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Eddie Ladd/Judith Roberts

Part narrative, part history lesson, Eddie Ladd and Judith Roberts in their work Gaza/Blaenannerch examine the Palestine and Israeli conflict with surprising artistic sensitivity. By paralleling Wales and Palestine by way of the struggle for an independent identity, these Welsh creators connect these countries and histories, allowing them both an objective and subjective standpoint on the situation. Seamlessly both choreographer and director navigate between movement and dialogue, developing a visual narrative with words, embellished and built upon using sections of anguished and physically penetrable movement.

Eddie Ladd has a gift of presenting honest movement. Establishing such a transparency renders her body a mirror for feeling. By manipulating a configuration of rocks, Ladd used these props as anchoring points for the development of the piece, progressive milestones that gradually reveal more of the work. This skillful unfolding of a non-linear narrative is what keeps this work interesting. Though it’s easy to become bogged down with the gravity and enormity of information in the piece, there are moments, breaks, where “lessons” occur, the information within the piece is examined from a different viewpoint, dissecting the pace of the work. In one example, Ladd lists “Acetone” at the top of a blackboard, and “Zionism” on the bottom. Explaining how these concepts relate to the overall structure feeds audience curiosity, and placates the intellectual and historical buffs through artistic ingenuity.

If this piece sounds technical, you’re getting the right sort of image. The history of the Palestine struggle, and the subsequent tone of the current situation is the backbone of everything that is delivered in this work. The encouraging thing is that it is unnecessary for a strong grounding in history or politics to interpret and appreciate what Ladd and Roberts state. Flecks of humour, of ignorance, or speculation pepper the work and filter this genre from educational lecture to physical theatre. Roberts, playing the role of the director displays a sounding point for Ladd to vocally move toward and physically respond to, balancing on piles of rocks, crawling up chalk-boards and giving her body in to simple yet weighted movement.

What the piece lacks in virtuosity, it gains in uniqueness. For someone looking for dance, this work may seem somewhat lacking in movement, but for choreographic and narrative development, physical strength and complexity this work possessed a compelling depth that cannot be overlooked. Do not be put off, but encouraged by the subject matter. History isn’t only for the classroom.
 

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Michael Clark Company: New Work

In a very busy Barbican Centre, an eclectic mix of audience members makes its way to the theatre to see the highly anticipated ‘New Work’ by the Michael Clark Company.

The first half opens with Harry Alexander hanging on a wire, being brought down from above still and expressionless, characterising the company’s performance in the first half. Accompanied by an enchanting and easy listening score by Scritti Politti, eight dancers in simple black costumes perform a choreography comprising of basic ballet moves recognisable to all. With no set and a backdrop switching through a palette of warm colours, the audience's attention is solely on the dancers. The simplicity of both the choreography and the stripped-down staging promises a spectacle of exceptional dance and control which doesn’t always deliver. Saying that, this understated, almost neutral work - across facial expressions, costume, staging and choreography - is easy to watch and lasts a sufficient 25 minutes.

In the second half, the mood changes: the cast appears in a fluid choreography dressed in red dip-dyed leotards, accompanied by Pulp's 'F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.' In almost an alien-like manner, they come in and out of the (still) understated stage in varying formations really showcasing some lovely choreography with the physical control explored in the first half of the show. There is a definite climax building up with accelerating music, pace and backdrop projections as words slide in all directions, backwards, forward and upside down. The audience's attention is suddenly diverted to deciphering the projection, giving the dancers time to disappear and change costumes. The words ‘What?’ ‘Who?’, ‘Why Me?’ and ‘I’m thinking about starting a zoo’ can be read. The buildup seems to lead to the unveiling of Jarvis Crocker and his Relaxed Muscle musicians dressed in what resembles Mexican Day of the Dead costumes as the backdrop lifts and turns the rest of the show into a strange rock-meets-dance gig.

The zoo reference is then echoed by the black and white costumes and highly-charged animal instinct choreography. At this point, the dancers really seem to be enjoying themselves and there is an element of play and fun in their performance. The mixture of a much more elaborate lighting design by Charles Atlas, mirrored stools as props and energetic rock music and performance by Jarvis Crocker invites the audience to shift to the edge of their seats and bop their heads along with the rhythm. But the novelty wears off slightly and Jarvis’s performance at times feels uncomfortably misplaced, particularly when he walks down to the front row of a now very static audience. His performance at times outstages the dancers and the anticipated climax is dubitable.

Exceptional dancing from the whole cast, particularly from Julie Cunningham, has to be noted as well as two light-hearted cameos from Michael Clark himself, clearly giving the starstruck audience butterflies.

Overall this finale is a good piece which resonates with the usual Clarkian strong relationship between choreography and pop music. It works as a whole, leaving the audience energised and jolly but arguably fails to really cohere between pieces and fails to climax to an explosive end as it feels it should.  
 

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Female Choreographers' Collective

We Face Forward was the official launch of the Female Choreographers' Collective. Their mission statement, included in the programme notes, is that they “endeavour to promote, support and build the profile of female choreographers in the UK. Thought provoking debate and facilitating discussion across the perceived gender lines, we aim to unite not segregate all choreographers, regardless of gender, in the pursuit of equal representation in the arts”.

The debate and discussion was notably absent from the entirety of the evening as each piece was introduced only by the house lights fading into blackout.

WatkinsDance opened the evening with Inseparable, a male-female duet about a relationship. Given the oversaturation of the dance world with duets on this theme, a fresh and different approach was needed but sadly was completely absent. The clearly well-trained dancers performed the playful movement with skill and the partnerwork was particularly strong. However there were no clear emotions displayed. The duet expressed the superficiality of a teen fling rather than the soulmate relationship promised by the programme notes.

Beyond Repair Dance’s Seven opened with the seven highly athletic dancers performing repetitive floorwork movement reminiscent of a hardcore Graham class. When they took to an upright position, the feel of the movement shifted to a combination of Cunningham and Jazz with some exhilarating falls, jumps and turns executed with precision. At no point, however, was it made clear exactly how “the potentially restrictive nature of superstition” was looked at, despite the explicitly religious surroundings and backdrop of St Paul’s Church providing an ideal setting. The costumes were even more baffling, as the women wore bras and leggings while the men wore t- shirts and shortened tracksuit bottoms.

The theme of womanhood, and the issues surrounding the experience of women in society was thankfully introduced by Diciembre Dance Group’s Yerma’s Nights. The live music accompaniment helped accentuate the movement of a lone woman, Sara Accettura, as she portrayed the journey from adolescence and playfulness to motherhood, adulthood and ageing. The choreography was clear and interesting and the dance was performed well, but the intention behind each movement was not always there. This was a new piece for DDG, and felt like it needed more rehearsal time to reach its peak.

Holly Noble’s Possession, performed by AD Dance Company, closed the evening with another male-female duet about a relationship. It fared better than Inseparable in its intensity of emotions and a clear progression from gentle, loving movement to an expression of the need to dominate. The dancers’ similar build helped show an even but twisted relationship, but it fell short of reaching an explosive end as it needed to.

 

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Itamar Serussi Company

Mono, Itamar Serussi’s first full-length work performed at The Place, is a sixty-minute wander through the fragmentation of one man’s thoughts. Inspired by the experience of buying a stroller for his newly-born twins, Serussi was struck by the phrase “in three clicks from mono to duo”, paralleling this with his life. As such, this work explores the diversifying and coming together of experiences, and how this coming together can create something new and exciting.

Robotic yet sensuous, Serussi’s dancers possess an uncanny ability to inhabit an abundance of states, allowing the body to become a forum for a kaleidoscope of textures. After performing mechanical movements, dancers began to isolate and ripple their bodies, creating a mesmerizing sequence where the dancers seem neither human nor other. The audience is maintained at a distance as the dancers glance, move to, and freeze away from those that watch them. The space created is a disjointed mish-mash of ideas, concurrent stories that collide at given musically-cued moments.

These relationships are highlights of the piece, developing some sense of connectedness in amongst the diversity of movement. At times the activity occurring can be overwhelming, blinking offers the chance to miss movement sequences that give more evidence of personalities emerging. One dancer can lighten or deepen the tone of another with this idea demonstrated through a touching and well-developed duet performed by Milena Twiehaus and Connor Schumacher. These dancers, remaining decidedly in their own zone were still able to connect enough to move alongside one another, interacting with small insinuations rather than overt gestures.

This work, rather than distilling a conceptual point, succeeds in presenting the broad spectrum of experience, witnessed through the filter of Serussi. His movement vocabulary can be childlike and playful but remains intricate and grounded. For a first full-length work, Serussi has presented something which is thought-provoking and engaging albeit too diversified at times. In one viewing, it is difficult to digest the enormity of movement presented, but at least the audience is left wanting more.
 

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La Nuit Blanche

Direct translation: 'The White Night'. But also a common French expression for, as we might say, 'pulling an all-nighter'. It is an annual all-night arts festival which takes over the beautiful city of Paris, opening up galleries, museums, buildings of interest that wouldn't otherwise be accessible to the public, the streets and even the River Seine as performance and exhibition spaces.

I was lucky enough to be in France at the time of this year's Nuit Blanche, and made it so that we could be in Paris on the night.

Slightly overwhelmed by the size of the area spanned by the festival's events, and perturbed by the lack of an English translation of the programme, we braved the October Parisian rains and went exploring.

We wandered first through the Eastern stretch of the festival, marvelling at the architecture of the Institut du Monde Arabe, and witnessing just twenty minutes of a 'Philip Glass Marathon' that was to run from 9.30pm to 2am.

Across the Pont-Marie bridge and onto Ile de St Louis we discovered what was my favourite part of the night: a performance in the windows of the Biblioteque Polonaise. Léna Massiani's 'Danse à tous les étages' was simplistic, well-choreographed and with a little French flavour courtesy of accordion accompaniment. As we watched from beneath umbrellas on the street, I was very conscious of the value of taking performance out of the proscenium theatre stage, and into the world, to be accessed by people who wouldn't necessarily seek it out.

The White Night also encouraged me to appreciate the host buildings themselves as works of art. I guess as much as a set is of such importance on stage, the chosen setting for each work throughout the city should of course lend itself to the themes, mood and overall impression of the performance work that it hosts.

The atmosphere throughout the city was, despite the rain, electric, and from the haunting beauty of Notre-Dame Cathedral, to the cartoonesque brass band playing Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' under a bridge, this White Night was a great one.

As street art becomes increasingly popular and in demand, it seems that the French may be leaders of the pack. I know that StopGAP's experiences of other works at the annual street arts festival in Amiens, in the North East of the country, have been hugely positive, and the scale of La Nuit Blanche and its audience is a testimony to its success.

Brighton holds its own annual White Night, which unfortunately has this year been cancelled due to lack of funds; a great shame, but perhaps another reason to return to Paris in a year... ?

 

 

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Richard Alston Dance Company

Richard Alston's one-off performances at The Place provide London audiences with the opportunity to see the company in a new light: not only does The Place provide an intimate setting to watch the dancers up close, but the selection of works typically demonstrates Alston's more experimental ideas, redefining how we see Alston as a choregrapher.

Alston remains extremely prolific, creating not one but two new(ish) works for the short season at The Place, accompanied by a new work by Martin Lawrance; these new works also introduced the company's new apprentices, who have managed to blend seamlessly into the company already. And although the incomparable Andres de Blust-Mommaerts has left Richard Alston Dance Company to join Donlon Dance Company in Saarbrücken, few could have anticipated the impact this would have on the remaining dancers - or one dancer in particular.

The programme opened with Shimmer, a work for seven dancers, created in 2004 with jewel-encrusted cobweb costumes by Julien McDonald. It opened with a sensual duet between Hannah Kidd and Pierre Tappon, with expansive movements and an emphasis on extensions as though to make the most of the costumes' diamonds.

Alston is renowned for his musicality - for his ability to fine-tune his choreography to the nuances of the accompanying music - and so the mood of each section of Shimmer reflected the changing themes of Ravel's piano music, performed onstage by Jason Ridgway: some sections were more technical, others slower and more graceful. The contact duets - extremely rare for Alston - were particularly effective, with Alston creating relationships between his dancers rather than solitary movement to be performed alongside each other, which has its own beauty.

Shimmer ended with a powerfully-performed solo by Nathan Goodman; having been a tour de force in his duet with Nancy Nerantzi, his physical control and poise made his solo all the more impressive. And Shimmer wisely ended on his solo, as what else could possibly follow such a performance?

Alston's Isthmus was performed after the interval: a brief group work which had originally been created for Bob Lockyer's 70th birthday celebrations earlier this year. Isthmus is the kind of work Alston is best known for, using pizzicato music and buoyant linear movement in visually-striking choreography. And it ends all too soon.

Having earlier seen sensuality and partnerwork in Shimmer, this programme's premiere, Darkness Visible, saw another Alston rarity: floorwork. It's not until Darkness Visible starts, with a floor-based solo in dim light, that you realise how un-Alstonlike this solo for Pierre Tappon is. Meditative and graceful, this solo stretches Pierre Tappon choreographically, using repeated sweeping movements, unlike Alston's usual precision of movement, with expansive bows morphing into signature Alston moves. Nevertheless, the contrast in movement and lighting is not sufficient: this seems to be a work which calls for the dancer's personality to be more vivid.

The undisputed highlight of the evening was Martin Lawrance's Madcap, and more specifically, the total transformation of Nathan Goodman as a dancer from the opening scenes which saw him making rapid spiderlike movements in a circle of light.

Julia Wolfe's music, performed by Bang on a Can All Stars, was infectiously lively, imbuing the dancers with the jazziness of the music, and they seem to relish the less stylised choreography: Tappon's solos are more interesting than in Darkness Visible, and the fiery yet jaunty duets between Liam Riddick and Nancy Nerantzi see Nerantzi taking the lead.

Madcap is a very fast-paced and dynamic work, completely modern in style and very un-Alstonlike, building actual relationships between the dancers and toying with pacing, whether having Liam Riddick walk onstage, looking at each dancer challengingly as he breaks into a slow languid solo at the front of the stage as each dancer backs away cautiously, or Nathan Goodman tearing onstage, briefly grabbing Riddick then rushing off again.

We've come to expect fantastic performances from Liam Riddick in each show, but Nathan Goodman was the true revelation of this programme, demonstrating exactly how woefully underused he has been until now, and what a fantastic dancer he has the potential to be - it just remains to see whether Alston and Lawrance will continue to make the most of him, or whether he'll be snapped up by other companies after these fantastic performances!


Richard Alston Dance Company is currently on tour, and you can catch them on the following dates:

16 & 17 October: Royal & Derngate, Northampton
www.richardalstondance.com/14733/tour-dates/royal-derngate-northampton.html

23 October: Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
www.richardalstondance.com/14747/tour-dates/festival-theatre-edinburgh.html

1 November: Theatre Royal Glasgow
www.richardalstondance.com/14751/tour-dates/theatre-royal-glasgow.html

6 November: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
www.richardalstondance.com/14761/tour-dates/everyman-theatre-cheltenham.html

13 & 14 November: Wycombe Swan Theatre
www.richardalstondance.com/14764/tour-dates/wycombe-swan-theatre.html

13  - 16 December 2012, Peak Performances @ Montclair State University, New Jersey, USA
www.richardalstondance.com/14766/tour-dates/peak-performances-montclair-state-university-new-jersey-usa.html

 

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What To See: October

Wasn't September a bizarrely quiet month for dance? In fact, without The Place Prize, there was barely anything taking place, not like past Septembers which are usually overflowing with lots to see. And so October is more than making up for it, with plenty to choose from...

ZooNation, Some Like It Hip Hop: to 13 October
Peacock Theatre
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/ZooNation-Dance-Company-Some-Like-It-Hip-Hop
Trailer: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JVOYNBHXVY

The ultimate feelgood dance show returns to the Peacock Theatre with an even stronger show than last year's production, and is even more lovable and heartwarming than before, with extremely strong performances from each of the cast, whether dancer, narrator or singer.

Choreographed by Kate Prince and Tommy Franzén, and loosely based on Some Like It Hot and Twelfth Night, Some Like It Hip Hop tells the story of a dark city where Lizzie Gough and Teneisha Bonner are forced to cross-dress in order to find work and eventually love, with plenty of comedy and great storytelling along the way. An enormous hit with teens and small children.


Akram Khan, 'DESH': 2 - 9 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/DESH-Akram-Khan-Company-2012
Trailer: youtu.be/vWwli41zw1U

Currently sold out, but returns may be available, this is the much-awaited return of Akram Khan's semi-biographical solo show exploring his Bangladeshi roots and what it means to be Bangladeshi. With collaborations with Tim Yip (production designer for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, writer and poet Karthika Nair, Olivier Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook and slam poet PolarBear, DESH is more spectacle than dance show, with stunning imagery and creativity, not to mention Khan's wonderful choreography - always a treat to watch. People expecting nothing but dance will be disappointed, but it's a beautiful and enthralling show.



Richard Alston Dance Company, 'At Home': 3 - 6 October
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/14269/whats-on/richard-alston-dance-company.html

Richard Alston usually spoils his audience, and this programme features no fewer than three premieres: Madcap, a new work by the gifted Martin Lawrance with music by the New York collective Bang on a Can All-Stars; Isthmus, a new work by Alston to Jo Kondo's music, and Darknesse Visible, a new solo for the wonderful Pierre Tappon. Also to be performed is Shimmer, a glittering work to the music of Ravel.


Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet: 11 - 13 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Cedar-Lake-Contemporary-Ballet

If you only see one show this season, it should probably be this one - Cedar Lake are finally making their long-overdue UK premiere, showcasing their "powerful physicality with classical technique".

This programme will feature some of the hottest choreographers around, with a work exploring rhythm by Nederlands Dans Theater's Alexander Ekman, and works by Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shechter.

If you want to whet your appetite before their shows, do watch The Adjustment Bureau, starring Emily Blunt as a Cedar Lake dancer.


Rambert Dance Company: 16 - 20 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Rambert-Dance-Company-Featuring-Labyrinth-of-Love

Rambert's autumn programme is usually less showy than their springtime season, but they look set to break that tradition with this quadruple bill, which sees a return of Paul Taylor's beautiful and timeless Roses. Other works include Richard Alston's "sharp and witty" Dutiful Ducks and a UK revival premiere of Merce Cunningham's Sounddance. Irish choreographer Marguerite Donlon has created Labyrinth of Love, a heartbreaking and humourous work which will be accompanied by a live orchestra and soprano.


Birmingham Royal Ballet
Opposites Attract: 23 & 24 October
Autumn Celebration: 25 - 27 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Birmingham-Royal-Ballet-Opposites-Attract-and-Autumn-Celebration

Birmingham Royal Ballet usually bring both a classical programme and a modern ballet to Sadler's Wells on each of their visits, however this time, they're presenting two triple bills, in which the definition of "modern" ballet sees a blurring.

Opposites Attract sees the more modern works, with a new work by American choreographer Jessica Lang, a revival of Hans van Manen's impressive Grösse Fuge - last performed in all its black leather glory at Sadler's Wells by the Dutch National Ballet, and a personal tribute by David Bintley to jazz icon Dave Brubeck.

Autumn Celebration! presents BRB's own version of Ashton's elfin comedy The Dream, the central figures being an otherworldy Oberon and a Puck who is likely to outdance (and outpuppy) all the dancers. Also performed will be Broadway show choreographer Joe Layton's amusing take on the celebrities of the 1920s and an Olympic-inspired work by David Bintley.

 

Worthy Mentions


Nigel Charnock, 'Haunted By The Future': 13 October
Platform Theatre as part of Dance Umbrella
Tickets & details: www.danceumbrella.co.uk/nigel-charnock-uk

Nigel Charnock, one of the enduring greats of the physical theatre and dance worlds, tragically passed away only two months ago, and Dance Umbrella is presenting a rare opportunity to watch his final work, Haunted By The Future, "a tragically comic dance theatre piece about him and her and it." As Executive Director of The Place, Kenneth Tharp, recently reminisced (www.theplace.org.uk/15189/kenneth-tharps-blog/is-it-okay-to-walk-out-at-the-theatre.html), Charnock's work is not for everyone, so be warned before booking tickets.


Dance United: 20 & 22 October
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/14275/whats-on/dance-united.html

Dance United works with those who are marginalised in society and whose potential is often unrecognised or unfulfilled, whether they are troubled youths, prisoners, or involved in one of their Ethiopia-based projects. Among their projects is a London-based performance company, which has previous performed works by Siobhan Maguire-Swartz and John Ross.

Dance United's London-based company will be performing alongside the Yorkshire-based company to present a number of works by Kwesi Johnson, Carly Annable-Coop and Helen Linsell, while this programme will also see new Associate Artist Dam Van Huynh's first work for UK audiences since his return from his two year residency in Hong Kong only two months ago.


Phoenix Dance Theatre: 25 - 27 October
Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/phoenix-dance-theatre-by-phoenix-dance-theatre

Phoenix Dance Theatre is one of the UK's leading contemporary dance companies, and finally makes a long-overdue return to London with their new mixed bill, featuring premieres by Ana Luján Sánchez and Kwesi Johnson, the return of Henri Oguike’s unflinching Signal and Melt: a breathtaking mix of aerial dance and contemporary choreography by Sharon Watson, Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre.

 
Michael Clark: 17 - 27 October
Barbican Centre
Tickets & details: www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=13338

Michael Clark is renowned for his days as a renegade figure in the world of ballet, and although his recent works haven't matched the creativity of his heyday, they've thrilled his many fans and won him more than a few new ones.

Little is known about the two new works to be performed, however they will include music by Relaxed Muscle and Scritti Politti, and these performances will feature live music from Relaxed Muscle.


Cloud Dance Festival Corner

Female Choreographers' Collective: 13 October
Tickets & details: www.dance-ground.com/2012/09/the-launch-of-female-choreographers.html
Tickets: [email protected]

It appears that there is a shortage of female choreographers, or at least of visible support for them, so Holly Noble of AD Dance Company (formerly Antique Dances) and Jane Coulston of Beyond Repair Dance have chosen to form a new collective to create solidarity for the majority of the dance industry.

13 October will see the launch of this initiative, with works by Lucía Piquero (Diciembre Dance Group), Anna Watkins (WatkinsDance), Holly Noble (AD Dance Company) and Jane Coulston (Beyond Repair Dance). You will have to email the address above and make a bank transfer to secure tickets for the event, or buy them on the door.

 

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Rosie Kay Dance Company

Dancers fling themselves across the stage, ravenously thrusting and leaping angelically. There are wild beasts and rubbish scattered, flowers adorning the stage and bodies calmly sitting cross-legged; in the interval, an impromptu cabaret show from five animal-headed performers. This is Rosie Kay’s latest work There Is Hope, premiered at Birmingham’s DanceXchange. An ambitious piece overwhelmed by a complex mix of physical theatre, dance, film and live music, There is Hope takes on the immense task of exploring the universality of belief and religion.

Following Kay’s extremely successful and timely investigation of war in Five Soldiers, Kay explains that the idea of religion appealed to her in part due to the multicultural context of her Birmingham base, but also due to its enormity. The sheer scale of what she is trying to explore is indeed what is most striking about There is Hope. While she follows a dramaturgical structure of real life, hell, purgatory and then heaven, the piece is crammed with all manner of religious references from incense burners and meditating, to chanting and gospel choirs.

In the most remarkable moments, Kay creates superbly tangible imagery. In one sequence, a cross-shaped stage becomes a plinth to present the cycle of life. Dancers tumble unceremoniously onto the cross, growing to a adult with arms akimbo at the peak, before slowly wilting and dropping off the end. At another point, the exuberant presence of Chris Vann takes a preacher-style sign stating “There Is Hope →” and points the arrow most poignantly at small things: a pile of empty plastic bottles, a flower, and even a late returning audience member.  

However, at times her literal approach does become a little grating, in particular during a sequence retelling the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a story so familiar it seems unnecessary, and direct references to rituals turns into a game of spot the religion. Furthermore, although the live musicians (led by Chris Mapp) create a sensuous, tingling experience, and the set (Yann Seabra) and video (Louis Price) are detailed and engaging, the complete experience is so vast that the videos seem sadly redundant.   

With five captivating dancers, and a work that veritably punches you in the face with its enormity of theme and production, one certainly can’t fault Kay’s ambition and execution. Ultimately, There Is Hope is a uniquely subjective piece; from the perspective of different cultures and different beliefs, Kay’s work no doubt resonates in different ways. What is most important is the dialogue this piece has the potential to spark: the discussions about unfamiliar cultures, the arguments about life and death, and the questions we ask ourselves about belief and ultimately hope. What better place for the genesis of this intercultural discourse than the origin of Kay’s inspiration, Birmingham.
 

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Joss Arnott Dance: The Dark Angel Tour

Tickets for Joss Arnott's show at Rich Mix sold out several days ago, which made it surprising when they announced that they'd released 25 extra seats. But when the audience arrived before the show, it turned out that these comprised two extra rows of chairs in front of the raked seating: two rows in which people could see little besides the heads in front of them. A rookie error, which saw some people frantically changing seats so that they'd actually be able to see the show, and the remainder having to miss out.

The opening work was 24, a work inspired by the Alexander McQueen exhibition Savage Beauty, which was premiered at Resolution! at the start of this year. Reviews of this work focussed on the Amazonian nature of the dancers, alluded to by the costumes and their ferocious physicality. While the choreography emphasised the dancers' articulation and physicality, it encapsulated the preconception of Amazonians as fierce and savage women, although the choreography was unevenly balanced with some of the solos lasting for too long.

Origin, the newest work in the programme, was a solo for Arnott himself, and a welcome opportunity for audiences to see him personally explore his choice of movement vocabulary. At the start of the work, he cut a humble figure, his face obscured by the too-dim lighting as he propelled himself around the stage, as though shaking off... something. Although Origin had an improvised feel, it seemed to be a natural progression of where Wayne McGregor might go at some point in the future. Emotions and situations are hinted at, yet we can only see Arnott's response.

threshold was the highlight of the evening, and it's poignant that it's Arnott's earliest work which was the strongest work of the programme. It's easy to see from the opening section exactly why this piece excited so many and propelled Arnott so far: it's a confident and accomplished work which illustrates Arnott's ability and potential, as well as the skill of his dancers. Tavaziva dancer Lisa Rowley was easily the most captivating of his dancers, demonstrating fierceness and near-savagery in her movements, only occasionally acknowledging the audience through her narrowed eyes.

threshold is a powerful work when it wants to be, which isn't all of the time: the slow sections seem to be extended far too long, when the audience and dancers thrive on the adrenaline rush of the faster sections. And yet threshold seems to have been extended far belong its natural length: several sections appear to have been arbitrarily repeated multiple times, and the piece is much weaker as a result. Also, the extended sections reflect Arnott at a period of transition, having moved on from the spirit of threshold towards a new work, which weakened the overall piece.

Joss Arnott is capable of setting the dance world alight: he showed that over a year ago with the premiere of threshold, but sadly nothing in this current programme has lived up to that promise. This makes it all the more disappointing that despite the support of South East Dance, South Hill Park and producers Dep Arts, nobody has provided Arnott with the necessary artistic feedback about these works prior to launching this tour. It's also baffling that Arnott's lighting designer is Michael Mannion of Rambert Dance Company, and yet the lighting was too dim throughout - even in an intimate space such as Rich Mix - for the audience to watch without a struggle, much less view the works at their best. Let's hope that the Arts Council will provide him with the necessary R&D time to transform these works into the pieces they deserve to become.

 

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Sasha Waltz

Sasha Waltz, choreographer of an impressive list of twenty-seven works to date, has experimented across a broad spectrum of movement. Her earlier works, satirical or surrealist in nature, have awed European audiences and won her numerous awards. Continu, a UK premiere, denotes a shift in style from her previous works, presenting a greater lyricism and relating to the continuity of the perpetual forces of nature. Inspired by two of Waltz’s previous projects, David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum Berlin and Saha Hadid’s MAXXI in Rome, Continu consolidates key elements present in her previous works, creating a work with choreographic, musical, and visual components that threaten to overwhelm the audience.

Acting with the grandiose nature of a 24-person company, Waltz has created a work that can drive and affect an audience by way of numbers. The first half of the work comprised of two parts, musically contrasting and choreographically epic. The first half, rhythmic and powerful, was led by the dynamic live percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky. Repetition was used to build warmth within the piece, almost tribal in sensation as dancers whirled around the stage, drawn into the same vortex. By contrast, the second movement, fuelled by Edgard Varèse’s Arcana (a central inspiration of the work), created the illusion of fragmentation, the movement suggestive of large scale images: sheets of ice shifting and breaking across the landscape, conveyed through groups of dancers shuffling, pausing and moving again. There was a strength created by groups, solos and duets forming only to disperse again, disintegrating back into the whole.

This work reached its peak with the third movement, the stage now laid with white. Being able to stand back and allow the movement to crash upon its audience has a certain compulsion, but a greater sense of intimacy with the dancers is something that can’t be overrated. There was a sense of this achieved through the lyricism of the second half, portraying a greater sense of the individual, highlighting dichotomies (positive and negative, light and dark) which are inherent within divisions of the greater structural forces focused on in the first half. Reminiscent of an afterlife or rebirth, partially naked men moved with a disjointed fluidity. Joined by a group dressed in muted shades, this half allowed for smaller group to be created, duets where women, draped horizontally on their partners would walk across the wall, or would paint in varied shapes across the stage with their feet.

Although difficult to understand at times, Waltz’s work contains several elements that are unique and complex, providing a rich viewing experience, both choreographically and musically compelling. Best witnessed as a sum of its parts, this work of large proportions is ambitious, but ultimately very fulfilling.
 

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The Place Prize: Semifinal 3

The opening performance of the third semifinal of The Place Prize was Nina Kov’s Copter, a trio for one human, Kov, and two radio-controlled helicopters. The Copter was tantalisingly present onstage as the audience filed in; like the best of poetic metaphors, its presence suggested that unusual and enlightening interplays between its flight and Kov’s human movement would be explored. While Copter explored various spatial relationships between The Copter and Kov, there was a lack of correlation between the other qualities of their movement. Where direct similarities and contrasts were present, the composition did not highlight these, leaving a less than picture.

Multiple thematic ideas were referenced including helicopter gun-ship attacks, surveillance and drones, but mostly the piece focussed on Kov playing with a childlike fascination with the anthropomorphised toy. While The Copter was expertly puppeteered by Jack Bishop to display a greater range of emotion than indeed Kov herself did, little to no time was spent exploring why this had come about. The lifting of the rotor blade and the final spinning phrase could have been very poignant but only if the previous 20 minutes had been more provocative.

Neil Paris’s The Devil’s Mischief opened with a vision of Mordor in peaked cones across the stage. According to Paris's original proposal, this duet, danced superbly by Carly Best and Sarah Lewis, explored the ambiguous, codependent relationship between humanity and the devil, however there was little evidence of this beyond red lighting and the Mordor-like set design.

The piece started as a disquieting yet tender duet, with tension so palpable that even the merest intention of one dancer to move was felt by the other. Unfortunately, while still being interesting from a movement perspective, the piece gradually dulled from this promising beginning. The intriguing and complex non-linear narrative, which had been delicately developed during the opening sequence, was initially impeded by the proscriptive vocals and then further maligned by the gradual revealing of the letters on the cones. Whereas on a micro scale the work was richly textured and complex, on a macro scale it strayed from concept to conceit.

The standout work of the evening was bgroup’s A Short-Lived Alteration Of An Existing Situation, choreographed by Ben Wright in collaboration with his dancers Sam Denton and Lise Manavit. The piece extensively explored its drily-stated theme through multiple changes to its movement content and dynamics, each change serving to build upon, enrich and develop the dancers’ relationship within the duet. Dry ice, stark lighting and industrial clanking and clanging noises within the soundscape invoked a heady, underground, Gotham City-inspired atmosphere and the absence of text-based elements allowed more room for the audience’s own imaginative response.

The programming of the evening became progressively more pure dance-oriented, culminating in Darren Ellis’s Revolver. This was danced with an ice-coolness by Hannah Kidd and Joanna Wenger to live music by The Turbulent Eddies, including Darren Ellis himself on guitar. Visually reminiscent of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, although without the Beethoven, the piece combined endless robotic cyclical movements with live music and flashing lights. As with the dispassionate and relentless violence in Kubrick’s film, this piece felt like Ellis was trying to perform a similar act on the audience through dance while also evoking Rosas' early works, especially Rosas & Ictus. With such strong cultural references, it was hard to appreciate Revolver in its own right: as a potential remake of Rosas & Ictus it was gripping and ambitious, however as a work exploring dancers ‘moving constantly in a clockwise direction’, it wasn't a rewarding audience experience.

Overall, the evening’s performances were stimulating enough to firmly hold attention all the way through, but for the most part weren’t satisfying enough to come away thinking what a great night at the theatre it had been. Deservedly, bgroup came top of the night’s audience poll, but unfortunately just missed garnering a high enough score to take them through to the Place Prize Finals on that basis.
 

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The Place Prize: Semifinal 4

And so it's over. After many months of buildup, sixteen works and eight performances, the suspense is over and we now know which four works will be competing in the Place Prize finals in April 2013. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: tonight was about the final four companies competing, and about a grand finale by Goddard Nixon and Seke Chimuntengwende.

The opening piece was Eva Rechacha's 'The Wishing Well', a whimsical piece exploring the relationship between Recacha's voiceover and performer Martha Pasakopoulou, Recacha sometimes narrating Martha's movements, sometimes issuing instructions, sometimes telling the audience about Martha's inner world, for example explaining how Martha's mental block about the number ten was due to her parents meeting on 10 October, making 10 a doubly sinister number. The movement was largely mime-driven, using Rechacha's vocal instructions as a starting point, whether expansive movements indicating Martha's wishes, or curling up in a tight little ball to suggest moments of regression.

While The Wishing Well could have easily been less than it was, Martha Pasakopoulou was endearing to watch, either marching around the stage singing militant Greek songs or in her eager willingness to obey Recacha, slowly giving way to rebellion. And yet, using what seemed to be predominantly improvised movement, The Wishing Well lacked the choreographic strengths and structure of her last Place Prize commission 'Begin To Begin'.


The second work of the evening was Settlement by Robbie Synge, which sought to investigate our relationship with the built and natural environments by using two dancers (Robin Dingemans and Erik Nevin) and three sheets of chipboard, exploring the different ways in which they could interact with each other. We saw the dancers rearrange the boards, hide behind them, become part of the sculpture, shifting the planks, letting them fall, not letting them fall, playing with suspension and limits.

Settlement is a piece which could easily continue indefinitely, as Synge discovers and explores yet more ideas, for Settlement is very much a collection of ideas, one following on from another, never having the chance to build upon each other or developing into anything more.


If The Place Prize was simply about the best dance performance, then Goddard Nixon - former Rambert dancers Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon - would have easily been the obvious winners. Two fantastic dancers at the peak of their abilities, they've performed works by some of the top contemporary dance choreographers, living or dead, and it's rare to see dancers of their calibre in such an intimate setting.

In a departure from their previous abstract works, Third is set in an Antartic environment, exploring the uneasiness of being in a hostile setting, battling the elements and not knowing what's out there beyond the mist and snow. It opened with a subdued start, Goddard wearily looking out at the audience while sitting on Nixon's supine form. Using lithe, graceful movements, we saw them explore their surroundings, becoming ever more fearful; despite the complete implicit trust in their partnership, we saw their characters' uncertainty with each other. And as Third never reached a conclusive end, it's easy to imagine the characters are still trapped there, isolated and defenceless.

It's rare to find people who are both impressively gifted as dancers and as choreographers, but Goddard and Nixon are both, and their growing maturity as choreographers can be seen in Third, a more ambitious work than their previous pieces, effectively balancing speed with more languid sections, and opportunities for both dancers to shine individually.


Seke Chimuntengwende is known for his unique brand of improvisation, humour and theatricality, and it was expected that he would create something special for his first Place Prize commission, 'The Time Travel Piece'. At the start, he explained that he'd been invited to participate in a time travel experiment, travelling to the years 2085, 2501 and 2042, watching a dance performance in each time, but alas was unable to record any of the performances or bring any dancers back with him, so for our benefit, he has recreated the works with the best dancers he could find.

In 2085, he explained, scientists were exploring nanotechnology and not only had choreographers picked up on this by using nanomovements, but also "audiences' powers of perception have increased dramatically". The performance which followed saw his dancers shifting imperceptibly, to the audience's hilarity, which soon petered out as Seke allowed this section to extend till both his performers and audience felt thoroughly awkward and embarrassed.

The next two sections were far briefer, portraying different scenarios: time travel being endemic in 2501, allowing people to rehearse indefinitely, and so create one signature movement which will define them as dancers, and time being too short in 2042 to actually rehearse, treating us to the sight of Seke manically demonstrating various movements then leaving his dancers to muddle through them.

Seke's enthusiasm was irresistibly infectious, and it's easy to see why this was the audience favourite of the night, and after Seke's 'Mr Lawrence' closed the Resolution! season earlier this year, it seemed most appropriate for for Seke to close the Place Prize with a fresh injection of irreverent humour.


The Place Prize does like being controversial - or more accurately, stimulating discussions about the Place Prize and dance in general - and the shortlisting of Eva Recacha, Rick Nodine, Riccardo Buscarini and audience favourite h2dance for the finals may have surprised many people, but at least they now have six months to further develop their works. Let's see what the Finals bring us....


Audience voting scores:

Seke Chimuntengwende: 3.5
Goddard Nixon: 3.2
Robbie Synge: 3.2
Eva Recacha: 2.9


The Place Prize returns on 17 April 2013, with the Final Final taking place on 27 April; tickets are now on sale and can be bought here: www.theplace.org.uk/634/whats-on/listings.html

 

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The Place Prize: Semifinal 2

The second semifinal of this year’s Place Prize was full to the brim of promising concepts and ideas, but unfortunately rather short of content, delivery and, well, dance.

Upon initially viewing The Place Prize shortlisted artists online, the idea for Mamoru Iriguchi’s ‘One Man Show’ was the most vivid and engaging, and this was the work which opened the evening's proceedings. It is, as the title suggests, a solo for Iriguchi, accompanied by four projected images of himself and his performance from different audience perspectives in an auditorium. The piece is comical, accessible and cartoonesque, demonstrating good use of multimedia in performance (this being one of Iriguchi’s primary performance media). However, the work lacked momentum and any real movement content, and by the end of the piece when the ‘To be or not to be…’ monologue from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ had been repeated more times than anyone could care to remember, and the five Iriguchi’s onstage became removed from being ‘as one’ - one drunk, one dressed as a woman, one projected as a ghostly giant on the rear wall, one outlined in clothing on the floor, and one disappeared altogether - it felt that the surreal had well and truly taken over, and any sight of choreographic focus or idea had been completely lost.

Rick Nodine’s ‘Dead Gig’ is focussed indeed, in a nostalgic, reminiscent, almost self-satisfying account of his feelings about and obsession with the band The Grateful Dead. In the second solo of the night, we see short, clipped movement phrases set almost frustratingly to the rhythm of Nodine’s spoken descriptions of the band’s development, and the part they played in his teenage years. Nodine is an extremely engaging performer, and there are moments when he ‘Drops In’, and his passion for the music, demonstrated through undulating, bucking, uninhibited movement becomes almost infectious. This is unfortunately shortlived, and we are then distracted once again from this passionate insight by more spoken accounts, a somewhat contrived movement sequence of falling and rising, and, as the piece ends, an unexpected glitter ball.

Along with Iriguchi’s ‘One Man Show’, the images in Ben Ash (of Dog Kennel Hill Project)’s submission, of heavy, pendulum-swinging dust bags and responsive, momentum–driven movement were memorable images.  What we saw, however, was an often disjointed and inaccessible work, with, as was becoming the theme of the night, a disappointing lack of choreographed dance, confined to a shortlived section for Luke Birch.  

The notes on The Place Prize website describe how ‘three men strike out resolutely in the direction of great hope.’ This was not a clear train of thought within the work, and although interesting to start with, the unpredictable paths of the dust bags being swung around the head, dropped and fallen beneath, or being flung towards the audience was quickly exhausted. With suggestions of an element of chance directing the progress of the work, much of this piece by three male performers, including Ash himself, was frustratingly inexplicable, and failed to connect with its audience.

In contrast, Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard of h2dance began their performance by directly addressing the audience, with a description of what they were going to show us, a ‘Duet’, which is the title of this latest joint offering from Artistic Directors Gillgren and Rustgaard. Clad in sequins and pink lycra, whilst performing a sequence of simple jazz kick-ball-changes and Fosse slides, they continue with their wry exchanges about having been to couples therapy, allowing something of an insight into their personal and professional relationship, with echoes of New Art Club. The piece goes on to explore each performer’s own experiences of times good and bad, with spoken instructions to the technician about whether the music and lights should be ‘beautiful’, or ‘really dramatic’.

By the end of this evening which had offered much in the way of talking and little in the way of dancing, this became tiresome. Had we seen this clear personal connection developed further through movement exchanges, it would have made for a much more satisfactory end to a rather frustrating semifinal.


Audience voting scores:

h2dance: 4.1
Rick Nodine: 3.4
Dog Kennel Hill Project: 3.1
Mamoru Iriguchi: 2.4
 

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The Place Prize: Semifinal 1

The Place Prize means any number of different things to different people, and while the most accurate description might be the contemporary dance world's answer to the Turner Prize, the Place Prize itself celebrates new dance and stimulating discussions about it. In the five editions of the Place Prize to date, 92 new works have been commissioned, at a cost of nearly £1.4 million, and although Rafael Bonachela won the first edition in 2004, the recent winners have been more unexpected and controversial, leading to debates about the definitions of dance and choreography.

No such debates were in mind on the opening night of the current edition's semifinals, with new works presented by Joe Moran, Moreno Solinas, Tony Adigun and Riccardo Buscarini.

Joe Moran's Obverse was the opening piece, performed by a trio of brightly-coloured dancers. The notes for Obverse describe it as using "a refreshing, unusual and disjointed physical language that foregrounds the virtuosity of dancers to visibly transform their state of being, from moment to moment, in both body and thinking", which many of the audience may have failed to appreciate. For much of the piece, there was little uniting the dancers choreographically, with two occasionally performing similar movements in canon. Much of the music consisted of jerky excerpts of Handel, Beethoven and other choreographers against an industrial backdrop, allowing the choreography to playfully interpret it. Choreographically, Obverse was reminiscent of Siobhan Davies' and Mark Morris's works, and despite the choreographic intent of Moran, had the least impact of the works performed on the night.

Moreno Solinas is one of The Place's Work Place artists, having graduated from LCDS in 2009 and since worked with companies including Bonachela Dance Company, DV8 and Stan Won't Dance. Although Solinas's original proposal for Life is a Carnival is on The Place's website, it doesn't start to hint at the rich theatricality and experimentation of the work - although something unusual might be expected with Kasper Hansen among the collaborators.

The main characters of the opening half of Life is a Carnival are "Moreno Solinas, the World Champion of Salsa", performed by two of his fingers, and a homicidal shoe which not only squashes "Moreno", but proceeds to attack Solinas relentlessly. In the second half, Solinas slowly dances around the stage, singing Celia Cruz's song 'La Vida es un Carnaval', creating his own rhythm with his hands and his feet. Although Solinas's solo is salsa-influenced, there also appears to be echoes of flamenco and bullfighting as it increases in dramatic tension. Life is a Carnival ends with the symbolic death and resurrection of Solinas, bringing to an end a rewarding mixture of theatre, comedy and dance.

Tony Adigun, best-known as the Artist Director of hip hop dance company Avant Garde Dance, created a chilling and unsettling scene for his work The Lake. At first we saw the portrait of a family gathered around a bathtub, wearing period clothing, then the corpse of Lisa Hood slithering down the rear wall, beaten and then embraced by one of the women. The sinister theme was sustained througout, with jerky traumatised movements from each of the dancers, apart from Adam Towndrow who calmly remained near the bathtub holding onto the small girl and reassuring her; the only innocence was in the girl's imitations of the dancers' movements, but all too soon, she too met her untimely end, drowned in the bathtub by Towndrow.

Several of the scenes are reminiscent of the Victorian tradition of post-mortem photography, and the darkness of The Lake's storyline is understandable when you realise its inspiration was the Wisconsin Death Trip, in which a small town in the 1890s succumbed to madness, violence, murder and suicide. The Lake is the most accomplished and polished work of the evening, both choreographically and conceptually, with profound emotional impact and striking visuals. Partway through the piece, however, you realise how manipulative Olafur Arnalds's music is; The Lake has sufficiently strong emotional content to not have to resort to such shamelessly manipulative music, and could perhaps be even more effective with a more subtle choice of music.

The final work of the evening was Athletes by Riccardo Buscarini, a finalist from the last edition of the Place Prize. Inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the three dancers are dressed in pseudo-spacesuits, with only their faces showing. Continuing the filmic feel of Buscarini's previous entry Cameo, Athletes is a disjointed work: initially the dancers stare at each other for a very long time, then create interlocking movements, their three bodies always connected. As one of the dancers rolls away, the other two dancers proceed towards each other in extremely slow motion, towards a kiss which never quite happens. All too briefly, Scene d'Amour from the film Vertigo is played, highlighting the cinematic nature of the scene, while the dramatic music emphasises the lack of onstage drama.

The winner of the audience vote was Tony Adigun, with Moreno Solinas a close second, which is a credit to the achievements of The Place's Work Place scheme and how it is developing its artists. There are twelve more pieces to be performed: which of tonight's - if any - will go through to the finals? Wait and see...


Audience voting scores:

Tony Adigun: 3.6
Moreno Solinas: 3.3
Riccardo Buscarini: 2.7
Joe Moran: 2.5

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A Guide to Dance Bloggers

At the end of each year, Dance Advantage holds a contest to see which are the Top Dance Blogs of the year, though if you look at the shortlisted blogs, you'll notice that with the exception of Dave Tries Ballet (who started blogging while studying in the States, and writes with much enthusiasm about his journey in ballet from his first classes only a few short years ago), none of them are English, and their writers are a mixture of professional dancers, and other people writing about dance. And that tells us a lot about who the people are who blog most actively about dance.

Swim across the Atlantic, and we find that it's a very different picture over here. Fairly often, people have asked about UK-based dance bloggers, but there really aren't that many, as we have few non-dancers blogging about dance, and the dancers with blogs rarely have time to update them, given how busy most dancers are with juggling work, rehearsals, teaching, performances, and everything else which eats into their time. Here on Cloud Dance Festival, we've been encouraging dancers and dance professionals to blog, but, well, we're all such busy people...

Here's a list of the dance bloggers we've found:

A Studio in Covent Garden
Link: astudioincoventgarden.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: @studioincovent

Written by a marketing officer who has worked at three of the leading arts venues in London, the blogs are a mixture of features on individual choreographers, thoughts on shows he's seen, and other topics of interest about dance. Also a guest blogger for The Ballet Bag.


Diarmaid O'Meara
Link: dancedialogue.wordpress.com
Twitter: @DanceDialogue

Diarmaid O'Meara is a freelance ballet dancer and teacher; his recent performances include The Most Incredible Thing at Sadler's Wells and Ballet Ireland's productions of Romeo & Juliet and Scheherazade. The tagline for his blog is "Opinion. Debate. Review.", and his blogs are always thought-provoking and insightful, often contradicting established opinions with well-argued reasoning.


Lucía Piquero
Link: www.diciembredancegroup.com/blog
Twitter: @LuPiquero
 
Lucía Piquero is one of the co-founders and co-directors of Diciembre Dance Group, and a very busy freelance ballet dancer and teacher! Her blogs are written from a dancer's perspective, discussing technique and other ingredients integral to dancing, her favourite dance moments, and other aspects of her work


Michael Johnson
Link: michaelpeterjohnson.com
Twitter: @mpjdancer

Michael Johnson is a Sheffield-based dance artist working with Poor Mans Dance and Adaire to Dance, among other companies, and worked with Wayne McGregor on Big Dance 2012. His blogs range from his current work and performances he's seen to musings on art and fashion.
 

Bellyflop Magazine
Link: www.bellyflopmag.com
Twitter: @bellyflopmag

Bellyflop is a very popular online contemporary dance magazine which has evolved into a collaborative enterprise, drawing from the dance artists based at Chisenhale Dance Space for its main contributors. It offers a wide range of features, interviews, reviews and blogs, however it has sadly become less active since the start of 2012 due to a lack of funding.
 
Only a few of the main contributors are on Twitter:
Charlie Ashwell: @AshwellCharlie
Eleanor Sikorski: @EleanorSikorski
Gillie Kleiman: @GillieKleiman


Article19
Link: www.article19.co.uk
Twitter: @article19

Contemporary dance's very own Marmite, Article19 is an outspoken necessary addition to the contemporary dance world, whether exposing issues some people might prefer were overlooked - whether it's low pay for dancers, or confusing allocation of funding - or heckling their favourite targets. And whenever the EvilImp gets loose, beware! Often insulted, never bested, Article19 says what many of us think but dare not say out loud.

Article19 isn't a blog, but should be avidly read anyway; they also have six dancers blogging for them, if infrequently.


The Ballet Bag
Link: www.theballetbag.com
Twitter: @theballetbag

Having put a tremendous amount of energy into building up The Ballet Bag as one of the leading ballet ezines since April 2009, Linda Uruchurtu and Emilia Spitz have invited several guest writers to join their team and to give The Ballet Bag's readers a more diverse viewpoint on the ballet world, as well as to free themselves up for their new creative agency, Lume Labs. If you're looking forward to an upcoming show, then check their site, as there's a good chance they'll have written about it in advance. And if you have a spare few hours, it's worth trawling through their archives for a wealth of articles on all things ballet, and a few things contemporary dance.


Cloud Dance Festival

We've had quite a few bloggers writing for us since we first started recruiting writers in August 2011, and we'll be trying to add to their numbers for an ever-widening range of viewpoints on life as a dancer.

If you're on Twitter, our current bloggers are:
Lewis Wheeler - @lewiswheeler
Anna Pearce - @anna_louP
Rachel Vogel - @crystaldance11

 

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New Adventures Choreographer Award

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It has got to be something pretty special to unite most of the dance industry under one roof, and the inaugural performance of the New Adventures Choreographer Award was just that, a remarkable tribute to both Matthew Bourne and James Cousins, and the amount of support shown to both on this occasion. In an interlude, Bourne explained that the Award had been devised and arranged by Etta Murfitt and Nina Goldman as a 50th birthday present, raising a staggering amount in a short space of time. The unique features of the award scheme are that it focusses on a choreographer, rather than his or her choreography, who is then mentored not only by Bourne himself but also his colleagues and peers - a very rare opportunity indeed.

While James Cousins was the winner of the Award, it was felt that Tom Jackson Greaves's application was too strong to overlook, and as the runner-up, he performed a solo, Vanity Fowl, a Cinderella-esque story (alas without shoe or handsome prince) using some very unexpected storytelling and imaginative use of film.

Vanity Fowl opened with a film of Greaves at a glamorous party of sorts and feeling very socially awkward, all the more so as everyone started dancing to the music, Greaves too shy to join in. From the moment the film ended and screen lifted to show Greaves at the front of the stage, shaking hands with a succession of invisible people and holding a conversation with a highly critical voiceover, Greaves had the audience captivated by his engaging personality and the dancing which he built up during the conversation. When he attempts to dance, pitifully embarrassed and overly self-conscious, the entire sold-out audience feels for him. He attempts to reinvent himself with a sparkly jacket, but the jacket disintegrates, as do his dreams, leaving him lying on the stage with glitter raining down on him.

Vanity Fowl had such a strong opening section, with such vivid theatricality and Greaves continually engaging with the audience, that it was hard for the second half of the piece to live up to it, which was a shame: Vanity Fowl shows great promise, but as we saw in Bourne's Early Adventures, it can be hard to reconcile pure dance with such successful theatricality. But we can be certain that Greaves will be keeping audiences entertained and enthralled as he explores his choreographic ideas in the years to come: let's hope this is the start of a great career for him.



James Cousins, fresh from performing in Marc Brew's Fusional Fragments at the South Bank Centre a week ago, presented three new works: Here In Darkness for The Place's Centre for Advanced Training, a duet There We Have Been, and his grand finale, Everything and Nothing. There We Have Been was the highlight of the show for many people, an extraordinarily creative duet in which Lisa Welham was in constant contact with her partner Aaron Vickers, always supported by him, whether he was standing, kneeling or lying down. Dimly lit with a sparse piano score, There We Have Been was mostly slow in pace, making the most of certain beautiful poses, and enabling Cousins to dramatise sections where the speed and music increased. While the duet created plenty of beautiful moments, it also created some flaws which might have been easier to overlook in a shorter piece.

Here In Darkness was a short work for twelve prevocational dancers, and it displayed the sharpness and crispness of choreography which Cousins is known for. The relentless score by Klangwart drove the piece along through a succession of group sequences, never diminishing in pace. Here In Darkness is a mature and confident work, especially in his skilful handling of such a large cast, and his creative use of solos amid group sections, even if the work was too brief for changes in pace or dynamics.

Everything and Nothing was a group work for ten dancers, and at forty minutes long, easily Cousins' most ambitious work yet. It opened with all of the dancers huddled in a group, with slight shifts developing as the dancers broke away into separate sections, power and control being key throughout. Given the creativity of Cousins' duets, the group sections were somewhat weaker but were at their most effective when providing a backdrop - or indeed a foredrop - for solos or duets. And Cousins' ownership of the stage was inspired, as the lighting would draw the audience's eyes towards the rear corner of the stage for an unexpected duet. Later in the piece, a breathtaking solo by former BalletBoy(z) Miguel Esteves showed us how impressive Cousins' dancers are.

Earlier in the week, there had been a brief discussion on Twitter between critics about forty-minute pieces, and while many choreographers have too little to say yet stretch their pieces out, Cousins clearly had more than enough to say and struggled to squeeze it all into his forty minutes. Cousins's works are never short on great imagery, but with so much detail, the result was an overloading of the audiences' senses.

Cousins' three works show that he has certainly got the choreographic skills and voice; what remains is for him to decide where to take them, and what he chooses to do with them.

At the end of a dance-deprived summer, Cousins' works have been a much-needed injection of total dance to kick off the new season - no wonder the audience left on such a high!

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Janice Parker: 'Private Dancer'

The brochure blurb for Janice Parker's Unlimited commission Private Dancer promised to 'play with our expectations and emotions through unique choreography'. Unfortunately, I can't say that this was my experience of the work. I very much wanted it to be, but felt that this work that had so much potential didn't quite deliver on a number of levels.

Hoping for a You Me Bum Bum Train-esque journey into other people's worlds and mind-sets, I instead found myself viewing a number of very different dancers performing very similar movement to the same, rather melancholic soundtrack.

The strength of the work was to be found in the concept, that of an audience being invited to enter different rooms in a 'house', and observe an individual's own private, self-created world and personal movement. Had the rooms been more separate, more different from each other, with an individual soundtrack and one-of-a-kind decor, I think this sense of insight into the individual performer would have been more achievable.

Instead, we saw container-style small rooms, with a variety of themes suggested by sparsely-arranged props, including stones laid out in a geometric pattern, mirrors large and small, hanging costumes, personal photos and tables of arts and crafts materials.

There were some intricate, personal and surprising moments. As the performers moved throughout the audience when we first entered the space, we began to see pockets of fluid trios, duets and solos around the space, unsure of whether or not these were chance meetings, and of who would suddenly become part of the performance next.

Upon being invited in to a dancer's room to observe their Private Dance one-to-one, you felt special, chosen, and these were the moments I wanted more of: a sense of real connection and insight into another's world.

In contrast, upon having a door closed on you, you're made to feel left out, and forced to peek through the crescent cut outs in the corrugated plastic doors, which actually, it turns out, frame the action inside rather beautifully.

This almost voyeuristic role of the audience is heightened later in the piece, as CCTV-like camera images of all of the rooms are projected onto one wall of the space that holds the house.

The production must be applauded for its accessibility, with clear instructions of what to expect, and the BSL interpretation of these instructions. I wonder, though, if stopping for these 'instruction' moments is too disruptive to the flow of the performance, and perhaps there is another way to approach this, still ensuring that the audience feels safe, but not breaking out of the world which the performers are working to create.

Towards the end of the work, we are led outside of the walls of the house to watch a line of five dancers performing a short quirky sequence, bringing about a moment of humour and a much-needed smile. We also see a male duet in the mirror room (which wasn't theirs before; I was slightly bothered that they'd taken over what was supposed to be someone else's private space). Again, this duet had the same slow, fluid, calming but unchanging movement quality, and I was unsure of their relationship to each other and to us. A second duet out of the house showed a clearer but more private relationship: a glimmer of what I'd hoped for from the rest of the work.

The piece ended on a high, with the cast leading the audience to mingle with each other in the space, upon which their smiles and uninhibited dancing to Blondie's 'Atomic' encouraged everyone to join them in their own moment of freedom, their own private dance.

Private Dancer is charming and holds so much potential, but perhaps focuses too little on the 'private', and too much on its public perception.     
 

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What To See: September

 

Hasn't that been a ridiculously long summer? And unless you managed to escape up to Edinburgh, wasn't that a reeeeeally long time to go without, well, any dance at all?! We hope you managed to stock up with plenty of dance before the summer-long drought, although there's hardly a deluge to see in the new season. It's a good month for CDF alumni, so read on...


James Cousins & Tom Jackson Greaves - 7 September
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/New-Adventures-Choreographer-Award-Showcase-James-Cousins
Trailer of Vanity Fowl: vimeo.com/44269163

The New Adventures Choreographer Award was launched last year to commemorate Matthew Bourne's 50th birthday and there wasn't as much surprise as there could have been when James Cousins was announced as the winner, with Tom Jackson Greaves selected as a runner-up. James Cousins will be presenting two works: There We Have Been is a duet inspired by the troubled relationships portrayed in Murakami's best selling novel, Norwegian Wood, while
Everything and Nothing is a dynamic collaboration between himself, lighting designer Lee Curran and set designer Colin Falconer.

Tom Jackson Greaves will be premiering Vanity Fowl, a solo which observes one man’s journey from grace to disgrace.


HeadSpaceDance: Three & Four Quarters - 7-11 September
Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/three-and-four-quarters-by-christopher-akrill-and-charlotte-broom

HeadSpaceDance is a new initiative by former Cullberg Ballet and the Northern Ballet Theatre dancers Charlotte Broom and Christopher Akrill, who are joined by Clemmie Sveaas (The Most Incredible Thing) to perform newly commissioned pieces by choreographers Javier de Frutos, Luca Silvestrini and Didy Veldman, and a reworking of Mats Ek's 1991 duet Light Beings.


The Place Prize 4: Preview - 13 September, Semifinal - 22 September
The Place
Preview: www.theplace.org.uk/14094/whats-on/the-place-prize-preview-4.html
Semifinal: www.theplace.org.uk/14096/whats-on/the-place-prize-semifinal-4.html

One of the most exciting choreographic voices we've encountered, Goddard Nixon - Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon, formerly of Rambert Dance Company - are performing a "duet of fractured tenderness and mysterious camaraderie" in the final of the four nights. Created in collaboration with lighting designer Michael Hulls, you can expect amazing lighting design, amazing choreography and amazing dancing.

Please give them your votes. Goddard Nixon to win!


Free To Fall - 21 September
Rich Mix
Tickets: www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/free-to-fall-210912/
Details: www.freetofall.co.uk/#/autumn-season/4568157474

Free to Fall is a "scratch night" curated by Lee Smikle, held regularly at Rich Mix to offer young choreographers an opportunity to receive feedback on their works. Among the people performing in this edition are Dom Czapski and John Ross, who performed in our September 2008 festival and who had to withdraw from our last festival.


Joss Arnott Dance: The Dark Angel Tour - 29 September
Rich Mix
Tickets & details: www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/dark-angel-tour/

The past two years have been a whirlwind of recognition and buildup for Joss Arnott, culminating in the tour of this triple-bill of his works: threshhold, the piece which first caught everyone's attention back in 2010; 24,  inspired by the themes and concepts explored within the Alexander McQueen exhibition Savage Beauty, and Origin, a a fluid yet intense solo by Arnott himself. His style may be imitated by many, but come to this show to see high-paced dynamic choreography performed at its best.


Worthy Mention

Pirates of Penzance: 26 - 30 September
Hackney Empire
Tickets & details: www.hackneyempire.co.uk/?lid=2823

Union Theatre's award-winning all-male Pirates of Penzance briefly take up residence at Hackney Empire before heading overseas to Australia, so this is a great opportunity to catch them and wish them (and Raymond Tait) well before they go. Having previously been staged at Union Theatre, Wilton's Music Hall and Rose Theatre in Kingston, it remains to see how well this production will retain its intimacy in such a large venue.

 

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What To See: Autumn

Who still remembers the excitement of last autumn, which seemed to be filled with a large number of visiting companies to explore, and companies which had been absent for far too long, La La La Human Steps being one of their number. And maybe we'll remember it as the last of the great Dance Umbrellas. As though we're paying for the overambition of last autumn, and the excesses of the Pina Bausch World Cities residency, this autumn seems to be playing it safe, with an emphasis on trusted favourites, which of course includes the mixed blessing that is the Place Prize.


Highlights


The Place Prize 4: Preview - 13 September, Semifinal - 22 September
The Place
Preview: www.theplace.org.uk/14094/whats-on/the-place-prize-preview-4.html
Semifinal: www.theplace.org.uk/14096/whats-on/the-place-prize-semifinal-4.html

One of the most exciting choreographic voices we've encountered, Goddard Nixon - Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon, formerly of Rambert Dance Company - are performing a "duet of fractured tenderness and mysterious camaraderie" in the final of the four nights. Created in collaboration with lighting designer Michael Hulls, you can expect amazing lighting design, amazing choreography and amazing dancing.

Please give them your votes. Goddard Nixon to win!


Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet: 11 - 13 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Cedar-Lake-Contemporary-Ballet

For some of us, our first introduction to Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet will have been in the film The Adjustment Bureau - which will have been reason enough to see the film! From that, we'll know that Cedar Lake is not a typical dance company, with a specific interest in installations and site-specific work, and highly technical dancers; this will be their long-overdue first visit to the UK, and they will be bringing a fascinating triple bill with works by Hofesh Shechter, Crystal Pite and Alexander Ekman - if you remember what Ekman created with cacti for NDT2, start imagining where he'll take the theme of rhythm for Cedar Lake....


Birmingham Royal Ballet, 'Opposites Attract': 23 - 24 October
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Birmingham-Royal-Ballet-Opposites-Attract-and-Autumn-Celebration
Video of Grösse Fuge: www.brb.org.uk/Grosse-2012.html

Every autumn, Birmingham Royal Ballet brings a modern triple bill and a classical programme to Sadler's Wells, often challenging our definitions of "modern" ballet, by programming works such as Ninette de Valois's not-quite-timeless Checkmate from 1937.

Opposites Attract features works by the extremely prolific and sought-after American choreographer Jessica Lang, a tribute by director David Bintley to jazz icon Dave Brubeck and a revival of Hans van Manen's unforgettable Grösse Fuge, which we last saw performed by Dutch National Ballet (cue Luke Jenning's review "Dude, you're so ripped".)

The Autumn Celebration! triple bill also looks intriguing, offering Broadway show choreographer Joe Layton's amusing take on the celebrities of the 1920s in The Grand Tour, David Bintley's Faster, inspired by the Olympic motto, ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, and Frederick Ashton's The Dream, where all hangs on the puppyishness of Puck and the height of his jumps.


Viscera: 3 - 14 Nov
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/viscera-by-liam-scarlett

As part of a triple bill with revivals of Christopher Wheeldon's Fool's Paradise and Wayne McGregor's Infra, Viscera is the UK premiere of Liam Scarlett's US choreographic debut, commissioned for Miami City Ballet and performed to great acclaim. It is an abstract ballet in three sections; expect choreographic gorgeousness.


Batsheva Ensemble: 19 - 21 November
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details: www.sadlerswells.com/show/Batsheva-Ensemble-Deca-Dance

Batsheva Ensemble is the junior company of Batsheva Dance Company whose recent Edinburgh International Festival performances were met with pro-Palestinian protests, depriving them of the audiences they deserved.

Led by Ohad Naharin, one of of the more influential choreographers of today, whose works have been performed by many of the leading contemporary and ballet companies, this will be their first visit to the UK - and we can hope they receive a much warmer welcome. They will be performing Deca Dance, a medley of the most memorable and best-loved segments of Naharin’s creations from the last 20 years, set to an eclectic mix of music from Vivaldi to the Beach Boys. If you love Hofesh.....


Worthy Mentions


Michael Clark, 'New Work 2012': 17 - 27 October
Barbican
Tickets & details: www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=13338

Following residencies in the Tate Modern over the last two years, working with both trained and untrained dancers, the notorious enfant terrible of ballet - described by Sanjoy Roy as a "ballet punk" and "dance's rock'n'roll legend" in his essential step-by-step guide - returns to the Barbican with his first new work for the Barbican stage since 2009. Some will be delighted; others will look on in horror.


Dance United: 20 & 22 October
The Place
Tickets & details: www.theplace.org.uk/14275/whats-on/dance-united.html

Following his two-year residency in Hong Kong, Dam Van Huynh is Dance United's new associate artist, and this new programme features new work from him in addition to works by Kwesi Johnson, Carly Annable-Coop and Helen Linsell.


Swan Lake: 10, 13 & 25 October
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details: www.roh.org.uk/productions/swan-lake-by-anthony-dowell

Strictly for the classical ballet fans, this is just a heads up to remind you that in light of Tamara Rojo's premature departure for English National Ballet, Carlos Acosta will be partnered by Natalia Osipova on these dates. Mutterings hope that this will be the start of a longer-term partnership between the two.  


 

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Marc Brew Company & Dame Evelyn Glennie: Fusional Fragments

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In today’s artistic environment focused on developing collaboration and depleting boundaries, it’s refreshing to see a choreographer questioning the validity and success of the fusion between dance styles and artistic mediums. When the lines between classical ballet and contemporary dance blur, movement vocabularies cross, linger, dive, and permeate one another, but to what degree of success?

This compelling notion was the concept behind Fusional Fragments, a work choreographed by Marc Brew in collaboration with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, and commissioned by the Southbank Centre as part of Unlimited: London 2012’s Cultural Olympiad, celebrating the extraordinary talents of deaf and disabled artists.

Five technically strong and diverse dancers graced the stage, interacting with and separating from percussionist Glennie as she wove, sang, and moved throughout the space, an influential and mesmerising force behind the movement. Both beginning and ending the work, Glennie exaggerated and morphed the soundscape, composed by Phillip Sheppard, and created her own element of interaction: a fused fragment beyond the constraint of a movement vocabulary, but still able to hold its own within the work.

Strong movement vocabularies were witnessed throughout the piece: the use of distinct lines, ballet positions and boundaries was evident, punctuated by contemporary dance’s use of levels, fragmented lines, and the breakdown of traditional partnerships. A dominating use of lighting splintered the stage, allowing the dancers to use these sharp angles to play with and interact with the space, shaping and visually distorting their own lines.

With a movement vocabulary that focuses on isolation and ‘broken’ lines, a lighting score that visually breaks down the dancer’s bodies (an interesting moment occurring when a strong light streamed across the space, highlighting only the dancer’s knees), this work mainly centers around fragmentation rather than fusion. By clearly breaking down and dividing the technical parameters of both movement styles, the idea of fusion became a little lost in the work. The work embraced both styles, but didn’t challenge them, and clearly defining the influences of the movement could ultimately lead to its confusion.

Yet there was something very compelling about this work. The atmosphere created in this piece through the movement and the collaborative elements are to be applauded, and though conceptually I felt a little let down in this work, visually this piece was something to behold.
 

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