Nottingham’s artistic provisions

Nottingham Playhouse recently pledged to provide more career opportunities for local people from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to explore how access to careers in the theatre industry can be widened to include more young people from the local area. The 12-month agreement will see a partnership between the Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham Trent University, in which the theatre venue will create more than 25 work experience placements linked to courses at the university, such as marketing, events management and journalism.

The initiative aims to provide a platform for disadvantaged young people from the local area who are looking to pursue careers in the theatre industry, using the work experience placements to increase their employability by providing a better start in their careers. The agreement will also equally enhance Nottingham Trent University’s curriculum by providing students from various disciplines with excellent work experience opportunities. As a result the scheme will enable them to apply their skills in a live, working environment, also adding value to the current culture of Nottingham.

Nottingham Playhouse has been quick to remind the industry that as a venue it has employed the university’s graduates from Nottingham Trent for many years. The recent change in outlook will mean Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham Trent University will now be focusing more closely on people from backgrounds that may not have previously considered a career in the arts. This encouragement aims to see other talented individuals take this path and benefit from it. More people will get access to first-rate training and work experience, and students at the university will also monitor the energy efficiency of the venue and propose energy-reducing measures. In 2014, the venue was awarded £230,000 towards improving energy efficiency so this partnership is thought to see further reductions.

Aladdin’s education programme

Created by the team behind The Lion King’s award-winning education programme, the launch of West End musical Aladdin’s education programme is made up of curriculum-linked education resources for Key Stage 2 and 3 pupils, workshops for pupils aged 7+, and a series of videos which include interviews with the award-winning creative team. Disney’s latest hit musical then saw its seven-time Tony Award®-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley become a prescribed practitioner on the AQA Theatre Studies A-Level specification from September 2016.

Disney’s Aladdin tells the well-known story of a street urchin who finds himself caught up in the plans of an evil magician, falls in love with a princess and befriends a lamp-dwelling magical genie. The education programme includes:

Pre-show workshops, in which Aladdin offers a choice of two 90 minute pre-show workshops which focuses on Scene Study and Music and Movement. Participants will work with extracts from the script and explore characterisation and objectives through physicality, voice, status and comedy, and will have the opportunity to learn choreography and vocals from Arabian Nights, the show’s opening number.

For Key Stage 2, Out Of The Lamp offers a mix of ideas and suggestions which connect to teaching and learning themes in Key Stage 2 English, Art and Design, Music and PSHE. The activities support learning objectives for Key Stage 2 pupils such as developing language skills and vocabulary, creative writing, and composition of stories, performing, dance and creating costumes.

For Key Stage 3, The Cave Of Wonders resource uses Aladdin’s dancing, music, storytelling and costume design to achieve learning objectives for English, PSHE and Dance. Pupils will develop creative writing, build literacy and grammar skills, explore storytelling, and use themes from the production to reflect on issues in their own lives. The resource also offers exclusive behind-the-scenes videos featuring Aladdin’s Associate Choreographer and Production Manager, discussing the processes involved in bringing the show to the stage.

The Arts Award

It has recently been reported that the proportion of young people taking their Arts Award qualifications inside an arts or cultural organisation has increased by 12% over the past four years, with more arts organisations participating in the award scheme. Research has shown the scheme is nurturing specific skills and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit in the young people who take it, showing great benefit to its instatement.

Almost a third of all awards have been taken in arts and cultural settings since 2012, which is an overall increase of 18%, as the Award is now clearly recognised as a valuable qualification which offers young people tangible benefits. Feedback from both teachers and arts professionals has demonstrated how important the Arts Award is to young people’s lives. The Arts Award has provided motivation, opportunities to reflect on learning, and definite examples of artistic excellence which often go unrecognised for young people by formal assessment structures.

Arts Awards were set up in 2005 to support young people to grow as artists and arts leaders, and connect with the wider arts world by undertaking challenges in an art form. The growth of workplace-based delivery of the awards has been put down to the popularity of two newly introduced strands of the scheme, created to link different art forms to every life and allow young people to experience arts organisations through exploration and discovery.

Researchers recently found that the strongest impact of taking the award was on developing young people’s skills in areas such as communication, organisation and leadership, and also reported that taking the Gold Award within an arts organisation helped to secure creative opportunities and paid work. Despite this, the efficacy of the Arts Award relies upon contextual factors, such as how the student is doing in other studies, where in the country they are studying the award, and whether they have a high or low level of exposure to culture outside of the Arts Award system.

New English Ballet Theatre’s new work

New English Ballet Theatre is a company on a mission, always striving to promote aspiring choreographers who might not have any other opportunity to get themselves, or their work, noticed – especially the work of female choreographers, which is particularly timely. The company has both a multi-disciplinary focus and bold ambitions, with a mission to present exciting new work to the widest possible audience.

The company aims to collaborate, developing relationships with music festivals in addition to theatres and venues, in order to create a long term influence on its audience’s perceptions of modern ballet. It has focused on presenting work by female choreographers in particular, in addition to new commissions and a modern approach to the classics. It aims to view choreography simply as choreography, rather than differentiating between male and female. Recently Dance Umbrella presented work under a similar guise, without adding the details of the choreographers to the running order so audiences viewed the work without preconceptions.

NEBT consequently created new work for its recent stint at the Peacock Theatre in London. Amongst those voices is Kristen McNally with her usual choreographic wit, and Daniela Cardim, with a piece heavily influenced by music from her native Brazil. In this approach to new talent, the company is able to promote these new artists to demonstrate their talent and range of choreographic expression.

As a result, NEBT is committed to the continual reinvention of classical ballet, giving artists the space to explore creative boundaries. 2016 is the company’s fifth anniversary season so it is fitting that there were five new ballets created for the full programme of work, with five unique voices from a modern ballet perspective. The company finds it is still re-educating audiences in ballet, simultaneously introducing new and young audiences to the athleticism and excitement of the art form and its endless possibilities.

Partner perfection

Once dance students become old enough, they may become interested in partnering – it is a natural progression within dance education and is often required of the vocational school they may attend. It does not necessarily have to focus on the partnership between male and female dancers however much training is faced this way initially. For both dancers there are some tips and tricks that can aid this training.

First and foremost, communication is vital. It will mean the partnership will develop more quickly and any problems will be ironed out with less issues. Basic principles include using the core muscles correctly in order to aid the movement: partnering is an art that must be built up together, with the dancers working equally in order to make it a success. Remembering to breathe is also a vital aspect. Dancers can get nervous when partnering for the first time, but breathing normally will mean there is less unnecessary tension in the body. The two bodies will then be able to move in sync more easily.

Trust can make up a large part of a partnership. Trusting yourself is just as important as trusting your partner, but this takes practice and does not always come easily. If you are dancing with a more experienced dancer it can make the trust process easier, and again communication is very important. Fear is not uncommon but it is part of the learning curve! There is a fine line however between trust and reliance – some dancers may rely on the other to make the movement happen, but both dancers must support their own weight sufficiently.

However, try not to be over-confident. This may be a natural reaction once you begin to develop a relationship with your partner, but it is important to keep listening to each other and not assume you know everything about partnering. Every partner is different and will mean you learn something new about dance. Work together – it will make the work easier in the long run!

Show preparation

Show season for dance schools is never far away, but with the festive period fast approaching it is likely there will be a Christmas convert or two in the pipeline! With an annual production, or even a pantomime, lots of organisation and collaboration is required to make it a success.

For some dance teachers, a theme is a must. Something specific to focus on can be incredibly helpful, especially in the initial stages of organisation, so it can keep the process moving efficiently. Similarly, getting organised early will be vital later on, from performance dates to ticket sales – everything must be included in the planning process. Work backwards from the date of the show in order to plan when certain things need to happen by, such as printing programmes, holding a photoshoot, ordering costumes and even booking the theatre.

Based on your theme – if you have one – decide early which music you would like to include, and investigate any copyright or licensing issues. The music must be age-appropriate and suitable for family entertainment, but something that can give the teacher vital creative license, in order to demonstrate ownership. Again related to the theme is costumes, which may have been ordered earlier in the year. Sometimes they can arrive incorrect or not as expected, so teachers must be able to provide a practical solution. Costumes can often be easily altered, so can then be taken by the dancer.

Dance schools can have pupils of various age groups, so finding a balance within the show is another key to having happy dancers, and also parents! Some dance schools hold more than one show, with certain age groups performing in each one. This may be a solution to success, however other teachers may prefer to intersperse some of the more advanced numbers within the show to add some perspective to the parents in attendance. This natural progression will inspire both children and parents!

World Ballet Day

World Ballet Day LIVE was a huge success on 4 October, streaming its longest ever broadcast of a 20-hour worldwide schedule. Kicking off with The Australian Ballet, Facebook LIVE streamed the day for the first time: the longest broadcast ever to be shown on the platform.

For starters, Australian online audiences had access to exclusive and unparalleled behind the scenes rehearsals and interviews, beginning at 1pm EST. Hosted by Channel 7 presenter James Tobin and The Australian Ballet’s Coryphée Brooke Lockett, the four hour stint saw The Australian Ballet dancers in their daily class, and in rehearsals for upcoming shows including Swan Lake, Nijinsky, Spartacus and Coppélia, the same for the other four companies also involved.

Through Facebook, World Ballet Day aimed to reach an even wider audience via social media, providing a rare glimpse into the world beyond the stage. All footage was accessed via the World Ballet Day website, and viewers were encouraged to get involved online using the hashtag #WorldBalletDay. New for this year they were also able to join in by watching an instructional video that showed The Australian Ballet’s Ballet Master Tristan Message teaching three exercises seen on the day, for example.

Following The Australian Ballet was the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet, all in collaboration for World Ballet Day LIVE as five of the world’s leading ballet companies. As the first event of its kind, the 20-hour streaming project garnered critical and viewer acclaim as an international success, a milestone for the dance industry. The first World Ballet Day LIVE was held in 2014, in which the live broadcast attracted a total of 502,823 views from dance lovers around the world. This was inspired by Royal Ballet Live in 2012, a nine-hour live streaming via YouTube and The Guardian website.

Next steps for Jirí Kylián

Choreographer Jirí Kylián – at 69 years old – recently returned to ballet leadership with Lyon Opera Ballet. Here Kylián is taking up a position as associate artist with a three-year contract, following a stint of focusing on film and photography. He first started working with the company in the early 1980s, when director Françoise Adret was in place. He is now returning under the current artistic director, Yorgos Loukos.

Prior to this Kylián was artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater for 24 years, and then stood as resident choreographer for another ten. In 2009, he parted ways with the company and his works were no longer performed by 2014. Despite this – and his focus on a separate area of the arts – his choreography made up of classical lines and contemporary fluidity remains a cornerstone of neoclassical ballet worldwide.

In terms of Lyon Opera Ballet, the company will continue to present existing ballets in Kylián’s absence. When the choreographer is working directly with the company work will also be done on pieces he created for older dancers, and a photography exhibition, Free Fall. He does not plan to create any new work, instead concentrating on film and photography. However,such close proximity with the dancers may mean Kylián will be in the studio once more.

In the meantime is seems Kylián has withdrawn his works from the repertoire of Nederlands Dans Theater for three years until 2017. There are no plans to reintroduce the work, with the company now working with a new artistic director and consequently in a new direction. There is regular renewal of the company in this sense, and Kylián supports the move to new and different work.

GCSE drop

This year it was reported that teenagers in England sat 44,000 fewer GCSEs in arts subjects, with a 7.7% drop on 2015 figures. There was an overall fall of 0.4% in the number of GCSEs taken, significantly lower than the arts figures drop. In addition, there was a drop in the number of young people taking A levels in arts subjects, which appears to be linked to falling GCSE entries. Some believe this drop is due to the new EBacc already having an adverse impact on study decisions, with less students sitting exams such as drama, dance and music.

At present the Government plans to make at least 90% of pupils take the EBacc – a set of seven or eight GCSEs, which includes history or geography but not the arts – which presumably will discourage young people’s artistic ambitions and undermine the UK’s creative industries. This is already indicated by the falling exam numbers for 2016. This news contradicts assertions made by the Schools Minister that there is little evidence that the take up of arts GCSEs is declining, and that the EBacc will have no affect on numbers.

The EBacc was introduced in 2010 as a performance measure; since then there has been a 20.3% fall in the number of young people taking GCSEs in art and design subjects, design and technology, drama, media film and TV studies, music, and performing/expressive arts – equivalent to 133,500 fewer GCSEs. This year, design and technology suffered the greatest fall in students, with 18,600 fewer entries, representing a 9.7% drop. Drama entries fell by 3,200, a 4.6% drop, and there were 1,800 fewer entries for music GCSEs, a 4.1% decrease.

The fall in arts GCSEs coincides with a rise in the number of young people taking subjects included in the EBacc. Here 16,700 more pupils took a GCSE in geography last year, a 7.9% rise for example, and 15,200 more pupils took history, a 6.7% increase.

Post-show blues

When performers feel sad and even depressed after a show, it is usually a case of post-show blues. There is so much investment in the creative process, rehearsal process, peers you share the stage with and the performance itself, dancers and performers can often experience an empty feeling afterwards. Sometimes a performance run can be so much fun that normal life feels less fulfilling in comparison.

There are so many hours spent in the studio rehearsing with the same group of people, practicing choreography and forming bonds. The performances themselves pass by in a flash, both rewarding and exhausting. However there is not always a content feeling following this, but what can be described as grief and loss from closing the show. Even though the loss of performance is temporary, the feeling can be very real.

To avoid getting stuck in a rut after a performance finishes, dancers can learn to cope in individual ways. It is important to accept the feeling of post-show blues as normal, and that you are not the only one that feels like this. Aim to return to a steady life routine, catching up on good eating and sleeping habits and looking after the body by resting and rejuvenating. It is then imperative to have something on the horizon, be it another job that has already been planned for, a new project or something personal to look forward to achieve.

Equally, it is important to stay in contact with fellow company members: the camaraderie outside the studio is just as important as in it. If you find little remedy for the feelings after a show, try to channel the sad feelings into gratitude, and be grateful you are able to do what you love with ease. Make the most of each moment in the studio, backstage and on stage with your fellow performers.