SYTYCD is back

So You Think You Can Dance will soon be back for a 14th season this summer, returning to its original format of featuring adult dancers between the ages of 18-30. The programme, now an Emmy Award winner, dabbled in the featuring of younger dancers, however it is now back to its original focus on older dancers.

Back in September, a 14 year old dancer was named the winner during the live two-hour season finale, the show’s youngest winner. Here SYTYCD reportedly had more than 180 million video views on social media last season and the series celebrated its 250th episode.

The format will remain the same as previously aired for older performers; the dancers will showcase their talents in various dance styles, including contemporary, tap, hip-hop, ballroom, animation, breaking and more. The Top 10 dancers will be paired up with All-Stars who will guide them throughout the competition as they bid for votes and the title of America’s Favourite Dancer. It has been clear from the programme’s audience that the preference for dancers is older, returning to this hugely successful past format.

This season, all potential contestants must register online, and upload a video or provide a link to a performance of theirs. If selected, producers will then schedule the contestant for an in-person audition in one of the two audition cities: New York or Los Angeles, in March. Applicants must register for a chance to audition by 19 February, and full eligibility rules and additional details can be found online.

Over its 13 seasons, SYTYCD has received 55 Emmy Award nominations and garnered 14 Emmy Award wins. The hit series also received a Teen Choice Award in 2006 and a Television Critics Association Award in 2012 for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming.

Dance on Camera festival

The annual Dance on Camera Festival recently took place, co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Centre and Dance Films Association. Kicking off at the beginning of the month, the line up of films was full of favourites from the dance world, bringing together an eclectic mix of pop legend Justin Timberlake, swing dance, a ballet school for the blind and a modern dance infusion from Martha Graham for its audiences.

Opening night saw the premiere of Anatomy of a Male Ballet Dancer, a much-anticipated portrait of revered American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, in addition to a Q&A with Gomes and the filmmakers. A short film also shown , Our Five Senses, featured dancer/choreographer Selene Muñoz with New York City Ballet’s Ask la Cour and Amar Ramasar, and that was without a further photo exhibition and Virtual Reality installation.

The closing night programme was also set to impress. In the Steps of Trisha Brown is a documentary following the staging of Brown’s Glacial Decoy at the Paris Opéra Ballet, and Between Stephen and Yvonne was also shown. As a short film in the form of a conversation about Brown – between postmodernists Stephen Petronio and Yvonne Rainer – it is necessary viewing for any fan of Brown’s postmodernist work.

In the Steps of Trisha Brown takes a look at the dancers of Paris Opéra Ballet and their learning to perform Brown’s grounded work. Modern and contemporary dance can be hard for classical dancers to adjust to at first but benefits their repertoire hugely. The film features much archival footage of Trisha in action, creating the movement all the way to a performance. The film is paramount in understanding her work and the importance of passing it from dancer to dancer.

Behind the scenes with Airbnb

Airbnb has started to let travellers get to know the places they visit, not only by staying in a home away from home in the traditional sense of using the service, but also by experiencing the destination with local people who share their interests. With the launch of its new Experiences section, Airbnb’s intriguing new offering is consequently the chance to get a behind the scenes look at favourite dance companies, for example, but is ultimately the chance to experience any interest further.

Airbnb’s hometown of San Francisco has seen San Francisco Ballet become one of the first dance companies to sign up to be involved. The Ballet experience is hosted by former San Francisco Ballet soloist Pauli Magierek, who will meet travellers at the War Memorial Opera House and take them straight to the barre for a beginner/intermediate ballet class taught by a San Francisco Ballet faculty member. Travellers can then attend a performance, drink champagne and eat chocolates at intermission, and afterwards go backstage to meet a dancer or two for an insider perspective after the show. A pair of autographed pointe shoes will also be thrown in!

Over in the States, the two-day experience costs $250 per person, but because this is one of Airbnb’s Social Impact Experiences, 100 percent of what is paid will go directly to San Francisco Ballet. This will help disadvantaged children and their families attend a performance of the company’s Nutcracker at no cost.

For something a little more contemporary, for a $125 fee there is also a three hour Move on Market Street experience at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, hosted by the company’s community and teen programme coordinator. Travellers will be able to glimpse a rehearsal or composition exercise with either the company or student dancers at LINES Dance Centre, before a private Pilates class. In the art of giving back, the fee will support the continuation of the contemporary ballet company’s work.

Combatting stage fright

Stage fright can creep up on any dancer, from amateur to professional! It may not seem like a common ailment when dancers look so composed and confident on stage, however the feeling can develop over time or simply be managed well. It can affect dancers of any genre in any dance company, and can also affect singers and actors. Everyone and anyone can experience stage fright at some point while they are performing.

For dancers specifically stage fright could mean you can’t remember the steps or are frightened to go onto the stage, and it can cause stress and extreme emotions. The fear experienced is a rational emotion, due to the high levels of stress and anxiety that performance can incite. The body’s pre-programmed stress response means it can enter a different physical state and sometimes even a different psychological state, distracting the dancer from what they intend to do and cause doubt and fear.

Stage fright can be strange and confusing: dancers love to dance, which is why they do it. Dancing normally includes performing on a stage, so it is unclear as to why stage fright is a condition experienced by many. Many dancers treat themselves badly because of stage fright as to them it appear irrational – they have rehearsed for hours, warmed up, practised hard, and are then frightened to step onto the stage.

To combat stage fright it can help to visualise yourself outside your body at the side of the stage, taking everything in and imagining the worst case scenario, and what can be done to overcome this. Remember how much you love to dance and perform once you are on stage and once the performance is over: the feelings of stage fright are only in the wings. Once you step onto the stage you can dance and enjoy yourself.

Leslie Bowman – Thriller hype

Leslie is originally from Wellington, New Zealand. He graduated from Laine Theatre Arts in 2015 with a National Diploma in Dance.

Credits include: Sleeping Beauty – Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (2013), Snow White & The Seven Dwarves – Richmond Theatre (2014), West End Heroes – Dominion Theatre (2013, 2014, 2015), Thriller! Live – Lyric Theatre (2015-present).

Have always wanted to be on stage?

Yes, I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to be a performer! Never wanted anything else.


Where did you train and what was it like?

I trained at Laine Theatre Arts. The teachers gave me a lot of very valuable knowledge and skills which I use on a daily basis. It was a challenging three years but it was definitely worth it.


What has been your favourite audition since leaving college and why?

Hamilton, because I was able to work closely and in depth with the very people who created and work on this amazing show.


What is your favourite part of your current job?

I get to dance to Michael Jackson’s music every day and my cast is one big family, so we have a great time doing it.


What’s the best thing about performing and dance?

It just feels so good to dance! I love being able to put a smile on people’s faces and do a job that I love to do. And I get to meet a lot of really cool people that are passionate about the same thing as me.


And the worst thing?

It takes me a long time to get out of bed the next morning because my joints don’t want to move!


Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Us boys at Thriller usually just put on some music and get ourselves hyped up for the show.


What would be your advice to an aspiring performer?

Dedicate yourself to your craft, work at it every day and keep striving for your goals no matter what.

Dance at the Barbican

London’s Barbican is a venue full of theatre and dance this year. In its most ambitious dance offer to date, the Barbican is a world-class arts organisation which pushes the boundaries of all major art forms. This new season brings genre-defying performances to the city from around the world, with audiences able to watch works from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain, the UK, USA and Venezuela.

The Barbican’s Artistic Associates, such as Boy Blue Entertainment and Cheek by Jowl, have been welcomed back for the season, as well as artists from the London International Mime Festival. As commissioned choreographers, Julie Cunningham and Darren Johnston will be presenting new work following a period of dance research and development, and the ToneelgroepAmsterdam will be resident at the Barbican throughout the year.

The recent world premiere and Barbican co-production of Blak Whyte Gray – by Boy Blue Entertainment – revealed a new side to the company through the new triple bill. In a return to its roots and in a celebration of culture, the company also curated events, music, film and talks at the Barbican to accompany the main show. Another world premiere was the Royal Ballet’s Les Enfants Terribles, directed and choreographed by Venezuelan choreographer Javier De Frutos, with Royal Ballet principal dancers Edward Watson and Zenaida Yanowsky.

In a second mixed bill at the Barbican, Ballet Black Artistic Director Cassa Pancho commissions bold choreography, this time from Martin Lawrance, Michael Corder and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, whose new piece is commissioned by the Barbican. Emerging British choreographer and acclaimed dancer Julie Cunningham brings audiences a rare combination of dance and spoken word, in a double bill as a Barbican co-commission about gender and identity. British choreographer and visual artist Darren Johnston fuses digital imagery produced by motion-sensing technology with meditative choreography in Zero Point. A Barbican co-commission and European premiere, the piece will be performed by a cast of Japanese dancers.

Both works presented by Cunningham and Johnston have been created through the Barbican’s Research & Development programme. The choreographers were given time in the venue spaces to formulate ideas and work with dancers, with access to facilities and equipment to develop work both musically and technically.

New work for the National Youth Dance Company

This year’s line-up for the National Youth Dance Company, the country’s flagship organisation for young dancers, will see it perform a new creation by the company’s Guest Artistic Director Damien Jalet. The work, entitled Tarantiseismic, receives its world premiere on 19 April at Sadler’s Wells, ahead of a UK national tour throughout June and July. Founded in 2012, NYDC is a young company that creates and performs innovative dance, drawing together some of the best young talent to work with Sadler’s Wells’ internationally renowned Associate Artists.

Tarantiseismic is a new commission that sees Jalet present a unique piece of theatre which addresses themes of melancholia, ritual, control and abandon. Jalet’s choreographic style, combined with the young dancers’ energy and talent, is set to produce an experience that shifts the consciousness of the audience. In his appointment as NYDC Guest Artistic Director, Jalet follows in the footsteps of Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists Michael Keegan-Dolan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan and Jasmin Vardimon, who have each in turn held the position over the past four years.

Jalet is a French and Belgian choreographer and dancer: he has worked as a dancer for companies such as Les Ballets C de la B and Wim Vandekeybus. He has been involved in many collaborations, such as Eastman, Chunky Move, Icelandic Dance Company, Akram Khan and Sasha Waltz. Recent projects include Babel (Words), which won the Olivier Award for Best Dance Production in 2011.

This year’s diverse cohort of 40 young dancers comprises 30 new members, selected through NYDC Experience Workshops held in towns and cities all over the country. The dancers are mentored during three intensive residencies over the year, in order to create, rehearse and develop the new piece. Throughout the dancers’ time with NYDC they are given a unique insight into the dance profession, gaining skills and techniques that open up career possibilities. NYDC therefore has a track record of putting young people on paths to successful dance careers, with over 80% of all former dancers now either in further dance studies, in vocational training or working professionally.

English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer

Now in its eighth year, English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer competition will be held at Sadler’s Wells on 25 May 2017. Selected by peers within the company, six of ENB’s most promising dancers will perform in front of a panel of expert judges, in a bid to receive the 2017 Emerging Dancer Award.

Emerging Dancer is a key part of English National Ballet’s commitment to developing and nurturing talent within the company. Last year’s winner of both the Emerging Dancer Award and the People’s Choice Award, Cesar Corrales, has since been promoted to First Soloist. He has performed many principal roles since, and his performance as Ali in Le Corsaire has been nominated for Outstanding Male Performance at the 2017 Critics Circle National Dance Awards.

The 2017 finalists are:

Isabelle Brouwers

Isabelle joined English National Ballet in 2014. This season, Isabelle has performed as Myrtha in Akram Khan’s Giselle, Mirliton and Lead Flowers in Nutcracker, and as Myrtha in Mary Skeaping’s Giselle. A previous Emerging Dancer finalist in 2014 and 2015, Isabelle won Silver Medal at the 2013 Genée International Ballet Competition.

Rina Kanehara

Rina joined English National Ballet after being named Prize Winner at the Prix de Lausanne 2015. In the 2016/2017 season Rina made her debut as Clara in Nutcracker. Rina was a finalist in Emerging Dancer 2016, and has won Silver Medal at Varna 2016 and Gold Medal at the Youth America Grand Prix 2012.

Madison Keesler

Madison joined English National Ballet in 2013, and was previously with Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. This season she worked closely with Akram Khan on the creation of Giselle and performed in the title role, as well as performing as Lead Snowflakes and Flowers in Nutcracker, and as Bathilde in Mary Skeaping’s Giselle.

Aitor Arrieta

Aitor joined English National Ballet at the start of the 2016/2017 season. He has since performed as Albrecht in Akram Khan’s Giselle, and as the Nutcracker. He received The Professional Dancers’ Association of Gipuzkoa Discover Award in 2015, the 2015 Dancer Revelation of Gipuzkoa Prize and Gold Medal at the International Dance Contest of Biarritz.

Guilherme Menezes

Guilherme joined the company from English National Ballet School in 2011. This season he has performed as the Nutcracker and Lead Flowers in Nutcracker, and in Akram Khan’s Giselle. He was a finalist at Prix de Lausanne 2010 and was a finalist in Emerging Dancer 2013.

Emilio Pavan

Previously a member of Queensland Ballet, Emilio joined the company in 2015. He has performed in Akram Khan’s Giselle and made his debut as Nephew in Nutcracker this season.

Taking a break

Taking an enforced break from dancing can seem like a world away. Despite the fact they are the words no dancer ever wants to hear, there can be a positive side from what could be the worst thing to happen to a dancer: getting injured. Enforced rest can be a chance to stop and take stock whilst your body and mind recuperates. To get the most from dance both the body and mind needs some down-time, so the body’s muscles and nervous system can repair, strengthen and process everything that has been worked on.

Enforced rest and recovery from an injury can be hard to accept at first. To begin with, injured dancers must seek advice from someone who is highly professional in the field of rehabilitation to start the recovery process. As a result there is a large capacity for the dancer to truly understand their dance, the body and correct alignment and technique, and this can be analysed in order to make improvements for the future. Viewing technique objectively from the inside can also help prevent injuries from both occurring and recurring.

The process of healing is extremely individual. Different methods help different dancers, and an injury does not mean a dancer has to stop exercising completely. Whilst it can be a slow and frustrating process trying to undo bad habits and retrain the body, time off from injury is of benefit to this dance development. In most cases dancers will benefit from continuing to move the body, with effective methods of conditioning for a dancer such as Pilates. In terms of rehabilitation, the injury will mean a structured and personalised plan in order to heal in the most effective way.

Injuries can teach dancers how to listen to the body, and they often recover stronger: physically and mentally. It is important to stay positive. Learn as much as you can about your injury, and focus on understanding as much as you can about strengthening the area – it is part of life for every dancer but can be dealt with in a positive way.


Preparing for the stage

Preparation and organisation are vital for any dancer, particularly when performing. Throughout the rehearsal and performance period it is therefore important to remain in shape, stay injury free and dance your best in every role. The key to success is formulating a foolproof routine that is unique to you and suits your work. If you use your time effectively by rehearsing and performing well, the best part is that you will be looked upon as a reliable and proficient dancer, and you will have survived the season!

Creating a rehearsal routine for the weeks in advance of your performances means you can use the time you are not dancing effectively. Floor barre or ballet conditioning exercises can help pass the time when you are waiting during long days of rehearsals, which will help to strengthen and maintain your technique. Dancing the same pieces during rehearsals can sometimes mean technique is neglected and muscles become dormant if they are not used. Revisiting your conditioning routines can therefore help prevent injuries, usually by overuse.

Other ways to avoid injury during a rehearsal period include keeping warmed up in time for your next rehearsal, wearing warm-up clothes when not in the studio to avoid getting cold air on your muscles and not sitting waiting in big stretches, then going straight back to rehearse. Staying hydrated and energised in this time is also vital, so you can perform at your very best. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough to get you through a long rehearsal and performance day, in addition to your theatre kit that you will need to take along.

Although you will not be in a familiar space at the theatre, create your own routine so you ensure everything is done that needs to be. Have all the times you need written down, and find time to review your roles on the side. It’s nearly time to head onstage!