A new Hairspray tour!

The hit musical Hairspray is set to embark on a new UK tour following the production’s 2015 and 2016 run, exciting news for musical theatre fans all over the UK. The musical had its original West End premiere in 2007 at the Shaftesbury Theatre, before winning four Olivier Awards including for Best New Musical. With a production on Broadway and a consequent national UK tour, the production is set to impress with its feel-good factor and big hits.

The production for the new UK tour is directed by Paul Kerryson and has choreography by Drew McOnie. McOnie’s hit choreography is well-known both in the capital and all over the country, with recent work including the regional Strictly Ballroom in Yorkshire, and Jekyll & Hyde in London. With casting for the UK tour still to be announced, it looks like it will be received with excitement again.

Hairspray will run at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff from 16 to 26 August before touring the UK. The new tour will then visit theatres in Dartford, Dublin, Birmingham, Leicester, Belfast, Plymouth and many more. The show tells the story of a young girl named Tracy Turnblad, who is on a mission to dance her way onto national TV. With a few bumps in the road and some young love too, the 1960s backdrop to the tale highlights the historical issues of race of the era. However, dance prevails and The Corny Collins TV Show is Tracy’s platform to make a stand.

Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s musical Hairspray is an adaptation of the original film by John Waters, which starred Ricki Lake and Divine. The remake of the original film featured a star-studded cast including Zac Efron and John Travolta.

Artistry in dance

Enhancing dance artistry does not always have to come from dance itself, but can come from other creative activities too. Viewing dance performances can be an ideal way to do this, especially those you would not usually see. Challenge your dance knowledge and appreciation by seeing the work of a new choreographer or in a new genre, so you can more easily consider how this new knowledge can enhance your own dance enjoyment. Find out about new dance around you by asking friends or teachers for recommendations, or see what you spot on social media.

Engaging in new dance can also be via reading about dance. Do you subscribe to any dance magazines? You can learn about both new and upcoming dance work, as well as dance that has gone before from reviews and features. Broadening your mindset and considerations about dance in this way can make you a more empathetic and reasoned performer, even boosting performance-related skills. Use your artistic knowledge to articulate your thoughts on what you have observed and think about things like movement qualities, production values and themes – did you like it? Why, or why not?

Viewing dance critically can consequently spark creative ideas for choreography, or can inspire the qualities of your own dancing. Additionally, reading about various dance forms, history and other dancers can help you develop your own understanding of dance artistry, and it adds context to what you are doing. This in turn will inform your performance or creative work by learning new things. Taking new classes could follow reading about a new dance style, and you never know what new opportunities could emerge as a result. Networking with new peers and teachers will extend your dance knowledge, and will mean you are more aware of the dance world around you.

Other creative activities or artistic outlets can also enhance your dance artistry, helping you understand the aesthetic and energetic qualities of dance through singing, drawing, painting, making sculptures and many other visual art activities. Musicality can be particularly enhanced this way, even by browsing for music you wouldn’t normally listen to – you might find a great track for your next choreography project!

The Strictly Christmas special

Six former Strictly Come Dancing celebrities will be taking to the ballroom floor once again for an all-star Christmas extravaganza production on BBC One. Previous contestants will return to the dance floor for a Strictly Christmas special filled with lots of festivities and fun. Hosted by Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman as ever, the Strictly Christmas Special wouldn’t be complete without the famous four judges: Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman, in his last appearance on the judging panel.

This year, the ladies returning to the ballroom are Olympian and presenter Denise Lewis (from series 2), pop star Frankie Bridge (from series 12) and writer and actress Pamela Stephenson (from series 8). On the male side, returning will be celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott (from series 13), TV presenter Gethin Jones (from series 5) and radio and TV host Melvin Odoom (series 14). Each brought their own special sparkle to the studio when they first competed on the programme, and the Strictly Christmas special will be no different.

In this year’s Christmas show, all six couples will perform a routine in a bid to be crowned Christmas champions 2016, and lift the Silver Star trophy. Whilst the professional dancers taking part in the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special this year are yet to be announced, it is sure to be a very special edition. The theme too has been withheld for now, as has the special music performance for the evening.

As with the live competition, the Judges will score each couple, and the studio audience will vote on which dancing duo will win the Strictly Christmas Special 2016 and the Silver Star trophy. The Strictly Special will air on BBC One and will also be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

Robert Binet’s work for The Royal Ballet

Increasingly esteemed young choreographer Robert Binet, who is Choreographic Associate with The National Ballet of Canada, created new work last month for The Royal Ballet. With many commissions under his belt to date, it is no wonder The Royal Ballet have also taken advantage of his talent in order to work with its dancers.

Named Void and Fire, the pieces were presented as part of a sold-out mixed programme running in November, celebrating Wayne McGregor’s 10th year as Resident Choreographer with The Royal Ballet. The pieces, both set to music by Missy Mazzoli, were presented in accordance with a new work by another young and aspiring choreographer, Charlotte Edmonds. Edmonds is the first participant of The Royal Ballet’s young choreographer scheme. In terms of the programme – set in the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House – both Binet and Edmonds were mentored by McGregor.

Ahead of this project, the Canadian Binet has created choreography for TomorrowLove, a new play by Outside the March, recently performed in Toronto. His latest creation for The National Ballet of Canada, Self and Soul, was unveiled at The Twelfth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Back in 2015, Binet created The Blue of Distance for New York City Ballet after participating in sessions of the New York Choreographic Institute in 2011 and 2014. The piece will return to NYCB in May 2017 for two performances.

Born in Toronto, Binet has been Choreographic Associate with The National Ballet of Canada since 2013. His works for the company include Unearth, set to an original score by Owen Pallett, These Worlds In Us, The Wild Space Between Two Hearts and Orpheus Becomes Eurydice, a co-commission with The Banff Centre. His recent work, The Dreamers Ever Leave You, received audience and critical acclaim with a sold-out run at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

English National Ballet’s Giselle, by Mary Skeaping

Following the world premiere of Akram Khan’s reinterpretation of Giselle in October, Mary Skeaping’s classic production of the same name returns to English National Ballet’s repertoire, with performances at the London Coliseum from 11-22 January 2017. In a return to the traditional, the company will tell the haunting story of innocence and betrayal, and the timeless redemptive power of love.

In moving away from Khan’s twenty-first century interpretation of the tale, Mary Skeaping’s Giselle features some of ballet’s most dramatic scenes and otherworldly images. Adolphe Adam’s classic score is performed live by English National Ballet Philharmonic, and will see several company dancers debuting in their roles. In addition to this, the London Coliseum stint will see Guest Artists Xander Parish, First Soloist with the Mariinsky Ballet, perform in the role of Albrecht, and Elisa Badenes and Constantine Allen, Principals with Stuttgart Ballet, perform in the role of Giselle and Albrecht. Guest Artist Michaela DePrince, Grand Sujet with Dutch National Ballet, will also perform for the first time in the UK in the role of Myrtha, on specific dates.

This is very much in line with artistic director Tamara Rojo’s commitment to continuing to bring the best talent from across the world to British audiences, this time through English National Ballet’s performances of Giselle. From the company, principal casting will see debuts from Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru, Principal Laurretta Summerscales, Soloist Alison McWhinney and Junior Soloist Katja Khaniukova in the role of Giselle. Debuting in the role of Albrecht is Lead Principal Isaac Hernández, Principals Yonah Acosta and Alejandro Virelles, First Soloist Cesar Corrales, and Junior Soloist Ken Saruhashi.

Audiences able to see both Khan’s and Skeaping’s version of Giselle will identify the extreme range and diversity of the company, hugely talented and able to engage with both the classics and the innovative.

Liam Scarlett – Australia-bound

Liam Scarlett, one of the world’s most sought-after choreographers, is set to head down under to Australia, in making Queensland Ballet his home next year. Scarlett will join the company from 2017 as Artistic Associate, which will be in addition to his role as Artist in Residence with The Royal Ballet. Queensland Ballet is renowned for its world-class dancers and a desire to push the boundaries of creative environments.

Scarlett worked with the Brisbane company earlier this year on his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where his musicality and creativity was carefully noted and the work was highly acclaimed. Throughout his career he has been lauded through the ballet world, mostly creating ballets for The Royal Ballet. His work is original and creative so Scarlett is therefore in demand throughout the world for his ballet creations. As a collaborator, innovator and storyteller he has created numerous ballets that transport audiences.

This new position as an Artistic Associate will mean Scarlett will create new works for the company, as well as seeing the company perform some of his existing productions over the coming years. This will begin in March 2017, ready for the company’s triple bill called Raw, which will include Scarlett’s acclaimed No Man’s Land. Scarlett created this work for English National Ballet.

Scarlett is currently UK-based, having trained at The Royal Ballet School and dancing with The Royal Ballet before retiring in 2013 to focus on choreography. He was appointed as The Royal Ballet’s first Artist in Residence in that same year. He has created numerous works for The Royal Ballet including Asphodel Meadows, The Age of Anxiety and Frankenstein. He has also created ballets for English National Ballet, New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet.

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey: social change via diversity

Each Autumn, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey present modern dance performances by Ailey II, as the official second home of the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Almost 1,700 see these performances, so dance is consequently used as a foundation to devote more time to reaching out to the local community, in order to create social change by encouraging diversity.

This particular mission of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey applies to the non-profit organisation’s leadership, staff and volunteers, with the goal of uniting across racial, ethnic and social barriers to promote awareness, respect, and community-wide social change. For example, the company’s dancers from New York City recently travelled Kansas City to perform repertoire for the public – whilst Alvin Ailey’s work is well-known, this was not always the case for the audiences the dancers encountered.

Through this exercise the dancers were embodying one of Alvin Ailey’s core principals, emulating that dance came from community and should be delivered back to the community. Here, unknowing audiences in unlikely settings across the city were able to enjoy dance together, uniting diverse people. In other practices, classes were taught by the company’s teaching artists for young students in order to provide more opportunities for young people. Here they can learn about artistic expression, coordination, participation, confidence, discipline and focus. Those with particular promise are encouraged to attend the company’s Ailey Camp, another programme that focuses on youth development beyond dance. Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey serves 30,000 young people each year.

Earlier this month, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey also focused on its day-long symposium on Race, Place and Diversity, for social change. Over the last two years, a few hundred people have gathered to try to tackle these topics, which also highlight the importance of what the organisation stands for – a stronger community when people work together.

Sadler’s Wells Sampled

A regular fixture since 2007, Sadler’s Wells’ Sampled will return in 2017 as the dance taster festival featuring world-class dance and a series of workshops and foyer activities, on 3-4 February 2017. The festival gives audiences a chance to experience the broad range of dance presented at Sadler’s Wells at very affordable prices. Following London, Sampled will tour to The Lowry and Birmingham Hippodrome as part of The Movement, a new producing partnership with the venues.

Sampled features a wide variety of dance, from classical ballet to hip hop, contemporary and tango, and will give the opportunity for audience members to participate in beginners’ workshops. Workshops will include Argentine tango led by Julia Hiriart Urruty and Claudio González; tap dance with World Tap Dance champion and West End performer Jack Evans; and contemporary circus with My Aerial Home, exploring how dance and circus seamlessly combine.

In terms of performance, the 2017 festival includes work from Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Russell Maliphant, whose company will perform his work Still, last seen in 2014. Throughout his career he has set works on renowned companies and artists including: Sylvie Guillem, BalletBoyz, and Batsheva Ensemble.

Spain’s award-winning Iron Skulls Co. will present Sinestesia, a dynamic work where skilled dancers morph into post-apocalyptic survivors. The piece received its world premiere at Breakin’ Convention, the critically-acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre in 2015, and toured the UK with Breakin’ Convention during the season.

Direct from New York, tap dance group Dorrance Dance will perform Boards & Chains. The troupe has performed company founder Michelle Dorrance’s works at venues including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, the Joyce Theatre and Danspace Project, refreshing a uniquely American dance form in works that combine the musicality of tap with the choreographic intricacies of contemporary dance.

Also to be included is an extract from Northern Ballet’s Casanova, choreographed Kenneth Tindall. The work tells the sensational story of the infamous Italian adventurer in a seductive masquerade of passion and politics. Sampled will offer audiences a first glimpse at this major new production prior to the start of its UK tour in spring 2017.

Genée International Ballet Competition 2016

A record number of nearly 90 international dancers from 14 nationalities are set to compete in the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition in December 2016, when it returns to Sydney for the first time in over 10 years. Staged in a different city each year since 2002 – prior to this London saw each year’s event – the Genée will take place from 7-11 December.

The final on 11 December at the Sydney Opera House – additionally live streamed – will be judged by David McAllister, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, and Francesco Ventrigilia, Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Australian dancer, former Genée gold medal winner and current Principal of The Royal Ballet, Steven McRae, was recently announced as the Genée 2016 Ambassador. McRae won gold in 2002, and went on to perform with some of the biggest companies around the world as a guest artist in addition to his work with the Royal.

The Genée International Ballet Competition is now in its 85th year, named after the Royal Academy of Dance’s first president, Dame Adeline Genée, and renowned for launching the professional careers of young ballet dancers. Past medallists have gone on to join celebrated companies around the world including The Australian Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The National Ballet of Canada, English National Ballet and The Royal Ballet. The Genée provides pre-professional dancers the opportunity to receive world-class coaching with renowned choreographers and teachers.

This year’s Commissioned Choreographer is Tim Harbour, Resident Choreographer of The Australian Ballet. He has created choreography specifically for the Genée which will be revealed for the first time in the competition final. Candidates also get to showcase their own choreography as part of the competition, with the chance to win a Choreographic Award. The competition boasts additional esteemed faculty including Lynn Wallis OBE, Artistic Director of the RAD, New Zealand-born Adrian Burnett, Leading Soloist with The Australian Ballet and international guest teacher, and Fiona Tonkin, Artistic Associate & Principal Coach of The Australian Ballet.

Drama UK to close

Last month it was revealed that training accreditation body Drama UK is set to close, following a year in which several high-profile member schools left the organisation. The decision made by the board follows a challenging period for the organisation, in losing members such as the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama – which includes RADA, LAMDA and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School – as well as the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This reduced the number of its accredited schools in full membership to 13.

Drama UK provides accreditation for drama training in the UK, but significant changes in higher education funding have meant its role as an accreditation body was no longer sustainable. Its relevance has also come into question, due to the fact drama schools are now funded through the higher education funding system, and are no longer independent, meaning their accreditation and quality assurance comes via the state system.

Drama UK was originally formed by a merger between the National Council for Drama Training and the Conference of Drama Schools in 2012. Since the announcement of its closure, it has confirmed that forthcoming international showcases will go ahead as planned, and plans will be formulated to ensure that showcases, careers advice and course finder tools would continue. Despite its closure, clear guidelines will still be required as to what vocational training entails, to ensure potential students have all the information they need in order to make well-informed judgements about professional training.

Within the past year, many high-profile conservatoires have joined Conservatoires UK, a membership body that has traditionally represented music conservatoires but has a growing number of drama schools on its roster. Despite this alternative, it seems there will be no way of communicating any elements of quality without Drama UK, particularly to eminent figures for graduating students such as agents and casting directors.