Pop Goes The Musical

Pop Goes The Musical

The BBC’s Children In Need has just announced its star-studded line-up for this year’s Pop Goes The Musical, in which everyone’s favourite pop stars star in some of the West End’s musicals. Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, X-Factor winner Alexandra Burke, boy band Blue, soulful Macy Gray and newcomers Stooshe will all take part in this unique charity project that challenges the singers to tread the West End boards, don their jazz shoes and New Yorkers and perform at a very special curtain call.

Halliwell is set to take to the legendary Palace Theatre stage in the classic musical Singin’ In The Rain on 25 October, and has already expressed her excitement at being a part of the project. Fellow popsters Blue will take on the shiny shoes and iconic red coats from 1960s set musical Jersey Boys on 11 October, with Duncan James being well equipped to take on the challenge following starring roles in the West End shows Chicago and Legally Blonde the Musical. The long-running Queen’s Theatre Les Misérables will welcome Burke to centre stage on 18 September, with Burke already being a fan of the show, and Thriller Live audiences will be treated with two separate performances on 15 November by Grammy Award-winning artist Macy Gray and chart-toppers Stooshe.

Each celebrity will perform a song from their allocated West End show following that evening’s performance, which will be held in support of the BBC’s famous charity that supports more than 2,000 projects helping disadvantaged young people across the UK.

Pop Goes The Musical was launched last year with Peter Andre, Stacey Solomon, Dionne Bromfield and Melanie C, another Spice Girl, providing their vocal talents and show tights to help the incredible work of the charity.

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

 

Dance Science Clinics

Dance Science Clinics

The first phase of Dance UK’s efforts to open a dance injury research and treatment facility for professional dancers is set to open at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London, five years after it was first announced to be going ahead. Dancers can be referred to the clinic by their GP from anywhere in the UK as part of the National Health Service, offering encouragement that the arts world is finally being viewed as an equal to the rest of the world, and sports in particular.

There are two other specialist centres where dancers can receive treatment and therapy for injuries that many may not be aware of. The first is located at Laban, also in London, through their Dance Science department. They offer a range of treatments and therapies, many of which are about prevention, not just fixing broken dancers. The second is The Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries in Birmingham, which closed temporarily in October 2011 to those dancers who were not part of Birmingham Royal Ballet, but the centre is now open to all again. Dance UK hope now that the London based NHS clinic is something that will be replicated across the UK in order to widen access to either free or low cost injury treatment and prevention for professional dancers.

No matter the dancers’ background, be it wearing tutus and pointe shoes, or leotards and leggings, the new facility is a vital part of the dance sector. Providing dancers with specialised treatment, rather than the generic physiotherapy, for their injuries will mean that performing companies will become stronger as a unit and injury prevention will hopefully be at the forefront of minds within the sector.

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

Nigel Charnock

Nigel Charnock, one of the founders of DV8 together with Lloyd Newson, recently passed away at the age of just 52. Charnock was and is still seen by many of one of the true originals who kept contemporary dance bright and evolving, preventing it from becoming stagnant. His complete dedication to extremes and the pushing of artistic boundaries was what many of his audiences and fans were drawn to, in his rejection of the theatrical, the jazz boot, jazz hands and leg warmers.

To some Charnock may have appeared fearless, and may even have been feared, often creating dance extremely controversially. It has been argued that his on-stage eccentricity may also mirror that of his real-life, blurring the boundaries between entertainment and a personal need for output, be it artistically, emotionally, or both. British contemporary dance twenty and thirty years ago presented many talented performers who engaged with and embraced homosexual identity in theatrical dance, extending the limits of entertainment, and indeed art itself, Charnock singing, dancing and making jokes amongst others such as Newson, Michael Clark and Javier de Frutos.

DV8 was founded in 1986, a combination of physical and dance-theatre. DV8 since presented a number of provocative and emotive pieces, such as establishing its breakthrough with Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, a gruelling and yet graceful all-male work, including a young Russell Maliphant. In addition, the subsequent acclaimed production Strange Fish featured strongly Charnock’s powerful persona on stage and film. Charnock then presented a number of personal pieces which have been likened to stand-up comedy, such as Hell Bent, Original Sin, Resurrection, Human Being, and Frank in small London theatres. In a more commercial enterprise, Charnock was commissioned for the integrated dance company Candoco and became artistic director of the Helsinki Dance Company for three years, indicating that not only will Charnock’s legacy live on, but it will flourish and become even more well-known.

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

 

Some Like It Hip Hop

Some Like It Hip Hop
Image srouce: http://nopsa.hiit.fi/pmg/viewer/images/photo_1519340028_499235d878_t.jpg

ZooNation Dance Company’s Some Like It Hip Hop is returning to the Peacock Theatre in London from 20 – 13 October 2012 following its world premiere last year. Sporting urban dance trainers and tracksuit bottoms, in some cases, the company earned widespread critical praise and standing ovations in 2011. Following in the footsteps of the company’s 2006 smash hit Into the HoodsSome Like It Hip Hop will return ahead of an extensive tour to locations including Salford, Truro, Canterbury, Guildford, Edinburgh, Bradford, Leicester, Nottingham and Wolverhampton.

Kate Prince directed and co-choreographed Into the Hoods, which first premiered at the Peacock Theatre in 2006, later opening at the Novello Theatre in 2008. It became both the first ever hip hop dance show to open in the West End and the longest running dance show in the West End’s history. Prince was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Theatre Choreographer, and the show won the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance.

The Olivier award-nominated production Some Like It Hip Hop unites fantastic dancing with an engrossing storyline, telling a tale of love, mistaken identity, cross-dressing and revolution through ZooNation’s trademark style of hip hop, comedy and physical theatre. ZooNation Dance Company is directed by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Prince, founded by her in 2002 to provide a permanent base for street dancers working in the commercial music industry. Amongst the jazz trainers, leotards and glitter hairspray of some of the commercial industry today, ZooNation has since performed at festivals and events around the world, such as Breakin’ Convention, Sadler’s Wells’ annual international festival of hip hop dance theatre. In 2010, ZooNation became a Resident Company at Sadler’s Wells.

The show’s original cast is returning for the production’s second London run led by Tommy Franzen from the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance.

Darcey Bussell is Back!

Darcey Bussell

Five years ago, Royal Ballet principal ballerina Darcey Bussell, arguably the greatest British dancer since Margot Fonteyn, retired and moved to Australia, putting away her pointe shoes. She has now returned to the UK and has recently been elected, tutu training and all, as the new president of the Royal Academy of Dance, one of the world’s most influential dance training organisations. Bussell is also due to resume her role as a judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in the autumn, digging out her New Yorkers and fishnet tights again.

The RAD, which was founded in 1920 to reinvent dance teaching, has a syllabus that is now taught to 250,000 students in 79 countries. The RAD aims to promote knowledge, understanding and practice of dance internationally, and Bussell follows in the ballet shoe footsteps of another former prima ballerina, Dame Antoinette Sibley, who retired after 21 years as President. Already Bussell talks of the RAD approaching an even wider range of dance styles in order to remain at the forefront of the evolving arts scene. Bussell is already re-entering the world of British ballet in additionally becoming a patron of The New English Ballet Theatre which is dedicated to supporting home-grown performers.

Bussell cites Sir Kenneth MacMillan as her dance inspiration, one of the great choreographers of the twentieth-century, who helped revive full-length ballets in Britain. He was first to recognise Bussell’s potential and as a result she became the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal ballerina at 20 years old. Years on, Bussell’s energy is still impressive, and her post-retirement activities have included a children’s dancewear range, the Magic Ballerina series of children’s books, and pilates. She is the new face of Sanctuary Spa skincare and has been working on an autobiographical picture book.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

 

Dame Monica Mason’s Retirement

Monica Mason's Retirement
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As Monica Mason retires as Artistic Director of The Royal Ballet company, she has fully completed 54 years with the company. Beginning as a dancer in the corps de ballet, Mason rose through the ranks to a five-star ballerina, who has also accomplished many more notches on her ballet shoes as becoming a celebrated teacher and choreographer’s assistant.

There has been a spectacular exhibition at the Royal Opera House which detailed her fantastic career through photographs and tutus, demonstrating both dynamism and tradition through her vast career with the company. Some have argued that Mason has swerved from British ballet tradition by employing Random Dance choreographer Wayne McGregor as Resident Choreographer in 2006 to work with her dancers, swapping their tights for black block pointe shoes. However, others have noted Mason as respectful in keeping with classical tradition, and merging it with innovation in the twenty-first century as the seventh Artistic Director of the company.

Mason has maintained the high standard of The Royal Ballet, and has now handed over the ballet-shoe-ribbon-reins to Kevin O’Hare, having stood in her role since 2002. As a great classical company, the Royal has developed its stars much as many other companies have done, promoting new choreography and staying true to originals, such as Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan’s. Boasting previous Artistic Directors such as Ninette de Valois, between 1931 and 1963, The Royal Ballet has a history steeped in talent and vigour, as well as variety, and now combining influences of modern dance in its repertoire through McGregor.

Mason’s sense of humour, intelligence and sense of history looks set to carry the company through this upcoming transition period, in which she is stepping down from a highly-valued post in which there are very few females. Despite this, O’Hare has booked Mason to coach four MacMillan ballets next season, so Mason’s influence is far from gone.

Chicago the Musical

Chicago the Musical
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Chicago the Musical, having run in London’s West End for almost 15 years, has recently posted closing notices at the Garrick Theatre for 1 September 2012, just weeks shy of its 15th birthday on 18 November. A sexy and thrilling musical, Chicago has had three homes throughout the West End and one of only six musicals to have played more than 15 years in the West End, alongside Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera.

Celebrities from far and wide have starred in the musical throughout its lifetime, such as Kelly Osbourne, Brooke Shields and Denise Van Outen playing razzle-dazzle murderess Roxie Hart, with other musical theatre stars including Bonnie Langford and Ruthie Henshall each donning their black character shoes and fishnet tights in turn. The final actor to play slick and suave lawyer Billy Flynn will be British Olympic ice-skating champion Robin Cousins, swapping his ice skates for tap shoes and feather boas. He is the first Olympian to star on stage in the home city of the Games, and during the event itself.

As a musical revival, Chicago has had a record run, originally opening in 1997 following its move from New York City’s Broadway to London’s West End more than two decades later, having premiered in 1975. Chicago was originally choreographed by American dance pioneer Bob Fosse, famous for his iconic pelvis-based, loose-limbed movement and glove-covered fascinating hand movements, with Ann Reinking echoing Fosse’s high-kicking hit in the UK. Fosse is also known for his choreography of extremely successful musicals such as Sweet Charity, Pippin and Cabaret, with Chicago being seen by 17 million people worldwide. As an Olivier-award winner of Outstanding Musical, Chicago is a dazzling production that is not to be missed in its final few weeks.

New English Ballet Theatre

Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/

New English Ballet Theatre is a new company formed by director, choreographer and dancer Karen Pilkington-Miksa for recent graduates of dance training programmes in 2010, hiring dancers for a period of 3 months and commissioning new works for an annual programme. The company offers 20 young dancers an opportunity to tour their ballet shoes professionally and to work with established choreographers including English National Ballet’s former Artistic Director Wayne Eagling, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Michael Corder and English National Ballet’s emerging choreographer Jenna Lee.

Of the 200 young dancers graduating from ballet schools every year, only four are selected by main companies; New English Ballet Theatre provides dancers at the start of their career the chance to dance principal roles, be they tutu-clad or tunic-and-tights. In their recent programme Synergies at the Peacock Theatre, 4 of the 9 contributing choreographers to the repertoire were female, which is a rare occurrence. Having the opportunity to choreograph, for both males and females, is a promising signal that the arts are continuing to flourish and succeed, especially considering the loss of Arts Council funding by so many dance organisations.

New English Ballet Theatre itself has no funding, but boasts a patron list that includes Carlos Acosta, Marianela Nuñez, Mara Galeazzi, Darcey Bussell and Wayne Eagling, in addition to support from Sadler’s Wells as a platform which is celebrated internationally. The company champions young dancers, choreographers and designers in a huge showcasing of talent and innovative work in its first year of project-based work. With dancers who have trained at esteemed dance training schools and conservatoires such as the Rambert School, London Studio Centre, English National Ballet School and the Conservatorio Professional de Danzxa in Seville, New English Ballet Theatre aims to give emerging young artists a full professional experience rather than touring within a school environment, such as Ballet Central or Ballet West. Through the company’s environment, the dancers are keen to bring classical styles to a much wider and less conservative audience as those involved try new things and experiment for the dance world.

 

American Ballet Theater’s Apprenticeship Programme

ABT Apprenticeship Programme

American Ballet Theater has just announced an apprenticeship programme in order to develop young dancers, which is to be new focus for the esteemed company, extending its current range of pointe shoes, leotards and tutus. The creation of the programme will benefit six dancers, enabling them to work as apprentice members of the company’s corps de ballet, gaining the relevant skills required to work as a fully-fledged member of American Ballet Theater, creating and promoting new talent.

The selected dancers will train under American Ballet theatre Studio Company’s artistic associate Kate Lydon, as well as Clinton Luckett, American Ballet Theater’s ballet master. The apprentice course will run for ten weeks beginning in September, and the dancers will then go on to advance to the apprentice level with the company during its performance of The Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The training will provide full immersion into the ballets in the repertoire of the company, including tutorials in ballet story lines, history, style and mime. In addition, dancers will attend seminars in hair, makeup and company etiquette in preparation for entering the main company, upholding the high, professional standards of American Ballet Theater in the arts world. The students’ apprenticeship will continue throughout American Ballet Theater’s performance season ending July 2013.

The dancers will be selected first from among the students at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, second from among Summer Intensive students and by audition, requiring them to pull on their best performance tights and shine for all they’re worth.

Dance Classes Discusses

Dance Classes Discusses

Dance classes around the country are not few and far between. Dance is becoming increasingly popular, as a result of commercial television shows, and more recently, the Olympic Games.

Open dance classes are on the up with over 200 classes a week taking place at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden for example, also featured in a television series on Sky 1 complete with jazz pants, cropped tops and urban dance sneakers. Other open classes taking place across the capital include The Place, Danceworks and Studio 68.

In addition to this, many dance students attend weekly technique classes with the view to take examinations with their dance school and progress through the ‘dance ranks’, trading in leather practice ballet shoes for pink pointe shoes. Many dance students dream of one dancing upon a vast stage in a feathered tutu, and others of becoming teachers themselves, correcting the leotard-clad young dancers before them and embarking on a variety of techniques. These techniques are similarly seen in the open classes of less formal institutions, without the commitment.

Despite one class option being slightly stricter of uniform than the other, both offer dancers the chance to engage with their passion, be it classical ballet, tap dance, jazz dance, musical theatre, and everything else in between. Both offer the chance to progress through the increasing levels of the technique in order to both challenge them and achieve goals as dancers. Whilst these goals may not differ in themselves, classes all over the country and even the world offer dancers the great opportunity to engage with likeminded individuals and teachers, reach their potential, and most importantly to have fun. Whether dancers are kitted out in the world’s most prestigious pointe shoes or ten-year-old jazz shoes, the power of dance unites all these dance students in one love.