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Category: Theatre

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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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!

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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”…………..

Dance Niche

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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*
Dance Niche.

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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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Matilda The Musical Review

Matilda The Musical Review

The story of Matilda is a childhood classic, written by one of the nation’s favourite children’s authors, Roald Dahl, and is celebrating its 30 year! The musical adaptation will soon be entering it’s 9th year, and is now a classic in its own right, with critical acclaim and no less than 85 awards under its belt! once you’ve seen it, its not hard to see why.

There are so many individual factors that all play their part in making Matilda The Musical such a huge success. The stage adaptation written by Denis Kelly, and the catchy songs and lyrics by Tim Minchin are the corner stones. Imagine the daunting task of taking something as beloved as Roald Dahl’s Matilda, and adapting it for the stage, that would serve the original justice, yet tell a more visual story. The songs and lyrics sit perfectly well within the scenes, blending effortlessly and further enhance the plight of Matilda. You can even buy the Matilda the Musical soundtrack on CD or download it, meaning you can carry on signing them long after you’ve left the theatre!

Next, has to be the innovative and complex stage set. I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of Matilda at the Palace Theatre Manchester, and the sheer scale of design and function was jaw dropping. Without spoiling the magic of the production for anyone, the stage setting and scenes have their own choreography. Things (and people) fly, slide, and manouver around the stage seemingly effortlessly, yet timings and placements have to be exact and precise, when you factor in the actors on stage at the same time. They harmoniously dance around each other

The already larger than life characters, thanks to the genius imagination of Dahl, are brought to life, larger than ever, by a wonderful adult cast, and enhanced with a ingenious costume wardrobe! Miss Trunchbull, by far one of the most loved characters, or love to hate, is traditionally played by a man. Craig Els is the current actor. His comedic edge, flouncy walk and penetrating stare do the character justice, and evoke hoards of laughter and reactions from the audience. His stature is lofty, but further enhanced by his costume, towers over the children to emphasise the difference.

The biggest mention by far, has to go to the children’s cast, and in particular, of course Matilda. They are Sam Lathwood”s (assistant dance captain and swing) favourite to work with! You can read our interview with him on his role here What does it take to be a musical theatre swing? There are actually 4 whole different children cast that work on a rota basis. The Royal Shakespeare Company do a sterling job of looking after the wellbeing of all the children, even supplying tutors and having their school work posted to them so they do not fall behind academically. The maturity and professionalism shown from ones so young is admirable, their parents must all be so proud! Matilda was played by Emma Moore the night I watched. She blew me away. Her talent is extraordinary. She adds sorrow and cheekiness in equal measures. She builds intensity as Matilda grows in confidence, and particularly in her song ‘Quiet’ is so authentic in her skills, she becomes Matilda.

As for the rest, it is that special touch of magic that you can’t quite put you’re finger on. Just how does Bruce Bogtrotter eat ALL that cake? How does that glass move all on its own? It’s the story of how someone so small and insignificant overpowers rule to fight for whats right, the equality, the justice, the self belief. We all love an underdog story, because it gives us hope and faith of better things to come. That’s what I took away with me from watching Matilda The Musical. That no matter how bad things seem, there is always something that can be done, always light at the end of the tunnel. If you believe in yourself wholeheartedly, then you are an unstoppable force. What a wonderful sentiment to be presenting to our children.

I would recommend for anyone of any age to watch Matilda The Musical. Its family entertainment at its finest, and is sure to capture the hearts of the next generation, continuing the legacy. Matilda is currently on stage at the Palace Manchester until 24th Nov, before moving on to the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff over the Christmas and New Year period, and various other venues until summer 2019! For more information on dates and locations, go to the official website Matilda The Musical

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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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SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX! The Musical | Review

SIX ex wives, joining forces to hate on their ex, may sound like a title from the Jeremy Kyle show, but it’s actually a brand new musical, with a concept that fresh, that it’s already reaching a whole new audience and enticing virgin theatre goers to experience their first taste of theatre action30179563607_509a23a020_k

Six! The Musical, tells the individual stories of the six wives of Henry VIII (that’s Henry 8th, good job I listened in history lessons). Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the show has already recieved critical acclaim after selling over 10,000 tickets at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, Six has been gaining momentum with a multitude of 5 star reviews, nominations in 4 categories for the Broadway UK Awards and shows no sign of slowing down. This musical juggernaut is pelting full steam ahead and seemingly nothing can stand in it’s way, not even Henry VIII.43303878010_598e720c24_k

But just what is it exactly that makes the production so appealing???? Is it the talent?! The six girls cast as the wives all have individual vocal credibilities, including tours with 42nd St, The Colour Purple and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Is it the music?! Songs like ‘Don’t lose your head’ ‘Ex Wives’ and my particular favourite ‘Haus of Holbein’ will creep into your ears and take over your brain with their catchy melodies and clever lyrics. Is it the hint of feminism?! Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, so throw 5 more into the mix, you’ve got a vengeful tribe, shouting out to women with a sorry story to tell to stand up and fight back! Or is it the fact that it re writes history, telling a story that is all too familiar to us, but bringing it bang up to date with 21 century sass-itutde! And a happy ending, we all love a happy ending!44397214974_5ef74388c7_k

The fact that this production has moved away from the traditional stage musical format, opting instead for a pop concert vibe is genius!  The chemistry the six wives have on stage is tangible, yet genuine. So much so, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were an actual girl band – Spice Girls eat your heart out! Watching this musical is more like attending a greatest hits tour! Yet they all have their individuality. Jarneia Richard-Noel  (Catherine of Aragon) the wise wise, loyal one. Millie O’Connell (Anne Boleyn) the cheeky seductressNatalie Paris (Jane Seymour) the soft endearing one. Alexia McIntosh (Anne of Cleves) the smug one. Aimee Atkinson (Katherine Howard) the niave  misunderstood one and finally Maiya Quansah-Breed (Catherine Parr) the last one and the peacemaker. Their dancing and costumes also reflect this.44397204634_5a54b61549_k

I cannot recommend Six! The musical enough! Perfect for hen do’s, birthday surprises or simply someone looking for a feel good factor show. Not only is it 75 minutes of pure pop hits (songs that would undoubtably rival any current chart topper) but it introduces a whole new audience to the world of theatre, encouraging and inspiring a younger generation to keep theatre alive for the future.  Never mind pop princesses, these queens are taking over, the new royals of theatre land have been coronated and long may they reign!31243712258_6cbafec169_k

 

Six! is currently touring and will be appearing at The Lowry Salford 4th-16th Dec, before heading off to Glasgow SEC 20-30th Dec and finally London Arts Theatre 17th Jan – 5th May. All details and ticket information can be found on their website here Six The Musical 

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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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English National Ballet’s MANON Review

English National Ballet’s MANON Review

Arriving at the beautiful Opera House in Manchester, you can’t help but notice that the Grade II listed building is perfect for hosting such an opulent and decadent production such as Manon, with it’s hunters green upholstery and gold brocade accents. It truely sets the scene for the ensuing scenes of early 18th century France.

Kenneth MacMillan’s production premiered in 1974 and uses scores by Jules Massenet, although not from his Opera, rather using his other well know works. Manon is based on the novel, Manon Lescaut, by Abbe Prevost. The novel was actually banned in France at the time due to its scandalous, controversial and explicit details! It did however prove to be incredibly popular, with pirate copies being widely distributed. I wonder what they would have thought to 50 Shades?!

English-National-Ballet-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
English National Ballet Manon – Laurent Liotardo

The curtain rises on ACT 1 to unveil a scene at The Courtyard at the Inn. We are immediately drawn to the differences in the classes. The present folk are disheveled and dirty, dressed in rags, with their hearty and robust allegro and vigorous, almost out of control pirouettes. They convey a light hearted, fun filled demeanour. This is in stark contrast to the gentry and aristocrats who also visit the Inn. Their costumes of rich, heavy embroidered velvets, corsets, frills and pleats, adds to their grandeur presence. Such restrictive clothing exaggerates their straight, nose in the air posture. Their choreography was bold and regal, proudly displaying like peacocks but always maintaining absolute control and pose. We are introduced to Lescaut  who is awaiting the arrival of his sister Manon, before her departure to a convent. Lescaut – played by Jefferey Ciriotis with his good friend Des Grieux – Joseph Caley , a penniless student. Manon’s arrival attracts the attention of everyone, including that of weathly Monsieur GM – James Streeter

Jeffrey-Cirio-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo-1
Jeffrey Cirio in Manon – Laurent Liotardo

Manon – Alina Cjocaru – and Des Grieux  have a chance meeting and it’s love at first sight. At first Manon is coy but relents to her feelings. The pas de deux has a beautiful quality to it. The choreography is light and fluid with seemingly gravity defying lifts, echoing those wonderful feelings of walking on air and butterflies experienced with a new relationship. They hatch a plan to run away to Paris together. Whilst Des Grieux goes to post a letter to his uncle, Lescaut arrives with Monsieur, who has promised Manon to him for a tidy sum. Initially Manon  resists Monsieur’s advances but she is easily swayed by gifts or fur coats and diamonds. The pas de trois between these 3 characters is wonderfully creative. Manon is passed between the 2 men, like a toy. She snakes her way around Monsieur with imaginative lifts. It is clear that Monsieur sees her as a trophy, something to be glorified and lusted over. he displays infatuation more than love and Manon enjoys the power she yeilds over him, using it to her advantage. Lescaut is compliant and convinces his sister to leave with Monsieur. She looks back one last time before being escorted away.

Alina-Cojocaru-and-Joseph-Caley-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
Alina Cojocaru and Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 2 opens on a a party held at a house of ill repute (where prostitutes can be found if you’re unaware of that term). The music is playful and energetic which mirrors the suggestive and coquettish nature of the ‘ladies’ dancing for the highest bidder. We see Manon, draped in more finery, and Monsieur. This scene includes surprising comedic antics, the audience actually laughing out loud at points. The skill and strength displayed by Jeffrey Cirio is astonishing! To be able to dance as if under the influence of alcohol, stumbling and swaying, whilst still maintaining enough control to be able to lift your partner above your head is highly commendable! Love striken Des Grieux arrives, distraught by the betrayal. Manon is dancing for Monsieur. She sees Des Grieux, but refuses to make eye contact with him, denying her true feelings, but love creeps in, and she begins to flirt and dance for Des Grieux when Monsieur isn’t looking. She’s tempted by more gifts of diamonds but ultimately choses love over money and runs to Des Grieux. A fight breaks out. Swords are brandished. The scene is beautifully lit, casting the shadows off the dual on the backdrop. The lovers flee and plan to leave for Paris. They argue over taking the diamond braclet Monsieur gave, but agree to leave it behind. Monsieur tracks them down and has Manon arrested and kills Lescaut in front of her.

Joseph-Caley-and-James-Streeter-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo.jpg
Joseph Caley and James Streeter in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

ACT 3 begins in the dockyard of New Orleans, where Manon and all the other prostitutes have been shipped to. Des Grieux has followed under the premise that he is her husband. The music has a naval theme which turns into the progressive like motion of the waves of the sea. The ladies are all clearly distressed and almost unable to stand. The Gaoler turns his attention to Manon. He thinks she can be bought and offers her diamonds, but she has changed her way and refuses. He forces himself upon her in what is a particularly distressing scene to watch. Des Grieux bursts in and kills the Gaoler. The couple flee into the swamps but the effects of the long journey, assault and heat prove too much for Manon. She has bursts of life, repeating similar steps to the previous pas de duex but shaky and unsteady, then suddenly becoming limp. Her life and recent events flash before her and she gives up. Des Grieux is inconsolable.

Alina Cojucaru plays Manon beautifully. The way she was able to portray feelings with a simple glance and gesture of a hand was exquisite. Her playful and light mood when dancing with Des Grieux resonates to the audience. The greed in her eyes when she is bestowed with gifts and her enjoyment at being objectified make you despise her. And in the last dance with Des Grieux, her weak, lifeless and limp body whilst she is moved around like a rag doll, makes it evident that this is her swan song, and you pity her. Alina is able to shine on stage without the presence of heavily embellished attire and diamonds.

English-National-Ballet-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
English National Ballet in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

Joseph Caley perfectly captures the essence of a young man in love, full of exuberance and vigour. The way he looks at Manon is reminiscent of a puppy dog. Her betrayal leave him completely distraught and his dancing becomes slightly on the border of uncontrollable, lashing out just as one would. When Manon dies in his arms, you can hear his cry without him making a sound, it comes from his soul.

Joseph-Caley-in-Manon-c-Laurent-Liotardo
Joseph Caley in Manon (c) Laurent Liotardo

You can also read insights of performing with the English National Ballet with other lead principals Jurgita Dronina and Isaac Hernandez along with their take on Manon, just following this link ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Manon is an emotional rollercoaster of love, greed and despair. Never have I ever watched a production that has left me so tense and brought tears to my eyes. Unlike the other tragic love stories like Swan Lake or Giselle, Manon is infinitely raw because it could be real. The story is one of life, the dilemmas  presented, the decisions made and the life altering consequences. I defy you to leave the theatre without it having a profound effect on you.

 

Manon is showing at the Opera House Manchester until Saturday 20th October before it moves onto Milton Keynes Theatre 24-27th October and finally at The Mayflower Southampton 31 oct – 3rd Nov. Tickets can be booked through AGT website here. AGT TICKETS

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ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

ENB Q&A With Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina

The English National Ballet are touring with Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon for only the second time in 30 years. It has been selected as one of ‘Autum 2018 unmissable events’ by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday.

Ahead of being invited to the premier for review next week, we thought we’d give you a tantalising teaser with a Q&A with 2 of the lead principals – Isaac Hernández and Jurgita Dronina.

Isaac Hernández, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

I.H. Both my parents were ballet dancers, so it was in the family. I grew up in Mexico, the seventh of eleven children. We were home schooled, and alongside our academic studies, we also did ballet classes. It was a great childhood and I was hooked on ballet as an art form from an early age. I then headed off at the age of 13, to the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia.

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

I.H. For me, it’s the narrative – the roles are well defined and so you get a real sense of a story unfolding on stage. I think it’s the most dramatic ballet I’ve ever danced – your acting ability as a dancer is really tested, which I enjoy.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

I.H. I’m dancing the role of Des Grieux, the penniless student who the central character Manon falls in love with. It’s a great role to dance – he’s naïve, romantic and a bit of a dreamer and so taking on his character allows you to go back to the simplicity of being a young man, experiencing life for the first time, and the emotions that go with that.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

I.H. For me, it’s being able to perform for audiences all around the UK – it feels like we build a connection with the cities we tour to and returning to these audiences feels special.

Q. Give us 3 words that sum up the ballet Manon for you?

I.H. Passion, jealousy, tragedy.

Jurgita Dronina, Lead Principal at English National Ballet

Q. How did you get into ballet?

J.D. I did lots of different types of dancing as a child – hip hop, street dance, ballroom. I also tried gymnastics, but I didn’t like it, so my teacher suggested I give ballet a go. My mum took me to see a ballet performance and I really liked it. I then auditioned and got into the National Ballet School in Lithuania, and my career started there!

Q. What’s special about Manon – in particular, this version by Kenneth MacMillan?

J.D. This is one of MacMillan’s masterpieces. The storytelling is just fabulous. As with all of MacMillan’s ballets, he finds the human relationships, emotion and realness in the story. In that sense I can find how to relate this ballet to modern life, and the way that one decision can have such an impact. In this story, you see Manon’s decision and how she can’t escape the consequences that spiral out of control in her life from then on. The audience sees her tragic destiny unfold.

Q. Tell us about the role you are dancing in Manon?

J.D. I’ll be making my debut in the role of Manon – it really is one of the dream roles for a ballet dancer, and one which I feel I’ve been waiting to do for a long time. She has a complex character and I enjoy working through the different layers and challenges she must face and working out how to best portray them on stage. The way you walk, stand, gesture – it all adds up to her character. I find there is a very clear idea of how she is seen by others and what she is to herself. There’s also her interactions with others on stage and the way the movement can convey the different relationships she has with each of them. It’s fascinating and very interesting to work it out.

Q. What is your favourite thing about touring with English National Ballet?

J.D. As we tour we bring the best that English National Ballet has to offer all around the UK. We bring an exciting and varied repertoire to different cities and different audiences and for me that’s really special.

Q. Give us 3 words that best sum up the ballet Manon?

J.D. Love, desire, destiny.

English National Ballet performs Manon at Manchester Opera House, 17-20 October 2018, before heading onto the Milton Keynes Theatre, 24 – 27 October, Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, 31 October – 03 November and finally st London Coliseum 16-20 January. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the website http://www.atgtickets.com

Don’t forget to follow our Facebook http://www.facebook.com/danceniche and Instagram http://www.instagram.com/danceniche pages for up to date news and inside information at the premiere of Manon next week, and check back here o our website for our review article on what we really think of it!

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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.

five assorted color glitter foundation
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.

chrome circle close up droplets
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?!

assorted color sequins
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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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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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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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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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!

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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/

Dance Niche

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Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tel:0844 871 3019

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

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

Dance Niche

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