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Tag: review article

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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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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