Hollywood Costume

Victoria and Albert Museum Hollywood Costume Exhibition

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s major autumn 2012 exhibition, Hollywood Costume, is set to be a fabulous and incredibly insightful event. The landmark show will open after five years of sourcing and identifying items to be part of the treasure trove of exhibits.

During the Golden Age of Hollywood (from the 1930s to 1950s), costumes would be removed to vast costume storage once the filming was complete and were subsequently rented, remade and re-styled for new productions, rather than maintain their significance for the original production they were intended for. When the Hollywood studio system declined in the 1960s and 1970s, costume archives were sold making the curator’s job for the V&A exhibition even more challenging. However, some iconic costumes have been tracked down for showcasing with even some private collectors loaning their treasures to the exhibition for the general public to see up close.

The earliest costume in the exhibition is from the first MGM sound film, The Broadway Melody, which was released in 1929, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and the film was followed by many successful sequels. The costume displayed was worn by Bessie Love as one of the Mahoney sisters as a vaudeville act, complete with character shoes and shiny show tights. The film A Broadway Melody was a huge catalyst for change in the film industry in the transition between silent films and sound. Another iconic costume on display is the gingham pinafore dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, having been held in a secure bank vault in London’s Fleet Street. One of the pairs of Dorothy’s sparkling ruby slippers are in demand for the exhibition, having taken on mythic status since 1970 when MGM sold a pair for $15,000, and it is unclear how many shoes remain in existence.

Other costumes which will be creating the sum of the V&A exhibition include those from Vertigo (1958), The Birds (1963), the mink and sequined dress designed for toe-tapping Ginger Rogers in Lady in the Dark (1944), Hello Dolly! (1969), Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Moulin Rouge! (2001), along with the musical Chicago complete with stylised black costumes, such as Renée Zellweger’s floor-length gown for her performance of Nowadays.

For more information about this exhibition, visit the V&A website.

Image courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Quicksilver – Rambert’s Youth Dance Company

Following in the footsteps of Rambert Dance Company’s recent stint at the Sadler’s Wells is Quicksilver: Rambert’s youth dance company, complete with their leotards, tights and fresh inspiration. Quicksilver is a group of talented young dancers aged 15-24 who focus on new contemporary works as well as learning Rambert repertoire, led by Rambert Animateur Laura Harvey. Previous performances by the Quicksilver company have included the opening of the Eurostar from St Pancras International Station, various dance platforms at the Lilian Baylis Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, as well as performances for Richdance festival and Big Dance.

As part of Big Dance 2012, Quicksilver worked in association with Age UK towards a performance at The Watermans Theatre in Brentford in a new collaborative piece choreographed by, simultaneously, Artistic Director Laura Harvey. Over the summer of 2012, Quicksilver has been performing their new piece Trapeze, most recently shown at the final sharing for Move-In at The Clore Ballroom at the Southbank Centre. In addition to this, Quicksilver has also taken part in the flashmob Shh… It’s a Secret at the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush involving over 200 dancers aged between nine years and 90. This appearance was also led by Laura Harvey, bringing the shopping centre to a standstill for the seven minute piece which showcased a range of dance styles.

Another flashmob which took place recently featuring the Quicksilver dancers was at St Pancras Station to champion the work of the London 2012 Olympic Games volunteers and the legacy created from their work throughout the Olympic and Paralympic events. The flashmob included both the Quicksilver dancers and the volunteers, joined together in an uplifting and inspiring piece for both the press and the early morning commuters at 8am.

Strictly Secrets

Strictly Come Dancing

In the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing series 6 in 2008, Camilla Dallerup and partner Tom Chambers were crowned the winners, with Dallerup going on to reveal some Strictly secrets.

The shoes worn by the contestants, including those who have just begun their 2012 stint on the show have been developed over many years by top shoe manufacturers with the input of world class dancers, designed to give them support in the right places and so they can be balanced correctly. The shoes are one of the core elements of making any dance successful – a tap dance performed in pointe shoes, let alone a tutu, would not have quite the same meaning or effect! Latin dancers, as a result, wear specific shoes which enhance their movements and become an extension of their foot.

It is interesting to note that ballroom dancers wear a lower height heel than latin dancers, as latin dancers need their weight further forward onto the balls of their feet… this is just the females alone, with around 3.5 inch heels. The men’s shoes also have Cuban heels which are higher than those worn for ballroom to ensure that their weight is forward toward the front of their foot too. However, ballroom dancing does not require this due to the specific hold the dancers must maintain and the closeness with their partner, with just 2.5 inch heels.

The soles of the shoes worn are made of suede so they have long lives: dancers can also be seen brushing them with a special steel brush to make them non-slippery, or alternatively leave them to their own devices to get shiny and much more slippery. It was revealed, however, that many latin dancers also put castor oil on the soles of their shoes to achieve the ideal non-slip shoes.

National Resource Centre for Dance at the University of Surrey

National Resource Centre for Dance (University of Surrey)The University of Surrey, renowned for its higher education dance programme, has presented its schedule of its next National Resource Centre for Dance courses for Continuing Professional Development for dance teachers, be they of the ballet shoe, tap shoe, or jazz pant discipline.

The first of the sessions was A2 Dance: Focus on West Side Story and Jerome Robbins, held on 13 October. The course examined Robbins as a practitioner and the context of West Side Story in relation to the development of Musical Theatre as a dance genre, tutored by Gill Graves. Graves trained at the Roehampton Institute and has been teaching in further and higher education for 17 years across a wide range of Performing Arts and Dance. She is also an examiner and course team leader for A Level Dance and is the Head of Vocational Studies at the Royal Ballet Upper School.

The 14 October saw A2 Dance: Focus on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, course examining the Area of Study Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 1958-current providing historical and cultural context. There was specific focus on identifying key practitioners and their stylistic characteristics through practical and theoretical exploration, including include ideas for preparing for Dance Appreciation and the solo based on a practitioner for the Performance task.  The course was tutored by Gillian Lenton, who has an MA from the University of Surrey and teaches KS3 & 4, AS and A Level Dance and A Level Theatre Studies at Weald of Kent Grammar School for Girls, also GCSE and A Level Dance at the Royal Academy of Dance.

The next in the schedule will take place on 10 November for GCSE Dance: Raising Standards in Choreography and Performance. This workshop will be a mixture of practical and theory, focusing on identifying how to help students understand how to successfully integrate performance and choreography into course planning. Penny Perrett will be leading the course who has led courses for teachers in all phases of education and was part of the team who produced the teaching framework for dance for Youth Dance England. She was also a member of the board of the National Dance Teachers Association for many years.

The next will be A2 Dance: Focus on Zero Degrees (Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui & Akram Khan, 2005) on 24 November.  It will provide a contextual overview, key points and analysis in addition to warming up in an appropriate style and exploration of the repertoire practically and theoretically. The course leader will be Lorna Sanders who has a PhD from the University of Surrey, constructing a theoretical reconceptualisation of the subject of dance in education, looking specifically at GCSE and A Level Dance which she taught, moderated and examined for many years. Sanders is also a dance writer of articles, educational publications and two books, having been assistant editor for the 2nd edition of Routledge’s Fifty Contemporary Choreographers published in 2011.

The last in the series will be A2 Dance: Focus on The Royal Ballet, 1956-1977 examining the Area of Study The Royal Ballet 1956-1977 providing historical and cultural context. There will be a specific focus on identifying key practitioners and their stylistic characteristics through practical and theoretical exploration on 25 November, again presented by Lenton.

A worthy set of useful and insightful information courses to inspire any teacher.

Audition Tips

Dance AuditionThe time of year has begun again, when dance students all over the world are beginning to audition for dance schools, vocational colleges, conservatoires, institutes and universities. Even the most professional performers can feel nervous before important auditions or performances, but there are a few sure-fire ways to make sure that your tutu stops trembling and knees in those show tights stop shaking.

The first thing to ensure you are doing is breathing. This will calm your nerves as you take long and slow breaths, and will mean you are concentrating on something else rather than the task in hand! Make sure that you are standing correctly and have good posture by standing up straight and tall, whilst pulling your stomach muscles in towards your spine. Your weight should be distributed evenly over your feet will your toes relaxed and spread on the floor.

Relax your shoulders, as these begin to tense subconsciously when we feel anxious or nervous. Make sure you are pulling your shoulders blades down and are opening up your chest to project yourself, making sure that your ribs are pulled in to your body. You should feel as though you are pulling up all of your muscles and are neat and well-presented. You will appear more confident by having good poise, and able to carry off that brand new leotard to perfection!

Make sure you are fully warmed up by the time the audition starts as this will ensure you will not have any body-related worries to contend with, meaning you can fully focus on the person taking the audition and what they require from you. Make sure your muscles are warm and supple and keep breathing, as this will maintain the oxygen travelling around your body in your blood, and feed it into your brain too. It is easy to be distracted by other dancers in the room, but it is important to concentrate on yourself and show yourself off to your best ability, rather than worrying about making mistakes.

Good luck!

The Hospital Club Top 100

The Hospital Club

It has been revealed that choreographer Wayne McGregor, Former Director of The Royal Ballet, Monica Mason and First Artist of The Royal Ballet Liam Scarlett have been nominated for the Hospital Club Top 100 list, an annual list which celebrates those who have influenced the creative industries over the previous year, be it through pointe shoes, jazz pants, tutus or tap shoes. The list is spread over ten categories from Art & Design and Performance to Fashion and Film.

As The Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Wayne has created a number of pieces for the company, including Carbon Life and Machina from the Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 collaboration with the National Gallery. Over the coming season, Wayne will present Infra and Raven Girl which is a collaboration with The Time Traveller’s Wife author Audrey Niffenegger. This will be in addition to presenting FAR with his own company Wayne McGregor|Random Dance.

Mason retired as the Director of The Royal Ballet at the end of the last season after spending 54 years with the Company as both a dancer and in an administrative capacity, with Kevin O’Hare stepping into her ballet shoes to take over the reins. As well as dancing with The Royal Ballet, Scarlett has choreographed a number of pieces for The Royal Ballet, including Diana & Actaeon from Metamorphosis: Titian 2012, Sweet Violets – which was seen being rehearsed during The Royal Ballet live broadcast on YouTube – and Asphodel Meadows. Within the 2012/13 season, Scarlett will be presenting Viscera, a piece originally choreographed for the Miami City Ballet, in addition to a yet untitled new work.

The final list will be announced at an event at the Hospital Club in early November and is decided by public vote. All voters will be entered into a draw to win a day’s access to the Hospital Club and £150 to spend in any of the club’s bars or lounges. Voters are able to vote online as to who they feel should make the final list.

Image courtesy of The Hospital Club.

Dance Proms 2012

Dance Proms 2012

Dance Proms is back for 2012, ready for a sparkle filled event as a unique and exciting collaborative project that celebrates the wealth of talent among the nation’s young dancers and will culminate in a gala performance at the Royal Albert Hall on 4 November. As a partnership project between the International Dance Teachers Association, Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, Royal Academy of Dance and the RAH working together in celebration of dance, this year’s participants of the 26 acts are set to raise the bar even higher, be it through tutus, tap shoes or coloured leg warmers.

Dance Proms was launched last year to find the UK and Ireland’s most talented dance students – in all dance genres, from ballet to ballroom, salsa to street dance and jive to jazz dance – and offer them a unique opportunity to perform  an original piece of choreography on the stage of one of the world’s most prestigious and iconic venues. The event is supported by many top names from the dance world and the Dance Proms patrons include Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag, Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, Matt Flint, Len Goodman, Wayne Sleep OBE and the RAD’s President Darcey Bussell CBE. The gala performance will feature a diverse variety of acts to celebrate the dedication of the nation’s dance teachers and to showcase their students’ abilities, giving an amazing opportunity to young dancers.

This year’s 450 students will go on to perform alongside guest appearances from Strictly Come Dancing’s Darren Bennett & Lilia Kopylova, and Top Hat‘s Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen. Dance Proms 2012 will be hosted by TV presenter Chris Hollins.

Ethan Stiefel and the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Ethan Stiefel

Ethan Stiefel, who may or may not be better known as a star of the ballet film Center Stage , has formally retired from dancing with American Ballet Theater and has been working tirelessly as Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet for over a year. He has just announced plans for the company’s 2013 season and the premiere of Giselle, his first commissioned production full of supernatural tutus, ballet shoes and ethereal beings, filling ballet, rather than commercial fans with much anticipation.

With his friend, Johan Kobborg, Stiefel is creating a new production of Giselle, starring Stiefel’s fiancée, Gillian Murphy, which premieres in Wellington on November 7 of this year. July 2012 saw Stiefel give his farewell performance in New York as an American Ballet Theatre principal donning show tights and ballet shoes, but is now preoccupied with his new productions.

The RNZB website displays the profiles of 30 dancers, including Murphy, but Stiefel has stated there are now 34 dancers in the company including some from the New Zealand School of Dance. The lucky three company members who will join Murphy in dancing the role of Giselle are Antonia Hewitt, Katherine Grange, and Tonia Looker and the Albrechts will include former Royal Danish Ballet principal, and now freelance guest artist, Andrew Bowman and Qi Huan.

Image courtesy of notmydayjobphotography‘s photostream on Flickr.

The Next Guest Speaker for RAD

Royal Academy of Dance Logo

After the success of the Royal Academy of Dance’s first Guest Speaker event with Christopher Hampson in April 2012, and the recent event in October with Kevin O’Hare, the RAD’s Faculty of Education has announced that Robert Parker, the Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance, will be their next guest speaker on Sunday 18 November at Birmingham Royal Ballet. The RAD will be offering dance fans the chance to hear yet another leading dance figure’s journey and anecdotes by opening Birmingham Royal Ballet’s tutu adorned doors.

As a Principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet company, Parker donned his ballet shoes and tights and performed all of the classical lead roles, as well as performing in works by esteemed choreographers such as Twyla Tharp, Kim Brandstrup and David Bintley. He recently completed the Faculty of Education’s Professional Dancers’ Teaching Diploma at the RAD, adding yet another dance string to his ballet bow. As for the Elmhurst School for Dance, based in Edgbaston, Birmingham, the institution offers ballet training to 11 to 19 year olds, with close links with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Elmhurst is the oldest vocational dance school in the UK and its vision is to provide a world renowned centre of excellence for the training and education of classical ballet dancers for Birmingham Royal Ballet, and many other national and international dance companies.

Parker is set to discuss his training and career in dance with his audience for the Royal Academy of Dance, with the event free of charge to RAD Faculty of Education students, RAD members and RAD staff, but non-members are also welcome to reserve in advance. Attendance will cost £10 (including VAT) for non-members, with places allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

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.