Dance news, reviews & info

Archive for June, 2011

BBC Four’s Modern Dance Weekend 1st-3rd July

This weekend BBC Four treats us to a wealth of dance documentaries and works as part of it’s modern dance weekend.

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Friday 1st July

The weekend kicks of on friday night with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand at 7.30pm.

This will be followed immediately by The Most Incredible Thing at 8pm. This piece premiered this year at London’s Sadler’s Wells. It is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale and is danced to music created by the Pet Shop Boys.

At 9.40 there will be an in-depth documentary about a very important era of dance historyFor Art’s Sake – The Story of… …Ballets Russes. This documentary with a strong focus on Diaghilev features dancers, musicians, writers, critics, stylists and historians talking about one of the most innovative companies in history.

Diaghilev fans won’t be disappointed because following the documentary at 10.40 will be a performance from Sadler’s Wells to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ballet Russes – In The Spirit of Diaghilev.

Saturday 2nd July

Saturday’s helping begins gently with Tales of Beatrix Potter at 7pm. The Royal Ballet perform this light-hearted family favourite at the Royal Opera House. The costumes alone are worth tuning in for.

Following on from this at 8.10pm is Imagine… Save the Last Dance for Me. This documentary follows The Company of Elders, dancers above the age of 60, in their preparations for a performance at Sadler’s Wells.

Sunday 3rd July

Moving onto more modern subjects BBC Four looks at the life of Merce Cunningham at 7.30pm. the late American choreographer was extremely influential in the avant-garde movement and this documentary presented by ex-dancer Deborah Bull looks at some of his most important works.

At 9pm Margot – a drama based around the events of Margot Fonteyn’s life with a real focus on her relationship with Nureyev.

Finishing off this wonderful series of programmes is Opus Jazz at 10.30pm. Shot in and around New York City and featuring dancers from the New York this film adaptation of Jerome Robbin’s 1958 ballet is about the lives of urban youth.

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Christian Louboutin’s ultimate high heel to help ENB

Christian Louboutin, makers of the iconic red-soled high heels, have designed their highest heel yet. So high, in fact, that they are a pair of pointe shoes with 8 inch heels and even Victoria Beckham would have trouble walking in them.

The unique shoes are being auctioned online today to help raise funds for the English National Ballet Company who revealed their financial difficulties during the recent series The agony and ecstasy: a year with the English National Ballet. The highest bids from today’s auction, which also features tutus created by designers such as Julien MacDonald and Moschino, will go to a live auction during a fundraiser at Kensington Palace on Wednesday.

The auction is intended to help ease ENB’s financial pressures after their Arts Council funding was cut significantly. The company hopes the auction will raise their profile and become an annual event. Raising money through funding is essential for the company, which is known and loved for touring around the country and reaching audiences outside of London.

Read more about the tutu designs here.

REVIEW: The Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet at the O2

There were no plush red curtains, the orchestra was seated above the stage, there were three big screens, no scenery changes and the audience munched on hotdogs and drank beer. You could have been forgiven for thinking you were at a concert rather than watching The Royal Ballet in their temporary residence – the O2 arena.

The change of location from the Royal Opera House to the O2 was always going to be a risky experiment and unfortunately for me it didn’t pay off. Trying to create the intimate atmosphere needed for Romeo and Juliet with a 12,000 strong audience (although not all the seats were filled) is nigh on impossible. As is trying to get 12,000 people to behave in an appropriate manner for 3 hours. People constantly walking in and out of the performance to get more beer, children talking the whole way through, very muted applause and leaving the arena during the curtain call, minus the curtains, were a constant source of irritation to the seasoned ballet-goers. But as the choice of venue was intended to open ballet up to a wider audience perhaps this is where ballet is headed. If so, you can count me out!

To make things worse many of the seats were sideways on to the stage, which resulted in terrible neck ache and the dancers were so far away that in order to get a sense of the emotion you had to keep flicking between the three screens and the dancers. For large parts of the ballet, especially act 3, I watched the screens more than the dancers below them.

On a positive note the amplified music helped create the drama and emotion that the distance from the stage prevented and was particularly magnificent during the Dance of the Montagues and Capulets.

Although I resented the fact that I had to watch the screens because I was so far away from the action they did bring something different to ballet and certainly weren’t a complete failure. During the balcony scene I was more moved than ever before, partly because Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson danced it so beautifully and partly because I could, thanks to the screens, see the minute details of their faces which portrayed the emotions you usually have to imagine if you aren’t in the front row of the orchestra stalls.

The screens also showed exactly how much effort it takes for the dancers to make the balcony scene so powerful. Their digitally magnified heaving chests made me applaud with more gusto than normal. Added to this the interludes of Shakespearian verse and clips of the story shown on the screens helped to tell the story in a fresh and interesting way.

Despite my reservations about the venue and the behaviour of the audience, at the heart of this somewhat different balletic experience was a company who danced my favourite ballet to perfection….or at least that’s how it appeared from what I could see anyway!

Royal Ballet dancers promote Romeo and Juliet on This Morning and Breakfast

Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson appeared on the This Morning sofa and on Breakfast to talk about the Royal Ballet’s new exciting venture – Romeo and Juliet in the O2. It is the first time the company has performed in an arena, and it marks a major change from the somewhat more intimate setting of the Royal Opera House. There will be four performances from the 17 – 18 June with 12,000 seats available each performance.

Watson said he hoped the choice of venue would bring ballet to a bigger audience, “It’s really exciting that we are getting out there and a lot of people can have the opportunity to come and see what we do.”

There are however concerns that the venue will be too large for a ballet to be successful as audiences will not be able to see the detail of the dancers movements and more importantly the emotions they are portraying through dance. The dancers admitted that they were concerned about appearing very small on such a big stage but revealed that there will be screens to help create the intimacy that is essential in a story ballet. Whether the ballet will attract 40,000 theatre goers however remains to be seen.

Romeo and Juliet is a popular ballet and an integral part of the Royal Ballet’s repertory, but it may prove to be a bad decision given the emotive nature of the ballet. After all audiences go to the ballet to see real dancers performing in real time. If it is screens they are after then can easily switch on an arts channel.

Edward and Lauren also talked to Eamonn Holmes about their reactions to the Black Swan film which has recently helped bring ballet into the public spotlight. Lauren explained, “It is a horror film and for us in the ballet world it was hard to watch because it’s based on our profession.”

However she continued that the film had been fantastic in bringing ballet to the forefront and as the arts correspondent on Breakfast revealed this has had a very positive effect on the dance world. Adult ballet classes across the country has seen a rise in numbers. At ENB the adult ballet programme is oversubscribed due to many adults being inspired to unearth their old shoes and revisit a childhood hobby.

The ballet phenomenon really has taken on a life of its own and if the O2 experiment is successful ballet could be set to become even more fashionable.

Find out my reactions to the Royal Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet in the O2 here on Sunday.