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Tag: ENB

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.

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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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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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