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Tag: production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance Niche

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Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

Ballet classics – The Nutcracker

(Karla Doorbar as Clara; photo: Roy Smiljanic)

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

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

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

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

(Rachael Gillespie as Clara curtesy of Northern Ballet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Company dancers photo curtesy of Northern Ballet)

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

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

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

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

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

See you in the New Year,

Dance Niche

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Ballet classics – Sleeping Beauty

Ballet classics – Sleeping Beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ballet classics – La Sylphide

Ballet classics – La Sylphide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia 💗

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Ballet classics – Coppélia

Ballet classics – Coppélia


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alicia 💗

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