Rambert Dance Company’s Summer Schools

Rambert Dance Company Logo

The time of year has come again when young dancers everywhere are scouting out summer schools to take them through to the holidays, filled with ballet shoes, tap shoes, jazz shoes, and lots of leotards!

Summer schools are a fantastic way to experience a new style of dancing, or a new organisation or vocational college, and are also useful to decide which institutions dancers might like to apply and audition for when the time comes. For younger dancers they can experience a few days or a week or more of full-time dancing, possible singing and acting, lots of new friends and whole host of different classes to take part in.

The prestigious Rambert Dance Company also runs summer schools, giving dancers the chance to find out a little more about the company and what life is like as a company dancer. For Rambert, the dancers help throughout, be the programme for adults, youths or even “young movers”. For 2013 Rambert Dance Company will be running the following:

  • Adult summer programme on 25 and 26 July: these two special days of classes of general level hold a wonderful opportunity to work with dancers and teachers associated with Britain’s leading contemporary dance company. The programme includes contemporary technique classes, body conditioning classes (yoga or pilates) and repertoire workshops which focus on one current and one historic piece of Rambert repertoire: Sounddance by Merce Cunningham and Swansong by Christopher Bruce. Participants will learn movement phrases and look at creative tasks focused around them.
  • Adult summer school between 5 and 9 August: a unique opportunity to work closely with some of the most exciting dancers and emerging choreographers in dance today, geared towards dancers of an intermediate or advanced level.
  • Youth Summer school for Young Movers between 29 July and 2 August: this exciting week of classes and choreography is led by Rambert’s animateurs (professional dancers and teachers). Drawing on recent Rambert repertoire there will be daily contemporary classes and workshops for a great opportunity to dance, create perform and be inspired!

West Side Story Returns!

West Side Story

Regarded as perhaps one of the world’s favourite musicals, West Side Story is set to hit our stages again in a big way, after many years of film versions and amateur productions never quite capturing the magic that seems to surround the original version.

Originally directed and choreographed by the iconic Jerome Robbins, this particular staging of West Side Story for 2013 has been produced by BB Promotion in collaboration with Sundance Productions Inc., NY and Howard Panter for the Ambassador Theatre Group. West Side Story was last seen in the UK in 2008/09: 2013 will see the hit musical will begin its tour at the Liverpool Empire on September 24, before moving to venues including the Sunderland Empire, the New Wimbledon Theatre and the Milton Keynes Theatre. West Side Story is currently set to tour until June 2014, giving many audiences the chance to experience the fantastic musical, a modern day Romeo and Juliet. The show, directed and choreographed by Joey McKneely, will tour following its run at Sadler’s Wells, where it plays from August 7 until September 22.

Including songs such as Tonight, I Feel Pretty and I Like to be in America, West Side Story is thought to become as big a success as it always was, full of Spanish charm, American cool, and lots of character shoes and big dresses in between. Leonard Bernstein wrote the music for the show, which is accompanied by lyrics written by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. With a book by Arthur Laurents, West Side Story is sure to wow audiences time and time again through its tragic tale, beginning at Sadler’s Wells as the largest dance house in the UK, renowned for being dedicated to international dance and presenting a hugely varied programme to its audiences.

Project Y – Scottish Youth Dance’s Initiative

YDanceScottish Youth Dance created Project Y in 2006 in order to give talented young leotard-clad dancers the opportunity to develop their dance skills and experience what it is like to be a professional dancer. Over the past 7 years the programme has been hugely developed, and there are now two different ways for young dancers to get involved: the Performance course and a number of Foundation courses, open to any dancer who wants a taste of their possible future.

The Performance course is a four week programme designed for aspiring young dancers aged 16 to 21 who want an exclusive taste of what it is like to be part of a professional dance company. Dancers are able to work with some of the top choreographers from both the UK and abroad and as a result create a new programme of dance pieces. As a company in its own right, Project Y will then tour, performing at a number of venues, such as The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (Glasgow), the Lemon Tree (Aberdeen), Eden Court (Inverness) and Carnegie Hall (Dunfermline), having  also appeared in the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay! The course takes place during the summer holidays, usually at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

The Foundation courses are weeklong programmes for a younger spectrum of dancers, aged 12 to 18. These courses for aspiring hopefuls are a beneficial way of improving dance technique and getting a taste of the Performance course above. The courses include a daily contemporary class – leggings galore – and choreography workshops led by members of the YDance team for Scottish Youth Dance. The participants on the courses will also have the chance to be involved in creating an inspiring new dance work and get the chance to perform it too! The Foundation courses also take place during the summer holidays.

The Winners Of The What’s On Stage Awards 2013

What's On Stage Awards 2013

The winners of the What’s On Stage Awards were revealed on Sunday 17 February, the only major prize-giving for theatre voted for purely by audiences. Over 60,000 people took part in the voting for the 2013 Awards, which recognised the stage achievements of some of the biggest names in the worlds of theatre, film and music.

The Awards were announced at a star-studded concert ceremony at the West End’s historic Palace Theatre. Some of the award winners performed alongside other nominees and ‘stars of shows’, including The Bodyguard, Top Hat, Wicked, Spamalot and Soho Cinders.

In case you missed the results, here’s a quick recap of some of the winners:

The DIGITAL THEATRE Best Actress in a Play
Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler

The DIGITAL THEATRE Best Actor in a Play
Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Natalie Casey – Abigail’s Party

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Stephen Fry – Twelfth Night

The STAR Best Actress in a Musical
Imelda Staunton – Sweeney Todd

The THEATRE TOKENS Best Actor in a Musical
Michael Ball – Sweeney Todd

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Melanie C – Jesus Christ Superstar

The W&P LONGREACH Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Tim Minchin – Jesus Christ Superstar

Idina Menzel – Idina Menzel

Best Takeover in a Role
Ramin Karimloo – Les Misérables

Best New Play
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Simon Stephens

Best New Musical
The Bodyguard by Alex Dinelaris

Best Play Revival
Abigail’s Party

Sweeney Todd

Jonathan Kent – Sweeney Todd

The FEAST Best Set Designer
Tom Scutt – The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe at Kensington Gardens & Constellations

The MADE Best Choreographer
Andrew Wright – Singin’ in the Rain

The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year
Will Young (actor) – Cabaret

The EQUITY Best West End Show
Les Misérables

The AKA Theatre Event of the Year
Danny Boyle’s Olympics Opening Ceremony

Life at Vocational Dance Colleges

Vocational Dance Colleges

For many dancers over the age of 16, the New Year spells auditions for vocational colleges. Many students who prefer to get their applications in early may have already heard from a college about whether they will have to pack up their tap shoes, ballet tights and jazz pants because they have or have not been awarded a place.

Some colleges have a specific uniform they prefer their students to wear both in and outside college during weekdays. Many sell tracksuits and other mandatory items, whereas most prefer a style of leotard, practice shoe, clothing colour, or all three! It is essential that as an emerging young dancer you are able to display a certain level of versatility, which also extends to your ‘look’ and style. Regardless of how you move or how high you can kick your leg, some choreographers prefer to focus on looks and clothing style before anything else in a class or audition. If you look the part then your performance will be much more convincing.

It is also important to look after your health whilst at a vocational college. For many students this is their first time away from their homes, and remembering to eat well and maintain your health can often get lost amongst other, additional parts of life. Your body will also change in terms of shape, strength and form, so looking after your body correctly is vital. Colleges which offer many dance disciplines and subjects can be extremely demanding: on top of remembering dance phrases, etiquette and class routines you must also remember to fuel yourself.

Whilst it is important to throw yourself into the course and enjoy every moment of vocational college life, it is also important to remain grounded and reasoned. The time will fly past – good luck!

Singin’ In The Rain Set To Tour

Singing In The Rain

If you are busy this spring planning your summer theatre outings to London’s West End then make Singin’ in the Rain one show near the top of your list.

It has been announced that the West End show, on par with its 1952 MGM version of the musical, is set to close in August 2013. This will be ahead of a national tour of an all-singing, all-dancing troupe – complete with umbrellas – around the country in 2014, closing with a run in Chichester where the show originally played in July 2011. The UK-wide tour is understood to start in November 2013, with a proposed opening in Manchester after spending just eighteen months at the Palace Theatre in London.

2012/13 has already seen many productions join and leave the West End in quick succession, making theatre turnarounds very quick, with only just enough time to settle the tan tights and tap shoes before having to move on again. However, touring productions give theatre fanatics in other parts of the country, without the chance to journey to London to see huge shows such as Singin’ in the Rain, the opportunity to feast their eyes on an array of talent. Touring companies also provide many performing jobs for those who may struggle to secure roles in London, but who have no trouble taking to the road, performing whilst travelling.

The musical is directed by Jonathan Church, artistic director at Chichester Festival Theatre, and has choreography by Andrew Wright, who recently ‘Best Choreographer’ at the Whatsonstage Awards. Adam Cooper is currently playing Don Lockwood in the show, a role he has played since the production opened in Chichester, with Jennifer Ellison recently joining the cast as Lina Lamont.

The World Of Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright is a musical theatre choreographer achieving more and more prominence in the theatre world. Most recently nominated for, and winning, Best Choreographer for Singin’ in the Rain at the Palace Theatre in the What’s On Stage Awards 2013, he is creating fantastic and entertaining work, and looks set to stay at the forefront of the musical theatre industry.

Aside from Singin’ in the Rain, Wright has also recently worked on the High Society and Wonderful Town UK tours, with 2013 alone demonstrating his choreographic talent in encompassing all aspects of the performance industry. Wright has also worked with artists such as Elaine Paige, Jane McDonald, Idina Menzal and Caroline O’ Connor, and worked alongside such directors as Jonathan Church, Paul Kerryson, Braham Murray, Nikolai Foster, Phil Wilmott, Richard Frost and Lisa Kent.

Before choreographing, Wright trained at the Arts Educational School, London, and went on to have his own fair share of West End performance stints. He performed for thirteen years, in shows such as Mary Poppins, Cats, Follies, Anything Goes, Mack and Mabel and Beauty and the Beast, and now works as a full-time choreographer in his own right. To date his career has encompassed a wide range of productions from West End musicals to arena events, working with 400 strong choirs to intimate cabarets of one person. In addition to 2013, 2012 saw Wright nominated for the Best Theatre Choreographer Olivier Award, with his work continuing to spread throughout London and the south.

Next up for Wright will be welcoming Jennifer Ellison to the cast of Singin’ in the Rain as Lina Lamont, taking over from Katherine Kingsley for the West End cast. Other cast members will also be altering, such as those playing characters Kathy Selden and Cosmo Brown, completing the trio made famous by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner in 1952 MGM musical film.

Charlotte Wakefield – Star of Mamma Mia! The Musical

Charlotte Wakefield in Mamma Mia! The MusicalHaving broken box office records at its previous homes – the Prince Edward and Prince of Wales Theatre – Mamma Mia!, now in its 14th year in London, has continued to break box office records at the Novello Theatre. Mamma Mia! originally opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999, before transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre in June 2004. The musical re-opened at the NovelloTheatre in September 2012.

To date Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 50 million people in 37 productions in 14 different languages. Judy Craymer’s ingenious vision of staging the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs on a Greek island sees an enchanting tale of family and friendship unfolding on an apparent island paradise. From West End to global phenomenon, the London production Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 1 in 10 of the entire UK population. It is also one of only five musicals to have run for more than 10 years both on Broadway and in the West End.

With Mothering Sunday coming up, what better way to get in the mood than to chat with Charlotte Wakefield who plays free spirited daughter Sophie Sheridan in the hit West End musical about training, life on tour, the London show and why Mamma Mia! is the best show to come and see as mother and daughter.

Charlotte, aged 22, is a mine of information, having started working in the industry aged 10.

“I haven’t actually trained professionally at all! I trained in dance from the age of 3 in classical ballet and tap, and then went on to attend Stagecoach classes at weekends. I got my first job through the agency when I was 10, and left Stagecoach when I was 18 when I was offered my first West End job.”

Charlotte made her West End debut in Spring Awakening and had already worked on television from an early age.

“I stuck at it and worked hard taking lots of classes, with my West End career starting at 18 despite the fact I worked professionally from 10 years old. It’s interesting as you could say I’ve done it the hard way: I just happened to get a break before I got to drama school. If I hadn’t have got the role in Spring Awakening I would definitely have applied to drama school, but I skipped that step!”

As a result, Charlotte’s experiences were a little different than those of typical drama school students, but she still feels as though she has learnt a lot from the way things have turned out.

“I didn’t manage to create a network of friends as you would at drama school, but I did make close friends with the people I worked with in Spring Awakening. We were all aged 16 to 25 and were starting out making our West End debuts, so we shared something special. I learnt a lot on the job, which is priceless, rather than learning at drama school, and experienced the industry first hand straight away. I feel I have become more of a ‘raw actor’ because of it, and have learnt different skills from other actors, and have been able to make my own choices.”

Whilst Charlotte’s journey into the theatrical industry may not be a typical one, she is now settled into life as Sophie as the leading female in Mamma Mia!.

“Half term meant we worked a 9 show week, adding in an extra matinee performance, but my day-to-day life is quite straight forward. At the moment I am auditioning during the day and having singing lessons, but I try not to push myself too hard through the week and make sure I chill out. The adrenaline from the evening shows means that I go to sleep around 1.30am, and try to sleep for a full 8 hours. During the day I usually have a singing lesson, a massage or an appointment with a physiotherapist and then leave for work at the theatre. We have a vocal and physical warm up and then I do my own stretching before getting ready for the performance.”

With a show that is as demanding as Mamma Mia! Charlotte has to work very hard, especially as her character Sophie is such a content-heavy role. Before securing Sophie in the West End, Charlotte also played the main character for a year on the International Tour.

“Touring is completely different to working in the West End! We did a worldwide tour of Mamma Mia! and spent about 2 weeks in each place. We were playing on a much bigger scale – the set was twice the size! – and sometimes played to arenas of around 5,000 people, which was a massive experience! The show atmosphere was very different, and we were able to go and visit places and explore during the day, which meant travelling to these amazing places was so much fun, while we were doing a job we loved.”

The bright lights of the West End have called Charlotte back, and now she has chance to reflect.

“I always wanted to play Sophie, and I got the chance to do it whilst travelling the world, as well as doing it here in London now – I was lucky to be cast again. I wanted to work in this industry for years! The West End seems like a dreamy place, but we have to work hard at our jobs. It’s taxing on our bodies with injuries and exhaustion, and performing is a dream for most people. There are lots of tough parts to doing your hobby professionally – your friends can be your competitors in auditions, and you need a lot of stamina, physically and mentally. But, once you get on stage you absolutely want to do it!”

The role of Sophie is a busy one for Charlotte, but she relishes in being able to give the audience something special, especially in a show that is as popular as Mamma Mia!.

“I haven’t got a favourite part of the show as the whole thing is so much fun. There’s a big finale which is a 7 minute long megamix of ABBA songs and lots of dancing. The audience can finally stand up and dance and sing too after itching to join in, and can let go and enjoy themselves! Sophie is a very hectic role, so if I ever come off stage it’s for a quick costume change and I’m back on – the whole show is one big scene for me!

Sophie’s relationships with the many characters are varied, but it seems none matches that with her free-spirited mother Donna, forming much of the dynamic within the show.

“Donna and Sophie are very close characters as they are both fairly free spirits. There is no husband/father figure as such in their lives and they have built up their existence on a Greek island on their own. Their relationship is quite casual, more friend-like than authoritative mother-daughter. Sophie is free too and is naive for that reason, and that’s what causes their fall-out. It’s an odd feeling as they are very similar, but the audiences love the characters and the relationship between them.”

With Mothering Sunday coming, the eternal relationship between Sophie and Donna is epitomised by mothers and daughters everywhere. Charlotte thinks seeing Mamma Mia! is the perfect mother and daughter outing, with now being an ideal time.

“Sophie putting on her wedding dress and getting married are just two lovely moments which make up the female-strong show. Slipping through my fingers is particularly moving song about mother-daughter relationships, as well as the friendships and girl power which make the show happy and uplifting for mothers and daughters watching. Mamma Mia! definitely gives something to share with mothers and daughters being together.

Coming to a close, Charlotte gives a few pointers and helpful advice for aspiring performers.

“Always remain positive. There is so much rejection in the industry that you have to keep trying, be strong willed and always accept criticism. Be over prepared for auditions and make sure that you really want to enter the industry, because if not there will always be someone who wants it more than you! Above all, it is the most fun job in the world but it is not easy. Work hard!”

The Anniversary of Anna Pavlova

Anna PavlovaFor 2013, 12th February marked the 132nd birthday of celebrated ballerina Anna Pavlova, born 12 February 1881.

After attending the Imperial Ballet School, Pavlova made her company debut with the Imperial Russian Ballet in 1899 and soon became prima ballerina. She joined Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in 1909 and formed her own company in 1911. However, Pavlova was a favourite of legendary choreographer Marius Petipa and was a hugely influential figure in dance and a key figure in the development of British ballet, even going on to inspire Frederick Ashton.

Pavlova’s Imperial Ballet-trained technique gave her a means to convey what mattered to her most: her expressiveness, rather than the steps. By the time most of the films of her dancing were made in the 1920s, she was relying on very simple choreography without fifth position, pirouettes, or arabesques, but runs on pointe, legs parallel, defining her legendary status beneath her Dying Swan tiara with strong, arched feet and beautiful arms and legs. The Dying Swan, the solo choreographed for her by Mikhail Fokine in 1907 was retained as her signature piece, with Pavlova dancing it 4,000 times.

In June 2012, the Pavlova Festival took place held at Ivy House in North London, Pavlova’s former home from 1912 until her death in 1931 after contracting double pneumonia. The festival included a number of special events, including a photographic exhibition and a film season at the British Film Institute, playing tribute to Pavlova’s beautiful art form, and an exquisite tutu and pointe shoes. It is over 100 years since Pavlova decided to leave Russia and make London her home, with Ivy House being the base from which she conducted her ballet school, training young girls who aspired to be part of her touring company.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Vaslav Nijinsky tribute

Vaslav NijinskiSunday 10th March 2013 will see the London Coliseum host a tribute performance to Vaslav Nijinsky, one of the greatest male dancers of the early twentieth century. The performance will be made up of a Russian Ballet Icons Gala and Dinner, celebrating the life and work of a legend, with today’s ballet world owing much to this ballet dancer in particular.

Nijinsky’s parents owned their own dance company, performing throughout the Russian Empire. At the age of nine, Nijinsky entered the Imperial School of Dancing in St. Petersburg, graduating in 1907 and joining the Mariinsky Theatre as a soloist. Following his first role in La Source with Russian ballerina Julia Sedova, Nijinsky’s success was phenomenal. He went on to join Diaghilev as principal dancer in 1909, and was commended for his expression, the beauty of his body, his featherweight lightness and steel-like strength, his great elevation, and his extraordinary virtuosity and dramatic acting. 1912 saw Nijinsky’s career as a choreographer begin, creating L’Aprés-midi d’un faune, Jeux and Le Sacre du printemps for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, heralded as daringly original.

As part of the Russian Ballet Icons series, the evening will present a unique opportunity to see several pieces from Nijinsky’s repertoire such as Petrushka, Les Sylphides, Scheherazade, The Spectre of the Rose, The Afternoon of a Faun, as well as modern masterpieces by contemporary choreographers such as Wayne Eagling, Wayne McGregor, Jerome Robbins, Kim Brandstrup, August Bournonville and Russell Maliphant. The programme will be presented by dancers from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres, the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, the Vienna Staatsoper, and the Stanislavski Theatre, Moscow, with the cast including Leanne Benjamin, Alina Cojocaru, J’aime Crandall, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Dmitry Gudanov, Kirill Kurlyaev, Alban Lendorf, Marianela Nunez, Evgenia Obraztsova, Artem Ovcharenko, Ludmila Pagliero, Giuseppe Picone, Ivan Putrov, Marianna Ryzhkina, Thiago Soares, Iñaki Urlezaga, Edward Watson, Maria Yakovleva and Svetlana Zakharova.