Scholarships for Italia Conti

Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts

As recently seen in accordance with the Sylvia Young Theatre School, The Stage newspaper is collaborating with stage school Italia Conti in order to award a scholarship value of up to £75,000. The total scholarship fund could be awarded to either one high-kicking, toe-tapping student or two, depended on the candidates who impress the audition panel. The scholarship will cover the winner’s secondary education training fees until the end of Year 11.

Italia Conti is the UK’s oldest theatre training school. The school emerged from the production of Where The Rainbow Ends at the Savoy Theatre in 1911, when the actress Italia Conti was asked to manage and teach the children in the play. Following this, Conti turned her attention fully to teaching and soon after, the Italia Conti School was born, and now covers three sites in London. The winner/s of the scholarship will be based at the theatre school which is at Italia Conti House, a building near the Barbican.

The Italia Conti school prides itself on building students’ confidence, providing excellent academic and vocational training for all those who don their ballet shoes, jazz pants and tap shoes. The school maintains that academic education is almost as important as the vocational training offered, and the breadth of training supports this entirely. Whilst based on tradition, heritage and history, the school’s experience in the field also lends itself to moving with the times and the ever-changing performing arts sector, for example by installing a recording studio and offering video classes.

As a result, the scholarship will provide aspiring performers with the opportunity to build a firm foundation of art through their training in order to secure a future career without the limitations of expense and training fees, meaning Italia Conti won’t lose any young performer who would be capable of carving out a career in the industry.

The Pointe Shoe Puzzle

Bloch Axis Pointe Shoe

As ex-professional ballet dancers at Dance Direct, pointe shoes are carefully selected as essential elements of the young dancer’s dance journey. As foot strength and technique increases, young dancers are able to make the transition onto pointe and expand their dance capability.

Stocked by Dance Direct are pointe shoes from brands Bloch, Capezio and Sansha, which are suitable for both beginners and advanced dancers alike. Each shoe and its design have their own specification which is extremely important, as each dancer is different, and requires different things in order for their pointe work to be successful. Each foot is different, and some shoes even require a little personalisation on the part of the dancer to make sure the shoe fits their foot perfectly. Many dancers, both professional and non-professional, have been known to cut, modify and completely renew their shoes, even in order to make them last longer.

It is often useful to know a little bit about each of the brands’ shoes before going to try them on for the first time:

Specifically, Capezio’s shoes have been crafted to offer maximum support for balance and comfort. The top quarter of the shank is shaved so the sole follows the foot enhancing the instep on and off pointe, increasing fluidity of movement for the dancer.

On the other hand, in Bloch’s revolutionary new pointe shoe the Axis comes with a TMT toe box and TMT shank. The Axis is a tapered shoe that looks delicate, light and beautiful en pointe. It is a quieter shoe with cushioned pleats to reduce noise, and it is built on a curve last. This new pointe shoe from Bloch is more suited towards professional and serious students.

Finally, Sansha’s unique pointe shoes are designed for dancers at all levels of training: the shoe has a large platform and supportive shank for all kinds of work.

And don’t forget… there is 15% off the following pointes shoes until midnight on Sunday 3rd Feb:

15% Off Pointe Shoes

Sansha 202:
Bloch SO135:
Bloch SO190:
Bloch SO131L:

To see our full range of pointe shoes visit this page: Dance Direct Pointe Shoes .

The Prix de Lausanne 2013

Prix de LausanneRunning in 2013 from 28 January to 2 February, the Prix de Lausanne is an international ballet competition for young dancers aged 15 to 18 years who are not yet professionals. The Prix is a non-profit cultural foundation, which depends solely on the generosity of its donors.

The first Prix competition was staged in January 1973 in the Théâtre municipal de Lausanne, instigated by Philippe Braunschweig, his wife, Elvire, and Rosella Hightower. In the summer of 1972, Braunschweig travelled to London to request the support of The Royal Ballet School in order to add value to their work in finding the best ballet tights and pink pointe shoe-clad dancers.

The team wanted to enhance the international image of the Prix, so therefore felt it was necessary to take the competition abroad. The Prix consequently visited New York in 1985, Tokyo in 1989 and Moscow in 1995, seeing three large foreign trips in the space of ten years. Each was based on the same format: selected rounds for the semi-final held in Lausanne for European candidates, with this stage paralleled in the host cities.

1998-2001 saw the team develop a new path for the Prix to ensure it was increasingly education-orientated and tailored to the needs of future dance professionals, ready in their tutus, also required to master contemporary forms of expression. A Contemporary Dance Prize was created in 2000 as a result, rewarding a finalist who displayed exceptional potential when performing their contemporary variation. The best candidates of the final, who the jury feel have reached the peak of their training, may be awarded an apprentice scholarship that will enable the dancer to undertake a professional internship in one of the international ballet companies partnering the Prix. Since 2008, the Prix final has been broadcast live on the internet, meaning dance-fans all over the world can view the prestigious competition.

Some of the most renowned ballet dancers have found their beginnings at the Prix de Lausanne, including Darcey Bussell, Daria Klimentova, Gillian Murphy, Sergei Polunin, Deborah Bull, Christopher Wheeldon, Ethan Stiefel, Carlos Acosta and Miyako Yoshida.

MOVE IT 2013

MOVE IT 2013

MOVE IT, the UK’s biggest dance event is the ultimate dance experience for dance fans, students, teachers and parent alike. Whether your interest is flared jazz pants-style commercial, pretty-in-pink ballet shoes or rock-and-ready street dance complete with the latest dancewear, MOVE IT has something for you.

Taking place between 8 and 10 March 2013, MOVE IT is gearing up to welcome 20,000 dance fans to Kensington, Olympia in London. Visitors to the venue will be able to watch performances in the showcase theatre and on the main stage, take part in classes or the freestyle stage, shop for dancewear, meet dancing stars on the interview sofa and talk to experts for advice in one of the biggest celebrations of dance.

There will be a huge variety of dance classes (over 200) and taster sessions on offer. The UK’s leading dance teachers will be presenting classes, covering everything from Ballet to Lindy Hop, Krump to Ballroom. The range on offer is enough to satisfy every dance enthusiast, no matter your ability level or aim for taking part. Also on offer is the chance to learn the routines from A Chorus Line set to hit the West End this year, develop your ballet technique with English National Ballet, and try out the latest hip hop moves with ZooNation’s Kate Prince to build up your style. Also appearing at MOVE IT will be Sean Cheesman (previous choreographer to Janet Jackson), Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy of Boy Blue Entertainment, Twist and Pulse, Shobana Jeyasingh dance, Got To Dance finalists Boadicea and many more!

New this year will be the chance to discover a career in dance with CDET as a new series of dance classes and interviews. These will offer advice and guidance for anyone thinking of working in the dance industry.

Dust off your dancing shoes and get your tickets!

Billy Elliot the Musical is Auditioning!

Dance Auditions

It’s that time of year again for young dancers everywhere – audition time!

Billy Elliot the Musical is currently looking for boys aged 9 to 13 years to audition for the roles of Billy and Michael, and girls aged 9 to 12 years to audition for the role of Debbie in the West End production. In addition to these ballet shoe donning roles, the team is also touring the country in search of toe-tapping youngsters, visiting:

  • Leeds on 12 January 2013,
  • Newcastle on 2 February 2013,
  • London on 9 March 2013,
  • Bristol on 20 April 2013
  • and Manchester on 18 May 2013.

It’s time to pull on your ballet tights and pirouette your way to the nearest audition!

For Billy and Michael, as part of the on-going audition process, tap and ballet experience are a bonus. Candidates must be a maximum height of 5ft, with no broken voices. For Debbie, candidates must be 9 to 12 years of age, and under 4ft 8. Some ballet experience is required for the role of Debbie, which is only being auditioned in Newcastle.

Candidates need to come ready to dance first and possibly sing afterwards, wearing comfortable clothes with all dance shoes and trainers, rather than the usual Lycra, leotards or jazz pants!

There are also ongoing auditions for Small Boys, a Tall Boy and Ballet Girls. Small Boys, as an ensemble role, must be aged 6 to 10 years being no taller than 4ft for this acting role, which requires no singing or dancing. Tall Boy must be aged 10 to 12 years, being no taller than 4ft 10, and this role is again an acting role, with no singing or dancing required. Lastly, Ballet Girls should be between 9 and 13 years of age, less than 5ft and have achieved a minimum of Grade 4 in tap and ballet. Candidates for these roles must live within an hour of London.

For further information or to arrange an audition, please email Children’s Casting Director, Jessica Ronane at billy@jessicaronane.comstating your location and date of choice in the subject box.

Is Dance Becoming Mainstream?

Dance in the Mainstream

From the dazzling tutus and glittering tiaras of the big ballet classics to the modernised works of flesh-coloured leotards and soft ballet shoes, the popularity of dance appears to be increasing rapidly. Arguably as a result of the viral nature of social media and the innovative experimentation that is taking place in studios all over the world, the dance world and its audience are privy to fantastic creations and experiences which provide for their expectations.

Despite the modernisation that ballet is undergoing, for example as a result of Wayne McGregor of Random Dance’s instatement as Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet in 2006, it is clear that the classics of the ballet world are also able to satisfy the hungers of audiences. McGregor’s influence over twenty-first century dance is undeniable, and whilst his work is technically outstanding and completely compelling, the repertoire of the Royal is also made up of works that have resided there for centuries. Classics such as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker are three of a number of well-known and loved productions which are presumed to stay within ballet repertoire for years to come.

Classical ballet was once seen as a high culture, rather than a popular one, yet this is also changing. The Royal Ballet LIVE was screened online in 2012, providing 200,000 dance-lovers and non-dance fans alike with the opportunity to take a peek into the working lives of professional ballet dancers. The iconic film production Black Swan starring Natalie Portman also took the ballet world by storm, depicting a violent and manipulative ballet environment, but ultimately extending ballet’s reach to wider audiences, increasing its popularity. The London 2012 Olympic Games also demonstrated a cultural shift, with ballet proving to be an influence in more than one area. Team GB swimmer Liam Tancock revealed that regular ballet classes were included in his cross-training, and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal Matthew Lawrence created a routine for the five times British champion gymnast Frankie Jones for the Rhythmic Gymnastics British Championships ahead of the Games. Dance is clearly demonstrated to appeal to and provide for a wide audience reach.

Dance has also been able to reach audiences through social media, making it ultimately accessible. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and various other platforms are able to translate the art of performance and reception to many who may not have the opportunity to access dance originally. For example, many dance companies have Twitter accounts clocking up thousands of followers, who are able to connect with and access a valued insight into the life of the company, rehearsals and classes – even the founder of Twitter is a ballet fan!

Pas de Deux: The Secrets Behind the Success

Misty Copeland and Matthew Prescott

Whilst pas de deux may seem to be the most dynamic and exhilarating part of a dance performance, it is also the most demanding, technically, physically and emotionally. Whether it is classical in a tutu and pointe shoes or contemporary in unitards, the art of pas de deux does not seem to be a strand of dance that is easily conquered.

In terms of basic preparations, balances and trust are inseparable and must come as one. Considering lyrical and jazz techniques that are easily available to view on television media, it is understandable that a common misconception of pas de deux is that it about awe-inspiring lifting only. Drawing classical ballet into the mix, however, demonstrates that much of the work is based on core strength and the ability to be centered, either by yourself or your partner. The skill of finding a balance in a partner is very difficult, for example, over the female’s supporting leg in a pirouette or arabesque. The female must be responsible for securing her positions in order to create a strong partnership, physically and mentally.

It may be concluded that partner work is more difficult for males than females, as they have to adapt their skills, and even adapt their approach to their dancing, to work as one with their partner and not become uncompromising or tricky to work with, support and lift. Within classical ballet, it may even be necessary for males to employ a parallel or turned-in position, which goes against the usual expectation of turn-out yet is required for stability.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Past Dance Practices

Thomas Wilson's "Correct Method of German and French Waltzing" (1816)

Viewing traditional dance from many countries around the world can be eye-opening. It is a refreshing change to view other techniques, hear different music and see different costumes as a source of inspiration. For the performer and choreographer, traditional dance practices from other countries and cultures can often be a learning curve in their methods of working.

There is a wealth of information within different dance practices, and especially those regarded as traditional, in order to inform and progress the art form. These practices are extremely different from the urban dance forms, dance sneakers and nude leotards we see in today’s dance scene, yet some are still very popular, considering Strictly Come Dancing and similar television shows for example and how mainstream it has now become.

For instance, what is now called the Viennese Waltz is the original form of the waltz which emerged in the second half of the 18th century. It was the first ballroom dance performed in the closed hold or “waltz” position, derived from the Ländler in Austria. The dance that is popularly known as the waltz is actually the English or slow waltz, danced at approximately 90 beats per minute, whereas the Viennese Waltz is danced at around 180 beats a minute. As the waltz evolved, some of the versions that were performed at the original fast tempo came to be called a “Viennese Waltz” to distinguish them from the slower waltzes. Today dances of Ballroom or Latin origins still play a large part in social cultural context, and are accessible too.

South East Asian dance, also plays a big part in today’s dance scene. Bharata Natyam and Kathak dance are both highly influential in choreographers’ work, such as Akram Khan, seen in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Bharata Natyam is a classical Indian dance, denoting various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of Cathir, the art of temple dancers. As a traditional dance-form known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and poses, today Bharata Natyam is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world. Similarly, Kathak is one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, with the dance form tracing its origins to ancient India. Its form today contains traces of temple and ritual dances, and the influence of the bhakti movement, using its past as a catalyst for new.

Today’s strong notions of Kathak, and many other forms of dance, in choreographers’ and performers’ work demonstrates the sheer strength and legacy of dance, and how much the past influences the present in every single dance discipline.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Judges Announced for ENB’s Emerging Dancer

ENB Emerging Dancer Competition 2013

The judging panel of English National Ballet’s prestigious Emerging Dancer Competition 2013 has been announced, as the annual event moves into its fourth year within the classical ballet diary.

Judging the developing yet hugely accomplished six dancers of the Company will be Darcey Bussell CBE, new President of the Royal Academy of Dance and Strictly Come Dancing judge, Tommy Franzén, runner-up of BBC1’s So You Think You Can Dance and choreographer of ZooNation’s Some like it Hip Hop, Luke Jennings, Author and Dance Critic at The Observer newspaper, Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre and Tamara Rojo, newly appointed Artistic Director of English National Ballet.

The Emerging Dancer competition, taking place on 4 March 2013 at the intimate venue of the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, allows ENB to publicly recognise and praise its upcoming talent, nurturing and encouraging excellence within the Company’s ranks. Last year’s winner was the nephew of renowned Royal Ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, Yonah Acosta, who has since achieved more success throughout 2012, most recently in the Company’s production of The Nutcracker. The young, talented nominees receive the opportunity to perform in an exciting live final with two solos in front of this eminent panel of expert judges. The winner is announced at the end of the evening along with the recipient of The People’s Choice Award, which is voted for by members of the public, closing on 9 February 2013.

Competing in The Emerging Dancer’s Competition for the top spot will be Alison McWhinney, Guilherme Menezes, Nancy Osbaldeston, Ken Saruhashi, Laurretta Summerscales and Nathan Young.

Image courtesy of ENB.

The Evolution of Dancewear

Evolution of Dancewear

Whilst there is much negative stigma about the dance experiences in Physical Education, dance within P.E. lessons has proven itself to be successful, not only encouraging students to take part, but also contributing to today’s dancewear scene. Many teenage girls who were perhaps unwilling to participate in sports have been seen to thoroughly engage in dance and consequently excel, in parallel to, for example, disruptive boys who have found their forte in the strength and skill of break dance during P.E. Many lessons also, for example, consist of street dance, appealing to students as they are able to express themselves through the up-to-date movement and their urban dance sneakers, tracksuit bottoms and the occasional sweatband, meaning dancewear has received more attention and popularity. The days of gym knickers are far behind us!

Dancewear has evolved significantly, however early influences can be identified. Early ballet, dating as far back as the 1800s, saw courtly influences of much longer skirts than are seen today and satin ballet slippers for females. Similarities here as well as that of male tights and long-sleeved shirts demonstrate the loyalty dance has to its originators, and how practical the first instances of dance were. The mid-1800s saw choreographer of La Sylphide August Bournonville designing the ballet slippers for males that are still worn today with a V-shaped vamp to give the illusion of a long and pointed foot. The Romantic tutu also made an appearance, but under another name originally. Today, the traditional ballet style has been adopted and also brought into the fashion world, with ballet pumps and tutu style skirts echoing ballet’s origins.

The 1890s saw the emergence of Jazz dance, and it became increasingly popular, taught in numerous dance studios. Costumes were experimented with, open to more adventurous design work and became more practical, highlighting the dancers’ lines in addition to looking effective and eye-catching, also mirrored in practice wear. In addition, Modern dance, now known as contemporary dance, developed as a result of Isadora Duncan’s rejection of the tight bodices of the tutus of classical ballet in favour of Greek-style tunics. She believed tight clothing was a restriction to the body’s natural movement and to this day we see this trend, especially clothes of the hip hop world and on television programmes such as So You Think You Can Dance.