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Insights

It's been a long summer without any dance, thanks to the Olympics, but that came to an abrupt end with Jai Hutchinson's platform Insight's brief visit to London's Shaw Theatre, featuring NineBOBNote Dance Theatre and Cloud Dance Festival alumnus John Ross in its lineup.

The programme notes for John Ross's solo Man Down explain that the piece is inspired by a true story about life in a war zone, but this doesn't really prepare you for the experience of Ross's work. While it's the kind of piece which will have many of the audience members asking themselves afterwards "What was that?!", it's a piece which will have stayed with them for a long time afterwards - and not only because in Man Down, Ross has shown himself to have the rare quality of a new and original choreographic voice.

Using voiceovers and sound effects, Man Down is the story of the life and death of a soldier named James, as reported by his platoon commander Joseph Williams. A lithe and graceful performer, Ross allows the tension of the choreography to build and subside, with creative use of movement, whether expressing grief or matching the chaos of the score.

Man Down would greatly benefit from an effective lighting design to emphasise Ross's choreography to make this a much more powerful piece. A couple of sections are not as strong as the others and it's possible that these could be tightened with lighting or different use of sound: time will tell. John Ross is a talented dancer and promising choreographer and a name to remember.

Appropriately for being performed on the same night as the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics, Amira Kremer's Sleepless at St James was performed by partially-sighted dancer Indra Slavena. Sleepless is a playful series of duets with pillows, with some very nice choreography performed by Indra, if very leggy choreography: the piece seems to be dominated by extensions, handstands, cartwheels and kicks. It's a light-hearted piece which seems to relish its accompaniment by Hugh Laurie.

Jack Stinton has the uncertain distinction of being the sole non-Scottish School of Contemporary Dance graduate in this lineup; also, his work, No Chance of Escape, was originally created for three male dancers but was performed on this occasion with three female dancers, and it's possible that they didn't have sufficient rehearsal time. No Chance of Escape has interesting ideas, but it lacked the sharpness of performance or choreography that it aimed for: for example, too many duets with one dancer fidgeting off to the side. It's yet another piece which seemed to aim for quantity rather than quality, and it would have benefitted from being reduced in length.

Following a brief interval, Jai Hutchinson's dancers performed Demolition in Progress, which claimed to be 'an exploration of themes of a self-destructive society', but was instead an ephemeral work with ephemeral solos with four women endlessly repeating their signature phrases while one woman hand-painted 'I KNOW WHO I AM. I AM STRONG.' on the rear wall. It's possibly a Fifties' definition of a self-destructive society?

The final work of the evening was As Yet Unknown by Lyndsey Allan's NineBOBNote Dance Theatre, which we fleetingly reviewed at the Accidental Festival. At first it appears to be three drunken women at the end of a girls' night out, each only wearing mismatching underwear and an open shirt. And then slowly some dance is worked in: two of the women launch into an improvised tap routine, then discuss a failed hair dye attempt while doing contact impro. It's a challenge to balance physical theatre with choreography, which Lyndsey Allan does skillfully, especially in bringing out the personalities and facial expressions of her dancers.

As Yet Unknown takes a while to find its stride, and loses its way from time to time, for example when extending gags for too long, but there are some great moments of genius, especially when the three women work together as a team, such as when one tells a story and the other two act it out. Lyndsey Allan, Lizzy Ryder and Courtney Robertson are all captivating performers to watch, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
 

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Interview with Dani Atkinson

 

Dani Atkinson is a highly motivated and self-driven dancer, who had barely completed her training at Newcastle College before being offered the chance to start a new life with further training at the José Limón Institute in New York – and she needs your help to cover the costs that this fantastic opportunity will incur. It will be Dani’s first visit to the States, which will in itself be a huge transition away from the vibrant and dynamic dance community of Newcastle, which has enriched her development as a dancer since she started training.

 

We’ve been following Dani’s career since her performance in our last festival with Exquisite Corpse | Dance Theatre (now Lo-Giudice Dance), and so we invited her to tell us more about herself, her plans for the future, and most importantly, about her fundraising and upcoming fundraiser event.

 

The event will be held on 28 August at As You Like It, Archbold Terrace, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 1DB. The show will run from 7.30pm-10pm, and tickets will cost £8 on the door.

 

The evening will include a solo performance by Dani, created by Nicole Vivienne Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre, and a duet with Dani and Anthony Lo Giudice of Lo Giudice Dance. It will also include a talk from guest speaker Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, and a raffle with prizes including a two-course meal for two at AYLI, and two tickets to see Agnes & Walter: A Little Love Story by Smith Dance Theatre.

 

If you can’t attend but would like to support Dani, and if you’d like to follow her journey, please visit her website daniatkinson.moonfruit.com


 

Dani’s career to date

 

I chose to stay in Newcastle for many reasons: I had taken my BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts Performance at Newcastle College, so I’d had the opportunity to see the training provided by the lecturers on the degree program, and I was really impressed with the standard, especially of the end-of-term dance pieces, choreography, music and movement material.

 

Another reason for remaining at Newcastle College was the lecturers’ encouragement to go out and discover the regional industry yourself, knowing that the best way to gain an insight into the industry is to be amongst it. This really appealed to me because believe that it doesn’t matter where you train because ultimately it is the person you are that makes you successful.

 

Dance City (the National Dance Agency for the North East) has been amazing in the provision of a free daily professional morning classes, which have helped me in many ways, both developing my technical and performance ability and providing me with the opportunity to meet and work alongside professionals whether based in the region or visiting artists. Through attending classes at Dance City I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many of the regional companies, and I have been fortunate to work with many including Lo Giudice Dance, Appetite Dance and most recently working with Nicole Vivienne Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre to create a solo which will be performed at my upcoming fundraising event. Dance City also provides a great number of free workshops and company classes with visiting companies, and organises an Ignite programme, which offers professional classes, workshops and seminars amongst other events and activities to locally-based dance makers from the North East.

 

The time I spent working with Exquisite Corpse | Dance Theatre, now Lo Giudice Dance, was an exciting year of performances, festivals and a week residency in Prague, and I learned a great deal along the way. Through each performance, I gained a greater confidence which has continued to grow through the continued support I receive from everyone.

 

Unfortunately I was not involved in ‘Roma’ this year as the project ran very close to the deadline of my dissertation and I had to make a decision on which to focus upon, this however gave me the opportunity to watch the work and see it from the otherside of the stage which was great as I was able to learn through observation and appreciate the work without dancing in it.

 

Following my dissertation completion, I was asked by Apple Yang, the choreographer and director of Appetite Dance, to dance in her new work ‘Letters to my Father.’ This experience gave a great insight into the Chinese culture and the detail and precision that goes into classical Chinese dance, it was often challenge for my body as it was a new dance style and technique, but I thrive on a challenge and really enjoyed it.

 

Coming to the end of my degree, I still felt that I had so much more to learn and I felt a change in location was of great importance, as this would develop me in other ways in terms of knowledge of other dance techniques and cultures. I chose to apply to the José Limón Institute because the technique excites me: I love the play with weight, fall and recovery within his technique, and the work with the breath, as I feel that through using breath, you discover a lot more about the movement  and the depth you can take within it.

 

I am very interested in suspension and stillness during performance as it allows and requires the body to discover a prolonged energy to project. Limón technique will help to develop all of the above whilst at the same time encouraging me as a performer to explore and express my own individuality.



The current state of the UK dance industry

 

From what I have experienced of the UK dance industry in terms of funding, as it stands, is that a lot of funding is put into the creation of a piece but then there is often only one performance. I find this bizarre because there is not a possibility for the work to be seen by the wider audience, so I see this as a waste of time and money. I think there needs to be greater funding and development within a touring circuit so that a work can produce more than a one-night wonder.

 

While studying for my dissertation, I became aware that as a result of the government cuts, the dance organisations, companies, theatres and schools have to find other means of finance in order to survive the current climate. Increased fees for studio hire and and increase ticket prices are two methods that continue to be utilised, however this only jeopardises the industry further, as with a tighter budget, a choreographer has reduced funds, restricted access to studios and therefore less rehearsal time, which risks reducing the quality of the product.

 

I found that the most affected areas are companies, which are struggling to survive in the industry with the funding being either reduced or cut. While the Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs disbanded last December after 25 years, other choreographers including Henri Oguike have dissolved their companies to work freelance, as this is usually a more financially effective method of working, having only themselves to fund. Nevertheless, on the other end of the spectrum, Sadler’s Wells is receiving an increase of £700,000, and Rambert Dance Company has received £7 million to build their new premises.



Some final words

 

It is hard to explain what dance means to me, although what I can say is that it is what I have an incredible commitment to dance, and it is of paramount importance in my life, devoting myself to the art form. The ‘buzz’ of performing is like no other, it takes me away from myself, and I become someone else and I feel myself beam. I love it.

 

I love the company Netherlands Dans Theatre: their technique, choreography and performances are all amazing, Jiri Kylián’s Petit Mort is my favourite work – no matter how often you watch it, it never gets old.

 

I am also a great fan of physical theatre, especially DV8 and Lloyd Newson, I find myself very interested in human psychology, the power of the mind and the tricks it can play on you. Lloyd Newson’s work is inspiring; the vast amount of research and human discovery is amazing, and I would love to work under a great such he. My favourite work my DV8 is Strange Fish, although watching it late at night by yourself can be quite scary!

 

There are many other companies I love for various reasons, I find it hard to pin which is my favourite, I like versatility, excitement, but what I really love to see is that the dancers are present and enjoying themselves. You can do the smallest of things, but if you are able to capture and take the audience with you, that is the power and performance strength like no other, and that’s the skill I aspire to gain.

 

Watch Jiri Kylián's Petit Mort, Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

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A New Future for Royal Ballet Flanders?

The dance world has a very short memory. When Royal Ballet Flanders, described by Roslyn Sulcas of the New York Times as "one of the best companies in Europe",  briefly visited London in April on its tour of the UK, few people remembered the furore surrounding the company less than two years previously and the doomed campaigns to protect it.

On 23 October 2010, Kathryn Bennetts, the Artistic Director of Royal Ballet Flanders announced her "resignation" due to decisions made by the Belgian government making her position untenable and raising serious concerns about the future of Royal Ballet Flanders. The Minister of Culture, Joke Schauvliege, who has freely admitted that "she didn’t need to know anything about culture", announced that as part of the government's cost-cutting, the Opera and Ballet companies are to merge, with all artistic programming decision-making to be made by a supervising intendant (administrator) for both companies, and not by each company's Artistic Director.

In the seven years of Bennetts' tenure, she has transformed the company into an award-winning company of international renown, building up its repertoire to feature works by many of Europe's leading choreographers, especially William Forsythe, despite a budget of barely a quarter of that of comparable European companies. Although Bennetts successfully managed to reduce the company's debts through international touring, she was criticised for being "too ambitious" while the company is being punished for not doing more to increase its appeal to audiences within Flanders itself.

While in London, Bennetts gave a talk at Sadler's Wells's Lilian Baylis Studio, in which she discussed the company's future, adding that not only were a significant proportion of the company's dancers leaving, but also the rights to all of the company's full-length works were being revoked as part of the protest at Bennett's treatment by the Belgian government; 26 April, at the International Dance Festival Birmingham, saw the last-ever performance of Forsythe's Artifact by Royal Ballet Flanders.

Yesterday, on 20 August, Kathryn Bennetts tweeted "Never have been so happy to get on a flight in my life. Goodbye Antwerp hello Warsaw."

Today, Dance East has proudly announced that its director Assis Carreiro has been appointed the new Artistic Director of Royal Ballet Flanders. The press release reminds us of all her impressive achievements in raising Dance East to one of the country's most significant national dance agencies, with a funding increase of 60% over the last five years, and of the many choreographers and companies she has worked with over the years - including a brief stint at William Forsythe's Ballett Frankfurt.

For any company seeking to expand its profile, repertoire and core funding, Assis Carreiro would be a tremendous asset. Yet one cannot read through her career profile without recognising her sheer ambition - and then wonder how that will sit with the Belgian Ministry of Culture, who appears to be averse to ambitious Artistic Directors. Indeed, the background situation implies that the Artistic Director role is little more than that of a caretaker, overseeing a reduced budget, reduced repertoire and reduced cast of dancers, as well as a reduced scope for artistic decision-making.

It's all too easy to imagine that Carreiro has exciting plans and ideas for the company's future, and it remains to be seen how she handles the challenges and handicaps which she'll be facing. To quote Miracle Max from The Princess Bride, "it would take a miracle".

 

 

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Can You Come Out to Play?

Never one for being good in my own company, I need other people, or a busy environment in which to feel free to play with movement. A piece I'm currently rehearsing for involves the use of, among other things, a pool of water, and lighting a bowl of lighter fluid. And it’s great fun. The power I felt from being 'allowed' to simply play with these elements took me by surprise.

It's rare that, as adults, we're given such opportunities, and I think that it's a privilege that dancers are afforded more than others. It’s taken for granted, expected, that children will and must play: it aids social development, dexterity, and, in the words of Einstein, ‘play is the highest form of research’. So when is it that things change, and why? At some point we become to cool to play, perhaps we feel we’ve researched enough, and that we know all we want to know. I for one hope I never feel that way!

As well as playing with fire and water, I’ve recently been playing at being a woodland creature throughout summer festivals, and at being part of a human living room. The uncertain glee in a child’s voice when invited to sit on our sofa made of bodies was wonderful to hear: ‘Am I really allowed to sit? But it’s not really a chair!?’ She sat, she had a biscuit (from the human coffee table), and all was well.

A key part of a Dance Movement Therapist’s work is encouraging play, and in the short time that I studied this I gained a huge amount of knowledge and insight about myself, and how I relate to other people and the environment around me. All from moving, exploring and playing with the props / tools / toys that we were provided with.

I consider improvisation to be a form of play, but as it’s often very structured and goal- orientated, I think the sense of freedom can be lost. I think as performers, we’re extremely lucky to have the opportunity to freely explore a movement, a piece of music, a prop or a subject matter, and that as part of a creative process, this should not be used simply as an introduction or a way to get started, but should be constantly revisited and researched. We’re also free to play dress up, to become other characters and encourage the imagination of our audience to join us, which is of course a key reason why Joe Public wants to go to the theatre: everyone wants to be able to experience something ‘other’.

My car boot is currently stocked with, among other things, a Barbie skateboard, thousands of ping-pong balls and a bag of sand. These things have been used, and will be again, to encourage playfulness in dancers young and old, of many years’ experience or of none, and the results both artistic and experiential are great and, I’m sure, a hundred times better than if I just taught some new moves.

So don’t be a grownup. OK, be a grownup, but be a grownup who can play. If it’s good enough for Einstein…
 

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I, Dancer

So, I have this theory.

It may not be new or earth-shattering, but it’s something that’s been playing on my mind these last few weeks.

Ask me what it is to be a professional dancer and I give a very vague answer. It’s more of an extended “Errr…” with a slight shrug, coupled with an apologetic smile. The results are very unglamorous, but the moment passes, the conversation moves on, and I feel somewhat mystified with my answer. It’s not that I’m dispassionate about what I do, it’s that the term “dancer” is an elusive one, even to me.

Often I feel my problem is the discrepancy with language. You say potato and I say, well… potato. Like any good essay, the beginning is governed by the shaping of your own definition, applying parameters to what it is you are writing about. Place those parameters up in life and it is easy to think that you are missing out on something, conversely, fail to shape them to some degree and you enter a stupor (exhibit A).

I think I may be able to eradicate future vague (read: embarrassing) situations if I solidify my identity by not living a semi-detached lifestyle, but rather embracing a full-bodied experience of dancerdom, whatever shape and definition it takes. More and more I realize a path to “success” is elusive if you can’t find within yourself what success means to you, and the means you have to achieve it.

And so my theoretical proposition is this: the artist is lived, not acquired.

Acquiring something begs for definition. Living something allows for life to grow and shape itself, a career/job/calling can develop and extend beyond the boundaries that have been set up. How many times are your inspirations been those who step outside what you’ve expected? If I’m to surprise myself, really push myself, and fall into the lifestyle I crave, it defies definition.

So enter project Exiting Stupor.

It is giving myself permission to surprise myself.

It is being and living the dancer and not believing it’s something that I’ll create for myself in an instant. I’ve been training for years, thinking and acting like a dancer for years and yet I’m still waiting for the moment when I feel like I am a dancer – strange, isn’t it? It’s not your conventional job. There are no parameters, guidelines or timelines. The “dancer” is as individual as the person and that’s what makes them fascinating – it’s what keeps art interesting, moving, and developing, because a deep-seated interest in every human being is what it is like to be another.

It’s time to play. To exist. To live.

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AD Dance Company: And We Gather

Old floorboards creaked, the temperature rising as you ascend the small but cozy theatre space that is The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick. It’s an intimate setting, bringing the dancers in close proximity to their audience, immersing both parties in loud music and mood lighting. A lone female dancer, dressed in black lace emerges from the corner, casting a long shadow onto the back wall. Her hair is severely coiled on her head, her movement quick and precise.

So begins AD Dance Company’s program And We Gather; injury had unfortunately affected these performances, and the company have done a wonderful job of reworking things at the last moment.

Calling upon the inspirational likes of Marie Rambert and Wayne McGregor is a vast and ambitious claim. Were both choreographers sitting side-by-side, these iconic British names may never have fathomed themselves in the same sentence, but this clash of choreographic influences has found a resting ground within the night’s program. Comprised of two works, Slowly We Collide and And They Have Escaped, both pieces sought to examine the influence of gender in choreography.

Slowly We Collide, choreographed by artistic director Holly Noble, leads a tangled journey, the two female dancers taunting and compelling the four male dancers to accompany them. There we strong overtones of swan images in this work, the dancers lifting their arms and isolating their shoulders, artistically preening before beginning another duet. Both male and female dancers had strong facility, and high legs abound in this work, punctuated with technically strong pas de deux work from the dancers.

I wonder at the ultimate intention of this piece, the male dancers showing no compulsion to physically respond to the female dancers who would cling to them, clearly trying to dominate. Were they commenting on the balletic dynamic of a female lead and her partner, I could forgive the ambivalence the males displayed, but a stronger call for an interrelationship would have developed a clearer notion of what was going on. The male dancers, often echoing the females in flipping their legs, matched one another so closely there was a stronger unity than division.

And They Have Escaped, choreographed by company members Chandelle Allen and Brett Murray, was busting with music and material. The whole company, entering the stage and creating boxes for themselves conveyed a series of duets, trios and group work, which was instigated by the dancers exiting their box. Progressively, they did indeed escape, with movements which were powerful, punctuated and fragmented. The tone of this piece contrasted strongly with the last, and the influx of the aforementioned inspiration was hinted at in the varying partnerships.

I would be interested to see this work displayed on a longer trajectory. There were so many ideas, and before they completely unraveled they were recapped and wound up to a conclusion. A whirlwind series, these relationships belied the long male solo at the beginning which involved the dancer darting and mimicking a dancer in another box, encouraging him to move. This solo captured a poignant moment, and this sensitivity carried throughout the rest of the piece may have calmed and shaped the rest into a more paced work.

AD Dance Company has grappled with an overload of ideas which never had the time or space to develop completely. While the dancers were certainly technically capable, the conceptual content was too ambitious and failed to achieve the physical resonance within the dancers for them to emotionally understand the piece and move their audience. Whilst the overall intent of this work was to gather, there were so many fragments that drove both of these pieces to disperse.
 

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Marc Brew Company: Fusional Fragments

Rough Cuts performances are a rare opportunity for audiences to watch a piece in an intimate setting while it’s still a work in progress. Dance East allows resident choreographers the chance to use their facilities, showcase and test-drive work before its completion. The Rough Cuts format also includes a Q&A session at the end of the performance, allowing the choreographer to get direct feedback from the audience on their unpolished piece.

The evening’s performance is choreographed by multiple award-winner Marc Brew, a classical and contemporary-trained dancer who has had his own established company since 2001.

Fusional Fragments is the culmination of a year-long collaboration with renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and composer Phillip Sheppard. It is also a commission by Unlimited to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

With the help of five dancers with incredible strength and skill, Marc Brew Company uses Fusional Fragments to explore whether ballet and contemporary dance should mould together or whether they should stay eternally fragmented.

The distinct movement vocabulary of Marc Brew is hypnotizing. It drags the audience into the intricate yet quirky folding and unfolding balletic lines and movement. The partnerwork in the duets and trios demand to be watched.

A highlight was the dynamic performance lighting of Andy Hamer throughout the piece. At the beginning of the performance, it seemed as though the live sounds of Dame Evelyn Glennie were being initiated by the movements of the dancer breaking the fragments of light projected on the stage.

The finale was exceptionally beautiful, with three dancers onstage in a kaleidoscope of light, completely surrounding the audience and making them feel like they were part of the of the lyrical and coherent performance.

After a year in the making, all of the elements for Fusional Fragments finally came together for this preview: it was like magic happening in front of my eyes.

Fusional Fragments will be performed at the South Bank Centre August 31st. You will be missing out if you don’t go and see it.

 

Tickets for the South Bank show can be bought here: ticketing.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/dance-performance/tickets/marc-brew-company-with-evelyn-glennie-65338
 

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New Adventures: Play Without Words

At the recent premiere screening of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake in 3D, a member of the audience asked Bourne how he manages to tell stories without words. While the question was within the context of Swan Lake, it would have been far more obvious to mention Play Without Words, originally commissioned by the National Theatre in 2002 as part of their Transformation season, which was devised to appeal to younger audiences with experimental works.

As part of Matthew Bourne's 25-year anniversary celebrations, Play Without Words follows hot on the heels of the retrospective of his earliest works, Early Adventures, which saw the young Bourne veer between a theatrical path and a pure dance path. In Play Without Words, Bourne clearly leapfrogged over the entire dance spectrum, creating a work which lies somewhere in the grey area between physical theatre and dance theatre, too tightly choreographed and performed to truly belong to the physical theatre world, and with too little dance content to be at home in the world of dance theatre.

In the Play Without Words programme, Matthew Bourne explains that he has cast two or three dancers for each role to highlight the choreography for each character, which would probably be overlooked if only one dancer is performing each role, but not if two or three dancers are performing simultaneously, or variations of each role. And there lies the genius of Play Without Words: not in the storytelling, but of watching the dancers move and interact with each other.

The storyline itself, flimsy though it is, is based on Harold Pinter's 1963 film The Servant, and Play Without Words recreates a world set in 1963, influenced by several other new wave British films from that period. The story follows Anthony and his manservant Prentice, who rises up against the three Anthonies - cowering underneath the stairs to escape him - and finally ending on an equal footing. Additional characters include Glenda, Anthony's fiancée, and Sheila, the housemaid-in-duplicate-only. And yes, if you add all them up, they amount to quite a lot of people on stage at any time. The effect is often that of the museum scene in the Thomas Crown Affair remake: lots of identical characters, but which ones are which?

Considering the storytelling of Matthew Bourne's other works such as Swan Lake, The Car Man or Cinderella, people expecting similarly coherent storytelling from Play Without Words will be disappointed, as the show drifts from morning to afternoon to evening, from indoors to outdoors and between characters. But this is Matthew Bourne's work, after all, so we're rewarded by the tiny gestures and nuances: in one scene, Anthony (Richard Windsor) is sitting in a chair reading a newspaper while Prentice nonchalantly turns the pages as he walks past, then drops a cushion behind Anthony's back when he leans forward. In other sequences we see different outcomes for the characters: for example after the Prentices' uprising, one Prentice sits in the armchair while his Anthony sits on the floor beside him being patted on the head; another Prentice reluctantly pours a drink for his master, while the third Prentice is sitting on the stairs giving Anthony a shoulder rub.

Play Without Words, now ten years old, is a timely exploration of what choreography can achieve, with the upcoming Place Prize and its interest in stretching the boundaries of choreography. And while the choreography is astounding, with razor-sharp performances from the cast, it is let down by its storytelling which prevents it from being a truly amazing show.

 

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WatkinsDance: Angled Eye

There's a growing movement which encourages dancers to explore their choreographic interests - eg Rambert Dance Company, Hofesh Shechter Dance Company and Royal Ballet's dedicated (and funded) seasons, or even smaller dance companies such as Diciembre Dance Group and AD Dance Company which encourage other company members to try their hand at choreographing works for the company. As seen with the recent showcase of choreography from Hofesh Shechter Dance Company's dancers, if the dancers are used to dancing in a particularly stylised manner, then their own work will almost certainly be a variation of that style. There's also the risk that they might not be that good at choreography - which isn't normally too much of an issue in these circumstances, and anyway, you can't expect everyone to be good at everything.

The programme for Angled Eye features five works created by Anna Watkins of Tavaziva Dance: a very remarkable achievement, especially considering that she only founded WatkinsDance last year, and that her lengthy bio makes little mention of her choreographic background. It's unusual to see a company so focussed on quantity, not to mention length of works, especially compared with the likes of Pair Dance (who Anna has danced with) and Hofesh Shechter, who nurture pieces over several years before creating any more.

The lineup for Angled Eye started with an opening work by Watkins and Bawren Tavaziva performed by Rambert Dance Company's youth company Quicksilver and an excerpt from a work by AD Dance Company - the only non-Watkins work of the evening - followed by four pieces by WatkinsDance.


The first of the four WatkinsDance pieces, Broken Silence, served as a potted summary of Watkins's choreographic ideas in the opening minutes, which were then repeated and recycled throughout the rest of the evening. Broken Silence was about "powerful female dancers", and it was indeed performed by intense-looking women; the opening sequences used a mixture of high-speed movement and slow full-body undulations, punctuated with satisfying kicks, and much reliance on repetition. While it's refreshing to see a piece adhere to its programme notes, Broken Silence was a little too literal in places: the dancers covered their mouths with their hands to indicate being silenced, while the audience saw rather more of the dancers' crotches than they might have liked, thanks to the "erotic" aspects of the choreography.

Inseparable was a duet with interesting dynamics, the male dancer ranging from disinterested to instigating much of the movement, while the female dancer shifted between needy and aggressive and back again.

Domination was a solo performed by Lauren Wilson, which seemed to have slightly more diverse choreography than the preceding pieces, with more hyperextended movements and a significant amount of kneeling-based movement. Similar to her role in Broken Silence, Wilson glared at the audience challengingly, reminding us of what a fierce dominant female she is, slicing the air in case we're in doubt. Unfortunately, the use of repetition gave the impression of trying to extend the piece beyond its natural length, without sufficient ideas to fill the additional length.

If the previous works suffered from insufficient ideas, Forget-Me-Not more than made up for that, with an excess of ideas but a shortfall of cohesion.

Forget-Me-Not was was recently performed at Rich Mix as part of a double-bill with (threads), and is Watkins' tribute to her mother who died when she was thirteen. It's certainly not what you'd expect from a tribute or dedication, and if not for the voiceover at the start and end, it would be all too easy to forget.

In Forget-Me-Not, Watkins uses two distinct choreographic styles and shifts between the two throughout the piece, either using smaller, more controlled movements, almost lyrical in style, or Watkins' physically dynamic style. When performing in the latter style, the dancers appear to revisit sections of the preceding pieces, and again, there's a feeling of the piece being dragged out unnecessarily.


It's extremely ambitious and audacious to programme so many of one's works in one show, and certainly few companies would dare to do the same: in fact the last quintuple-bill I can recall seeing was Dutch National Ballet's celebration of Hans van Manen. And in no way can Anna Watkins be compared with van Manen.

The downside of such a programme is that while each work would have more impact on its own, as part of such a full programme, each piece lessens the impact of the subsequent works, resulting in an anticlimatic ending. Watkins certainly redefines abstraction, relying on seemingly unconnected sequences with some recurring movement being the only thing tying them together. Also, given the intensity of Watkins' choreographic style, there's no room for uncertainty or lack of synchronisation, and there was a little too much of both from the dancers.

There are two main issues here: firstly, the focus on output has had a negative impact on the quality and definition of the work, and time and energy would have been better spent on creating fewer shorter pieces, which in turn would help Watkins develop a clearer choreographic voice. The second issue is that until she does, she will find it hard to attract an audience outside of family and friends, as a showcase of five unedited works by a new choreographer can only be described as one thing: a vanity project.

 

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Shobana Jeyasingh: TooMortal

Euston Road is bustling with high-speed and heavy traffic on this dreary summer’s afternoon. Londoners – residents and tourists alike – take shelter from the rain where they can, shop windows, bus stops, even the entrance of a local church. Of the latter, a small crowd gather but they’re waiting for more than just the rain to stop. In fact, they’re waiting for something to begin.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today at St Pancras' Church to witness the holy matrimony of movement and sound, design and concept: the latest creation from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, TooMortal. Commissioned by Dance Umbrella as part of an impressive lineup of cultural events happening across the capital for the London 2012 Festival, TooMortal is already destined for great things. Jeyasingh has taken inspiration from Venetian churches, following a recent visit to Italy, and location certainly forms the basis for the work.

A haze of pale blue and green light filters down through the aisle and we, the congregation, are led to the nave of the church where we reside for the duration of the piece. Silence falls, the beaming light fades, four female bodies arise from the pews before dramatically draping themselves along them. These women are eerily in time with each other, and eerie, too, is the deep stare that they hold which is both intense and vacant. Two more appear, almost ghostlike, resuming similar limb-strewn positions along the pews. A fascinating juxtaposition presents itself, for there is warmth in this cold, cold place. These, now six, female bodies are sensual, sultry, fiery-red in their looks (wearing loose-fitting costumes which reveal bare legs, neck and arms) and their manner as they lean, slide, grab their way along the wooden seats, elongating their arms, extending their legs, rolling their head. They move together, as one, but also alone, as one; that is to say there is both attachment and detachment from each other. Spooky.

The plot thickens as the very thing that gives these women strength, power, freedom also binds them – in fact they do not leave their designated pew, not even for a moment – it is indeed a blessing and a curse. Incessant tossing and turning of the head, frantic shaking of the torso, frenetic niggling and writhing of the limbs; try as they might, they cannot divorce themselves from this place. These are disturbed minds and bodies seeking solemn and, although in a place of worship, religion takes a back seat for this piece. Nevertheless, the dancers embark upon an act of devotion to the movement, almost sacrificing the body for us, themselves, their art.

By having her dancers performing in the would-be audience, Jeyasingh challenges performance conventions and, subsequently, the conventions and traditions that the location requires.  It’s a case of who’s watching who, but with the fourth wall well and truly gone, it’s a refreshing take on the spectator expectations. For the dance buffs, TooMortal gives a gentle nod towards Lea Anderson’s Flesh and Blood but if it does, then it is a passing detail for this is a standalone work, an artist responding to her inspiration.

 

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New Movement Collective: Casting Traces

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Never have I seen the stage/audience barrier so cleverly eradicated as in New Movement Collective’s new work Casting Traces. Inventive, ambitious and cleverly articulated, the collective’s new work, performed as part of Big Dance 2012, has combined architecture, film, music, and dance to provide an immersive experience challenging the traditionally wired audience member.
 
Founded in 2009, New Movement Collective are a collaborative set of dancers/choreographers who aim to develop work that is a direct response to different and unusual theatre settings, transforming and evolving the notion of contemporary dance theatre by playing with the boundaries of dance and architecture.
 
From the moment of ticket collection, with intricately-folded programs and the adorning of white paper coats, the experience had begun. Entering a small space dominated by two dancing shadows and a solo violin, the anticipation rose. The telephone kept ringing, and then… the paper barrier broke. The 650sq metre old dairy had become (via a paper labyrinth) a train station… New York’s back streets… an apartment. Dancers meet, depart, hurdle and lift, sometimes obscured by paper, at other times in full spotlight.
 
Inspired by the non-linear aspects of Paul Auster’s novel “The New York Trilogy”, a clamoring of scenes, ideas and evocative moments spin a tantalizing portrait of potential stories. The audience members are invited to explore every crevice of the work, drawn through the space with pinpointed lighting and sound design. Encapsulating different areas of the space, dancers appear and disappear in the network of paper to engage with one another. The dancers are confident in their stride and focus, audience members turn in surprise or dash out of the way as a performer hurtles past to begin a compelling and intimate duet only steps away.
 
In such a voyeuristic setting, and with ample opportunity for experiencing and aiding the transformation of the work, New Movement Collective has developed a complete sensory experience. Illusion, mystery and shadow play dominate with as much unseen as seen. It is not only the dancers that create this performance, the audience is an integral part of it too, shaping the work and heightening the anticipation of finding the next part of the performance occurring. The dancers blend into the crowd when they wish, or they stand out and perform; either way the movement became palpable. Each part of the dance that was revealed offered a precious and unique moment which propagated the feeling of wanting more.
 
The dancing itself was articulate and dynamic, the performers never escaping the intensity of their movement. Characters were hinted at, but never entirely revealed; relationships were many and often changed. This work offered no solid answers to the events that were unfolding; confusing at times, it heightened the uncertainty of the space and revealed a new platform for integrated work.
 
I left this performance feeling like I’d missed something, worried about the phrases I hadn’t caught, the dancing I’d desired to see and not. Over time this bred into a settled certainty that I had been more involved, more up close and personal than I’d ever been able to be as an audience member. Primarily fleeting, the setting created by these dance artists ensures you will feel compelled to come back. Casting Traces is a work you could see over and over again, arriving at a different point and conclusion each time. Transformative and experimental, New Movement Collective have used the ephemeral nature of dance to their advantage, enabling an immersive experience that is not to be missed.
 
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Weekly Roundup: 9 July

Between Big Dance and everything else, this week is absolutely jampacked full of dance, and you may well have a hard time squeezing everything in. To make it easier for you, we're listing events per day, as it's the best way to keep track of them all! We heartily recommend New Movement Collective - and for the rest, see below....

(Disclaimer: this roundup has been written under the influence of a migraine and lots of painkillers).


Monday

Pina Bausch: Wiesenland - 9 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (last-minute returns only): www.sadlerswells.com/show/Pina-Bausch-World-Cities-2012-Wiesenland

Unthinkable even a few short weeks ago, but the festival of Pina Bausch's works has finally come to an end, with Wiesenland, a somewhat unHungarian exploration of Hungary but with an amazing enormous hedge covering the back wall. As ever, expect whimsy, theatre and beautiful dancing in varying quantities - but be warned that several of her dancers are absent for this final piece.


Dance In Focus: 9 July
City Hall
Tickets & details: www.ballet.org.uk/editorial.php?ref=big-dance-focus

This evening is something special, offering a chance to view dance photography by aspiring photographers working with acclaimed dance photographer Chris Nash, who will then lead a panel discussion exploring the special relationship between dancer and photographer and how to achieve the perfect image.

There will also be a performance by English National Ballet of a new work choreographed by Hubert Essakow, using the photography exhibition as his inspiration. Essakow's works are always worth watching, and as an added bonus, tickets are only £5.

It's also the final week of Chris Nash's exhaustive exhibition at Artsdepot, so make sure you set aside time to trek up there before it's over.
Details: artsdepot.co.uk/event_details.php?sectionid=visual%20arts&eventid=1653&searchid=current


Big Dance: The Big Dance Big Top Tent: 9 July
Grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich SE10 9LW
Details: greenwichdance.org.uk/engage/bigdanceevent/the_big_dance_big_top_tent/

There are two events at the Big Tent on Monday, the Family Cabaret from 5pm till 7pm, and then the Cabaret (ages 14 upwards) from 8pm onwards. Both events will be compered by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt of BalletBoyz, with circus acts and live music in addition to the dance performances.

The family cabaret show features several youth dance companies including Quicksilver, Rambert's youth dance company (our reviewer Rachel Vogel is one of the dancers) as well as a performance by English National Ballet.

The evening show will include an extract of Protein Dance's LOL (Lots of Love) and performances by AD Dance Company, Levantes Dance Theatre and English National Ballet.


Grad Show: London Contemporary Dance School - 9 - 13 July
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/13925/performance-listings/london-contemporary-dance-school-graduation-performances.html

London Contemporary Dance School's graduate shows continue, offering a mixture of student choreography, commissioned works and Richard Alston's repertoire, eliciting works and performances of a high standard. Saturday's show - kindly broadcast live by The Place on YouTube - presented the two best student works from LC3 (2pm by Tom Peacock and Andrea Dorelli; Opsimath by Michael Kelland) and a fantastic work for the students by Sasha Roubicek. We don't know what the remaining programmes will offer, but we know that most of it will be very good indeed.


Tuesday

New Movement Collective: Casting Traces - 10 - 13 July
Testbed1, Parkgate Road, Battersea, London SW11 4NP
Details: www.newmovement.org.uk/casting-traces.html
Tickets: www.seetickets.com/Tour/NEW-MOVEMENT-COLLECTIVE
Trailer: vimeo.com/43068655

"Dance, architecture, film and specially commissioned music meet to create a world of illusion, mystery and shadow play, where nothing is what it seems. Touching on the popular themes of detective novels and the modern issues of ever-present surveillance, the audience explore a giant paper maze, becoming directly involved with the performance space and influencing the transformation of their surroundings. Projection and live camera feeds enable participants to meet themselves around every corner as they explore the hidden spaces of Testbed 1 – a 650sq metre former dairy in the heart of Battersea."

New Movement Collective is more than a typical dance company: it's a collective of established dancers, many of them current or past dancers with Rambert Dance Company, seeking to challenge the boundaries of dance and performance, working with architects to create new performance spaces for their work. But don't let that put you off or make you think of the stereotypes of experimental dance - New Movement Collective presents brilliant choreography and dancers in an intriguing and refreshing way.


Thursday


C-12 Dance Theatre: The Van Man - 12 July, 1pm & 6.30pm
National Theatre
Details: insideout.nationaltheatre.org.uk/event/the-van-man-c-12-dance-theatre-uk?day=201207121830

C-12 Dance Theatre is an impressive company founded by Middlesex University graduates fusing physical theatre and contemporary dance to create a wide range of striking indoor and outdoor works, notching up acclaim and awards over the years. Having performed Trolleys last weekend at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, they now bring their work about a man, a van and a blowup doll to National Theatre's Watch This Space festival. You may have to fight for space, but it's definitely worth watching.


Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words: 12 July - 5 August
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Matthew-Bournes-Play-Without-Words

Definitely one of Bourne's best works, 'Play Without Words' is a sexy, '60s-set, upstairs/downstairs dance drama, based on Robin Maugham's story 'The Servant' (and the Joseph Losey film of the book). You'll see super-stylish, precision choreography, setting out the complex social mores and sexual desires of a Chelsea couple and their domestic help. Bourne's trademark wit is in evidence, but none of the pantomime mugging seen in some of his other works. Terry Davies's jazzy score sets the scene perfectly and sets come courtesy of Bourne's longtime collaborator Lez Brotherston. (from Time Out).

Play Without Words won the 2003 Olivier Awards for Best Entertainment and Best Theatre Choreographer.


Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company: TooMortal - 12 - 14 July
St Pancras Parish Church, Euston Rd, NW1 2BA
Tickets & details: www.shobanajeyasingh.co.uk/TooMortal/index.html
Trailer: vimeo.com/43895397

Shobana Jeyasingh's latest work has been created especially to be performed in churches. 'TooMortal' is inspired by the idea of church as a place of enquiry and a place of solace, and responds to the architecture and history of these sacred buildings. Set to a soundscore by Nick Rothwell, aka Cassiel, the six female dancers perform Jeyasingh's trademark movement language - contemporary dance shot through with Indian bharata natyam. (Description from Time Out).


Weekend


Royal Ballet: Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 - 14 - 20 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/metamorphosis-titian-2012-by-various
Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z90BeVQiAtA

Dame Monica Mason's final year of directorship finally draws to a close with this specially-commissioned triple bill, which will say a sad farewell to both her and Tamara Rojo on 20 July. Metamorphosis: Titian is a collaboration between the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, commissioning three renowned artists to create works inspired by Titian paintings, depicting scenes from Ovid's Metamorphosis, in collaboration with a total of seven choreographers: Christopher Wheeldon, Will Tuckett, Liam Scarlett, Jonathan Watkins, Kim Brandstrup, Wayne McGregor and Alastair Marriott.

There will be a free screening in Trafalgar Square on 16 July: let's hope this rain can hold off for one whole evening!


Big Dance: Big Dance Trafalgar Square: 14 July, 12pm (tbc)
Trafalgar Square
Details: www.bigdance2012.com/trafalgar_square.php

Wayne McGregor has spent the last few months creating a new work to be performed at Trafalgar Square as the culmination of this year's Big Dance, to be performed by 1000 dancers from 40 groups from across London. Commissioned films will be shown of Big Dance Beijing and Big Dance Rio as part of the UK’s Big Street Dance Day.


Gwyn Emberton: 14 July (6pm) & 15 July (2pm)
Regent's Canal Festival, Mile End Park, Grove Road/ Burdett Road, London E3

We were very impressed by Gwyn Emberton's performance in Resolution! at The Place earlier this year, so we're welcoming another chance to see him perform - if the rain holds off!


Cloud Dance Festival Corner


Milo Miles Presents: Elysium at Prism - 11 July
Prism Brasserie, Harvey Nichols
Tickets & details: www.harveynichols.com/hnedit/food-and-wine/whats-on-food-wine/prism-london-whats-on/elysium-at-prism/
Interview: www.thisiscabaret.com/milo-miles-here-to-entertain-you/

This July Prism Brasserie will be hosting Elysium, a sensational floorshow, mixing cabaret, burlesque, circus and illusion.

Created and choreographed by Milo Miles, this sophisticated evening looks back to the heyday of cabaret and blends it with contemporary supper club chic in a relaxed and glamorous environment.

With entertainment running uninterruptedly throughout the night you can spend the evening, from cocktail hour to post dinner drinks, enjoying performances from dancers, singers and guest acts.


Ijad Dance Company: In-Finite - 14 July
Rich Mix
Tickets & details: www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/in-finite/
Trailer: vimeo.com/32620005#at=0

In-Finite celebrates cultural identity, exploring collages of untold secrets. Creating harmony between dance, music and visual imagery, IJAD Dance Company will explore the state of flux between knowing and not knowing.

Audiences will witness a work in progress performance of In-Finite, which will be developed into a full work and performed at Rich Mix in Autumn 2012.

Audiences (both in the venue and online) will be encouraged to interact with the performers through social media platforms and this communication will become a part of the piece. The work is an interpretation of the secrets that IJAD has received during an investigation into the relationship between a person, their secrets and the intensity this creates.


The Arts Dance - 15 July
The Arts Theatre
Tickets & details: www.londontheatredirect.com/ballet/1106/Summer-Arts-Theatre--The-Arts-Dance---An-Evening-of-Contemporary-Dance-tickets.aspx

Charlie Dixon Dance Company will be performing Wise Man again, in a one-off evening of contemporary dance alongside other emerging companies including Tom Bowes Dance (Jordan Massarella Dance (his work was recently performed by Verve) will no longer be performing). The Arts Theatre is a very atmospheric venue, rarely used for dance, so this promises to be an interesting evening for all.

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Preview: New Movement Collective

There was a recent discussion on Twitter about which dance companies we find exciting, and although our list is very short, New Movement Collective is very firmly on it, even though they're a long way from a typical dance company.

Founded in 2009, New Movement was founded in 2009 as a collective to enable a group of established dancers to challenge the scope of choreography and performance, and increasingly, to explore the meeting of dance and architecture. If you're looking for a "normal" dance performance in a theatre, then this won't be for you, but if you're open to some great dance in an unusual setting with creative use of film, architectural sets and space to create a memorable experience indeed, then book your ticket now.

Casting Traces is their latest work, inspired by Paul Auster’s seminal novel ‘The New York Trilogy’, set in an architect-designed paper labyrinth in a former dairy. Lasting 45 minutes, this will be a promenade performance, inviting the audience to explore the venue at length, with the help of film and live camera feeds. Their most ambitious project yet, New Movement Collective have received their first ever Arts Council funding to assist with the development of this work and of TestBed1 as a suitable venue.

New Movement Collective have performed a number of works in London, Madrid and Cologne, and last September, they performed 'Exquisite Corpse' at the Architectural Association in Bloomsbury. The first part of the performance took place in a long room with an improvised catwalk at one end, with beaded curtains at the other end. Outside, white cloths had been draped between buildings; a brief performance on the catwalk was followed by shadowy figures dancing behind screens and dance films projected onto the beaded curtains then onto the cloths, creating a very dramatic effect.

The main appeal of New Movement Collective will undoubtedly be the dancers who form it, making it something of a contemporary dance supergroup - all the more so since Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon recently left Rambert Dance Company in order to focus on their own futures as choreographers.

Jonathan Goddard is likely the best-known of New Movement's dancers, having been nominated for a South Bank Show / Times Newspaper Breakthrough Award, an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and twice nominated in the Critics' Circle Awards for Best Male Dancer, winning in 2008. Since 2009, he has been choreographing with Gemma Nixon as the Goddard | Nixon Project, now Goddard Nixon, with their works performed at The Place in Resolution! and Spring Loaded, at the Linbury Studio in the Royal Opera House and at Cloud Dance Festival.

Kevin Turner and Anthony Missen are known to many as the two halves of Company Chameleon, currently touring an outstanding duet, Push, around the summer outdoor festivals, including a recent performance at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. Joe Walkling was a member of Matthew Bourne's New Adventures for several years, and last autumn, he performed in Arthur Pita's Metamorphosis at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House. The other members of New Movement Collective are current or past Rambert Dance Company dancers, and have also worked at many of the major contemporary dance and ballet companies.

Battersea might be off the beaten path for many of us, but you can trust that New Movement Collective will make it worth your while!

 

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Weekly Roundup: 2 July

As the Pina Bausch around-the-world-in-ten-shows season draws to an end, the phenomenon that is Big Dance 2012 finally kicks off, with almost everyone who's involved in dance somehow participating. And there are a few more graduate shows, for those with an eye to the future...


Royal Ballet: Birthday Offering, Month In The Country & Les Noces - to 7 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/18562

Bronislava Nijinska's Les Noces is widely acclaimed to be one of the finest works of ballet of the 20th century, and it's entirely worth missing the rest of the triple bill to watch this piece alone. Les Noces retains much of the primitivism and raw energy of her brother Nijinsky's Rite of Spring and consequently has far more impact in its depiction of a Russian bride and groom preparing for their wedding.

Often imitated and referred to throughout the years, from Pina Bausch to Javier De Frutos's The Most Incredible Thing, consider Les Noces to be part of your essential dance watching. The other two works on the programme are Ashton's Birthday Offering and Month In The Country, best suited to those who like their ballet defiantly classical. Pretty, but not even in the same league as Les Noces


Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Wiesenland - 8 & 9 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (returns only; keep watching the website): www.sadlerswells.com/show/Pina-Bausch-World-Cities-2012-Wiesenland
Duration: 2 hours 40 minutes (1 interval)

It seems hard to believe, but there's only one work left in the current Pina Bausch programme, although if you're one of the many who completely missed out on a ticket, there's hope in store with Sadler's Wells's recent announcement that Tanztheater Wuppertal will be returning on an annual basis.

Back to the present, Wiesenland is Pina Bausch's 2000 Hungarian work, "taking inspiration from Hungary’s folklore, churches, museums, the suburbs of Budapest and the horizons of Transylvania."


Big Dance: 7 - 15 July
Across the entire country
Details: www.bigdance2012.com

There will be hundreds if not thousands of events taking place over the week of Big Dance, involving almost everybody who currently works in dance. When we've figured out what the highlights are, we'll update this with their details.


Graduate Shows

Rambert School: Home Grown - 4 & 5 July
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells
Details & tickets: www.rambertschool.org.uk/2012/05/home-grown-lilian-baylis-studio/

Details are still unavailable, however expect a mixture of student choreography and repertoire from wellknown choreographers. Past graduate shows have been of a high standard, so we expect this will be much the same.


Ballet Central & Central School of Ballet: 6 & 7 July
Bloomsbury Theatre
Tickets & details: www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/1688
Trailer: youtu.be/ekq0Le83ovg

Ballet Central is Central School of Ballet's touring company of final year students, wowing audiences around the country, and for these final performances, they will be reuniting with the rest of their year for two days of performances.

Ballet Central's 2012 tour features new works from Mikaela Polley (Rambert Dance Company), Sharon Watson (Phoenix Dance Theatre) and Sara Matthews, as well as revivals by Matthew Hart, the late David Fielding, and Ballet Central's founder, the late Christopher Gable. This exciting programme of ballet, contemporary, jazz and narrative dance will also feature live accompaniment by Musical Director Philip Feeney.


London Contemporary Dance School: 6 - 13 July
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/14137/whats-on/london-contemporary-dance-school-graduation-performances.html

It's hard to go far without noticing past graduates of London Contemporary Dance School - for example, Dancing Times's current Dancer of the Month is LCDS graduate Liam Riddick - and so it's pretty definite that more than a few of this year's graduates will be making their names known in the next few years. With seven performances over the next week and a half, the programmes will probably consist of a mix of student choreographies, collaborations with Wimbledon School of Art graduating students (bungee ropes, wall-to-wall elastic and rung-heavy sets will likely feature in one or more pieces) and recent LC3 works.

Make a note of the dancers and choreographers who catch your eye, and check back in a year or so... you'll be pleasantly surprised!

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Tilted Productions: Seesaw

The bright sunlight and whipping breeze were the perfect setting for Tilted Productions' staging of Seasaw at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival this weekend.

In this 80-minute promenade performance, Maresa Von Stockert's company of seven performers lead their audience from place to place around Canary Wharf, where at each point we come across bodies - sometimes still, sometimes moving - all referencing the sea, its inhabitants or the traditions of the seaside.

We first of all see a couple meeting for a picnic. Set to an epic, Hollywoodesque score, the meeting seems fraught and urgent, an interesting contradiction to the idealistic picnic hamper and thermos, the contents of which are consumed hungrily.The piece goes on to lead its audience to a number of large, open spaces which are inhabited by the dancers, and the water of the wharf provides a wonderfully appropriate thematic setting for this work.

We see deepsea creatures, with plastic bottle spines and extended arms, performing slow-motion, underwater, almost cartoonlike duels in and around dustbins. There is a mournful and eerie duet between a man and a mermaid, with the female dancer's legs bound in water-soaked netting, to great effect.

There are moments when the piece is notably sinister, and highlights man's destructive influence on nature. This is particularly clear at our third stop, where we see three dancers as sea birds, covered in oil and moving in a distressed, fragmented way, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but never still. The epic sound score, along with the sound of bird cries and oil slipping on skin, and the ending of this section, where two 'humans' cover and suffocate the struggling birds with plastic sheeting, make this one of the more memorable moments of the work.

Billed as performance and installation, I was hoping for more to be able to interact with. We only had this opportunity once, when, signalled to do so by a sunbathing body on the pavement with the words written in sun cream on his back, we 'Listen(ed) To Shells'. The shells hanging on fencing emitted not the sound of waves crashing (as we all know they usually do), but the sound of a man reciting 'Not Waving but Drowning' by Stevie Smith, a further layer to the mournful tone of Stockert’s current work.

A more colourful part of Seasaw comes in the form of a man duetting with a striped deck chair. The quintessential symbol of British holiday-making is folded, climbed on, walked like a dog, struggled against and befriended, until finally, resolutely being sat in. The playfulness and almost slapstick elements here make for enjoyable, easy watching.

Our final stop is at another open, sweeping space along the wharf. Six dancers 'float' in life rings (not waving, but drowning?) in movement which sometimes feels contrived, but continues with a strong image of the dancers hurling earth from the immaculate lawn, and head-standing in the holes which they create. They remain there, and we move through them to a single female dancer, a rock and a water tank. She moves over, around and in the water, continuously ducking her head, birdlike, and whipping her head out, soaking the braver, closer audience members.

The image we are left with is her curled up, contortioned in the tank - a striking final image that I wanted to last longer.

Tilted Productions put on a great show, there is no doubt about that. The familiar images and bite-sized sections make the work very audience-friendly, although I felt that some sense of intimacy or connection was lost in the albeit beautiful, large open spaces in which the work was staged. But oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, and, along with some food for moral thought, Tilted do a great job of reminding me why.
 

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EDge

London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate company, EDge, offered a rather volatile night of dance watching. These little sticks of dynamite (aka dancers) can move with precision and speed, showcasing works by Sasha Waltz, James Wilton, Matthias Sperling, Rachel Lopez de Nieta and Tony Adigun. While the array of material in this dance programme was intriguing, there were small amounts of dislocation, yet the overall coherency of the night made for an enjoyable evening.

The first work was a restaging of Sasha Waltz’s earlier work String Quartet Nr. 1, originally created as part of a dance installation for the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was a very formal piece to begin the night with, and those used to current contemporary dance might be taken aback a little as a string quartet led this sextet of dancers on a lively but fragmented chase around the stage. In simple and colourful costumes, the dancers began the work with incremental broken movements, snapping back into position like a wooden children’s toy. The dancers possessed a surreal quality, lacking the fluidity that makes them human; their movements shifted them closer to the sharper sounds of the string instruments.

A curious development occurred when the dancers positioned themselves around the musicians and slowly relocated them (whilst they played) into the centre of the room. This visual shift was also a conceptual one, the focus of the piece turning toward the music itself. Albeit interesting, this seemed to be too much of a focus shift which left the dancers lying on the ground twitching intermittently with little visual interest.

The second piece, Through Shards by James Wilton, was much more steely than the first, beginning with a duet of dancers bounding out of the smoke. Reactive and volatile, this duet set the tone of what was to come: a strong, grounded work bringing a magnetic and forceful quality to the dancers. Duets and trios peppered the work, leaning, collapsing and creating a vivid cause and effect. The patterns created were simple, yet harboured a complexity which made this piece very visually interesting.

The interval shook up the audience to excite them for the unexpected nature of Matthias Sperling’s Dances With Purpose. The mention of “folk dance” in the programme notes implied something unerringly traditional and usurping the cultural ideology of the dance. This, I’m pleased to say, was not the case. The dancers were clearly enjoying themselves, wearing traditional costumes (universal black curly wigs included), bells, and waving a plethora of objects, from musical instruments to swords. Sperling’s work focused on the effect of cultural dance on an audience, and to that end he offered the joviality and inclusive nature of such a dance in all its glory. It may have been a little difficult to keep up the energy of this piece, but the concept and realization could inspire a love/hate reaction in the audience. Teetering on the edge of playful and monotonous, this work injected something just a little different into the night.

The two final works, Rite for Richard and Unleashed were both tributes to Richard Alston’s Wildlife, originally commissioned for last year's Dance Umbrella. Performed consecutively, they conveyed a contrasting interpretation of this 1986 work, one theatrical, another physically stirring.

Rite for Richard, choreographed by Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, began with a lone “bird” sitting bound on a chair in the corner of the room, dolled up in a sequinned dress, earrings and heavy makeup. This dancer created the pivot point for the other four who observed, reacted to and danced with this creature. De la Nieta’s observations and personal reactions to this documentary were astute, and there was plenty of artistic merit in the work, albeit lacking in the dance department. With a soundscape mixed by Jules Maxwell to include voiceovers and music from this film, there was an eclectic mix of stimuli which created a strong layer to the work.

Tony Adigun’s Unleashed was radically different to its predecessor. This work, at times, felt like a martial arts ground: the dancers whipped around, moved and interacted with an astute sense of one another and the space they occupied. Mimicking some of the textures in the earlier Wilton piece, invariably the strength of these dancers was shown off to great effect, even if their smiles weren’t. The costumes created an intriguing severity which was reflected in the movement style, and these whirlwinds of movement were certainly captivating to watch.

All in all, this was a stylistically absorbing night. Flipped through different physical textures, various facets of these dancers were dually explored, and the works, though quick, offered a glimpse into the technical capacity of these talented graduates.
 

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LC3

If you have any doubts about London Contemporary Dance School's influence on the contemporary dance industry, all you have to do is attend a LC3 performance and wait a year or two: past choreographers in recent years have included James Wilton and James Cousins. LC3 is a touring company of third-year students presenting a mixture of student choreography, commissioned works and repertoire - and only the very best of each. The current programme featured three works by students alongside a work by Rick Nodine and Richard Alston's most recent work, 'A Ceremony of Carols'.

Each of the student works were shockingly brief; the opening work, The Fallen by Chris Scott, seemed to end before it had decided on its direction. No sooner had the piece started than the five dancers started throwing each other around and manipulating each other physically. The choice of dim lighting and gladiatorial costumes did make the piece seem less original, while the dynamic physical style of choreography was too evocative of that of Joss Arnott and Charlie Dixon; it would be better for Scott to discover and explore his own voice.

2pm by Tom Peacock and Andrea Dorelli was the most surprising student work I've seen for a long time, a simple playful piece about two marionnette-like characters with jerky jiglike movements which were all the more effective due to their utterly deadpan faces. 2pm was very inventive and creative with plenty of hilarity and dramatic flair, not only showing Peacock and Dorelli as promising choreographers, but also as very vivid performers too.

The third student work was a solo by Michael Kelland called Opsimath, a piece which could have easily been significantly longer and still not long enough. Kelland performed a very fluid and sinuous solo, seamlessly fusing martial arts and acrobatics with contemporary dance, and slightly reminiscent of Russell Maliphant's award-winning Afterlight with Kelland turning and spinning on a darkened stage. Opsimath was very beautiful and also very unique; let's hope this is the start of a fruitful career for Kelland.

The final piece before the interval was Richard Alston's A Ceremony of Carols which was premiered last autumn. While it's undeniably rewarding for the students to learn a company's current repertoire rather than something from the archives, A Ceremony of Carols was perhaps not the most effective work to have chosen, considering the size of Rich Mix's stage and the large number of group sections in the work. Between Richard Alston Dance Company's tours and the recent retrospective of his works in last year's Dance Umbrella, there have been ample opportunities to see his works, and in particular his most impressive dancers Andres de Blust-Mommaerts, Liam Riddick, Nathan Johnson, Pierre Tappon and Nancy Nerantzi; it takes a graduate performance to make us realise how effortlessly Alston's dancers perform his works, and how easy they make it seem.

A Ceremony of Carols is a good piece for challenging dancers' technique, and while there were a number of challenging group sections, there were quite a few sections for fewer dancers, offering each of the dancers several opportunities to stand out. The standout performances were by the dancers who managed to achieve the necessary lightness and precision of movement, while it was easy to spot other dancers who wanted to dance with more vigour or passion. While Alston's style was clearly not suited to all, each of the twelve dancers gave heartfelt performances nonetheless.

Rick Nodine's Inner Orbit was the only piece in the second half of the evening, and easily the most successful work of the night. It started with fifteen dancers walking around the stage in a circle, with three darting into the centre to briefly strike some poses before rejoining the circle. As the circle progressed, differing numbers of dancers would move into the centre for different interactions: partnerwork, standoffs, confrontations. Each of these sections was very shortlived, never having the chance to develop too far, using very simple choreography such as dancers throwing themselves at each other.

Inner Orbit was a lighthearted and joyful piece, not as technically challenging as Alston, which perhaps added to its appeal and freshness. Even with lots of activity taking place onstage, it never overwhelmed the space in the same way that its predecessor did. And, hey, you've got to love a work which uses the theme music from Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray!

There was an impromptu postshow Q&A, and it was very impressive to see how maturely and eloquently the students answered the audience's questions, including fielding one question which assumed that the students all aspire to end up on Strictly Come Dancing! It was very reassuring to hear the students realistically discuss their future plans and how they perceive the arts funding crisis as a challenge and opportunity, and not the insurmountable obstacle it is to so many others. Let's hope for bright futures for all of them.
 

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Hofesh Shechter Dance Company: In Good Company

Considering his near-legendary status, we've actually seen very few works by Hofesh Shechter over the past ten years, so In Good Company, a showcase of works by several of his dancers, could have been seen as an opportunity for Hofesh's diehard fans to explore more of his style, as interpreted by his dancers. Certainly it would have been unrealistic to expect the dancers to not have been influenced by Hofesh's distinctive style - Philip Hulford and guest artist Christopher Evans both joined the company in 2006, Sita Ostheimer in 2008, Yeji Kim in 2010 and both James Finnemore and Sam Coren in 2011 - and while the highlights of the night were the choreographers finding their own unique voices, the show was nevertheless filled with powerful and impressive dancing.

The most distinctive work of the evening was Sam Coren's 'No Way But Down', which saw him reunite with his 2009 collaborative partner Kasper Hansen, now an international set and costume designer. Their first joint work, back in 2009, was part of London Contemporary Dance School's collaboration with Wimbledon School of Art, resulting in the hilarious and very theatrical Intrepid Exploring (video), which earned them a comparison with New Art Club. 'No Way But Down' offered the audience to see how the pair had evolved and matured over the past three years, and certainly it's a very assured and confident work, not compromising to provide more (any) dance content.

No Way But Down was about a solitary homeless man, portrayed by Igor Urzelai (one of The Place's Work Place artists), and his loneliness and isolation, alleviated in part by various props. Humour was provided when Urzelai, eating from a can of baked beans, found his spoon attacking him, followed by his hand throwing the contents of the can in his face. The most touching moments of the piece were in Urzelai's interactions with a pair of hoodies, looking longingly at the first one and pulling its sleeve around him in an embrace, then laying another one beside it on the ground so that one appeared to be spooning the other.

While an interesting and certainly the most creative work of the evening, No Way But Down engaged the audience the least, and sat somewhat uncomfortably with the rest of the programme.

The other individual voice of the evening was James Finnemore, a far more experimental work than last year's solo 'Patriot', but still using a similar movement style. 'The Age' was created in three sections, with the first section by far the most enjoyable of the three. The opening section used very stilting and controlled movements, with dancers Victoria Hoyland and Philip Hulford resembling music box dolls. Although dim lighting and electronic music with pronounced drumbeats were used throughout the evening, in The Age, it had the effect of making the piece more compelling to watch, forcing the audience to watch more closely in case they should miss any of the slight movements. When the dancers made the transition to non-mechanical movement, it was in short bursts, but using a very free and loose movement style, far more reminiscent of Patriot than of Shechter's style. As with Patriot, this style is captivating, and it's to be hoped that Finnemore has ample opportunities to develop his choreographic voice further, as he's definitely one to watch.

The rest of the works were less successful choreographically. The closing work was Accompany by Sita Ostheimer and Christopher Evans; "Sita and Chris are a couple" were the sole programme notes for this work, a very improvised and playful piece about creating the piece itself: in lieu of music, the soundtrack was of Christopher and Sita themselves discussing and discarding choreographic ideas. In the opening scene, Sita's movement style was aggressive and confrontational, drawing on martial arts, and her dancing retained an element of aggression throughout the piece, alternating with a frenzied improvised style while Evans - dancing alone, sometimes joining her, sometimes dancing alongside her - was almost simian in his movements. There was plenty of humour to engage the audience, as well as the threat of being dragged on stage, and despite the slightness of the work, it was clear that this was the audience favourite of the evening.

Yeji Kim's 'Last of his act' had the most copious programme notes of all five works, and indicated that the piece would be an exploration of Woman, and it developed slowly, initially with Yeji Kim and Sita Ostheimer gradually shifting between embraces, then tango-infused duets, finally culminating in Hofesh-style frenzied movement. Kim managed to blend Earth Goddess with animalistic movements in her choreography, although it was weakened by the false ending and staggered final section.

Philip Hulford, in 'lukewarm and loving it', managed to develop the most interesting relationships between his three dancers - Frederic Despierre, Karima El Amrani and Hannah Shepherd - with one of the women, dressed in a purple sweatshirt, cast as the nominal outsider, rebuffing the others' attempts to include her, yet occasionally approaching them of her own volition. Over the course of the work, Hulford explored the shifting relationships between the three dancers using very vigorous and physical choreography, while the most haunting moment was of the woman in purple dancing a solo, lit by an old-fashioned floor lamp, watched by the other two dancers. The only thing letting down this piece was its vivid echoes of Shechter's Political Mother; the structure and ideas more than prove Hulford's choreographic abilities, it just remains for him to find a voice of his own.

Thanks should be given to Hofesh Shechter for providing his dancers with this opportunity to develop themselves further as artists, and to South East Dance, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Brighton Dome and Jacksons Lane for providing the dancers with the resources to create these works. Let's see what the future holds for them.

 

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StopGAP Dance: SPUN Productions

High energy with smiles for all, StopGAP’s SPUN Productions leaves us just that – spinning. With a quirky, mobile set and fast-moving crew, this performance is a whirlwind of colour, sound and movement in a style which will appeal to all age groups.
 
Part dance, part theatre, SPUN Productions follows the rise and fall of celebrity Dave, offering frantic glimpses into a startled and hyped-up world of fame. The central character is pushed and pulled, most often unwittingly, into snapshots of situations, being torn apart and thrown together in a mish-mash of the world Dave knows and of his celebrity double. With bright costumes, larger-than-life characters, these dancers injected a sense of frivolity with some noteworthy one-liners, enough to tease and educate their audience.

StopGAP are a UK company with a strong philosophy regarding integration and participation, encouraging performers with and without disabilities. To this end, the strong characterizations seamlessly blended varying attributes of the dancers, and performers strengths were shown off to great effect. Movement styles ranged from the pedestrian, to the commercial, touching on the contemporary. Dancers would jump and tumble onto and over one another, characters colliding, physically mimicking the “fading sequences” from television.

But alongside this flurry of movement, there was an emotional depth that pervaded the work, demonstrated most freely in the final duet between David Willdridge and Lucy Bennett. The conceptual flipside of the rise is ultimately the fall, and StopGAP worked with the sensitivity required of that situation, navigating toward artistic sentimentality rather than distaste.

Performed outdoors, SPUN Productions coerced the delight from a pop-up performance, promoting The Cultural Olympiad, and used the setting to their advantage. With an up close and personal view of the performers, there was no strict boundary to the “stage” and children in particular found this mesmerizing.

For a commentary on a commercial world, StopGAP offer a sensitive and playful platform to be understood by children and adults alike. If you’re looking for a fun-filled injection of dance and theatre, look no further.
 

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Weekly Roundup: 25 June

While there are two more exciting offerings from Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal this week, the wonderful Sydney Dance Company are back in town, GDIF presents C-12 Dance Theatre, Tilted Productions and Company Chameleon - and there's a new triple bill by the Royal Ballet.


Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: World Cities 2012

Nefes (Istanbul) - 25 June
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns): www.sadlerswells.com/show/Pina-Bausch-World-Cities-2012-Nefes
Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (1 interval)

Eagerly anticipated, but considered by some to be a disappointment, Pina Bausch's reflection on Istanbul offers some lovely dancing and another creative set, but little insight into Turkish life beyond hammam references and a wealth of Turkish music.


Agua (Rio de Janeiro) - 28 & 29 June
Barbican Centre
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns): www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=12372
Running time: unknown

"The fascinating contrasts and complexities of Brazil form the inspiration for Água; a joyous homage to a paradise of swaying palm trees, sultry jungles and stalking leopards. Água journeys from beach to rainforest and back again in a playful work brimming with joie de vivre. Dancers are illuminated by fairy lights and men and women splash playfully like children on the beach; Água exemplifies all that is best in Pina Bausch's profound and playful brand of dance theatre." (from the Barbican Centre's website)


Palermo, Palermo (Sicily) - 1 & 2 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns): www.sadlerswells.com/show/Pina-Bausch-World-Cities-2012-Palermo-Palermo
Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes (1 interval)

Despite the wealth of Pina Bausch works on offer in this season, Palermo Palermo is the one work acknowledged as an absolute must-see. Try to get tickets so that you can find out why!


Greenwich + Docklands International Festival - 30 June

The annual open air festival of theatre, dance and more returns to the Greenwich & Docklands area with three great works of dance for you to enjoy.


C-12 Dance Theatre: Trolleys - 1.30pm & 3.05pm
Canary Riverside, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14
Details: www.festival.org/whatson/36/trolleys/
Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMIpoP_BbGU

If you haven't watched C-12 Dance Theatre yet, this is your chance! Performing their award-winning street ballet Trolleys, choreographed by Shaun Parker about five trolleys which attempt to find love and friendship at Canary Riverside. Part street dance, part ballet, part acrobatic spectacle, Trolleys is a high-octane, intensely physical and humorous outdoor performance – on wheels!


Company Chameleon: Push - 2.40pm & 4.05pm
Wren Landing, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14
Details: www.festival.org/whatson/37/push/

Physically challenging yet sensitive, Push continues a conversation that began in childhood between dance artists Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner. This powerful and engaging duet looks at the stances we take as we relate to one another, how at times we push and at others we yield.


Maresa von Stockert's Tilted Productions: Seasaw - 1pm & 3.40pm
Cabot Square to Canary Riverside, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14
Details: www.festival.org/whatson/40/seasaw/

A coastal trail of dance, performance art and physical theatre vignettes and installations, SEASAW is inspired by the great diversity of what the sea and its shores mean to people and what draws us to the coast. Whether evoking a glimmer of the glorious bygone days of Victorian seaside attractions or provoking thoughts on current issues such as coastal erosion and water pollution, this is an unusual, contemporary take on the seaside fair.


Sydney Dance Company: Outsiders - 27 - 29 June
Various locations
Details: www.colf.org/exhibitions/Classical-Music-Contemporary-Music-Dance-Street-Arts/54-Free-Event--Sydney-Dance-Company--Outsiders.cfm


A new duet created by Rafael Bonachela especially for the Festival’s 50 Golden Street Pianos is presented by Sydney Dance Company. The pianos are dotted across the open spaces and landmarks of central London for the public to play for three weeks of the Festival. Two dancers emerge, rendezvous and disappear against a dramatic and ever-changing London backdrop, set to solo piano composed and played by Mercury prize-nominated Gwilym Simcock. A magical open-air performance by one of Australia’s most exciting companies.

If you're on Twitter, you can find updates, timings and locations at @CoLFestival



Royal Ballet: Birthday Offering / A Month in the Country / Les Noces - 30 June - 7 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/18562

While the Royal Ballet's triple bills normally focus on more modern repertoire, this one casts its eyes backwards in time, with two works by Frederick Ashton and Nijinsky's sister Bronislava Nijinska's iconic Les Noces. While Birthday Offering is an abstract series of solos, duets and group sections, A Month in the Country tells the story of a housewife's passion for a visiting tutor, and as for Les Noces... you'll just have to see!


Graduate Shows (and beyond!)

London Contemporary Dance School

Postgraduate Choreography Alumni: 26 & 27 June
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/13942/whats-on/london-contemporary-dance-school.html

An evening of dance that draws together the work of London Contemporary Dance School’s Postgraduate Choreography alumni, featuring works by Simonetta Alessandri, Marguerite Caruana Galizia and Eva Recacha, performed by members of London Contemporary Dance School’s alumni.


EDge: 28 - 30 June
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/12818/whats-on/edge.html

EDge is London Contemporary Dance School's postgraduate performance company, and they will be performing works by Matthias Sperling, James Wilton and Sasha Waltz, as well as works inspired by Richard Alston's Wildlife created by Tony Adigun and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, last performed at last year's Dance Umbrella.

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