Kevin O’Hare next in the RAD Guest Speaker Series

Royal Academy of Dance Logo

Following the success of the first Guest Speaker event with Christopher Hampson in April 2012, the Royal Academy of Dance’s Faculty of Education is due to welcome Kevin O’Hare, brand new Director of The Royal Ballet. O’Hare will be the first “event” of the RAD’s 2012-2013 Guest Speaker Series, open to RAD students, members and non-members alike.

O’Hare was first trained at The Royal Ballet School, donning his practice shoes and ballet tights before stepping into Mason’s Director-ship shoes of The Royal Ballet many years later, following her retirement in July 2012. After his stint at The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare went on to train through an exchange programme with the Royal Danish Ballet. He then joined the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as it was then known, and was promoted to Principal in 1990: it has since become Birmingham Royal Ballet, in 1990.

During O’Hare’s performing career, his repertory included leading classical roles and works by esteemed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Hans Van Manen, Sir Anthony Tudor and Twyla Tharp, in addition to numerous international guest appearances. He also created many performing roles, working with Sir Frederick Ashton, Ninette De Valois, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, David Bintley and Peter Wright, amongst others.

O’Hare lay his leotards and leggings to rest in 2000 when he retired from dancing in order to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, training in company management. He returned to BRB as Company Manager in 2001, joining The Royal Ballet as Company Manager in 2004. In 2009, O’Hare became Administrative Director, with 2012 marking his progression to Direction of the company. In addition to being a governor of The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare has never stepped out of the performing arts sector, and it has certainly paid off.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Dancers’ Career Development

Dancers' Career Development (DCD) LogoThe Dancers’ Career Development, founded in 1974, is a scheme which has been supporting professional dance for 38 years, helping them to make the transition from professional dancing to a new career by giving them the skills to continue working beyond dance as they hang up their ballet shoes. Initially The Dancers’ Resettlement Fund, it aimed to provide support to the dancers from the five Arts Council funded dance companies.

The organisation expanded its work in the 1980s to offer career support to all professional dancers in the UK. Today, the Company Fund provides for dancers who have completed a minimum of five years as a professional dancer with one or more of its nine contributing companies: Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Rambert Dance Company, Richard Alston Dance Company, Scottish Ballet, Siobhan Davies Dance Company and The Royal Ballet. The Independent Trust, however, supports all professional dancers who have performed for a minimum of five years in the UK. Both the Fund and the Trust operate under the DCD.

The DCD offers a range of specialist practical, psychological and financial retraining and career support services, tailored to each individua’s needs, allowing dancers to select the support needed for a successful transition and fulfilling career path. In addition to this support system, the DCD runs a comprehensive outreach and workshop programme in dance schools, companies and commercial productions in order to encourage dancers to expect transition periods within and from their performing careers, be they full of leotards, character shoes, tap shoes or tiaras. With the economic climate dictating funding and job frequency, this is becoming increasingly important, not only to help dancers to retrain in hundreds of different careers post-performing but to maintain an arts-focused arts industry. A 2011 survey showed that 89% of retrained dancers are still working in the profession they retrained in.

The new Dance UK Dancers’ Mentoring programme, funded by Dance UK and in partnership with the DCD is open to mid career dancers who have been identified by their peers as future leaders. Of the 16 dancers who took part when the programme was run five years ago, eight have gone onto leadership positions in companies such as Phoenix Dance Theatre, The Royal Ballet, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Candoco Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance Company. This specifically indicates that not only is the dance sector full of fantastic performing talent, but also the talent to adjust and contribute in an equally as rewarding capacity.

Image courtesy of the DCD.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

James Cousins

James CousinsJames Cousins (who may be argued as one of the most exciting new choreographers of 2012), is dusting off his practice shoes and preparing to present a programme of new work at Sadler’s Wells, the renowned ‘dance house’ of the UK.

Cousins attended London Contemporary Dance School, graduating in 2010 from three years worth of dance tights and foot thongs, and went on to win the New Adventures Choreographer Award which has set him in excellent stead for a future career in choreography. The award was set up in 2010 to mark Matthew Bourne’s 50th birthday, to be run bi-annually in order to provide young choreographers the chance to develop and hone their choreographic skills under the mentoring of Bourne himself. Whilst training at LCDS, Cousins was awarded the prestigious Robert Cohan Award for the most promising dance artist, as well as co-ordinating the third year touring company LC3, leg warmers and all. His three years also included performing in three different works at venues across London, including Laban and Rich Mix, in addition to Verona, Italy. Cousins was also involved in external projects directed by dance artists and professionals such as Katie Green, Donald Hutera and Darren Johnstone.

Cousins is currently performing too, dancing for Marc Brew Company alongside rehearsing for his own show, whilst Cousins’ choreography has been performed across London and abroad. Cousins’ own double bill at Sadler’s Wells is a result of inspiring teachers and fantastic training at LCDS, enabling Cousins to, for example, perform in Bourne’s Swan Lake on Broadway upon leaving college, as well as appearing in the 3D film version of the iconic show. As a choreographer, a possible highlight of Cousins’ career could be having his work performed at Buckingham Palace for the Duke of York’s 50th birthday… bar Sadler’s Wells!

Image courtesy of the James Cousins Dance.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

Candoco Dance Company and the Festival of the World

Candoco Dance Company LogoCandoco Dance Company was founded in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin, developed from workshops which grew into the first company of its kind in the UK – a professional dance company focused on the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers. The company gained much acclaim from the press, general public and the worlds of dance and education, and between 1991 and 2005 the company toured to over 50 countries within Europe, Australia, North and South America, Asia and Africa.

Artistic Director Dandeker OBE retired in 2007, having commissioned 30 new performance works for the company from internationally renowned choreographers including Emilyn Claid, Javier de Frutos, Siobhan Davies, and Darshan Singh-Bhuller, catapulting the company into the mainstream dance world from the very beginning. A far cry from tutus and pointe shoes or run-of-the-mill leotards and leggings, Candoco has set itself apart from other contemporary dance companies in showcasing talent, skill and physical and emotional strength.

Next up for the company is an evening of bold new dance featuring 12 dancers from China, the UK and Brazil as part of the Southbank Centre’s Festival of the World. The evening contains new works by choreographers Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham. The summer long Festival of the World is made up of smaller festivals and weekends, with Candoco belonging to Unlimited. Together the separate ‘events’ create a story demonstrating how art is changing in different and exciting ways. Unlimited is running for 10 days, encompassing and celebrating comedy, dance, performance and art by deaf and disabled artists. This individual festival celebrates the arts on a huge scale, encouraging artists to push beyond by creating work which poses questions and inspires new collaborations.

With the Paralympic Games just around the corner, the arts, culture and sport are able to be mixed into a delightful combination, opening doors and creating new directions for the future.

Image courtesy of Candoco Dance Company.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

New Musicals to Hit London’s West End

London Shows

2012 is set to see two exciting new musicals hit London’s West End Theatreland: The Bodyguard and Viva Forever!The Bodyguard is adapted from the Oscar-winning 1992 film which saw Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner star, whilst Viva Forever is an original story based on the music of the hit British girl band the Spice Girls, opening at the Adelphi and Piccadilly Theatres respectively.

Broadway actress Heather Headley will be making her West End debut complete with New Yorkers and sparkling dresses when she begins her role in The Bodyguard, with the book by Alex Dinelaris and directed by Thea Sharrock. She plays world-famous singer Rachel Marron opposite Lloyd Owen as ex-Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard Frank Farmer who is hired to protect her when threats are made against her life, with love unexpectedly blossoming. Headley is a Tony and Grammy Award winning actress who first became known when she originated the role of Nala in the Broadway production of The Lion King. She then went on to originate the title role in Aida, for which she won the Tony Award for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ (2000), and also took part in the concert production of musical Dreamgirls donning similar high-heeled shoes and big hair.

British television actress Hannah John-Karmen will also make her West End debut in the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever!, based on a book by Jennifer Saunders and directed by Paul Carrington. John-Karmen plays Viva, a young girl who lives on a houseboat with her mother – to be played by Sally-Ann Triplett – and forms a girl band with her friends, entering an X Factor-style TV talent show. John-Karmen took part in the developmental, leg-warmer clad workshops of the musical alongside Triplett and was offered the lead role after impressing the creative team. The 22-year-old actress, a huge Spice Girls fan, trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and is most known for her TV work, most prominently as burlesque dancer Rosa Maria Ramirez in The Hour and Jo ‘the ice-cream girl’ Portman in Misfits, but has also appeared in The Syndicate, Whitechapel and Black Mirror, among others.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

The Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Paralympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony

On 29 August, the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, themed ‘Enlightenment’, took the audience on a journey of discovery through the realm of ideas, science and creativity. The spirit of the Paralympics, parallel to that of the Olympic Opening Ceremony in August was a spectacular celebration presented by Co-Artistic Directors Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey to challenge perceptions of human possibility.

The Ceremony was narrated by Professor Stephen Hawking, featuring deaf and disabled performers as well as more than 3,000 adult volunteers, a children volunteer cast of over 100, and over 100 professionals. Hawking urged the spectators to create a brave new and better world, challenging perceptions and stereotypes that limit the potential of the human body, mind and spirit. In the awe-inspiring spectacle, deaf and disabled artists performed on a world stage and included a fly past by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. Performers were suspended above the stadium, speckled with coloured umbrellas, prosthetic legs and Doc Martins, and an aerial ballet danced disability through the sky with the shine of silver costumes glistening in the night. 50 specialist performers took part in an eight week circus skills training programme taking place at Circus Space in Hackney. The programme was funded by Arts Council England and saw performers with disability, including established artists and people new to the arts such as rehabilitating soldiers and non competing Paralympians, learn circus arts skills.

One of the Executive producers overseeing the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is Stephen Daldry CBE, Executive Producer, Creative (Chairman). Daldry began his career at the Sheffield Crucible where he directed various award winning productions, and he has won innumerable awards on Broadway as well as the West End. Daldry made his feature film directorial debut with Billy Elliot, receiving an Academy Award and explaining the huge performance quality of the Opening Ceremony. His stage musical adaptation of Billy Elliot, full of ballet shoes, tights and practice shorts and with music by Elton John, opened in London in 2005. The production opened on Broadway in 2007, winning 10 Tony Awards and is the most honoured British production in the history of the American theatre.

11.2 million viewers saw Channel 4’s broadcast of the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony in the UK, giving the broadcaster its biggest audience for more than 10 years; the world was watching thousands of disabled people in a show that said disability was both something to be proud of and a state that made us no different than anyone else.

Image courtesy of the Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Raising Funds For Your Dance Education

Dance Education Funds

With many young, hopeful dance students about to start auditioning for vocational performing arts colleges again, the question on most lips is, “how am I going to pay for this?”. Loan companies that students can apply to when they have secured a place at university are unlikely to offer loans to students attending vocational colleges unless the college offers a degree programme. Some unlucky, yet extremely talented students must turn down places at prestigious training institutions simply because they do not have the adequate funds to survive the course, sometimes because they do not get funding, such as through a Dance And Drama Award (DaDa), and are unable to afford the fees without it.

However, there are many methods of independent fundraising in order to get your legwarmers, jazz shoes and best leotards off to performing arts college. Fundraising can be extremely difficult, but hard work and determination prevails. If going to performing arts college means taking on three jobs throughout the summer and continuing to work throughout your studies then so be it – your passion and dreams to achieve success will carry you through.

Northern Ballet recently ran a successful Sponsor a Dancer campaign following the cuts to funding, and was the subject of a documentary called Arts Troubleshooter on BBC Two when CEO Mark Skipper acknowledged that fundraising can sometimes feel like begging in ballet shoes – other approaches are sometimes required. At The Royal Ballet School, they have a stated policy of never turning away a talented student because of finance. 96% of students there receive some form of financial assistance, enabling their tutus to twirl.

A few ideas of how to raise funds include contacting your local council, as some usually set aside money to be used for performing arts; trying to attract local press to your challenge to secure coverage and the hope of any sponsors; organising fundraising events such as performance and quiz nights with raffles; and working as hard as you can to raise as much for the funds as possible. Sometimes your determination to succeed is recognised by the particular institution you will be attending, and some offer scholarships to reward this hard work, sometimes for a term, a year, or even the rest of your time there.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

 

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain © MGM

23rd August marked the 100th anniversary of legendary dancer Gene Kelly’s birth date, in addition to him also being a legendary actor, singer, director and choreographer! One of Kelly’s most memorable dance films is Singin’ In The Rain in which he dons his tap shoes as actor Don Lockwood, splashing through the puddles and sunshine of Hollywood glamour and love. Throughout the film Kelly is athletic, acrobatic and an incredible performer, just as he was in other productions, performing perhaps one of the most famous film dancers of all time.

It may or may not be a well known fact that in Kelly’s rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain”, he was sporting a fever of 103 degrees when the number was shot. In that year, 1952, the Motion Picture Academy gave him an honorary award — his only Oscar — for “versatility”, providing some recognition of his fantastic work in the performing arts industry, despite not flaunting his athletic dancer’s body in a leotard and men’s tights!

Kelly also starred in other ‘dancing films’ such as An American in Paris, dancing “I Got Rhythm”, with the film winning won six Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1951. In addition to dancing, singing and acting in An American, Kelly also choreographed, mixing elements of ballet, tap, soft shoe and shuffle, all performed with vigour.

Five years after his acclaimed performance in the rain, Kelly’s final MGM musical, 1957’s Les Girls, saw him dance with Mitzi Gaynor and again demonstrate incredible dance talent and fitness: skidding across a table on his bottom, scooting across the floor on one knee, leaping to the top of the bar on one foot, sliding down the bar on his right side and grounding himself for the remainder of their duet. Kelly’s masculinity and on and off-screen power was dominating and talent-filled, despite the fact dancing was very foreign to American popular culture at the time. Kelly proved that male dancers did not have to be effeminate, championing dance for the talent and skill involved rather than a particular gender, making his dancing look completely effortless yet powerful.

Image courtesy of the MGM.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

Preparing For Your Dance Audition

Dance Audition Tips

It is that time of year again, when applications to vocational dance and drama schools are starting to be filled in, tap shoes are dusted off and legwarmers are at the ready. Audition songs, monologues and solos must be prepared, forming the beginnings of nerve-wracking experiences for young, hopeful performers.

Dance auditions can be particularly intimidating, even for the most talented of dancers capable of performing triple pirouettes in their pointe shoes. Many argue that the anxiety that comes hand in hand with auditions can be very beneficial to the auditionee, increasing the adrenaline pumping round the body and firing the dancer’s performance into a new realm.

It is extremely important to prepare what you will be presenting to the audition panel down to the last detail in order to perform as well as you can. Make sure that you have fuelled your body with food that will sustain you throughout the day, in addition to making sure you stay hydrated. Depending on the type of dance audition, it is often a good idea to wear a striking outfit, such as a bright coloured leotard in order to stand out from the other candidates at the audition. You need to demonstrate to the panel why they should select you as one of their students, and the extra special quality you have that other candidates don’t have.

Arriving early to the audition is another way in which to prepare properly, and will help to settle pre-audition nerves, as well as giving you enough time to warm up mentally and physically before the day begins, going over any last minute details. Some argue that this may add to your nerves, but being late to the audition may make them even worse! Enjoying yourself is a key part of the audition, so whether your dance, speech or song is passionate, sorrowful or energetic, make sure you express yourself to the best of your ability.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

The opinions expressed in the above article or review are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

The Olympic Spirit

Darcey Bussell Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremony

As the one of the most anticipated parts of the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, dance and ballet in particular proved themselves as a continually powerful and strong art form. Darcey Bussell and her corps de ballet of a 200-strong ensemble formed the final section of the Ceremony, drawing huge support and countering many political arguments that tutus and pointe shoes should not be as important as they are perceived, and proved, to be.

The ensemble of flame-haired Mohicans included dancers from The Royal Ballet and their counterparts from other British dance companies, such as English National Ballet and non-professional dancers who took part through auditioning. The red and orange leotard clad piece, Phoenix of the Flame, was choreographed by Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon for the climax of the three-hour spectacular, forming the crux of the British and Olympic spirit.

Bussell came out of her retirement in order to feature in the extra special production as a former Royal Ballet Principal. She descended onto the centre of the stage on a flaming phoenix where she joined Royal Ballet principals Gary Avis, Edward Watson, Nehemiah Kish and Jonathan Cope for a performance inspired by the Olympic flame and spirit to encompass the incredible atmosphere and talent of the Games.

Despite retiring in 2007, Bussell has continued to be active in the art of classical ballet, tights and all. Earlier this year she was announced as a judge for the next season of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, and as the fourth President of the 92-year old Royal Academy of Dance.

Image courtesy of the Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.