Each year, the UK’s contemporary dance house The Place announces its annual End of Year Season, in which graduating students from London Contemporary Dance School perform both a varied and excellent programme. This marks the completion of their training at one of the world’s leading conservatoires and inspires the next generation of dancers to harness their dance talents and hone their training.
Image courtesy of Benedict Johnson Photography.
Rather than a focus on pretty pink pointe shoes or the West End tap tones, the Robin Howard Dance Theatre is overrun each year with bare footed talent, sporting a range or dance clothing, which is generally thought to set the standard of contemporary dance throughout the rest of the country. The season includes In Performance: Postgraduate Alumni, which will feature the work created by MA Choreography Alumni, celebrating the work produced by the course over a period of 11 years, performed by London Contemporary Dance School’s alumni.
Additionally, EDge, the postgraduate performance company of LCDS, will be presenting a repertoire that has been toured around Europe by the company’s 12 dancers since March 2012, including upcoming choreographer James Wilton’s Through Shards, and Avant Garde Dance’s Founder and Artistic Director Tony Adigun’s Unleashed, inspired by Richard Alston’s iconic Wildlife.
The Graduation Performances will feature over 40 graduating students performing specially commissioned works by professional choreographers, including The Place’s Artistic Director Richard Alston. Alston has restaged his latest piece A Ceremony Of Carols, originally commissioned by The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury and Sadler’s Wells. A selection of the students’ own choreography, chosen from the body of work created over the last year will also be featured to complete the programme. This represents the culmination of the graduates’ experiences at LCDS, completing their BA in Contemporary Dance and Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Dance Studies. The diverse range of works demonstrates the breadth of their studies and the excellence of the performance demonstrates the sheer quality of their training.
This year’s Sampled is due to run at Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue, the Peacock Theatre on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June 2012, in order to give audiences a taste of what the UK’s leading dance house has to offer to both leotard-clad and non-dancing fans. Presented by Sadler’s Wells and Big Dance 2012, Sampled is now well established as a highlight of London’s vibrant dance calendar. It is filled with delights such as jazz dance sneakers to the more eclectic fusions of ballet skirts and urban dancewear, as anticipated in 2012.
Despite being in its sixth year, 2012 marks Sampled’s first appearance at the Peacock, containing two incredible and inspiring days of dance, music and workshops. Audiences are privy to a wealth of dance spectacle, displaying world-class hip hop and the pink pointe shoes of ballet, to bare-footed contemporary dance and flamenco in one sitting. This unique mix of Sampled demonstrates the complete diversity of the UK dance scene in the twenty-first century, and the increasing number of collaborations which are taking place throughout the industry in order to create new works of art, and even masterpieces.
The 2012 line up includes Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company, English National Ballet, Jonzi D, Da Bratz (the youth group of Olivier Award-winning hip hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment), Cathy Waller – who won the Blueprint Bursary Award earlier this year for her fusion of contemporary and hip hop dance theatre – and the winner of the New Adventures Choreographer Award, James Cousins. Trussed up in their tutus, English National Ballet will perform a pas de deux from their magnificent production Swan Lake, which was choreographed by Derek Deane. In addition, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and hip hop legend Jonzi D will perform Aeroplane Man, his witty solo and a true story, and Da Bratz will perform Generation: Next 2012, which was well received at its premiere at Breakin’ Convention earlier this year.
Find out more and purchase tickets online at the Sadler’s Wells website.
Flash Mob, a dance show starring acts from TV shows such as Got To Dance and So You Think You Can Dance is to debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Flash Mob will be a “public platform to create sensational routines” without the limitations that are so often encountered when choreographing dance on screen. Adapting choreography for a TV programme especially can limit the creativity of the artists involved, with the main focus being on the dancers, leg warmers and all, rather than the whole construction process from pulling on jazz shoes to the final production clad in outrageous costumes.
However, Flash Mob implies that a piece based on ordinary people can produce extraordinary dancing. Often the winners and finalists from the dance programmes mentioned above – and plenty of others – are quickly nabbed for international tours supporting pop legends and West End productions. The focus of these is usually solely on ‘selling’ rather than the dance aesthetic itself which may run the risk of slowly fading, with artists losing the chance to dance in their own right and simply existing as ‘a name’.
As a result, Flash Mob is a show that will give these artists the opportunity to choreograph their own individual routines for themselves, rather than filling someone else’s dance shoes, and becoming in the process the stars of their own show. The Flash Mob show will be directed by Gary Lloyd, artistic director and choreographer for Thriller Live and artistic director for Hair The Musical. Additional directors will include star hip hop dancers who have found fame on TV talent shows and films, such as Got To Dance 2011 finalists Alleviate. The show will run from 2nd-27th August 2012 at the Assembly Hall, Edinburgh.
For a ballerina, aspiring or prima, to maintain the theatrical illusion and aesthetic line of grace during performance requires a combination of skills and qualities. Many non-dance audience members, and dance fans alike, are caught in this dynamic illusion of the moving body. Within this is the creation of a specific aura of beauty as the dancer moves seamlessly from one movement to the next with engaging expression and undeniable talent.
The finishing touch on the end of the beautifully extended leg is usually a pink pointe shoe, especially when classical repertoire is being performed. Naturally, audiences are mainly receptive to the “finished” and aesthetic product of ballet rather than the process, be that a tutu or a costume of a leotard and dance skirt, performance tights or the tiara which is quite literally the cherry on top of the cake. Unless the audience is made up of experienced and professional dancers, they will not consider the uncomfortable feelings or even pain that are being brought on by wearing pointe shoes, often the epitome of perfection.
Many dancers engage the use of “toe protectors” in order to prevent blisters and sores emerging on their feet. Popular choices are Bunheads’ Ouch Pouches, and various other products such as toe tape, Happy Toes gel pads and lamb’s wool. Whatever your pointe shoe preference, Dance Direct is the dancewear specialist that offers a wide variety of products to suit the Principal Artists down to those anticipating their first lessons en pointe. Whilst Bunheads appear to be the most popular brand of pointe shoe accessories, there is much on offer to ensure the balletic beauty of performance is maintained.
Former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta is set to make his feature film debut in The Day of the Flowers, due to receive its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 25, with the UK release due later in 2012. The plot follows two Scottish sisters leading very separate lives, who have a mutual clue to follow. This sees them rush to the airport in a vintage white Mini Cooper and set off for Cuba, where their parents spent many happy years in the 1970s, with the film sharing a very vintage feel with its audience.
Acosta plays a ballet teacher who is working a double life as a tourist guide in order to survive. One ballet scene, enabling Acosta to revert to his ballet shoe roots, sees him take on an extremely authoritative manner. Another dance scene emerges when one sister asks Acosta to dance in a club, forgetting the whole of Cuba can dance, as can Acosta. Whilst previously partnered with pointe shoes and sparkling tutu skirt wearing ballerinas, Acosta again demonstrates his sheer versatility. Despite this, the film is not programmed to showcase his dancing to new audiences, but to wow existing fans vying for another glimpse of the star in another capacity: acting. A far cry from his previous ballet tights and tunics, Acosta meets the sisters as a tour guide, inevitably rescuing their inexperienced Cuban presumptions.
Aside from taking on this role within The Day of the Flowers, Acosta also has strong links of this kind with his nephew Yonah Acosta, who currently dances with English National Ballet and won the People’s Award earlier this year. Combining the rosin-laden stage with the film set, the Acosta family continues to demonstrate there are no limits to their talents.
Image courtesy of scillystuff on Flickr.
As part of British choreographer Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures‘ 25th anniversary celebrations, old works have been revived and new ones are being created.
A triple bill was presented in May this year, showcasing works – for the second time – that launched Bourne’s career, and will undoubtedly propel his choreographic status further today. Spitfire was Bourne’s first creation in 1988, placing the most famous 19th century ballet showstopper in the world of men’s underwear advertising. A far cry from the dance tights and tunics of the day, Bourne’s men are costumed in revealing shorts and vests, a springboard for his success. Town and Country from 1991 saw Bourne’s and New Adventures’ first Olivier nomination as it immortalised the Bourne dance style in its ironically witty yet moving creation. Bygone eras and national characters are explored, a recurring theme in most of Bourne’s work. The Infernal Galop was inspired by 1930s and 1940s French icons, as seen by the “stiff upper lips” of English imagination to delight Bourne’s audiences.
Summer 2012 has recently seen the next instalment of celebrations. Bourne’s Play Without Words, in association with the National Theatre, depicts Chelsea in 1965 and the paradox of domestic social order and struggles for power in a spellbinding production. Its first revival as part of the 25th anniversary since 2002 at the National Theatre is seen to be another critical and popular success, making its debut at Sadler’s Wells and repeating its Olivier nominated work in such a prestigious dance house is a sure mark of the company’s success. Play Without Words won the 2003 Awards for Best Entertainment and Best Theatre Choreographer.
The 25th birthday of New Adventures will culminate with the world premier of Bourne’s latest re-imagining of the ballet classic The Sleeping Beauty. This will complete the trio of ballet masterworks that began with Nutcracker! and continued to reveal the international hit Swan Lake, minus the twirling tiaras of the originals. Again featuring touches of the Olivier, award winners will collaborate to create another Bourne magic, if potentially haunting production as a supernatural love story.
Not one for employing pointe shoes and pristine tutus, Bourne has contributed uniquely to both the British and international dance scene, providing sheer entertainment and arguably igniting a love of dance for many audience members.
Celebrating its 15th year, Kids Week is back and planning an action-packed month of theatrical fun from 1-31 August 2012 for children aged 16 and under. Kids Week is administered by The Society of London Theatre, which is a trade association that represents the producers, theatre owners and managers of the major commercial and grant-aided theatres in London.
During Kids Week, the magic of London theatre can be truly experienced and engaged with, be it the show-stopping tap shoes of Singin’ In The Rain, the wonderful mix of ballet shoes and boxing gloves of Billy Elliot or the animal print leotards of the inspiring The Lion King.
A fantastic selection of shows can be seen for free at certain performances when children are accompanied by a full price paying adult, including many of the new additions to the West End such as Matilda the Musical, Chariots of Fire and Ghost the Musical. Two additional children can also attend at half price, able to take part in the fantastic ethos of Kids Week in all its musical theatre dancewear finery.
There is a fantastic range of free activities and events for children to take part in also, an incredible selection including plays, musicals, comedy and entertainment with packages also available, aside from the fabulous ticket offers available to top London shows. These activities are free to participate in when tickets are purchased as part of a Show & Activity package. Inspirational standalone workshops are on offer too, encouraging children of all ages to don their dance trainers and grab the nearest microphone, connecting with their inner star. Children are given the chance to explore the exciting world of theatre and discover what goes on behind those illusionistic scenes.
West End LIVE, in association with MasterCard, is returning to Trafalgar Square on June 23 and 24 2012 for free! Presented by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre, West End LIVE showcases the quality and diversity of performing arts entertainment on offer in the heart of London… free for all. The iconic setting of Trafalgar Square demonstrates and promotes the West End as an exciting venue for all the family, whether it is musical theatre, contemporary dance or show-stopping voices that take your fancy.
Featuring showcase performances from every West End musical alongside interactive exhibits from London’s top attractions such as live bands, museums, galleries and cultural institutions, West End LIVE has been a great success in previous years, and 2012 looks to provide no less. It is a unique event that has grown and emerged as a hugely popular fixture in London’s entertainment calendar. As an all dancing and all singing spectacular, West End LIVE is a whirlwind of coloured costumes and performance tights, showing off the high kicking character shoes and the daring moves of jazz sneakers whilst providing a fantastic musical soundtrack.
Featuring highlights from west end musicals such as Thriller Live, The Wizard of Oz, Matilda the Musical and Chicago, West End LIVE is a sure-fire way to get your theatrical taste buds tingling as you experience a wealth of performances free of charge. Other exhibitors include Madame Tussauds, the Science Museum and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, with performances from the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy, National Youth Music Theatre, West End Kids and Big Dance. With something for everyone of all ages and interests, West End LIVE looks sure to entice and excite you with its fantastic offerings for 2012.
Dancing on the whole without ballet shoes, or diamond encrusted tutus, male ballet dancers are mostly utilised on stage to display the female ballerina in the best possible light to the audience and critics alike. While this has been a tradition of classical ballet for many centuries, the twenty-first century has marked a series of changes in the male-female relationship on stage, with increasing numbers of female dancers required to lift and support their male partners in dance genres.
Balletboyz, an all-male company has also turned the male classical ballet dancer tradition on its head, and sometimes quite literally. Made up of 8 young men, the Boyz are more likely to sport jazz shoes than the white tights and unitards of their male dancer predecessors. Whilst this history is an integral part of dance today, it seems important that the dance sector should not become stagnant – it should continue to evolve and adjust to the shifts in the industry, and the social and cultural contexts of everyday life.
As the creation of Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, Balletboyz was founded in 2001 as contemporary and classically driven company. Both founders were members of The Royal Ballet, both dancing principal roles including Romeo, Prince Siegfried and King of the Sweets. They have additionally created roles for choreographers such as Kenneth MacMillan, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe and Christopher Wheeldon. Through the formation of Balletboyz, Nunn and Trevitt have fused the classical and contemporary, moving away from the soft shoes they were once used to, and creating a passion-fuelled company full of inspiring young men.
In 2005 Balletboyz became Associate Artists at Sadler’s Wells, London’s leading dance house, and 2010 saw the first edition of Balletboyz’ groundbreaking project, the TALENT. Nunn and Trevitt selected nine male dancers from a variety of backgrounds, working with them closely to create a company of performers. The show toured nationally and internationally receiving fantastic reviews, confirming that Balletboyz do indeed wear the dance crown, and will continue to push themselves physically and creatively.
The London initiative of annual “how to” sessions for 16-25 year olds, Masterclass, is 10 years old in 2012, and is celebrating by providing attendees with fantastic ticket offers. Within the arts sector, as with life itself, the reason for its continuance and success is the result of human beings and their individual wants and needs. Many young people who have trained in the stereotypical ballet, tap and modern, donning pretty pink ballet shoes, huge varieties of jazz shoes and every child’s dream of noisy tap shoes. However, not every young thespian or ballerina grows up chasing the dream of performing on stage for most nights of their lives.
Masterclass is a fantastic project which can be an aid to these individuals, providing worthwhile and alternative advice for those who love theatre, but with aspirations sometimes straying from the stage. For example, Masterclass 2012 in London will see a Theatre Careers Advice Panel, a Getting into Drama School, and Musical Theatre talks, catering for numerous involved with the arts, whatever their tastes. A Masterclass event to be held in Sheffield, additionally, will include a Maureen Lipman Masterclass, a Masterclass Patron, at the International Student Drama Festival as one of Britain’s best loved actresses and comedians. As part of the Masterclass vein, Lipman, CBE, will share her invaluable knowledge of working on the British stage with the next generation of emerging theatre artists.
Many are inclined to forget those who are responsible for theatre and the arts sector who are not in the spotlight on-stage in the high-heeled New Yorker shoes and shining show tights. However, in order to make the show in hand possible, numerous backstage and administration staff are required, all of whom in the making are catered for at Masterclass.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.