Watkins Dance Company – woman on a mission

Anna graduated from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in 2005. She has worked as a dancer with European Ballet, Neville Campbell, Pair Dance, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, MaxwellDanceProject and Motionhouse for its world premiere tour of ‘Broken’. Anna is a current dancer for Tavaziva Dance, having joined in 2007. She was Rehearsal Assistant from 2009–2010, Project Manager in 2014 and then Project Leader for ZIVA Youth Dance, Tavaziva’s youth company.

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Crazy for Caroline Flack

The classic musical Crazy for You is soon to reappear around the UK, as it embarks on a UK tour this summer. Adding to the excitement of the musical reopening, television presenter Caroline Flack will make her stage debut in the UK tour. Flack previously won the 2014 series of Strictly Come Dancing – and trained at Bodyworks in Cambridge – so a step onto the musical theatre stage will not be at all taxing for the performer.

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Annie – starring Miranda Hart

Much-loved comedian Miranda Hart is set to make her West End debut in the musical Annie, playing the notorious Miss Hannigan in Nikolai Foster’s show. Foster will direct the new production of Annie at the Piccadilly Theatre, London to open in May this year, a distinct change for Hart renowned for her stand-up comedic talents. Musical theatre will be a new string to her bow, with fans anticipated to support the star’s venture into singing, dancing and acting.

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Hair’s 50th anniversary production

The 1960s musical Hair is set to receive an immersive revival at The Vaults, in the heart of London, returning to the city for its 50th anniversary production. This new production of the acclaimed musical will be a particularly immersive one, celebrating the show’s anniversary in October, underground in The Vaults near to Waterloo in the city.

Hair will run at The Vaults from 10 October to 3 December, with previews from 4 October: it is set to be a hugely successful opening. Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, the production will be preceded by an immersive experience including pop-up restaurants and themed stalls down in The Vaults, and added post-show entertainment will include ’60s discos, live bands, and screenings of iconic ’60s movies. In an experience similar to that of Secret Cinema, the musical is sure to delight and excite.

Hair is set in the East Village of New York in 1967, and tells the story of a tribe of young people yearning to change the world – under the shadow of the Vietnam War. It features the songs “Aquarius”, “Let the Sun Shine In” and “Good Morning Star Shine”, and has a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni. With music by Galt MacDermot the show is a plea for change, and is particularly poignant in how relevant it could be regarded today.

The production will be mounted by four young producers; Katy Lipson, Ollie Rosenblatt, Joseph Houston and William Whelton. Whilst they have some experience under their belts the foursome are undoubtedly fresh-faced, however this unique transfer looks set to deliver for them. Already there has been a very positive reaction to the vibrant young production of Hair, providing it with both a future and longevity. At 50 years old The Vaults is the perfect setting to celebrate this continually topical and moving musical.

Data-driven dancers’ health

The Royal Ballet has recently committed itself to sharing its knowledge in caring for dancers, by partnering with the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science. It’s support of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science means that one of its research projects that aims to gather injury and fitness data from dancers at the UK’s major companies and schools can move forward, in a data-driven approach to dancers’ health.

The project hopes to improve care for dancers’ health and wellbeing through this research, and as a result of the partnership The Royal Ballet will share learning from its system that uses specialist digital technology to track dancers’ injuries, health and day-to-day training, which it uses to inform its injury prevention strategies. As they work together it is hoped that the dance industry will better understand the vast breadth and depth of ‘injury’ across the wider dance sector. It is deemed as essential for the development of the industry.

The partnership between the ballet company and the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science will strengthen the valuable work already done in this area, and will go on to further support the physical and psychological health and wellbeing of dancers around the world. The work has been welcomed by the founding partners of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, including One Dance UK and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries. The centre has already begun to align its injury surveillance methods with the Royal Ballet.

The National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science was founded in 2012 to share dance science expertise and provide information, guidance and access to healthcare services. Its other partners include the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the University of Birmingham and the University of Wolverhampton.

Singing and dancing service

A branch of the popular fast-food chain Leon has said it will only be hiring staff who can sing and dance. In this bold new move, it vows that hiring individuals of this stature will mean it will be easier for staff to take time off to prepare for and go to auditions. The particular chain which advocates this is located opposite the Queen’s Theatre in London, where the iconic musical Les Misérables is currently running.

The Leon branch said it would be holding auditions to recruit its staff at the end of January, looking to hire a large team of 40 performers as its serving staff. It is well documented that it can be difficult for performers to attend auditions for performance work, due to the fact they are limited by the hours of work they must do in between these jobs. By working for this branch of the Leon chain, performers have more freedom to attend those auditions which they may not have previously been able to consider.

In a bonus to working at such a considerate and understanding organisation, the restaurant will also allow the staff to perform for customers during shifts. From practising their new audition repertoire to performing their favourite time steps, customers in the Leon branch are surely in for a treat as they get more than they pay for. Leon’s co-founder John Vincent told the Evening Standard newspaper that the company wanted to provide a stage for West End hopefuls, both by hiring them as employees and allowing them to perform for customers.

On its website, Leon say its vision is to ‘prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good, and there is no denying the fact that customers will sure receive this in the branch opposite the Les Misérables theatre.

HeadStart Newham project

East London Dance is embarking on a major new partnership with HeadStart Newham, a project to tackle the growing prevalence of mental health problems amongst young people. From February 2017, East London Dance will embark on an 18 month project with HeadStart Newham – in partnership with London Youth and Sadler’s Wells – for mental health prevention in young people aged 10-16. The programme will deliver a creative and high quality programme of dance participation and performance, for young Newham residents with emerging mental health difficulties.

Through the participation programme, East London Dance aims to provide progression routes for all young people in East London, of any age or ability. The HeadStart project will identify and connect with this specific group of young people, providing them with a progressive dance journey. The dance programme is vital: Headstart Newham identified a significant and growing area of need among young people with this project, which will greatly benefit from shared knowledge, experience and the effect dance can have on mental health and wellbeing.

The programme will offer access dance classes at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, weekly classes, week-long projects and the opportunity to join the East London Youth Dance Company. The programme will reach at least 150 local young people over the next 18 months, culminating in a dance platform event at Stratford Circus Arts Centre.

50% of all lifetime mental disorders begin by the age of 14, and evidence of the benefits of creative and sporting activities in promoting mental health resilience in 10-16 year olds who are at risk has been well proven. In light of this, HeadStart Newham’s commissioning of East London Dance to develop and lead a new preventative dance programme is hoped to promote wellbeing and mental health resilience for local young people.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cinderella Dreams

Cinderella Dreams, which premiered on 20 February, was the culmination of a six month quest by Birmingham Royal Ballet to find the perfect fit for Cinderella’s jewelled slipper, in a production that brought to life big ballet aspirations of both young and old. The company searched the midlands area in order to stage this new production, which brought together talent from across the generations. In its aim to inspire and develop dancers from across the region, the production adapted David Bintley’s classic choreography to create a new and vibrant version of Cinderella.

Cinderella Dreams worked to showcase emerging talent from those aged eight to 76, working alongside dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet. Over 150 dancers from the age of eight took part in open auditions in September 2016, and a final cast of 65 was selected, to experience the intensive training, rehearsal and eventually performance of a classical ballet. The production was in front of a full audience at the Birmingham Hippodrome, a hugely rewarding outcome for all involved.

The project was developed with the Department for Learning at Birmingham Royal Ballet, under the eye of Project Manager Rebecca Brookes. As a result, Cinderella Dreams has been an inspirational project for all involved, from the youngest to oldest dancers part of the production. There was a huge demonstration of talent, involving those who may not have ever had the chance to be involved in a professional ballet production. Whilst not without its challenges, Cinderella Dreams was a dream come true for many of the dancers involved.

Cinderella Dreams was the perfect production for all those who aspire to dance on the big stage; the benefits of dance are unbounded and this production was no different. As a charming and magnificent showcase, it demonstrated the breadth of dance talent across the area.

How to… improve your pirouettes

With a multitude of dance events and exhibitions taking place up and down the country this year, there is no end to the fun dancers can have attending and seeing what is on offer, be it shopping, browsing dance courses or taking part in pop-up classes.

This year Dance Direct will be present at the Can You Dance? conventions, taking place in a number of cities throughout 2017. It is the biggest touring dance convention in the UK and will be visiting 10 different venues this year. There will be the opportunity to shop the great range Dance Direct stocks, but most exciting is the chance to win big in a pirouette competition! Show us how many pirouettes you can do at our stand, or post it on social media and tag @dancedirect, to be in with a chance of winning a Dance Direct goodie bag, full of lots of freebies!

It’s never too late to start practising: pirouettes are not always a dancers’ favourite part of class, but with a few tweaks you can drastically improve your technique and ensure you are spinning across the studio.

Often pirouettes can go slightly AWOL if a dancer does not have the strength to maintain their turns. A strong relevé onto demi-pointe and using the core to control your centre of gravity can do wonders for the number of turns you can achieve, and your recovery too. Starting at the barre before moving into the centre, practice snatching your working leg onto demi-pointe, and your other leg to retiré. With strength running through your arms too you’ll create a solid base for your turns.

Perhaps the most vital part of succeeding in your pirouettes is the use of your head, and spotting using a point in space ahead of you. Not only does this help you achieve multiple turns by the body following, but it also helps to prevent dizziness – you can then turn some more! Before you turn, decide how many pirouettes you will achieve. If you need a double pirouette then don’t change your mind halfway through – commit to your turns and use your head to whip round twice.

Keep your head up and your shoulders back, and you’ll sail round. Looking at the floor will only mean you will end up down there, and unless it is choreographed, it’s best to stay standing!

Newsies on screen

Audiences will soon be able to experience the Tony® Award-winning musical NEWSIES in cinemas for the first time this month, when it makes its cinema debut in the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, following a cinema launch in the US. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, the show is based on the 1992 film: it went on to become Disney’s single most requested title to be adapted for the stage.

NEWSIES, the Broadway Musical, features a Tony® Award-winning score with music by eight-time Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and lyrics by Jack Feldman, and Tony Award-winning choreography by Christopher Gattelli. The production was inspired by the ‘Newsboy Strike of 1899’. It is set in New York City at the turn of the century and tells the tale of newsboy Jack Kelly, a charismatic and rebellious leader of a group of “newsies” who dreams of a life far from the hardship of the streets. When publishing titans raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies his newsies to strike.

NEWSIES played on Broadway from March 2012–August 2014 and went on to tour the US from October 2014–October 2016. It is set to delight audiences in cinemas across the globe, especially with Jeremy Jordan (Supergirl, The Last 5 Years) reprising his Tony Award-nominated performance as Jack Kelly.

Disney Theatrical Productions, a division of The Walt Disney Studios, was formed in 1994. Worldwide, its nine Broadway titles have been seen by over 160 million theatergoers and have been nominated for 59 Tony Awards®, winning Broadway’s highest honour 20 times. With more than 20 productions currently produced or licensed, a Disney musical is being performed professionally somewhere on the planet essentially every hour of the day.