Live musicals for TV

There is no doubt that live musicals have made a strong comeback on television – examples include The Sound of Music, Peter Pan Live, The Wiz, Grease: the list goes on. Most recently showed was Hairspray, which was broadcast live during the festive period in 2016. While some may argue that this musical trend may be short lived, there is a clear audience appetite for this type of broadcast, enabling audiences to experience live theatre from the comfort of their own homes.

Many of the live musicals also include star appearances; Hairspray starred Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein as Tracey’s mother Edna, Jennifer Hudson appeared as a tour de force too and so did Kristin Chenoweth as Velma. This of course increases the broadcast’s appeal; it saw The Sound of Music attract 18.6 million viewers, and The Wiz – with Queen Latifah and Mary J Blige among its stars – reached 11.5 million. Hairspray attracted 8.9 million, and a 2.3 rating in the age 18-49 demographic.

As with live theatre in an auditorium, there is always the danger of something going wrong on live TV, that cannot be anticipated and must be dealt with in the moment. However, many may argue this is what draws them to the theatre, in how ‘in the moment’ the action is and the excitement of something unfolding before their eyes. With live musicals broadcast on television, this goes some way in recreating that feeling of actually being in a theatre, just for many more people.

In a positive note for the programme makers, live broadcasts of musicals are cheap; production values are low and there is a distinct lack of necessary action that is required with filming. By the nature of live broadcast, the added element of musical theatre provides a definite positive event viewing for all involved.

Bard to Bollywood

Bard to Bollywood is a new and exciting mass participation dance programme, which is taking place at a number of high profile sports events throughout the year. This year’s programme marks the 2017 UK-India Year of Culture in order to to celebrate the UK’s cultural ties with India. The work will also commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of legendary playwright William Shakespeare, whose first folio of work will be touring India during 2017.

In celebrating culture in this way – through dance – young people are able to experience the arts in a different way. This is whilst getting thoroughly involved in a new cultural programme which links both India and the UK’s cultural history through the bard William Shakespeare and Bollywood dance. The organisation behind the programme is encouraging education and community groups of all ages across the counties of Essex and Barking & Dagenham to participate in these memorable dance events at high profile sporting venues. The venues include those such as Essex County Cricket Club ground and Colchester United FC ground, as well as the Jim Peters Stadium.

Back in 2016, the organisation’s Dance Rio programme involved around 1,500 dancers, taking part in lots of cultural activities and events. With the Bard to Bollywood programme, the organisation is striving to top last year’s success with its biggest performance yet. As part of this aim, Bard to Bollywood is aiming to involve up to 2,500 dancers of all ages. Whilst there is a multitude of dance experiences, for young dancers specifically in the UK, the Bard to Bollywood is unique in its combining of British history with dance, along with India’s cultural history too.

If the success of the organisation’s Dance Rio programme is anything to go by, the Bard to Bollywood edition will take dance by storm.

Dance in the New Year’s honours list

The UK dance sector was well recognised in Her Majesty The Queen’s New Year’s honours list at the beginning of the year.

The awards included:

Avril Hitman, BEM (for services to people with learning disabilities in Bromley through dance and the arts)

Mary Ross, BEM (for services to country dancing and charity in Nairn and Inverness)

Beverley Glean, MBE (Founding Artistic Director of IRIE! Dance Theatre for services to the promotion of African and Caribbean Dance)

Sunita Golvala, MBE (for services to South Asian Dance in the UK)

Catherine Khan, MBE (Scottish Wheelchair Dance Association for services to people with disabilities)

Elma McCausland, MBE (for services to Scottish Country Dance)

Kenrick Sandy, MBE (for services to dance and the community)

Caroline Miller, OBE (for services to the arts)

Luke Rittner, CBE (Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Dance for services to the arts, particularly dance)

The group have made an extremely strong contribution to dance in all its diverse forms. Most notable is the award of an OBE to Caroline Miller who, as Director of Dance UK (as it was then known), was instrumental in merging the organisation with three sister dance bodies in April 2016 to form the united force for dance now known as One Dance UK. During her ten years at Dance UK, Miller raised the profile of dance in the UK, working tirelessly to gain the support of the government for dance across its many forms.

In culmination of this, there are huge achievements in the awarding of all honours to the personalities above. Such a strong and notable list indicates the importance of dance to UK’s society, and how it is being acknowledged through lists such as these. A wide variety of awards for different people demonstrates the length and breadth of the UK’s dance sector – long may it continue!

Courtney George – never stop learning

Courtney trained at Laine Theatre Arts, and since graduation her theatre credits include Ensemble / On Stage Swing in Grease the Musical (Curve Leicester), Dancer in Thriller Live (UK and European Tour), Ensemble & Understudy/Played Tiger Lily in Peter Pan (Southend Cliffs Pavilion) and Ensemble & Dance Captain in Robin Hood (Plymouth Theatre Royal).

Her TV and film credits include; Giff Gaff ‘Part Of The Movement’ commercial, Dancer in ‘Moving Southwark’, and Isabella in ‘1001 Inventions and The Library of Secrets’.

Courtney has had a role created for her in a new comedy project for TV starring Sarah Hadland, called “Born To Dance”: she looks forward to filming in the future.


Have always wanted to be on stage?

Yes – I’ve grown up around dance as my mum was my dance teacher, and it was such a big part of my family and life! I’ve danced since the age of two and it was always something that I wanted to do with my life.


Where did you train and what was it like?

I trained at Laine Theatre Arts and it was the best three years! That kind of training is always going to be intense and it requires so much hard work, but I loved every aspect! I learnt so much that has carried through into professional auditions and work.


What was your Grease audition like?

The audition for Grease was such a fun process. It began with a dance round, held by the choreographer Nick Winston, which was a routine that had a modern spin on the original 50s style. Then we had a singing round – we sang a song of our choice in the style of the show. For the final round we had to sing material from the show, but the most interesting part was that we had to write and perform our own monologue based on a character from the show. This shaped how our characters in the show were formed.


What were rehearsals like?

Rehearsals for Grease were amazing but lots of hard work. There was a lot required from us, not just in terms of learning the material – the songs and dances – but also characterisation and ‘finding’ who we were in the show. This was really important to the director Nikolai Foster, and he was so clever with helping bring out individual characters. For me the hardest part was actually learning how to baton twirl for the cheerleading scene – lots of bruises and dropped batons involved in this!


What is your favourite part of the show?

It’s hard to say but I do think my favourite part of the show is the Hand Jive – it’s so cleverly put together! There is so much going on and it just shows off everyone’s strengths and individualities, but brings us together at the end. And it’s just so fun to perform!


What is a day in your life like?

We are required in the theatre early for warm up so it differs depending on whether it’s a one or two show day. I usually like to have the mornings to myself and get little jobs done, and then into work for warm ups and onto the show/shows. After the show I can never normally go to bed straight away – I need time to come down! So I usually go home and eat, and then just chill out until I’m ready to sleep!


What’s the best thing about performing?

The fact that you get to do what you love every day! I constantly feel so lucky to be able to do this, and grateful to have a job that I love!


And the worst thing?

It can be really tiring, not just physically but mentally. The hardest thing is probably when your body’s tired and you have aches and pains or injuries, and not being able to show it! I remind myself that each audience, every night, has paid to be here so you have to give them the best you can!


Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Not really – I tend to have little things that come depending on the show or the number… like the baton twirling in Grease. All the girls hold our batons up together before we go on in the hope that we don’t drop them on stage! (But this doesn’t always work!)


What would be your advice to an aspiring performer?

Something that my mum taught me… to grab every single opportunity that you can and give your everything to it! And that never ends – I’ve always been taught to continue learning in anything I do. If you love it then the hard work always outweighs what it brings you!


Amy Everett – performing passion

Amy began dancing aged seven at Garland Theatre School. As a child she performed in various shows and pantomimes such as ‘Alice’ in Alice and Wonderland with Youth on Stage theatre company, and ‘Wendy’ in Peter Pan the Musical with the Palace Theatre summer youth project. Pantomimes included Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty with One from the Heart productions.

At 16 Amy continued to train professionally at Tiffany Theatre College. Throughout her time at TTC she represented the college at many dance events and conventions, such as The World Skills Show, Move It, Can You Dance? and the UEFA Women’s Champion League final opening ceremony.

Since graduating from TTC in 2015 Amy has worked in musical theatre in shows such as CATS the Musical (playing Jemima/Understudy Rumpleteaser) onboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, and Singing In The Rain (Female Ensemble/Broadway Ballet Girl) at the Gordon Craig Theatre.

Amy is currently performing in Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, Belfast as female ensemble/Understudy Cinderella with QDOS pantomimes, finishing mid-January 2017.

Photo: Samantha Wood Photography


Have you always wanted to be on stage?

I started dancing at the age of seven and, almost immediately, I knew that it was what I wanted to do as a profession! I would always watch the ‘big girls’ on stage and wanted to be like them!


Where did you train and what was it like?

I trained professionally at Tiffany Theatre College. I trained there for three years and would recommend it to anybody! The teaching faculty are amazing, and I found the size of the college intake was beneficial in terms of getting one-on-one time with teachers, and I improved quicker. As well as training I made some brilliant friends and lifelong best friends.


What has been your favorite audition since leaving college and why?

I think my favorite audition so far is the audition I had for CATS the musical. The music and choreography is so inspiring. I just remember looking around the room and being so overwhelmed by all the talented performers and creatives! I thought it was amazing.


What is a day in your life like?

A day in my life is never the same, which is one of the perks of this profession in my opinion. At the moment I’m lucky enough to be dancing in a show and performing every day, so my days are pretty exciting. The getting ready, warm up, and two show days are my favourite days! When I’m not performing my days are filled with part-time work, teaching dance and training – I love to take classes at studios in London and I love to go running on the beach back at home!


What is the best thing about performing and dance?

The best thing about dance for me personally is that the work never ends. There’s always more you could do, always something you could be doing better. In terms of performing I think the best thing is the feeling of disappearing for a while: escaping from whatever is going on in the real world for a few hours and just doing what you love!


What is the worst thing?

This is a tricky one… the worst thing about performing and dance for me would be the constant uncertainty of not knowing where your next chance to perform will come from, which you could argue is also what makes it exciting…


Do you have an pre-show rituals?

I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious at all, but I always take a sip of water before I go down to the stage and stretch my splits if required, before every show!


What would be your advice to an aspiring performer?

If I could give any advice to anyone training or working in the performing arts, be it dance, singing or acting, it would be do not hold back! Even when you feel at your most uncomfortable or right at the edge of your comfort zone. Don’t let opinions affect your view of your own personal goals. If you want to achieve something you are everything you need, combined with hard work. I struggled with confidence for a while, and if I could speak to my younger self that is what I would say. Whatever is it that you do, go for it!


What’s next for you?

After the pantomime season I am going to return home and get my training shoes back on for 2017! I’m looking forward to getting back into classes and attending auditions for shows this year.


Under the guidance of Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden, Swing Patrol, the dance school and company, is launching a new cardio fitness workout named SwingTrain. Inspired by vintage vibes and street dances, SwingTrain is an exercise experience accompanied by the music of swing, gospel, rhythm & blues and jazz, far from the electronica that accompanies many cardio exercise classes.

SwingTrain, like Swing Patrol, is developed by Scott Cupit, the award-winning dance teacher and entrepreneur whose pitch secured investment on Dragons’ Den. The SwingTrain total body workouts are inclusive and suitable for all levels of fitness and coordination – no dance or fitness class experience is required. SwingTrain fitness instructors lead participants through a series of fun, follow-along moves inspired by the vintage street dances such as Charleston and lindy hop, working the legs, arms and core, as well as developing coordination and mental agility through memorable routines.

SwingTrain has officially launched with over 50 instructors holding classes in London, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Canterbury, Exeter, Hertfordshire, Manchester and Southend on Sea. An international presence is also being built up, initially with sessions starting in Berlin, Germany and Canberra, Australia. In order to propel SwingTrain even further, it is recruiting and training even more fitness instructors who have a passion for building communities, motivating others and running their own business.

Like the Swing Patrol ethos, SwingTrain sessions are designed to foster friendships as well as fitness through dance. The atmosphere in the workout sessions aims to be supportive and uplift its participants, brining the joy of vintage dance to the masses. SwingTrain is for everyone, no matter their age, fitness levels or abilities. All that is required for a positive fitness experience is the willingness to experience less well-known dance!

Sleepless the Musical – world premiere

Fresh out of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, Danny Mac will be playing the role of Sam in the world premiere of Sleepless the Musical, based on the iconic film Sleepless in Seattle. West End leading lady Carley Stenson will be joining Mac, playing the role of Annie. The production will open at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 1 to 15 April, followed by a week at The Lowry, Salford from 25 to 29 April, finishing at Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin from 2 to 13 May. This is prior to a West End run.

The new musical has a book by Michael Burdett, music by Robert Scott and lyrics by Brendan Cull for a new score. As a new romantic musical comedy, it is based on the original story and screenplay of the movie classic. It tells the heart-warming tale of Sam who moves to Seattle with his eight year-old son, Jonah, following the tragic death of his wife. When Jonah phones a radio show, Sam is forced to talk about his broken heart and sleepless nights live on air, and he suddenly finds himself one of the most sought after single men in America.

Danny Mac is perhaps best known for playing the role of Mark ‘Dodger’ Savage in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. He was given his first professional role as Gavroche in Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Les Misérables, a role he reprised in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre in 1999. After graduating, he went straight into Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. Most recently, he played Warner in Legally Blonde at the Leicester Curve. Carley Stenson played the role of Steph Cunningham in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks for 10 years. West End credits include starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical and Lady of the Lake in Spamalot. Carley also starred as Christine Colgate in the national tour of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The pair are joined by Jennie Dale as Becky and Cory English as Rob. Further casting is yet to be announced.

dotdotdot at Sadler’s Wells Sampled

dotdotdot is a dance company based in the UK that was co-founded by three dancers; Magdalena Mannion, Yinka Esi Graves and Noemí Luz. Despite having collaborated professionally since 2010, these three artists came together in 2014 to create a full length original production under the banner of dotdotdot dance. Between them they have performed in Spain’s most prestigious venues, among them Corral de la Morería, Café de Chinitas, Tablao Arenal and Peña Flamenca la Perla de Cadiz.​

dotdotdot use flamenco as a medium to create innovative dance that challenges conventional perceptions, exploring how traditional flamenco can be expressed in a contemporary context.

In May 2016 dotdotdot curated a Wild Card evening for the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells collaborating with spoken word artist Toni Stuart, interactive sound artist Yuli Levtov and cellist Colin Alexander. They are now transforming the work into a triple bill and will perform one of the works “I Come to my Body as a Question” at Sampled festival at Sadler’s Wells and The Lowry.


Have always wanted to be on stage?

Noemí: Yes, I had dreamed of being a dancer from the age of two and a half!

Magdalena: I realised it was want I wanted when I fell in love with flamenco as a teenager.

Yinka: No, it wasn’t until I started dancing flamenco in my early twenties that I started thinking of the stage.


Where did you train, and what was it like?

Noemí: I trained at Elmhurst Ballet School, Central School of Ballet and then in Seville with Yolanda Heredia. It was extremely challenging but at the same time amazingly rewarding.

Magdalena: I trained for a year at both Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Merce Cunningham, and in Madrid I trained at Amor de Dios and Conservatorio Superior de Danza María de Ávila. Inspiring and never ending.

Yinka: I trained in Madrid at the renowned flamenco school Amor de Dios, and subsequently moved to Seville to continue training. It is an endless and challenging journey!


Describe a day in your lives.

Up by 8am (in theory); we have a hearty breakfast and then hop on the bus to the studio for pilates, warm-up and rehearsals from 10am till 4pm. We have a late lunch (Spanish time) and then go back to the studio in the evening if we’re preparing for a tour. After that we often spend our nights working on the computer on the production side of our projects.


How important is your ranging and diverse training in your work?

All of us come from very different dance backgrounds, and even within flamenco we each have a very different approach and style. We spend a lot of time exploring each dot’s movement qualities and we find this very enriching. We feel that this openness is something that defines our work.


What has been the defining moment of your careers?

Noemí: Performing for the first time at a professional flamenco ‘tablao’ in Seville.

Magdalena: Whenever a student has a eureka moment in class it makes everything worthwhile.

Yinka: Very recently, performing an original piece in collaboration with Asha Thomas at the Mes de Danza in Seville to an audience full of peers and flamenco royalty!


What has been the most challenging?

Noemí: Learning to improvise a flamenco solo with live musicians.

Magdalena: Keeping going no matter what people think.

Yinka: Accepting the way my body moves.


What’s the most rewarding thing about dance?

The sensation of dancing to live music is really exhilarating and requires you to be completely present in the moment. Connecting to your body on a daily basis and using it as a vessel for expression is a very beautiful and endlessly fascinating experience.


What’s the worst thing?

Having to face yourself every day regardless of your mood. (That and a cold studio in the morning.)


Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Each one of us has their own little pre-show ritual. Just before going on we all hold hands and whisper ‘m**rda!’ in Spanish.


Who or what inspired you to form dotdotdot?

We felt really inspired by each other as artists, and the initial idea was to come together and do one gig. We soon discovered that this could go even further and embarked on the creation of our first show No Frills. We also found we had a shared experience as British flamenco dancers and dotdotdot came out of a desire to create from that place.


How will you be part of this year’s Sampled at Sadler’s Wells?

We will be presenting a re-worked version of ‘I come to my Body as a Question’, one of the pieces we created for our Wild Card evening at the Lilian Baylis in May 2016. We can’t wait to work with Toni Stuart again who is the spoken word artist involved in this project.


What is your advice to an aspiring dancer?

Noemi: True success is embracing your own truth.

Magdalena: Breathe and remind yourself why you love it.

Yinka: Trust and believe!


What’s next for you?

We’ll be presenting a triple bill of three short works choreographed by all three dots for the company. We’re also working on a project called ‘Los Nacimientos’ based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and directed by opera singer/composer Tom Randle.

Equity’s dance development

Equity, the union for all things performing arts, has revealed its plans to devise a contract especially for small-scale dance companies in the aim to improve pay and conditions in the independent dance sector. It is working with the Independent Theatre Council on a contract that will be similar to the current Equity/Independent Theatre Council performers contract, but this time it will be tailor-made for dancers.

The new development will be the first dance-specific Equity contract for the independent sector, taking into consideration dancers’ needs and requirements. At present Equity has an opera and dance contract in association with the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, which caters mostly for dance work that is venue-based, rather than considering the activity of small-scale companies too. It also has agreements with dance companies such as Rambert, English National Ballet and the Royal Ballet, yet these are larger and more self-sustainable.

A new dance-specific contract could include clauses relating to the number of hours an individual can dance, physiotherapy, and provisions in case of injury. It could also factor in time for daily classes as well as requirements for things such as room temperature and break frequency – at present there are no formal guidelines which could mean dancers in this area may not be treated in the best possible way. Equity hopes therefore that the new dance-specific clauses would encourage more companies to use an Equity approved contract.

Many independent dance companies choose to draw up their own contracts, due to the fact the current Equity contract is not entirely suitable, yet this means the companies are operating unregulated and unapproved by Equity. Equity aims to provide dancers with reassurance that their contract has been viewed by a third party to ensure it is viable.

Rambert and Dutch National Ballet’s partnership

Late last year, Rambert and Dutch National Ballet launched an international partnership in order to support the artistic development of the organisations, specifically for choreographers and composers. Over the next twelve months the participating artists will have the opportunity to meet and observe rehearsals with choreographers affiliated with the companies, work with company dancers and have a series of one-on-one meetings with the organisations’ artistic teams. The artists may also have the chance to present work, collaborate with other creatives, and attend or hold workshops and masterclasses.

The partnership began with a joint programme of exchange between both companies and the artists supported. It saw Peter Leung, a former dancer with Dutch National Ballet and emerging choreographer, spend five days in residence at Rambert. His visit included sessions with Rambert’s Artistic Director Mark Baldwin and Artistic Associate Peggy Olislaegers, and there was also the opportunity to shadow young choreographers during rehearsals and spend time with a number of company dancers.

Also taking part in the exchange will be another Dutch National Ballet’s 2016-17 Young Associate, choreographer Juanjo Arques; Rambert’s inaugural Leverhulme Choreography Fellow Julie Cunningham; and current Music Fellow Anna Appleby. Artistic development is essential for any dance company, in terms of vibrancy and wellbeing. The lucky participants will work closely with executives from Dutch National Ballet and Rambert too, expanding existing development programmes and encouraging international collaboration between emerging artists.

Both Rambert and Dutch National Ballet are leading modern companies with a strong classical background, with a current focus on heritage alongside the importance of creating new work and reaching out to new audiences. Artistic development of young choreographic talent has been an important aspect of both organisations, and the new scheme provides a step towards a new structural strategy for this.