Trey McIntyre & The #DancerResource Project

Trey McIntyre #DancerResource ProjectThe #DancerResource project, initiated by up and coming choreographer Trey McIntyre, is a collection of essays, letters, and videos from artistic directors, choreographers, and dancers responding to questions from young dancers about how best to prepare themselves to join a dance company, and how to navigate the transition into becoming a professional dancer. Preparing yourself for life as a pro dancer can be daunting task, especially without useful advice about how to instigate the transition and make it successful.

McIntyre has created more than 100 works for dance companies such as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Stuttgart Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Pennsylvania Ballet and founded his own company, Trey McIntyre Project, in 2005.

McIntyre has created the #DancerResource project that taps into the lives of professionals in the field in order to share their expertise and knowledge. It provides specific information for aspiring dancers, such as how to approach different companies and how to work as a freelance dancer. As a result of personal experience in providing live resources to uncertain dancers, McIntyre has consequently reached out to directors – such as David Hallberg of American Ballet Theatre – himself in order to ask the questions that students want to know the answers to in order to aid their careers.

The resources are ultimately varied and full of perspective from large and small, contemporary and classical companies alike, a welcome aid to the many dancers training and using the resource. McIntyre has been able to reach out to artists he knows personally, a great coup for the project; all those who have contributed to the #DancerResource project have agreed that there is a definite need for this information, and the project has filled a niche.

There are any number of students looking to forge a professional dance career at any one time, so ultimately the #DancerResource project has provided what schools may not, teaching students how to adapt to the professional world for a successful career, despite providing fantastic technical training. The #DancerResource project can be found on the TMP Facebook page, as well as the series archived on the Trey McIntyre Project website.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

English National Ballet’s Choreographics

English National Ballet ChoreographicsEnglish National Ballet’s platform for emerging dance makers, Choreographics, will take place at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio on 19 and 20 June, a programme celebrating young choreographers. The initiative of the event focuses on the development of up and coming choreographers both within and outside the Company, offering them the opportunity to progress their skills as creators and discover their own choreographic language.

Recent debate regarding the absence of female choreographers in the dance industry has been heartfelt and passionate, so it is encouraging to see female dancer Stina Quagebeu as part of the programme, following Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s additions to the debate. For the first time, Choreographics is open to artists outside of English National Ballet in 2015, and sees work presented by Morgann Runacre-Temple, choreographer in residence at Ballet Ireland since 2009, who has created four full-length ballets for the company; and Renato Paroni de Castro, who has previously choreographed works for Sarasota Ballet and London Studio Centre’s classical ballet performance group, Images of Dance.

The six works programmed are completed by company dancers, inspired by the theme of post war America, from English National Ballet artists Fabian Reimair, who created We Are Free for last year’s programme; James Streeter, who’s work In Living Memory was performed at Latitude Festival in 2014; Quagebeur, who’s Vera was selected by The Breaking Glass Project and performed in New York, and who recently worked on English National Ballet’s second Dance Journeys project at Sadler’s Wells; and Max Westwell, making his debut as a choreographer in a professional setting.

Each choreographer will receive mentoring from award-winning choreographer Russell Maliphant and dancer, choreographer and teacher Kerry Nicholls. Musical guidance will be received from English National Ballet’s Music Director Gavin Sutherland, and each piece created will be performed by English National Ballet company members, ensuring the roots of the competition continue to flourish.

The Rambert Debate: Do Choreographers Needs Editors?

Rambert Dance Company LogoThe Guardian’s dance critic Judith Mackrell – following a Rambert performance late last year – asked if choreographers needed editors. Sometimes it is a common view, other times not so much, that dance work might benefit from an external eye cast over it to ensure it is succinct and comprehensive. This view may smart with some dance creators, however it seems necessary in order to create the best work possible for the future.

Late January 2015 therefore saw Rambert host a discussion for an audience of dance professionals to explore the question in more detail. Judith chaired a panel which included Mark Baldwin and Paul Hoskins, Rambert’s Artistic Director and Music Director respectively, together with Peggy Olislaegers, the Director of Dutch Dance Festival. They were joined by three more directors: Robert Casarotto of Balleto di Roma, Christopher Hampson from Scottish Ballet and Sharon Watson from Phoenix Dance Theatre. Also taking part were two dance producers: Emma Gladstone from Dance Umbrella and Alistair Spalding of Sadler’s Wells.

Hampson’s response implied some brilliant artists would not accept editing of their work by someone else, in addition to the fact choreographers are constantly self-editing during creation. Spalding then warned of impeding artists that work ahead of popular or critical opinion; as Baldwin put it, it is like asking a choreographer to unscramble an egg in response to the impossibly difficult demands for change can be.

Despite this, Watson and Gladstone maintained that external circumstances can force change onto a work, and often there just may not be time to go through and see the piece critically. As identified by Casarotto, if this can be difficult for relatively well-resourced organisations, it is far harder for those working independently. Alternatively, Olislaegers felt that among younger practitioners, collaboration is more common and a choreographer’s autonomy less so.

The consensus seemed to advocate a supporting structure for creative processes, which could easily involve editors, producers, critical friends, organisations, networks: the list goes on.

Tate Modern Set For A Dance Takeover

Tate Modern LogoThe iconic Tate Modern is to become a museum of dance for 48 hours as 75 performers take over the gallery spaces for displays and workshops, and the Turbine Hall is transformed into a nightclub, planned by French choreographer Boris Charmatz. The May project will feature performances ranging from ballet to krump as well as works by the renowned Charmatz himself.

The project was inspired by Charmatz’s unique outlook on both dance and the world in general, in seeing the world differently and too the different elements of choreography within it. Changing the perspective of the Tate will be a test of what would happen if Charmatz and his dancers took over from a dance point of view.

Charmatz first worked with the Tate Modern in 2012 on a small performance piece, through which he began to discuss doing something more ambitious. Charmatz is a choreographer who is always looking beyond being a dancer and choreographer, and the dance space that has been given to him. Creating dance for a proscenium stage is not enough for him, and lead him to consider the points between the art gallery and the theatre. As a result, his dance experience will be explored in how it also connects to everybody else’s experience of dance and dancing.

The Tate will undergo a complete transformation for its two-day alteration, presenting choreography and pop-up ventures in the collection gallery and the public spaces. Whilst walking through the venue visitors may find an ex-international ballet dancer, someone performing improvisation or a krumper; Charmatz holds dear the idea of giving the heritage of dance away for free by teaching and giving people something to take away from the experience in the dancing museum.

BMW Tate Live: If Tate Modern was Musée de la Danse? will be taking place throughout Tate Modern from 15-16 May.

Flatley’s Farewell

Michael FlatleyFollowing a sold out run at the London Palladium in 2014, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is returning to the West End at the Dominion Theatre from 13 March to begin a farewell tour following the six month run at the Dominion. The show’s 2014 run was intended to mark Flatley’s last West End appearance, but the star couldn’t resist returning for one last time to the capital’s stage.

Flatley will take to the stage for the first 12 days of performances before young star James Keegan takes over the role for the rest of the run of the hit Irish dance spectacular. Flatley will also be returning to the 3 Arena in Dublin and the Odyssey Arena in Belfast at the end of March. His only performances in the multi-date UK tour will be at the Brighton Centre from 2-5 April, where the tour begins, and at the Wembley Arena on 4 July, where the tour ends.

The production, which combines executing and groundbreaking technology, including holographs, dancing robots and world champion acrobats, also includes musical appearances from Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle. A new score composed by Gerard Fahy, new costumes and special effects lighting add a breathtaking new dimension to the original masterpiece. “My dancers are the real stars,” says Michael of his troupe of dancers, some of whom have been with the company for 10 years. He is immensely proud of their hard work and dedication, and to bring the show back to the West End in the magnificently refurbished Dominion Theatre is a dream come true.

The global phenomenon that is Lord of the Dance will be bigger than ever in 2015, with Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games on a 200-plus date tour across 15 countries over the next 18 months. In the UK, the show will be performed concurrently in London at the Dominion Theatre from 13 March-5 September and on a UK tour from 2 April-4 July.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Merce Cunningham Trust Money For Two Arts Groups

Merce CunninghamThe Merce Cunningham Trust, established in 2000 to further the iconic American choreographer’s legacy, has announced an award of $250,000 to the Baryshnikov Arts Centre, and $375,000 to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Both organisations were seemingly highly important to the choreographer during his life, especially the Foundation for Contemporary Arts as it was founded by Cunningham’s partner John Cage, and Jasper Johns, a longtime collaborator. The Foundation provided vital support to Cunningham over the many years he worked before his death in 2009. Equally so did Mikhail Baryshnikov, who performed Cunningham’s work and assisted fundraising. Baryshnikov heads the Baryshnikov Arts Centre.

These generous donations mark the first – and perhaps only – time the Merce Cunningham Trust has awarded cash grants: it may not happen again. The Merce Cunningham Trust works to support the legacy of Cunningham’s work, and much work is done to support the licensing of the work. The recent donations awarded have arrived without any criteria by which to work with the donations, despite the Trust’s aims, not even to encourage the teaching of Cunningham’s technique.

Meanwhile, the Baryshnikov Arts Centre has been raising funds to establish a Cage-Cunningham fellowship, and will also rename its largest rehearsal space the John Cage and Merce Cunningham Studio. In focusing on its own fundraising for the fellowship, it seems the Merce Cunningham Trust donation was a surprise from the sister institution, especially a provision of this size to aid its work. The Centre aims to advance the next generation of ‘rigorous artistic rule-breakers and innovators, in the names of Cunningham and Cage’ and can do so through the award.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts will use the grant to establish a biennial Merce Cunningham Award, the first recipient of which will be choreographer Yvonne Rainer; Jasper Johns has particular memories of Rainer dancing in Cunninhgam’s old 14th Street studio.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Resolution! Programme

Resolution! 2015Resolution! – the biggest annual showcase for dance in the UK – returns to The Place from 8 January to 21 February 2015. Each night is a triple-bill, profiling 84 companies across 28 nights in a huge celebration and support of new choreographic talent.

This platform offers a springboard for the latest dance trends. These performances draw on diverse choreographic sources ranging from Indian classical dance to hip-hop, ballet, capoeira and physical theatre, and deal with themes of gender, sexuality, emotional turmoil, immigration, cultural rituals and traditions, as well as literary and scientific influences. By providing a safe creative environment, Resolution! has supported some of the greatest UK-based contemporary choreographers, including Wayne McGregor, Hofesh Shechter, Kate Prince, and more recently, James Cousins.

Highlights of the 2015 programme include The Ashes: Dance Collective created by former Phoenix dancers, Estela Merlos who has performed with Northern Ballet Theatre and DV8, Joan Clevillé who has choreographed for Scottish Dance Theatre and worked with Lost Dog, Yukiko Masui who has worked with Rosie Kay Dance Theatre and Avant Garde, Joshua Beamish’s duet for Royal Ballet artists Nicol Edmonds and Matthew Ball and the National Centre for Circus Arts. Finally, Breakin’ Convention will co-present two companies exploring themes of race and masculinity as a fraction of the talent to be discovered throughout Resolution!

The festival was created in 1990 and leads in facilitating the difficult transition from vocational dance training to the professional performance world. By the end of this 26th edition Resolution! will have presented almost 2,000 dance companies. Supported by The Place’s professional team, Resolution! companies not only receive technical advice but also take part in a series of workshops to provide a comprehensive insight into all aspects of the profession, from lighting and design, press, marketing and social media, to project management and applying for funding.

Damian Czarnecki – coveted choreographing

Damian CzarneckiDamian has a diverse background in dance and theatre having been Danish Ballroom and Latin Champion on several occasions. He was 1st runner up in So You Think You Can Dance (Denmark) and went on to continue his training at Laine Theatre Arts.

Choreography credits include: Pirates Of Penzance (UK Tour), Patience (Kings Head Theatre, London), Do I Hear A Waltz (Park Theatre, London), Dick Whittington (White Rock Theatre, Hastings), Junior TV (Danish Television 1) and pieces for the Laine Theatre Arts productions Spirit of Life and Flying in at 40 (Epsom Playhouse). His theatre performing credits include: Beauty and the Beast (Det Ny Theatre, Denmark), Chantal in La Cage Aux Folles (Nørregade Theatre, Denmark), Dirty Dancing (Metronom Theatre, Germany) and Ich War Noch Niemals in New York (Metronom Theatre, Germany).

Damian has been dance captain for High School Musical (National Tour, Denmark), Jack and the Beanstalk and Aladdin (Chelmsford Civic Theatre) and was a cast member of the Danish children musical feature film Bølle Bob & Smukke Sally (Regner Grasten Film).

Have you always wanted to be involved in dance?

I’ve danced for as long as I can remember so I guess the answer is yes. My parents told me that they just had to take me to dance classes when I was three years old as I would always stand in front of the television as soon as I heard music coming out it. I would start making up dance moves – “boogie woogieing” – and enjoying life. I have to say, I’m glad that my parents made that decision.

Where did you train and what was it like?

Well, I feel like you train your whole life really which is one of the exciting parts of this industry. You will never finish developing as a performer which is so inspiring. That’s why you still, as a professional performer, find yourself working hard in dance classes, taking singing lessons and developing your acting skills.

I first trained in Ballroom and Latin and danced for over 16 years competing on an international level representing Denmark at the World Championships. Doing this throughout my teenage years was exciting but also very hard work. I loved it so much though, which meant it was never difficult to choose Ballroom and Latin over parties and social life outside of school.

I went to school in the morning, then straight to the dance studio for several hours’ practice, then home for food, homework and bed. This would usually be the schedule from Monday-Thursday. Friday would be a day off before the weekend was taken up by competitions in either Denmark or somewhere else in the world.

I really treasure this period of my life. It taught me to be focused and determined which, at the time, I didn’t realise how important that would be for my future career.

I then went on to continue my training at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom which was just incredible. There is something very special about being together with so many talented people in one place all thriving to be the best that we can be. Miss Laine, together with her faculty, give you an excellent opportunity to develop into a professional artist if you are ready to put in the hard work that is required. When you walk into the college on your first day you have no idea what journey you are about to go on but three years later you stand stronger than ever, not only as a performer but most importantly also as a person.

Was there a natural transition into choreographing for you?

Most jobs I’ve had have either been as a dance captain or a swing which means you are very involved in the creative side of a production. Furthermore, I’ve always had a hunger to be creative in a choreographic way and I think if you have that in you, it will almost be impossible to neglect in the long run.

Do you still perform?

Yes, I do still perform as it gives me a completely different satisfaction than choreographing which also means it’s almost impossible to say which one I prefer. Both have huge positives as well as, believe it or not, a few negatives. However, the kick you get from both of them is just incomparable.

As a choreographer, I found it very difficulty in the beginning, that during previews or on opening nights it was all out of my hands. I would be really nervous and could barely sit still in my seat as my body would just naturally do some of the steps thinking that it would help the cast. I always think it’s so much better to be up on the stage as you are so focused on your job which means everything else around you disappears. Then again, there is nothing like the feeling of seeing your work come alive on stage and being proud of it. Like I said, the two roles are incomparable.

What is the hardest part of the rehearsal process, as both a dancer and a choreographer?

It’s two very different state of minds. As a dancer, you will mostly be focused on yourself as you have a huge amount of work to go through. You have dance steps, harmonies, lines to learn and it all needs to come together in a very short amount of time which can be really hard and stressful.

As a choreographer, it’s all about the overview and having a much wider focus. I think one of the hardest parts of the rehearsal period is to have a fresh opinion about your own work that you’ve already seen many times. It’s so important to have the ability to say, “what I’ve done doesn’t work” and then try and change it for the better.

What is a day in the life of Damian like?

My days are very different from each other which I absolutely love. I try to exercise every morning and love to end the day watching Danish television on my iPad but apart from that, it all depends on what job I’m doing and whether I’m choreographing or performing.

Do you have any advice for aspiring performers?

I think the best advice I can give is to make sure that a performing career is a 10,000,000% what you want. If you feel the passion for anything else you should definitely do that instead. It may sound really harsh but that is the reality. However, if you do make the decision to go for it, then don’t let anyone stop you. Remember talent will get you far. Hard work will get you further.

Training In Fosse-Style Jazz

Bob FosseLike many other choreographers, such as George Balanchine and Martha Graham, Bob Fosse is one who created lots of spectacular work and an entire stylistic repertoire. His movements are slinky and sensual yet always have much emotional depth.

Fosse died over 25 years ago yet his style is still desired and emulated widely, especially throughout the US. The revival of Chicago the musical, choreographed by Fosse devotee Ann Reinking, is still running on Broadway and Pippin (with Fosse-inspired choreography by Chet Walker) is also back. Fosse’s work continues to inspire.

Fosse didn’t codify a technique to train dancers, yet his style serves as an essential base for students of all disciplines; Fosse’s smooth style and attention to detail are invaluable. Fosse is known to have called his dancers “actors”, emphasising that their primary job is to communicate a story as everything he did had an emotional, mental, political and ethical side to it. The dancers he trained are complete entertainers through their deep understanding of performance. Each step has intent behind it and you have to bring out every aspect of the character to convey it.

Fosse style encourages dancers to engage emotionally and also helps develop ensemble skills. In addition to dancers working together as a group, attention to detail is paramount. The intricate nature of Fosse’s choreography means so much can be conveyed through the subtlety of a single finger wag or a sideways glance. The style requires an incredible work ethic because much of the work is based on intricate isolations, so dancers develop a heightened body awareness and focus.

While the process of learning the work is intense, it is apparent there are two huge payoffs in auditions and onstage. You must be able to watch and replicate in a detailed and multi-layered way, and a diligent rehearsal process ensures confidence in performance.

Sylvie Guillem To Retire

Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant in PushThe iconic and ethereal dancer Sylvie Guillem has announced that she will retire at the end of 2015. Having begun as a classical ballet dancer at the Paris Opera Ballet and then becoming a principal with the Royal Ballet, the French ballerina turned contemporary dancer will be sorely missed by her audiences. Guillem joined the Paris Opera Ballet in 1981 where she was singled out by director Rudolf Nureyev: she was promoted to the top rank faster than any other dancer with the company.

Guillem chose to make the announcement through the Japan Performing Arts Foundation; her farewell performance will also be taking place in Japan, which will make it difficult for the rest of her international following to witness the scheduled farewell. Recently Guillem has performed solely contemporary works, creating works with esteemed choreographers such as Russell Maliphant, Akram Khan and many others.

Guillem is now 49 years old, however you would not know considering her fantastic technique and lithe body. Following a rather eventful career Guillem is one of the world’s most famous dancers. This is in part due to her fantastic legs and feet, but ultimately due to her impeccable performances and the artistry, expression and quality that comes as a result of her acclaimed performances. She is also an associate artist of Sadler’s Wells.

November this year will see Guillem dance in a revival of Sacred Monsters, a duet with Akram Khan at Sadler’s Wells, giving London audiences the chance to see Guillem in action once again. Despite this, it is fitting that Guillem’s performance will be in Japan as she feels a particular tie to the country: her 2011 show 6,000 miles away was named for the country to support the earthquakes and tsunami victims in the country.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.