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Author: aliciajell

Dance Mum Etiquette – How to be good parent.

Dance Mum Etiquette – How to be good parent.

Being a Dance Mum is hard, REAL hard and it’s a rollercoaster of high emotions and situations which can be tough to tackle week on week. I know this because I am a Dance Mum myself. Not only did I dance when I was younger, my eldest daughter is currently dancing, and I’m now also a dance teacher myself, so I’m in a unique position of seeing things from all sides. I’ve put together a few do’s and don’ts to hopefully make it a smoother ride.

DO make sure you are organised.

There are going to be so many dates to remember, exams, rehearsals, festivals, shows, workshops, fundraising, you name it. Get yourself a calendar specifically for ‘dance’. As soon as you get anything important through from the school or studio, write it down straight away. Even if the exact dates are not known until closer to the time, you can always mark with a star or TBC so you know roughly when or at least have those dates in the back of your mind if anything else were to crop up. When each event draws nearer, write a list of all the things that will be needed, costume, make up, accessories, food. If your child is older, you can give them some responsibility and compile the list together. Come the day, you can check everything off the list, and avoid a whole lot of stress.

DO make sure you pay fees on time.

This may not be your child’s calling in life, it may just be a flash in the pan hobby for them. For the studio owner and teaching staff, it’s a career, a livelihood. Blood, sweat and tears are literally invested into not only the studio, but the children. So by making sure all tuition fees are paid when they are due, you are thanking the staff for all their hard work and efforts, not just paying their wages. If you pay by direct debit, check that all details are up to date and correct to ensure a smooth transaction every month.

DO teach your child about responsibilities and commitment. Yes, they may only be young. No, the local studio is not a professional gig. Yes, your child may have exams coming up. It’s your job as a parent to teach your children some fundamental life lessons to prepare them for the real world. Ultimately if your child no longer wants to take dance lessons, wait until the end of that term. It disrupts the flow of the class to have children leaving mid term. You may have already pair the term upfront anyway, so notify the teacher beforehand that your child has requested to leave. Don’t worry, it’s not against the law, it just gives everyone time to adjust to the news before it happens and allows them to say their goodbyes. In particular, if there is a show or production coming up that your child is included in, please please wait till the end of the show before pulling out. It is every teacher’s nightmare to suddenly have bodies missing from a group dance, that may not be able to be replaced. Not only that, if your child has committed themselves to being part of that team, then they cannot let the rest of their team members down. Teach the the value of sticking it out until the end, for everyone’s sake. In the real world, they won’t have mummy or daddy to fall back on and give excuses out for them when they decide that they can no longer be bothered.

DON’T live your life through your child.

Perhaps you always wanted to dance but never got the opportunity. Perhaps you were destined for greatness but an injury ended your career before it started. It is plain to see when a child is being ‘pushed’ into dance more than they want to be. The passion is just not there. There is no sparkle behind their eyes. They grow to dislike dance more and more with every passing week that they are ushered to classes. Just because they have amazing ability or a general interest, does not mean they want the same things as you did. Dance may just be a fun hobby, or outlet for them. Don’t take that away from them by inadvertently placing your own dreams upon their shoulders. It’s heartbreaking to see, and not only will they resent taking classes, in the end the will resent you too. Listen, really listen to your child.

DON’T compare.With a mixture of different fortes and personalities, it’s easy to start comparing your child with someone else’s. So what if one child’s leg is higher than your child’s, or has an oversplit when leaping, or pirouettes like a spinning top. As soon as you start comparing one thing, you’ll soon find your picking at more and more things and the list suddenly begins to grow. One of my favourite quotes is “comparison is the theif of joy” ~ Theodore Roosevelt. When you compare your child to another, you are instantly sending a message to your child that they aren’t good enough. Not only will it kill the joy for you, but it will sap all of the joy out of dance for your child as well. Their confidence takes a huge nose dive. Think about it. It also works the other way around. No one likes someone who gloats. So what if your child has won 5 trophies last week, nailed her fouetté turns and been chosen to represent some brand. Everyone is happy for you, but it doesn’t make you any better than the rest. Stay grounded.

DON’T question teacher decisions.

As a parent, you can have a very blinkered view on your child and their ability. As teachers, we see them as an individual but as a whole group as well. We carefully consider every action and outcome before deciding upon anything, and it’s ALWAYS with the child’s welfare at heart. If your child isn’t on the front row for a particular number, if she didn’t make the cut at all, if she’s not yet been invited to pre pointe class, if she doesn’t have a solo, if she isn’t taking the exam, it’s because there’s a good reason. It may be your child has already been at the front and we want all the other children to have a fair chance. It may be your child’s feet are beautifully arched but not yet strong enough to meet the demands that pointe requires. It may be your child is a wonderful dancer as a team, but we’ve seen them struggle to cope on their own. It may be we genuinely don’t think they’re ready for that exam, when a couple more months hard work will have them ready and confident enough to achieve the marks we know they are capable of. If we make a decision it’s either based on health and safety or the wellbeing of your child. Please respect that and back us up.

Being a dance mum or Dad is a tough gig. The relentless taxi service you provide, the endless supply of money, family meals altogether a thing of the past, the stress and anxiousness you feel in their behalf. We, as teachers, are eternally grateful to you, as without you and the support you give your children, we would have nobody to teach, we wouldn’t have jobs! Just remember why. You do all of this because they don’t just love dance, they live it, and you love them, unconditionally. One day, when they’re grown and a family of their own, they will understand everything you did for them, and they will thank you for it. In the mean time, stay strong, and keep reminding yourself why you do it whilst opening a bottle, you’ve definitely earned it!

If you enjoyed reading this, you might like previous article on how to be a good student! http://danceniche.com/2017/05/30/class-etiquette-a-guide-to-good-class-manners/

Dance Niche

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Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical

As I sat waiting in trepidation, the green hues of the lights and the sea of ogre ear headbands had already begun to transport me to a land far, far, away. Even the stage curtain was that of a forest canopy. The scene was set! I wasn’t sure how one of the most loved computer animated movies was going to transpire to the stage. Would the writers and creative directors be able to pull it off?! Only time would tell.

In classic fairytale style, a gigantic story book magically opened before our eyes, with the characters seemingly appearing from nowhere. It told the story of a young Shrek, and how he came to be on his own in the swamp. Away with the book, it was time for the real story to begin.

Shrek in the film is such a loveable rogue, brought to life by the incredibly talented Mike Myers. His voice and mannerisms are the very fibres of the character, so how would it be to watch an actor? Would it feel like the actor was simply imitating?! I needn’t have worried. Steffan Harri plays a wonderful Shrek, making the character truly his own, almost, if not, more loveable than the animated version. His ogre game is strong.

Every hero needs a side kick, and boy do you get a kick out of Doneky! Marcus Aynton is the best ass ever to have tread the boards! His comedic timing and one liners make him an instant hit with the children, with the writers even throwing a few adult jokes in that are well over the little ones heads, they’ll be too captivated with Donkey’s slick dance moves!

Princess Fiona is played by non other than ‘Call the Midwife’ actress Laura Main. When we first meet her, she is every inch the traditional princess with her fiery long locks and emerald green dress, but as we get to know her more, she really comes out of herself. I guess having freedom after all that time locked in a tower will do funny things to you! Laura brings real grit and a toughness to Fiona that makes you warm to her instantly. Her voice packs a powerful punch, knocking sweet singing birds out of their nests no less and the campfire scene where she has a – let’s just say ‘windy’ competition with Shrek, is pure comedy gold. Toilet humour never fails to crack a smile!

That’s not even the funniest part. Lord Farquaaaaad, played by Samual Holmes, wins the funniest performance award hands down! What he is lacking in stature, he most certainly makes up for in laughs! With the help of some very clever wardrobe tricks and facial expressions to rival that of Jim Carey, you only need to look at him to be amused, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

As for the rest of the multitasking cast, I’m tired just watching them!They play various familiar story book characters as well as soldiers, village people, tap dancing rats and 3 particular mice one can only assume were blinded by their own sassiness. Some of their costume changes must have been similar to that of a magicians assistant who steps behind the curtain and out the other side with a completely different ensemble! Their signing, acting and dancing skills are put to the test with each number being so different in style and genre and to pull it off so well is a sign of a true professional.

What I especially liked, being a theatre geek, are all the tiny references to some of the other great musicals around – a trademark dance move here or there, familiar lyrics hidden within a song, and a certain flag flying high to mention a few. Watch closely and see how many you can spot!

All in all, it’s the most fun I’ve had at the theatre in a long time. The joy every single one of the cast is having whilst on that stage is almost tangible, and that transfers to the audience in a way similar to that of a panto – boo and hisses, cheers, cued laughter and up out of your seat dancing to the finale song to finish on a high! Whatever your age, young and old, children and adults alike will not fail to be entertained. It’s such a family affair, I can well see this becoming a tradition for many. Bonding, building fond memories and laughing – lots of laughing, crying with laughter, together. That’s what theatre is all about after all. So follow in the footsteps of Shrek and Fiona, Donkey and Dragon and all the story book folk, embrace your weirdness and find your happily ever after that begins with watching Shrek the Musical.

The show will be staying at the Manchester Palace Theatre untill 28th January. You can book your tickets using this link or telephone number below. https://atgtickets.com/manchester/

Tel:0844 871 3019

The rest of the tour dates can be found on the website https://shrekthemusical.co.uk/

Special thanks to the Palace Theatre Manchester and We Blog North for my first press night. I had a blast, but next time I’ll have my own novelty headband ready!

Dance Niche

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Dancing Icons – Dame Darcey Bussell

Dancing Icons – Dame Darcey Bussell

Darcey Bussell has become a household name of late, chasséing her way into our homes (and our hearts) every weekend, thanks to being one of 4 judges on the glitziest tv show around – Strictly Come Dancing. She judges fairly, with eloquence and always with constructive criticism, making sure she ends on a positive note as not to dishearten the dancing celebrities, keeping them encouraged. She has firmly taken the seat as not only one of the most likeable and sincere judges, but as one of the nations sweethearts. A rare accolade indeed. But many of the younger viewers may not know the Darcey that we, as dancers, know and adore. So let’s delve a little into her life story.

Darcey – born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle, joined the Royal Ballet lower school ages 13, where she progressed to through the upper school before joining the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet (now known as Birmingham Royal Ballet) in 1987. Darcey was hailed for her clean and precise technique, so it’s not surprising that in 1988, she had a lead role written for her, which is when she moved to the Royal Ballet and promoted to principal dancer at the tender age of only 20, becoming their youngest principal dancer at the time.

Darcey danced many of the well known leading roles including Aurora in the Sleeping Beauty, and and the Swan princess in Swan Lake. My personal favourite role she played was that of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker – the qualities she brought to that role are exquisite! Another favourite was a sketch she did with comedienne Dawn French, where they danced the infamous ‘mirror dance’. It is hugely entertaining, and really shows Darcey’s wonderful personality and not taking herself too seriously! If you haven’t watched it, here’s a link, you’re welcome! https://youtu.be/UyIMLz_jRbI

In 2007, she retired from ballet, with her last performance of Song of the Earth, and received an 8 minute standing ovation! Dame Darcey is still very much involved in the dance world, despite her retirement. Not only is she one quarter of the Strictly judging panel, she is also President of the Royal Academy of Dance. Being quite the creative, she wrote a series of children’s books called ‘Magic Ballerina’ , about an aspiring ballerina who discovers her shoes are magical! She has also recently launched ‘DDMix’ Diverse Dance Mix, a dance based fitness regimes in which she pulls inspiration and moves from dances all over the world. She is passionate about getting people moving and enjoying dance!

Her most recent accolade, was being named in the Queen’s New Years Honours list, receiving an OBE and her title of Dame, which is hugely fitting. She said “I gratefully accept it on behalf of all the dance organisations that I am so fortunate to be part of. Dance is such a beautiful art form, it is inspiring and provides joy, social cohesion and wellbeing.” and we couldn’t agree more.

So here’s to Dame Darcey, congratulations, and long may you continue to enrich lives through inspiring others to dance.

Dance Niche

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TECHNIQUE vs PERFORMANCE – Are we losing the art of dancing?

TECHNIQUE vs PERFORMANCE – Are we losing the art of dancing?

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, and is a fairly controversial topic, as there will always be strong views for either side. Before I continue, I’d just like to say that I am in no way advocating poor technique, or the lack of, as we all know technique and good form help keep us as dancers safe and injury free. It’s more to do with current trends in the dance world and of course, personal opinions will always come into play.

With the rise of social media, National T.V competitions and reality shows, dance – and dancers, have been projected not only into the lime light, but into the lives of young aspiring dancers everywhere. They follow their favourite dancers week by week, voting for them to get through to the next stage. They follow their social media accounts with enthusiasm, marvelling at each new pose they post. Instagram has a particularly large and influential dance community, as t.v and professional dancers from all over the world display their craft. Professionals. People who have spent years upon years honing and perfecting their craft with complete and total dedication. And of course much like you and I, they only post the very best photos, the ones that are timed just right to get that perfect shot, the grande jete beyond 180 degrees, the developpe a la seconde by their ear, and the ever popular ‘crotch shot’ aka side tilt, which seems to be as common as leg warmers in the movie Fame! In fact, it’s that common, and some say distasteful, that it has its own hashtag ‘#stopthecrotchshot

We live in a world where how many ‘likes’ your photo receives, dictates how good you are as a dancer. So naturally, young dancers are wanting to emulate the idols they follow, and post the best dance pose they can, hoping to rack up the likes. This has also transpired into choreography. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. More and more I see dancers at festivals show off their acquired skills, one into another, into another, but it’s getting to the point where they are almost showing off. Yes, of course, that’s what they are aiming for. They want to wow the audience and adjudicators with the amazing tricks and displays of hyper flexibility, however these elements are beginning to roll into one another, BAM, BAM, BAM! Quite often, these are the dancers that are placed. The ones who thrill us with their continual display of talent. But is it that thrilling?!

For me, Dance has always been about telling a story, being able to dance with such emotion that the audience pick up on the vibrations, making the hairs on their arms stand on end. You know the exact feeling I’m talking about. A good dancer can move you to tears. It’s part of the magic. You feel like you’ve been let into a private moment. It’s intoxicating, and leaves you wanting more. Can this simply be achieved by a display of capability? I think not. Don’t get me wrong, a well placed trick or element can really add a spectacular highlight to the dance, but it’s more than that. What about the steps in between, the facial expressions to convey the feeling, a well placed pause, a moment of stillness can hold so much tension and captivate an audience so much so the atmosphere is almost tangible. This is the true art of dance surely. To be able to give yourself so fully to a piece, to bare your soul, that the audience are able to re tell the story back, as they live it with you. Martha Graham famously said “great dancers are not great because of their talent. They are great because of their passion” and I think that speaks volumes.

But this doesn’t stop at tricks, and here’s where I could become unpopular with my view, it can also be true of actual technique too. Let’s set the scene……….local dance festival, lots of competitors in a section. There’s that one girl who has been genetically blessed for Dance……..the almost flat turn out, legs for days with slight hyperextended knees giving beautiful lines, feet that arch like bananas, and all the grace and beauty of any prima ballerina that has passed. But she lacks something. That spark behind her eyes, the fire in her belly, the calling from deep within her soul. She dances because she is good at it, REALLY good, but what drives her? Does she perform and project? No, she is selfish with her performance, and has a face like she’s simply stood waiting for a bus. Dare I say it………perhaps slightly boring! Cue the girl that isn’t so genetically blessed. Her legs aren’t as long, she doesn’t have the best turn out but she works with what she’s got and she pointed her feet as much as they allow, but she has something special. She has that ‘X’ factor. She doesn’t want to dance, she needs to. Her face visibly comes alive as soon as she steps on the stage and the audience know instantly they’re in for a treat. She captivated them so much, you can hear a pin drop. It’s also visible when you watch a group dance. There will always be that one dancer who catches your eye whether they are at the front or back. They catch your eye because they perform! They use their face as well as their body. They dance with such passion that it oozes from ever pore. It’s what an audience want to see. They want to watch someone who is interesting and intriguing, who’s fire burns so brightly they too can feel the heat and they get that all over tingling sensation that brings tears to your eyes. Someone who moves them when they dance. It’s echoed very much in the computer animated film ‘Ballerina‘(or Leap if you’re in the U.S) Effectively a battle between a talented girl who’s danced all her life, but dances because that’s what she’s always done, and a girl who has dreamed of being a dancer but wasn’t given the same opportunities, but her passion and determination she’s her through. It makes such a good story, because it’s a true one, “nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

So who would win? Ultimately, it’s down to the individual adjudicators, and again, this varies. Some favour perfect technique over performance, but I will always be swayed by that special something a dancer gives. In a perfect world, a dancer would have both, and these rare creatures are the ones that make it pro, all the way to the top, but they are just that, a rarity. Don’t let that stop you though, there is a growing trend in the dance world. Things are changing, slowly, but for the better. Companies are beginning to hire different dancers, differently by age, build race, but that’s a whole other blog post………

So what is your opinion? Which camp do you lie? Are you Team Felice or Team Camille? Content or creativity?

Dance Niche

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Top dance films you NEED to watch right now

Top dance films you NEED to watch right now

Dance is a vessel for visual expression. So it seems only natural for it to be part of some pretty major films and movies, as a way to convey those feelings that perhaps words cannot. Here is my list of top dance films that will make you spontaneously jump from your seat and move in ways you didn’t even know were possible!

DIRTY DANCING 1987

Starting with the obvious. Armed with some epic dance moves (that lift) one liners, and an utterly irresistible soundtrack, this movie was destined to be a box office hit. Patrick Swazey (swoon) and Jennifer Grey are the ultimate dance couple, and their finale dance is has been adopted by newly weds everywhere, trying to emulate the same magic for their first dance.

 

STRICTLY BALLROOM 1992

Sticking with the partner dancing theme, this is THE ultimate ballroom dancing movie! Story of the underdog winning over, it stars a hunky lead male, a plain Jane protégé, sequins galore and enough fake tan to keep David Dickinson in constant supply! Full of high drama, rule breaking and controversy, its definitely a classic you don’t want to miss!

FAME 1980

This list would not be complete without this hall of fame movie. A cult classic, depicting the struggles of young students at a New York Performing Arts academy. Through Fame, the love of leg warmers and sweatbands was born, and made stretch Lycra an absolute must for dance class (Mr Motivator clearly drew inspiration from this film).

FLASH DANCE 1983

Following on from the back of the Fame popularity came Flash Dance. The rags to riches tale that taught us that anything is possible is we believe in it hard enough and work for it. It follows the story of a young woman who works 2 jobs to make ends meet but dreams of being a professional dancer and auditioning for a prestigious dance company. Cue 2 of the most iconic scenes in dance film history, particularly one that wished we all looked as glamorous if we’d had a bucket of water dumped on us!

COYOTE UGLY 2000

Okay so you got me, it’s not strictly a dance film but it’s one too kick ass to be missed off. A young girl heads to New York to pursue a singing career and gets a job in a local bar to become a bar tender with a difference. This film had every woman dancing on bars and tables (much to the dismay of the actual bar tenders I’m sure) and became an unconventional story of girl power! Girls rule and boys literally drool!

SAVE THE LAST DANCE 2001

Romance was truly at the heart of this film, a love really does conquer all kind of story. A promising ballerina is forced to move in with her Dad and attend a different, rough around the edges school. She falls in love with a local bad boy, and their inter-racial relationship causes issues for them. However she helps him on the straight and narrow and he gives her performances that special edge so she makes it through an important audition. This film is packed with music and moves that make you want to hit the dance floor and give it all you got, all night long! 

 

THE RED SHOES 1948

The oldest film on the list but boy is it a goodie! Starring real life ballerina, Moira Sheerer, she plays a ballerina who must choose between the love of her art and the love of her life. This film has the most dance content and technically correct choreography in it, and features snippets of well known ballet productions, including Hans Christian Anderson Red Shoes, which bewitch the wearer into dancing till their death! Mathew Bourne has recently adapted the story for his new stage production, which has already proved to be a huge success.

CENTER STAGE 2000

A teen classic, this film follows a group of young students at a dance academy as they prepare for a final production and the hurdles they face as they work towards getting into a renewed professional dance company. It details the struggles of young dancers today, and is like an up to date version of Fame, just a lot less shiny lycra, thank god!

BLACK SWAN 2010

A big box office success, and why wouldn’t it be, when its based around one of the best love ballets! It tells the story of a professional ballet company as they prepare for their production of Swan Lake. The main character is a perfect Odette – unassuming, modest, graceful, but has she got what it takes to transform into her alter ego Odile?! Featuring some amazing dance sequences, and classical music, it also has a dark undertone to the storyline. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! You can brush up on your Swan Lake knowledge here Ballet Classics – Swan Lake

And there we have it, my top dance movies you need to watch, if you haven’t already! Did your favourite make the list? Is there an epic dance film I’ve missed out and need to watch myself? Let me know, I could do with a good Netflix session for my – ahem – research!

 

Happy watching,

Dance Niche.

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Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

(Karla Doorbar as Clara; photo: Roy Smiljanic)

Nothing says Christmas more to dancers than The Nutcracker. Companies all over the world look forward to putting on their own production, with it being the highlight of the year. The Nutcracker is to ballet what Jack and the Beanstalk is to pantos – a deep set tradition, with just as much magic and adventure, that many look forward to every year. If you aren’t too familiar with the story, read on and you’ll be a Nutcracker pro in no time!

Premiering in 1892, it was adapted from E.T.A Hoffman’s “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lee Ivanov, with a score from the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky (who also composed music for Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake). Like most long standing productions, the details and the story differ slightly from place to place, but here’s the one that is most familiar.

(Karla Doorbar as Clara, Angela Paul as Clara’s Mother and Rory Mackay as Drosselmeyer; photo: Andrew Ross)

The scene is set on Christmas Eve in young girls family home, Clara, where the Christmas tree has been decorated and the children stand in awe of it. As the clock strikes 8pm, Drosselmeyer, Clara’s Godfather, local councilman and magician appears, with gifts for all the children. Clara particularly falls in love with a wooden Nutcracker carved in the shape of a solider. Fritz – Clara’s brother, breaks it, (typical sibling rivalry I’d say) and Clara is heartbroken.

(Rachael Gillespie as Clara curtesy of Northern Ballet)

During the night, Clara goes back downstairs to see the broken Nutcracker again (does she not know that Father Christmas only visits when all children are asleep?!) As she reaches for it, the clock strikes 12 midnight, mice flood the room, the tree begins to grow as does the Nutcracker! Suddenly Clara finds herself in the middle of a battle between gingerbread men soldiers led by the Nutcracker, and the army of mice led by the Mouse King.

(Jonathan Caguioa as the Nutcracker Doll and Yasuo Atsuji as King Rat with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet as Rats; photo: Andrew Ross)

The mice begin eating away at the gingerbread men (well they are super tasty). As it looks like the Mouse army are winning, Clara throws her slipper at the Mouse King, giving the Nutcracker an opportunity to stab him (always so violent, does it need a disclaimer?) The mice retreat and the Nutcracker transforms into a Prince, who takes Clara through a pine forest towards his kingdom. Magical snowflakes dance all around them

(Jenna Roberts as the Snow Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Bill Cooper)

Act II sees the pair enter the magical Land of sweets, ruled by the Sugar Plum Fairy (perhaps this is where Willy Wonka got his inspiration from?) To celebrate the victory and to thank Clara for her help, the Sugar Plum Fairy enlists the help from sweets all over the world, who each perform for the pair, including the famous dance of the Plum Fairy.

(Yaoqian Shang as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker; photo: Bill Copper)

As the celebrations draw to a close, Clara and the Nutcracker are lead to a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Everyone waves them off on their journey, much like wedding guests to newly wed couples, and this ends the production, although there are multiple alternative endings around.

(Company dancers photo curtesy of Northern Ballet)

With such a magical, enthralling story, enough sweets to send the kids climbing the walls on a sugar high, and a heroine little girls would dream to be, The Nutcracker is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the ballet world and the theatre, and would also make a wonderful family tradition to watch it year after year.

(Image courtesy of The Scottish Ballet company www.scottishballet.co.uk )

Disney must appreciate the magic of Nutcracker, as they are currently producing a live action adaptation – The Nutcracker and the Four Relms, due to be realised November 2018, just in time for the festive season (top marks Disney) which promises to be every bit as magical as the ballet, if not more. Definitely one to put on your calendars for next year! Watch the official trailer here https://www.facebook.com/DisneyUK/videos/654986464672105/

So, the little ones are tucked up in bed, while visions of sugar plums – hopefully not evil mice kings being stabbed to death – dance in their heads, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and supporting this blog, this is my dream coming to life and I’m hugely honoured and grateful to have you all share it with me. There’s only one thing left to say…….

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all goodnight!”

See you in the New Year,

Dance Niche

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Christmas gift list for the dancer who has EVERYTHING!

Christmas gift list for the dancer who has EVERYTHING!

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. A time for giving. But what do you get for that dancer in your life who already has EVERYTHING?! We’re here to enlighten you with my top most thoughtful dance related buys that will earn you extra brownie points this festive season.

Let’s start with the basics of what every dancer needs……..a decent leo. Now we’re not talking about Leonardo Di Caprio, although he’d most definitely be on ourChristmas list (don’t disappoint usagain Santa) we are of course talking about leotards. A dancers staple item no matter what genre. “But they already have a whole wardrobe of leotards?!” we hear you cry! Well hold your horses and listen up. Find a leotard that’s different from the rest, one that isn’t their standard uniform for class, their basic style or bog standard go to. Do your research. Find one that’s different. Adventurous. One that shows personality, that they can wear for a free class, workshop or that’s sure to make them stand out for all the right reasons in an audition. We love this one from UK based family company Dansez www.dans-ez.com . Super luxurious and soft materials make it really gentle on your skin. The sheer high neck and cap sleeves make it a super flattering style for any shape and the tear drop low back is to die for and will show off all those toned back muscles perfectly. It gives all the Chicago Cell Block Tango feels, and what’s more, you could pair it with skinny jeans or tailored trousers and rock it from the barre to a bar and feel super slinky! Bonus!

Sticking with the dance apparel theme, we’re moving onto dance skirts. Not for everyone, but if the dancer your buying for takes ballet or other lyrical styles, then this one is definitely for you. What’s so special about a dance skirt? One that’s been handmade to your custom specifics that’s what!!! Look no further than Candy and Bagel www.candyandbagel.comNothing will say you’ve put thought into a gift more than something that has been designed specifically for them. Serious brownie points. And what’s more is that it’ll be a one off, ensuring no one else in class will have the same, avoiding that embarrassing moment that every girl wants to avoid. Unless they’re twinning with their dance BFF, in which case that’s totally acceptable. Maybe order 2……….

No dancers wardrobe would be complete without a good old slogan tee. Kelham Print www.kelhamprint.co.ukis the place to go, with a whole section of t-shirts, sweaters and gifts dedicated to dance slogans and puns. You can choose the style, colour and even the type of font, to make sure you really get something suited to your special dancer. These are really ‘en pointe’ right now. (See what I did there?!) Great for warm ups, open classes, hitting the gym to cross train or for a casual day look when they want everyone in the supermarket to know that they’re a dancer. Not that the penché to reach that item on the bottom shelf gave it away at all!

Every dancer needs to stay hydrated, but who wants a boring non-descript water bottle that leaks and dribbles every time you take a gulp?! Not a good look. Try this super cool drinks bottle from up and coming family brand Eden Dancewear www.edendancwear.co.uk

It comes in a choice of vibrant colours and features a tight secure lid with special carry handle. And that’s not even the best bit! It’s got a state of the art mist spray function. So when they get all hot and sweaty in class, they can quickly spritz and refresh themselves ready for the next session! We told you it was super cool!

You definitely wouldn’t want anything to leak on this next item! Again, another bespoke, handmade item, but this time, it’s an actual dance bag! Bakytgul www.bakytgul.comdesign and make custom dance bags with a difference. Gone are the boring standard black or pink colours and plainer than plain fabrics! Instead we are treated to luxurious prints and patterns in an array of colours. And it doesn’t stop there! They are fully lined, but not with any old drab, dull fabric, oh no! Even the linings are carefully selected for their patterns and colours, harmoniously coordinating with the outer fabric. They also are unique in their design with the inner pockets. A lot of thought has gone into coming up with a bag that is not only stylish, but will make it easy for the dancer to locate all the different shoes and fiddly items they need for a quick and swift change, earning them brownie points with their teachers! Winner!

Dance is a world in which you never stop learning. And boy is there so much to learn. Help your dancer out by buying them a book. It could be a book on technique advice, an autobiography by their favourite dancer, or a picture book full of awe inspiring photos of the professionals, because who doesn’t love to stare at the pros doing what they do best?! Oberon Books www.oberonbooks.com are an independent publishers specialising in the arts. So whether it’s ballet, dance icons, technique based literature or something more theatrical altogether, they will have what you’re looking for.

Another lovely idea would be to buy something to put up on their wall. EVERY hardcore dancer has at least one dance poster up on their wall, heck some are even lucky enough to have their very own dance corner in their bedroom! And what dance zone would be complete without some beautiful pictures and art work to admire, inspire and be your focus point when practicing pirouettes!! We particularly love the artwork of ALICIA HEANEY over on www.aliciaannart.com . She perfectly captures the effortless beauty and delicateness of dancers, and produces some wonderful pieces that anyone would be proud to display on their walls. And just how lucky would your dancer be to own a piece of original art work?! Something that could be passed down to future generations of dancers, a family heir loom!

Now if we haven’t yet inspired you with our list so far, we’ve saved one for last that would guarantee to put a smile on your dancers face! We would recommend doing your research of what’s in your area, and purchasing a voucher for a dedicated dance shop. If the dancer you are buying for is particularly fussy, they can browse through whole sections of shoes, leos, warm ups, accessories, brands, and pick something that they both really love and need. It ticks all the boxes! We have personal experience of THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT in Liverpool city centre www.thatsentertainmentdancewear.com . The staff are most welcoming and friendly. Their knowledge and expertise on different dance genres and dance wear brands are highly commendable, and they will openly share this knowledge with you to help you choose the right items for you, without being pushy or condescending. You will leave feeling like you’ve had an experience they treat you so well. And with their newly updated website, you can now purchase almost everything they sell in their shop, online. Apart from pointe shoes, which you all know need a fitting appointment.

So there we have it, our little gift to you to help you with your little gift to your dancer! Do you have a favourite go to gift idea for dance fanatics? Have you purchased anything from the above retailers? Do let us know, we’d love to hear!

Love

Dance Niche

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Ballet classics – Sleeping Beauty

Ballet classics – Sleeping Beauty

Everyone is so familiar with the story of Sleeping Beauty, with thanks to the Disney version. The ballet version is based on the tale from The brothers Grimm, and has slight differences.

The music was written by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  and first performed in 1890, originally called ‘The Sleeping princess’.  King Florestan and the QUEEN are celebrating the christening of their daughter PRINCESS AURORA.  Among the guests are 6 magical fairies (the names of the fairies change from production to production) with the most important one being the LILAC FAIRY.  They each give a gift, but as the Lilac fairy goes to give hers, the evil fairy CARABOSSE arrives, angry at not being invited. The King blames his Master of ceremonies, who Carabosse beats with her stick before placing a curse on the baby, on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die! The lilac fairy intervenes, and although unable to undo the curse, she is able to alter it, so that the Princess falls into a sleep for 100 years to be woken by a kiss from a prince. Everyone is out at ease and the festivities continue.

Aurora’s birthday arrives and there’s lots of dancing and potential suitors for her to meet! A cloaked stranger offers her a gift, a spindle, and as she has never seen one, she’s curious and takes a closer look. She pricks her finger and falls to the floor. Carabosse reveals herself from under the cape and is satisfied she is dead. The Princess is carried off to bed and the Lilac fairy goes about putting a spell over the castle and it’s people to also put them in a deep sleep, only to awake when the Princess does.

Fast forward 100 years and we meet  PRINCE DÉSIRÈ out in a hunting trip. The Lilac fairy appears to him, having chosen him to awake Aurora, and takes him to the castle. Carabosse has one last attempt at stopping them, but fails. The prince finds Aurora, kisses her and she wakes, as do the rest of the people. The King and Queen are ecstatic with the Prince, and he proposes to Aurora, which she accepts.
The final act is the wedding. The Lilac fairy, along with the other fairies and some recognisable guests from other fairy tales are in attendance. The prince and princess are wed with the Lilac fairy blessing the union. Then all the guests gather and create a tableau to end the ballet.

Did you know that Walt Disney actually bought some of the rights to the music from Sleeping Beauty, which is why some of it appears in the film. Some people claim that fact inhibits some productions of the ballet due to copyright laws.

Sleeping Beauty was always my favourite story growing up. I think it’s that love can overcome evil. I have yet to see this in production, but it’s down on my list! 
Alicia 💗

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Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James dance in La Sylphide. (ALEKSANDAR ANTONJEVIC

Here we have another story of magical beings, love, betrayal and star crossed lovers. Spot a theme?!

La Sylphide is actually one of the oldest surviving ballets, dating back to 1832! The version we live and know today was choreographed by August Bournonville in 1836.

It’s set in bonny Scotland around a man named JAMES and his fiancé Effie on the lead up to their wedding in a country farmhouse.

One night, James falls asleep by the fire, a SYLPH (a forest spirit) falls in love with him, dances around him and eventually kisses him. As he wakes up, she disappears. James wakes his friend GURN, who doesn’t know anything about the Sylph. James puts it behind him and thinks about his upcoming wedding.

As Effie and her bridal party arrive, James goes out to greet them but sees a shadow behind them. He runs over, thinking it is the Sylph, but instead he finds OLD MADGE, a local witch. James is disappointed. Effie asks the witch to read their fortune. She tells her that James is in love with someone else and that Effie will end up with Gurn. James is angry and forces Old Madge to leave.

James is alone and the Sylph appears to him again. He is totally captivated by her and they kiss. Gurn sees all this and runs to tell Effie. But when everyone arrives in the room to see what’s going on, the Sylph has disappeared and they think Gurn has made it up out of jealousy. Festivities and dancing break out. The Sylph returns and takes the wedding ring off James, putting it on her own finger and running off into the forest. James immediately follows leaving Effie heartbroken.

The Sylph introduces James to her forest friends and they dance for him. Meanwhile the other guests have followed into the forest looking for James. Gurn finds his hat, and comes across Old Madge. She tells him to propose to Effie, which he does and she accepts, then they leave. James returns and Old Madge gives h a magic scarf. She tells him it will bind the Sylph to him forever and they can be together.

Reunited with the Sylph, he loves the scarf around her, her wings fall off, but she then dies. He sees her spirit above him and collapses. Madge is happy with the results.

Another ballet from the romantic era, so expect dreamy long tulle skirted tutus, lots of Georgia and elevation in allegro sections, and gorgeous little freeze frame moments. A good dash of Scottish dancing, bagpipes and kilts make it a much more colourful affair! But I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of these endings, I’m a typical ‘happily ever after’ kind of girl. Maybe I’ll start re writing my own endings!

Alicia 💗

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Ballet classics – Coppélia

Ballet classics – Coppélia


I’ve always been fond of this ballet. I love the theatrics involved, the doll-like actions and the fact that ballet doesn’t have to be serious – it can have humour too! Coppélia is a light hearted ballet, and popular as an introduction to ballet for young children.

The story starts out with 2 young lovers, Swanilda and Franz, who are planning to marry during a village festival. Swanilda has recently noticed Franz paying a lot of attention to a girl named Coppélia, who sits on the balcony of a house owned by local crazy inventor Dr Coppélius. Franz is determined to catch her attention, and Swanilda is left heartbroken and runs away.

One day, Dr Coppélius goes out, and loses his keys. Swanilda finds them, and with her friends, goes to investigate his house, and find out more about Coppélia. At the same time, Franz has decided to climb up to the balcony to meet the girl he is captivated with.

Upon entering, Swanilda realised that all the people in the room are in fact life like dolls, including Coppélia! She and her friends begin to wind all the dolls up. Dr Coppeélius returns, and is angry the girls have trespassed and disturbed his work, throws them out! He then finds Franz on the balcony but instead of sending him away as well, he invites him in. Unbeknown to Franz, the Dr wants to bring Coppélia to life, but needs a human sacrifice! He intends to kill Franz and take his soul to put into Coppélia. He feeds Franz some bread that has sleeping powder on it and Franz falls asleep. 

However Swanilda has been hiding in the workshop the whole time! She dresses up in Coppélia’s clothes and begins dancing, pretending the doll has come to life! She quickly wakes Franz, then winds up all the other dolls again to help them escape. Dr Coppélius is sad to find a lifeless Coppélia still behind the curtain.

As Franz and Swanilda are about to make their vows, Dr Coppélius interrupts and angrily demands payment for the damages they caused. Swanilda is sad that she has caused an old man such grief so offers her dowry as an apology. Franz steps in and offers to pay the Dr instead. Just then, the village Mayor gives the Dr a big of money. The happy couple marry and everyone celebrates. 

This is a ballet that not only the audience but the dancers themselves can have a lot of fun with. They can really use their acting skills, their comedic timing, their over the top dance moves, particularly for the dancer as Coppélia. When I was younger, I attended a repertoire workshop, and we were all taught how to be transformed into dolls! It was so much fun!  Very different to ballet in ways, flexed feet, rigid body, bent square arms. I love how subtle changes in choreography can instantly give a dancer a different feel, or in this case, a wooden one!

If you haven’t seen this ballet, I urge you to watch it next time you have the opportunity. You be pleasantly surprised how ballet and comedy can come together so easily! 

Alicia 💗

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