Success for over 60s group Yama

Yama, an over 60s dance performance company based in Bath, south west England, was recently announced as this year’s winner of the Cosyfeet Community Award for Somerset. Supported by Bath Dance and the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA), the group achieved a £500 award that will be used to help fund the group’s transport to dance events around the country in the future.

Yama Dance, led by the company’s Artistic Director Anna Heighway, attracts a range of members, in their 60s and 70s. The dancers who make up the group generally danced in their youth, however the group is also made up of those who are learning to dance for the first time. The group is successful alone in creating this dancing opportunity for its Bath members: there are numerous dance groups and opportunities for younger dancers, so Yama goes some way in promoting the visibility of this age group though performance.

The group was originally established to fill an opportunity gap for mature dancers in the area, and one of its key selling points is recognising that dance is not just about keeping fit. As with much research and recent press coverage, for this group particularly dance is about providing social interaction with similar peers, and maintaining a strong sense of wellbeing. Here dance feeds the body, mind and soul.

Yama Dance has 35 members and meets weekly at the Bath University dance studio. Its recent award was the Cosyfeet Community Award, run by Cosyfeet, specialising in footwear, socks and hosiery for people with swollen feet. Many of their customers are over 65, so to this end the award is a natural support for the dance group, enriching the lives of older people and helping them remain healthy, happy and independent.

The Wind in the Willows returns

Following a highly-acclaimed pre-West End run, major new musical The Wind in the Willows will open in the West End at the London Palladium in June. The production played at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton until 20 November, following its premiere at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Continuing its success, the musical is now set to delight London audiences too.

Comedian, actor and presenter Rufus Hound stars as Mr Toad in the new musical based on Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved classic, with full casting still to be announced. The production reunites Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist George Stiles and Anthony Drewe in making it a success.

Fellowes won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe in 2011 for his popular period drama Downton Abbey, and also won an Oscar in 2002 for his Gosford Park screenplay. Having collaborated with Stiles and Drewe on Mary Poppins and a new version of Half a Sixpence which recently transferred to the West End, other recent stage credits include School of Rock. Stiles and Drewe have been writing together for over thirty years. They are best known for writing new songs for Mary Poppins, their Olivier Award-winning Honk! and Betty Blue Eyes.

Producer Jamie Hendry has created over thirty major productions around the world, including the multi award-winning Legally Blonde the Musical and the hit Beatles show Let It Be. Following the musical’s London transfer announcement, Hendry confirmed he would be continuing his pledge to provide readers of all ages the opportunity to enjoy The Wind in the Willows, by sending free copies of Kenneth Grahame’s novel to every school and library in London.

This musical comedy follows Mr Toad whose insatiable need for speed lands him in trouble. With his home under threat from the Chief Weasel and his gang of Wild Wooders, Toad must attempt a daring escape leading to a series of misadventures and a heroic battle to recapture Toad Hall. The West End announcement comes after the producers opened a public investment scheme for the musical, which saw hundreds of members of the public invest in the new musical through individual investments of up to £5,000.

Boy Blue Entertainment takes over the Barbican

Hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment is set to take over the Barbican Centre next year, with a new triple bill Blak Whyte Gray – a Barbican co-production and co-commission. As a Barbican Artistic Associate, Boy Blue Entertainment will present the world premiere in January. It will focus on issues of young people on a large scale, in the current socio-political climate.

Elsewhere in the theatre, the company will host a panel discussion on the future of the art form, highlight the next generation of UK hip-hop theatre and dance pioneers, there will be freestyle events and performances by emerging artists, a B.S.I Jam: Boy Blue After Party and a Weekend Lab, with the company’s co-founders Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy and Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante.

Blak Whyte Gray will run from 12–21 January, looking at a world in flux. The artists of Boy Blue give expression to experiences of contemporary life, fuelled by an emotional energy. The production focuses on the physicality of hip-hop dance styles with rhythms and moves evoking Africa. This will reveal a different side to the company’s personality, with lighting by Olivier Award-nominated Lee Curran and costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight. Following the Barbican run, Blak Whyte Gray tours to HOME in Manchester in February.

A platform will be created for innovative artists to showcase their talent, and the Hip-Hop Matters panel discussion will bring together Boy Blue and the Blak Whyte Gray creative team to discuss the issues explored in the production. The weekend lab will form a practical workshop exploring the working processes behind Blak Whyte Gray, suitable for students in higher education and training, emerging artists and professionals, aged 16+.

The Barbican therefore pushes the boundaries of all major art forms including dance, film, music, theatre and visual arts. Its creative learning programme forms a large part of this world-class arts and learning organisation, with over 1.5 million people passing through the Barbican’s doors annually.

A new Hairspray tour!

The hit musical Hairspray is set to embark on a new UK tour following the production’s 2015 and 2016 run, exciting news for musical theatre fans all over the UK. The musical had its original West End premiere in 2007 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, before winning four Olivier Awards including for Best New Musical. With a production on Broadway and a consequent national UK tour, the production is set to impress with its feel-good factor and big hits.

The production for the new UK tour is directed by Paul Kerryson and has choreography by Drew McOnie. McOnie’s hit choreography is well-known both in the capital and all over the country, with recent work including the regional Strictly Ballroom in Yorkshire, and Jekyll & Hyde in London. With casting for the UK tour still to be announced, it looks like it will be received with excitement again.

Hairspray will run at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff from 16 to 26 August before touring the UK. The new tour will then visit theatres in Dartford, Dublin, Birmingham, Leicester, Belfast, Plymouth and many more. The show tells the story of a young girl named Tracy Turnblad, who is on a mission to dance her way onto national TV. With a few bumps in the road and some young love too, the 1960s backdrop to the tale highlights the historical issues of race of the era. However, dance prevails and The Corny Collins TV Show is Tracy’s platform to make a stand.

Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s musical Hairspray is an adaptation of the original film by John Waters, which starred Ricki Lake and Divine. The remake of the original film featured a star-studded cast including Zac Efron and John Travolta.

Artistry in dance

Enhancing dance artistry does not always have to come from dance itself, but can come from other creative activities too. Viewing dance performances can be an ideal way to do this, especially those you would not usually see. Challenge your dance knowledge and appreciation by seeing the work of a new choreographer or in a new genre, so you can more easily consider how this new knowledge can enhance your own dance enjoyment. Find out about new dance around you by asking friends or teachers for recommendations, or see what you spot on social media.

Engaging in new dance can also be via reading about dance. Do you subscribe to any dance magazines? You can learn about both new and upcoming dance work, as well as dance that has gone before from reviews and features. Broadening your mindset and considerations about dance in this way can make you a more empathetic and reasoned performer, even boosting performance-related skills. Use your artistic knowledge to articulate your thoughts on what you have observed and think about things like movement qualities, production values and themes – did you like it? Why, or why not?

Viewing dance critically can consequently spark creative ideas for choreography, or can inspire the qualities of your own dancing. Additionally, reading about various dance forms, history and other dancers can help you develop your own understanding of dance artistry, and it adds context to what you are doing. This in turn will inform your performance or creative work by learning new things. Taking new classes could follow reading about a new dance style, and you never know what new opportunities could emerge as a result. Networking with new peers and teachers will extend your dance knowledge, and will mean you are more aware of the dance world around you.

Other creative activities or artistic outlets can also enhance your dance artistry, helping you understand the aesthetic and energetic qualities of dance through singing, drawing, painting, making sculptures and many other visual art activities. Musicality can be particularly enhanced this way, even by browsing for music you wouldn’t normally listen to – you might find a great track for your next choreography project!

The Strictly Christmas special

Six former Strictly Come Dancing celebrities will be taking to the ballroom floor once again for an all-star Christmas extravaganza production on BBC One. Previous contestants will return to the dance floor for a Strictly Christmas special filled with lots of festivities and fun. Hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman as ever, the Strictly Christmas Special wouldn’t be complete without the famous four judges: Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman, in his last appearance on the judging panel.

This year, the ladies returning to the ballroom are Olympian and presenter Denise Lewis (from series 2), pop star Frankie Bridge (from series 12) and writer and actress Pamela Stephenson (from series 8). On the male side, returning will be celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott (from series 13), TV presenter Gethin Jones (from series 5) and radio and TV host Melvin Odoom (series 14). Each brought their own special sparkle to the studio when they first competed on the programme, and the Strictly Christmas special will be no different.

In this year’s Christmas show, all six couples will perform a routine in a bid to be crowned Christmas champions 2016, and lift the Silver Star trophy. Whilst the professional dancers taking part in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special this year are yet to be announced, it is sure to be a very special edition. The theme too has been withheld for now, as has the special music performance for the evening.

As with the live competition, the Judges will score each couple, and the studio audience will vote on which dancing duo will win the Strictly Christmas Special 2016 and the Silver Star trophy. The Strictly Special will air on BBC One and will also be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

Robert Binet’s work for The Royal Ballet

Increasingly esteemed young choreographer Robert Binet, who is Choreographic Associate with The National Ballet of Canada, created new work last month for The Royal Ballet. With many commissions under his belt to date, it is no wonder The Royal Ballet have also taken advantage of his talent in order to work with its dancers.

Named Void and Fire, the pieces were presented as part of a sold-out mixed programme running in November, celebrating Wayne McGregor’s 10th year as Resident Choreographer with The Royal Ballet. The pieces, both set to music by Missy Mazzoli, were presented in accordance with a new work by another young and aspiring choreographer, Charlotte Edmonds. Edmonds is the first participant of The Royal Ballet’s young choreographer scheme. In terms of the programme – set in the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House – both Binet and Edmonds were mentored by McGregor.

Ahead of this project, the Canadian Binet has created choreography for TomorrowLove, a new play by Outside the March, recently performed in Toronto. His latest creation for The National Ballet of Canada, Self and Soul, was unveiled at The Twelfth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Back in 2015, Binet created The Blue of Distance for New York City Ballet after participating in sessions of the New York Choreographic Institute in 2011 and 2014. The piece will return to NYCB in May 2017 for two performances.

Born in Toronto, Binet has been Choreographic Associate with The National Ballet of Canada since 2013. His works for the company include Unearth, set to an original score by Owen Pallett, These Worlds In Us, The Wild Space Between Two Hearts and Orpheus Becomes Eurydice, a co-commission with The Banff Centre. His recent work, The Dreamers Ever Leave You, received audience and critical acclaim with a sold-out run at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

English National Ballet’s Giselle, by Mary Skeaping

Following the world premiere of Akram Khan’s reinterpretation of Giselle in October, Mary Skeaping’s classic production of the same name returns to English National Ballet’s repertoire, with performances at the London Coliseum from 11-22 January 2017. In a return to the traditional, the company will tell the haunting story of innocence and betrayal, and the timeless redemptive power of love.

In moving away from Khan’s twenty-first century interpretation of the tale, Mary Skeaping’s Giselle features some of ballet’s most dramatic scenes and otherworldly images. Adolphe Adam’s classic score is performed live by English National Ballet Philharmonic, and will see several company dancers debuting in their roles. In addition to this, the London Coliseum stint will see Guest Artists Xander Parish, First Soloist with the Mariinsky Ballet, perform in the role of Albrecht, and Elisa Badenes and Constantine Allen, Principals with Stuttgart Ballet, perform in the role of Giselle and Albrecht. Guest Artist Michaela DePrince, Grand Sujet with Dutch National Ballet, will also perform for the first time in the UK in the role of Myrtha, on specific dates.

This is very much in line with artistic director Tamara Rojo’s commitment to continuing to bring the best talent from across the world to British audiences, this time through English National Ballet’s performances of Giselle. From the company, principal casting will see debuts from Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru, Principal Laurretta Summerscales, Soloist Alison McWhinney and Junior Soloist Katja Khaniukova in the role of Giselle. Debuting in the role of Albrecht is Lead Principal Isaac Hernández, Principals Yonah Acosta and Alejandro Virelles, First Soloist Cesar Corrales, and Junior Soloist Ken Saruhashi.

Audiences able to see both Khan’s and Skeaping’s version of Giselle will identify the extreme range and diversity of the company, hugely talented and able to engage with both the classics and the innovative.

Liam Scarlett – Australia-bound

Liam Scarlett, one of the world’s most sought-after choreographers, is set to head down under to Australia, in making Queensland Ballet his home next year. Scarlett will join the company from 2017 as Artistic Associate, which will be in addition to his role as Artist in Residence with The Royal Ballet. Queensland Ballet is renowned for its world-class dancers and a desire to push the boundaries of creative environments.

Scarlett worked with the Brisbane company earlier this year on his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where his musicality and creativity was carefully noted and the work was highly acclaimed. Throughout his career he has been lauded through the ballet world, mostly creating ballets for The Royal Ballet. His work is original and creative so Scarlett is therefore in demand throughout the world for his ballet creations. As a collaborator, innovator and storyteller he has created numerous ballets that transport audiences.

This new position as an Artistic Associate will mean Scarlett will create new works for the company, as well as seeing the company perform some of his existing productions over the coming years. This will begin in March 2017, ready for the company’s triple bill called Raw, which will include Scarlett’s acclaimed No Man’s Land. Scarlett created this work for English National Ballet.

Scarlett is currently UK-based, having trained at The Royal Ballet School and dancing with The Royal Ballet before retiring in 2013 to focus on choreography. He was appointed as The Royal Ballet’s first Artist in Residence in that same year. He has created numerous works for The Royal Ballet including Asphodel Meadows, The Age of Anxiety and Frankenstein. He has also created ballets for English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet.

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey: social change via diversity

Each Autumn, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey present modern dance performances by Ailey II, as the official second home of the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Almost 1,700 see these performances, so dance is consequently used as a foundation to devote more time to reaching out to the local community, in order to create social change by encouraging diversity.

This particular mission of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey applies to the non-profit organisation’s leadership, staff and volunteers, with the goal of uniting across racial, ethnic and social barriers to promote awareness, respect, and community-wide social change. For example, the company’s dancers from New York City recently travelled Kansas City to perform repertoire for the public – whilst Alvin Ailey’s work is well-known, this was not always the case for the audiences the dancers encountered.

Through this exercise the dancers were embodying one of Alvin Ailey’s core principals, emulating that dance came from community and should be delivered back to the community. Here, unknowing audiences in unlikely settings across the city were able to enjoy dance together, uniting diverse people. In other practices, classes were taught by the company’s teaching artists for young students in order to provide more opportunities for young people. Here they can learn about artistic expression, coordination, participation, confidence, discipline and focus. Those with particular promise are encouraged to attend the company’s Ailey Camp, another programme that focuses on youth development beyond dance. Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey serves 30,000 young people each year.

Earlier this month, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey also focused on its day-long symposium on Race, Place and Diversity, for social change. Over the last two years, a few hundred people have gathered to try to tackle these topics, which also highlight the importance of what the organisation stands for – a stronger community when people work together.