The ISTD’s 108th Birthday

ISTD Logo

The Imperial Society of Dance Teachers (as it was first known) was formed on 25th July 1904 at the Hotel Cecil in Covent Garden, London, and therefore turned 108 years old this year, advocating a huge variety of dance genres and the ballet shoes, tap shoes and jazz shoes that come too.

In 1906, the first Congress of the ISTD was held after a council of management was formed, attended by forty-two members, a far cry from the ISTD’s membership today. In September 1907 the first issue of “Dance Journal” (now known as DANCE magazine) was published, and by 1913 the ISTD consisted of 132 members.

It wasn’t until after the war years of WWI, in 1924, that the foundations of the present structure of the ISTD were established by the formation of separate Branches (now Faculties). 1925 saw a change of name to “The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing”, and 1930 saw the ISTD increase to 2,000 members, all wielding their leotards and tights, eager to dance.

As well as the Operatic and General, new branches were formed for the following techniques: Modern Ballroom Dancing; Classical; Classical Ballet Cecchetti Method; Greek Dance – Ruby Ginner Method; and Natural Movement – Madge Atkinson Method. In 1931 the Stage Branch was formed to provide a basic training for all dance and embraced specialist stage techniques, encompassing performance in the techniques of dance. As a result, the 1935 membership had risen to 3,000 and by 1938 it reached 4,000.

Post WWII, the teachers’ need for an authoritative and comprehensive syllabus in each technique was supplied by the formation of Faculties in each dance form, and the remaining branches of the ISTD were created: Victorian and Sequence Dance Branch, 1948; Latin American Dance Branch, 1951; Historical Dance Branch, 1952; National Dance Branch, 1952 and Scottish Country Dance Branch, 1953.

The Disco/Freestyle/Rock ‘n’ Roll Faculty were formed in 1990 to cater for the forms of social dance suggested by the creative freedom of popular music. The South Asian Dance Faculty was formed in 1999 and the most recent addition to the ISTD is the Club Dance Faculty (formed in 1999). In 2002 due to the success of the Modern Theatre Faculty it was necessary to split the Faculty into two, creating the Modern Theatre Faculty and the Tap Dance Faculty.

Today the ISTD has more than 7,500 members in over 50 countries throughout the world and holds 250,000 examinations per year.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Alistair Spalding’s Honorary Doctorate

Middlesex University

Alistair Spalding, the artistic director of Sadler’s Wells, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlesex University in recognition of his contribution to the UK’s creative industries, despite having little contact with leotards and legwarmers throughout his life. Spalding received his honorary doctorate in a ceremony at the university’s Hendon campus in north London on July 20 before an audience of graduating performing arts students who had all completed degrees in subjects such as Dance Performance, Theatre Arts and Music and Arts Management.

In addition to his award from Middlesex University, Spalding was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in this year’s Birthday Honours, in recognition of his services to dance and huge contribution to the arts sector as a whole, be it tutus and tights, or jazz shoes and jazz pants. Embarking on his early career as a teacher, Spalding became Sadler’s Wells’ artistic director in 2004 as the UK’s leading dance house, as it came to be known under his direction. Sadler’s Wells has also recently ventured down the production route in its hosting of dance, with many shows now commissioned and produced at the venue.

In terms of Middlesex University specifically, Spalding was noted to have said how much of a privilege it was to receive the doctorate from the institution as one that has done so much to ensure that practising artists are thoroughly involved in the day to day life of the university, which provides so much for them artistically, from a fantastic faculty to all-encompassing courses. The University delivers much in terms of Professional Practice also, preparing its students for the challenging world surrounding the arts, and providing them with the means to survive and consequently excel in the field.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games

2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony

As the world anticipates the London 2012 Olympic Games, performers from across the country are pulling on their dancewear and warm-up cover-ups ready for the Opening Ceremony on Friday 27 July. The Opening Ceremony is a celebration showcasing the best of the Host Nation, London, featuring a parade of all competing nations and the highly anticipated entrance of the Olympic Flame, which ignites the Cauldron and signals the start of the Games.

The eyes of the world are expected to be on London for the Opening Ceremony, providing an opportunity for the world to view the artistic expression of the Artistic Director Danny Boyle and his team of talented young performers, as well as the culture of London and the UK. Certain elements feature in every Ceremony, and the artistic performance of the Ceremony, and the striking costumes of the dedicated, hard-working performers will welcome the world to the Games.

The name of the Olympic Opening Ceremony show will be ‘Isles of Wonder’, saluting and celebrating the immense creativity of the British. The worldwide broadcast will commence at 9pm (GMT), and will no doubt appeal to every jazz sneaker and ballet shoe wearer as well as those interested in sports. The Ceremony will begin with the sound of the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, produced by the Whitechapel Foundry, and the Stadium will be transformed into the British countryside for the opening scene ‘Green and Pleasant’, which includes real farmyard animals. The Ceremony will also include a special sequence celebrating the best of British, featuring volunteer performers from the NHS.

A total cast of 15,000 will take part in the London 2012 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, which will be watched by an estimated audience of four billion.

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

Royal Opera House 2012/13 Season

The Royal Opera House

The Royal Ballet company has announced the Guest Artists who are due to don their show tights and ballet shoes and join the company for the 2012/13 season.

Tamara Rojo and Sergei Polunin are both set to return, despite Polunin’s controversial exit from the company earlier this year: it could be argued that Polunin was too hasty to throw his legwarmers out of his well-made and preparatory pram. However, he is set to re-join the Royal Ballet Company as a Guest Artist which, presumably, can be the favoured option for some dancers. Rojo and Polunin will return to the Royal Opera House for three farewell performances of Marguerite and Armand on 12, 15 and 21 February 2013. The pair originally danced the ballet to audience acclaim in October 2011, and is now expected to do the same 2 years on. Marguerite and Armand will be Rojo’s final farewell performance in Covent Garden as a reprise, before she takes up her new role as Artistic Director at English National Ballet in August 2012.

Additionally, Natalia Osipova is to debut alongside Carlos Acosta, a well-loved favourite of audiences globally. Osipova, Principal of the Mikhailovsky Ballet will make her Royal Ballet debut in Swan Lake, where she will dance alongside regular Principal Guest Artist Acosta on 10, 13 and 25 October. Next season will be Osipova’s first appearance (with her tutu) with the company, and it seems the arts scene is greatly anticipating her work with Acosta who is renowned worldwide for his strength, artistry and phenomenal technique.

Tickets for Swan Lake are currently on sale with public booking for Marguerite and Armand opening on 17 October.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

Summer Programmes at The Place

The Place

In July and August 2012, as in many years previously, The Place will present its annual two-week programme of dance courses for both young participants aged 6 to 16, and adults aged 16 and over of all abilities this summer. Whether your interest is the graceful beauty of ballet and you live to fulfil your dream of stepping into class in perfect pink ballet shoes, the toe-tapping energetic buzz of wearing jazz shoes, or whether it is actually heaven on earth to put on your leotard and leggings and engage in some thought-provoking and challenging Contact Improvisation, The Place will have something to suit you.

Summer Shakers, over four days, is an annual programme of dance classes for young dancers, with this year’s theme surrounding “Victories and Losses”. Each group participating will work to create a sport-inspired dance, fusing energy, competition and power which are prevalent in both activities of sport and dance. Summer Intensives is the programme that will be led by a team of international dance teachers and companies, allowing participants to ‘create their own course’ from the extensive range of five-day options available including creative workshops, body conditioning techniques and repertory workshops with resident companies in addition to the above. The companies involved this year are the BalletBoyz and the Jasmin Vardimon Company, two prestigious companies who individually have contributed much to today’s contemporary dance scene, and beyond into the dance sector as a whole.

2012 will see the addition of the traditional Japanese dance form, Butoh, taught by Marie-Gabrielle Rotie. This particular strand of the programme encourages structured improvisation, working with poetic images and scores in order for participants to create simple movement.

For additional information, visit The Place.

Image courtesy of The Place.

U.Dance 2012

U.Dance 2012

U.Dance 2012 as part of Youth Dance England was marketed as this summer’s biggest youth dance festival. It took place between the 13 and 15 July at the Southbank Centre, celebrating talent from all over London and the entire country. The performance of the opening night was filled with acts full of fun and energy from some of the most exceptional youth dance groups, selected after performing in regional platforms earlier in the year.

The new UK youth dance company, the U.Dance Ensemble, premièred their new piece TANK, choreographed by world-acclaimed choreographer Hofesh Shechter. As an incredible privilege to perform at U.Dance itself, the U.Dance Ensemble truly was the leotard adorned icing on the cake. The show also featured an array of high standard contemporary performances from, amongst others, The Place’s Shift group and Northern Ireland’s Dance Society. 

Saturday saw a range of free activities offered to the enthusiastic U.Dance audiences suitable for the whole family. These included open workshops in Lindy Hop and Kathak dance, dance film screenings presented by young dancers, and some colourful performances at the Fringe platform in The Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall complete with tap shoes and black character shoes, programmed by the National Youth Dance Ambassadors of Youth Dance England. The ‘Take Two’ show, which followed in the evening, showcased even more groups selected including Wales and Scotland’s national youth dance companies, and a performance especially devised for the festival by Candoco’s company of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

Similar free activities were offered on Sunday too as the final day of the festival with the added opportunity of a masterclass led by Hofesh Shechter for young dancers, the whole festival indicating the sheer love of dance by those who attended. Closing the event was a finale again featuring the U.Dance Ensemble, in addition to performances from London’s highly skilled Centre for Advanced Training dancers from Trinity Laban and The Place. The talent demonstrated throughout the event was truly inspiring, with focused young individuals eager to lead the way for dance within the arts sector.

Image courtesy of U.Dance.

Swan Lake

Swan Lake - Royal Swedish Opera

Swan Lake as an iconic and perhaps one of the most ‘stereotypical’ traditional ballets of the arts world is showcased by many prestigious ballet companies each year. Complete with white pointe shoes and feathered head pieces, the twirling tutus of the numerous swans which grace stages all over the world are breathtaking.

A company which engages with the staging of their version of Swan Lake each year is English National Ballet, renowned for its glamour and success, and notable for placing 60 swans on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall in June 2010. This was in addition to featuring the production in an episode of their notorious BBC documentary, Agony & Ecstasy: A Year at English National Ballet.

From 3 – 11 August 2012 at the London Coliseum, ENB will perform its enchanting production during the London 2012 Olympic Games, choreographed by Derek Deane. The opening night will see Daria Klimentová present her experience and beauty, don her tights, and dance the lead role of Odette/Odile alongside Russian star Vadim Muntagirov as Siegfried in their internationally recognised star partnership. Arguably the most powerful ballet ever created, Swan Lake is set to Tchaikovsky’s unmistakable score, featuring some of the most beautiful music in classical ballet repertoire.

Additional events from ENB highlight the extent of Swan Lake’s popularity and ultimate success amongst ballet lovers across the globe, regardless of whether they regularly wear leotards and ballet shoes. A masterclass with esteemed guest repetiteur and artistic advisor Maina Gielgud is included in the available itinerary, in which she will work with two dancers on a challenging pas de deux from Swan Lake.  The ‘Swan Lake Aspire Day’ is also available, in which a fun and informal workshop focusing on Swan Lake will be held at the ENB studios. In addition, an on-stage creative workshop will include the opportunity to watch ENB’s dancers in their practice dancewear, taking part in morning class, as well as the unique chance to watch Company Class.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The 21st Century Contemporary Dance Scene

Camden Roundhouse

Following the Accidental Festival on June 1st at the Camden Roundhouse, it is clear from this one event in the dance events of 2012 that the future of the sector looks extremely bright, from leotards to pointe shoes, from leg warmers to jazz sneakers. The evening was named Dance 1:1 (dance 1st on the 1st), and marked a significant event for the Accidental Festival, produced by students from the Central School of Speech and Drama. Dance had never been included in the festival’s programme before 2012, and the night was a resounding success. Dance 1:1 presented works by 5 emerging and upcoming London-based choreographers of yet unknown dance companies, providing a solid platform for these aspiring artists to launch their exciting careers.

Particularly standing out were the companies Charlie Dixon Dance Company and Emco Dance. CDDC presented animalistic view of the power and skill of dancers, and those particularly cast by Dixon. The intensity of the company was constantly present in their performance and interactions with each other, embodying an extremely energetic and intricate style of strength and endurance. Formed in 2011, CDDC are a company constantly reaching for new audiences to share their creative insights, performing at many platforms in England and Wales. Dixon’s artistic direction places emphasis on highly technical and explosive bodily movement, set to carry the company on a long and successful journey on from the Accidental Festival. Whilst the movement was aesthetically pleasing, it remained innovative and varying, rather than resorting to familiar movement phrases or even current trends of contemporary dance today which are seen so regularly.

Emco Dance was a company constructed of second year Trinity Laban students, particularly embodying the ethos of the “dance festival”, in the twenty-first century more than ever. The focus and dedication of the dancers was remarkable, questioning the physical deconstruction of the human body and our emotional, physical and mental elements that we consist of. Formed in 2012, the new company featured dancers halfway through their training and it was inspiring to view Emco as a semi-professional company alongside other more established companies as equals, each bringing an important dance message to the surface of their performances. The dancers were united in their display of the passion which drives the young performer and the unique skills they must have to fulfil this, reassuring the audience that the future of dance today is not so bleak.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

English National Ballet’s Summer Party

Kensington Palace

On 27 June 2012, English National Ballet together with Swarovski presented its Summer Party at The Orangery, Kensington Palace. With the Company’s prestigious tutus taking over one of London’s most beautiful outdoor settings, the evening held enchanted images of art, ballet and live performance inspired by the iconic production Swan Lake, ahead of English National Ballet’s season of the work at the London Coliseum from the 3-11 August 2012.

English National Ballet has a glamorous reputation for hosting sparkling events attended by numerous elite London partygoers as part of the Company’s fundraising initiative. For 2012, celebrated individuals were invited to create fantastic works of art inspired by the regal nature of swans. Previous guests have included Kate Moss, Richard E. Grant and Jerry Hall, swapping the usual pointe shoes of English National Ballet for party shoes and Pimms.

The artwork produced is available to view online, and includes pieces by Kimberley Walsh, Beatrix Ong, Pixie Lott and Immodesty Blaize (you can see the full gallery here: ENB Summer Party Art Gallery) . Selected works were auctioned on the evening of The Summer Party by Lauren Laverne, with canvases still to be created to buy by Ronnie Wood, new Artistic Director of English National Ballet Tamara Rojo, Sam Taylor-Wood, Moschino and Swarovski.

Some of the dancers of the Company donned their tights and feathered tutus to grace the exquisite party, with the whole Company proceeding to perform excerpts of Swan Lake in the gardens of the Palace. With the traditional yet both influential and elite production displayed for the guests’ entertainment, they also received goody bags containing luxury spa and hair care products, jewellery and handmade chocolates, contributing much to a greatly anticipated evening in the world of ballet and the tiaras within it.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Sadler’s Wells Summer University

Sadler's Wells Summer University

From the 9 to the 21 of July 2012, Sadler’s Wells will be hosting its Summer University, with fifteen young choreographers returning for the first programme of its kind in the UK, with the second year of the free course running throughout July.

Directed by one of the most respected choreographers in Europe today, award-winning Jonathan Burrows, previously a dancer of Rambert Dance Company, Sadler’s Wells Summer University has given places to students from a vast range of dance styles, from pretty pointe shoes to New Yorkers, ranging in age from 25 to 37. With the programme aimed specifically at choreographers with up to five years professional experience, the four-year programme features a two-week intensive period every summer.

This fantastic opportunity is a fortnight of intensive talks, lectures, discussions and workshops, with additional input from guest artists and speakers. The course focuses on compositional and choreographic processes, performance and philosophies, encouraging participants to question how dance can be made and what it might communicate to audiences. The programme is a long-term approach to choreographic study, designed for artists after their initial training, be it in a tutu or tap shoes, in the early stages of their careers.

It is ambitious in its range of initiative as part of all that Sadler’s Wells offers to support and develop choreographers, with the Jerwood Charitable Foundation supporting the programme as part of the ongoing Jerwood Studio at Sadler’s Wells which began in 2006, to develop creative opportunities for dancers and choreographers to experiment at the start of a project, before being committed to a production. Over the years approximately 75% of these projects have gone on to be commissioned, produced or programmed by Sadler’s Wells, including Matthew Bourne, Clod Ensemble, Jasmin Vardimon, Pet Shop Boys and Javier de Frutos, puppeteer Sue Buckmaster and Arthur Pita, and Hofesh Shechter emphasising the prestigious nature of the programme.

Image courtesy of David Hawgood at Geograph®.