Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jordan Clarke

I saw this video on the really good blog Dancing Perfectly Free and thought I would put it up too.

Vanilla Strawberry from Jordan Clarke on Vimeo.

It looks like a live Gilbert & George painting sometimes.

More Jordan Clarke's video here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thomas Noone Dance

Decided to try out this Barcelona company next week at Southbank Centre. It was set up by a British guy who trained at Rambert and worked in the Netherlands and Spain, Thomas Noone.
It seems quite well-known in Barcelona, as it is resident in one of the city's cool theatres, the Sant Andreu Teatre.

"Futil is a beautiful yet haunting duet following a couple and the history of their increasingly polarised relation. Beginning with the end, the piece starts with their separation and rewinds to the initial moment of meeting" - sounds interesting. I like the way he falls on the floor at the end of the video.

More info here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

National Dance Awards winners

Winners were announced at what I'm sure was a most glamourous gathering, on a Monday afternoon (that's how much dance matters... erm)

De Valois award for outstanding achievement in dance
Richard Alston – artistic director, Richard Alston Dance Company
(happy about that one, I really enjoyed his last pieces Shuffle It Right and Blow Over. He always picks really good scores for his dance works)

Dancing Times award for best male dancer
Edward Watson – Royal Ballet

Richard Sherrington award for best female dancer
Agnes Oaks – English National Ballet (she is retiring this year)

Dance Europe award for outstanding company
English National Ballet

Best classical choreography
Christopher Wheeldon for Electric Counterpoint - Royal Ballet

Best modern choreography
Hofesh Shechter for In Your Rooms

Patron's award
Northern Ballet Theatre – received by NBT artistic director, David Nixon, from NDA patron, Beryl Grey

Artsworld Presentations award for best foreign dance company
New York City Ballet

Spotlight award: classical male
Martin Harvey – Royal Ballet

Spotlight award: classical female
Yuhui Choe – Royal Ballet

Spotlight award: modern male
Anh Ngoc Nguyen – Wayne McGregor / Random Dance

Spotlight award: modern female
Kate Coyne – Michael Clark Company and freelance

Working Title Billy Elliot award
Michael Guihot-Jouffray

Dance UK industry award
Janet Smith – Scottish Dance Theatre

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rafael Bonachela week end at Southbank Centre

The popular Rafael Bonachela is presenting a selection of his favourite young choreographers next week end (31 January - 1 February) at Southbank Centre in London. I don't think he will actually be there himself since he is now AD of Sydney Dance Company, but it seems like there will be some good stuff on offer.

Saturday 31 January, 4.30pm
Adam Linder - he is the 2008 Place Prize winner. I like his videos but I've never seen him live, I am looking forward to it. Apparently he will dance to Ravel's Bolero.
Blanca Arrieta - all the way from Bilbao, Spain.
Frederick Opoku-Addaie and Jorege Crecis - their piece is called Bf Starter.

Sunday 1 February, 4.30pm
Laila Diallo - ex-Random Dance, performing a piece called The Wayside. I am quite interested in seeing that one as it is set to a song I really like Pa' llegar a tu lado.
Cameron McMillan - the ex-Rambert Dance Company dancer presents a duet with Amy Hollingsworth.
Ben Wright - a performance by two dancers from his company, bgroup. Ben Wright is the guy who created the role of the Prince in Matthew Bourne's famous all-male Swan Lake, back in 1995.

Plus it's free, and you can have a drink while you watch - pretty cool prospect.

Hopefully I can take some pics and let you know what it was like.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Spring Awakening @ Lyric Hammersmith, London - review

Went to see Spring Awakening. 2nd preview, and it looked pretty sharp to me. Let's keep this review simple:

- Cast: all good from everyone. Good acting, good voices, good presence. Many are doing their professional debut in this production. Very fresh.
- Staging: very cool. Lighbulbs hang from the ceiling, neons in the theatre, back wall covered in paintings, images, a blackboard listing the songs, more neons and lights, some objects related to the story etc... There are seats for the audience on either side of the stage, where the actors also sit sometimes, and a small band at the back (piano, guitar, fiddle, drums and more). Actors help with the running of the show, moving microphones about, taking the lights down etc, giving a special feel to the proceedings.
- Songs: pretty good. I wasn't sure about the idea of pop-rock tunes for something based on a 1900s play, but it did work. Being a teenager then was worse than it is now, but the angst and the fear and the weight of adults' expectations on your shoulder remain. Mama and Spring/Summer are particular favourites of mine.
- I enjoyed the story and realised it was darker than I expected. Abuse, violence, suicide, teenage pregnancy... it's all in there.
- The one thing I didn't like was the way the gay relationship between two of the boys was treated as comic relief for act 2. I doubt that at a such a religious time, in small-town Germany, two boys realising they loved each other would be so comfortable with it. Why did the audience laugh? Embarassment, probably (as in many other moments of the piece) and because one of the boys suddenly developed cliched manoeurisms (nowhere to be seen beforehand) and we had jokes about licking the cream. Why present it that way? Their future is probably no brighter than that of the 3 main characters...
Anyway this is a small thing...

Overall, this is a very good show and production. The message I got from this was that thank god I am living in 2009, in a (relatively) tolerant society that allows you to be who you want to be and where social norms are not as suffocating as in the past. However, growing up remains tough!

Tickets here.

Review update (4 Feb)
The Guardian - 3 stars
The Telegraph - 5 stars
The Times - 5 stars
The Stage - positive review

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Teaser for the film Falling

Falling in Space from Dan Farberoff on Vimeo.

Director: Dan Farberoff
Composer: Errollyn Wallen
Choreographer: Henri Oguike
Words by NASA astronaut Steve MacLean

The full length film is part of the Henri Oguike Dance Company 10th Anniversary show touring the UK now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

South Bank show awards winners

Aaron Sillis (in black) in Dorian Gray. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

Wayne McGregor’s Infra at the Royal Opera House won in the dance category.

The Times Breakthrough Award went to dancer Aaron Sillis, who played Basil Hallward in Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray. It is great news that an award voted for by the general public went to a dancer. Bits about him in today's Times: "Born in Norwich, Sillis got his break when he was spotted in a local panto at the age of 12. He trained at Bird College of Musical Theatre, in London, and has since worked with Take That, Mariah Carey and Leona Lewis. He has choreographed Kylie, stalked the catwalk for Versace and played a schoolboy in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Congratulations to them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

National Dance Awards

I guess it's not just awards season for Hollywood. As well as the South Bank Show awards, the National Dance Awards will be held next week. Categories include Best Choreography (Classical), Best Choreography (Modern), Best Foreign Company, Best Female Dancer etc etc...
Nominees include Christopher Wheeldon, Eric Underwood, English National Ballet, Edward Watson and more.

Full list on their website. Results on 26 January.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sampled at Sadler's Wells

Sampled is back at Sadler's Wells next week, on 24 and 25 January.

This is London's version of New York City Center's Fall For Dance festival. Two nights of mixed dance styles, cheap tickets (£10, or £5 standing) - ideal for a taster. Most of the companies performing will be back at Sadler's Wells later in the season, so it's also a great marketing tool for them!

The line-up looks good to me (as per SW's website):

American Ballet Theatre - White Swan Pas de Deux performed by Veronica Part and David Hallberg.
Flying Steps - World-beating virtuoso hip hop styles from Germany.
Jasmin Vardimon (Sunday only) - Intensely physical dance-theatre in an extract from Vardimon's Yesterday.
Matthew Bourne's New Adventures -Enjoy the Swan and Prince Duet from Act Two of Swan Lake.
Rojas & Rodriguez - The stars of Nuevo Ballet Espanol bring some authentic flamenco flavour.
Russell Maliphant - Former Royal Ballet dancer Dana Fouras performs Maliphant's sublime Two.
Traces (Saturday only)- Experience circus as you've never seen it before.

You can buy tickets here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

William Forsythe: Improvisation Technologies

A bit of Forsythe has never hurt anyone, has it?

This video is from Forsythe's CD-Rom Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Dance Eye. The CD-Rom contains 60 video chapters in which Forsythe explains his movement language.

I love how things appear to help see what Forsythe wanted. The videos were made in 1994 - imagine what we could do now that film technology has progressed so much.

Out of print at Amazon. You can view them all here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alistair Spalding in the NY Times

The New York Times profiles Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief exec of London theatre Sadler's Wells, a 1 500 seat-theatre that only programmes dance.

It talks about the theatre's successful programming and marketing strategy, that resulted in the organisation only relying on public funds for 13% of its budget.

The journalist goes even as far as saying that Sadler's "may well be the most important dance house in the world", which is quite exciting to hear as it's in the town I live in!

Article here.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Dance notation

I have been loving dance for a long time, but I am still quite new to some technical language, like dance notation. What does it mean? Looking into it, I found this interesting article on Slate about how choreography is recorded.

How is choreography recorded?
By Sean Rocha
Updated Friday, March 5, 2004, at 10:55 AM ET

(…) Before the advent of visual technologies like video and film, dance was almost impossible to record. Music has scores and plays have scripts, but dance has always defied attempts to create a written system of symbolic representation. Obviously, it is difficult to use two-dimensional figures to indicate movements through time and space (although two 20th-century notation systems, Labanotation and Benesh, have achieved modest success). But for the most part, the adoption of a written system has been constrained by the dance community's reliance on its oral tradition.

The history of Western classical dance begins with the founding of the first dancing academy by Louis XIV in 1661. From there, the fundamentals of ballet technique were built up over centuries and passed down through schools rather than by a literature of dance. Teachers trained students who, in turn, grew up to become dance teachers. Since ballet requires strict body control and clearly defined positions, these generations of teachers were able to develop a working vocabulary—for all those port de bras and pliés that still torment young students—that could be universally understood by practitioners. This language, codified by Jean-Georges Noverre in the 18th century, created a way to talk about the mechanics of dance, but the art of it was still recorded primarily in the memories of the performers and their audience.

It is the choreographer—part creator, part teacher—who represents the human link to the works and traditions of the past and it is he who shapes, through instruction, the dancers of the future. (…) Even today, despite the advent of video, a choreographer without disciples is in constant danger of having his work fade away after his death. Video can capture the external form and movement, and notation the positions, but the philosophy and technique of the great choreographers is impossible to get down. That is why so many of the giants of modern dance choreography—Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham—founded their own companies. It also explains why fierce battles can break out among students about how best to carry on the master's legacy—the schisms resemble those that beset religious groups. The students may be disputing aspects of technique or interpretation, but what they're really arguing about is the memory of a dance performance they saw long ago.

Full article here.

More info on dance notation from the US Dance Notation Bureau website. You can also find an introduction to Labanotation here.

11/11/09 - Update: an article on how choreography is preserved in the New York Times, taking Merce Cunningham as an example. Really interesting.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Positive thinking

I received some good news career-wise today, it makes me happy. I have been working hard and it's good to see you can get to where you want to be if you're talented enough and work hard at it.

Reminded me of those two recent blog posts over at Article 19 from dancer Jack Webb.

'I've decided that I'm very bored of wanting things and thinking about it, so I'm just going to have them if I so wish. I'm talking about things in dance, for my work, my career, of course. Because I think we can have all we want and need, we just have to look for it and find a way to achieve it.'

Bring it on.

More Pontus Lidberg

Pontus Lidberg and Derek Jacoby. Pic: Erin Baiano

Once I find something I like, I tend to go a bit obsessive about it, so I have been researching stuff about Pontus Lidberg, the guy who choreographed and directed that dance film I really liked, The Rain.

Pontus hails from Sweden, where he trained at the Royal Swedish Ballet School. He has choreographed for the Norwegian National Ballet, Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Stockholm 59° North (a company made of soloists from Royal Swedish Ballet) plus worked on dance films, like The Rain.

Last year, Pontus Lidberg also created a new work for Morphoses (Christopher Wheeldon's company - Wheeldon, the one we talked about in Strictly Bolshoi - isn't the world of dance small) which you can see bits of here, plus a video of Lidberg at work with Morphoses dancers here (very interesting) Just realise the piece was performed in London when the company came down last September - damn.

I really enjoy his movements, but also the sense that he knows what sort of music works when creating beautiful, emotive dance pieces.
Pontus Lidberg's website.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ballets Russes -100th birthday

We're going to hear a lot about it - Diaghilev created his Ballets Russes 100 years ago.

The revered Financial Times dance critic Clement Crisp is the first to write about it a very interesting article.

"The shock of Parade, of The Rite of Spring, of Afternoon of a Faun, of Les Noces, even of Apollo, still reverberates in performance. In 1909, his very first balletic year, he had commissioned Ravel to compose Daphnis and Chloé. Stravinsky came to public attention by way of the Ballets Russes. Debussy, de Falla, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Satie, Richard Strauss, Florent Schmidt, Milhaud, Constant Lambert, Auric, were to write scores. Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Pruna, Gris, de Chirico, Tchelichev, Larionov, Derain, Goncharova, were among his designers. The mind reels: we have no comparisons today.

The Diaghilev exhibitions and performances this year are a necessary celebration of one of the greatest artistic forces in the 20th century. They are also a reproach to today’s ballet with its play-safe timidities (“Oh good! It’s Swan Lake”) and its tunnel-visioned directors. Can a new Diaghilev emerge and fight the good fight as that great man once did, to galvanise the art of ballet for this century?"

South Bank show awards

The South Bank show awards will be handed out later this month (28 January) and broadcast on the UK channel ITV. The South Bank show awards celebrate UK artists in a wide range of cultural activities.

Nominees for the Dance award are:
Akram Khan's Bahok (Liverpool Playhouse)
I am Falling (The Gate at Sadler’s Wells)
Wayne McGregor’s Infra (Royal Opera House)
Wayne McGregor and Random Dance's Entity (Sadler's Wells and national tour)

Will let you know who wins!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New dance at The Place, London

The Place (pretty much London's home for contemporary dance) is presenting 37 nights of new dance in its annual new year platform, Resolution! Every night, 3 companies will present a new work. That's a total of 111 companies/works.

It's full of people you might not have heard about (I certainly haven't) but, as The Place marketing department says, you might end up seeing tomorrow's big talents. Tickets are £12 or £15 'return' (ie you can come see another performance within six months for free)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

4Dance 2008

Silenced, by Isabel Rocamaro (pic: Nick Knowland)

4Dance was 76 minutes of short dance films shown recently on Channel 4 in the UK (if you have missed it, you can watch it online here)

I think it will always be kind of hard for a programme like this to get an audience, but putting it on at 3.30pm on the 27th of December, right in the middle of the Christmas break, is probably not ideal. Maybe it is actually... lots of people who have eaten too much and can't move from their sofas...

If you forget the annoying presenter (drop the attitude, man!), there was some pretty good dance films to watch. My highlghts:

I really enjoyed Pontus Lidberg's The Rain - gorgeously filmed and choreographed, very lyrical (a trailer for this film is posted below)

DIY -from Singapore, it was the film that came closest to be a music video. Lots of cool shots and well-paced editing, with a great link between the movement and the music. Directed by a director well-known in his home country, Royston Tan. You can view DIY here (not amazing quality)

Lick Your Pavement - A shirtless guy in white skinny jeans dances around a camera, slowly going around it, with skateboarders passing by him all the time. Quite trendy. Great mix. One of the directors (and the performer) is Adam Linder, winner of 2008's Place Prize (to the surprise of many) You can see more of his work with Will Davidson on their website (Funnily enough the piece is called Fuck Forever on there...)

Silenced - I normally like my dance set to music but really enjoyed this almost silent film of 2 women set in the dramatic desert landscape. By Isabel Rocamora.

Falling - this is part of the 10th Anniversary tour of Henri Oguike Dance Company.

Full list of dance films shown:

Director: Royston Tan

The Rain (2 extracts)
Director/Choreographer: Pontus Lidberg

Lick Your Pavement
Directors: Will Davidson / Adam Linder

No Man's Land
Director: Alexandre Oktan
Choreographer: Peter Chin

Director/Choreographer:Liz Agiss

Tiny Dancer
Director: Stefan Georgiou

Night Practice
Director: Susanna Wallin

In Stone
Director: Margaret Williams
Choreographer: Maria Munoz

Soma Songs
Director/Choreographer: Daniel Belton

Director/Choreographer: Sergio Cruz

Tea Time:
Director /Writer: Lisa May Thomas

Director/Choreographer: Isabel Rocamora

Director: Gina Czarnecki

Director/Choreographer: Robert Hylton

Round 16
Director: Pete Gomes
Choregrapher: Eddie Kay /Imogen Knight

10 Exhalations
Director: Roman Kornienko/ Maria Sharafutdinova

Director: Dan Farberoff
Choreographer: Henri Oguike

Friday, January 02, 2009

Strictly Bolshoi

Misericordes, credit Dimir Yusupov

The Balletboyz documentary on choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's work for the famous ballet company the Bolshoi in Moscow, called Strictly Bolshoi, was shown on Channel 4 this week.

It is available to watch online for a month. You can watch it here.

Even non-dance fans will find it interesting: it gives good insight into the creative process of a choreographer, and is also a bit dramatic (changes of opinions, unhappy dancers etc...) and quite humourous as well. The created piece, Misericordes, is shown at the end. This documentary won the 2008 International Emmy Award for Arts Programming (no less)

Not sure Christopher Wheeldon comes out very well in this but the piece is great so who cares. You can see bits of Misericordes here.