The Prix Benois de la Danse

Prix Benois de la DanseOne of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Prix Benois de la Danse is awarded at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia every year in order to give credit to the best of dance talents in the world for their achievements over the past year, such as best choreographer, as well as the best male and female dancer.

Arguably on par with the Oscars, the awards credit the world’s stages’ most prestigious and outstanding talent. The 2013 ceremony at the Bolshoi saw many high achievers collect their awards. Choreographer Hans van Manen was honoured for his Variations for Two Couples with the Dutch National Ballet, and Christopher Wheeldon was also honoured for his production of Cinderella with the Dutch National Ballet. Congratulations were also awarded to John Neumeier, who is the director and choreographer of the Hamburg Ballett, for his Life Achievement award for dance.

In terms of dancers, ballerina Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi Ballet was acknowledged for her roles performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, such as Nikia in La Bayadere, Aspicia in The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and Anastasia in Ivan the Terrible. Additionally, Alban Lendorf of The Royal Danish Ballet was applauded for his role Armand Duval in The Lady of Camellias and Vadim Muntagirov was also honoured for his role as the Prince in English National Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty when he danced alongside the company’s artistic director Tamara Rojo.

The Prix Benois de la Danse was founded by the International Dance Association in Moscow in 1991, taking place annually and judged by a dance jury consisting of the ‘top’ ballet folk whose members change every year. The competition recognises exceptional events and incredible talent with monetary awards, based on the previous year of the industry, including choreographic accomplishments in addition to recognising dancing roles.

Coppelia’s Bad Boy

Sergei PoluninSergei Polunin, the notorious “bad boy” of the ballet world, is set to appear in The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet’s production of Roland Petit’s Coppelia at the London Coliseum in July this year for just six performances.

Petit’s version of the work, which debuted in 1975, is just one interpretation of one of the most well-known ballets with the story including magic, humour, love and even a happy ending!

Staged by Luigi Bonino and set to music by Leo Delibes, this particular production contains all the loved classics of the classical ballet, including the Mazurka, the Waltz of the Hours and the energetic Czardas dances.

The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet is lead by internationally renowned dancer Igor Zelensky and will bring together some of the century’s finest principal dancers such as the 23 year old Ukranian star Polunin and up-and-coming ballerina Erika Mikirticheva, who will be dancing Franz and Swanilda respectively amongst two other casts. As an incredible yet completely notorious talent, Polunin is set to wow hungry audiences as he helps tell the story of red-blooded Franz’s comic adventures in his falling in love with the beautiful (doll) Coppelia.

The Moscow Stanislavsky Ballet was born in 1939 as a result of the joining of the Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre and the Moscow Art Ballet, founded by the former Bolshoi ballet star Victorian Kriger. The established company quickly became one Russia’s leading ballet companies and went on to tour extensively across Europe and the USA. Today, the company has since staged numerous productions such as Cinderella, Don Quixote, Giselle, La Sylphide, Mayerling, Napoli, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and even The Little Mermaid. This demonstrates that this first-class company still provides much for the ballet world, and with fantastic casts for its productions, will continue to do so well into the future.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bob Fosse: The Iconic Mover

Bob FosseJune 23 will mark the anniversary of dance legend Bob Fosse’s birth in 1927, almost 90 years since. Fosse was an American actor, dancer, musical theatre choreographer, director, screenwriter, film editor and film director, with some of his dance work including The Pajama Game (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (1961), Sweet Charity (1966), Pippin (1972), Cabaret (1972) and Chicago (1975). He won eight Tony Awards for choreography and one for direction.

Fosse was born the son of a vaudevillian and began performing in vaudeville as a child. By his early teens he was appearing on stage in a variety of burlesque shows and he began studying dance at a small institution, but soon moved on to the Frederick Weaver Ballet School where he was the only male enrolled.

Fosse’s third and last wife, Broadway legend Gwen Verdon, helped to define and perfect what is now known as “Fosse”, the unique and distinct style which Fosse used to choreograph and become such an iconic mover. With fantastic energy and artistry, Fosse was one of this century’s great choreographers, forging his craft on the Broadway stage and on film and becoming as big an artist as Vaslav Nijinsky and George Balanchine.

As an artist, Fosse was known for his thoroughly modern style, training under jazz star Jack Cole, a creating a signature style which could not be mistaken for any other movement. His movement vocabulary consists of snapping fingers, hip and shoulder rolls and backward exits alongside exaggerated hip movements, struts and white-gloved, single-handed gestures. Some of his stereotypical style was born of his dislike of certain parts of his body, such as white gloves to hide his large hands and tilted bowler hats to hide his balding head. Despite this, his movement and consequent dancers he taught were fluid and angular, full of style and charisma.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Origins Of The Tarantella

Tarantella in Napoli by Enrico ForlenzaMany balletomanes may believe they know of the Tarantella through iconic American choreographer George Balanchine. However the dance, as a wild folk dance of Italy, was once believed to be a cure for tarantula bites, characterised by a fast, upbeat tempo and accompanied by tambourines.

Balanchine’s Tarantella showcases the nimble quickness of the dance and is a virtuosic display in the profusion of steps and quick changes of direction. The origins of the Tarantella are not dissimilar to the display by Balanchine, with the belief in the 16th and 17th centuries that the victims of tarantula bites must perform a frenzied dance to swear the poison out to prevent death and the hysterical condition known as tarantism using very rhythmic music. Today, the Tarantella is simply a dance in which the dancer and the musician constantly try to upstage each other by dancing or playing longer or faster than the other in order to tire the other out.

The first Tarantella dance originated in the Apulia region and spread out across cultures. As a result, the Neapolitan tarantella is a courtship dance performed by couples and featuring cheerful and increasingly faster music, and it is thought that its origins lie in the 15th century fusion between the Spanish Fandango and the Moresque’ballo di sfessartia, with the Tarantella becoming a solo dance.

Notable tarantellas include those in classical music such as that by Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Saens and Igor Stravinsky, in literature: a performance of the dance was central to Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, and in film: The Godfather I and II, the musical version of Peter Pan danced by Captain Hook and his band of pirates, referenced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and the Fairy Godmother’s song from Disney’s Cinderella is also a tarantella.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Margot Fonteyn

Margot FonteynDame Margot Fonteyn’s name dominated British ballet for more than 40 years as one of the truly great dancers of our time and the most famous ballerina of the second half of the century. Her name is one part of the legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev, with Fonteyn becoming late choreographer Frederick Ashton’s muse and an iconic figure of the English classical ballet style of elegance.

Fonteyn’s career began when she auditioned successfully for the Vic-Wells ballet, making her debut in 1934 as a snowflake in Nutcracker under Dame Ninette de Valois. After Alicia Markova, the company’s first ballerina, left in 1935, Fonteyn eventually became the company’s (later becoming The Royal Ballet) Prima ballerina assoluta and succeeded in some of the great classical roles of ballet. By 1939 Fonteyn had danced Aurora, Giselle, and Odette/Odile, and had already created many roles for Ashton’s work. For 25 years their choreographer-dancer partnership produced most of her greatest roles and his greatest ballets.

The company took up residence at Covent Garden, first performing Sleeping Beauty and then Symphonic Variations and Cinderella, which sealed Fonteyn as national treasure and international star. Fonteyn then went on to tackle Tamara Karsavina’s (ballerina of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes) title role in Firebird and created the characters of Ondine and Chloe. 1961 saw Nureyev journey to London dance Giselle with Fonteyn by invitation of de Valois, bringing to life one of the most famous partnership in the history of ballet. It is argued that Fonteyn’s career was extended by 15 years following the beginning of the partnership and she performed in many new ballets which were usually created to explore the dynamics of the partnership, the most famous probably being Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand.

Fonteyn gave her final performance in the early 1970s, and retired to Panama to live with her husband. She died of cancer in 1991.

Anything Goes… Again!

Anything Goes - Sondheim Theatre 2011The classic production Anything Goes is back on the musical theatre scene and is currently on tour across North America, visiting St. Louis, Washington, Schenectady, Toronto, Costa Mesa, Portland, Spokane and Seattle. This splendid new production produced by the Roundhouse Theatre Company will feature all the iconic tracks such as ‘I get a Kick out of You’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’ and ‘Anything Goes’, with the legendary Cole Porter the genius behind the music and lyrics of this sassy Broadway musical.

Anything Goes is based on the original book collaboration by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, and tells the story behind the S.S. American heading out to sea to London from New York, with two unlikely pairs setting off on the course to true love with mad antics along the way. Destiny then receives a little help in delivering the love from a crew of singing sailors, an exotic disguise, and of course some blackmail! The protagonists’ bumpy ride is levelled out by Kathleen Marshall’s fantastic work as Tony Award winner choreographer, providing audiences with an all-round entertaining trip out. Marshall has also worked on musical productions such as The Pajama Game and Grease.

Anything Goes is the winner of three Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, having been revived several times in the United States and Great Britain. The musical has also been filmed twice and is an extremely popular choice for school and community productions since its performance debut in 1934 at the Alvin (now Neil Simon) Theatre on Broadway. Charles B. Cochran, a British theatrical manager, bought the London performance rights and brought the show to the West End’s Palace Theatre opening in 1935 and running for 261 performances. The National Theatre then revived the music and opened it at the Olivier Theatre in 2002, with the production then transferring to the West End’s Theatre Royal from 2003 for a year.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dancing On Ice Gets The Boot

Dancing On Ice 2014It has been announced that 2014, as the 30th anniversary of Jane Torvil and Christopher Dean’s Olympic Bolero performance, will mark the last series of Dancing on Ice. Torvil and Dean, the series’ mentors, felt it made sense to end the show, as a mark of the anniversary of their groundbreaking dance at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics.

The final series of Dancing on Ice will be followed by the last Dancing on Ice tour around the UK, as per every series of the show, in March 2014. Despite a fierce following from its supporters, the viewing figures dramatically decreased for this year’s series, drawing just half of the show’’s audience at its peak in 2008 at 11.7 million viewers. It is arguable as to whether the show has reached the end of its natural life after its eighth consecutive series, having recruited a number of very watchable contestants over the last few series, those notable such as Olympic athletes, actors, actresses and other recognisable TV faces. The show has also been a prime-time success in eight different countries.

The show pairs up these celebrities with professional figure skaters and the duets are pitted against each other for the duration of the competition. The celebrities and their partners perform a live ice dance routine and the judges are required to judge each performance and give a mark between 0.0 and 10.0 (0.0 to 6.0 between series 1 and 5), depending on the performance, with the two lowest placed couples competing in a final showdown known as the “Skate Off”, where they perform their routine again. Once the couples have performed their routines for the judging panel, the judges decide on who deserves to stay and cast their votes, based on the second performance.

It seems Dancing on Ice has been voted off!

Cirque Du Soleil Back In The UK

Cirque Du SoleilCirque du Soleil, the multi-faceted performance extraordinaire, has revealed its tour dates for 2013, beginning in July at the London 02. Running from 18 July to 10 November, the tour will visit cities and venues such as London’s Wembley Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne’s Metro Radio Arena, Leeds Arena, Liverpool Echo Arena and the Capital FM Arena Nottingham. This is aside from the international leg for Cirque, heading out to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for the August part of the tour, and then to France and Spain from mid-November until Christmas.

The creativity and sheer talent of the Cirque performances entices audiences in their droves to marvel at the artistry, daredevil stunts and fantastic grace. The performers hold an array of awe-inspiring skills: their dexterity in their courageous on-stage activities show extreme agility and exceptional skill, the complexity yet grace of their acrobatic performances lies in the finesse and fluidity of the execution of the movements, defying the laws of gravity, their risk-taking creative approach, the intrinsic nature of dance in the anatomical and physical art forms; it seems it is built into their DNA.

Cirque du Soleil has done and continues to produce and perform phenomenal shows, display dazzling costumes, unbelievable skill sets, and entertainment for everyone. Some of the 19 shows currently in production include those dedicated to Michael Jackson and The Beatles, and others with enticing names such as La Nouba (resident show at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida), Kooza (currently touring Spain, Belgium, Russia and France), Ka (resident show at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas), Dralion (touring Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, France, Lebanon, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal) and Alegria (touring Russia, Ukraine, the UK, Poland, Spain, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Belarus and France), each with their own concepts, aims and unique spectacles.

Catch them if you can!

Queensland Ballet’s exciting season

Queensland BalletQueensland Ballet has announced an exclusive season coming up for dance fans in Australia by obtaining two very current stars, each in their own respects, for new work in the coming year for the company. Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet will be staged and will star Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta for the season which will run from 27 June to 5 July 2014. This is fantastic for the company and a huge achievement for Queensland Ballet’s artistic director, Li Cunxin.

Financially speaking, the season will be supported by the Queensland Government’s new Super Star Fund that will invest $3 million over four years to support local performing arts companies in engaging with internationally renowned artists. As a hugely supportive concept, it seems that Australian dance companies can continue in this vein in developing their work and engaging with overseas stars in renowned and iconic works. For Queensland Ballet, the season will take place at the Lyric Theatre at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and will be presented with sets and costumes from the Birmingham Royal Ballet production back in the UK.

MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet is widely considered the best in the world, despite being rarely seen outside of the UK. The work has never been performed in Australia so it is indeed a huge coup (as Li Cunxin states) for Queensland Ballet to secure the exclusive production and perform alongside two of the world’s great ballet dancers.

It is rather fitting that Queensland Ballet be granted this season by the government, in Li Cunxin’s own journey to Australia. Beginning his training in China and later releasing his autobiographical novel Mao’s Last Dancer detailing his childhood and subsequent ballet life, it seems Li Cunxin has also been smiled upon by ballet gods, being able to journey overseas and relish in his ballet career despite the strict Communist regime back in his homeland.

BalletBoyz – The Dancer’s Course

BalletBoyzBecoming one of the BalletBoyz is arguably every young dancer’s dream. With their slick performances, immeasurable talent and famous good looks, it is no wonder that the group lead by Trevor Nunn and William Trevitt is going from strength to strength, and may have the answer to these young dancers’ wishes.

Following their hugely successful project ‘The Talent’, BalletBoyz are launching The Dancer’s Course, which will start in September 2013. As an innovative one year weekend course, the Boyz are searching for men and women over the age of 18 to join the professional dance company in order to develop their versatility, contemporary dance skills and technique within their nurturing environment. Developing talent and grasping opportunities form the majority of yearning to be a professional dancer (the other part being a little luck!), so this BalletBoyz course seems the perfect chance to engage with an experiential approach to training, whatever your dance background.

The course will centre on working closely with ‘The Talent’ to develop the young dancers as artists and providing them with opportunities to perform and choreograph throughout the course. With the aim of the course to take individuals with raw talent and turn them into creative and employable dancers, it seems the course is every young dancer’s dream. Working alongside the BalletBoyz, the dancers will come to represent the BalletBoyz ethos of excellence, and a desire to perform at the highest level.

The dancers will also have the chance to gain firsthand experience of the technical aspects of performance, such as film, music, costume and lighting, in addition to working closely alongside ‘The Talent’ in order to be coached, mentored, challenged and inspired by some of the leading teachers and choreographers in the dance world today.