cause their success rather than vice versa.
Many stars have graced the stages of London’s West End and Broadway. Audiences have seen Whoopi Goldberg’s divine descent, jazz shoes and all, into the comedy musical Sister Act as Mother Superior, which she helped produce. With Sister Act already a blockbusting hit, it is easy to see how the legendary Goldberg aided the production rather than carried it.
Others who have wowed audiences are Sheridan Smith in Legally Blonde, and Tamzin Outhwaite and her feisty fishnet tights in Sweet Charity. In particular, Chicago has seen many celebrities take on the character shoes of lead roles, such as Ashlee Simpson, Jennifer Ellison, along with David Hasselhoff and John Barrowman.
Audiences are almost guaranteed when Hollywood actors are billed, with a huge hype being produced – but can these invasions continue to sweep audiences along?
It is commonplace for audiences to book tickets as a result of the cast, to then be disappointed when certain members are absent. Even if the magic atmosphere of theatre is still created, they may never return.
The same could be said for some of the stars of reality TV and where are they now – it is an automatic presumption that this is because they are simply the favourites of the home viewers, rather than the casting director. It is therefore difficult to comprehend the slog that has gone into an actor’s early life before they are finally pipped to the post by a celebrity or TV show shortcut winner, worthy or otherwise.
One of the most notorious unwritten rules of theatre is never to work with children or animals. Difficult divas at the best of times, the combination of the two would arguably be a theatrical nightmare for both the director and the chaperones. Despite this, children, and young children specifically, can often become the selling point of the production, be it a West End musical, touring production or a large-scale ballet, simply due to their irresistible appeal.
Specifically referring to London’s West End theatre scene, musicals such as Mary Poppins, Matilda and Billy Elliot have all focused directly on telling the stories of children. The ballet shoe donning Billy has had a worldwide appeal for its audiences; the story of the aspiring male ballet prodigy warming the hearts and legwarmers of many. The magical world of Matilda has additionally entranced audiences from its inception, with a similar enchantment of Mary Poppins felt for the London and UK stint of the production.
The combination of dance and the charisma of youth is a pure winner. The interweaving of leotard-based animals and little lion cubs of The Lion King has proved a hit, with an extensive run in London and elsewhere in the UK such as Bristol and Manchester. Similarly, the touring and London-based Nutcrackers‘ children are palmed between the twinkling tutus of the Snowflakes and the feisty tights of the Rat King, charming both the children and the adults of the audience alike.
Naturally, the employment of children in theatre does raise many questions, but undoubtedly the largest is… how well can the show sell? The talent of the performers and illusion of the theatre is a main influence in selling tickets, yet the inclusion of children is undoubtedly a sure-fire way to make audiences skip all the way to their seats.