New posts – The Rodin Project and Strictly halfway

Here’s a snippet from my recent review of The Rodin Project by Russell Maliphant at Sadlers Wells for Art Wednesday:

Staged at Sadler’s Wells for three nights only – Maliphant has combined his magic with set designer Es Devlin (who has designed for everyone from Jay Z to Nitan Sawhney), and cellist Alexander Zekke, whose thumping and thick strings give depth and meaning to Maliphant’s trademark swirls and twists of the body. The choreography itself waves over the audience in ebbs and flows – the opening half gives a somewhat cliched and traditional view of artwork in action, where loin-draped figures drift amid sheets of fabric that hang from the ceilings and cover the stage like a huge bed sheet – this matches rolling arm and neck movements, combined with slow walks. A dance duet using metal rods, ends in Rodin’s iconic Kiss, and later a solo work performed by former street dancer Dickson Mbi – think the recent Lucozade advert with slow-mo body ripples, a huge arm span and enviable ripped stomach – stand out. Mbi dominates the floor with character and strength (yes, we’ll admit we got a little hot under the collar watching those rippling muscles at work) as he acts out capoeira-style duals and floor work.

And from my latest post on Strictly Come Dancing for the Guardian:

As we enter week five of the ballroom dancing marathon, two contestants are raising the bar – leaving a trail of celebrities falling behind. Olympic gymnast Louis Smith made the hearts of Strictly fans melt with his take on Patrick Swayze’s Time of My Life finale from Dirty Dancing in week three (including that lift). But Denise Van Outen is hot on his toes for the girls with her clean technique and driving performance – although the judges are beginning to be slightly harsher on her to make sure the game is fair. The general dance talent as we enter the middle stages of the competition is good, with a host of couples around the seven mark and improving steadily. But after Halloween and Hollywood-themed weeks, the audience was left hoping for a little more drama, energy and hunger from celebrities who want to win. Less of the playtime-training antics would allow us to connect with certain couples more.

Strictly week three – the dancer’s review from Fern to Louis

Every year in the Autumn time I spend my Saturday nights shouting, laughing, clapping and making snarky comments while I watch Strictly Come Dancing. Instead of annoying my sofa spectators (who don’t care much for my professional eye) this year I’m blogging my way through Strictly Come Dancing – giving my dancer’s verdict based on years of training. You can read my blog on the Guardian here, and inbetween posts I’ll be keeping you up to date on this blog.  Read more…

James Cousins New Adventures Choreographer Award – review

Lisa Adelle Welham and Aaron Vickers in There We Have Been

The feeling you’re left with after the first piece from Matthew Bourne’s choreographer protege James Cousins’s showcase has ended is pure unstoppable energy.

Young student dancers from the Centre for Advanced Training at the The Place throw themselves into the ensemble with abandon – attacking each pumping movement with every ounce of feeling and life they can muster – while retaining enough precision, allignment and variation with slow walking steps to give the feeling of a thumping wave upon wave of dance – synchronised by the dancers’ body ripple movements, head tilts and floor rolls.

This opener to an evening of Matthew Bourne’s handpicked presentation of two young promising choreographers who were the winner and runner up of his New Advernture Choreographer Award sets the pace for a torrent of new ideas which collide to show just what is possible when fresh talent is spotted and given the support it needs. Read more…

Dance links for 15 September to 3 October: Conservative ballet, 1930s Jitterbug and what’s on in dance

Here are my latest dance links for 15 September through to 3 October:

There are a number of great dance events coming up in and around London too – here’s my pick:

Birmingham Royal Ballet team up with photographer Richard Battye for city campaign

Elisha Willis in Moseley park Photograph: Richard Battye

Great news to hear Birmingham Royal Ballet has been photographed by Richard Battye across their hometown city to promote the area and kick off the company’s 2011/12 season.

I’ve posted about Battye before, who has been photographing dance for years and held a number of exhibitions in Birmingham. A few years ago I went to his digbeth studio to see the set up and experience being pictured ‘in flight’.

It’s great to see the world class ballet company teaming up with this excellent local photographer.

Now Battye has photographed Birmingham Royal Ballet’s thirteen Principal dancers, the company Director David Bintley, Assistant Director Marion Tait and Chief Executive Christopher Barron in areas of Birmingham that mean something special to them, away from their work with the company.

Speaking about the project he said:

“It was especially interesting photographing the dancers and staff in their chosen Birmingham locations celebrating the city and all it has to offer. There is a wealth of culture and creativity within the city which is why I have based myself here. Birmingham Royal Ballet is known internationally and the city’s name goes with them as they tour. My thanks to all the varied locations and venues that helped with this project”

The photographs can be viewed here – and show a human personal side to the dancers and company directors. See the picture featured of principal dancer Elisha Willis in her favourite Moseley Park and Robert Parker at Birmingham Airport (althought I doubt this is a favourite haunt and more and idea on the city PR side).

‘All that I was unable to voice found its release in dance’ – Alexandra Claire on becoming a writer after dance

Alexandra Claire left the world of dance after ten years to become a writer. In a guest post for the digital dancer, ahead of the publication of her book Random Walk, Claire explains how movement traverses all

Alexandra Claire. Photo: Simon Fowler

I remember that even as a very small child, I flung myself passionately into dance at the slightest provocation; a piece of music, an anger that I was unable to voice, intolerable beauty; in fact, all that I was unable to voice found its release in dance. From my very first ballet lesson at five years old, I only ever wanted to be a dancer and when I retired at twenty-nine, after a ten-year career in the performance and choreography of contemporary dance and physical theatre, working with companies such as Earthfall, Man Act, National Dance Company Wales (then Diversions) and my own Arts Council funded project company, Tripswitch, I felt satisfied that I had fulfilled my ambition – at least as far as my twisted and torn body would allow.

It was the strangest thing not to dance. I am a dancer as fundamentally as I’m a human being. Pushing a zimmer-frame or riding on a motor-scooter, I’ll still be a dancer, because dance can only be imposed upon the body from the outside in a limited way: dance really comes from within. It resides within. And if you are extremely fortunate, it will take possession of your body.

Read more…

Degas and the Ballet: Accuracy, movement and light – review


The Dance Lesson by Edgar Degas Photograph: National Gallery of Art, Washington

At most ballet schools you’ll find two types of teacher – one hellbent on improving your technique – and the other, softer teacher, who is all about making you dance to the music and feel the movement. A good dancer is one who has practised both to finesse.

Edgar Degas, unlike any other artist, manages to mirror both disciplines in his own work. Not only does he portray a studied technique in his artwork on 19th century dancers, but his paintings, sculptures and photographs also possess something of the lucidity of movement, invoking a feeling of dancing to any gazing onlooker.

Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement, curated by Richard Kendall, is a most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work on dance. Presented at the Royal Academy of Arts, there are 85 pieces of artwork in total – with many rare and unseen works including a 360 degree tour of the drawings which were the origins for the famous Little Dancer sculpture, and photographs of dancers he took in later life.

Similar to any ballet recital or stage dancer – the exhibition contains high power impact notes – bright impressionist swirls of pastel colours and dynamique stage sequences. And then there are periods of slower progression, studied poise and interlocking sequences which have a quiet methodology. Read more…

Dance links for week ending 9 September – Strictly is back and just as predictable as ever

These are my latest dance links for this week – you can see there’s a heavy Strictly theme – as the contestants were announced and the first show goes live tomorrow:

Holly Valance in Strictly Come Dancing

But my first and most prevalent thought on Strictly has got to be about the fact Holly Valance is a contestant. Aside from the fact is a huge admission that she’s slipped out of stardom as a popstar in the early noughties so being a pretty B-class celeb (hello Lulu, you’re here too?) and is eager to get her showbiz life back on the road – it’s also MASSIVELY unfair as Holly’s had professional training for dancing on stage and in her pop music videos.

It was EXACTLY the same thing for Rachel Stevens who was in the tween band S Club 7 – and ended coming second in the 2008 Strictly finals. There are plenty of other sexy young something the BBC could’ve found to participate with no dancing experience but just as much sex appeal. It’s a shame this year’s Strictly will be just as predictable as any other – with the public dragging some poor malcoordinated soul through all the rounds alongside a couple of young starlets with previous dancing experience and a rugby player right to the end. Still, I’ll no doubt be vaguely watching and blogging along this series.

Richard Winsor: From dance darling to… soap star

At university Hollyoaks was my guilty pleasure – escapist mindnumbing drama to sooth the soul weary from the (only slightly) more heavy-hearted stories from English playwrights and poets.

But in recent years work has taken over and it’s very rarely that I indulge in a half-hour episode of silliness. There are always new faces, but you never need to know what’s gone on before. Cast members come and go – few go on to anything truly great, many come back with twisted storylines years later.

So on returning home from work – and just so happening to stumble on the last ten minutes of an episode – you can imagine how I spluttered over my cup of tea when I realised the new heart-throb in Chester was none other than my most loved of contemporary dancers.

Richard Windsor

Richard Winsor conveyed a new type of contemporary dance that made me feel it had grew into its time. Dancing the lead in Matthew Bourne’s striking Dorain Gray in 2008 – he’s the man (well the duo) who actually compelled me to blog about what I saw - starting a fruitful career in online journalism.

I sat aghast to see Richard as ‘Father Francis’ in Hollyoaks. Of course he was a superb actor in Dorian and Edward Scissorhands… and must crave a career in acting. But let’s hope, like the characters in Hollyoaks, he decides to return to dance – for such a short stint on the stage would be a great shame for UK audiences.

Update 13/09/2011: I can indeed confirm Winsor is still dancing – as he was in my contemporary class tonight! Aside from making me feel sheepish & rather awestruck – I did happen to notice he’s in fine fit form and no doubt returning to the stage soon. Watch this space.

Dance links for August 2011 – Dance, dance, party, party and Danish ballet drugs scandal

Here are my latest dance links for 21 July through 21 August:

After weeks of pressure from the media the Royal Danish Theatre released on Tuesday a controversial report alleging that cocaine abuse is rampant among members of its ballet company.

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