Step into Dance’s Musical Theatre Company

Step into Dance, a partnership programme between the Royal Academy of Dance and The Jack Petchey Foundation, are holding auditions on Sunday 7 October to recruit students into their exciting new Musical Theatre Company. Students in the company will be able to meet other like-minded, talented young people and also perform at prestigious venues across London.

Step into Dance is a fully inclusive community dance which currently runs in 187 secondary schools over 32 London Boroughs and Essex. The programme offers weekly extra-curricular dance lessons to students who would not otherwise have access to quality dance, jazz shoes, or flared dance trousers.  From a pilot of 28 schools, it is now a fully inclusive programme delivered in 187 schools, including Special Educational Needs schools and Pupil Referral Units. Step into Dance is the biggest secondary school dance programme in the UK, unique in offering and performance opportunities throughout the academic year. Each of the 187 schools engaged in the programme pay an annual fee, contributing to the running costs of the programme.

Step into Dance, through its extended programme such as Watch this Step, Step into Battle, the Step Borough Events and its showcase end of the year event, Step LIVE! Step into Dance is responsible for creating over 20 unique, inclusive performance opportunities each year. The events develop the participants’ creative experience, showcasing Step into Dance to a wider audience.

The new Musical Theatre Company, complete with top hats and New Yorkers, will be lead by Sonny Ward as teacher and choreographer. Ward trained at Millennium Performing Arts and with the National Youth Theatre, with his choreography credits including West Ham FC Dancers at Upton Park, Dance Expressions at Sadler’s Wells, Christmas Cabaret for MD2000, Flashmobs for Walkers Crisps and Littlewoods Christmas TV Adverts 2011. Ward also teaches at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and is Co-Director of Eaton Ward Agency, having trained young students that have gone on to perform in MatildaBilly Elliot and The Lion King.

Image courtesy of Step into Dance.

Kevin O’Hare next in the RAD Guest Speaker Series

Royal Academy of Dance Logo

Following the success of the first Guest Speaker event with Christopher Hampson in April 2012, the Royal Academy of Dance’s Faculty of Education is due to welcome Kevin O’Hare, brand new Director of The Royal Ballet. O’Hare will be the first “event” of the RAD’s 2012-2013 Guest Speaker Series, open to RAD students, members and non-members alike.

O’Hare was first trained at The Royal Ballet School, donning his practice shoes and ballet tights before stepping into Mason’s Director-ship shoes of The Royal Ballet many years later, following her retirement in July 2012. After his stint at The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare went on to train through an exchange programme with the Royal Danish Ballet. He then joined the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as it was then known, and was promoted to Principal in 1990: it has since become Birmingham Royal Ballet, in 1990.

During O’Hare’s performing career, his repertory included leading classical roles and works by esteemed choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Cranko, Hans Van Manen, Sir Anthony Tudor and Twyla Tharp, in addition to numerous international guest appearances. He also created many performing roles, working with Sir Frederick Ashton, Ninette De Valois, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, David Bintley and Peter Wright, amongst others.

O’Hare lay his leotards and leggings to rest in 2000 when he retired from dancing in order to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, training in company management. He returned to BRB as Company Manager in 2001, joining The Royal Ballet as Company Manager in 2004. In 2009, O’Hare became Administrative Director, with 2012 marking his progression to Direction of the company. In addition to being a governor of The Royal Ballet School, O’Hare has never stepped out of the performing arts sector, and it has certainly paid off.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

The Olympic Spirit

Darcey Bussell Olympics 2012 Closing Ceremony

As the one of the most anticipated parts of the Closing Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, dance and ballet in particular proved themselves as a continually powerful and strong art form. Darcey Bussell and her corps de ballet of a 200-strong ensemble formed the final section of the Ceremony, drawing huge support and countering many political arguments that tutus and pointe shoes should not be as important as they are perceived, and proved, to be.

The ensemble of flame-haired Mohicans included dancers from The Royal Ballet and their counterparts from other British dance companies, such as English National Ballet and non-professional dancers who took part through auditioning. The red and orange leotard clad piece, Phoenix of the Flame, was choreographed by Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon for the climax of the three-hour spectacular, forming the crux of the British and Olympic spirit.

Bussell came out of her retirement in order to feature in the extra special production as a former Royal Ballet Principal. She descended onto the centre of the stage on a flaming phoenix where she joined Royal Ballet principals Gary Avis, Edward Watson, Nehemiah Kish and Jonathan Cope for a performance inspired by the Olympic flame and spirit to encompass the incredible atmosphere and talent of the Games.

Despite retiring in 2007, Bussell has continued to be active in the art of classical ballet, tights and all. Earlier this year she was announced as a judge for the next season of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, and as the fourth President of the 92-year old Royal Academy of Dance.

Image courtesy of the Official site of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Darcey Bussell is Back!

Darcey Bussell

Five years ago, Royal Ballet principal ballerina Darcey Bussell, arguably the greatest British dancer since Margot Fonteyn, retired and moved to Australia, putting away her pointe shoes. She has now returned to the UK and has recently been elected, tutu training and all, as the new president of the Royal Academy of Dance, one of the world’s most influential dance training organisations. Bussell is also due to resume her role as a judge on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in the autumn, digging out her New Yorkers and fishnet tights again.

The RAD, which was founded in 1920 to reinvent dance teaching, has a syllabus that is now taught to 250,000 students in 79 countries. The RAD aims to promote knowledge, understanding and practice of dance internationally, and Bussell follows in the ballet shoe footsteps of another former prima ballerina, Dame Antoinette Sibley, who retired after 21 years as President. Already Bussell talks of the RAD approaching an even wider range of dance styles in order to remain at the forefront of the evolving arts scene. Bussell is already re-entering the world of British ballet in additionally becoming a patron of The New English Ballet Theatre which is dedicated to supporting home-grown performers.

Bussell cites Sir Kenneth MacMillan as her dance inspiration, one of the great choreographers of the twentieth-century, who helped revive full-length ballets in Britain. He was first to recognise Bussell’s potential and as a result she became the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal ballerina at 20 years old. Years on, Bussell’s energy is still impressive, and her post-retirement activities have included a children’s dancewear range, the Magic Ballerina series of children’s books, and pilates. She is the new face of Sanctuary Spa skincare and has been working on an autobiographical picture book.

Image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

 

Darcey Bussell Elected as President of RAD

Darcey Bussell

World-renowned Prima Ballerina Darcey Bussell CBE has been elected as President of the Royal Academy of Dance, becoming the fourth President in the organisation’s 92 year history. RAD is an international dance teacher education and training organisation with approximately 13,000 members in 79 countries. The Academy promotes the knowledge, practice and understanding of dance internationally through educating and training of dance teachers and dance students and providing examinations to reward achievement and spread the influence of dance further.

Whilst not returning to her tutu and pointe shoes, Bussell follows in the footsteps of Dame Antoinette Sibley who retired in April after 21 years. As one of the world’s most influential dance training organisations, Bussell is to join RAD at a time of growth and increasing public interest in all forms of dance, encouraging more and more people to engage with the art and dust off their dance shoes. Since her retirement from the stage in 2007, Bussell has continued to be active in the dance world, embodying huge passion and vigour for the sustainment of the art form in light of the many cuts to funding made by the Arts Council England in April 2011. Despite much disappointing news for dance organisations all over the country, tap shoes, character shoes and jazz shoes alike prevailed, continuing to dance and transforming 2012 into a huge “dance year”.

Bussell’s passion for all forms of dance makes her the ideal candidate for the role of President, and an ideal role model to lead RAD towards its centenary in 2020, investing in the future of dance for the whole sector. As an organisation that engaged with national and international projects alike, RAD hopes to remain at the forefront of dance education and training, providing a wealth of resources for all its members and making an outstanding contribution to dance. RAD prides itself on providing some of the very best quality of training for dancers worldwide, combining quality with enjoyment and the love of dance.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hampson to Join RAD Guest Speaker Series

Royal Academy of Dance

Credit: www.rad.org.uk

Internationally acclaimed choreographer Christopher Hampson is due to return to his ballet shoe roots and further step into his role of speaker at the Royal Academy of Dance on April 10th for the Faculty of Education. Hampson is the first of the Guest Speaker Series and will discuss his journey through the dance sector – a story both intriguing and inspiring.

Hampson’s experience of dance began as an RAD student aged six, grasping his first taste of the ballet bug. Swapping his RAD white leotard and navy leggings for more choreographic attire, Hampson is set to take up the role of the Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet in August 2012.

As a former member of English National Ballet, Hampson created numerous works, including Double Concerto and The Nutcracker, going on to win the Barclays Theatre Award and the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Classical Choreography. In addition to ENB, Hampson has choreographed works for The Royal Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, National Theatre in Prague and Ballet Black, among others, and is also a sought-after guest teacher and coach for companies throughout the world, including Hong Kong Ballet and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. Hampson’s works for the Genée International Ballet Competition have recently been included to form part of the RAD Solo Seal Award, emphasising the profound influence Hampson holds over the dance sector, from the tutus and tiaras of The Royal Ballet, to jazz shoes and black costume gloves of New Adventures.

At the RAD, Hampson will discuss and show clips of his work, going on to take questions from the audience, inviting dance fans from all over the world to engage with this inspirational dance practitioner. The event is free of charge to Faculty of Education, RAD members and RAD staff, and additionally non-members are welcome to reserve in advance in order to take full advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

Reserve your place by Friday 30th March by contacting Zofie Fraser at zfraser@rad.org.uk.

Image courtesy of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Has Zumba Got Your Number?

ZumbaMany dance crazes throughout the years have come and gone, yet with a programme boasting over 12 million participants in 2011; Zumba looks like it’s set to stay.

With classes taking place in over 110,000 locations in 125 countries, it is clear that Zumba has taken the fitness and dance world by storm, utilising dance styles such as salsa, hip hop, and tango.

Zumba Fitness emerged in the United Kingdom in 2001 as a global fitness phenomenon following its huge success in Columbia. Its popularity demanded an increase in Zumba instructors, leading to the creation of an instructor training programme, mirroring that of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Where Does This Leave Dance?

As a fitness regime, Zumba is renowned for its catchy beats and vigorous workouts but appears to be marketed as a strand of the dance sector. If course the links between Zumba and dance are inextricable: leotards and jazz pants are suitable for any Pineapple Dance class, for example, be it Commercial Jazz, Lyrical or Zumba.

The influx of Zumba throughout the world may insist that it is now categorised in the same way as other dance forms used to keep fit. Zumba is without a doubt equally, if not more, accessible than the RAD and other dance training programmes.

The easy-to-follow moves and international rhythms provide an intense workout, but there is no evidence whatsoever that places Zumba on par with dance aesthetics, or the formalities of alternative teaching practices. Additionally, the shift towards the popular culture of Zumba may complement the rise in the increasingly fashionable dancewear. The urban dancewear, for example, is ideal for Zumba practice and getting around afterwards, with its dance sneakers-come-fashion trainers and dance hoodies verging on the couture.

If you haven’t tried it, give Zumba a go!

Photo: Universitetssykehuset Nord-Norge (UNN)