Sunanda Biswas: A Credit To Hip Hop

Sunanda BiswasOne of UK’s foremost B-girls and founder of ‘FLOWZAIC’, the UK’s first all-female breaking crew, Sunanda has performed, judged and hosted at some of the biggest Hip Hop and B-Boy events from UK B-Boy Championship, Nike Dance Clash to BOTY and B-Supreme women in the Hip Hop festival at the South Bank Centre.

She was the co-choreographer for the NHS segment of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and is now Associate Director of ‘Grounded’ which gave its début performance at Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention’s 2013 tenth anniversary.

When did you begin dancing, where and why?

I began dancing when I was three years old, doing ballet and tap, but then also trained as a gymnast from six years old. I then went to Lewisham College at 16, and then London Studio Centre.

What were your early years of dancing and training like?

I remember copying dance moves from old hip hop videos, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Madonna, and there was a guy at my gym that used to do a UK version of Locking, so I used to copy his routines! I also loved breaking back in the day, but never learnt it properly until the late 1990s. My training was good; I had to do basic ballet, contemporary, and Matt Mattox jazz that really enhanced my dance career.

What does dance mean for you?

I guess it’s my life as this is what I have done as a living since I left college, but it is my passion also and I love the history involved in dance, and the social side of it.

How long have you been working as performer and choreographer? How did it begin?

I have been working professionally for about 20 years and some of my first jobs were doing commercials, videos, teaching and performing in a casino in Italy!

What is a ‘typical’ day like?

I always try to get up and do yoga and pilates exercises at home before I go and either teach, choreograph or do a job. Some days I don’t have work so I train or take other people’s classes as it’s always good to keep up with the knowledge.

What’s the best part of dance for you?

I love training but the performances are great, also battling and free styling as you can be yourself and have your own character.

What would you say was your greatest dance achievement to date?

It has to be choreographing and performing in the London 2012 opening ceremony in the NHS section: myself and my long-term dance partner, Temujin Gill, got to work with Danny Boyle and create our own choreography and style, and also got to perform on the night!

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be part of the dance industry?

I think you have to be motivated and work hard, it’s not always easy but if you put enough time into it, you can achieve what you desire, Also, be versatile and learn different styles, but it is good to specialise in one or two so you can really shine and be different.

What’s next for you?

I am currently doing a research and development project with my dance company Grounded where we are exploring ideas to create a new show. We are working with the styles of lindy hop, breaking and tap, and training up more dancers throughout the process.

Tommy Franzen: The Artist Who Needs No Introduction

Tommy FranzenTommy Franzen needs no introduction. Beginning his dance training in Sweden, he was only ever interested in street dance classes. Tommy then began working professionally at the young age of 14 in the musical Joseph, hopping from musical to musical before embarking on a 3-year performing arts diploma course at the Urdang Academy in London, for which he received a scholarship.

He is probably mostly recognised as the runner-up of BBC 1’s So You Think You Can Dance 2010, but other dance fans may have spotted him in Mamma Mia – The Movie, The Pepsi Max Advert Can Fu and the Handover Ceremonies at Bejing Olympics 2008.

Having worked professionally as a performing artist for 16 years, Tommy has recently delved into choreography, for example working on ZooNation’s Some Like It Hip Hop, performing in the show as Simeon Sun. Currently Tommy is working with the Russell Maliphant Company and is touring internationally with the show The Rodin Project.

This year Tommy was nominated for an award at the National Dance Awards in the “Best Male Performance (Modern)” category for his efforts in Goldberg at The Royal Opera House and Blaze at Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre. Tommy has also been nominated for an Olivier Award (2012) for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.

Here Tommy talks about his dance career to date, the joy of rehearsals, and his biggest inspiration, Bruce Lee.

When did you begin dancing and why?

I started dancing at age of 11 back in 1992. My sister, Elena, was taking classes and performing for a man called David Johnson who came from California to Sweden to open up a dance school. That’s the first time I had seen anyone dance hip hop dance styles and it grabbed me straight away. They caught me sometimes doing the Robot, basically imitating them so Elena thought that maybe I should try and go to a class. I did, and after the first class I never wanted to go back again as I thought I was the worst one in there. My dad and Elena were surprised and luckily convinced me that I was actually the best of the lot! So I changed my mind in a second, went to the next class and have never looked back since.

What were your early years of dancing and training like?

I started with classes that incorporated locking, popping, general hip hop and some tricks. That was at David’s dance school ‘Crazy Feet’ in Lund, Sweden.

How does that compare to now?

Through the years I’ve danced many styles but nowadays when I go to class it’s either hip hop, contemporary or ballet.

Have you always been interested in choreography?

No, I haven’t always been interested in choreography. I hadn’t thought of doing it really when my first opportunity came along and I choreographed for a show called Blaze, which we played at the Peacock Theatre in London and is now touring the world. Since then I’ve choreographed for Some Like It Hip Hop and Cher Lloyd. It’s not my main focus but I do really enjoy it.

What would you say was your choreographic triumph?

Definitely Some Like It Hip Hop. Saying that, I think Blaze put me on the map but I did a lot more for SLIHH and I’m more proud of my efforts in that show. We’ve been nominated for the choreography several times so we must’ve done something right!! The other choreographers are Kate Prince and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille with additional choreography by Duwane Taylor and Ryan Chappell.

How long have you been performing and choreographing?

I’ve been performing for 21 years and choreographing for 3 years.

What is your favourite role you have danced and favourite choreographer you have danced for, and why?

I must say my character Simeon Sun in Some Like It Hip Hop has been a right ball to play: so much fun. Lots of acting and very challenging dance wise. I’ve only got myself to blame for that! I would probably say that there are three favourite choreographers I’ve worked with. Kim Brandstrup, Russell Maliphant and Kate Prince, who are all very different and very good in their own field of work.

What do you like most about rehearsals?

The best thing about rehearsals is the creation period. You are being creative and you train hard. Then we you start performing then things are pretty much set in stone but you get the pleasure of sharing with an audience. I love the feeling of dancing in front of an audience.

What is the best part about dance?

It’s so much fun!!

Who would you most like to work with, dead or alive?

Bruce Lee without doubt, he’s always been my biggest inspiration.

What’s next for you?

There are a few projects coming up but I can’t disclose anything yet. I will be working with Boy Blue Entertainment on their new show at The Barbican in October. I also spend a lot of time building two businesses at the moment. As dancers we don’t have a pension for when we retire at a relatively young age so I think it’s important to secure your financial future by other means during your dance career.

ZooNation’s New show!

ZooNation Dance CompanyZooNation, the hip hop dance company founded by Kate Prince in 2002, will perform the world premiere of new production Groove on Down the Road at the Southbank Centre in London this summer. The new show is written and directed by Prince, and has been commissioned by the Southbank Centre, described as a “unique twist” on The Wizard of Oz.

Prince’s production will include music from the 1978 film The Wiz, and will be re-mixed with current hits by DJ Walde. The cast will comprise dancers under the age of 19 and two 11 year-old dancers, Arizona Snow and Portia Oti, will share the role of Dorothy, taking to the stage and unleashing their talents. This cast is born from the ZooNation Academy of Dance, which Prince trains each week, an admirer of their capability and talents at such a young age. The dancers have had huge amounts of access to hip hop dance and the culture which surrounds it, and the wealth of information that comes too. As a result of this, the group is made up of a whole new breed of dancers who have a raw, authentic and fearless skill and passion for dance.

The show marks the return of the hip hop dance company to the venue after it last performed there in 2010 with smash-hit Into the Hoods, a take on the musical Into the Woods. Into the Woods was created in 2005 and was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells to be performed for the first time in 2006 at the Peacock Theatre. The show then opened on the West End in 2008 and therefore became the first hip hop dance show on the West End and the longest running dance show in the history of Theatreland.

Groove on Down the Road will run from August 10 to September 1 at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Easter Courses For Young Dance Students

Easter 2013 Dance Courses

Despite many dance schools taking breaks for the Easter holidays, eager dance students still have the chance to dance their way through the holidays. There are a wide variety of courses to suit every dance taste, such as hip hop, musical theatre and ballet, enabling students to build on existing skills, and even gain an idea as to further training in dance which they may like to undertake in the future.

ZooNation Easter Academy are inviting beginner and intermediate level dancers to learn from ZooNation company members, covering a wide range of hip hop and street dance styles including Locking, Popping, Breaking, House and Waacking. Students will also be able to learn some original choreography from the hit West End show Some Like It Hip Hop.

The Place Youth Dynamics course can see students work with the renowned national touring company Tavaziva Dance, allowing young dancers to develop their contemporary technique and learn some of the company’s repertory.

The Royal Academy of Dance are holding a Boys’ Day of Dance for male students aged 7 – 16, enabling them to experience four different dance styles: Ballet, Street Dance, Contemporary and Capoeira. The classes held will be taught by professional male teachers and performers, helping to inspire young males in introducing them to dance.

Laine Theatre Arts’ International Easter course will incorporate Jazz, Musical Theatre and Drama workshops, building up a range of skills for students perhaps interested in auditioning for the vocational training course offered at Laine Theatre Arts in Musical Theatre and Dance.

All courses offered by a whole host of dance companies, examination boards and training institutions are fantastic opportunities to inspire new talents and develop existing skills of dance students who are eager to further their training and improve their skills.

MOVE IT 2013

MOVE IT 2013

MOVE IT, the UK’s biggest dance event is the ultimate dance experience for dance fans, students, teachers and parent alike. Whether your interest is flared jazz pants-style commercial, pretty-in-pink ballet shoes or rock-and-ready street dance complete with the latest dancewear, MOVE IT has something for you.

Taking place between 8 and 10 March 2013, MOVE IT is gearing up to welcome 20,000 dance fans to Kensington, Olympia in London. Visitors to the venue will be able to watch performances in the showcase theatre and on the main stage, take part in classes or the freestyle stage, shop for dancewear, meet dancing stars on the interview sofa and talk to experts for advice in one of the biggest celebrations of dance.

There will be a huge variety of dance classes (over 200) and taster sessions on offer. The UK’s leading dance teachers will be presenting classes, covering everything from Ballet to Lindy Hop, Krump to Ballroom. The range on offer is enough to satisfy every dance enthusiast, no matter your ability level or aim for taking part. Also on offer is the chance to learn the routines from A Chorus Line set to hit the West End this year, develop your ballet technique with English National Ballet, and try out the latest hip hop moves with ZooNation’s Kate Prince to build up your style. Also appearing at MOVE IT will be Sean Cheesman (previous choreographer to Janet Jackson), Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy of Boy Blue Entertainment, Twist and Pulse, Shobana Jeyasingh dance, Got To Dance finalists Boadicea and many more!

New this year will be the chance to discover a career in dance with CDET as a new series of dance classes and interviews. These will offer advice and guidance for anyone thinking of working in the dance industry.

Dust off your dancing shoes and get your tickets!

10 Years of Breakin’ Convention

Breakin Convention 2012

It’s time for the next generation of dancers to shine at Breakin’ Convention, with 2013 marking its 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this special occasion, Breakin’ Convention will be offering two different opportunities for youth dancers in the new year, meaning it is time to don those new urban dance trainers and hit the studio! The festival will run from Saturday 4 – Sunday 6 May 2013.

“Breakin’ Convention 10 x 10” signals the start of a fantastic new platform in the creation of a special Breakin’ Convention crew of ten 10 year olds. An exclusive one-off performance will follow, on the main stage of the Breakin’ Convention festival at Sadler’s Wells. Young dancers will have the opportunity to show off their skills and perform at one of the biggest hip hop dance events in the world in front of an audience of nearly 2,000 people. Members of the crew will have the opportunity to learn from some of London’s most talented and successful artists including Boy Blue’s Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey, and Bruno ‘Boom’ Perrier.

In addition, “Future Elements” will be a scheme aiming to showcase some of the UK’s best up-and-coming youth dance companies that have taken the future of funk in their hands and channelled it through their dancing. Saturday 9 March 2013 will see the best youth dance companies from in and around London present their work, with submissions for Breakin’ Convention’s Future Elements Night now open.

Past companies and dancers who have performed at Future Elements have included:

  • Da Bratz – Boy Blue Entertainment’s next generation of dancers
  • Enigma Dance Company – founded by Botis Seva of Far From the Norm
  • ME:I – Myself Dance Company’s up and coming youth group
  • Kieran Lei – member of K-Lic and star of forthcoming street dance film, AllStars

So far 2013 is looking like a wealth of opportunity for dancers everywhere!

Urban Strides

Urban Strides, the renowned street dance specialists, pride themselves providing the ultimate street dance experience for every dance ability level from the age of 7 to adult. Urban Strides aims to fulfil this through creating the most exciting, inspirational and authentic street dance experience possible, delivered with passion, positivity and fun, and possibly some knee pads!

Founder Andy Instone’s sheer passion and commitment, emotionally, physically and mentally, launched Urban Strides on the road to success. Originally self taught, Instone has since studied mainstream forms of dance – Ballet, Jazz, Contemporary and Tap – and has travelled around the globe to learn from the pioneers of original street dance and hip hop styles, taking authentic dance, movement and expression to as many people as possible. Instone fuses funk movement with classical training techniques and choreographic conventions in order to add quality and dynamics to Urban Strides’ ethos and work.

Urban Strides offers classes, workshops, community work and performances, having also branched out into creating “streetwear” dance clothes and DVDs of their work. A variety of street dance styles are practised by Urban Strides, in order to provide a whole and comprehensive experience for those involved in the Urban Strides t-shirt clan. Additionally, Urban Strides has extensive experience and understanding of the education sector, regularly providing workshops for A Level and GCSE students, as well as inspirational workshops for beginners. Performances conducted by Urban Strides are additionally produced to be as accessible as possible for audiences, opening up the dance sector to everyone with their vibrant and exciting choreography.

The philosophy of Urban Strides means it aims to provide the highest quality possible at an affordable price, be it classes, workshops or performances. The accessibility of Urban Strides too means that if it’s your first day stepping into your urban dance sneakers, or you fifth year of pulling on your favourite street dance hoodie, Urban Strides is for you.