‘Betwixt – a funny musical’, and it’s as simple as that. To sum it up, my choice of words are ‘a strange, slightly crazy, adult fairytale, just for the hell of it!’ And that is one of the particularly joyful things I learnt whilst watching this wonderfully odd musical. It really is all about the fun, and I personally would rejoice if fellow theatrical companies/productions similar in nature to Betwixt! would follow suit out of the woodwork and show everybody how it’s done. This is up to date comedy at its best; new theatre finally making its mark which I urge all theatre goers to welcome with open arms because it really does take a talented mind to pull this stuff off.
Those who have witnessed the scale of Trafalgar Studios 2 will know it’s rather petite! The cast is of a mere nine members, alongside three musicians all set within a small, simple black theatre space with a minimum of three or four rows seated around the performance area. Everything is low key with zero extravaganza regarding the design (except maybe the slightly eccentric costumes, just to make it that little bit more wacky). But other than that, there really is nowhere to hide as the actor’s costumes sweep across your lap commencing from the entrance you strolled through yourself earlier, whilst also easily gaining the knowledge by catching many a glimpse of what underwear our actors are wearing that day.
And boy what fine actors they are. Every single one of them. And so they have to be. In such an intimate space, the audience doesn’t miss anything. The plot is an easy (yet enjoyable) one to follow. A possible one hit wonder author Bailey Howard (Benedict Salter) is struggling with writers block when to the rescue comes Cooper Fitzgerald (Steven Webb), a hilariously overpowering, not to mention, unplanned room mate. An ironic key and door whisks the unlikely pair away to a supernatural world where they embark on a heroic journey with, or against (depending on which sister), Lizzie Roper’s characters. Lost yet? Not to worry, that’s a good thing. Along the way, Bailey finds love in the form of a body-less head named Miranda (Ashleigh Gray) whilst Kelly Chinery, Peter Duncan, Will Hawksworth (be sure to not miss out on his Joan the Mute), Alyssa Nicol and Rob Wilshaw’s wild characters break into crazy, wonderful songs moving this colourful production along swiftly before our eyes.
The whole thing is plain weird, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. But what I positively believe holds all the crazy stuff together is the extraordinarily talented cast. Each one of them are full of quick wit and produce continual genuine, unpredictable, side splitting laughter which is sadly rare in the world of musical theatre. Many audience members are brilliantly supportive in wishing the production would move into a larger west end theatre which is great, but I honestly believe it is what it is, and that it should remain within its existing nature and further more pieces such as this should grow to be recognised and popularised in this industry. The field would prove to be more fun with playful honest productions like Betwixt! making a home for themselves in London’s west end.
Back to feeling the love for our cast members, what really should be noted is that they are, well, simply hilarious. The writers and team behind this show have produced a spectacle the actors thrive upon and the whole team has dangerously created an explosion of obscene hilarity. It is quite unreal just how notably funny Steven and Lizzie are. It’s actually quite haunting as these two artists in particular repeatedly retell their jokes inside your head long after the lights go down. To best describe it, it’s one of those embarrassing situations when you’re seated on a bus, playing out one of their characters many comical moments in your thoughts to then uncontrollably laugh out loud, only to realise you’re seated on that bus alone. But hey, it’s oh so worth it. You’ll also fall in love with Ben’s adorable character who, as an actor, is utterly overflowing with talent, as is the beautiful Ashleigh who comically reminds us of that outstanding voice of hers.
If I was to be fussy and dish out anything I would like to see change, it would be the absence of an increased interaction with the audience. For such a small space I feel that the show would benefit by acknowledging its audience further, inviting us to laugh with them, not to ourselves. Up the ante on that, and we’re all yours. However, what’s great about Betwixt! is that you don’t have to understand it, that’s the beauty. You just have to sit in those big red seats and allow comic genius to take hold. The musical’s played down simplistic environment let’s you feel like you’re part of the creation process in a satisfying whirlwind of entertainment randomly plonked in front of you. I gladly take my hat off to all behind the creation of this funny business and would return in a second with the proud knowledge of perhaps producing even more laughter; there really is something for everybody at Betwixt! A promising future for theatre! With only a few days left, do not miss this uplifting, hilarious display!
Warning – tissues required, this one’s certainly a tear jerker! Amidst the depressing times of the disgrace that is the London riots, this phenomenal piece of theatre does an astounding job of sweeping you off your feet and forgetting about the world for a couple of hours. Incredible as the experience was, my only disappointment was that I wished it had gone on for longer. Please don’t hesitate when considering the hype that surrounds this musical, this is a once in a life time must see!
Having caught clips here and there as a child while the 1990s film was at its peak, I decided to sit down to it in preparation for the show, simply to appreciate it as the classic it was and is; some healthy research if you will. Before setting foot inside the Piccadilly, my first ‘note to self’ was to intentionally ensure the separation of these two creations, and how right I was. ‘Ghost The Musical’ is a credit in its own right and deserves every praise for the spectacle that it is. Due to my experience of trailers and television clips of the production, my initial thought whilst seating myself was that of small surprise as I wondered the possibilities of producing these so called spectacular tricks and illusions in quite a small space. How wrong I was this time. The moment the first note was played by the orchestra while the glimmering screen projection worked its magic, I knew immediately that I was in for a treat.
‘Ghost The Musical’ is of course based on the film creation, but this is an insignificant detail that is lost straight away as this stunning piece of theatre stands on its own two marvellous feet. The story goes, two lovers Sam and Molly suffer pain and grief when Sam is murdered and has to deal with unfinished business in this romantic whirlwind, as a ghost. As a first note, I must give a resounding applause to illusionist Paul Kieve who really has helped shape this show’s wow factor. This was the one aspect that was at the centre of all conversation by the exiting patrons. ‘How did they do that?’ is a question I’d rather not hear the answer to, the magic produced was perfect, even when seated in the stalls with barely a piece of string in sight. What to expect? Walking through solid objects and leaping from your own body multiplying yourself on stage. Impossible? I tell no lies. What delighted myself most about this musical was its developed quality; this is a new piece of theatre with plenty of style. The choreography in particular states this loud and clear as choreographer Ashley Wallen interjects contemporary excellence with hints of street on varied occasions, but also pursuing a traditional attribute in the form of a tap dance. If I had to be picky, I’d admit I did have some trouble adjusting to the randomness of the tap sequence/song interrupting the character Sam’s frustration, but as the scene unfolded it took its place in promoting the action and feeling of the characters which was certainly felt by myself.
Before I discuss the wonder that is our main characters, I must prioritise a mention regarding the set. Three screens is all it takes with a few pieces of furniture, revolving like no other set I have witnessed in a long time. The range of action this set projects is of a gobsmacking quality, rapidly moving the story line along in the slickest of fashions. The modernised tech work and projection really stamps its mark on the musical announcing ‘this is what I am, and aren’t I one technical, theatrical marvel!’ Due to the high standard of backstage and technical production, you are immediately warped by the show and wrapped up in the experience. On hindsight, an incredible amount of detail goes unnoticed and it all moulds into one big dazzling visual.
Finally on to our cast, and my goodness does Richard Fleeshman (Sam Wheat) shine the brightest. I struggle in shock to describe the wonder that is this actor, but to say I was blown away is an embarrassing understatement. I am astonished at the amount of the character’s emotion that is transferred to our own hearts by him, and considering the young lad has never entered into the usual training most actors opt for, his raw talent is just perfect for this piece of theatre. Equally magnificent is of course Caissie Levy (Molly Jensen). Even the knowledge that this lady has played a most wonderful Elphaba on Broadway cannot prepare you for the sensation that she is. Her talent is effortless and it is incredibly difficult to not believe in her. What a privilege to have experienced her grace the stage. When I wasn’t sobbing, I was revelling in the comic genius that is Oda Mae Brown, otherwise known as Sharon D Clarke. Such a heart warming, captivating actress yet ever so gifted in creating vast amounts of laughter, as were her two side kicks Jenny Fitzpatrick (Louise) and Lisa Davina Phillip (Clara). The face, the voice, the charisma, Andrew Langtree who plays the role of evil Karl portrays the character’s betrayal with such style, you are promptly intrigued by the depth of this persona; just pure brilliance. The ensemble did more than a grand job, such beautiful talent doing the show wonderful justice and some brilliantly distinctive characters throughout. Due to such exquisite stage presence, you are bound to notice Emily Hawgood who shines through her ensemble status.
Other mentions include that of the subway scenes which are particularly endearing alongside a clever piece rapped by a subway ghost, action packed ensemble banker scenes and the connection of the two acts, pulling you in immediately forgetting there ever was an interval. The score of the musical is absolutely stunning. Each song belongs there and connects to the audience in every way it intends to. The track that stuck with me long after the show was the touching and beautiful ‘With You’, a song made just for Caissie it seems. A chilling reminder of ‘Unchained Melody’ makes a well deserved appearance resulting in a tender duet between Richard and Caissie. The production as a whole is thrilling, explosive and immensely powerful leaving yourself and the theatre trembling as the curtain goes down; what an atmosphere. Emotionally gripping and you are wholeheartedly rooting for these two lovers. And without sounding too cheesy, from start to finish, you believe.
After a successful run at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Crazy For You has made its West End transfer to the Novello Theatre, and quite frankly, who could ask for anything more?
God bless such a musical that ensures every single patron sways their way out of the Novello, exiting as a youngster once again no matter what their age; simple, traditional magic at its best! Sure, it is evidently a musical plucked straight out of its time, the pre-Sondheim separation between song and dance is more than apparent. But that’s okay, it’s more than okay. Long gone are the days we desire to revisit, long gone are the days of sheer fun George and Ira Gershwin introduced to the world. Yet, here is the invitation to lose ourselves in the magic once more, and to resist a constant grin was pure torture.
The genius that is Ken Ludwig is responsible for thankfully re-adapting the original book with a pinch (okay, maybe a handful) of Gershwin, and a sprinkle of showbiz. We follow the story of the adorable, tap dancing Bobby Child (Sean Palmer), son to an unbearably wealthy family in which he wishes to escape by helplessly auditioning for the dismissive Bela Zangler (David Burt). Failing, his mother proposes that he take a business trip a far cry from home to Deadrock, Nevada to seal the deal on a property. With the added bonus of escaping an unwanted fiancé, he of course accepts. A few days later a rather sun-stroked, thirsty Bobby arrives at our lovable bad guy Lank Hawkins’ (Michael McKell) saloon, only to find he has to close the deal on a relatively run down Gaiety Theatre. He of course falls madly in love with the owner’s daughter Polly Baker (Clare Foster), the seemingly only female this simple town inhabits. Failing (again) to fully win her heart, he is struck by a not so bright idea. Gathering his fellow New York Follies he sticks on a beard, adopts a Hungarian accent therefore fooling the town to believe he is the one and only Bela Zangler, all in the name of saving the theatre, hurrah! Well, not quite…
What seems to be your average once upon a time, soon turns into something quite special. A promise is a promise, and you are guaranteed to fall hopelessly in love with each and every character. Every clap of the hand is full of rejoice due to a simplistic happiness that fills the soul. Old fashioned humour is cleverly reminded throughout but what gladly hits the spot are those great, big bursts of choreography that truly knock your socks off and replaces them with invisible tap shoes. These big dancing numbers such as the likes of ‘I Got Rhythm’ are a result of the talented Stephen Mear, a man with an obvious mission to lift backsides off seats in a rhythmic fashion; mission accomplished.
An exquisite quality is danced by both our leading roles with equally beautiful voices; a match made in heaven. It can be quite uncommon to describe an ensemble as striking as our leading pair, but difficulty in doing so undeniably lacked this time. Dreams are realised in an array of sweet hearted relationships throughout a glitzy 1930’s fairytale, and this lovable narrative partnered with Gershwin classics touches the heart, lifting spirits you’d perhaps long ago forgotten about. If it is not worth witnessing this sweet spectacle for the fairy dust that trails behind you on your way home to reality alone, then it is certainly worth it if only for the hilarity that is Zangler and Child’s drunken duet – understated comic moment of the year!
My word, it is with disbelief that the following words are written. Everybody who visits the Peacock Theatre within the next couple of weeks will without a doubt agree that they like it hip hop, even if they didn’t do so before. ZooNation Dance Company are due some serious thanking and kissing of feet for bringing Some Like It Hip Hop to life. Now, it may sound like a bit of light-hearted banter, but in all seriousness there are no words that can justify this phenomenon. Five stars are frustratingly just not enough, resulting in this to be a very hard piece to write; if possible, Some Like It Hip Hop is too good.
Following in its predecessor Into the Hoods’ footsteps, hip hop and theatre get on like a house on fire… with fireworks, putting most musicals to shame. The fact that there were some amplification issues is irrelevant as music, set and design were utterly on point, entailing zero weak spots. This show deserves a future more than any other so that any picky, minor problems can be dusted off; they are of little importance where this show is concerned. Assumptions may lead to a belief that shows of this nature can run the risk of being slightly cheesy, however, ZooNation failed to embarrass themselves. Some Like It Hip Hop is proof that sheer magic occurs when the importance of hip hop is acknowledged by theatre, especially when it is of as gobsmacking quality as this. Evidently, dance should not be struggling in today’s society as director Kate Prince’s creation just goes to show.
The surprisingly heart-capturing story follows an oppressive governor who has locked in the city and those who are worthy, while the rejected remain outside in the cold. He runs a pretty tight ‘no books allowed’ ship where everyone must prove themselves fit and women are put in their place. When Jo-Jo Jameson, Kerri Kimbalayo along with the lovable Sudsy Partridge endure a slip-up, they are banished, much to their dismay. However, an opportunity soon arises to enter back into the city, but only for men. The two ladies are of course struck by an idea, and comically man themselves up (moustaches and all) to join the adorable, book-loving Simeon Sun. It must be noted just how side-splittingly funny this show is throughout, and it comes with all the perks of a good story. Theatrically, the whole thing is accurately brilliant. With the help of some exquisite on-stage singers plus the genius that is DJ Walde, the accompaniment is enough to make you purchase the soundtrack without hesitation, and Ben Stones’ set design is superbly unique. Choreographically? Just wow. The hip hop language these bodies execute is sublime and fits right into the theatre as though it has belonged there since Day One. The choreography lacks any imperfection and is well and truly up to date, although we are treated with much delight to a rendition of ‘The Carlton’ in the infamous seduction scene. Each and every scene proves to be the best scene: an impossible treat danced out before our eyes.
The whole plot is narrated by the multi-talented Tachia Newall who encourages the entertainment that seems impossible to beat. Shaun Smith’s Sudsy is infectious, and along with Natasha Gooden who plays the beautiful daughter of the governor, they are both out of this world in regards to star quality. And that goes to every performer involved. Despite the existence of your typical leading roles, each star steps up and shines, equally overflowing with talent within their own expertise. Duwane Taylor’s empowering popping and locking vibrates straight through your heart, teaming up nicely with Teneisha Bonner, an astonishingly memorable dancer, not to mention actress. Lizzie Gough makes up one half of our simply perfect leading couple, reminding us why we fell in love with her So You Think You Can Dance appearances. And the other half is the unbelievable Tommy Franzén. While watching this artist at work, the thought that there is only one of him becomes particularly prominent, realising just how unreal this talent is. Alongside the rest of the cast, each individual is in a league of their own, and together have created something quite extraordinary.
It is with great shame that the justice this piece of theatre deserves cannot be written into words. No matter how familiar you are with hip hop, an awe-stricken (not to mention wild) audience is what you get, and the wonder that such a thing exists. Some Like It Hip Hop, I salute you as arguably one of the greatest theatrical experiences alive. May you live on, or there’ll undoubtedly be hell to pay!
Ladies, take note. 2Faced Dance Company’s triple bill isn’t just about eight handsome gentlemen wooing your socks off, back-flipping for your pleasure - although I dare say many are likely to enjoy the evening for similar reasons. If it was possible to lick your lips at dance, In the Dust have just proven it so. A testosterone-filled triple bill has been brought to The Place in the most stylish of fashions, including three new works by three critically-acclaimed choreographers. An all-male company, 2Faced Dance are renowned for their infusion of break and contemporary dance in the most athletic of natures.
The night starts off with a bang and the first piece is over before you know it. Place Prize semi finalist Tom Dale presents Subterrania in a haze of smoke, engulfing its audience in an intense atmosphere from the very first second. The urban twists are immediately evident, aiding the athleticism by impossible means. Artistic skill leads to a constant catching of breath as the murmuring, snaking music and powerful lighting work harmoniously with fierce and focused choreography. An overwhelming choice of where to look progresses as the movement swiftly sweeps you off your feet: The Matrix has nothing on this. Neutrally tatty clothing produces attractive whipping of material and body, encouraged by flying limbs that appear from nowhere. We are introduced to fitting qualities in forms such as writhing gas masks which soulfully ease the tension. The structure as a whole builds exactly where it needs to and everything clicks perfectly into place from start to finish. No gimmicks, just talent.
The astonishing factor undoubtedly lies within the impossibilities these outstanding dancers carry out. However, it is not only the skill that leaves jaws on the ground, it’s how these tricks are put to use creatively. The mix is of an outstanding quality, as is the two-man roly poly! Every moment flowed with such essence, literally continuing forever it seemed. Wildly charismatic - hearts will race! A lack of care surrounds what they are trying to say as you are guaranteed to want to remain in this intrigued state.
Politciking Oath is the breather that follows, choreographed by Freddie Opoku-Addaie. Although at a quieter pace, this piece is just as clever. Four lights, three men, and a couple of props are what make up the Olympic-esque activity before us. The stamina of the piece builds as does the competition, using the music as a focus. Ticking, commentary, anthems and the repeated phrase ‘True spirit of sportsmanship’ creates the theme and the relationships between the dancers, providing some comical moments. A juxtaposition of activity and accompaniment continually triggers, adding depth and intricate qualities to this simplistic layout. Although similar movement vocabulary is notable throughout the whole bill, Politciking Oath prides itself in its unique persona, efficiently using the dancers to its advantage.
Finally, Tamsin Fitzgerald concludes this mind blowing spectacle with 7.0, a slightly more zesty finish. Eerie is the first quality that springs to mind which is fully complimented by white dust protruding from the five alternative company members, depending on the individual movements that acknowledge the dust. Inspired by a visit to Haiti after the earthquake, this piece comes at you in an urgent manner and the uncertainty is particularly prominent. You want to know what’s wrong, why all the angst? It sucks you in, in a political yet powerful way while the accompaniment results in slightly more flavoured movement responses. A strobe-like light promotes the violent energy and twitching features as the dancers fling and flail their bodies as if gone mad. Beautiful choreography enables the dancers to shift from shape to shape, creating such images like a human stepping stone. A dynamic and heart wrenching experience to not be forgotten in a hurry.
Glued to your seat unable to blink, 2Faced Dance Company are as impressive as they get. What they do, they do it well with an explosion of individual artistry. Do not miss out on such hell-raising choreography!
Tonight, The Place bought us another installment courtesy of Dance Umbrella in the form of two one-woman shows. The double bill consisted of Nelisiwe Xaba’s They Look at Me and That’s All They Think plus Mamela Nyamza’s Hatched, both performed by their choreographers. New and inspiring choreographic notions filled the Robin Howard Theatre, however, this wasn’t delivered without its downfalls.
I can only wish to write a trail of splendid praise for the first piece of the night, but frustratingly my thoughts were left rather deflated. This is in actual fact a bit of a nuisance as bundles of innovative ideas were placed neatly before the audience, but they remained unfinished while I could only dream of their potential. The first image was a curious one as Nelisiwe Xaba explored a flow of movement throughout the depths of her back and arms, crouched beside a step ladder refusing to reveal her face. Once we were introduced with the impact of her pre-hidden face, the night’s activities disappointedly progressed in a half-hearted fashion. The white, wired dress was certainly put to good use providing a ‘top half’ tent staging a playful yet lazy, brightly coloured leg routine, a screen which broadcasted self resembling, cartoon hair adverts, and a swinging light made for an effective three dimensional silhouette. Bouncy castles and accentuated ‘features’ were among the other uses the dress exhibited, alongside our choreographer wrapping herself in bubble wrap executing uncomfortable, random noises which were actually an interesting highlight of the piece.
The frustrating truth is that these wonderfully creative concepts failed to connect or develop in the slightest. A horribly slack use of lighting failed to assist in any way, and an imaginative choice of accompaniment including a comical rendition of The Pussycat Doll’s Don’t Cha, was unfortunately stuck on track after track in a CD player-like fashion. An overuse of fiddling and adjusting of costume and set in between things diminished the piece of any sort of flow and interest. The piece ‘refers to the story of Sara Baartman’ and how she is ‘considered as a symbol of the oppression of the African woman by colonialism and its zoo-like way of looking at Africans’ (see programme notes), which is notable amongst these chopped up interpretations, but a strong barrier is endured between choreographer and audience due to an uninviting self exploration.
Slightly concerned that the second piece Hatched was to follow in the first’s footsteps due to the similar lighting state and dropping of a washing line peg or two, I was quite relieved to find myself pleasantly surprised. As the lights gradually rose, a tasteful structure appears by means of a washing line hung right across the back of the space, a sea of red in the form of a tent encompassing a human, lamp and table, and a stunning figure, half-naked bearing a long skirt brambled in pegs. Faintly, traffic and sirens fill the air as the figure places a metal bucket upon her head, moving along the line in pointe shoes, all the while with her back turned. Rushing, yet humming, red clothes from the bucket are hung, dressing her top half somewhere along the line. The tent is also attached which leads to an exquisitely intense moment in which the figure slowly wraps herself in the mounds of material, unveiling a young boy doing his homework while classical music attentively attends to the scene. A beautiful array of red fabric has textured the stage and it is as though every image has been carefully selected.
The movement content proves to be an exciting watch as she switches from happy to sad, emotions pouring out of the frantic inner twitching that wobbles speedily through her body. At moments, her body as a whole is so beautifully quick that she is almost out of control yet so in control at the same time. Pegs collide as she jumps up and down in utter glee to then flop back into her depressive state, and the twitching progressively grows happier. In the way of trying on clothes and begging for a cigarette, repeatedly lighting a match, she is fighting with her emotions as the boy watches her quite unfazed. The only course of action carried out by the boy is the cleaning up of pegs, which really is all that is required to convey their touching relationship. Pointe shoes are off, an increase of clothing covers her as she twitches in a far more elated mode to native music, taking what seems to be her son by the hand to proceed with the bows: an unexpected yet attractive finish as the music continues.
Artistically stunning, Hatched has earned the third star of the night. While both pieces deal with social issues in an inventive way, They Look at Me and That’s All They Think struggled to communicate; there is some unfinished business here that was sadly not dealt with.
Now that Candoco Dance Company has hit the ripe age of twenty, to celebrate, we are treated to a triple bill of three new commissions, Candoco-style. I say this due to noting the very fitting statement situated on the front of the programme for the evening which reads, ‘An anniversary programme of three bold and unexpected works’. This is precisely what draws many to Candoco’s work year after year: the unexpected. And this point alone proves the company are successfully achieving what they set out to do. Candoco is of course the unique leading dance company comprised of disabled and non-disabled dancers, founded by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin in 1991. They embrace difference in order to enrich dance itself, therefore providing exciting, versatile and new ways of thinking about dance. Funnily enough, due to their hard work promoting diversity and excellence, the focus does not solely rely on the fact that disabled dancers are simply used in the context of dance. The company provides proof that their value as artists is of far more importance and evidently so, continues to produce extraordinary work. And tonight’s triple bill is of no exception.
Saving the best until last has no relevance here as we begin with the first commission by choreographer Rachid Ouramdane. Looking Back is an intimate experience with a big atmosphere. We initially feel as though we are about to encounter a rather low-key rock gig as the stage is encircled by five guitars and amps. The lighting is, well, light as we hesitantly wait for something, coughs and sniffs from the audience breaking the ice. Eventually the first body walks into the space with the belief of encompassing all the time in the world; an ongoing theme throughout. A sequence of intensely slow movement is carried out, easing through skill and balance whilst the five remaining dancers proceed to walk on and off, simply watching. The whole thing is almost intimidating, yet we wait with bated breath, sucked in by an extremely gradual build up of tension. All are dressed casually in black, complimenting the ambience the guitars begin to provide which are soon used effectively by the dancers themselves, at points controlling the movement. Control is a key word when relating to this piece, the movement and even where we as an audience are concerned. It’s as though Ouramdane knows exactly where to pull our focus, cleverly utilising a video camera at one point, manipulated by a dancer. However, it is those being filmed that contribute to the manipulation, moving in literal slow motion as an interactive group which is then projected from the camera onto the back of the stage. It is a plain yet mind blowing piece of staging enhanced by the focus on the dancer’s faces rather than their bodies, while snapshots are taken with the intention of capturing the facial expressions as though we are watching the movement through the dancer’s eyes. The whole body of the piece with its honest and personal setting is disturbingly beautiful. Further disturbance is created in images cleverly depicted in the space, and tension rises, brilliantly timed by a simple yet exuberant stamping motif. Dancers are possessed by the guitar as they flail their bodies around by means of rocking out, and imaginative goings on include oddly situated tap dancing and alteration of one’s clothes; something is being said here and we are desperately intrigued. Within the programme note, Ouramdane uses phrases such as ‘poetic’, ‘distinct depth of feeling’ and ‘the emotional charges that emerge are invitations to the audience to create open-ended fictions’ to describe this piece. Stunningly, he hits the nail right on the head.
Following on from such a thought -provoking start is Matthias Sperling’s equally thought-provoking This Is It, but perhaps for entirely different reasons. Unnoticed by a chattering audience, out steps Candoco’s first ever commissioned solo in the form of a cloaked dancer in a big blonde wig. She grins cheekily as the audience begin to realise her presence, rousing giggles to erupt around Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. The lighting, again, is rather simplistic, hiding not an ounce of the dominatrix-esque superhero that has just been revealed from under that cloak. This striking image most certainly falls under the ‘unexpected’ category, continually accompanied by a cheeky smile. Start as you mean to go on as the saying says, resulting in the next fifteen minutes being spent in utter bewilderment. For a while, this rare individual progresses to move in random ways, resembling a curious child at show and tell. Her childlike manners present phrases of actions in which you feel obliged to watch out of politeness as you would do with a child dancing around the living room at Christmas. This continues, evoking an increase in gentle laughter, when out of nowhere our dancer quite literally bursts into an 80’s Eurovision-worthy song, fancy lights and all. Singing rather well it has to be said, an experience of a Top of the Pops nature plays out before us, smoke machines and tacky lights whisking us into what feels like a dream, her dream. As the song draws to a close, all returns to its original state as she commences in repeating the initial movement phrases, but with three accompanying words, ‘this is it’. On the final ‘it’ the piece concludes to resounding yet baffled cheers. An odd experience to say the least, undoubtedly posing numerous questions to its witnesses, but it really does enable you to recognise yourself as an individual. Is it dance? Yes, if you’re open-minded enough. However, I’m afraid that those unfamiliar or new to dance would find it far less accessible and possibly quite frustrating. To quote an audience member inexperienced in dance, ‘it was cross between a horrible pornography and Stars in Their Eyes’.
On a completely opposite end of the scale, the last piece commissioned by Dance Umbrella was the restaging project Set and Reset/Reset by the Trisha Brown Dance Company with Candoco. Trisha Brown Dance Company member Abigail Yager directs the new take on the classic 1983 Set and Reset, teaching original extracts to the Candoco dancers whilst also leading them through the exact improvisation process used back in 1983. The result is just beautiful, a reminder of some brilliant history. The design is based on the original geometric hangings and transparent wings refresh the space while the fluid costumes unify the dancers. A feeling of rejoicing spreads throughout the room as the dancers begin with a sideways lift resembling an invisible walk, and so the beauty continues. Pedestrian noises and words provide the postmodern soundtrack to pendulum-like bodies, networking around each other, arms and legs swiftly swinging into the space. It’s an abstract piece at its best which donates to the collective variety of Candoco; such an iconic piece as this exhibits why Candoco are such a significant company. Although the previous two works leave you with far more ponderings and questions, the coming together of these two companies and artistries is one to remember and keep safe in the memory box.
All three commissions are gratefully dissimilar from one another and rightfully take their place within the company in an outstanding quality, whether that be a good or bad thing. Due to being all roundly spot on, Looking Back is an unbelievable piece of dance not to be missed. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better.
The Linbury Studio Theatre is buzzing, and Edward Watson hasn’t even begun to take his insect form yet (excuse the pun). The audience seat themselves in and around either side of a pure white floor and two walls, and are immediately invited to enter into the hygienic world of the Samsa family. We are quickly informed of this family’s fetish mannerisms as son Gregor obsessively checks the clock, tensely lying in bed, whilst next door daughter Grete (Laura Day) happily does her homework in the company of her careful mother (Nina Goldman) and out of work father (Anton Skrzypiciel). And many of the audience are still yet to take their seats, stepping straight into the experience which interprets Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella.
As the room settles we are introduced to the daily routine of Gregor, the travelling salesman, in which it must be noted that the set is used exquisitely. His journey is repeated several times, and the channel that separates the audience and performance area either side is used to symbolize Gregor’s outside location. We picture the image of a train as smoke billows from a far end and an enthusiastic ‘trolley dolly’ persona grows amusing with repetition. The recurrence of these day to day patterns allows certain connections, particularly with Gregor and his sister, to be recognised. Oddly quirky music accompanies the unfolding narrative, summing up the slightly disturbing quality that depicts this family. Frank Moon is evidently in sync with the choreographer’s artistic notions, providing a very fitting soundtrack throughout.
Arthur Pita has cleverly choreographed this narrative which follows the troubles and woes of a family whose son has awoken as an insect, consequently breaking down the support he once provided for his family, forcing his father to go back to work and find lodgers. The movement content is highly relatable to each character and their story. For example, Ed’s astonishing physical ability puts any insect to shame as his limbs intertwine in a curious fashion, whilst his ballet enthusiastic sister’s movement vocabulary consists of that form. This is prominent throughout the literal pedestrian actions, using particular styles when necessary. It works beautifully as Grete, being the only one impassioned to work past the thrown up slime to help her older brother, portrays their connection through a frustrated ballet practise sequence which possesses an insect like quality, poisoning her aesthetics.
Funnily enough, as a piece of dance I no longer desired to question the movement itself almost instantly, it is all wonderful and it is all vital. It is the piece as a whole, a queer yet extraordinary theatrical experience that captures the soul. And this is what happens when brilliant artists such as Arthur permit dance and theatre to take their vows and join in holy matrimony. Dance theatre rarely fails to produce such magical ordeals, and The Metamorphosis is without a doubt one of those inspirational pieces… with the help of a lot of goo. The narrative is clear with Arthur’s contemporary twists despite a rich and in depth essence applied to all aspects and theatrics of the piece. It sounds incredibly obvious, but we are told a story through dance. However, due to being told it through Arthur’s remarkable vision, we abruptly realise just how wonderful it is to encounter.
The acting essentially melts into the movement, and is thankfully stunning by every last performer. To resist initially crediting Laura Day would be a crying shame due to such an astonishing performance from this young lady, who is in her graduating year at the Royal Ballet School. Not only was her acting (and singing!) almost perfect, her technical skills as a ballet dancer were to die for. She is a name I urge others to remember as there is an exciting future awaiting her; unashamedly I was thoroughly mesmerised by her performance. But what delighted myself in particular, was the creative beauty that Laura and the other classically trained cast members produced. I could not, and would not like to imagine anyone else taking on Ed’s role. The phrase ‘star quality’ could not be applied more, and let’s face it, you’d have to be a star to not only spew treacle so effectively, but to execute such fascinating movement swimming in utter slime; strangely inspiring. Both Nina Goldman and Anton Skrzypiciel gave their roles such honest attention which I couldn’t bear to forget in a hurry, dueting in a touching yet surreal manner with their children. Whilst Greig Cooke and Joe Walkling were efficient naturals, whether that be an angry clerk, a conventional train conductor, or (on the other end of the scale) scaring the living daylights out of the audience as nightmare worthy insects. I was thrilled to discover that former Candoco Dance Company member Bettina Carpi was cast in this piece, and it was once again an absolute pleasure enduring such a phenomenal presence on stage. Similarly with other performances she gives, she captured the creative essence of Arthur’s piece brilliantly.
The Metamorphosis seemed to have everything, yet remains so unique. Embodying such distinctive style, we even pick up the most detailed aspects like that of the play’s Freudian attributes. Quite a tragic yet disturbing tale, I expected it to go of either two ways; a startling random display, or a character filled narrative. Impressively, it went both. Vomit-worthy in a good way and a spectacular artistic mess that doesn’t deserve to be missed. All hail dance theatre, all hail Arthur Pita!
Oh Beyoncé, you’ve caused quite a stir amongst us dance folk, have you not? I am of course referring to the earlier debate regarding Beyoncé’s new video release of Countdown and a wee bit of suspected theft. The stolen goods consist of snippets of movement which ‘once’ belonged to the beloved Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Rosas danst Rosas (1983) and even Achterland (1990). For those of you unaware of either of these works, shame on you! Familiarise yourselves immediately with these beautiful pieces that talk of ‘girl power’ and are ‘based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression’ as the choreographer states in response to this outrage (see http://theperformanceclub.org/2011/10/anne-teresa-de-keersmaeker-responds-to-beyonce-video/). Or you could just catch Beyoncé’s new video on your run-of-the-mill music channel..? However, the slight problem here is that, as De Keersmaeker describes, ‘it’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way’, and therefore rids the original piece of its light and portrays it in a different yet arguably negative one. This isn’t just copyright, this is bad copyright.
Contemporary dancers are commonly of a passionate nature due to their artistic, creative and expressive characters (and proud of it). The majority work hard and happily struggle along all for the love of their art, and through blood, sweat and tears, fight with all their might to inform the world of what they do and why it deserves recognition. It’s a little well known fact that contemporary dance and accessibility don’t always see eye to eye, so initially when I heard of Beyoncé’s shenanigans I admittedly rushed straight to YouTube, my thoughts reading “Great! Contemporary dance has been commercially accepted and appreciated!” But why has it needed the approval of the mainstream to then only demoralise it? And why has it taken thirty-odd years to be acknowledged? Despite enjoying Beyoncé’s admiration for a piece of contemporary dance, the horrible truth soon set in. Is this the future of contemporary dance? If it is, it’s an ugly one.
If this is what it takes to enable an increase in accessibility when it comes to dance, does it make it right? A thrill of this form is its creative evolution, and by using such a stunning piece of dance history in this fashion surely devalues it. From personal experience, whilst pondering how to make dance more accessible on many occasions, I witness various dance theatre works attracting non-dancers. I hazard a guess that this may be owing to a similar relation to forms such as musical theatre that are undoubtedly highly attainable to people from all walks of life. But what about abstract dance? Pure dance? Contemporary dance in general has a pesky stigma attached to it which can only be cured by shoving it into the context of a music video it seems. But why does it have to change in order to survive? By merely reaching out to a select audience, statistics, funding, and even hope decreases. I recently learnt that a tiny number of six dance companies offer full-time contracts to performers, and was utterly astonished. Foolish comments such as those spoken by David Willett are of course not helpful when promoting dance’s worth, carelessly stripping away the wonderful benefits. The question is, are Beyoncé and her team’s actions following suit, or supporting contemporary dance in a roundabout way?
I’m not so sure that Beyoncé has helped matters in aiding those unfamiliar with the art form to ‘get it’; the phrase ‘the right thing to do but the wrong way to go about it’ seems particularly fitting. The video has plainly presented it as a preferred vision, twisting its originality to suit the needs of those who are unaccustomed with the artistic background of not only the piece, but of dance as a whole. Those who have encountered the history behind modern, post modern, contemporary dance etc, will agree that it is far from scarce, therefore fellow situations such as the mix up between contemporary dance and commercial styles such as lyrical jazz, can be just as disheartening. Whilst we can hardly attach a Post It note bearing the words ‘this is where it actually came from’ to every music video claiming bits and pieces of contemporary dance for itself, I suppose for now, we as a community should continue to encourage and love our art form. Contemporary dance has enriched many lives, not forgetting the beautiful work it contributes to communities, education and much, much more. The evolution and development of this art form progresses in remarkable continuities, and is exciting and innovative year upon year. Even if contemporary dance is not fully appreciated by the whole wide world, it sure has created an extraordinary world of its own.
Firstly, I’d just like to say a huge welcome to Sophie Darrington, a fresh, new blogger at Cloud Dance Festival! Sophie’s blog has already proven to be an uplifting and inspirational read, and her comments regarding the opinions expressed by David Willett concerning A Level Dance reminded me that many had rightly so reacted strongly, including myself. Therefore, despite its late arrival, I’d like to share with you an extension of my written thoughts I had recorded in reply to David Willett’s idiotic comments which consisted of the belief that A Level Dance should be worth fewer tariff points as a result of being a soft subject. The issue is of great importance and hopefully this blog will make Mr Willett and the like think twice as to why…
Initially I would like to simply suggest David Willett take the two year course himself, then we’ll see who’s laughing. Perhaps also make an effort to meet the inspirational, hard working, creative individuals who choose a path in dance, and also obtain decent morals to make this world a better place..? The subject is physically and mentally gruelling, and I can guarantee you won’t find any of the decency it takes to gain an A Level in dance, let alone a degree, participating in such disgraceful activities as the London riots. The disheartening comment was stated around a similar time as the London riots; if that’s not enough to make anyone hang their head in shame, I’m not sure what is.
If anything’s uneducated, it would be that mindless statement. A short chat with these bright-minded students would banish any narrow-minded quick judgement within minutes, believe me. I, myself, am currently working at a first class honours grade, about to embark on the final year of my dance degree. The course consists of a high amount of written work and has led to much success and many worthy career prospects for which I have slogged my guts out for. I fortunately do not obtain a brain of a narrow minded nature, and during my dance studies have had to use my intellect by multiple means, unlike many of the more academic subjects that supposedly result in an increased amount of smart points. Not only are dance-related subjects incredibly physical, they also cover history, literature, analysis, mathematics, anatomical science, politics and art, to name but a few. To pull off the workload required to gain a grade in A Level Dance, you also have to have determination, dedication, passion, focus, enthusiasm and pure guts. Not only does it test intelligence, it tests the person you are.
As made apparent, the likelihood that my CV is even worth a glance is very slim, but I believe I would take great pleasure in witnessing the embarrassment spread across Mr Willett’s face if the opportunity ever arose. Whilst enduring a highly successful academic career, I have also held down decent jobs earning my way alongside my intensive studies, as well as mounds of voluntary work to aid my education which frequently includes rehearsals, teaching and activities of written dance related material for others to read..? Surely a less academic mind such as mine without the necessary A Levels is incapable of writing such material worth reading? However, my A Levels consisted of Dance, Performing Arts and Art, bearing in mind I was also predicted a fairly low grade in GCSE English. So if this ‘poorly written’ statement supposedly reads as the writing of a lesser academic student with very little future ahead, then I am clearly living on another planet. I thankfully gained a B grade in English, yet I am insistent that it was due to a determined personality, a lesson that is more likely to be found in a dance studio than on a blackboard.
It is heartbreaking when your own intelligence is questioned due to your current position in dance education. But what’s even more so, is the snigger that follows. Imagine having put nonstop physical and mental effort, passion, blood, sweat and tears throughout your whole life, working one hundred times harder than most so called academic pupils, giving up heaps of extra hours to simply contribute to the dance world, to then be the subject of such mockery enduring one of those narrow minded, patronising smirks which barely lasts five seconds. But it’s those painful five seconds that spitefully ridicules the immense effect dance has over an enormous range of areas, especially when that ridicule has left the mouth of a public figure. Dance work that is produced helps communities, provides vibrant arts and entertainment (and what a dull world it would be if it didn’t), and enriches a range of lives from the young to the elderly. I once took a community dance workshop aimed at older individuals over a certain age led by a dance educated female who had taken the time to run the organisation. After speaking to the elderly that attended, all agreed that the experience had changed their lives and had in actual fact given them life, as they felt that not a lot had existed for them previously. Dance had enabled them to socialize, give them something to do and look forward to, enlighten some creativity in their lives and had given them a sense of purpose and well being.
David Willett’s dismissal of dance education is honestly quite obscene. It is rather distressing that an art form such as dance, that provides such a positive creative sector, is brandished with such a negative attitude. It clearly reveals a lack of thought in regards to the economic value that dance as a field bestows to the entertainment and arts industry. Would these comments dare apply to other art forms? Music? Drama? Thought not. As previously mentioned, it not only takes a great mind, it also takes genuine character to persevere with the challenges dance education administers. If this is taken away, then such talented individuals will pass on their efforts and energy elsewhere, because they have the means too. However, despite A Level Dance being so demanding in nature pushing various intellectual limits, dance educated students will continue to fight for its vitality, even Labanotation (!) just to prove its worth. And on that note, I think it would be a particularly wonderful suggestion to leave the likes of David Willett pondering over such a word as ‘Labanotation’…
'Would you like to go to dance classes?' was the offer my mum proposed to me at the tender age of seven or so. I agreed, mastered the art of good toes, naughty toes, and took quite a shining to my shimmering (’90s lycra) lilac leotard. I'm sure any supportive mother such as mine would have gladly given her blessing to a daughter wishing to follow her Angelina Ballerina dreams but, alas, it was not meant to be. So, who'd have guessed a sobbing infant pleading with her mother to be freed of her ballet shoes, due to the frightfully daunting prospect of having to go on stage, would soon be graduating with a BA Honours Dance Studies degree fifteen years later. Not me.
But my goodness, how grateful I am to have timidly shied away from the ‘I want to be a prima ballerina’ phase of my childhood, and here’s why. Due to a dodgy overly turned-in hip I use to perform my finest party trick with, it used to be a regular regret of mine that I hadn’t been dancing since I was three. It gets tiring watching ballet-trained dancers swim through every dance career going that they even get to choose their very own label during their ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ appearance, claiming to be an established contemporary dancer despite having strictly trained in ballet and jazz. And there’s me, continually pressured by the competition due to my lack of ballet experience, confidence diminishing by the second. Sure, I can understand why: ballet is highly beneficial in terms of technique throughout many genres, you’re half-way there. But when a certain Twitter discussion occurred debating whether modern dancers’ creativity levels were higher than those of ballet dancers’, I just had to defend my case.
The findings of scientists located in Austria were revealed at http://www.livescience.com/16025-modern-dancers-creative.html stating that tests have shown modern dancers are notably more creative than the likes of ballet dancers, even musical theatre jazz dancers. Of course, in many individual cases this is simply not true, but I have to admit as a modern dancer myself, I am personally quite relieved and take great comfort in the fact that someone has finally noticed I’m good for something.
Having far too much experience surrounded by the belief that ballet is the be-all and end-all to dance, I was extremely nervous prior to my first day beginning my dance degree. Surely a ballet-shy person like me couldn’t possibly dream of a career in dance? On paper it certainly looked that way. I could picture far too well another repeat performance of falling at my mother’s feet, begging her to not allow it. Thankfully at a not-so tender age, I didn’t. Would have been a bit embarrassing wouldn’t it… However, my fears soon vanished when I instantly felt at home in a world full of contemporary dance… ness! And a beautiful musing occurred to me, not only could I be a dancer, but I could become an artist. And by conceiving that thought alone, promotes the very idea of what the article in question is describing, thus forth prompting this blog.
What I have witnessed throughout my studies and general dancing life strongly correlates with this article. Whilst struggling to find my place in the dance world, I’d finally comprehended with the fact that I had actually benefited from a lack of ballet training from a young age, and that in actual fact it wasn’t so bad being a late starter. It was apparent, and still is in various circumstances within dance education, that those strictly ballet-trained, (especially from their younger years) found it harder or less appealing to ‘take to’ other techniques or methods and fully allow their bodies to let go of their balletic habits. Dance education at GCSE, A Level and degree level predominantly covers the area of contemporary dance. As a dance degree student, on many occasions I have heard the phrase “Years and years of somebody telling me my body has to do this, to then be told to just forget it” and those stating therefore finding that hard to accept. And rightly so, having not known any different. Someone like myself however, who hasn’t embodied dance from a ‘right or wrong’ perspective, can adapt with greater ease. A prominent example is that, from personal experience, many a ballet-minded individual can sometimes be hesitant when grasping a new means of moving through a contemporary technique, unable to shake off those darn floaty ballet hands. Whereas a modern dancer is far more likely to naturally embody the concept of ballet or any other technique for that matter, due to the open minded quality of their particular means of learning.
It is of course not a bad thing coming from a ballet based background as, let’s face it, ballet is a huge part of dance history which has, and continues to aid the growth of dance. But in all honesty, having to put up with the stigma that those who had been ballet, jazz or tapping it up since the age of three were far more successful as dancers, I was quite thankful that these lovely Austrian scientists had discovered faith in dancers such as myself. After all, growing into the dancer I am has given me a great advantage, as whether it be hip hop or ballet, it all feels very natural and is highly accessible due to a fully grown versatility and open character. My body feels comfortable in any moving situation and the likes of choreography and improvisation are a joy. Surely this creative instinct should be applied to all dancers of all ages? If this was so, and dancers were taught to be ‘more open to experiences’ as the article describes the nature of modern dancers, the dance world would be a far more equal, less separated, accessible place.
Take Jonathan Burrows for instance. This choreographer makes for a perfect example of an artist who utilises dance to his fullest. In spite of formerly starting out as a soloist for the Royal Ballet, this man has thoroughly branched out and his approach to dance is as creative as they get. One workshop with this man is an eye-opener as I experienced back in 2008. He taught me that exploring movement shouldn’t be a chore, and that we should recognise our habits (those most likely stemming from ballet upbringings), notice they are there, and be at peace with that knowledge. That then gives us the key to open our bodies up to something new, enriching our view of dance. Dancing hands make for a good piece of choreography, who knew?!
I think all teachers should be like Jonathan. My reasons being, not only do our dancing bodies develop, but our characters and attitudes follow alongside. So by embracing creative and open ways of thinking about dance with curious personalities, that’s bound to better dance in itself. Ballet-trained dancers shouldn’t feel discomfort when experiencing new ways of moving. An efficient dancer should be accepting in nature and dance should be an area of equal significance; a lesson which should be taught from baby steps. This is all very world peace - esque, but there is such a lot of potential out there in both ballet and modern dancers. I suppose with the help of science I’m defending my honour as modern dancer, and spreading the creative love onwards to other genres in the hope of giving dance, as a whole, an upgrade. And perhaps also promoting the use of creativity tests on future potential SYTYCD contemporary dancers… No? Some Doris Humphrey trivia perhaps…?
And what a great shame… “Many dancers however, don’t know how to improvise. They don’t know their own way of moving because they have often been rigidly trained to move in one way or style only.” Lloyd Newson, interviewed by Jo Butterworth 18th August 1998 in Dance makers portfolio: conversations with choreographers, p124. Edited by Jo Butterworth and Gill Clarke, 1998 Centre for Dance and Theatre Studies at Bretton Hall.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m a dance degree student. A third year dance degree student. Now, I’ve counted and checked several times just to make sure I haven’t accidentally skipped a year, but I’m pretty certain there’s only three years that make up your average dance degree programme. So you’ve guessed it, I have one final chance to achieve all aims and goals (and of course grades) in just one year. Well, minus the holidays, approximately eight months. Eek?!
I spent a while pondering on the matter of the title for this blog/panic fest. Initially I thought it appropriate to use ‘Now for the hard(est) bit’, relating to upping the ante during higher level technique classes, dissertations pouring out of my ears, and so on. And then it hit me. A realisation, the same realisation I continue to realise on a regular basis that never fails to shock me ever so slightly. University doesn’t last forever, which means neither does the bubble you’ve settled into so comfortably. No more routine tutorials to asses how you’re doing, no more scribbles and numbers over essay cover sheets to assess how you’re intellect is doing, no more choreographic assessments to check (and encourage) how you’re crazy side is doing, and possibly no more man handling during 9.30am class time to assess how you’re inner thighs are doing.
This may well be the easy bit. What’s daunting is shedding your student ‘still learning’ status and using what you’ve gained to step into the big bad world. No more spoon feeding and no more mollycoddling, neither of which I can picture any of my lecturers literally doing, however. But is it really so bad? I don’t know about anybody else, but all this prepping throughout GCSE, A Level, degree, even my gap year, has only taught me why I went through it all in the first place; I enjoy it of course! The world of contemporary dance is forever changing and forever exciting and I can’t wait to carve out my own dent into it. I guess the scary part is the ‘if’ and ‘how’.
I suppose I’m not one to talk having experienced an additional first year at a previous institution, only to change my mind, take a gap year, and start over in London… but when did time decide to fly faster each coming year?! I of all people should be ready, and I think I am, it’s just going to undoubtedly cost my fingernails. I can just imagine the pang of jealously whilst watching the first years take their first Graham class, urging them to relish in the comfort that they still have plenty of time before the ‘what am I going to do with my life’ crisis sets in. But, (thank goodness there’s a but!) aside from the jealously, there will be relief. Reflecting on the vast amount I’ve learnt and the richness of it all makes me feel an even bigger pang of gratitude that I know what I know. And what’s more, is that I’m safe in the knowledge that I will continue to learn, as contemporary dance has one hell of a reputation of never sitting still, but incessantly fidgets… or evolves to best describe.
The only thing to focus on now is how’s best to prepare myself for the next chapter (the ‘only’ thing, pfft!) Yes, it’s hard to not be quaking in my boots and believe that I have less than a year to do this, but it’s do-able. I have an academic year to make the most of, and make the most of it I will! The thing I most value, and would advise anyone else to do so, is the priceless lessons my lecturers teach me. I’m particularly fortunate to have been, and of course, continue to be taught by some prestigious artists. They know what they’re talking about and talk about it for a reason. By using everything these (in my opinion) contemporary dance wizards, and the whole experience my final degree year has to offer, I should (hopefully) be able to continue to teach myself while treading the boards of the dance world inspired to contribute to it just like they have.
The master plan? Luckily I’ve already started it. Seizing every opportunity is a must. Experience, internships, extra classes (why not, at the risk of killing myself), annoying the tutors with constant tutorials, annoying the world with my weird yet (I can only hope) wonderful choreography, and annoying my eyes with dance work after dance work, research after research, and book after article after book after article after… (best ensure I rinse the library for all it’s dance reading worth before my membership expires).
Time to panic? Maybe not. So long as I continue in my pro active state, I’ll be ready to embrace the contemporary dance world by myself. There’ll always be a missing piece of the contemporary dance puzzle, and the thought that one of those uniquely shaped pieces could bear my name is enough to lift the soul; something I always experience when I watch a piece of dance. Sigh…
So to sum up, rather than timidly creeping through my final year jumping at loud noises, I think it’s far more appealing to lick the bowl clean and make the most of it while I still can. Wish me luck!
A question I stumble upon frequently, and I’d like to think no. My reasons? There is nothing worse than watching a ‘dancer’ who is so insistent on portraying his/her physical limits, and their physical limits only. Without that ‘spark’ and expression, you’re nothing more than an athlete. Want to see tricks and the push of physical boundaries? Then there are plenty of gymnasts which are more than happy to thrill you.
There is so much more to dance, and as an art is surely about communicating with an audiences emotions, whether that be through grace, character or rhythm. A dancer with the ability to project and connect, erupting whatever that may be in an audience member; in my opinion, that’s real talent in the dance field. Yes, tricks and abnormal amounts of flexibility’s wonderful, but after a while.. yawn fest. The true beauty of dance is the energy and its transmission. Narrowly eliminating the wonders of dance by labelling it as a sport only promotes the art to adapt an ugly nature, that of competition.
And competing for what? Physical ability? Again, go and watch a gymnast. They surely deserve to maintain the nature of their sport, why take that away from them and convert it upon dance? Or will it be a case of judging how beautiful and expressive a dancer can be? Not entirely poossible. With the existence of various dance styles, the beauty can, at times, be in the eye of the beholder. What is great is the appreciation people gain from the atmosphere so many of these styles create. Especially as a contemporary dancer, I myself am excited by the artistic energy that runs through the dancers and the piece as a whole. How is a narrow-minded judgemental view of dance more enjoyable?
Dance is one of the most wonderful artistic outlets. It is inspiring, exciting and by all means pleasurable; it makes you feel great and should be enjoyed by all. Sure, promoting dance to keep fit especially within younger generations is simply fantastic, but in turn introduces why we dance; to feel good. Turn it into a battle, you lose out on the power it gives back to those watching and puts one hell of a downer on the whole inspirational experience. Trust me, the nastiness that already exists within the field regarding certain genres due to competition, is enough to wipe the smile off of anyone’s face (meow). Where dance is concerned, keep competitive and artistic qualities seperate, both are great but in their own right.