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Category: Dance

Everything from how to behave in class to dance survival tips can be found here!

Mental Health Workshops For Dancers

Mental Health Workshops For Dancers

Thankfully, since the last time I wrote about the subject, Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It? , it has become a much more talked about topic. That is almost certainly down to the persistent Terry Hyde of Counselling For Dancers

Terry has campaigned tirelessly to bring this subject to the forefront of the dance world, creating a specialist workshop and touring the world, delivering his advice and information direct to dance schools and conservatoires. This time, he has teamed up with non other than Biscuit Ballerina aka Shelby Williams, who is a renowned figure in the dance world for her tongue in cheek view of dance life problems. With her satire and huge public presence, and Terry’s vast knowledge of mental health and a past career in dance (you can check out his credentials in the article linked above) they make for a powerful duo, breaking down the stigma that is still attached to this topic.

Their workshops have already proved immensely popular and insightful. Shelby touches on themes such as perfectionism, anxiety, competition, and burnout while also linking them to modern day triggers such highly curated social media and FOMO culture. As an advocate for open discussion about mental health, she helps to normalize and destigmatize the complex emotional and mental pressure dancers face throughout their training and into their careers. By finding humour in dancers’ obsessions, Shelby as Biscuit Ballerina creates breathing room between the hard work and the dancer so that there is space for a more objective reflection on the big picture and a stronger ability to confront and overcome mental struggles tied to dance.

Terry talks about mental health self-care for dancers, touching on transitions, injuries and ways in which we can change to a more positive way of thinking. He discusses the symptoms of anxiety and depression, giving some relaxation and breathing exercises. Terry also demonstrates, with the help of volunteers, how to control pain and how to learn combinations, solos etc. without actually moving. All topics which I’m sure you’ll agree are current and relevant to today’s dancers.

Terry and Shelby have 2 upcoming workshops in the UK, 1st December in Manchester (which I have been invited to attend to report back to you all) and 8th December in Edinburgh. You can find the eventbrite links for tickets to the workshops below. Dance Niche readers have access to 10% discount with codes.

Manchester Workshop use MANCH10

Edinburgh Workshop use EDIN10

Terry’s workshops present an opportunity to educate yourself and others about one of the more prevalent yet taboo problems facing dancers today, and a chance to see Biscuit Ballerina in the flesh! Healthy mind, healthy body.

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WIN Tickets To See THE LITTLE PRINCE

WIN Tickets To See THE LITTLE PRINCE

I’m teaming up with The Lowry, Salford Quays, to bring 1 lucky person the chance to win a tickets for a family of 4 to watch Luca Silvestrini’s adaptation of ‘The Little Prince’ on Tuesday 26th November!

Based on the world famous book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, ‘The Little Prince’ tells the story of a young Prince, who leaves behind his tiny asteroid and beloved rose and journeys through the universe, coming face to face with the baffling world of grown-ups! Have you ever heard of a king who reigns over nothing? Or a businessman obsessively counting stars?

Once on planet Earth, the Little Prince is welcomed by a mysterious snake and a truly wise and friendly fox before encountering the lone pilot. Together they discover the power and beauty of friendship and the complexity of love.

The Little Prince is brought to life using Protein’s award winning mix of dance, humour and spoken word. With an original score by Frank Moon, design by Yann Seabra and lighting by Jackie Shemesh, Protein’s new show invites us to look at the world through one’s heart and to reconnect with our inner child.

“Luca Silvestrini is the sharpest of comic choreographers” The Guardian

All you need to do is sign up to our website for free on this link here That’s it! Competition closes Sunday 24th November, with the winner being notified by email on Monday 25th.

*T&C prize is for 4 tickets to watch The Little Prince at The Lowry on Tuesday 26th November. Tickets are non transferable*

Good Luck!

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Dada Masilo’s GISELLE

Dada Masilo’s GISELLE

We are all to familiar with the story if Giselle, a peasant girl who dies from a broken heart after her lover betrays her. Then, upon the time of retribution, Giselle’s true love for him enables her to forgive him, sparing his life. Dada Masilo’s Giselle follows the same rough plot, but the similarities end there.

Dada, from Johannesburg, South Africa, was intrigued by the thought of a band of vengeful women. Her interpretation of Giselle is an altogether more menacing one. Gone are the etherial, graceful Wilis draped in white tulle we all know and love. Dada’s Wilis are blazen in deep red. Their dances are grounded, earthy, and intimidating. When they appear, there is no doubt upon their intention!

The choreography is heavily influenced by Dada’s South African heritage, with a contemporary twist and elements of ballet rolled into one. It could not be pigeonholed as a ballet like it’s name sake, however the classical training of some of the cast is easy to identify. It’s as though the story of Giselle has been adapted in a cultural format. This is what makes the production so real and raw. No make believe in this retelling, just a relatable account of the trials and tribulations of love.

There are moments that are uncomfortable to watch. Some due to sheer tension the story and dancers create, an others due to cultural differences, but Dada’s said “I want people to feel” and that intention has certainly been surpassed.

Dada Masilo’s Giselle is a dark retelling with a tribal influence, and cecelebrates the power of a woman. After all, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and this Giselle is certainly that!

The tour continues on from The Lowry, to Milton Keynes, Brighton and Canteebury. Details and tickets can be found on Dance Consortium website https://www.danceconsortium.com/touring/dada-masilo-giselle/tour-dates-and-venues/

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ENB’s Cinderella | Review

ENB’s Cinderella | Review

English National Ballet productions are synonymous for exquisite technique and artistry, an evening of pure dance entertainment, however their Cinderella production, currently touring, may just have pipped them all to the post.Choreographed by award winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, and based on the original story by Brothers Grimm, ENB’s Cinderella feels familiar yet different. The score by Prokofiev, instantly recognisable with it’s lulling melodies, is played live by the ENB’s Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Gavin Sutherland, who describes the music as

“just as passionate and romantic as Romeo & Juliet, with the added element of magic”

The staging and lighting give for some mesmerising moments, with the help of projections onto some of the props, that really help to enhance the magical feel of the production. The costumes add to this magic with elaborate brocades, mystical creatures and a special moment at the end of Act I, when Cinderella’s dream of going to the ball becomes reality!Erina Takahashi is a perfect Cinderella, meek and unassuming yet alluring and charismatic! She moves with such lightness and ease, like a leaf dancing in the wind, and floats like a feather during the intricate lifts with her sturdy and always presents Fates, and Prince Guillaume, danced by Joseph Calley.Joseph makes for a devoted Prince, ever the puppy dog, and is convincingly besotted with his one true love. He is tender and tentative during the pas de deux sequences, never faltering with his quiet strength. In contrast, we see his boyish charm and athleticism during his scenes with his best friend Benjamin.Jeffrey Cirio plays Benjamin, and together with Joseph, create a charming bromance, shirking responsibility together and relishing each others company, yet in friendly competition with brutish jousts and tumbles! The camaraderie between these cast members is genuine, and clear to see.Another notable duo are the ugly sisters. A move away from those characterised in the Disney movie or panto, Alison McWhinny and Katja Khaniukova are less ugly, more geek chic. Like many sisters, sibling rivalry is often out of hand, creating some of the lighter moments and laugh out loud slap stick humour! They would give any mother a headache!Stepmother Hortensia is danced by Tamara Rojo CBE, and is one of the stand out characters. Her portrayal of Cinderella’s vengeful and spiteful stepmother is wickedly satisfying,you love to hate her! Yet by the end, she will become your favourite character, with her realistic and relatable take on a mother who’s had far too much to drink and makes a complete show of herself! It’s really refreshing to see Tamara in such a characterised and comedic role and it’s one she plays extremely well.ENB’s Cinderella is one of the few full length ballet productions that is suitable for an audience of any age and will whisk you away to a world of fantasy. It’s currently showing at the Palace Theatre Manchester until Saturday 19th October, tickets still available here https://www.atgtickets.com/times/christopher-wheeldons-cinderella/palace-theatre-manchester/2019-10-19It is absolutely not one to miss, just make sure you’re home before Midnight!Cinderella os also part of ENB’s special 70th anniverary season. To celerate, they are giving away 70 tickets to each tour destination, for the venue to distibute to local charities or people making a positive impact in the community. More details on this and other anniversary celebrations can be found in their website https://www.ballet.org.uk/blog-detail/2019-2020-season-announcement/Dance Niche

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Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Centres of Advanced Training in dance, or CAT Scheme for short, specialises in helping young, gifted dancers the chance to benefit from world class teachers in a broad and well rounded dance curriculum. Their aim is to identify young people, from any background, who have the talent and drive, nurture them and help ready them for a sustainable career in dance. I was invited to the CAT Scheme at The Lowry, Salford Quays, to find out more.

The CAT Scheme was initially founded back in 2004, and are now held nationwide in 12 different locations! The Lowry in Salford Quays is home to Manchester and the North West CAT group. Aimed at preprofessional level, children aged between 10 and 18 receive up to 10 hours specialist dance training a week, working around school and other dance activities. Perfect for those wanting a non residential option to further dance studies. The scheme focuses on 5 key areas – technique, creative dance and choreography, performance, health and wellbeing and cultural activities. Each centre varies slightly, depending on it’s area and students, but the foundations of the scheme are based in contemporary dance, with tuition also in ballet, urban, South Asian dance and even circus skills. On top of their weekly scheduled classes, CAT students also gain access to weekend intensives, and visiting company workshops from the likes of Phoenix, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor and Sir Matthew Bourne.

Entrance to CAT Scheme studies are by audition only, but the programme endeavours to make the process as relaxed and informal as possible, enabling the children to dance their very best and let their true potential shine through. Centres usually hold up to 8 open days throughout May/June time, which are free of charge. This creates a gateway through to the audition day, usually held in mid June, by invitation for the open classes, or by application process. The audition itself has been set up to feel more like a workshop day. CAT Scheme understand nerves can get the better or students, so they’ve created a very comfortable environment in which the students can relax and hopefully enjoy the process. The day usually entails technique work, creative sessions and group work. CAT look for students that are adaptable, potential over current technical ability. They look for passion. On the whole, CAT scheme accept around 53 grant places per annum’ similar to that of University grants, of those, 55% are full grants. Advice and additional funding is also available for those who are in need the most.

Upon acceptance, each student is provided with a uniform consisting of ballet tights, leotard, contemporary tights, ballet shoes, and CAT branded hoodie and t-shirt. They receive 1 to 1 tutorial support as well as IPT sessions (Individual Training Plans) This allows the tutors to access the needs of the individual dancers, their aspirations, and discuss career pathways. Once those things have been distinguished, a clear plan of action is devised. These sessions also include written corrections received from classes, with clear steps on how to achieve success in those areas, monthly and termly goals, and sections where the students complete with their own evaluations on their dancing. Students receive ITP sessions every term in groups and with their parents to ensure everyone is up to date and informed. In this respect, CAT also have private groups set up on social media channels, to help provide quick advice, sharing of vital information, as well as connecting everyone. If all that wasn’t enough, students also receive classes in body conditioning such as pilates and yoga based elements, nutrition, audition advice and appreciation sessions, where the students are free to share with the group their feelings and kind, encouraging words towards each other. They also have performance opportunities in participating in community projects as well as an end of year showcase.

Speak to anyone involved with CAT, students, parents, teachers, and they will all say that the CAT Scheme is like one big family, it is almost their ethos. Even after leaving CAT, past students regularly visit, to reconnect or even give a talk to current students on their time and how it has helped them achieve success. CAT is a wonderful example of building sound, solid foundations for our young dancers of today, after all, they will become the professionals of the future. To know that those dancers have been lovingly nurtured and provided with the skills and mindset to tackle all that career in dance and performance entails, is both refreshing and comforting.

This year, The Lowry are celebrating their 10 Anniversary of hosting the CAT Scheme, and are putting on a showcase to honour all past and present students, including works they have done with professional companies and talks to engage and inform more people in the scheme. tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased here https://thelowry.com/whats-on/cat-showcase/

More information on the CAT scheme at The Lowry can be found on their website using this link https://thelowry.com/get-creative/young-people/dance/

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MB New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET | Review

MB New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET | Review

Sir Matthew Bourne’s company, New Adventures, are frequent visitors to The Lowry in Salford Quays. The were the second ever company to perform there when the theatre was newly built, and as such, scedule tour dates at The Lowry around twice a year. Last year, I reviewed their infamous Swan Lake, which you can read here Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review and now they have a 5 night stop with Romeo & Juliet.

As with all Matthew Bourne’s productions, expect the unexpected. Yes, this is a tragic story of two clandestine lovers, but definitely not the one you will be familiar with. From the very first glimpse of the production, you know you’re in for a treat. The dramatic fall of the blood red sheer curtain sets the tone for the whole show, as does the stark and clincal white stage set revealed behind it.

It’s difficult for me to write this review without giving too much away, and as art is subjective, I want you to be able to come to your own conclusions of the plot. What I will say is rather than having 2 familes at war, Sir Matthew has created the segregation but as a boy/girl gender divide. I felt that Romeo & Juliet have a sort of role reversal. Romeo (Paris Fitzpatrick) being the unsure, deer in headlights, damsel in distress, who is taken under the protective wings of Juliet (Cordelia Braithwaite). She is a character who knows what she wants, and how to get it, and certainly seems to take the lead in their duets together.ROMEO AND JULIET

The contemporary dance style compliments this new theme and plot. Bold, strong and accented steps along side some very lyrical, soft and at times, practically floating sequences, match the themes of lust and true love, violence and submission. I particularly enjoyed the guttural noises, audible heavy breathing and stamps in unison, adding yet another intriguing layer. Of course, the original score by Prokofiev allows for such yin yang choreography, however, even the music is different! This version has had a brand new reworking of the original music, and it has been so intricately intertwined with the story.ROMEO AND JULIET

Fear not, for there are some things which cannot be unwritten. What holds are 2 young people finding eachother against the odds and declaring their undying love for one another. Finding a bond so strong that they would (and do) die for each other. Expect a lot of blood, which contrasts perfectly with the bleached white surroundings. The aftermath is a bloodbath, horror film worthy vision!

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures ROMEO & JULIET is appearing at The Lowry 11-16th June. Tickets are still available via The Lowry https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-romeo-and-juliet/

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New Adventures Company Interview | Neil Westmoreland

New Adventures Company Interview | Neil Westmoreland

Laat week I was invited to a special preview performance of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company ‘Romeo & Juliet‘ in Manchester, ahead of the tour visiting The Lowry. I was able to not only watch rehearsals and see the inner workings of the cast and crew, but also got to chat with the resident director, Neil Westmoreland and a couple of the young cast members about working on a retelling of a classic story and what it’s like being part of such an innovative dance company.

*Sitting at a small table in an open plan space, Neil Westmoreland joins me for a casual, informal chat, ahead of the planned schedule, due to an important meeting, as is so common within the arts. Plans are susceptible to change and you have to be versatile *

DN: Neil, you are a former New Adventures company dancer and are now the resident director. Would you say that’s a natural progression in the dance world?

NW: I started dancing with New Adventures about 2003, then took time out for around 5 years to teach. I teturned to dance for NA, and then luckily landed the role of residnet director. I wouldn’t say it’s always a natural progression for everyone, but it was for me, as I got a chance to tie both my skills of dancing and teaching together.

DN: You’ve previously performed Romeo & Juliet with Northern Ballet and English National Ballet but never New Adventures. Do you feel like you’ve missed out somewhat?

NW: No not at all. I’m too old now *laughs* The score is so brilliant on this production, I just feel lucky to be here and part of such a collaborative effort. We have 2 cast teams , Capulets and Montagues (of course) touring the country at the same time, with a young cast ensemble from each destination. It’s a huge undertaking.

DN: Matthew Bourne is famous for putting his own spin on well known stories. Without giving too much away, what can the audience expect from his version of Romeo & Juliet?

NW: *hmm* without giving too much away is quite difficult, I don’t want to spoil it! There is a lot of drama, it’s quite intense. Whatever you are expecting, it’s not going to be that! It’s very musical, quite unique!

DN: Which character is your favorite in this production and why?

NW: Hard to choose just one! *Thinks for a moment* Romeo is really special, he’s such a multi-layered character, and the men who are dancing his part are fantastic. Tybalt is an interesting twist! Juliet is not a typical feminine role. She’s young and strong. She embodies what’s happening in today’s world with the feminist movement.

DN: Why should people come and watch new Adventures production of Romeo & Juliet?

NW: Why?! Why not! A) This is our version of a classic story, New Adventures fans are going to be very pleased! And B) with the addition of the toung cast ensemble dancers from each location, we are championing new emerging talent from their local areas, and by coming to watch, the audience will be helping to suppprt them. And it’s not only the dancers, we have local experts in music, set design, costume, lighting, it really is a spectacle!

DN: Lastly, describe the show in 3 words.

NW: wow, you’re really testing me now! *Thinks for a moment* Ok, so firstly, dramatic!!! Secondly, musical. The socre is wonderful, it’s very melodic. Lastly, I’d say innovative! It’s fresh and new, very exciting!

You can see for yourself how exciting it looks by watching the official trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLvAiPOg_5M

New Adventures Romeo & Juliet arrives at The Lowry, Salford Quays tonight, Tuesday 11th June until Saturday 15th June. Tickets can be purchased through their website here https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-romeo-and-juliet/

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10 reasons to take your children to My First Ballet

10 reasons to take your children to My First Ballet

My First Ballet is a special programme conducted by the English National Ballet especially designed to be viewed by children. They take the classic ballet stories we all know and love, and adapt the plot, choreography and staging to make it suitable for a younger audience. Here are 10 reasons why your children will love My First Ballet.

• There are characters they will recognise – many traditional ballets feature iconic characters or are based on well-loved fairy tales, this version of Sleeping Beauty includes Aurora, Carabosse and Lilac Fairy as well as other well-known characters such as Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots.

Introduce them to new music – Tchaikovsky can rarely be heard on CBBC and this ballet will help introduce them to a whole new world of classical music. There may also be some music that they recognise, the Garland Dance from Sleeping Beauty is featured in the Disney film so may be familiar to young ears already!

They will learn something – most story ballets have a take away message that the audience can leave with, often several, and English National Ballet’s My First Ballet series includes ballets especially designed to help children learn something through the acting and movement. The key messages in My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty are the importance of inner beauty, kindness, forgiveness and friendship.

It’ll be an experience for the whole family – it’s the perfect treat for children as well as parents. Dance is a universal language, and My First Ballet is also narrated to help explain some of the ballet mime so that the story is clear to any newcomer (young or old).

They can get dressed up – if your children want to go in their favourite outfit, or even ballet costume, anything goes. Going to the theatre can be a very ceremonial affair, or you can stick to casual wear too!

It’s better than watching TV… – if you’re wanting to get your children away from their screens, why not take them to a show – experiencing live theatre and dance is sure to make a more lasting impression on young minds.

The costumes – tutus, sparkles and pointe shoes… need we say more! There’s something for all, with an array of animal costumes featured in Sleeping Beauty as well as the traditional.

They will leave feeling inspired – if you have a blossoming dancer at home, going to see a professional ballet performance will only help inspire them to stick with it, they may even want to try out some new moves!

They’ll be blown away – by the strength and power of the dancers and by the sheer impressiveness of some of their leaps and positions they hold.

They’ll be able to understand everything – the My First Ballet programme includes widget symbols which help everyone to understand the movements on stage, and the narrator also helps to explain the action and ballet mime so that everyone can follow the story.

My First Ballet is wonderful opportunity to introduce children to the theatre for the very first time, yet it proves so effective, that people return with their little ones year after year and enjoy some quality family time together as well as being culturally educational.

My First Ballet – Sleeping Beauty will be arriving at the Manchester Opera House on 25th & 26th May, before visiting Oxford and Tunbridge Wells to compete the current tour. Tickets and all other information can be found here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-sleeping-beauty/opera-house-manchester/

Finally, I’ll leave you with a trailer so you can see how amazing the production is!

https://youtu.be/JBDztQh64Psn

I will be reviewing the production next weekend, so keep an eye on my instagram and facebook pages for sneak peaks in the stories!!!

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Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby | Review

Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby | Review

Critically acclaimed novel The Great Gatsby , first published in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a story of love, passion, and the american dream. It is considered to be one of the great american novels. In 2013, it was brought to life on cinema screens by director Baz Luhrmann and won a whole host of Academy Awards. The very same year, David Nixon OBE created a ballet based on the story, and it is now one of Northern Ballet’s most successful productions in it’s history!

From the offset, the mood is set with the wonderdul music played by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. Each piece of music is almost hypnotic, with a definite hint of jazz, as was popular in the 1920’s, and of course, there is the obligatory Charleston thrown in for good measure!

The set design, by Jèrôme Kaplan, is ingenious. The changes between scenes happen almost without being noticed, having been cleverly intertwined with the choreography of the servants and their chores.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Julie Anderson assisted David Nixon with the costume design. They are instantly recognisable as being from the roaring 20’s era, with dropped waists, delicate fabrics and fringes, daper waistcoats and ties, and plenty of headwear. No expenses spared where Gatsby is concerned!

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

The choreography is truly stunning. Yes, it’s classical ballet, with the majority being familiar steps, however it has a flavor of a more contemporary style in places, with some really spectacular lifts that will make you gasp out loud! Naturally, once the orchestra start playing the Charleston, so too do the cast dance the Charleston, and their energy will make you want to join in!

The whole cast are insanely talented. They not only dance on stage, but are genuinely acting through their dancing. Even though no words are spoken, you can follow the plot of the story without any prior knowledge of the book or film. Telling a story through dance is one thing, but telling a story with dance is another.

Daisy Buchanan, danced by Antoinette Brooks Daw, shines on stage. The articulation theough her feet and the carriage of her arms make her appear to be floating. The anguish of her character is clear to see on her face.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Ashley Dixon danced the part of Jay Gatsby. He dances with such a calm demeanour, perfect for his aloof character, and his sincerity when dancing with Daisy is beautiful to watch.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carraway aka Kevin Poeung is so light on his feet. He barley makes a sound after landing some staggeringly high jumps.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Pippa Moore dances the character of Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend. She certainly saunters when on stage, makimg the most of every leg and arm line and slow, elegant head turn.

The Great gatsby, NORTHERN BALLET:Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, You

Northern ballet’s The Great Gatsby is not one to be missed, and it’s clear after watching it, why it’s one of their most popular productions. One of the most emotive dance pieces I’ve had the privilege to watch. The Great Gatsby is showing at the lowry, Salford Quays until Saturday 11th, with tickets still available on this link https://thelowry.com/whats-on/northern-ballet-the-great-gatsby/

It then moves on to Southampton Mayflower 15-18th of May to conclude it’s current run. All details can be found on Northern Ballet’s website https://northernballet.com/the-great-gatsby

NB. Photos curtesy of The Lowry and picture Jay Gatsby; TOBIAS BATLEY,Daisy Buchanan; MARTHA LEEBOLT, Myrtle Wilson; VICTORIA SIBSON, Tom Buchanan; KENNETH TINDALL,Nick Carraway; GIULIANO CONTADINI, Jodan Baker; HANNAH BATEMAN, George Wilson; BENJAMIN MITCHELL, Young Daisy; MICHELA PAOLACCI, Young Gatsby; JEREMY CURNIER,

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Why Dancers Should Visit A Dance Specialist Pysio

Why Dancers Should Visit A Dance Specialist Pysio

As dancers, we are well in tune with our body and it’s needs. We fuel it properly and seek advice from nutritionists. We incorporate a fitness regime and seek advice from personal trainers. So why is it any different when we have an injury?!

If it’s something non serious, we tend to self medicate, anti inflammatory gels, taping methods, ice baths etc anything to help alleviate the issue, but that often doesn’t get to the source of the problem, and if it isn’t addressed at the source, then the same problems will re-occure. Visiting a physiotherapist will not only enable you to find the root cause, but show you ways in which you can prevent it from being a consistent problem. The difference between a general physiotherapist and one who specialises in dance is hugely important.

I would always recommend the latter to dancers. General practicing physiotherapists are wonderful, and do a fantastic job at keeping a ‘normal’ human body fully funtional for every day life. However, the life of a dancer is far from ordinary, and what we ask of our bodies is way beyond any ‘normal’ range. A dancer needs to be reassured that their physio fully understands movement of the body where dance technique is concerned.

Dan Turnell Pysio is one such practioner. Dan has been practicing physio in Manchester for just over a year, after relocating from London. He was a hugely successful practitioner on prestigious Harley Street for 10 years, being the physio of choice for many West End stars, and became the resident physio for Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake company dancers no less! His partner is also a dancer, so he is very much in tune with the dancing world and just how strenuous this career choice is.

Firstly, Dan will give you a thorough consulation, talking about any past history of injuries and when and where there is any discomfort. He will ask you to stand so he can access your relaxed posture and gait. He may ask you to do a few slow, controlled movements, looking for any minor clues or pin points. Dan describes diagnosing an issue to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. He states that there are usually many little minor ailments and problems that all play a part in 1 singular injury. That’s why there are usually a number of things that you can do to alleviate symptoms, not just a one size fits all remedy.

Once he’s built a picture of exactly how the injury or discomfort has arisen, there are a number of routes he can take to help alleviate it. If there is built up tension or over loaded muscles, causing misalignment, then he wil perform a sports massage to the affected area. Sports massages are not to be liked to a therapeutic massage. The aim is to relax the muscles, not your mind, so expect some discomfort. However, the immediate results are well worth it.

Next, he may show you some stretches to aid in lengthening any tightness in the musclesnor ligaments. Dancers of course are used to stretching, but these ones given will be directly linked to your injury, and are usually miminal in the range of motion to really target specific muscles. On the flip side, Dan will also recommend some strengthening exercises, as usually, if there is tightness, it’s because there is weakness somewhere else and it’s the body’s way of trying to compensate. You will come away from an appointment feeling not only in less discomfort or pain, but enlightened as to how it has arisen in the first place, and armed with a perscription of strenghtening and conditioning exercises to help prevent it happening again.

To be able to see a physio who has extensive knowledge of dance technique and the requirements that then places upon your body is priceless. Being able to have complete faith and trust in someone, who will know and understand your specific needs, help you get over an injury and give you the tools to prevent it reoccurring, is non comparable. Dan Turnell Physio can be contacted through his website https://www.danturnellphysio.co.uk/# or his social media channels below;

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DanTurnellPhysio/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/danturnellphysio/

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Dirty Dancing on Stage | Review

Dirty Dancing on Stage | Review

The 1987 box office hit Dirty Dancing is one of the most popular, classic films of all time, thats why I included it in my list of top dance movies you can read about here http://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/ The film also includes one of the most iconic dance scenes, replicated at weddings everywhere! The musical version first hit stages in 2006, and became the fastest ever selling west end show! After productions being rolled out world wide, the current adaptation came back to UK soil in 2011, with this tour starting in September 2018.

Right from the offset, you know you’re in for a real treat of an evening! The clever staging of Kellerman’s is almost like an exact replica, instantly recognizable, including other focal points like the wooden stairs leading up to Jonny’s chalet, the front of his black Chevrolet, and the infamous stage inside the main house.

The music transports you straight away, and although songs in their own right, they are now interwoven with the movie. I have to say, this stage production is just like watching the movie itself. Casting choices, costumes, actors mannerisms are all a perfect homage to the film. Classic one liners like “I carried a watermelon” are all been included for you to mime along with. That being said, there are some wonderful added scenes to pad out sections of story telling that just wouldn’t correlate on stage, and some comedy moments thrown in for good measure!

Kira Malou plays Baby, and is one such character who certainly adds to the laughs! The scenes where she intersects the staff party and has her first taste of saucy swaying is hilarious. Kira’s facial expressions, gawky awkwardness and over the top stiff hip movements have the audience in hysterics! It’s plain to see she is an able dancer, but to portray a character as having no dance experience at all is highly commendable.

Jonny is played by Michael O’Reilly and with his honed physique, snake hips and pants so tight they might as well have been spray painted on, embodies the late, great, Patrick Swayze. It’s undeniable that Swayze made the role his own, and no one could ever recreate that magic, but Michael did an honorable job, and I could think of no one better for filling those boots. The brooding arrogance he brings to the role is offset only by the puppy dog eyes he makes at Baby, making every girl in the auditorium wishing they could trade places with her!

Simone Covele, with her gazelle like legs that seem to go on forever is the perfect choice to play Penny, and boy, does she know how to use those legs! Not only do her legs seemily go up to her ears, but they go beyond that when she unleashes a kick or extension, and with such explosion, , implores gasps of amazement!

The level of dance technique is outstanding. Multiple pirouettes, acrobatics and death defying lifts keep the audience yearning for more! The energy from every single member of cast and ensemble really helps to give the show a buzz that never comes down! The iconic dance scenes from the film are all present on stage, including ‘spaghetti arms’ ‘lover boy’ and THAT LIFT!!!! Michael lifts Kira, but together in that moment they lift the roof off with the rraction from the audience. It really is a special moment and one I have never experienced before!!

Favorite moments include the lake scene which is cleverly devised with set, lighting and sound and not without its own injection of humour, the end dance scene with cast and audience in a state of euphoric ecstasy, and the band keeping the party atmosphere going well after the finale. There are a few, let’s say ‘cheeky’ moments from Michael, lovers doing what lovers do, and rather raunchy dance moments that might prove a little too informative for younger members of the audience, amd it does carry an age guidance of 12+, but on the whole, the show is wonderfullyand thoroughly entertaining!

Dirty Dancing – the classic story on stage – is currently showing at The Palace Theatre Manchester untill Saturday 27th April, tickets can be purchased here https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-dancing-the-classic-story-on-stage/palace-theatre-manchester/ It moves on to Guilford, before returning up north and across the Mersey to the Liverpool Empire 6th-11th May, and continues it’s tour, ending in August. Full details of dates and locations cam be found on the official website https://dirtydancingontour.com/ .

This is definitely one show you do not want to miss, and with ticket proces starting at just £13, it’s an absolute steal!!! I can guarantee you’ll be doing salsa in your seat and cha cha to the car!

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Dirty Dancing Tour Cast Q&A

Dirty Dancing Tour Cast Q&A

Dirty Dancing is inarguably one of the most iconic dance films…….ever!! So much so, that I included it in my top dance movies, which you can read about here http://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/

but did you know that there is a staged musical version currently touring the UK?! The Dirty Dancing Tour is set to hit The Palace Theatre Manchester next week, and to entice us, cast members Kira Malou as Baby, Michael O’Reily as Jonny and Simone Covelle as Penny, answered a few questions on being involved in such a cult classic!

How does it feel taking on such iconic roles?

Michael: Once you get over the fact that it’s quite a daunting role to take on because it’s so well-known it’s just really exciting. Everyone is so familiar with the show and they’re so familiar with the characters that you’re just excited to do it justice, you’re ready to put in the work and bring it to life.

Simone: I agree. It’s so exciting. Being able to play such an iconic role in a show that brings the movie to life on stage is an amazing privilege.

Kira: It is really exciting but of course there’s also a lot of pressure to do the characters justice because they are so well-known and so iconic.

What’s your approach in terms of bringing a fresh take to the characters?

Kira: I don’t want to stray too far from what Jennifer Grey did in the film because I personally feel the choices she makes are things I’d do as well. Although I’m being a bit bolder with the choices so when she’s being sexy, I want people to be able to see that “Baby” can be really sexy, fiery and smart – to really show the depths to her.

Michael: It’s about ‘How would I behave if I was in the same situations?’ That frees you up to bring something of yourself to the role, to put elements of yourself into the portrayal.

Simone: It’s about thinking ‘What would I do in this situation?’ whilst thinking about Penny and the era in which the story is set, namely 1963. It’s such a different time to now and what she goes through is quite heavy so to think ‘How would I feel if I was in that time and that situation?’ is a great help because in real life I have a very different personality to her.

In what ways can you relate to your characters? And in what ways are they completely different?

Simone: The big red flag for me is what Penny goes through. She’s in quite a sticky situation and has to make some big decisions. I feel she’s quite isolated and that’s a struggle for me to understand because I’ve never really been isolated myself or had to make massive decisions that would have such a major effect on my life. But I love the fieriness of her, although it’s hard being mean to Kira on stage when we get on so well, I can relate to her passion for dance.

Kira: I’m not proud to say it but I’m not like Baby in terms of education. She knows a lot about politics and what goes on in the world but I feel I’m not in touch with that side of myself as much. But I do feel quite similar to her in that I remember when I was 17 and the first time I fell in love and doing so much to be close to that person – things I’d never think to do on a regular basis just to be with someone. I also relate to the closeness she feels with her family.

Michael: Obviously Johnny in the show is a dancer and I trained in dance myself so that’s kind of the hook I latch onto. We come from a similar background, with the training everyone has to go through, but fortunately I haven’t gone through the serious, crippling financial situation Johnny has been through or the unexplained relationship with his dad and the fact his mum is never mentioned. That’s a whole grey area that we don’t even know about and it’s a part of the character that I have to work to understand.

How is the classic story recreated on stage?

Kira: The script is the same as the film scene-by-scene, with a few extra little surprises in there, and I feel it’s done really well. The set is a smaller replica of the actual Kellerman’s resort and in fact there are three big trucks they use for the staff quarters, the inside and outside of the hotel and the resort cabins. The music, of course, is so iconic and it’s done so well with the live band being on stage. They are fantastic musicians.

Michael: The team do such a good job of bringing the story to the stage so it’s like reliving the film live. You’ve got all the dances, all the music, the band’s on stage kicking butt – it’s such a fun show.

Can you recall when you first saw the film and the impact it had on you?

Kira: I vividly remember watching it on videotape because my mum had it and I remember watching the dance scenes in the staff quarters and I was like ‘Oh my God!’ So I knew exactly how Baby feels when she goes to the resort. It was mesmerising.

Michael: I remember my mum watching it when I was really young and being like ‘That’s not my type of film’ as I went off to play sports or whatever. Then I revisited it when I got into the dance industry more and I was like ‘Actually, it’s a really cool film’. The more time I spent in rehearsals looking through the script, which is the same as the film, we talked a lot about it being about bravery and becoming the person you want to be, regardless of your situation and people telling you you can’t. That’s very inspiring and I think that’s why it has done so well.

Simone: When I saw it I was like ‘I just want to be a part of this, to just be in there’ especially with scenes like Do You Love Me? where they’re just having a party and I remember watching the Mambo and thinking ‘My goodness, I want to do that!’ and now I get to do it.

Michael and Kira, how much pressure is there to get the legendary lift right?

Kira: It’s a huge pressure because everyone is waiting for that lift. It’s so iconic to the film, isn’t it? But when it comes to recreating it, I trust Michael. I trust that even if I fall he’ll have my back, but touch wood nothing’s gone wrong yet.

Michael: The fun bit is when we do the lift in the water, which is done by visual effects. That’s fun because it’s where you get to mess it up and go wrong.

What other challenges does the show present for you physically?

Kira: I’m a trained dancer, but I have to appear like I’m not. I have to reverse everything I’ve been taughtand make it look bad, without making it look like I’m trying to be bad.

Simone: The Mambo is quite challenging. It sort of comes out of nowhere and is really explosive and fast-paced.

Michael: It’s a very dance-heavy show, as you’d expect, but I don’t think I realised quite how dance-heavy it is until we started rehearsals. There are a few numbers back to back and you’re dripping with sweat, like ‘Oh man, we’ve got to go on for the next number’ before you’ve even got into the next costume. Physically it’s a tough show but that’s why we do it – we love that challenge.

And what are the emotional challenges?

Michael: All of our characters have a moment where we have to go to that place emotionally and it’s always a challenge, but as an actor I feel like those are the fun moments too because they’re the moments where you can be brave enough to go to that place and feel all those feelings. You trust the audience is there with you and your partner is with you on stage emotionally too.

Simone: I think most of us break down into tears at some point in the show and you don’t want to make it look fake so you have to make it as real as possible. When you come off stage after a scene like that, you just have to shake it off because you get really emotional. It’s a rollercoaster but it’s exciting.

Kira: You have to take yourself to a place that maybe you don’t want to go to on that day but you just have to let yourself go there. In the scene where Baby is talking to her dad there’s this big monologue and it’s quite emotional, then you have to come off from that scene and go into the next scene with a new mindset whereas in real life you’d have a few hours to sort yourself out.

The music is a massive part of the Dirty Dancing experience. Do you have a favourite song from the show?

Kira: Hungry Eyes. I love that song and always have. Before I even auditioned for the show it was my alarm in the morning!

Michael: For me it’s (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life. It was a massive hit and it’s such a popular song.But it’s my favourite because it comes right at the end of the show. It’s such a climactic moment where everyone is on stage dancing together and there’s a moment where Johnny comes through the crowd so there’s a real connection with the audience.

Simone: Mine’s Do You Love Me? Love the routine, love the song, and it feels free where it’s like a party scene with your mates. It’s really raw and fun.

Michael, this is your professional debut. How are you finding it?

Michael: It’s been indescribable really. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so privileged to be able to do it. It’s a great role, a great show, the cast have been amazing, the team have been fantastic, everyone’s helped me along on the journey and it feels like we’ve become a really strong team.

What are you all most looking forward to about taking the show on tour?

Kira: I love connecting with different audiences in different venues. We get excited moving around the country so we’re buzzing on stage and the audience feeds off that.

Michael: I think we’re really lucky to take the show on tour because we get an opening night every week. It also means you get to perform for a huge range of people and the fact you’re travelling together makes you a stronger company.

Simone: It keeps it exciting because you’re not within the same four walls for a long time. It feels new each time and for me, being from Australia, getting to travel the UK is awesome.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on the road without?

Michael: I’d have to say my NutriBullet…

Kira: [Laughs] Six-pack yawn!

Simone: For me, it’s my hubby. He’s coming on tour with me so he’ll be my taxi driver.

Kira: I like to have books with me. I do like reading and it’s nice to wind down after shows by taking yourself off to some imaginary place.

It sounds amazing! But don’t just take thier word for it, check out the trailer here!!! https://youtu.be/bgOVcCrZjoo

Goosebumps!!! Dirty dancing Tour will be arriving at The Palace Theatre Manchester from Mon 22nd April to Sat 27th April. Ticket and date information can be found on their website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dirty-dancing-the-classic-story-on-stage/palace-theatre-manchester/

I will be watching on press night, so keep an eye open for the review article!

Dance Niche

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Romeo & Juliet by KS Dance | REVIEW

Romeo & Juliet by KS Dance | REVIEW

Last week, I was kindly invited along to watch Kate Simmons Dance perform their annual show and production of Romeo & Juliet, staged at The Bridley Theatre, Runcorn.

KS Dance are a vocational dance college based in Warrington, north west England. Founded by Kate Simmons, previously of London Festival Ballet as well as being a Cecchetti Faculty Committee Member, the professional vocational college has a strong emphasis on ballet, but it is not the only genre they teach. As such, the show was split into 2 halves – a variety show of musical theatre, jazz, hip hop, flamenco, contemporary, tap and singing, as well as a showcase of class variations, followed by a classical ballet production of Romeo & Juliet.

The first half really had something for everyone, with classic songs from broadway hits, to more modern musical theatre with a number from Hamilton, and current pop chart icons like Sia. The versatility in KS Dance students was phenomenal. Each contrasting number was executed with style and technique relevant to that particular genre. The acting and singing skills during the musical theatre numbers blew me away, there are some seriously talented triple threat students that attend!!!

Next came the class variations. This had been cleverly devised and set to showcase what the students master during classes, yet with a production feel. There were 5 levels of ballet, each group in their own colour costume, to make them easily distinguishable. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how ballet elements progress through the different stages, and how more advanced steps that we recognise in productions, are mastered.

Where the show really came into it’s own however, was Act II, KS Dance’s classical ballet production of Romeo & Juliet. The quality and technique displayed by all of the dancers was phenominal, but obviously the clandestine lovers stole the show. Not only were there jaw dropping height in the extensions, dizzying piroettes, and gravity defying leaps, but the level of maturity and acting displayed was captivating. For young students to be able to convey such levels of angst, passion and emotion, all the while exectuing difficult and intricate ballet steps, is a credit not only to them, but to their teachers.

All in all, KS Dance’s show was a hugely entertaining success, and what came across the most was the professionalism across the board. From the backstage warming up rituals, to the swift changes between acts in the first half (under 10 seconds each) and the gracious bows and curtseys at the finale, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d watched a an established, fully professinal dance company. Quality and maturity oozed from the students pores. A night of pure entertainment!

KS Dance host a showcase annually, and if you ever get the opportunity to watch, I would highly recomend it. There aren’t many shows you can pay under £15 a ticket and receive such high calibre dance and theatre in return. A must for any theatre enthusiast!

If you are interested in learning more about KS Dance and all that they offer, please head to their website http://ksd-online.co.uk/ Special thanks to Rupert Wiltshire for the invitation and Kate Simmons for allowing me an insight to her show.

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Mark Morris Dance ‘PEPPERLAND’ Review At The Lowry

Mark Morris Dance ‘PEPPERLAND’ Review At The Lowry

PEPPERLAND first premiered in 2017, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club album. Since then, the show has seen great success, prompting a nationwide tour.

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Usually with a dance piece, the choreography follows some sort plot or story, and the moves help to reflect and convey the emotions within that. Pepperland, however, doesn’t really follow that familiar structure. It’s inspiration is drawn directly from the songs off the iconic Beatles album; Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. So rather than a traditional beginning, middle and end, you’re thrust right into the height of the action, no ebbs and flows here!

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Mark Morris’s choreography is light, springy, and not over complicated however repetitve phrasing execucted in numerous canons, being danced in mulitple directions, not only creates interesting patterns visually, but will have taken many hours in rehearsals to make precise. There are definite nods to the great Bob Fosse, who was a prolific choreographer of the time the album was released, his unique style instantly recognisable. There is a definite carefree feel within the dancing, and at times, reminiscent of a toddler dancing, with wild arm movements and bold shapes, ploughing in head first. If you have children, or are often around children, you’ll know what i mean. When a toddler dances, the music takes over them. They care not about what people think or whether they are moving rhythmicly, only about expressing what is within.

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The costumes, by Elizabeth Kurtzman represent the era of the album perfectly, without being too distracting. Well tailored jackets and trousers, turtle necks, waistcoats, pinafore dresses and duster coats are all present, but surprisingly, still give the dancers freedom of movement and full range of motion. The colours are a neon rainbow of colour blocking heaven, a live pop art visual!

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With the music being such an integral part of the production, it’s only fitting that a live band play the accompaniment. The score includes well known hits such as Get By With A Little Help from My Friends, When Im Sixty Four and Penny Lane, with a new, almost jazz feel to the reworks.

PEPPERLAND perfectly encapsulates the era of the 60’s with it’s light hearted,spirited and vibrant homage to the wonderful music of The Beatles. The Lowry creates the perfect backdrop for this production, with it’s modern and minimalistic decor and eaqually vibrant colours.

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Hosted by Dance Consortuim (a collection of theatres across the UK who share a passion of contemporary dance and bringing it to the masses) Pepperland continues it’s tour to Bradford, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Cardiff, Plymouth, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle and finally Belfast. All dates, locations and ticket information can be found on their website https://www.danceconsortium.com/touring/mark-morris-pepperland/tour-dates-and-venues/

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A closer Look at The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme

A closer Look at The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme

Breaking out as a new emerging artist can be a minefield, particularly in today’s society, where it’s increasingly harder to come up with an original concept, that will set you apart from the rest. Once you’re clear upon your core foundations, where do you go from there? How do you find the money for rehearsal space when there’s no revenue coming in? How do you promote your concepts in an engaging way that will emplore people to watch you? These are some of the questions that the team behind The Lowry’s Artist Development Programme help their mentees to answer.

The Artist Development Programme has been helping creatives under the huge arts genre umbrella for 10 years, and to celebrate it reaching a decade old, the programme has undergone some positive changes. There are 4 unique strands to the bespoke service, which aim to helps artists at any stage of their development – from the nurturing of an idea, right through to building career longevity.

THE LOWRY ARTIST NETWORK

This strand builds the foundations. It’s a drop-in scheme providing workshops, training, advice and opportunities to connect with like minded people.

THE LOWRY CLASS OF 2019

Upon successful application, selected artists are offered tailored training sessions towards their goals.

THE LOWRY DEVELOPED WITH ARTISTS

Geared towards those who ready have a clear identity and works, they receive a year long mentorship programme to help project and create new pieces.

THE LOWRY ASSOCIATE ARTISTS

A long standing relationship between mentor and artist, this strand looks at ways to raise the national and international profile of the artist or company, and how to build a career that is sustainable for the future.

I was kindly invited along to the annual Artist Showcase, and had a chance to see and hear about some wonderful and unique acts, in various different stages of their career, and just how The Lowry has helped them achieve their personal goals. The acts performing were all so varied – musical theatre, drama, comedy, dance, ariel art – it was a thoroughly entertaining day, and a real insight into the workings of getting a simple idea off the ground and onto the stage. I spoke with Claire Symonds, senior producer for Artist Development to dig a bit deeper into what the programme is all about………

DN. Your artist development programme is celebrating it’s 10 year anniversary this year. Why was the programme started?

CS. We initially wanted to make sure we had a stream of premieres, often from locally based companies, so that our programme would stay fresh and exciting to our audiences. We started offering opportunities to artists and companies whose work we loved to make something new for our stage. We then quickly found that the most exciting shows were made when the artist or company was taking a bit of a risk – working in a new way or trying to reach a new audience – and we started thinking about how we might be able to support them in taking those risks, which is where our focus on artist development started.

DN. To honour the programme being a decade old, some changes were made to the structure and tiers. Why were these changes important and what do you hope it will improve/achieve?

CS. We believe in the importance of supporting an artist over and above any single piece of work they might be making. We wanted to make sure we had the right structures in place to help us do that. We now offer four different programmes – Artists Network, where we host drop-in training and networking events for anyone wanting to build their career in the performing arts; Class Of 2019, which brings together a group of local early career practitioners for a year-long course of masterclasses and development opportunities; Developed With, where we offer six artists or companies a 12-month programme of bespoke support as they make a step change in their career, and Associate Artists, where we build long term relationships with companies and artists as they build their profile nationally and internationally. This structure means we can support an artist at a precise moment of need or take them right from their very first steps through to where they are touring their work around the world.

DN. Who has been your biggest success story?

CS. That is a hard question because every project has its own highlights! We’ve supported the creation of some amazing shows, like Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Translunar Paradise which has won awards and five star reviews around the world. But some of the things I see as the biggest successes of the programme are less about a single show and more about the journey the artist or company has been on. For example, we supported Sophie WIllan through Developed With as she made the move from theatre to comedy and watching the audience react to her electric first stand up hour, On Record, is something I’ll remember for a long time.

DN. Who has been the most unique artist?

CS. Every artist brings their own unique challenges but I’ll always remember working with Igor and Moreno, a contemporary dance duo whose last show, Andante, was performed through an impenetrable wall of scented theatrical smoke. That project was exciting because I genuinely didn’t know if it was going to be possible to make their creative ideas a reality. There were bumps along the way, especially one tricky afternoon where I had to evacuate the whole studio complex because smoke was flooding all our rehearsal spaces, but the show itself was fantastic.

DN. What are your hopes for the future with the programme?

CS. I hope we work with artists across an even wider range of artforms and, in doing so, create opportunities for different artists to learn from each other’s approaches. I hope we carry on being open, honest and curious alongside the people we’re supporting, even when that means we have to step out of our comfort zone as an organisation. And I hope we find ways to share what we learn with the industry so other people can benefit from the work we are doing.

All in all the Artist Development Programme is hugely inspiring. Sometimes within the arts, certain areas and aspects can seem elitist and intimidating, discouraging potential artists from ever realising their dreams and aspirations. The Lowry has become ‘the middle man’ to these artists, nurturing their ideas, feeding them with knowledge and confidence and finally giving them a gentle nudge out of the nest and into the big wide world, making their dreams a reality.

Claire and her team are always interested in hearing from new emerging artists or working together with other organisations to help support artists in their career. Any questions on the programme itself or how to become a member can be forwarded to her email claire.symonds@thelowry.com

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Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty & the Beast Review

Forget the story you think you know of Beauty and the Beast, and be transported back into a world of folklore and enchantment with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s retelling of this classic fairytale.

From the moment the curtain rises, you’re thrust into a magical medieval relm and back to your childhood. The swish of a cloak turns a bright eyed bushy tailed fox into a fiery red headed girl almost instantly. Furniture that serve unexpected guests of their own free will. Seeing is most definitely believing, and you’re not even wondering about the how, because it’s all too captivating.

Yvette knight was innocent and unassuming as Belle. Perfect for “a girl with her nose ways stuck in a book” Her stature and pose gave her dancing an etherial quality.40182381283_cf236822a6_o

The Beast was danced by Brandon Lawrence. He performed with great power and intensity, an angered and ferocious wild animal. His leaps and jumps are gravity defying.40182381453_bc023aedfe_z

Beatrice Parma as Vixen was my personal favorite. With a twinkle in her eye and a spring in her step, she was every inch the sprightly fox maiden. Her dancing was effortless and the height of her leg extensions were breathtaking!40182381063_cee32c0db8_z

The setting and lighting designs seemed to have been lifted straight from pages of a fairy story. Grandeur book cases filled with leather bound, gilded books, castle ruins suffocating in vines and roses, not forgetting an enchanting ball room, complete with candles and chandeliers. Artifical smoke played a huge role in creating atmosphere, with beams of light breaking through to create light and hope, and dim underlighting when a more ominous feel was needed.46233108045_929f0ea552_z

There were surprising comedy elements included, particularly in Act 2, involving Belle’s 2 sisters (Laura Purkiss and Samara Downs) fighting over a portly suiter Monsieur Cochon (James Barton) and a pompus court dance!

The costumes really were exquisite! With luxury silks, heavy velour and plenty of embroidery and brocading, it was clear no expense was spared. The Beast’s and other animal’s fur ‘skin’ was very cleaverly achieved with catsuits covered in textured tufts, and their masks were immediately identifiable as to the animal they were. I, along with everyone I’m sure, were waiting to see Belle’s trademark yellow princess gown and how that could possibly be danced in. When she finally emerged, there were gasps from the audience. A very extravagant yet practical conpromise had been made, that still created all the drama and opulence you’d expect! Stunning!47147351751_c21d0690bb_z

2 scenes stood out for me in particular. The first, when Belle is transported to the Beast’s castle by a flock of birds. There were so many dancers on stage, all intertwining in different directions, just like a group of starlings dance in the sky. Mesmerising and distracting and suddenly Belle is flying above them. The second, when Belle and the Beast dance in the ballroom with all the other enchanted animals. They waltzed and turned, reminding me of the scene from the film ‘Labyrinth’ where Sarah is dancing with Jareth at a masquerade ball and the other gueats are all wearing animal like masks.

 

This production would make a wonderful family treat. The BRB have a programme called ‘First Steps’ – shortened, more easy to follow story lines for a younger audience – however this production was so filled with magic and wonder, it’s an ideal first full length production for children or ballet new comers. It also has a happy ending unlike the majority of ballet tales, so no awkwardness to explain away!

Beauty and the Beast is showing at The Lowry untill Saturday 23rd March, before it heads on to Sunderland and concludes in Bristol,so don’t miss out on your chance to see this gorgoeus production! Ticket info can be found on the website https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/beauty-and-the-beast-2019

Unitll the last petal falls…….

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National Dance Company Wales AWAKENING Tour Review

National Dance Company Wales AWAKENING Tour Review

Having been a resident in Wales for almost 14 years now, these rolling hills are most definitely home, however I’m ashamed to say I have yet to watch the National Dance Company Wales perform! That is, untill, I was invited to review their current tour AWAKENING, and what’s even better, the performance would be at my local theatre Theatr Clwyd. I love supporting local independent theaters, as it would be such a loss to communities if they disappeared. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!

NDCW are a contemporary dance company based at the Dancehouse in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff. They aim to provoke people into discovering dance, talking thinking and understanding, as well as participating. They tour around Wales, and the UK as well as overseas, bringing their works to people who may not otherwise get a chance to watch. Their current tour AWAKENING is a triple bill.

AFTERIMAGE

This piece will have you at war with what you see and what you think you see. The term ‘seeing is believing’ both applies and does not, at the same time. By the end of the 20 minute performance, you will have changed your mind at least 10 times on how the effects were achieved, or put it down to sheer sorcery!

The stage is set with a large mirror as the backdrop, with a simple table and 2 chairs infront of it. A man sits on one of the chairs. As he starts to move, so too, does his refelction. He looks at his reflection, almost pondering it, then lools back into his hands. Suddenly, we see another dancer on the opposite side of the table, but no other dancer has entered the stage, she is interacting with the dancers reflection!

What ensues is the most magicical illusion of dancers acting and reacting with one another on stage or their reflections, fading in and out into the darkness. As the tension builds in the music, so do the dancers interactions, becoming more intense, with more dancers fading in and out. I can only describe them as ghosts at a seance, trying to connect to the physical world. Spirits and souls inahbiting the bodies on the stage. It’s truly a spectacle, and the auditorium was a buzz with thoughts and theories well after it had ended.

THEY SEEK TO FIND THE HAPPINESS THEY SEEM

A duet with a danceworks that echoes relationships. One of finding eachother and happiness, moving as one, blissfully unaware of anything else apart from the significant other. There was real tenderness to their movements.

But just as much as they are together as one, so too are they their own seprate entities. Occasionally breaking away from one another, going in seperate directions and finding their own movements and rhythms.

The tension and speed at which they were moving kept building until the end, when they came together again. They showed such strength and control in their bodies, it was as if watching in slow motion. And just like a circle, everything comes back to the beginning, and they were as one again.

REVELLERS’ MASS

My favorite piece. The music started as an acapella choir, what you might imagine hearing in a small secluded church, tucked away in italian hills. A huge altar was set on stage, with the candles being progressively lit by the ‘master’. The others were walking and moving in a calm, hushed manor. In hind sight, the proverbial quiet before the storm.

The master became the conductor, as he summoned others at his beck and call. Their movements became so intense and erratic, it appeared they had been possessed, and the master was performing some sort of exorcism ritual. This intense chaos slowly spread like a fever to the rest of the dancers, convulsive and explosive. This high tempo, agressive feel stayed for longer than was comfortable, tension remained high. Then just as suddenly as the storm came, it passed. But the mess and destruction left behind was plain to see.

The final scenes are reminiscent of the day after the night before house party. Everyone slightly bewildered, listless, faced with the mamouth task of tidying up and someone always has to be dragged off to recover!

All in all, AWAKENING triple bill was an evening of fascination, connection and power. It leaves you questioning the boundaries of dance and it’s power to convey ideas and provoke thoughts long after you’ve left the auditorium. It stays with you.

AWAKENING will stop at The Hafren Newtown on Thursday 21st on March, before continuing on it’s nationwide tour, finishing in May. More details of dates and venues can be found on their website https://ndcwales.co.uk/awakening

*special thanks to Guy and Nia from NDC and Theatr Clwyd*

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Tackling age appropriateness in dance

Tackling age appropriateness in dance

It’s undeniable that the world of dance as we know it is changing, but change isn’t necessarily a good thing. Children competing are getting younger and sassier by the minute. But where do we draw the line between cute attitude and inappropriate for their age? And just where does the responsibility lie in keeping our these talented children inoccent and safe?

The dance competition circuit can be hugely competitive and down right ruthless. Everyone wants to outdo the other, wether that’s in style, song choice or costume. Age also seems to be a factor. Everyone wants to display the strength and talent that their youngest competitors posess, as way of proclaiming the standard of teaching and high ranking of the school. Currently, there seems to be a growing trend of routines being put together for the smallest of the small, and there’s no reason why not to, if they’re strong and talented and able to withstand the pressure of perfoemance. But are some these routines being thought out properly, or are they being thrown together to get the ‘wow’ factor???

I’ve seen it for myself at competitions and festivals. Tiny little dancers dressed in even tinier costumes, or gyrating and wiggling with moves way beyond their innocent age, or dancing to lyrics that are so innapropiate, it goes well above their heads. Even worse, all 3 of these things are combined and the result is a bitter after taste. This is done simply to get a reaction from the crowd or make it memorable for the judges. But is it morally acceptable?!

In this day and age where everyone is hyper cautious with their children – online security, stranger danger etc, why is it suddenly acceptable to be putting our children through such a compromise just because they are on a stage ‘performing’?! With regards to costumes that seem to shrink by the second, people argue that it’s no different to a child wearing a 2 piece swimsuit on the beach. But there’s a huge gaping canyon between a child running around being a child, and a child exectuting supposed ‘dance’ moves complete with pouting lips and adult like, diva like attitude in said tiny 2 piece. The song choice also has a huge impact, with lyrics having an adult theme. Even with some of the lyrics being sensored out, the theme of the song can be too risque for tender little ears. No, they may not be old enough to understand what’s being said, but should we not be proctecting our little ones from content that is way beyond their years?!

Certainly the dance content, song choice and costume choice are down to the dance teacher. It is their responsibility to ensure that we are not only preserving the innocence of the children, but preventing them from being exposed to things that are well beyond their years. However the teachers can come under pressure from parents to make dances more ‘modern’, more of what’s currently ‘in fashion’, in a hopeful bid that their child comes home with a medal. Facing a bunch of disgruntled and opinionated dance mums can be intimidating, often with teachers caving into thier suggestions so not to upset anyone or potentially loose them to another studio.

But let’s not forget why some dance mums are so ready to enforce their suggestions onto teachers. They attend all these competitions, watching and waiting in the auditoriums for their own children to perform. They see the tiny costumes, hear the chart song music choices and note the whoops and applause from the mature dance moves. Finally, they see such acts win medals and trophies and will do whatever it takes for their child to obtain the same results.

So, judges and adjudicators are willingly placing and awarding points to these scantily clad dancers, sending clear messages to the audience. But why arent they using their influence to applaud and recognise the technically sound dancers, the young dancers setting the stable foundations of good dance practice, instead of awarding the ones that look so cute jiggling, fist pumping and thrusting.

Instead of placing the blame firmly in one camp, it’s the collective responsibilty of everyone involved and maintain integrity. Judges, it is your task to award those who dance with age appropriate costumes and moves. Teachers, it is you responsibity to choose appropriate moves and themes, relevant to the age of the dancers and not succumb to any outside pressures. Finally parents, try and be more trusting in the dance teachers choices, and not forcing ideals to win the prize, although equally if there are choices being made that arent in the best interests of the children and jeopardise their innocence, do not be afraid to speak on behalf of your children.

We all need to make a stand against this reoccuring trend seen at competitions. It’s basically sexual exploitation of children for merit, accolades and money. The children have no choice and do as they are instructed, so it is up to us all to fulfil the moral obligation. Just because certain outfits, songs and moves get more of a reaction and acknowledgement, doesnt mean it’s right. We all need to play our part in keeping the innocence of children

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Saturday Night Fever The Musical Review

Saturday Night Fever The Musical Review

The 70’s movie Saturday Night Fever conjures 3 images – The Bee Gees, the disco dancing and John Travolta! Now the stage version has 2 out of 3 of those, only with Casualty star Rich Winsor playing the cocky Italian American Tony Manero, and he does not disappoint!

Rich’s credentials all come into play within this musical, acting, singing and of course dancing! “It’s a dream role” he told me in our interview last week. You can read the rest of that interview here Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero His Brooklyn accent never waivers, and he seems to have captured that spunky energy that Travolta emitted perfectly. Rich’s dancing scenes are where he really comes alive, with barrel turns, splits, and triple piroettes no less! Bill Deamer, the shows resident choreographer has done an amazing job with all the dance scenes and classic, stereotypical 70’s dance moves. Larger than life, furious and full of fun, theres no doubt you’ll be throwing your own shapes at home!

Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_090

Fighting for Toni’s affections are the 2 main ladies – Stephanie Mangano, played by Kate Parr and Annette played by Anna Campkin. Straight away youre made aware of the girls differences, Annette being the obsessive, needy one firmly in the friend zone whilst Stephanie is the beautiful, talented, palying hard to get character. Her figue is enviable in some extremely high cut leotards that Jamie Lee Curtis would have been proud of! Its clear shes has extensive dance training, as her scenes, particlarly with Rich, were wonderful to watch and they share an exciting chemisty! Annette on the other hand comes alive whilst she sings, and belts out some fantasic songs, full of emotion.

A show like this would’nt amount to much if it wasnt for the huegly talented supporting cast and ensemble. All of them from Toni’s crew to the competitors in nightclub 2001 Odyssey were 100% commited to the choreography and routines, with so much high energy, they literally blew the roof off! The effect of dancing full out like that ripples into the audience and by the end of the show, not one audience member in the auditorium were sat in their seats!

To complete the package, the set and lighting team hit the nail on the head. They brought to stage a noisy, colourful downtown 70’s Brooklyn, including muticolured squared dance floor in the club and strategicly placed disco balls in the auditorium which transformed the whole place into one big discoteque! The live band were nestled between the high rise scaffolding, and the show’s very own Bee Gees, played by Edward Handoll, Alistair Hill and Matt Faul. No detail has been left out in this show, as even the Gibb brothers are kitted out in suitable fit and flare trousers and their trademark long hair! The boys appear to perform all the classic songs from the movie and their vocal talents are staggering. You’d swear you were listening to the movie soundtrack!

The Cast of Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_050

All in all, its a fantasic production which will have you up on your feet and reaching those soprano top notes like a pro! The language is a little on the fruity side, and there are some daek moments in the show, so I wouldn’t recomend it for younger members of the family. It’s currently on stage at the Palace Theatre Manchester now untill 26th Jan, so you’ll need to be quick to book tickets, however they are performing matinee showings most days to make up for such a whislte stop tour! Tickets and price information are available on the website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/saturday-night-fever/palace-theatre-manchester/

So if you fancy a bit of Night Fever, stop your Jive Talking, put on your Boogie Shoes and experience this Disco Inferno of a show! It’d be a Tragedy to miss it!

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Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Richard Winsor is a household name in the UK. Tele addicts may know him as Farther Fransis from Hollyoaks or Caleb from Casualty, whereas dance fanatics would recognise him from the movie StreetDance 3D or as the lead in Sir Matthew Bourne’s critically acclaimed Swan Lake (you can read more about that production here Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review ) Whether its acting or dancing, Richard’s talents know no bounds, and his latest role – Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever – allows him to combine 2 of his passions! I spoke with Rich about taking on such a huge task, read on below!

 

D.N. You were classically trained, attending Central School of Ballet and later becoming a company member of New Adventures. Was dance your first love?

R.W. Yes I guess it was. My mum ran a dance school in Nottingham, so I grew up being surrounded by dance, it’s in my blood.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_090

 

D.N. How did you get into acting?

R.W. Ballet is such a strong discipline which lends itself well to acting, remembering your lines and rehearsing them over and over to commit them to memory. I have just as much love for acting. I went on as many courses and workshops as I could, it was a real driving force for me.

 

D.N. Saturday Night Fever is such an iconic film and combines dancing and acting. Is it a dream role for you, and did you watch the film to prepare?

R.W. It’s the perfect show for me. I get to be physical in the dancing scenes and really show off my acting skills. Its quite a dark and gritty story. This stage production is a brand new version. We’ve tried to stay as true to the film as we could!

* It’s so iconic, I mentioned it in my list of top dance movies to watch! Have a look Top dance films you NEED to watch right now  *

 

D.N Do you have a favourite scene from the show?

R.W. Yeah I love all the scenes with Tony’s family in. You get to see the dynamics of his family and his roots. It helps you to really understand him as a person.Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_ 026

 

D.N. Tony Manero, played by John Travolta in the film, is such a big character to play! How did you prepare for that and did you practice his legendary strut?

R.W. Tony is a great character to get into and bring to life. He’s multidimensional. He has this huge love for dance, charismatic and also arrogant, nut at the same time, almost naive to life, until auditions open him up to the world. And yes, I practiced ‘THE STRUT’The Cast of Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_013

 

D.N. Tony portrays this big bravado, but is also very self critical and full of self doubt. Have you ever experienced the same and how do you overcome it?

R.W. That’s a great question. I think everyone in this industry will have self doubt at one point or another. It’s almost a natural thing. You face a lot of rejection and it can cripple you if you don’t have the right mindset. You have to take it with a pinch of salt, remember it’s not about your talent, more that you went quite what they were looking for. It’s all about mindset and vision, using rejection and self doubt as a driving force to better yourself. Negativity is dangerous in this line of work. It will kill your performance.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_023

 

 

D.N. What would be your biggest piece of advice to aspiring actors and dancers out there who want to succeed?

R.W. PREPARATION IS KEY! Actors – really get to know your character so that you become them and give the best of your ability! Dancers – stay physically fit, work on all different genres. To everyone – put the work and time in. Know your role inside out. Be the best you can be!

 

Saturday Night Fever is currently touring and will be visiting the Palace Theatre Manchester from Tuesday 22nd Jan until 26th Jan, tickets available here ATG TICKETS It then continues on its tour to York, Carlisle, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds.

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Cinderella Panto Review

Cinderella Panto Review

With the arrival of the Festive season, comes the arrival of Panto season………'”OOH yes it is” A time when theatre land truly comes to life, and the young and young at heart enjoy the retelling of classic fairy tales with added romamce,dancing, sing songs, slap stick comedy and more one liners than a page of dot to dots #sorrynotsorry

This year’s Cinderella panto at the historic Manchester Operah House does not disappoint! I went along with 2 of my youngest reviewers (my children) to see just what fun and frivolities were involved, and the girls first taste of Panto delight!

On receiving the programme, an all star cast shone out. Gareth Gates, originally of Pop Idol fame, now a household musical theatre name, steps out as Prince Charming. His chisled jaw and dimpled cheeks quickly win over the audience. He is every bit the dashing Prince, with his upper class accent and air of nobility to his posture. His vocal talents have a smooth tone to them and woos Cinders with his love songs.

Cinderella is played by Shannon Flynn, who has appeared in many tv and radio shows to date. Shannon has a wonderfully sincere and understated quality to her acting, perfect for the dowdy Princess to be. She has a natural presence on stage and sings with a sweet quality. A special magical moment is when she ‘transforms from her rags into a shining full length gown with just a twirl, right before your very eyes. My children were in awe!

Cinderella could not undergo her huge transformation if it wasn’t for her Fairy Godmother, aka Hayley Ria Christian. Hayley has many theatre credits under her now sparkly belt as well as being one of the Uk’s go to soul vocalists, something that is immediately apparent with the opening of the show, and her first song. She mixes power ballad and smooth soul sounds seamlessly.

The love struck Buttons, played by comedian Ben Nickless, remains firmly in the friend zone by being Cinders side kick and right hand man. The puns roll effortlessly out of him, giving the audience some great bet laugh moments. His impersonations are so realistic in both audible and visual aspects, it’s as though he has been possessed with their souls!

Who could forget the Ugly Sisters Phelkna and Michaela, played by Coronation Steet duo Connor McIntyre and legendary Law Dennis. The pair work so well together, bouncing off eachother, in some scenes quite literally too, with their outlandish and down right hilarious costumes, which trigger laughter as soon as they step out from the wings. The laughter became contagious to those even on the stage, with the actors all stiffling their sniggers. They are the characters we all love to hate, and Connor and Les certainly revel in the boos and hisses.

The special effects and audience participation are what really bring the magic to the panto. Buttons has some wonderful scenes involving some water pistols of varying sizes. Avoid the stalls if you lack in humour or melt when in contact with water!

The Ugly Sisters also participate with a bit of audience banter, picking out a gentleman to ask for his name, which they refer back to on numerous occasions, and who provides the butt for some of their jokes.

The highlight for me, and certainly my children was the flying pumpkin coach and horses. The special fairy godmother magic enabled the coach containing Cinderella and the Prince to levitate up off the stage and out into the stalls, with galloping strides from the horses. My slightly sinical child yelled and pointed that there were indeed ‘no strings’ and that magic was truly involved! A special moment.

Some special unplanned moments also made this panto one I shall never forget. Les forgetting the name of the audience member and replacing it with one from the matinee show had the cast in giggles. How he and Connor used ad lib to include the mistake into the script is a sign of true masters of their craft. During the rendition of Panto classic “if I was not in pantomine” song, where The Ugly Sisters, Buttons and the Prince were racing up and down the stage with various props and buckets of water (health and safety would have a coronary) Connor’s towering wig fell of and was rolling about the stage. It was a perfect cherry on the already iced, slightly wonky cake, but hey, that’s panto!

All in all, Cinderella was a huge hit. Everyone, young and old enjoyed the musical theatre delights. There were dance scenes that could have been plucked straight from a Disneyland parade, brightly coloured costumes, fireworks that were not of the metaphorical kind, and a heap load of jokes that included ones for all ages!

Theatre is a magical place in itself and one I’m so grateful I can share with my children. Pantos provide a perfect opportunity for families to come together and share the magic, and Cinderella does not disappoint!

Cinderella pantomime is on at The Opera House until 30th Dec. Tickets can still be purchased and all information is available on their website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/opera-house-manchester/

Special thanks goes to the team at the Operah House Manchester and Phil Tragen Photography.

“He’s behind you”…………..

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Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Last week I attended the world premier of THE ZOO, a contemporary dance works by PROJECTion Dance, a company founded by renowned Australian dancer and choreographer Tim Podesta.

Performed for one night only at Sadlers Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, ‘The Zoo‘, along with ‘Informal Inbetween‘ provided the springboard to launch Projection Dance in the UK. The works starred London based dancers James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight, both currently also dancing with Company Wayne McGregor.

Informal Inbetween‘ was a dance of contrasts, starting with the monochrome colour scheme of the costumes. The stage was dimly lit, apart from the stark spotlight on the dancers. They would continually burst into the light then fall back into the shadows, the light giving them life, and the darkness suspending them in time.

Both the dancers style of performance echoed the opposition – Travis dancing with balletic flair, awe inspiring strength and control, in what can only be likened to Tai Chi and James dancing with fire and aggression, teetering on the point of losing control yet still holding onto his trained technique.

Informal Inbetween‘ was the perfect presedence to set the tone for ‘The Zoo ‘ , which is based on Edward Albert’s play The Zoo Story. Bringing up topics such as social divides, isolation and mental health, ‘The Zoo‘ was, at times, uncomfortable to watch, which is why it’s so important to highlight these themes and give them a platform.

Again, the costumes played a huge part in the visual contrast. Travis assuming the role of the upper class buisness man, in buisness attire, lesuirly reading on a park bench. His poise and posture also added layers to the character. He used his steady control to make all of his movements well placed and with intention.

This was in direct contrast to James, playing a character hard up on his luck and desperate for interaction. Rounded shoulders and a downwards gaze, he would slump through steps, then suddenly burst and shake with rage when his emotions would overflow. To be able to dance with such raw emotions that transcend the audience yet still hold onto control is no mean feat, and mesmerising to watch.

The piece slowly built in tension. They began with solo sections. James goading and provoking, looking for interaction. Travis, cool and self restrained. It culminated with their duet. Like fire and ice, anger and desperation were neutralized by calm and compassion. Suddenly events took a dramatic and violent twist, which left the auditorium eerily quiet.

The Zoo is an intruiging and thought provoking piece. It will force you to question your day to day life and the interactions with other humans. You will ponder about the power of your words and actions and their consequences – things that don’t need to be said, things that cannot be undone.

We could all take heed of the themes, suppress our own egos and share more compassion with fellow humans, not matter their status, wealth, sexual orientaions, or mental state. We all walk the path of life together, and all yern for the most basic of human needs – love.

Although The Zoo was a launch performance, Tim Podesta hopes to bring the production back next year for a longer run, enabling more people to experience the rollercoaster, and share the messages within it.

My next article will be a Q&A with Tim, delving more into the themes presented in The Zoo, the working relationship between Travis and James and bringing the production to the UK.

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Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Fewer things are as magical as having children at Christmas time. It’s a time of awe and wonder, giving and sharing, and reliving family traditions. One such tradition for my family, as I’m sure it is for many others, is curling up on the sofa in our pyjamas on Christmas eve, and waiting The Snowman animation together. It’s what I did as a child, what I do now with my children, and hope it’s what they do with their children in the future, with fon memories of their own.

The Snowman, written by Raymond Briggs in 1978, was first broadcast as an animation in 1982, and has been a huge success ever since. And so, it seems, has the stage version of the show. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of the production, perhaps with living in the north, and the show only being staged in London. However the production has been at Sadlers Wells for just over 20 years now, and continues to – ahem – *snowball* in popularity.

As you walk into Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre, the magic is already visible. The stage setting is chunky and caricature like in style, as if the trees have been lifted right off the pages of the book. The lights are dimly lit, with blue hues to show off the projected ‘snowflakes’ that are whirling round the stage, giving the whole stage a snow globe effect. The programmes are hugely interactive for little people,with games, puzzle and colouring in sections, as well one great background information for the adults.

The music begins and the magic truly starts. The familiar melodies and tunes by Howard Blake transport you to another world, and we peer into the life of the boy and his mother and father on Christmas eve. Much like the animation, there are no words or narrative. The whole story is told by the music wonderfully expressive dancing. The dancing is fairly contemporary in style, to help with the individual concepts, like how the boy uses big, exagerated leg movements as he trudges though the snow, or the choir lulling side to side as they sing carols.

The Snowman has been on stage since the boy first created it, and suddenly jumps to life, much to the amazement of the audience! For those that are old enough to remember, his movements are remenicent of Mr Soft from the Trebor Softmint advert! This much amuses the children in the audience, with their shreiks and laughter echoing around the auditorium. They are totally captivated by him!

All the scenes are exactly as they are in the animation, with the addition of some creative characters, limbo dancing fruit, a music box ballerina en pointe, a toy soldier, and forest animals. Not forgetting Jack frost, who evokes a pantomime feel to the whole thing – the children loving to boo and hiss at his naughty antics! These characters have been written into the story seamlessly, blending so well with the original characters, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d always been a part of the story.

The production has a generous dousing of magic throughout, but by far the most captivating is the flying scene. As soon as the first few bars of “walking in the air” are played, the auditorium goes quiet, as you watch the Snowman and the boy take to the air, in what has to be the most nostalgic piece of theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

The Snowman and women dance considerably well given their rounded nature, with plenty of jumps and lifts. Althought how they don’t melt whilst undertaking these tasks under the stage lighting is amazing! I interviewed the ‘Fred Astaire’ snowman in a Q&A article which you can read here http://danceniche.com/2018/11/30/qa-with-cameron-ball-cast-member-of-the-snowman-stage-production/

Another welcome character is the big man himself, Father Christmas. The children’s faces all lighting up whenever he is on stage. I wonder how he finds the time in his busy work schedule to perform everyday, and put his spritliness down to all the sherry he must be drinking! Watching him piroette and leap about the stage makes it quite clear how he is able to indulge in all the mince pies he will soon be eating!

The final sprinkling of magic is after the finale and when the cast have all disappeared. I do not want to spoil the surprise for you, so i’ll say this…..it is well worth staying in the auditorium after the finale, as the production brings a little of the outside, inside, with ‘dusting’ of joy and a ‘flurry’ of excitement for all.

The Snowman is currently being shown at Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre until 6th January. More information on dates and times can be found in their website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/the-snowman/

All in all, The Snowman stage shows manages to capture the essence of the animation and takes something that is so ingrained in the public’s hearts and minds, and do it justice whilst offering new highlights to keep it fresh and exciting. It’s a must see production for the whole family, and something that will bring you back year upon year, creating a new Christmas tradition that all will treasure for years to come.

*special thanks goes to Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre and photographer Tristram Kenton*

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Q&A with Cameron Ball Cast Member of The Snowman Stage Production

Q&A with Cameron Ball Cast Member of The Snowman Stage Production

There are a number of things that have become quintessential to a typical Bristish Christmas, pigs in blankets, bad festive jumpers, and The Snowman animation on the tv on Christmas Eve.
Since it’s tv debut in 1982, the story of The Snowman, written by Ramond Briggs published in 1978, has become a huge part of many people’s Christmas tradition. And so, it seems, has the stage production!

Originally staged by the Manchester Contact Theatre back in 1986, it now resides at sadlers Wells Theatre, and has been performed there every year since 1999.
Cameron Ball, one of the cast members, answered some of our questions on what it’s like being part of something so special and what makes it’s so magical.
DN. The original story of Snowman is 40 years old and animated version almost 35. How does it feel to be part of what has become a national treasure?

CB. This is my fifth year performing in The Snowman, both in the title role and more recently in other roles. I feel very fortunate to be part of what is such a highlight of the Christmas season for many families. The story is timeless and always captures the imagination of the children who watch both the cartoon and stage version (now in its 21st year). I’m sure it will be around for another 35 years! Many of the cast and crew return to the show over the years as it’s such a unique production to be part of. This is my fifth time with the show – and it feels like coming back to a family! The show schedule is quite intense so you quickly form bonds with the cast and crew.

DN. Did you watch it as a child?

CB. I’m originally from Australia so the story and cartoon wasn’t a huge part of my childhood, but you quickly realise how much of an institution it is here. Now I make sure I don’t miss it every Christmas!

DN. How does the music make you feel?

CB. Howard Blake’s music is a joy to dance to. There is such a variety of styles and keeps things very interesting. The score is truly made for dance – it feels at once fresh and yet familiar, which is the genius of it I think. Of course, ‘Walking in the Air’ is a classic – there’s always a surge of adrenaline when it plays as you know the story is reaching a climactic moment!
DN. There are no words in this production, the whole story is told through movement. How does that change the way you dance in this production compared to others?

CB. As the cartoon and stage production use no spoken word, it has true international appeal. It means some characterisation needs to be bigger, and the mime and physical theatre is employed throughout. It’s a testament to Bill Alexander’s original direction, and the fabulous team that restage the show each year, that the story is told so vividly even without the spoken word.

DN. What is your dance background?

CB. I trained extensively in ballet, and in musical theatre. The ballet training has been very useful for The Snowman as Robert North’s choreography is rooted in ballet.

My career has mainly been in musical theatre both in the West End and internationally, as well as performing in various dance productions at The Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall, Sadler’s Wells and others.

DN. How did you prepare for the audition?

CB. The audition is a mix of ballet, contemporary dance and pas de deux work. Robert North’s style is quite particular so you have to be able to pick this up quickly. I familiarised myself with the story and the character, but the joy (or curse?) of auditioning is you never truly know what to expect! I always go to auditions with a positive attitude and an open mind, as every experience is different.

DN. How long are you in rehearsals before staging the show?

CB. The rehearsal schedule is tight – around three weeks. There is a lot to rehearse as we have three boys who share the role, who each need a fair amount of time, and there are major technical wonders like flying to perfect! The show is a well-oiled machine though – the team pull together and make sure everything is ready for the first performance.
DN. How much work goes into the special effects such as the flying scenes and the snow?

CB. I’m not giving any of the magic away, but let’s just say there are a whole team of people backstage ensuring the flying goes smoothly as it’s no small task! When The Snowman and the boy first take flight, there are always gasps of wonderment from the audience which is really exciting.The snow is a combination of lighting effects and real falling white powder. If you’re lucky you might get snowed on in the audience too!

DN. What reaction do you get from the younger members of audience?

CB. The show is a fantastic introduction to theatre as it encourages our younger audiences to experience a wide range of emotional responses: joy, sadness, suspense, humour, and a bit of magic. The way the story is told is very visual, and it moves along at a rapid pace, so it holds the attention of the children watching. The presence of familiar characters like woodland animals, a feisty cat, toy soldiers and ballerinas, and maybe even a visit from Santa Claus and his reindeer, means there is something for every child.

DN. Finally, what is on your list from Father Christmas this year?

CB. The good thing about performing in The Snowman is you can eat whatever you like over the festive season and stay in decent shape. I’m mostly looking forward to family time over the season, and some of my favourite sweet treats from my home land of Australia would be very welcome!

The Snowman is currently showing at sadlers Wells Theatre until 6th January. You can find dates and ticket information on their website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/the-snowman/
Watch out for my review article of the production next week for an in depth view of the production and opinions from the youngest reviewers at Dance Niche, my children!
*Special thanks goes to Saddlers Wells, Cameron Ball for answering our questions and photographers Simon Kelski for the headshot and Tristram Kenton for production shot*
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Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Q&A with Andrew Ashton, New Adventures Company Member

Sir Matthew Bourne first launched his company, New Adventures, in 2002, after many years of previous success with other works. He has won a whole host of awards and accolades, honouring his contribution to the dance and theatre world, including his knighthood in 2016.

Since 2008, New Adventures has been committed to nurturing and developing new talent, by the means of workshops and projects. Aimed at all ages, genders and abilities, these workshops are hosted to help inspire the next generation of performers and making them accessible for everyone. However, with the great success their production of Swan Lake has seen, with their all male corps de ballet of swans, they particularly help to inspire young males to follow dreams and shatter stereotypes! You can read more about the topic of encouraging boys and men in the dance world in a previous article here Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

We were lucky enough to ask one of the more recent New Adventures company members, Andrew Ashton, a few questions on the company, tour life and his background, as well as topics the production highlights.

DN. What is it like touring and being part of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company?

AA. I feel much more connected to the cast and crew than I have with any other show as we are with each other for so much time, at work and also living together and sharing a lot of our free time as a company whilst touring to new cities. It is, however, very much like shows I have done through my training in terms of the etiquette of the rehearsal process, classes and general running of the show, so it feels very normal.
Rehearsal, note taking and general cleaning of choreography is extremely important to New Adventures and therefore, after each class, we have notes with either Matt, Pia our Resident Director or Glenn the Rehearsal Director. Following this, we will either rehearse aspects of the show for that day where someone might be doing a new track or we will spend a few hours revisiting sections in fine detail. We always have a laugh and enjoy ourselves while at the same time remaining focussed and professional and therefore we have a really good and respectful working environment that I feel shows on stage. So on a whole it’s very much what I expected it to be.

DN. How does it feel making your professional debut in something as high profile as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake?

AA. It’s a bit of a cliché to say that it’s a dream. However, whenever I was asked which show would be my dream job, I would always say Swan Lake. It’s not just the choreography of the show that makes it so beautiful to perform, but the camaraderie and deep connection that you feel with the fellow swans on stage. Each and every one of us gives our absolute all to every show because we just love and respect it so much. In every performance, I’m able to find something new about the show or about my movement and choreography that surprises me. So, it really is a dream to perform. I’m also very lucky in that I’ll be able to travel to countries and cities that I might have never gone to without this show. I’m always told how phenomenal the Japanese audiences are that I can’t wait!

DN. The production deals with very relevant topics such as oppression, mental health and sexual preferences, as well as creating gender fluid roles. How important do you think it is to portray these issues on stage theough dance?

AA. The stage, just like tv, radio and other art forms is a representation of our world and to me it is more than just entertainment. It’s a way in which we can communicate to huge to our audiences and by extension society about important matters that surround us outside of the theatre. I feel that this is one of the reasons why Swan Lake is so popular, because it’s main focus is the feeling of wanting to be loved and this is something each and every one of us can relate to on whatever spectrum. All these topics are things that our audiences feel and encounter on a daily basis. So, it’s therefore important to portray them and portray them in an honest and respectful way in order to convey the idea of acceptance that is crucial to the whole story line of Swan Lake.

DN. You knew from an early age you wanted to perform and be in the arts genre. Do you have any advice for young students who want to follow the same career path?

AA. My advice is always to just do the things that you love. Everybody has a different idea of what success is and if you let your idea of success be what everybody else thinks it should be then you will never be happy with your accomplishments. My other advice would be to always trust your teacher or mentor, as they may have been in exactly the same position as you and have years of experience on top of that. Eventually you will realise that what they have been telling you for years was right all along.

DN. Tell us about your background training with Laine Arts and how it prepared you.

AA. My training has meant that nothing really has daunted me or has come as a shock when coming straight into the company. I had a very varied training at Laine as we study Musical Theatre and so we’re constantly pushed and pulled between different disciplines and techniques. I feel that this has been extremely useful for Swan Lake as there are actually a lot of different styles within the show. There’s a lot of ballet technique required in Act 1, it’s quite jazz like in the Soho Bar Scene and of course the Swan Acts are very physical and contemporary. This along with my training in acting and musical theatre performance has meant that I felt very prepared to perform and most importantly tell the story through my movement.

DN. What would you say to anyone who was thinking about coming to see the show?

AA. Don’t just watch it once would be my advice! There is so much to see and because the emotion is so raw it’s different each time you watch it. We are lucky to be able to watch the show when we have a show off. I’m moved by it every time and I can’t count the number of times I’ve now seen it!

Sound advice Andrew! You can read my thoughts on the production in my previous article

New Adventures Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry until 1st December, with tickets still available, using this link https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/https://thelowry.com/whats-on/matthew-bournes-swan-lake/ Further details of tour locations can be found on the website New Adventures Swan Lake

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Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review

Matthew Bourne has an incredible talent for turning an age old and traditional story, such as Swan Lake, and thrusting it beak first into the 21st century. His take on the classic tale, with his company New Adventures is far more menacing and somber than the original. Its one of inner turmoil and depravity, provocation and lust, entrapment and finally freedom.

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The show opens with the young Prince in bed, being awoken by the hum drum of palace life. The mixed corps de ballet of butlers and maids all hurry with military precision. , using angular arm and head movements, swift changes of direction and robotic stature. With it, we sense the beginning of the Prince (played by Dominic North) is unhappy with his regimented and stifling life.

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The Queen, was played by Katrina Lyndon. She bought a regal and sophisticated edge to her character. Her dancing was elegant and had wonderful poise, using her upper body well, and great strength and control with her legs, to effortlessly glide across the floor. Katrina used her facial expressions well, an eye roll here, a displeasing look there, which were discreet yet added to the story perfectly. My favourite scene of hers was at the Black Ball, held at the Palace. Everyone wearing black, yet she appears in a stunning red dress. She dances with The Stranger in a immensely provocative routine. She echoes perfectly the traditional role of the black swan, the seductive temptress, bold and confident in her approach, with burning eye contact. This is possibly why she is wearing red, as, did you know, Odile didn’t wear black until the early 1940’s, the original productions instead choosing bright and bold colours.

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Dominic North’s performance as the Prince is a harrowing one. He starts off frantic in his movements, to shoe his resentment to his life, changing to being light and free when he has the love and affection from The Swan, will well elevated and athletic allegro, finally lashing out in desperation at the end. His pas de deux with his mother is particularly upsetting. You see his need for love from his mother, begging her to hold him, literally clinging onto her. You see her rejecting him to conform to standards. As an audience member, you almost plead with her to relent and just give him a hug. Dominic’s performance is powerful and emotive.

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The girlfriend character (Carrie Willis) is a brash character adding a layer of humour to the production. Everything from her costume to her demeanour and actions provoke laughs from the audience. She perfectly captures the stereotypical air headed bimbo character and certainly puts her gazelle like legs to good use.

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The Swan and The Stranger are played by the same dancer, just as Odette and Odile are also danced by the same ballerina. Will Bozier did an incredible job of acting within his dancing, being so convincing as 2 separate characters, you’d be forgiven in thinking they were not the same people. As the swan, he is coy at first, unwilling to interact with the Prince. His movements are large and strong, imitating a real swan when it is threatened, protecting itself. Then he softens, when he and the prince dance their pas de deux, becoming the protector role, lifting the Prince, nuzzling and nurturing him. As The Stranger, not only does his appearance change, so does his dancing and with it his character. With his leather trousers, he is immediately portrayed as a bad boy role. His lusty looks and bold swagger transform him to represent power and danger. He dances with every woman in the ballroom. The dance is reminiscent of an Argentine tango, full of passion, bodies always close, legs frantically working. He ends as the swan again in the scenes. The Princes protector once again,from the other swans who have turned on them both. Will uses his body language and facial expressions so well, that even if he were not in specific costumes, you’d instantly identify the character he would be portraying.

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The final scenes are danced with an all male ensemble, the traditional corps de ballet being replaced by a male corps. Included are some sequences from the more traditional productions, including ‘entrance of the swans’ and ‘dance of the cygnets’ but of course with an altogether more robust and rugged feel, with far more jumps, syncopation and unique poses, now synomymus with his version. The swans take on the role of an angry mob. Their muscular and athletic physiques perfectly embody than of a swan, beautiful to look at yet strong and powerful, a force to be reckoned with. They act and think as ‘one’ ultimately seizing control of the situation, strength in numbers. The use of the resistance in their arms and hisses audible to the audience create an imposing and sinister feel from the very beginning.

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Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake has been performed for over 20 years now, premiering back in 1995. He uses concepts and ideas from the more traditional versions yet adds a more contemporary and modern feel, adding highlights paying homage to other great choreographers such as Bob Fosse. In 2018, the production underwent some revising to the set, lighting and choreography to keep it just as fresh as its ever been. It deals with relevant topics in todays society of sexual preferences, acceptance, temptation, and the basic human need for love. And boy did the audience love it on opening night at The Lowry Manchester, with a staggering 4 minute standing ovation. That alone is testament to the talent of the cast, and Matthew Bourne’s success in creating a production that’s become a traditional one in its own right.

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Don’t just take our word on how mind blowing it is! Read more about the production, the company members and tour life, in our interview with cast member Andrew Ashton https://danceniche.com/2018/11/29/qa-with-andrew-ashton-new-adventures-company-member/

New Adventure’s Swan Lake is currently showing at The Lowry Manchester until 1st Dec. Ticket prices start at £28.50 and can be purchased via their website here TheLowry.com Further information about the tour’s upcoming dates and locations can be found on the New Adventures website MB’S New Adventures

*Special thanks to The Lowry Manchester and photographer Johan Persson, using photographs from the production at the Royal Theatre Plymouth*

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What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

What does it take to be a musical theatre swing?

Musical theatre is a tough genre to succeed in. You have to be equally proficient in all 3 styles – dancing, singing and acting – a triple threat. So imagine being hired in a show and having to memorize EVERY SINGLE ROLE! That’s the mammoth task undertaken by a ‘swing’.

Swings are absolutely vital to the smooth running of any theatre production. Not only do they help with prompting of lines, if, heaven forbid, someone forgets, but they are instantly on hand, ready to fill in for roles due to sickness, or any sort of absence. Sam Lathwood is the current swing and assistant dance captain for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s MATILDA THE MUSICAL. Unlike other productions, at least half the cast are children, including the main part. We all know how quickly children can become ill, and you can’t do a show without the lead, so being a swing for Matilda the Musical is most certainly one of the most demanding roles. We spoke with Sam about his job, how he copes, his favourite role, and what it’s like working with the younger members of the cast!

DN. You’re the current assistant dance captain / swing for Matilda the Musical. How do remember all the choreography so well without actually being in the roles permanently?

SL. When we first started to learn the show back in January, it took a lot of staying behind after rehearsals and dancing in my living room to help solidify all of the information in my brain. I work both visually and practically to get the choreography into my muscle memory, and once the choreography has gone in, it’s all about recapping the information, referring back to notes/ maps of the routines and watching the show as much as I can (when I’m not already on stage performing) to help retain the information.

DN. Knowing all the roles so well, who is your favourite character in Matilda and why?

SL. I would say my favourite character in the show has to be Miss Trunchbull, she has some brilliant dialogue, she’s intimidating and dark yet comical and outrageous. She gets to perform a whole solo dance routine with a ribbon in an extremely difficult costume and fly over a vault in her Olympics uniform/skirt. What’s not to like!

DN. It’s a well-known saying that you should never work with animals or children! What’s it been like working so closely with the younger members of the cast of Matilda?

SL. I adore working with the children. They never fail to make you laugh and smile. Their work ethic is always second to none. This is the 5th show I’ve done which has had children in the cast and I find they bring such a unique and exciting energy to the theatre both onstage and offstage that you don’t always get on other shows. I always find that the work our children at Matilda do on stage every evening is very inspiring.

DN. You’ve worked in many musical theatre hits such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Elf the Musical to name a couple. How does Matilda differ to the others?

SL. Matilda actually has the same choreographer as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Peter Darling) so I started Matilda with an understanding of the way the choreography might work. But compared to other shows I’ve done, the storytelling in Matilda is very detailed, specific and plentiful. The show also has a very dark story throughout, unlike Charlie Bucket, Matilda doesn’t get her ‘golden ticket’ until the very end of her story.

DN. Which is the most challenging scene and choreography in Matilda to work on?

SL. I would have to say all of the gate choreography in ‘School Song’. It makes a lot of sense and flows nicely once you’ve got it, but it took many more rehearsals to get there. What I love about the number is that you still get that massive rush of adrenaline each time you dance on the gates.

DN. This year, Matilda celebrated its 30th year since first being published, and has since won many accolades, particularly with the musical adaptation. Where do you see yourself at 30?

SL. I’m in total denial that one day I’ll no longer be in my twenties that I haven’t even thought about being 30 yet! Hopefully I’ll be happy and dancing my 30 year old heart out.

DN. Lastly, a famous quote from Matilda is “somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world” If you could make 1 change, what would it be?

SL. My one change would be to somehow eliminate the huge amount of plastic that is contaminating our planet. I’m a huge fan of watching Blue Planet and it disappoints me that over 8 million tonnes of plastic and rubbish ends up in the ocean each year, come on humans!

Well said Sam.

 

Matilda the Musical is currently on stage at the Palace & Opera House Manchester until 24th November. Tickets are still available at ATG Tickets Palace Theatre , with an incredible special rate of only £5 for 16-25 year olds (terms and conditions apply) before it continues on it’s spell binding tour of the UK finishing August 2019! You can find more details of tour dates, locations and book tickets on the website here Matilda the Musical . Watch out for my review article of the production, and vlog from when I went backstage at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and got to nosey around the dressing rooms of the cast!

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Safe Stretching With Alixa Flexibity Programme| Effectively gain flexibility without compromising safety

Safe Stretching With Alixa Flexibity Programme| Effectively gain flexibility without compromising safety

Flexibility and contortion seem to have a marmite effect on people. They either love it and want to achieve more or wince away and find it grotesquely unessessary. After attending the first 2 modules in Alixa Sutton’s stretching and mobility programme – Alixa Flexibility – I have certainly changed my attitude and knowledge towards stretching. Read on to find out just what I discovered and what is involved.

There’s no doubt about it, flexibility and acro are 2 elements that are currently highly sought after in the dance world. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny their current presence and you be a fool to deny your children/students of these elements completely, since these skills are so highly revered and placed by judges and adjudicators. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of too many displays of flexibility and acro in dance routines, otherwise we loose the essence of the true purpose of dance, (a whole other topic, which will be published soon) however I can appreciate how beautiful some well placed skills can be and how they can most certainly add overall to a routine. With this in mind, parents and children want to excel, some to the exstent that they will attempt to learn and master skills at home, self taught with no proper technique being applied, or concerns for the untold damage being done.

We’ve all seen the videos of poor children seemly being torn in two, legs being forcibly pushed and pulled in attempt to ‘stretch’. Coaches applying their body weight onto supple joints of youngsters, with no care to their grimaces or tears, or the fact that said child will probably need a hip replacement by the time they are 30, because that is the reality they face. When joints and ligaments are are continually asked to go beyond their current range of motion, it puts stress on the entire body, which will only become evident with time and as the body ages. Is this what we really want for children’s future?! For them to win medals and titles now, but to be crippled with arthritis by their 30’s or worse?! That is a reality Alixa Sutton-Slobodyan faced after a career in dance and contortion, through improper and now out dated techniques. You can read more in-depth about Alixa’s story here Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks That is why Alixa has spent 20 years developing her own stretching and mobility programme – Alixa Flexibility – and she invited me along to the first 2 modules of the instructor certification programme (there are 6 in total) so I could see just was was involved for myself.

People’s lifestyles have changed dramatically, with increased periods of sitting and the introduction of technology, and consequently, Alixa’s programme has been modified to combat these negative impacts. Her main thesis is injury prevention. Did you know that 70% of athletes and performers never recover 100% from their injury?! A startling fact. Key areas such as lower back and knees, are the most common injury area for performers, and where Alixa highlights as being most important during safe stretching. Alignment is key to safety and progression. Without correct alignment, you will not be targeting the muscles in need of stretching, thus halting any progression being made. Mobility and range of motion are also highlighted as important. Its all very well having the flexibility to achieve something, but if you don’t have the strength to move through the movement and hold it, the degree of flexibility almost becomes irrelevent.

We start after a brief introduction into her history and the reasons behind founding her own flexibility programme. She then moves on to the theory side of the module. Alixa’s main focus is that flexibility and contortion can be achieved in a safe manor, are well within reach, but will take hard work and commitment. She has unique take on body structure, one which takes the pressure off the lower back, our weakest area. Over 90% of people suffer with some sort of back complaint in their lives, and is an area we are all guilty of neglecting.
In order to protect the lower back, we have to stay strong in our core
muscles, and this was something that was reiterataed throughout the
modules. The lower back is an area that is increasingly being over
used by dancers to achieve elements such as the needle, bridge,
arabesque or any sort of back bend extension. They will often lack adequate flexibility in the upper back, shoulders and hips, and instead overcompensate and fold in the lower back. Alixa had an extensive portfolio of photographs of students demonstrating various elements side by side, with varying degrees of flexibility. She asked us in each set, which we thought was the better student. Naturally, at this point, most of the teachers choose the photo that displayed the most flexibility. In most cases, it was those photos that were demonstrating improper technique, by folding into their lower back, putting it under undue stress. Alixa taught everyone how to correctly identify any danger signs in elements, and how to assess which areas then needed to be worked on further to improve upon the skill that was trying to be achieved.

After a good cardio session to raise core body temperatures and warm joints, it was time for the teachers to try some of the stretches. Alixa maintains that its important for teachers and instructors to experience the stretches and what they will be asking for the students, so that they are aware of how it feels and how to adjust each stretch for the individual. Some of the stretches target specific areas, others are multi-layered, and stretch multiple areas at the same time. All of them are insightful. They highlight just how easy it is for you to slip into improper technique. Demo students are then brought in so instructors get hands on experience of how to correctly assist students getting into the stretches and how they can be modified for the individual. All of the stretches have levels of adaptation, so that as the students flexibility improves, progress can still be maintained. Alixa spoke about communication between instructor and student. During a stretch, the student can tense muscles and grip them. To progress in a stretch, your body must learn to relax into it, otherwise it will not be able to go beyond it’s current capabilities. Alixa helped to show the instructors how-to support, soothe and even massage the student, to help get their bodies to relax into the required stretch, and so, able to make progress.

Towards the end, instructors were then shown another series of photos, and asked to identify which were the ‘better’ students. This time, almost all of the instructors were able to correctly identify which student was demonstrating the element the safest. A testament itself to the effectiveness of the module. At the end of each module, a short exam is necessary, to confirm teaching points and criteria have been met, and allowing everyone to move forward with confidence, knowing the new knowledge acquired had been cemented. Teachers are then awarded with a certificate for their efforts. Alixa then rounds up the module by giving advice own how to best implement these stretches and routines into classes, either by gradually introducing stretches to current classes on a timetable, to curating a specific stretching and mobility class, which undoubtibly assists in seeing improvements and progression more quickly.

Alixa is wonderfully personal. She has a way of conveying her knowledge and expertise whilst keeping everyone engaged yet focused on the information. Her stretches are innovative, fun and progressional, which enable students to enjoy stretching and feel a sense of achievement, all the while conducting them in a safe and correct manner. The Alixa Flexibility Programme would be a hugely beneficial class to add to any timetable, and with current trends seen in the dance world, would be undoubtably popular with students. Teachers have a responsibility towards the health of their students and to keep them safe. I cannot think of a better way of doing that than introducing these stretches to students, and educating them on the art of safe flexibility. This programme is also beneficial for anyone running the Acrobatic Arts syllabus in their schools, as the elements also require adequate flexibility and range of motion in the joints for the students to be able to successfully master the skill at hand. Both programmes compliment each other perfectly.

You can find out more about Alixa’s programme and worldwide tour dates for 2019 on her website http://www.alixaflexibility.com She has kindly offered a 10% discount off modules for Dance Niche readers! Enter code ‘Danceniche’ into the comments section of application.

Happy safe stretching!

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Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

Review – La Fille Mal Gardeé | Birmingham Royal Ballet

On approach to The Lowry Theatre Salford Quays, the exterior neon blue lights make it hard to miss. The bright colours continue inside with a modern, almost industrial feel. So it’s fitting that a non traditional ballet production such as Birmingham Royal ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardeé (or La Fille for short) would be showing there.

If you’re not familiar with the story, here are the cliff notes. La Fille Mal Gardeé roughly translates as ‘the wayward daughter’ and is set amongst the rolling hills of the countryside. A rule breaking daughter and overly controlling mother are at the centre of the story, including a handsome lover and a particulalry awkward suiter.44331935275_7f78d0ead4_k

Lise, the daughter is played by Miki Mizutani, the most dainty, music box perfect ballerina I’ve had the pleasure of watching. Her breezy, carefree demeanour was endearing, but boy can she pout when she doesn’t get her own way! There were a couple of hair raising moments with entangled ribbons and pointe shoes, but Miki had the quick thinking skills to breeze through them too, picking the choreography back up almost seamlessly – sign of a true pro! Her highlight for me, was a balance in attitude en pointe, whilst holding a bunch of ribbons above her head, and being turned on the spot by the dancers at the opposite ends of the ribbons!44331934325_4c646a21f2_k

Lise’s mother, Widow Simone, keeps an eagle eye on her daughter to prevent her getting up to mischief. Played by the larger than life Rory Mackay. With his genius comedic timing and over the top facial expressions, he easily makes the widow one of the most well loved characters in the story. Despite sporting some major padding and numerous layers of peticoats, he managed to execute a perfectly timed clog dance, which even that wasn’t without some comedy highlights!44331936345_e5b8c6da72_k

Alain is the son of a prosperous vineyard owner, played by Kit Holder, and whom the Widow has chosen to marry her daughter off to. At first, the proposed nuptials between him and Lise, makes you resent him a little, however being teased by the villagers and having his hopes of finding a beautiful bride dashed, you certainly warm to him. The way Kit plays Alain is a cross somewhere between Worsel Gummage and Franck Spencer, and his ability to dance without an inch of style or technique despite his high calibre training and skill, is an art in itself, and he easily steals the funniest character crown!44331937085_afdabb5c5c_k

The star of the show however comes as somewhat as a surprise, one which I’m not going to spoil for you. You’ll have to watch the production for yourself to find out, just get ready for the ‘awwwww’ factor!

No story is complete without a hunky love interest, and Lachlan Monahan fits this role like a glove. He plays Calas, a young farmer in love with Lise. His busrts of energy and athletic jumps during the allegro defy gravity, his tour en l’air and pirouettes a la seconde are sturdy and precise! Not to forget the way he partners Miki with a nurturing quality and genuine affection.30303623857_0347facea1_k

La Fille Mal Gardeé is a ballet that has it all – intricate choreography, pas de deux, comedy, folk dance, a maypole and more comedy. Did I mention it has comedy in it?! There are so many tongue in cheek, slap stick moments, it’s reminiscent of a classic pantomime, complete with its own widow! In fact, it should be reclassified from a ballet, to ‘pa-llet’ or ‘ball-to’ maybe even ‘balle-tomime’ – you get the picture.30303624647_e226e69ae9_k

The uplifting music and joyful colours of the cotumes really cement La Fille as a ballet for all, young or old, first time watching a ballet or seasoned pro. Birmingham Royal Ballet have a programme called First Steps, specially tailored to better suit the needs of children, however La Fille is such a gleeful delight, I’d have no issues taking my 2 young daughters to see this version. It would serve as a perfect way to introduce children to a full length production.44331936005_f014b018f6_k

Birmingham Royal Ballet are currently performing La Fille Mal Gardeé at The Lowry Manchester until 27th October 2018, where they move on to Salder’s Wells Theatre 1st-3rd Nov and finally The Grand Opera House Belfast 7-9th Nov. Tickets and more information on dates and locations can be found here https://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/la-fille-mal-gardee

La Fille Mal Gardeé is certainly not one to be missed, my cheeks are still aching from smiling the whole way through, and if laughter is good for the soul, then watching la Fille should be prescribed as therapy!

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Skin Care For Dancers | How to look after your skin

Skin Care For Dancers | How to look after your skin

As dancers, we are well used to looking after our bodies, stretching, strengthening, what we put in it. But do we stop and think about what we put on it?!

The skin is our largest organ. It protects us, it alerts us and it regulates our temperature. All this without us even having to think about it. But we need to think about it more and stop taking it for granted.

Do you suffer from regular breakouts and can’t pinpoint a cause?! There are many reasons we can suddenly get an attack of spots and blocked pores – hormone inbalance, diet, stress. But one common cause is inadequate care and attention.

Dancers spend hours upon hours in rehearsals, often spending all day working tirelessly to perfect their craft. Countless hours of putting blood, sweat and tears into an upcoming performance or honing their technique, but let’s just think about that for a second. Think about how much sweat is sitting on the skin before there’s a chance to shower it off.

Sweat is the body’s main response to exercise. It helps to cool the body down and regulate our temperature. It also helps the body to excrete any toxins out through our pores. Those toxins then sit on the skins surface until washed away. It’s these toxins that cause bacteria which in turn cause blemishes and spots.

How often do you touch your face?? It’s often more than you realise. Every time we touch our face, we are transfering dirt and grime from our hands onto our face, which blocks our pores. Our body then sweats to rid itself of toxins, out through our pores. If those pores are blocked, the toxins build up behind, becoming inflamed and infected – spots!

When you’re stuck in a studio from dawn until dusk, there’s little you can do. Having a towel in your bag to mop up sweat, preventing it from sitting on the skin is a good idea. Perhaps even carrying some face or baby wipes in your bag, to cleanse and freshen up during lunch is another.

What about during performances?! Think of the heavy stage make up required for each show, that has to stay out under the glaring lights, and we still sweat with make up on! Not a nice combination. And how do you remove that make up? Quite often, stage make up will need something stronger than usual to strip it away, which by it’s nature, also strips away the natural moisture of the skin, leaving it dry and sensitive.The best way you can look after and protect your skin is to have a good solid skincare routine, with quality products. I’ve recently been introduced to Bao Skincare.

Beth’s Aromatherapy Organic founded by Beth, after being in the beauty indusrty for over 10 years, and suddenly developing skin irritation and blemishes due to medication for Crohns disease. She wanted to create a skincare brand that was completely organic – free from nasty parabens, harsh chemicals and wax. All of the products are handmade from plant extracts and natural ingredients. This means they are cruelty free and in most cases, suitable for vegans.

I’ve been using the Orange & Bergamot Face Wash morning and night. The first thing I noticed was the smell. The citrus really bursts through, and is wonderfully refreshing in the morning. The second thing I noticed was when I rinsed it off. Usually with most other products I’ve used, I feel a slight tightening sensation to my skin. Being in the beauty trade myself, I know this is from dehydration – the lack of moisture. I would instantly need to moisturise to relieve the feeling. With Bao’s Orange & Bergamot Face Wash, I did not get that sensation at all. My skin felt instantly silky smooth.

I followed this by using their Face Recovery Moisturiser. It’s beautifully light to the touch, and blends and absorbs swiftly into the skin, without leaving a residue, so I felt able to apply make up directly after if I needed to. Due to the gentle cleansing of the face wash, I actually needed a very minimal amount of cream to effectively moisturize my face.

Lastly, I’ve been trying out Bao’s Coconut Lip Balm. Made from only 3 ingredients, this one isn’t suitable for vegans, as it contains natural bees was, however Beth has created an alternative lip balm that is 100% suitable for vegans – happy days. During long classes or rehearsals, I tend to get dry lips. Bao’s lip balm is perfect for keeping in my bag, and applying as necessary. The great thing about it, is that it nourishes and dehydrated my lips without being gloopy or overly sticky. It’s also scent free – I dislike tasting my lip balm! I’ve found it ideal to apply before my staple red lipstick – which doesn’t apply well on its own to dry, cracked and flaky lips! The lip balm efficiently moisturises and softens my lips, allowing the lipstick to apply smoothly and blotch free.

All in all, I’ve been hugely impressed with my new additions to my skincare routine. The fact that they are handmade, 100% cruelty free and organic, only adds to their appeal. It’s safe to say, they will be a permanent addition.

You can read more about Beth, Bao’s philosophy and all their products on their website http://baoskincare.co.uk/ with a 15% discount for new customers.

Look after the skin you’re in,

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The Real Reasons I send My Child To Dance Classes

The Real Reasons I send My Child To Dance Classes

So many preconceptions surround a parent, particularly a mother, when she sends her child to dance classes. She’s living her own lost dreams through her child, she’s a pushy mum, she wants her child to follow in her own footsteps. It is so much more than that. Let me tell you the real reasons I send my child to dance.

BODY AWARENESS

Dance requires you to move different parts of your body, sometimes at different tempos, independent of each other. As children, this is something the brain needs to engage in repeatedly to get better at. Coordination isn’t just for dance class. School P.E classes, sports, even driving are all things that need you to multitask. What better way to give my child a physical head start in life than to send them to dance classes. Not just that, dance teaches correct posture. Having the bodily strength to hold your body correctly helps prevent ailments later in life. It also helps greatly with the next point.

CONFIDENCE

“Opportunity favours the bold” We all know in life that you demeanour can have profound effects on your life. First impressions are everything. Social gatherings, job interviews, public speaking are all situations where you have to out yourself out there, presenting the best version of yourself, under the watchful eyes of others. Dance enables my child to build self confidence – firstly through applying herself to master a new step and revelling in her own success, and secondly through performing for a crowd, be it in front of fellow students in class, at competitions or a showcase. Each time she achieves something new, each time she steps on a stage to perform, she’s building the solid foundation blocks that will help carry her through her adult life.

WORK ETHICS

If you want to get anything done in life, you have to apply yourself. It doesn’t just happen by chance. Exams, work deadlines and self set goals are only achievable if you work hard and stay focused. Dance instills this in my child from the off set. She learns very quickly that the amount of time spent on practicing steps at home improves her skills, that practicing routines over and over will win her medals, that fine tuning her technique will ensure higher exam marks. Basically, she learns that results are directly proportional to the amount of time and effort put in.

TEAM WORK

School, clubs, work all require you to work as part of a team. It’s an essential tool in life if you want progress. It’s also an essential tool to be likeable. No one likes a selfish, self centred, egotistical individual. There is no I in team. When my child dances with her fellow team mates in a group, she learns humility – no one is bigger/more talented/more important than the team. She learns she has a responsibility to work hard, for the group as a whole, not letting her fellow team members down. She learns a connection like no other, to people who are not family by blood, but family in a different sense, family made by sharing a common interest and and working towards goals and achieving them together. Friends that dance together, stay together.

RESPECT

For me as a parent, I want my child to learn respect. It’s easy enough at home, as I set the rules. It’s a given at school, because if she doesn’t show respect, there are consequences. Dance shows her that it’s not just at home and at school she needs to show respect, that other adults require it too. Dance re-enforces the inportance of manners and how to conduct herself. You can learn more about how to properly conduct yourself in class by reading our past article Class Etiquette – A Guide To Good Class Manners It teaches her that in life there are certain rules that we must abide by.

I’ll admit, as an adult ballet dancer and teacher, I love dance. I love that I can indulge in my passion for dance with my daughter, to prance and twirl around together, to dress up and even perform together. But the things I love the most are the things that you cannot see, for dance is much more than tutus and tiaras.

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Be A Responsible Dancer | Use Eco Friendly Glitter

Be A Responsible Dancer | Use Eco Friendly Glitter

Show me a dancer’s make up kit without glitter and I’ll eat my jazz shoes! But are we doing our bit to help the most sparkliest thing we have – our planet? Read on to find out how even a small change can contribute to a big difference.

JUST A BIT OF FUN

Glitter has always been around. In my day, we only had glitter hair spray in a can, (which if you had dark hair, just looked like you had dandruff) or glitter gel, and boy was that stuff sticky! They were items of every dancers caboodle (80’s kids won’t have to Google that) Dance festival?Glitter on! School showcase? Do I have enough skin left for more glitter?! You get the picture.

Today is no different. Glitter body art is BIG news. Performers everywhere have at least a small dusting around their eyes, not to mention those that choose to wear it in place of clothes!!!! And if you thought glitter nail varnish was a nightmare to get rid of, try removing glitter that seems like it’s been welded to your skin!!!! The best and quickest way to get rid of it (not to mention most gentle way for your skin) is to wash it off, and marvel at your bath that looks like a unicorn dissolved in it. You get out, dry off and think nothing more of it.

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Photo by Anderson Guerra on Pexels.com

WHERE IT GOES

What happens to those hundreds of chunky rainbow coloured flakes after they’ve gone down the plug hole? NOTHING. Glitter is made of plastic, there for does not break down. Washing it off in the shower maybe kinder for you skin but I don’t think Mother Nature feels the same. It enters our seas and oceans and contributes to the massive and very real current problem that is microplastics.

Microplastics – according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – are anything manufactured from plastic measuring less then 5mm in diameter. Microbeads are less then 1mm. Most commonly found in scrubs and exfoliators, there are also a surprising number of products you wouldn’t even realise contained microbeads –
Some brands of foundation for example!!!! (You can find a full list of products that contain microplastics here http://www.beatthemicrobeads.org )

These tiny particles slip through water filtration systems and directly into our seas and oceans. They take hundreds of years to break down, if at all, and transfer toxic chemicals to our marine life.Thankfully bans are slowly being brought into place to stop the manufacturing of such products, but glitter is being overlooked.

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Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

You may be thinking what difference would it make? One more person wearing glitter for a performance isn’t that big of a deal is it? It is if everyone has that opinion. Think of how many hundreds of glitter parties end up down the plug hole after 1 show. Multiply that by how many shows you do. Then again by how many identical performers are in the show. Soon adds up doesn’t it. And that’s not on using the maths about how many dance shows are currently on tour going on at any one time. We can all play our part, good or bad, so isn’t it time we sided with Mother Nature and made responsible choices?!

Dust&Dance are an online glitter and cosmetic company doing just that. Since the beginning of 2018, they have released a whole line of bio friendly body and cosmetic glitter. It’s made from plant cellose, so fully bio degrable, even compostable. It means it doesn’t pose a risk to our marine life and it’s also environmentally sourced, making it cruelty free too. Another bonus is that it’s softer than plastic, making it kinder to your skin – no more red inflamed skin from scrubbing!

Not content with stopping there, Dust&Dance ‘s ethos is that everyone deserves to feel sparkly, so from every sale made, they donate 10% to Young Minds – a charity dedicated in ensuring better mental health services to young people. So by purchasing bio glitter from Dust&Dance, not only do you help the oceans, you’re helping fellow human beings in need too. Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?!

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

SPARKLE ON

Being a dancer is being an artist, using your body as visual moving art, but this should not be at the expense of our planet. So next time you need some glitter for your next performance, think ahead. Think about bio glitter. You can find their whole range on their website using this link CLICK HERE

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Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga For Dancers | 5 Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For Dancers

Yoga can seem deceptivley easy, particularly to well limbered dancers, used to the break neck speed ethics of the studio, dismissing it as being too easy and even perhaps boring. Yoga is so much more than working the body, and the benefits are life changing. Read on to find out why every dancer should include yoga into their work out regimes.

 

  • Breathing Control

Ever been doing an exercise at the barre or centre and found yourself completely out of breath? Do you hear “don’t forget to breath” all the time from your teacher? You are probably unaware that you hold your breath during some movements, particularly the more difficult ones where concentration is needed. Yoga, specifically Ashtanga or Hatha yoga teaches you to focus on your breath and move with it. It’s a particular branch of yoga thats philosophy is to connect breath and movement, flowing through each pose. When you become aware of your breathing and tune into it, you become aware of when you’re holding it. Holding the breath creates tension in the body, and dancers want to look relaxed, making movements appear effortless. The use of the breath also adds a wonderful quality to your dancing, during port de bras for example, the breath should initiate the movement. Another good example would be pirouettes, breathing in whilst turning helps with the feeling of lift. By applying this technique to your dancing, it can really set you apart from other dancers, by literally breathing life into your performance.

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  • Stretching & Mobility

When dancers aren’t dancing, they’re probably stretching. However doing the same old stretching routine day in day out is not only boring, but your body switches off too, it needs new ways to be stimulated in order to progress. Yoga is a great exercise to add to your workout, because there are many different poses to choose from that target stretching out certain areas of the body. So you can tailor your workout depending on where you want to stretch in particular, making it different every time, keeping it fresh and engaging. Not only that, but due to the flowing aspect of continually changing poses, you’ll be training the body to have greater range of motion. It’s no good having great hamstring flexibility if you can’t access its full potential during movement.

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  • Reserve Judgement

Dancers constantly judge themselves. They analyse and criticise not only every minute detail of their performance, but their bodies too, after hour upon hour of observing themselves in the mirror. Dancers are hard on themselves, sometimes too hard. It can lead to a downward spiral of anger, self loathing, and low confidence. They will tear themselves apart and say things to themselves that they wouldn’t dream of saying to another dancer. Yoga harbours no judgement.You learn to be so present in the moment when doing yoga, that your brain has no room to think of anything else. Your taught to silence your ego, to hush that little voice inside your head that tells you you should be better. The more you practice, the more you are able to apply this train of thought to other aspects of your life, including dance.

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Photo by Tim Savage on Pexels.com
  • Listen To Your Body

One thing dancers are particularly bad at is listening to their bodies. They will push themselves to the absolute extreme, no pain no gain right?! They will keep working on something, despite feeling a little niggle here or there, until that niggle becomes a serious injury taking months to heal, instead of a couple of weeks rest it would have taken to soothe the original niggle. Why?! Because it’s so easy to fall behind in your training when  you take even just one week off, and they are scared. Scared of being left behind, scared of not being at peak performace for that audition, scared of their fellow dancers gaining an advantage. You have to look at the bigger picture. 2 weeks of rest, then coming back and working hard to regain what has been lost, compared to months of not dancing, followed by slow and repetitive rehab, then getting back to class and feeling years behind, is a small price to pay. Sadly some injuries are career ending. Yoga helps you to really be in tune with your body, to know what it wants, what it needs and what it doesn’t. Yoga unites mind and body. Some days during practice, an area can feel unusually tight, and you may not be able to deepen a pose as much as you usually can. Because your taught not to judge your body, you learn to accept. To trust in your inner voice that that is not what your body needs right now, to just let it be. To understand that pushing your body beyond its current capabilities is harmful, some even say its a form of abuse. We have to treasure our bodies, its the only one we have.

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com
  • General Wellbeing

In our current society, there are so many distractions in life, social media, commuting, manic work schedules. Our brains are constantly overloaded with information. Now couple that with the demands of a dancer, trying to remember countless routines and at some point, your poor brain will start to shut down. Ever have those days where the steps just aren’t staying in?! The brain is an amazing organ, but it can only cope with so much before it starts to let us know that its not coping with the work load we force upon it. Yoga helps to cleanse the mind. Due to the focus on breathing and being in the present moment, everything else is pushed aside, giving your brain a well earned rest. Just like restarting your computer or resetting your phone, your brain is refreshed and re-energised, more able to absorb information, commit it to memory and recall it quicker. This enables dancers to concentrate on performance and execution, exactly whats needed at auditions, not worrying about keeping up. Yoga promotes positivity, calmness, wellbeing and mindfulness. Studies found that an hour class, once a week, significantly reduced anxiety, stress, depression and insomnia. We wrote about the importance of mental health in dancers featuring advice from ex professional dancer and psychotherapist Terry Hide, you can read here Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It? So by doing yoga, you reap the benefits  in all areas of your life.

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Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

The world we live in today is fast paced, chaotic and, at times harsh, non more so than the world of dance. You’re judged in an instant, before you’ve even been able to showcase what you can do and why you’re different. Its tough on the mind and its tough on the body. Yoga is unique in the fact that it works on both simultaneously. It strengthens and stretches the body, and brings clarity and wellbeing to the mind. There are no negative reasons why you shouldn’t be doing yoga. So before your ego tricks you into believing that yoga isn’t enough of a work out for you, I urge you to try it just once. You will reap the benefits.

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History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

Tap dancing, as we know, has many different, distinct styles, almost sub genres, but where and how did this rythmical toe tapping start and how did it develop into what we know it to be today?

FOUNDING NAMES.

No one really knows the true origins of tap dancing, but perhaps the earliest reference, dating back to the 1800’s, is the Juba Dance, originally performed by Master Juba aka William Henry Lane. His style was described as percussive, well timed, expressive and varied in tempo, ranging from smooth to frenzied. Juba was one of the first black performers to dance for a white audience, and although starting in America, he was most popular in England. It was most certainly a style like no one had seen before! It’s thought to have been derived from African tribal persuasions and plantation dances.

At the time, it was rare for black dancers to perform as a solo due to a 2 coloured rule, so many early black performers did so as a duet, notably Buck & Bubbles. Ford Buck Washington would play the piano, and John Bubbles Sublett would tap. It’s documentented that their style was a ‘class act’ often wearing tuxedos. This was said to be a conscious effort to move away from the earlier Minstrels dancing clown appearance. Tuxedos are now a popular choice for tappers, particularly in the Broadway/musical theatre style. However Bubbles particular style was heavy on percussive heel beats and lower body movements, which is said to be the origins of today’s rhythm tap. We talked about rhythm tap in a previous article, and how it seems to be helping to popularize tap again in modern day culture. You can read it here ……..Tap Dance Revival! The Decline & Resurrection

Bill Bojangles Robinson is another famous tapper, famous in the early 1900’s. Originally one half of a duo with George Cooper, they achieved great success touring with their act, but Bojangles found the height of his career when he paired with Shirley Temple , and went in to have many leading roles in the movies. America celebrate National Tap Dance Day on 25th May, chosen because it is Bill Bojangles Robinson’s birthday.

Hot on the heels came The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard & Harold. They quickly rose to fame by adding somewhat acrobatic and extravagant moves to their dancing, notably leagfroging over one another and falling into the splits and rising again without using their hands! Their style was well out together and classy, always remaining under control.

There have been many other contributors to the world and genre of tap, too many to mention individually, but other names that deserve a mention are The Whitman Sisters, Brenda Buffalino, The Clark Brothers, and Gregory Hines.

DEATIALS.

Initially, the original tap styles were done in regular soft shoes, with a smooth, graceful technique, often called The Sand Dance, and perhaps where the grass the soft shoe shuffle was coined. It then developed to hard boots with strong heels, but it’s worth noting that the metal taps didn’t appear till around 1910.

Tap so has it’s own glossary of steps, which are closely linked to the developers and founders of the steps. Examples are, Buffalo, Bojangles, Suzi Q, wings, shuffles, minstrel, shimsham, riffs, rolls. Each step can be traced back to a particular date in time, influences and style.

Tap dance also continues to evolve. There are a number of new tap dancing influencers, regenerating tap for the new generation, each adding their own individual style and flare to the genre. The Arnold Sisters – Chloe and Maude, Jared ‘Grimey’ Grimes are a couple of examples stateside, where tap, particularly the rhythm style seems to be most popular. Heading up in the UK, friends Jamie Spall and Kate Ivory Jordan are hoping to make rhythm tap more commercialised by bringing their tap events to the masses! We wrote about their efforts and what exactly goes on at a tap festival in our previous article Brighton Tap Festival

To conclude, although the exact origins are fuzzy and uncertain, tap dancing has a rich history of founders and influences, which are still evident in all the various styles of tap we have today, and understanding those origins will surely help dancers and students to grasp the technique and the required style, further enhancing their craft.

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Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks

Flexibility At What Cost? Alixa Sutton Talks

The world, and certainly our social media feeds are awash with hyper flexibile poses and stunts, each one more jaw dropping than the next. Each person trying to push their bodies to the absolute limit. But at what cost? Yes, they are young now, their bodies are mailable and have been trained to be so for many years, but do we truly know the consequences of such extremism further down the line for these dancers, when ageing and all that that entails comes knocking?

The risks of hyper flexibility and over stretching are certainly a topic in their own right, but one person who knows the perils of over stretching from experience is Alixa Sutton. Alixa created a safe flexibility programme, which is so successful and achieves almost instantaneous results that she travels world wide, taking her skills and passing them on to the future generation of dance. We chatted to Alixa about her background, reasons for creating the programme and general thoughts on flexibility in today’s world of dance.

DN: Alixa, tell us about yourself and the reasons behind setting up your own flexibility programme.

A.S: I come from a Rhythmic Gymnastics background, and then went into Circus Contortion.  All my career I had traditional coaches & teachers who believed in the old style methods of stretching.  As an athlete & artist, I had one injury after another.  All the injuries finally acclimated in me breaking my back, and being barley able to walk for a year, let alone train or perform.  This was such an eye opening experience for me, as it made me realize that there was another way of doing things.  I also never wanted to see my students go through what I had.  I spent the next few years studying & learning from doctors, physical therapists, reading every single study I could find on all the new information we have now about how the body works and what is best for the body.  Then I took this information and incorporated it into the practical knowledge I have about dance, gymnastics, and contortion.  I have created a method that works for every body type, age and level of flexibility- but safely.

DN: How long has the programme been running?

AS: I have been teaching the Alixa Flexibility Method for 20 years now, but we have just expanded into doing Instructor Courses the past 2 years.  I also have to say that the program is constantly changing. One of the issues is that children’s bodies are different now than 20 years ago!  Some teachers may have noticed that the younger students are much tighter than in years past.  This is because the children sit so much now, and at younger ages.  They actually cause their hips to fix in a rounded position, shorten their hamstrings, and cause a huge muscle build up in their spines from all the rounding & sitting they do.  As teachers, the “traditional” stretches we used to use to improve flexibility, just don’t work anymore as we are trying to apply them to a different type of body.  I am constantly creating new stretches to help open the body naturally through mobility &

extension.

DN: Can you tell us some of your success stories?

AS : Oh goodness there are so many!!  Just this week I had a teenage girl who came into my course and told me I shouldn’t even bother with her as she was just horrible and would never be flexible.  I told her to wait and see.  At the end of the two hours, she came over and gave me a big hug crying and said she couldn’t even believe the difference she had seen & felt.  

A dance teacher took one of my Instructor Courses to help improve her teaching.  Several months later she wrote me that she was having so much pain with her own body that she was unable to walk. She started using my stretches daily and in 2 weeks was able to go on a hiking vacation with her family.

A student came to me and stated that she wanted to be a contortionist.  She was so tight in her shoulders, she couldn’t do a bridge and get her head off the floor. Her hips were also extremely tight.  We worked very slowly & steadily to improve her, and 4 years later she got her dream and was working as a contortionist in Cirque du Soleil.

(A before and after of one of Alixa’s clients)

DN: What drives you?

AS: Definitely what drives my is seeing the joy in students.  I love seeing someone who was always in pain feel better, or having that student who felt like a failure light up because they have had a success.  Flexibility is hard work, there is nothing easy about it in the beginning if you do it correctly, but it is so rewarding to see the changes in the students and to see them gradually become naturally flexible and to love doing it.  It is the best feeling when you able to give the tools to a student to help them improve and to hopefully stop them from being injured before it happens.

DN: What do you hate to see the most that’s currently in the industry?

AS: Improper technique.  It is very easy to do things wrong, and the students like to do everything on their good leg, or with their hips unsquared etc. because it is much easier.  But not doing flexibility in the correct alignment or on both sides equally, is so damaging to the body!  I think a perfect example is with back flexibility.  Most students use their middle/lower back to bend at because it is easiest and their cores are weak.  To do back flexibility correctly, they need good core strength and to use their hip flexibility & upper back/shoulders- not their middle/lower backs.  This takes longer to learn and is not as much fun, as students have to focus on good technique.  However, it will be the difference between having back pain & problems later on, or being safe & having a healthy spine their entire lives.

DN: What would you say is your no.1 tip tip for safe stretching?

This is a tricky question because I don’t think you can nail it down to one.  

1st I would say correct alignment & technique is very important during stretching.  

2nd It is important to relax.  I use mobility exercises with all my stretches to help the body relax, and to assist students who are very stuck improve more quickly & gently.

3rd  Making sure you stretch all areas of the body.  For example, ballet students tend to focus on turn out as they need it so desperately.  However, they often make themselves very flexible in one area and neglect others, creating imbalances which then cause overuse injuries.   They can improve much more quickly by stretching the glute & IT band areas which will open up their hip flexibility overall.

The Alixa Flexibility Programme offers student workshops, teacher certification courses and specialist contortion programmes. It’s currently on its extensive tour of the U.S, followed by Australia, the U.K and Canada. For more information on courses, locations and dates, please see the website following this link Alixa Flexibility

Safe stretching!

Dance Niche

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Fame The Musical | UK Tour

Fame The Musical | UK Tour

Fame is synonymous with the 80’s, shiny spandex and a myriad of coloured leg warmers.  Following the huge success of the original 1980 film, a subsiquent spin-off series was aired, and the immensely talented cast also went on to have a string of creative successes of their own. So the word ‘FAME’ is heavily ingrained in people’s minds, and hearts, but just how well would this new 30th anniversary musical production stand up to the die hard Fame fanatics (myself included) , I was about to find out.

Sat in the auditorium of The Palace Theatre Manchester, there is a buzz of excitement like I’ve never known before a production. As everyone takes their seats, theres a burst of brightly coloured neon lights, and we open on a drummer and guitarist playing the oh-so-familiar chords of a certain ‘light up the sky like a flame’ song. But its just a tantalisingly  slither, as we realise its the beginning scene of auditions at New York’s Performing Arts School. (You can read our advice about auditions here Top Audition Hacks ) We then cut intermintenly to the other auditionees, until the final line up is revealed.

We soon get to the nitty gritty of the production with the freshman year, “a discovery of self” proclaims Mr Myres, the resident drama teacher, (played by Cameron Johnson). We get to meet the main characters, suitably nervous and unsure in disposition, well, apart from the gregarious, larger than life Joe, played effortlessly by Albey Brookes, who knows where the actor end and the character begins?!

Nick Piazza, played by Keith Jack (who shot to fame in the BBC series ‘Any Dream Will Do’) is a serious classical actor, solely focused on honing his skills, and oblivious to the romantic advances of his classmates, Serena Katz aka Molly McGuire, who’s vocals will blow you away in contrast to her nerdy and unasuming character!

We meet Tyrone jackson, (Jamal Crawford) who plays a typical wayward teen, angry at the injustice in the world, particularly surrounding race, but who’s passion and natural flare for dance carry him through. He is instantly attracted to Iris Kelly (Jorgie Porter of Hollyoaks fame) who’s a prima ballerina in the making with all the airs and graces that seemingly come with it. She confides in him that its all an act and she desperately poor, and once her guards are down, they become romantically involved.

Fiery latina Carmen Diaz is played by Stephanie Rojas, is ravenous for fame and will stop at nothing to reach her goal. She strikes up an unlikely partnership with Schlomo (Simon Anthony) a classical trained violinist, who’s father is also a famous violinist, but who’s rather be tickling the ivories of a piano, and sets up a rock band. Mr Sheinkopf is the German music teacher, and vocal about his dislike for rock and roll.

Lambchops played by Louisa Beadal, is the rock chic tomboy, who is the drummer of the band, never taking school seriously, and is constantly mocked by Goody, the trumpet player in the band, for being ‘a girl’.

Then there is Mabel Washington aka Hayley Johnston. She’s a talented dancer/singer, but struggles to reign in her love for food, and consequently, her weight, to the dismay of resident choreographer, Miss Bell, played by Katie Warsop.

All this is headed up by Principal Miss Sherman, (renowned Mica Paris) who’s comes down hard on the kids for not performing well enough academically, but truly loves and cares for every one of them and has the best interests at heart.

The quality of the dancing throughout the show is tremendous, and the energy never wains! We are treated to technically beautiful ballet scenes. Jorgie Porter positively glows whilst executing them, nailing double pirouettes into arabesques effortlessly! (Jorgie told us about her previous dance training when we interviewed her during a press afternoon. You can read about it here Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical ) In stark contrast, the hip hop and jazz styles certainly pack a punch, as do the enviable leg extensions by the ensemble! The whole cast take on each genre with finesse and sense of style, completely maliable and adaptable, which are sought after characteristics in they arts.

Dance and music go hand in hand, and the live instrumentals played by the multitalented cast are seamlessly woven into each scene. You truly believe you are peering in on a band rehearsal, jamming away. As for the vocals, you will be left with goosebumps, multiple times. Keith Jack has a way of story telling to his singing, perfect for the stage. Molly’s high notes are angelic to the ear. Stephanie has a real raw quality to her voice, in perfect harmony to what her character goes through. And last but certainly not least, Mica’s soulful and earthy rendition of “These are my children” received a standing ovation from the audience, mid scene! She blasts out the lyrics without loosing a drop of sincerity, in what is a completely believable emotion and performance.

The show takes us on a journey from freshman year, to senior year show, in which you see the journey the characters make, as they blossom and fulfil their destinies. Those years are melted away by clever snippets of dialogue and scenes to show progression of time. This means there are huge amounts of swift changes for the cast and scenery, but its done in a way to mimic the fast paced nature of being in the arts. Subtle effects like the hushed sound of traffic in the background, add to the believability of New York life. I also have to mention the wonderful addition of the original cast of Fame headshots are illuminated as the backdrop, which light and fade echoing who’s currently in the scene. The journey ends with the whole auditorium on its feet, dancing and singing your cares away to the title song track, in what is almost an immersive theatre experience! I defy you not to join in!

Fame is as relevant and real now, as it was back in the 80’s. Controversial topics such as discrimination, race, drugs, teen angst and unrequited love hit home to many. Being a performing arts student, putting yourself on show and subject to criticism is a tough job, one made incessantly harder by dealing with the normal difficulties of growing up. To quote Miss Bell ” artists are special” and if you’ve got a special something within you, you need to work hard, fight to let it shine and the rewards will be limitless.

The production is currently running at the Palace and Opera House Manchester until 28th July 18, before embarking on it’s mamouth nationwide tour, ending August 2019. To find your nearest venue, dates, and how to book, visit the official website Fame The Musical UK Tour

FAME LIVES FOREVER

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Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical

Jorgie Porter Talks Fame The Musical

We spoke with Jorgie about her upcoming role as Iris Kelly in the new production of Fame, her dance background, how she prepared for the role and advice for pre-professionals who want to succeed in dance or performing arts.

Marching through the busy streets of Manchester, I finally arrived at Studio 25, purpose built dance Studios with all the mod cons. As I’m guided through, I get a glimpse of Jorgie through the window, finishing off her previous interview – this girl is busy! She was in London appearing on a t.v show only the night previous, getting the first morning train to Manchester and heading straight into photo shoots, PR events and interviews. Oh the life of a pro!

I’m ushered in and greeted with a beaming, infectious smile and energy to rival a 2 year old after a nap! Her aura is open and sincere and I’m immediately at ease. It takes no time at all for us to strike up a conversation.

D.N Fame is such an iconic dance movie (which we included in our all time top dance movie list Top Dance Movies You Need To Watch ) Had you watched it growing up?

J.P – It wasn’t really my era, it was more the music. When you’re in dance school and do a show, music from Grease and other films are always used, as was music from Fame. I remember opening a show with a kick *demonstrates* to a Fame track. Obviously I’ve seen every show and production of it now, I needed to find out ‘who am I?!’

D.N – Your character, Iris, is a trained classical dancer. Can you tell us a little about your training?

J.P – So I danced from when I was 3, with my local ballet teacher. She was like a second mum to us. We adored her, never wanted to put a foot wrong, we respected her. I learnt so much self respect and discipline through ballet. She then encouraged me to audition and I was offered a scholarship at The Hammond in Chester, a prestigious college. It’s been 10 years and I’ve been so lucky to do Hollyoaks in between, but now coming back to it, I’m so much more confident.

D.N – Iris puts on a facade of being wealthy and upper class. Is it easy to be drawn into pretending to be something your not, in the industry your in?

J.P – Obviously with acting, it’s different, you’re pretending to be a different character. My friends literally save my life! It’s a lot harder to pretend or hide when you’ve got friends around. Iris Kelly doesn’t have that, but she finds it in a romantic relationship with Tyrone Jackson, that’s why they become so close, so tight. She opens up to him about being poor. As a kid, you think not having the right clothes and trainers matter, it’s a big deal. The show deals with so much issues, it’s so good!

D.N – You said you had 10 years off dance. How did you prepare for this role?

J.P – Basically, rehearsals for this have been enough! It’s mind boggling! When your mind has moved away from making your body move, it takes a little while to reconnect it. Rehearsals are so intense, every day, with everyone! Some are just out of college and have so much energy, amazing! I’m so lucky to be in it with them! All your training comes back, you have to do it full out every time. You know know, to be better, you just have to try harder.

D.N – Do you go en pointe in the production?

J.P – I can do pointe, but the fact that the tour is so long and a lot of the stages are so raked, I didn’t want to do it it and have to come off it. I didn’t want to jeopardise the whole show for one night of brilliant pointe shoe movement. I’d love to do pointe all the way through, it’s just not ideal. There’s other dances in it like street dance, and there’s just no time, it’s so fast paced this show!

D.N – Lastly, what advice would give anyone who’s wanting to peruse a career in dance or the stage?

J.P – It is the hardest thing ever! If you aren’t fully immersed into the hard work, if you think you’re going to have an easy time, it’s not for you. You have to take criticism and make it into a good thing, because you will get criticised no matter what.

(You can read our advice on how to take criticism and corrections here Receiving Corrections- How to be a good student )

You can watch the rest of the interview over on our Instagram page @danceniche using the new IGTV feature or on our YouTube channel using this link Jorgie Porter Fame Full Interview

Fame is premiering Friday 20th July at The Palace & Opera House Manchester, where it runs until 28th July. You can buy tickets through the website https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/fame-the-musical/palace-theatre-manchester/ or by calling 0844 871 3019. The Production then heads off to Glasgow to continue its nationwide tour lasting until August 2019! More more information on dates and venues, you can visit the official Fame The Musical website http://fameuktour.co.uk/

#famelivesforever

#iwannaliveforever

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Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

You’ve probably all heard of some amazing tap festivals held around the world, America, Barcelona, Stockholm to name a few, but where are the UK ones?! Let me tell you all about the new kid on the uk tap block!

Founded in 2015 and born from a family love for the genre, 4 women, (2 mums and 2 daughters) decided to put their best feet forward and bring tap to the masses here in Great Britannia. Brighton Tap Festival is the brain child of Karen Spall, Jamie Spall, Sarah Ivory and Kate Ivory-Jordan. Jamie and Kate have been tappers since the were tots, and have since shuffled their way around the world, dancing and learning from some of the best teachers and fellow hoofers. Whilst on their travels, they noticed the huge interest and popularity of tap dancing in other countries, yet the UK lacked the same enthusiasm. You can read our thoughts about why this might be on our previous article Tap Revival – The Decline And Resurrection . Keen tappers would have to travel out of the country, and as such incur great travelling expenses that some would be unable to justify, despite their tapping passion. And so the girls sought to change that and Brighton Tap Festival was established.

WHAT’S INVOLVED

The festival itself is a 3 day event open to anyone with a love for tap. It caters for every age and ability, from beginners to more advanced, and professional levels, so everyone will feel comfortable but still have the option to challenge themselves. Classes and workshops run throughout the day, then make way for the evening events. Here’s where the festival comes into its own!

The first is the Tap Jam, where willing participants are invited into the stage and improvise to live jazz music played by the Michele Drees Trio, what a treat! If you’ve never danced to live accompaniment before, you need to give it a go at least once. There is something so spine tingly special about it. The music literally vibrates through you, giving your dancing an incomparable quality.

Next up is the Cutting Competition where competitors will stomp it out against each other to win prizes. The key is to maintain rhythm whilst impressing the judges, so any personal flair is sure to be well received! Perhaps some homework watching the great Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire might come in useful!

Lastly is the Gala Night, a perfect way to conclude the festival. The whole faculty give a performance alongside some of the biggest UK hoofing talent, with live music from Michele Drees again. Jamie Spall had this advice, “The Gala is always the best event of the festival, and if I could recommend attending only one, it would be this one!”

Don’t worry though, there’s no obligation to participate in the evening festivities. They hold so much entertainment, good music and phenomenal talent, that you can simply buy a ticket and immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere!

TICKETS

The festival have a tiered system. The lowest is a 2 class pass. This enables you to attend any 2 classes of your choice over the entire weekend, perfect if you can’t commit to a set day or just popping in and out. You can also choose from a 1,2 or 3 day pass, giving you access to all the classes taking place on the day(s) you’ve selected. Workshops and evening events are extra and tickets need to be purchased separately, unless, that is, you go for the all inclusive pass, which does exactly what it says on the tin!

DETAILS

For 2018, the festival will run from 31st Aug -2nd Sept. Boasting some of the most admired and influential tappers of the current generation, including Jason Janas, Derick Grant , Adele Joel and the D’Angelo Bros to name a few. Jamie and Kate will also be taking classes! Visit the website www.brightontapfestival.org.uk for tickets and more information. What’s more is the girls have kindly organised a discount code for you, our readers! Send them a message through the contact page of their website and quote DANCENICHE which entitles you to 20% off ticket prices! What other excuse do you need?!

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To The Dancers Who Are Afraid Of Taking The Next Step

To The Dancers Who Are Afraid Of Taking The Next Step

This article comes from the heart, and is a very personal one, but one that I want to give others the courage that may be lacking in taking that next step in their dance career.

At the age of 17, after dancing for 5 nights a week since I was around 12 (I was a late starter) I turned my back on dance. I’d taken all the higher grades exams I could and everyone else in my class were going on to do teaching qualifications or (successfully) auditioning for full time dance education. I wanted so desperately to perform – to dance, yet lacked any self confidence in perusing a career. I had all the artistry and enthusiasm yet lacked what I would call a ‘typical‘ dancers body. I stood at a petite 5″1, predisposed to carrying weight on my upper thighs and bum, and forward facing hip sockets rendered my natural range of turnout almost non existent. In my head, I knew exactly what and how my body should be executing elements, yet my body was unable to comply. I would never ‘fit in’, I would never be ‘good enough’, I would never be successful in auditioning, and so I didn’t.

I was angry and biter at the world of dance. How could it be so biased to judge a dancer on such things that are out of their control, as opposed to seeing the sheer joy and the ability to project emotions whilst dancing?! Isn’t that what the true artistry of Dance is all about?! And so I shut the door on it completely. I left dance and never looked back.

Fast forward 17 years, I take adult classes, and have begun my career as a dance teacher. Dance will now always be a part of my life, and for that, I am forever grateful. I also have a family, with 2 young girls, so I would not change a single thing, but I always wonder ‘what if?What if I’d been brave enough to audition? What if I’d gone to full time dance education? Would I have succeeded? Would I have had improved my ability, honed my craft? I will never know.

And there lies the point of this article. If you don’t at least try, you will never know what the answer will be. Ok, it might not be the outcome you’d hope for, but at least you’d have give it your best shot. You could walk away confidently knowing you tried your very best but perhaps it wasn’t meant to be, and so find a different path to walk. Please don’t let opportunities pass you by without at least giving it a chance. What’s the worst that could happen?! You don’t get in?! So what! You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. Better than living with regret.

Regret is such a tragic emotion. To torment ourselves with the ‘what ifs and buts’ is cruel and self destructive. We can not rewrite the past. What is done, is done. No one knows the future or what lies ahead for us on our path. All we can hope for is that when we arrive at one of many cross roads, that we will take the path that most serves us, and trust in our own judgement.

Believe me when I say you have to chase down your dreams and fight to keep them alive. Have faith in your abilities, which are unique to you. Dr Seuss had the right idea;

Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive that is youer than you!

What makes you different, sets you apart from the crowd, makes you stand out, makes you shine! Go to as many auditions as you can. Yes that may mean a lot of rejection, but somewhere, someone is looking for that unique quality that you possess. You have to go find them.

If you want to take the next step but are unsure on how to go about it, talk to your dance teacher, they would be both honoured and proud to help you. You can also read our article about audition hacks to help take the guessing work out of it and put any anxieties to bed. Read it here Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Above all, I want you to have courage. Have courage to follow your passion, charge at it head on and don’t stop until you get there. What happens after that, who can tell, but there’s only one way to find out…………..

What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? Erin Hanson

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Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

Mental Health In Dancers | Why Is No-one Talking About It?

We are historically inept at discussing our mental health in every day life, and even more so for dancers in the arts industry. We are here to highlight these uncomfortable conversations in the hope they become that little bit less uncomfortable.

Discussing mental health will always be a taboo. In recent times, we have seen a rise in celebrities talking about their own mental health battles, along with the subject being more present in the media. Specific organisations are campaigning to thrust it to the forefront of people’s awareness, in the hope of breaking down the wall of silence that surrounds the stigma.

Statistics inform us that 1 in 4 people are plagued with mental health issues right now. Just using that statistic alone means that within your group of friends, at least one of them will be suffering behind closed doors. Now look at a dance class, how many dancers take part, and apply the same statistic, alarming isn’t it. But what’s even more alarming is that there are virtually no studies specifically on mental health in dancers. Why? Entertainment Assist are an Australian organisation conducted a study on dancers and found their statistics to be even more dire than the general consensus – 1 in 3 dancers were suffering. An alarming figure considering no one is addressing it.

Exercise – specifically dance, has long been proven to help improve mental health and cognitive functions. This coupled with the display of euphoria projected by dancers during performances , could be the reason we are still inadequately addressing mental health and well-being of those in this chosen field. Do we assume that they aren’t affected? That they can’t possibly be affected because they are doing what they love and look how happy they are! There lies the problem. We assume. Assume that because they ‘look’ happy whilst they perform that they are the same whilst at home. How wrong could we be. There are so many reasons why dancers suffer, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, obsessive tendencies are just a few to mention, let alone the huge come down after the high of performing, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

We are honoured to be alliances with Terry Hide MA MBACP, ex professional dancer with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) turned psychotherapist. He uses his first hand knowledge of the industry coupled with his expertise in the psychology field to specifically help dancers that are suffering behind the scenes and highlight their plight so that we can be better at identifying the signs, addressing the issues and ultimately support those that need it the most. He gave us some advice for dancers and their nearest and dearest or recognising symptoms and taking the first steps towards getting help.

Some Symptoms

You may find yourself wanting to be alone when you are normally gregarious. You may also be feeling tearful, tired or lethargic and irritable. Another common symptom is being short tempered with people you are close with. You may feel fearful of something but you don’t know what the something is. You may may have lost your appetite or obsessively control your eating (the start of anorexia/bulimia). You could also become controlling in other aspects of your life. These are only a few of the symptoms that you may experience. As mentioned above, each one of us is unique and therefore the symptoms will manifest themselves in different ways. In addition to the above symptoms, there are other factors to take into consideration. Hormonal issues around menarche, puberty, adolescence and for females, the menstrual cycle.

Most importantly, symptoms are a manifestation of underlying issues and your body’s warning that you need to deal with them. Unfortunately, the worldwide medical profession, on the whole, only treat the symptoms, usually by medication, rather than dealing holistically with a patient to find out what is creating the symptoms.

Being a ‘rock’ in isolation and being ‘strong’ is sometimes detrimental to oneself as it saps energy from our own self-healing system. The British resolve of the ‘stiff upper lip’ doesn’t work at all, it only exacerbates the problem by keeping it inside of us, which is toxic to our mental and physical health. For you to ask for help when you recognise the symptoms, is in itself the first step to healing. For some who are normally resistant to showing signs of ‘weakness’, asking for help is the bravest step.

If you identify any of these symptoms in yourself or someone close to you, as Terry said, the first and bravest step is recognising there is a problem. Problems don’t go away on their own, and if your mind is not working at its optimum best, how do expect dance, your craft, to be? If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable confiding in your nearest and dearest, reach out to one of the many organisations, fully trained, many having had their own first hand experience with mental health issues, who are ready to support you.

MIND are a mental health charity set up to help those in need or just be an unbiased eat to listen. You can visit their website www.mind.org.uk , call their helpline 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 . Terry Hyde also has a website for his services specific to those in dance www.counsellingfordancers.com or through Facebook: @counsellingfordancers

Twitter: @counselingdance

Instagram: @counselingfordancers . Alternatively you can contact us here at Dance Niche, and we would be more than happy to pass on any questions or worries you have to Terry.

Please remember, you are not on your own. Many people before you have had their own mental health issues and made it through the other side, and many people after you will suffer. It is much more common than anyone cares to make out, but it’s only when we talk about it and face it head on, that any progress can be made. Don’t suffer in silence, someone is always ready to listen.

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Dance Nutrition | A Dancer’s Guide On How To Fuel The Body

Dance Nutrition | A Dancer’s Guide On How To Fuel The Body

There is a huge misconception that dancer’s – particularly ballerinas, don’t eat, always on a diet, or have eating disorders. Sadly, whilst the latter maybe true for a lot of dancers (a whole other article in itself) this is simply not true. Read on to find to find out exactly what and when full time dance students should be eating to correctly fuel their bodies.

Firstly, there is no way a professional dancer could perform night after night, after training and rehearsing all day and still keep their bodies strong, at their peak, and with optimum energy stores, not to mention longevity of career, without eating sufficiently. They have to eat, and eat intelligently and mindfully. Of course, they have access to nutritional experts to guide them and help them to stay on top of their game. But what about students?? Young girls and boys who dance all day throughout the week, learning and honing their craft. The way they fuel their body will not be the same as the professionals just yet, but they will still need to be consuming a fair amount, to help their bodies build the muscles needed to be a strong and competent performer. THIS is what I want to educate to these young adults, at a time when their bodies have been through some hugely significant changes and undoubtedly begin to compare themselves to other dancers they may meet. I want to shatter these misconceptions that can manifest into something that ultimately shatters careers – and lives.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Laura Harrison from Dynamics Chester. She was a dancer, has a degree in Sports science, MSC in nutrition and now runs her own fitness centre. If anyone would truly understand the demands of a dancer AND be able to back that up with sound, nutritional advice, it’s her! We put our heads together and came up with a healthy eating guide for full time dance students and dancers who are consistently training throughout the week and want to maintain their current weight/fitness. Laura was keen to stress “This guide will be a very general idea on the types of food students should be eating and how often, to get them through their current dance programmes, maintain their energy levels and help to build the very muscles they are honing during training. This will also differ slightly depending on the physique and build of the dancer and how many hours training they do, but in the whole it’s a good source of information to educate dancers on nutrition”

BREAKFAST

As the old saying goes, it’s the most important meal of the day, and Laura agrees “Breakfast kick starts your day and wakes your body and metabolism up! It’s a good idea to make sure it’s high in protein to help stabilise blood sugar levels from the start” Ideal foods include eggs (poached, boiled, scrabbled) salmon, avocados, brown bread and porridge.

Breakfast cereals are one to avoid. They generally have lots of hidden sugars on them, which if you consume at the start of the day, will cause your sugar levels to rise to a high peak, which in turn will cause a crash mid morning (hello elevenses). Fresh fruit juice also has a hidden sugar agenda! Laura informs “a typical 25ml glass of fresh fruit juice contains up to 22g of sugar!” So while juice is a good contributor to your daily fruit and veg intake, it’s a good idea to limit your serving, adding water to dilute the amount.

LUNCH

Lunch is the meal half way between your day. You’ve already been dancing for a good few consecutive hours, but still have the rest of the day to go, so you need to keep your energy levels up. “You’ll need protein and carbs to sustain you” Laura continues, “……a ratio to 2-1 protein to carbs is a good rule of thumb to stick too, not forgetting lots of veg and greens.”

Ideal sources of protein would be chicken or turkey. White meats are more easily digested by the body and are much leaner. Eggs and fish like tuna and Mackerel are also great additions.

Carb options would be Brown rice, quinoa, lentils and pulses. Brown pasta, bread and potatoes are also carb rich, but they may leave you feeling to bloated and ‘heavy’ to continue to dance on, so eat those sparingly.

Green veg like broccoli, spinach and kale are perfect, but any veg will boost your vitamin and mineral intake! There’s a saying Laura likes, ‘eat the rainbow’ which basically means your plate needs to be packed full of colourful veg and fruit, not just beige carbs.

DINNER

“The idea of your evening meal is to replenish the carbs you have been burning off all day” says Laura, “although you should try and make your evening meal the smallest, so you’re not going to bed on a full stomach. The body finds it much more difficult to digest food whilst the body is in sleep state. It’s best to try and eat your dinner within the hour you have finished dancing, to adequately replenish your stores of energy.”

Brown rice and pasta are good examples of evening meals, just watch portion control. Fish and meat can be your protein sources, just like your lunch. Salads work well as an evening meal, offering a lighter meal before settling down, and an easy way to include your veg and up your leafy greens intake.

SNACKS

Laura is an advocate for snacking, “Snacks are ideal for in between meals and important to keep your blood sugar levels constant and consistent, avoiding the peak and dips effect. You just need to be mindful and intelligent with your choices.”

Fruit and veg are ideal to snack on. Apples are a great source of fibre to aid digestion, bananas are packed with protein, carrot and cucumber sticks are perfect as well. Protein snack balls are good for a boost, as are nuts and seeds, which are full of the good fats our body needs, particularly the joints, but be mindful that they are also high calorie, so again, use portion control and limit your intake. Yoghurts are also good for protein, and help with calcium levels.

Smoothies are a convenient snack on the go, but be wary of what you’re putting in them, “2 parts veg to 1 part fruit” Laura recommends, to avoid it becoming to rich in natural sugars which will cause your levels to spike. Avocados, beetroots, kale, spinach, cucumber, carrots are blend-able veggies with hardly any taste once mixed together. If you then choose fruit with a distinctive taste – pineapples, mangos, mixed berries, they will then take over the taste buds. You may need to add milk or water to loosen the consistency.

Some pointers to remember;

• SHIFT thought patterns from ‘diet’ to ‘fuelling the body’

• AIM for 7 portions of fruit and veg per day

• STAY hydrated, aim between 2-3 litres per day

• EAT little and often through the day to help stabilise blood sugar levels and avoid ‘dips’

• SWAP bread, pasta and rice for the brown variety to aid digestion

• PREP is key, prepare meals and snacks the night before

To conclude, full time dancers and students require an adequate, balanced diet to not only provide them with the energy and stamina throughout the day, but to aid muscle growth and prevent injury. Without it, a dancers career would be quickly over before it had even begun. I hope this serves as a reminder to young, impressionable girls and boys out there, that dancers do in fact eat properly, if they want longevity.

Again, this information is a loose idea on they types of foods students need to be eating. There are a great many factors that contribute to differences – age, build, gender, hours spent dancing, but on the whole, this is a good guide to maintaining a healthy balance and mindset towards food. Laura and I felt so passionately about this, that we are also preparing guides to eating for performances, to get lean, and also some meal idea suggestions to take the hassle away, so watch this space!

If you don’t want to miss out, why not sign up to our website?! It’s free and you’ll receive new articles straight to your inbox! Subscribe here https://danceniche.us17.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=e45dd59903ec166f4ca174572&id=a07c82fcac

Dance Niche.

With special thanks to Laura Harrison of Dynamics Chester, for providing a wealth of nutritional knowledge www.dynamicsdanceandfitness.com

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Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

In years gone by, teachers and studio owners noticed a growing trend of a decline in students in their tap classes. Read on for the possible causes of this and those that are championing an almighty return to greatness!

Many have put this decline down to the sheer difficulty and intricate foot and ankle technique putting students off. We all know the feeling of being almost beaten by a sequence of tap steps, you hit a wall and feel you are never going to ‘get’ it. It’s at this point that you either give up all together or push through that wall, but boy does that take A LOT of mental strength, persistence and dare I say it, stubbornness. If you don’t hold that love for tap, then you’ll most likely knock it on the head and wave your little white flag of defeat. It’s not always forever though. Teachers have commented on younger students nearly having a break from tap. They give up classes when they’re younger, only for some to return a few years down the line. This may be due to varying abilities and cognitive maturity. Children all develop at different rates, so some may be finding tap more difficult earlier on, and then want to try again when their brains are more developed and firing those signals at much quicker rate to enable them to execute the steps properly.

It has also been commented on the ‘style’ of tap being to blame. The Tap style of late was very ‘broadway’. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love the glamour, pizazz and sequins, but that just wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the most recent generation of teenagers. Tap became a bit lame for want of a better word. These teens saw their parents watching those (wonderful) old MGM movies, seeing those tap routines and the getting to class and seeing the same style and steps. Teens are fickle creatures! So perhaps not wanting to lose their street cred had something to do with the decline.

However in more recent years, there’s been a steady incline in tap class numbers, but why?! Well, as mentioned before in talking about positive male ballet role models on social media, the same can be said for tap. Sisters Chloe & Maude have been something of a tapping sensation. Their prevalent presence on social media has brought a distinct new style of tap to the masses – rhythm tap. Rhythm tap is almost the polar opposite of the traditional style tap syllabuses taught in dance schools. Less about the lines and more about the sounds. Less upright and on your toes technique and more earthy, down into the ground. It’s a very free moving style, allowing your body to do whatever it needs to do to fire out the sounds from below. And that’s what makes it altogether more appealing, it looks more fun and expressive. The girl’s furious footwork often beggars belief, and you’re wondering why there aren’t any sparks coming from their shoes! They also have an infectious passion for tap that never falters, spreading the joy of creating rhythm with just your own feet where ever they time-step to!

So perhaps if you’re a studio owner, perhaps you could shake up your regular syllabus tap classes by doing a few free work rhythm tap sessions or host a rhythm tap workshop to reignite students love for the genre. Yes, it’s a very different style to traditional tap, but it can only add to your student’s roundedness as a dancer and performer, and may just inspire a new passion.

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Let’s Hear It For The Boys – because ballet isn’t all tutus and tiaras. (Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

Let’s Hear It For The Boys – because ballet isn’t all tutus and tiaras. (Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

Hear the word ballet, and you probably conjure up an image of a little girl with a pink frufru tutu on, pink ballet shoes, pink wrap cardigan, pink, pink, pink. It’s no wonder that there is a lack of boys in ballet classes! But all that is slowly starting to change.

Since time began, people have always put certain occupations and past times into little tiny stereotypical boxes. Firefighter – man, nurse – woman, football – man, ballerina – woman. You’re either pink, or blue, and woe betide you if you decide otherwise, because the whole world will try and convince you otherwise. But why?! Thank goodness that nowadays, these stereotypes are being blown apart. And the world of ballet is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, we are only just scratching the surface here, but it’s definitely a scratch in the right direction!

Perhaps most of the problem stems from the fact that previously, the majority of professional male ballet dancers were gay or at least, perceived to be. Not that that should have absolutely anything to do with it, but in years gone by, when the world was a less tolerant place than it is now, boys interested in ballet were put in another little box all of their own, that they too must be gay. Like gay was some form of insult (insert eye roll here). This would either make them quit ballet, or not start altogether for fear of being ridiculed.

Thank goodness the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) has come up with a solution. They have recently launched a new programme, Project B. Their aim is to encourage and support more boys and men to participate in ballet classes by 2020 – the RAD’s centenary year. They want to help enrol more male dance teachers (as the teaching industry is predominantly women) to help encourage more boys to take classes and have role models to look up to.

(Iain Mackay leading a Boys Ballet Masterclass.)

They also plan, as well as many other aspects, on hosting more boys only workshops with specific male repertoire, so boys and young men won’t feel outnumbered and so discouraged from participating.

(Boys Only! Photo by David Tett, courtesy Royal Academy of Dance.)

The program has already been a huge success, and looks set to continue on the same direction. Bravo RAD. For further information on the project, visit their website http://www.royalacademyofdance.org/projectb

We all know the amazing benefits of taking regular ballet classes are – good posture, healthy supple joints, long lean muscles. It’s now become popular for football players to take ballet classes as part of their fitness regime. They might sound like polar opposites, but think about it for a second. Ballet will help with having that explosive power needed to jump into the air for that header, it will stretch everything out so that sliding tackle is less likely to cause any pulled muscles or ligaments, and it will definitely help with agility, making them light on their feet when dribbling around opponents! In fact, it’s been documented that celebrity footballers Ryan Giggs and the Ferdinand brothers take classes, and owe many attributed skills to ballet. So perhaps when young boys, who see their idols talking about going to ballet classes, they will see it in a different light and think “If they can do it, so

Social media has also helped the situation along. With the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and particularly Instagram, which hosts an impressive dance community, we now know more about celebrities and idols than ever before. We follow their daily lives, their habits, their work and home lives. Dancers are no exceptions here. Many of the professional dancers use Instagram as a way of documenting their lives and connecting with the public. Take Steven McRae for example. Steven is a Principal dancer with the Royal Ballet. He is known for his strong, sound technique and athletic performances. He is also known for being a loving family man, married to Elizabeth Harrod, a soloist with the Royal Ballet, and their 2 adorable children (really need to check out their IG accounts, seriously cute as a button, doe eyes bambinos). McRae mostly documents his dancing life, rehearsals, backstage, warm up routines and eye watering stretching, but he also indulges is with how kind and gentile he is with his wife, and how he dotes on the children. Hugely admirable stuff. He, along with countless other male dancers, are proving old stereotypes wrong. They are shouting from the rooftops that there is absolutely no shame in boys/men being dancers. They are physically strong and fit and able to express themselves fully in their roles without sexuality even being questioned. Applaudable role models.

Girls have always outnumbered boys in dance classes, but no genre more so than ballet. I hear many studio owners and teachers crying out for more boys, so we all have to ask “What can We do?” Well, advertising is key here. Most studios I’ve seen advertise their ballet classes, usually stick with the pink theme, tutu’s tiaras and sparkly wands. Not exactly shouting out to the boys! Let’s make signage more colour neutral. Let’s just have bright colours instead of a sea of pink. Let’s have some boy models on the posters. That goes for Dance shops too. Hardly the most inviting place for boys/men to come and buy their ballet gear, if the pink is glaring at you from the shop front before you’ve even got through the door! Let’s search for more male teachers, be it as permanent members of staff or one off workshops hosts, so boys have someone to aspire to. We can all play our part, no matter how small, in helping our young boys realise a dream and being confident and brave enough to follow it through.

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ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

ENB’s ‘My First Ballet – Swan Lake’ Review

The English National Ballet have created their ‘My First Ballet’programme, retelling classic ballet stories with more of a U rating, (let’s face it, the world of ballet is often gory and tragic) suitable for little eyes, but still as much artistry and original scores to satisfy any ballet enthusiast. With help from a narrator and a shortened running time, they bring ballet productions to the masses, inspiring the next generation of art lovers.

The Swan Lake production starts with a friendly and theatrical narrator, Louise Calf, on stage, setting the scene and detailing the backstory. She is enthusiastic and expressive, perfect for captivating little minds and getting them to engage, yet quietly sits at the front of the stage and observes the following scenes, as not to become a distraction.

The dancers themselves are all members of ENB’s ballet school. It gives them valuable performance experience, as well as a taster of what it’s like to tour with a production and dance those iconic roles that are the pinnacle of every professional ballet dancer’s career. However, don’t let the fact that the cast are still students put you off. The English National Ballet School is a prestigious education system for only the very best emerging artistes of the future.Although, Swan Lake is regarded as one of the most demanding productions, not least because the characters Odette/Odile are traditionally played by the same dancer, here they are individual roles. However, even the legendary 32 fouettés (series of difficult, consecutive turns en pointe) have been included in this production. On this particular showing, I only counted 29, whether I miscounted whilst being in awe, or the dancer felt something was amiss and didn’t complete the whole series, that in itself is no mean feat, and they were executed perfectly!

The production has been cleverly reworked by Lou Cope, with choreography by Antonio Castilla and musical arrangements by Gavin Sutherland. There is a great emphasis on ballet mime, with is echoed through the narration, further helping to bring the story to life for the younger ones. The music scores have been shortened to keep production time down yet still include the most beloved melodies, and the choreography still contains some of the classic repertoire whilst injecting moments of humour and simplicity. No diving to her death for Odette here. The story now goes that Odile cannot go on with the trickery of the evil Rothbart’s plan, so she reveals her true identity at the ball, scuppering Rothbart’s efforts, and sides with Prince Siegfried and Odette, helping them to overcome the sorcerer and follow the path of true love, whilst Rothbart himself is released from the clutches of the dark side, to live harmoniously, and everyone, in true Disney style, lives happily ever after.

I’d also like to mention the wonderful programme that has been put together, again with little ones in mind. It contains beautiful illustrations by Mark Ruffle, the storyline written down with photos and picture symbols depicting the plot, some classic ballet moves and mimes to spot and even pages to colour in. And of course who can resist production merchandise at the end?!

From start to finish, My First Ballet Swan Lake is a complete sensory experience. It’s a wonderful way to introduce a younger audience to the world of ballet and the arts, perfect for their first to the theatre, and no doubt will encourage them to want to see more productions, as well as perhaps inspiring them into becoming the ballet stars of the future.

The tour is showing at The Opera House Manchester until Sunday 29th, with last minute tickets still available via this link http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/opera-house-manchester/or call the box office on 0844 871 3018. They then continue on to;

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool 5th & 6th May

http://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/

New Victoria Theatre, Woking 12th & 13th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/new-victoria-theatre/

Princess Theatre, Torquay 19th & 20th May

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/my-first-ballet-swan-lake/princess-theatre-torquay/

All information can also be found on ENB’s website www.ballet.org/myfirstballet

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Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Audition Hacks – Advice For Dance Auditions You Need To Know About

Going for an audition for a a dance school, company, or a working contract can be quite daunting, especially if you’re still relatively new to auditioning. We’ve complied a list of things to remember to help take some of the nerves and anxiety away so you can concentrate on showcasing all that you have to offer!

RESEARCH

Do your homework. Look into the company who you are auditioning for. Look for things like their background or history, what style they focus on, who the lead director is. This will give you focus on what you may need to work on. Perhaps the director is a stickler for technique, so you can really set to work on honing and refining yours. Perhaps the focus is more on performance and emotions, so you can go away and add more raw, real facial expressions and tiny details that will give your dancing that added extra special something. Also, if you do your research into the history of the company, you show that you are an already dedicated student, that you use your initiative and have a genuine interest in the company, earning you extra brownie points.

WORKSHOPS

It’s a good idea to take some open workshops on the lead up to your audition. This environment is very similar to that of an audition, 1 or 2 teachers or directors and a room full of talented, enthusiastic dancers, all wanting to do their best. It will help you get used to that type of competitive atmosphere that can really hold back your dancing. Another thing to add is that you will have to pick up choreography super quick, and be able to retain it and apply your technique to it straight away. This skill only gets better with practice. In class, when we study syllabus work, it’s the same exercises over and over, and we learn choreography at such a slower, less pressurised rate. Your brain needs to adjust to receiving information quickly and getting your body to do what you want it to do straight away.

STAND OUT

Auditions are busy places. So many bodies come through the doors, just numbers and unknown faces to the directors. You need to make them remember you. Where you choose to stand in the room says a lot about you. Don’t hide at the back where you might get lost amongst other dancers. It can come across as lacking in confidence. Come to the front, be confident. Hold your ground. You deserve to be there. Also think about what you wear. Black is a flattering colour yes, but also popular. Wear something that shows a bit of personality, a pop of colour. It’ll make you easily recognisable and memorable when they are making their decisions afterwards. This brings us nicely to our next tip…….

CLEVER CHOICES

When choosing what you will wear, you need to think about what sort of body type you have, and how to make the most of it. There are a few clever things you can do to help you. If you’re on the shorter side, you can choose a leotard with high cut legs, lengthening your leg line. If you want to minimise the size of your derrière, choose a leotard with cap sleeves or a boat neck line, which will give the illusion of your shoulders being broader, and evening out your figure. But be careful, leotards can also draw attention to things you may not want to, so make sure you go and try on lots of different styles before you settle so you can be confident it shows you off the best it can.

ATTITUDE

How you act in an audition will affect a directors decision greatly. Make eye contact whilst they are talking to you. If they are giving corrections as a whole, make sure you nod, or give some visible cue that you have understood what they are saying. If they give you one personally, look positive and thankful. You can read more about how to receive corrections with our helpful tips here http://danceniche.com/2017/06/06/receiving-corrections-how-to-be-a-good-student/ They will be assessing who you react to constructive criticism. They want someone who they know will listen to advice, take it on board and work on it, not necessarily someone who is already perfect. They are looking for mailable, versatile dancers with the potential to learn so they can be moulded into exactly what the company needs. They are also looking for dancers with that ‘spark’, someone who clearly enjoys dancing. Make sure you show a bit of personality, smile, PERFORM! Show them that you’d be a valuable, entertaining asset, not someone who is a wall flower and uninteresting to watch.

REJECTION

Don’t let fear of rejection stop you from auditioning altogether, trust us when we say you will regret it later in life. Seize the opportunities whilst you have them. What’s the worst that can happen?! They say no. End of. Don’t let no’s stand in your way. If you don’t get accepted to your first audition, try another. Never give up hope. Remember that you won’t always be what they are looking for. It’s not that you aren’t a good dancer, only that you weren’t what they particularly needed at that time. Know that there will be a company or job that you fit into like the last piece of a jigsaw, sometimes you just need to look a bit harder. Truly believe that if you receive a no, it’s because something that’s just right for you is around the corner.

Auditioning can be a cut throat world that isn’t for the faint hearted. We hope with our tips, we’ve made it a little less daunting for you. However the most important bit of advice we could give would be to make sure you enjoy yourself and the experience each audition gives you.

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Rambert – A Linha Curva

Rambert – A Linha Curva

Sitting down to watch the famous Rambert Company put on their production at my local theatre – Theatr Clwyd, I was not sure what to expect. I’ve seen productions before, but non quite like this! It consists of individual, very distinct pieces, each with their own feel , costumes and choice in music, not to mention the style of dancing in each piece! It’s almost like separate productions, which most certainly keep you entertained the whole way through, interest never waning.

The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses

The opening scene is that of a house, with a table and chairs, a window, a bed and various doors. This piece is based upon a short animation film ‘Tango’ released in 1981. It begins with a woman sat motionless at the table, staring intently in front. She never moves. Slowly, one by one, we are introduced to new ‘characters’, the boy with the ball, the school girls, the loved up couples, the couple who’ve obviously had an argument, the woman with the baby, the athlete, the toilet repair man, the woman with shopping bags, the bedraggled woman still in her nightdress, and my favourite – the man in a twee Jumper carrying a Christmas tree! They enter through the various doors (with slams echoing the music) or window, with their own set movements lasting a couple of bars, moving individually around the room, then exiting before appearing again to perform the exact same movements. Like layers of paper mache, it begins with just one solitary story, then builds as each new character enters, ending in a bustling room full of people living their daily lives, yet never colliding, the rhythm of life. As you watch, you get a real sense of just how habitual humans are, stuck in a never ending cycle, Groundhog Day.

Symbiosis

An altogether different feel, contrasting greatly from the first piece. Symbiosis begins with a slatted screen, curving in the centre, an almost sun like shape, silhouetted by a stark bright light behind. The sinister music immediately puts you on edge – the type of music in a film where the main character is being hunted down or similar stressful situation. This is also reflected in the dancing, with the dancers interacting with each other and the choreography much more athletic, almost acrobatic. For me, it took on an Eastern feel part way through, with the constant humming of a gong bath, and the lighting behind changing to red, which with the shape of the slatted scenery, was reminiscent of the Japanese flag. This was also echoed in the choreography, becoming Thai Chi like in execution – controlled and purposeful yet fluid and free flowing. Again, the music and choreography are cleverly brought together, with athletic jumps that upon landing, echoed the beat being played by the live orchestra, adding yet another level to the percussion.

A Linha Curva

This makes a huge impact on curtain up, being dazzled by the reflective collars of the dancers, and the bellowing sound of them chanting, enough to startle you! This tribal theme is also represented in the music, which I defy you not to move in your seat to! There is a section that is acapella , with only the sounds of the jumps, claps and grunts of the dancers dictating the rhythm. We then see a group of male dancers and a single solitary female dancer. This section takes on that of a courting ritual of the bird of paradise – each male displaying his skills of athleticism, hoping to woo the female. The woman then decides she can dance better than her suitors, showing them just how it ought to be done, accompanied by the whoops and cheers from the men which are almost cat calling like. So the boys are left to their own devices and naturally, rivalry kicks in. What can only be described as a testosterone filled dance off between the alpha males. Then the climax. With music straight from a carnival in Brazil, and individual squares of brightly coloured lighting creating a grid on the floor of the stage. It’s such an intricate piece, with each dancer staying within a square of light, but still using the whole space of the stage. It’s hard to tell if the dancers are following the light patterns, or the lights are following the dancers. The precision needed by the dancers to perform the choreography yet train within their meter squared space is commendable. You cannot help but be swept away by the party atmosphere with this last piece, an audible and visual delight to conclude the production!

I must mention that there was a woman to the right of the stage, miming the music. She was so intricate in her movements that a first glance, I thought she was actually playing an instrument. This just goes to show how integral the music is to the whole of the production, that it requires someone to mime and explain the sounds of each piece to those with hearing difficulties, thus giving them the complete experience.

Rambert are performing at Theatr Clwyd until Saturday 10th March. Tickets are still available. To book, call the box office on 01352 701521 or visit their website www.theatrclwyd.com

They then head off to continue their tour with A Linha Curva and other productions at the following places;

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Thu 15 – Sat 17 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Theatre Royal Brighton

Wed 21 – Sat 24 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Tue 27 – Thu 29 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Sadler’s Wells, London

Tue 22 – Sat 26 May 2018

www.sadlerswells.com

Bergen International Festival, Norway

Wed 6 Jun 2018

www.fib.no

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Thu 22 – Sat 24 Nov 2018

www.capitaltheatres.com

All this information can also be found on Rambert’s website www.rambert.org.uk

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Comp Etiquette – A Guide To Good Manners At Competitions

Comp Etiquette – A Guide To Good Manners At Competitions

So we’ve previously written about good manners as a dancer in a studio and even dance Mum Manners, but do you know the things that are required of you at competitions and the things that are deemed acceptable?! Yet again, we are here to enlighten you to help you avoid any embarrassment!

ARRIVALS

When you first arrive at the comps, make sure you sign in so they know you are there and hand all music over that is to be played there and then. Make sure the CDs are clearly marked with your name, dance school and genre of dance. Once all that is done, make your way to the designated changing area. You may want to do your hair and make up well in advance, and just get changed half hour or so before your section is due to go on. This will give you time to warm up and suss out the stage area before your performance. We mentioned these things in our Comp Survival Tips article which you can read here.

BACKSTAGE

It is important to remember there will be lots of other dancers and teachers in the wings, whilst another dancer will be performing. You must act appropriately. Keep any warm up routines or practicing of certain elements away from the backstage area. These can be distracting for the dancer on stage and also pose a health and safety risk if there are a lot of others in the same area. Instead, find a quiet, open spot for any last minute practicing and warming up, then head backstage when you’ve got a few routines before you are due on. It’s also considered rude to talk too much or be too loud, as again, it’s disrespectful to the dancer on stage and could distract them from their routine.

CAMARADERIE

This doesn’t just mean to your own troupe or team of dancers, it extends to all the dancers competing, even if from another dance school. It’s good manners to wish a competitor good luck (or break a leg if you’re old school or superstitious like me) before they perform. Once they’ve finished their routine and head back into the wings, clap along with the audience and congratulate them, a simple “well done” will do. It shows no rivalry or animosity between different schools. It’s also customary to congratulate the winners and all other fellow competitors after adjudication, to show no ill feeling. We should be genuinely happy for them. Being humble is an admirable trait to have.

THANK YOU’S

This is a huge part of competitions and costs nothing at all. It should be second nature, but sadly it isn’t always so. Once you’ve danced, you need to curtesy before exciting the stage. It’s nice to look the adjudicator straight in the eye when doing so, it’s like a non verbal way of saying thank you. If you’re lucky enough to be placed, you should step forward out of the line up and curtesy again, to say thank you for being placed. Don’t forget to say thank you to the person giving out the medals, you don’t want to look self entitled or snatch! Be a gracious winner. The adjudicator may say what they particularly liked, what you did well or even some constructive criticism, so make sure you keep eye contact with them whilst they are talking to you to show you are listening. Just because you’ve been placed, doesn’t mean you still don’t have things to learn.

ADJUDICATION

When a section is finished, all dancers will be handed their numbers and sent back on stage for adjudication. Make a decision on which position you will stand – 5th or preparatory position are the most common. You may be stood there for a while, particularly if it’s a big section. Keep to the position you chose, keep fidgeting to a minimum, but most importantly, keep smiling! Once the adjudicator stands up to give critique and award medals, it’s customary for everyone to clap, this includes dancers too. Make sure you listen intently to their feed back, not only to show respect to the adjudicator but there maybe something that you could genuinely take away and learn from, even if it wasn’t directed at you. We mentioned this and other important things to remember in our post about receiving corrections here https://danceniche.com/2017/06/06/receiving-corrections-how-to-be-a-good-student/ As each place is awarded, you should give a small round of applause with the audience, then return to holding your number clearly with that all important smile. Then as the section is dismissed, all dancers should curtesy, as a thank you to the adjudicator and audience, before swiftly exiting the stage.

ENTERING/EXITING AUDITORIUM

Again, this pointer is common sense to most but not common knowledge. When music is playing in the auditorium, a dancer will be on stage. It is so important not to enter or exit whilst music is being played. Not only will it be a distraction for the dancer on stage, it could also distract the adjudicator from watching and critiquing the performance. Once you hear the music stop, quickly and quietly find a seat or exit the auditorium. The compère will try and wait before announcing the next act, but time schedules will already be tight and they can’t wait forever. In between acts, keep talking to a minimum, with a hushed tone. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that there should be no talking whilst someone is performing!!! On that note, anything that could create noise, mobile phones and devices, noisy snacks like crisp packets, even smaller children, you should try and avoid. Babies and toddlers are hard to keep entertained, I know from you experience. If you have to take them with you, bring lots of things to keep them entertained. If they do become upset or too loud and distracting, it’s thoughtful of you to quickly and quietly head out of the auditorium with the least disruption as possible. We all know how toddlers can go from 1 to 10 in lightening speed!

HUMBLE PIE

No one likes a boaster. It’s fine for you to win and be happy about it, but please don’t have a huge mass celebration for all to hear.It’s distasteful and can be upsetting or can come across as gloating. Keep celebrations to a respectful level until you’re home. On the flip side, be happy for your fellow competitors and their wins. They won fair and square and were better than you on the day. Learn from that. Do not show how cross or disgruntled you are in front of everyone. No scowls. Concentrate that disappointment into making your dancing better for next time.

TROPHIES

Most smaller festivals require for any trophies won to be returned the next year. If you receive a trophy, make sure you get in engraved with your name, school and year you won before handing it back, usually on the first day of the festival the following year. Make sure it’s not damaged and has been cleaned or polished, no one wants to receive a dusty trophy!

Lastly, it’s important to remember when you attend festivals and competitions, you are an ambassador for your dance school. You will most likely see the familiar faces of dancers from neighbouring schools who attend the same comp circuits as you. What you do and how you act reflect directly back on the school and earns it a reputation. With the above tips, that reputation will be one of praise and admiration.

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Everyday things you’re probably doing that could hinder your dance and how to fix them

Everyday things you’re probably doing that could hinder your dance and how to fix them

Humans are creatures of habit, but not all habits are good for you, particularly where posture is concerned and we all know how important that is for a dancer. And the thing about habits are that you do them so often without thinking, that you’re probably not even aware you’re doing them. Here are some of the most common things you do every day that could be harming your dance practice.

TECH NECK

The sudden increase in technology and the devices we use daily has had a dramatic effect on our posture. Next time you’re on your phone, tablet, PC, make a note of your posture. Probably shoulders hunched over, with your head dropped forwards. This creates roundness and tightness in your upper back, and puts added strain on your neck. In time, with increased duration, can cause a permanent curvature to the upper spine, not to mention tight muscles which will restrict range of motion in the shoulders.

Combat this by doing lots of upper back stretches and shoulder mobility exercises. If you do yoga, heart opening exercises. If you have a foam roller, lie on your back placing it underneath your shoulder blades. Stretch your arms above your head and gently roll backwards and forwards. You will feel a release sensation in the upper vertebrae. You can also hold the stretch if it feels particularly tight, and let gravity help. A classic shoulder mobility exercise is done with a resistance band or tea towel. Hold either side of the band/towel in front of you, keeping your awns straight. Lift your arms above your head and try and get them to pass all the way back to behind you, then back in reverse. This is a tricky one. You’ll need to start with your arms quite wide apart at first, but with more practice and increases mobility, you’ll be able to accomplish this with your arms closer together.

HIGH HEELS

Wearing high heels may look amazing, but be careful not to wear them too often. Extended periods of time in high shoes puts your feet and ankles under a lot of strain. Corns and hammer head toes are very common afflictions, not to mention other more serious damage. The foot and ankle are at an unnatural angle, which can cause tension and strain through the intrinsic muscles and metatarsals. Wearing heels daily can actually shorten the Achilles’ tendon and tighten the calf muscles, reducing your Demi plie range. Not only that, there’s a real chance of falling off your heels and twisting your ankle or worse!

Combat this by wearing heels for limited times only. If you’re in you feet all day, try and wear flat, comfortable shoes. If your calves are feeling tight, use a yoga block or the first step of your staircase. Put the ball of your foot on the step, and use a chair or wall for balance. Slowly lower your heel down as low as it will go. You will feel a nice stretch of your calf and Achilles’ tendon. Hold for a few seconds and rise back up. Repeat as necessary.

Using a resistance band is also good for reversing damage. Place the ball of your foot in the middle of the band, and pull either end up towards you. Draw circles with your foot in one direction, then the opposite, slowly and controlled. The resistance from the band will help strengthen all the muscles around the ankle.

HEAVY BAGS

Whether heading to college or dance class, you’re probably hiking a huge bag full to the brim with stuff, and all on one shoulder. Stop now! Carrying on one side can really effect you posture. It can cause curvature of the spine, uneven shoulders and weaker muscles on one side of your back depending on which shoulder you favour!

Combat this by only carrying things in your bag that you need for that day/lesson to reduce the weight, and always try and use a rucksack, with both shoulder straps across each shoulder, which distributes the weight more evenly across your back. The tea towel exercise mentioned previously is also good for relieving tension in the shoulders from carrying all day.

You can also try this. Stand side on to a wall. Place your arm closest to the wall at a right angle, coming out from your shoulder parallel and fingers pointing upwards. Turn the palm outwards and place on the wall with your whole forearm. Keeping your arm in that position, take a step slightly forwards, so your arm is now slightly behind you. You should feel a nice stretch across the front of your shoulder girdle.

SITTING INTO YOUR HIPS

Waiting for a bus, stood in a queue or waiting to go into the studio, you’re probably stood with all your weight into your back leg with your hip distended. Doing this for long periods of time or frequently isn’t great for your hips. It can cause also the tendons and ligaments around the hip joint to stretch and lengthen, which in turn weakens them. This will effect the height of your developpes and sometimes even shift your centre of gravity from centre!

Combat this by always standing with weight evenly distributed between the two feet, with knees relaxed and not snapped back into any hyperextension. Exercises for strengthening the hip flexors will also be beneficial. Sit on the floor with your legs extending in parallel in front of you. Without compensating in your lower back, lift one leg off the floor as high as it will go, hold and put it down. You can also pulse the leg once it’s in the air. Repeat on both legs. You can improve on this by placing 2 objects in front of you. If you imagine a clock, at 5 past and 10 past. Again without sloughing, lift the leg over first object, then over the second then back over the first and finish where you started. This builds strength and also mobility for developpes a la seconde.

FEET UP ON THE SOFA

It’s a great to spend an evening relaxing watching the TV, with you feet up. Or is it?! Are you curling your legs up to the side of you? Look at the angle of your feet and ankles. Your top one will be pretty neutral, but I bet you’ll find the foot underneath is bent, flexing in towards you. This stretches and lengthens the muscles on the outer side of your foot, weakening the ones on the inside. This will give your foot a suckling line when extending or pointing and is a dangerous line for pointe work.

Combat this by lifting and extending your legs out in front of you, on a foot stool or similar. It will keep your ankles and feet in neutral alignment without any weight bearing on them. The foot exercise with the resistance band mentioned above is great to help undo this. We also wrote a post on strengthening your feet for pointe, which has more foot exercises you can try. Read about them here https://danceniche.com/2017/05/02/pointe-shoe-chronicles-strengthening-your-feet-for-pointe/

When dance is your chosen craft, your body is your tool. You have a responsibility to look after that tool as best you can. This means avoiding anything that might hinder or damage it, which will ultimately hinder your dance. So just check in with yourself every now and then and be mindful of your posture and what your body is doing. Your dance will thank you for it later!

Dance Niche

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Q&A with Flashdance the musical’s Gloria aka Hollie Ann Lowe

Q&A with Flashdance the musical’s Gloria aka Hollie Ann Lowe

Flashdance is ingrained in history as being a monumental and iconic film! That’s why we included it in our top dance movies to watch! You can see what else made the list here https://danceniche.com/2017/12/28/top-dance-movies-you-need-to-watch/ It tells the tale of a young hopeful Alex. A welder by day, dancer in a bar by night, who yearns to make it as a professional dancer. Hers, and most of the characters in the story are one that many of us are all too familiar with. The self doubt, trying to please others, still needing money to pay bills. We spoke to Hollie Ann Lowe who plays ‘Gloria’……….Gloria I think they got your number! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself) about the show, her character and and the parallels between the show and real life.

Hi Hollie! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! Let’s begin….

DN: Dance Niche named Flashdance as one of their top must see dance movies. Were you a fan of the film before the Musical?

H: Since performing in a youth version of Flashdance when I was 14, it has been one of my favourite films and musicals. The film is so iconic and will never get old!

DN: Flashdance is an iconic film, that paved the way for perms and leg warmers! How does the Musical stand up to the film? Do you still own leg warmers?

H: I was born in 96, however growing up I loved all things 80’s! I do still own leg warmers and they often make an appearance in warm up! Ha. Our musical is adapted slightly but there are so many iconic outfits, songs, dance movements…it’s a real flash back to the 80’s!

DN: As well as acting, there’s a lot of dance content and choreography involved with being a cast member of Flashdance. What is your dance background and what is your favourite genre of dance?

H: I started dancing at 5, and have danced my whole life. Training in different styles, I moved to London when I was 17 to train in dance and musical theatre professionally and had the time of my life for three years training in all styles of dance, singing and acting before starting with Flashdance!

DN: The world of professional Dance is a tough one to break into, do you identify with the themes of the story and feelings of the main characters?

H: Alex Owens, is the epitome of any young dancer or performer wanting to break into the industry. We are faced with many challenges along the way but it is the passion, love and drive that keeps us going and gives us the best job there is!

DN: Your character Gloria, really encourages Alex to go for the audition at Shipley’s. How did you feel when auditioning for Flashdance and who encouraged you to go for it? Did you watch the film as part of your prep?!

H: Very similar to both Alex and Gloria, it’s a big scary world when auditioning. However this show and film has been so close to my heart for years that I had the most amazing experience and loved every second of the audition process! My family have always encouraged me, especially my Mum who growing up would always encourage me to reach for higher.

DN: Being a professional dancer yourself and having successfully made a career in dance, what would you say your top tip for dancers at auditions is?

H: My top tip would be to enjoy every second….even an audition! Things will come and go but most important thing is to every step of the journey, even the rejection…be grateful for the lesson learnt and enjoy moving forward.

DN: Lastly, what would you say to anyone who might be thinking about coming to see the show?

H: With edgy choreography and exciting musical arrangements, Flashdance is a must see show for everyone!! You will be taken on a journey back to the 80’s and have a fun filled night out!

Thanks Hollie for the insight! Break a leg with the rest of the tour!

Flashdance is finishing its run here at the amazing Manchester Opera House, however the rest of the tour dates can be found here http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk/tour-schedule

This is definitely one show that is bound to get you out of your seats dancing and singing along, leg warmers mandatory!

Dance Niche

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Surviving dance comps as a parent

Surviving dance comps as a parent

Dance competitions and festivals can seem pretty intense, especially for parents of dancers! There’s your baby, all on their own on a stage that seems to swallow them up, not matter how old they are! What if they go wrong? What if they slip and fall? What if they miss a beat, or speed ahead of the music?! In your eyes, they will always be your baby, and you’d do anything to protect them, but there they are, so exposed and you can’t do anything to help them if something doesn’t go quite to plan! But never fear, Dance Niche is here to guide and help you through comp season.

DON’T PANIC

Try to stay calm as much as possible. Children feed off emotions of parents, so you don’t want them to start stressing out and worrying unnecessarily. If they are worrying or nervous, they will look to you to be their rock, so make sure you’re the picture of calmness, even though your stomach is about to turn inside out!

Remember to breathe! The only difference between excitement and nervousness is the amount of oxygen getting to the brain, it’s the same chemical responsible for both emotions. Take big deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. This is also advice we give dancers too, you can read our competitors tips here https://danceniche.com/2017/04/11/top-5-dance-comp-survival-tips/

BRING PROVISIONS

Comps and festivals can be a long day, especially if your children have multiple dances. It’s a good idea to bring some food and drink with you for you and your dancer. The festival organisers afternoon have refreshments available, but if you’re there all day, it can get expensive! Try not to bring anything that’s too messy, so your child can eat in her costume whilst waiting if needs be, but make sure they don’t eat for at least half hour before they are due to dance, to make sure food has settled and they will be at their best.

It can also get very tedious waiting around, so bring a book or iPad to help pass the time. Taking your mind off the waiting will help keep the nerves at bay.

BE ORGANISED

If your have a tiny dancer, you’ll have to do the prep work for them. Make sure you make a check list and have everything ready the night before, including costume, footwear, music, make up and hair box etc. It’s a good idea to get them to help you in the preparations. It teaches them how to be organised and helps them understand what’s needed, as when they’re older, it’ll be their responsibility. If you have an older dancer, you can verbally check in with them to make sure they’ve got everything covered.

ITS NOT YOUR ROUTINE

This one applies to parents of the younger dancers mostly. I know they are small and look like a dot in the stage but it can be incredibly off putting for the adjudicator if you are doing every single step of the dance in the audience. Not only that, how will your child every learn how to take responsibility for their own dance and actually learn it, if they know they’ve always got you mirroring for them. If they have a blip and freeze, give them a small prompt of course, it happens all the time, but that should be enough to jog their memory. Let them get on with it. If they cannot remember the majority of a routine, you have to question if they are ready yet.

REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE THERE

You might feel feel like comps are the worst things in the world, and the added time, stress and pressure just isn’t worth it, but does your dancer think the same? I bet your child loves comps, thrives off them even. They love to perform, and not only does it give them more experience, but they wouldn’t even be doing them if they didn’t want to be up there dancing on their own, centre of attention! If you ask your dancer, they may feel a little nervous pre performance, but afterwards, they’ll be bouncing off the walls with adrenaline. You’re there to support you child, help them build confidence and make memories. If they don’t feel anxious about it, you shouldn’t either.

Being the parent of a comp dancer is often a thankless task, and it’s hard work too but just remember these few tips and it should be a whole lot less of a stressful thing. Don’t forget the other mums too! Competitions bring a real sense of togetherness and camaraderie, so there will always be a seasoned pro Mum there to hold your hand! You will find you might actually start to enjoy comps.

Dance Niche

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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/

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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 h