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.

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.