Abbie Williams Reviews Beauty and The Beast

New recruit to the Dance Ambassadors Abbie Williams (aged 11) writes about her experiences coming to see Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast

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Wednesday 24th September, I was lucky enough to be invited to The Lowry  to watch Beauty and the Beast ballet being performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

As the audience took to their seats the lighting dimmed, the live orchestra began to play as the curtain opened, and the ballet began.

From start to finish the show was totally breath taking, and was full of excitement and graceful movement from the moment Belle took to the stage.

I was really impressed with the costumes the dancers were wearing, and if I had not been lucky enough to go backstage I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate just how delicate the costumes were. In fact one of the dancers explained how old and delicate the costumes were. Going backstage allowed us to get close to the props to see how detailed everything was. It gave me an insight to how a ballet is run by the company from the backstage runners to the performers and I highlighted how everyone had an important role to play. The show itself I enjoyed immensely I was enthralled by the stage set, lighting and sheer brilliance of the dancers. I would defiantly recommend the ballet and other productions by the Birmingham royal ballet to anyone.

Beauty and the Beast is at The Lowry until Sat 27 September: http://www.thelowry.com/event/beauty-and-the-beast1

Coffee With Paulo and Carmen : A Slice of Life With Grupo Corpo

Groupo Corpo is a contemporary dance company forged in the cultural melting pot of Brazil; its traditions, cultures and passions call out through the music and movement of this celebrated company. Founded in 1975 by Paulo Pederneiras, and based in the city of Belo Horizonte, the company gives 80 performances all over the world.

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The dancers all come to the company with a strong technique; often the result of a background in classical dance training. Daily ballet classes are attended by all members of the company and this classical movement vocabulary is the rigid backbone of the dancers; their sissonnes, attitudes and their cambré back press lifts. Through choreography and workshop sessions this is manipulated and developed, movement is brought to the dancer’s hips, a focus is placed on the grounding of the work and the ethereal poise of their ballet technique transforms into a scintillating blend of grace, rhythm and athleticism; in short it becomes Brazil.

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Each dancer comes to the company with their own dance history which runs through their blood and is ingrained in their movement quality. Instead of forcing dance onto their bodies, house chorographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, gets to know the dancers natural movement style and uses these corporeal idiosyncrasies in his choreographic sessions.This is a company where the dancers are valued and respected, there is no first dancer and no hierarchy for the performers which creates a sense of family and a wonderful creative atmosphere. As a result many of the dancers stay with the company for the majority of their career, rehearsal director Carmen Purri’s role in Grupo Corpo has progressed through the performance element to the creative team behind the work.

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Just as rhythm is synonymous with Brazilian culture, musicality is at the heart of Grupo Corpo. It has been said, Choreographer Rodrigo has a unique connection with the music, audiences often comment on how the dance appears to be a moving music score, a statement reminiscent of the famous Balanchine quote ‘See the music, hear the dance’. Inevitbly new dancers are often intimidated upon entering the ranks of the company as the level of musicality is so high, it takes time to attune their ear to the standard required.

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With such strong musicality and high level technique inevitably comes a demanding rehearsal process. It is of great importance that the dancers display high levels of precision due to the fluidity of the movement. While this may seem a contradiction in terms the fear with elegant unbroken movement is that any one dancer, one arm movement, one toe out of time will make the performance seem messy. To ensure the choreography is not lost, precision is the key. Each rehearsal is recorded with every inaccuracy noted, by Carmen, the following day a one hour correction rehearsal is held to iron out issues.

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The two pieces that will be performed in the company’s UK tour this autumn, Sem Mim and Parabelo provoke two very different moods to the evening’s performance. The music of Sem Mim is based on a narrative poem set by the sea. The contrast between calm and fury, the longing and the ever-flowing waves are seen through the quality, motion and rhythm of the movement, and dynamics between the dancers. Parabelo takes its influence from North East Brazil, and the rural communities therein; rhythm, traditional instruments, chants and feet stamping make this make this high energy contemporary dance come alive with Brazil.

Grupo Corpo will be at The Lowry on Fri 17 and Sat 18 October.

A Viennese whirl

Following a successful Parisian trip in late 2013 The Lowry’s Leah and Charlie fly the flag for #danceanywhere in Austria.

A Leah’s eye view.

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After a lazy train journey, and an uneventful plane ride Charlie and I arrive in Vienna airport. Bags at our feet and a set of Austrian train tickets in our hands. German/Austrian trains are my favorite in Europe (you are talking to a seasoned inter-railer here, I’ll have you know) and after I had enthused about the individual train compartments and adjustable seats, I was pleased to see I had not misremembered, and we cruised into the small Austrian town of St. Polten in style. If you were suspecting that this journey had seemed a little too easy, you were right. The ten minute walk to our hotel we were assured would be easy to find, became a fifty minute ramble up and down the same road, asking bemused locals who were determined our destination was easy to find…. just around the next corner in fact…. ended in a desperate phone call to our counterparts at Dance Consortium who were already in the city. As is standard practice with these trips it was a quick shower and change, a chance to show off the one German word I remember from school when searching for the rooms (“hey it says ‘zimmer’ this way!”) and within twenty minutes we were in a restaurant with the rest of the Dance Consortium team chatting away into the evening.

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The next morning it was an early start as we headed across town to the hotel Grupo Corpo, the dance company we had come to see, were calling home. Here I sat in on interviews with the set/lighting designer Paolo and rehearsal director Carmen. After writing up my notes, we headed into the town for our usual round of #danceanywhere pictures.

Then it was back to the theatre for our exclusive interview with some of the dancers; three members of the company who were downright lovely. All with fascinating perspectives on performing and the dancing world, a real insight for both dancers, dance lovers and novices alike. The dancers, all ready for their dress rehearsal were clothed in nude long-sleeved catsuits, onto which were painted a myriad of curious designs. These gave the illusion of full body tattoos, and were individually created for each performer according to their tastes and personality. For the full interviews stay tuned for my blog Coffee with Paolo and Carmen that will be published later in the year, and our film interview with the dancers.

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I would, however, like to take this time for a brief interlude from my narrative and tell you an interesting story of our time with the dancers:

A quick delve into my recent past and you will see I studied a MA in Dance Anthropology, so dance history and culture are very much my thing. After that brief prologue I come to my Dance Anthropology story of the year;
During our interview Charlie and I asked the dancers; out of the two pieces they were due to perform which was their favorite. The reply was a unanimous, ‘Parabelo’. When pressed on their choice, the three dancers enthusiastically told us the dance was ‘very Brazilian’, they felt it in their blood and their bones and for them it was a dance of freedom. Fast forward a few hours as the house lights rise following the first piece. “That one must have been Parabelo” Charlie and I gushed, their rhythm, the way they moved we completely understood what they had been telling us a few hours earlier. After a brief interval we were ready for the second piece. The house lights dimmed and the stage lights rose, and the second piece was full of carnival colours, fast music, high kicks, flowing arms, whoops and cheers. Aaah, that’s the Brazilian one, we thought, and true enough Parabelo was the second piece of the evening.

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The whole performance was simply beautiful. Sem Mim, the first dance of the evening, was without doubt one of the best pieces of dance I have seen on stage. Performed under a fisherman’s net, based on stories of the sea and danced to music composed in the thirteenth century; take all the images that come to your mind from this description and dash them, this dance is like nothing you will be picturing. The simplicity of the set perfectly complimented the hypnotic movement material, the dancers moved seamlessly between solos, duets, and ensemble work creating a piece that seemed to flow on forever. At no point were not watching any one dance; you were watching choreography come to life and it was mesmerizing. Parabelo, the Brazilian one (!) was alive with the sights and sounds of Brazil; rhythmic hips and sensual arms the dance flowed through their bodies and poured out onto the stage.

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We left the theatre attempting Brazilian dances of our own, legs flying at odd angles, hips moving to the rhythm that stayed in our heads long after the applause had finished, and with calls of ‘oooh I loved it when they did this’ we headed off into the night.

Grupo Corpo will be at The Lowry in mid-October. This is a show I would recommend to anyone and everyone, there are just two key points to remember 1) It is not what you imagine 2) the second piece in the ‘Brazilian’ one!

Review: Flash Mob

Last night we sent Youth dance Ambassador Ellie Wares, to see Flash Mob in The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre. Armed with notebook, pen and a whole load of enthusiasm her task was to review the show for us… here is what she had to say;Kevin-Clifton-Karen-Hauer-definitive

What can I say about this show other than WOW !!!!!!!!!

Totally totally brilliant from start to finish. This was a show in two different halves. The first half was a love story, and the second set in a club with each of the dancers showcasing their talents.Alleviate in blue Flash MobDSC_6693Flash Mob is a fusion of street dance from the Flawless crew, Ballroom and Latin from Kevin Clifton and Karen Hauer, Irish dance with a twist from Brosena and contemporary and modern (with a bit of comedy thrown in) from Alleviate and Tommy Franzen. FLAWLESS GROUP-ART2

Without exception the dancing was brilliant, the choreography tight and the company worked well together mixing the different styles of dance seamlessly. It was a fabulous night, which ended with everyone up on their feet and dancing.

FLASH MOB cast finale DSC_6837Wish I was going again tomorrow night. What a shame it’s only at the Lowry for two nights.

Flash Mob is on tour until 2 August – it is a must see for dance fans.

Ellie Wares
Youth Dance Ambassador

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The Spotters Guide To: Contemporary Dance

We will soon be welcoming Flash Mob; where a whole host of dance styles will burst onto the stage in a blaze of colour and light. To prepare we have compiled a guidebook of dance styles just for you! The Dance Ambassador Champions have taken it upon ourselves to wade through the undergrowth of dance genres, set up camp and speak only in hushed tones we mimicked from Bill Oddie. Armed with notebook, foldable desk and a paraffin lamp our champions observed dance styles in their natural habitat; origins, costumes and key members of the pack you may recognise. This is our Spotters Guide to Dance

Our third voyager into the deepest depths of dance is Danielle Pollitt- Walmsley, who introduces us to contemporary dance.

 
Background and Origins
All you need is passion
Contemporary dance… there are many stereo types within dance and contemporary is no exception to the rule; but what do you really need to be a contemporary dancer and what does it involve?
Dance can be an expensive hobby with all the clothes and shoes but for contemporary dance all you need is a passion then you can begin. In contemporary dance there is a very wide range of styles. It originated in the early 20th century in America and formed as a reaction to the rigid technique of classical ballet, giving dancers more freedom to explore their dance.

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Styles and Key Movement
I train on the Lowry CAT scheme (Centre for advanced training in dance) and we study the Cunningham technique that involves lots of creative freedom and the change for the audience to interpret the performance themselves with no set storyline to portray, however each company has a slightly different style and influences that impact upon the style of movement.
Within this style of dance you can never be wrong and you just need to feel all the moves coming from within. Therefore many dancers begin choreography by improvising with their eyes closed which is a method I personally feel is important as you don’t think about people watching or what the move looks like but rather the feeling and impulse that is creating the move.
Famous styles

 

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Cunningham- promoting easy movement, it uses a Chinese idea of casting your fortune on a hexagram that is portrayed in dance as using a chance series of movements it focuses on the architecture of the body in the space.
Graham- focuses on the idea of contraction, it is very grounded and uses some fall and release and recover
Limon- Uses the weight of the body and the affect of gravity
Watch out for Alleviate the amazing contemporary duo who are fiery and strong but breath-taking, after their performance in Got To Dance they are now appearing in Flashmob!

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The Spotters Guide To: Ballet

We will soon be welcoming Flash Mob; where a whole host of dance styles will burst onto the stage in a blaze of colour and light. To prepare we have compiled a guidebook of dance styles just for you! The Dance Ambassador Champions have taken it upon ourselves to wade through the undergrowth of dance genres, set up camp and speak only in hushed tones we mimicked from Bill Oddie. Armed with notebook, foldable desk and a paraffin lamp our champions observed dance styles in their natural habitat; origins, costumes and key members of the pack you may recognise. This is our Spotters Guide to Dance.

Our second blog it by explorer Johanna Hadley who explores the mysterious land of Ballet

Origins
The origins of Ballet come from the Italian Renaissance court dances of the 15th and 16th Century and the style quickly spread to France. The ‘court ballet’ was funded by rich aristocrats for their political needs and personal entertainment. King Louis XIV founded the Académie Royale de Musique, where the Paris Opera Ballet developed from – this is why Ballet steps are always in French. Ballet quickly began to spread across Europe to Holland, and Russia, before now, being found throughout the world.

Ballet has now progressed even further into ‘neoclassical’ by the prolific pioneer of this style, George Balanchine.

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Key Characteristics
Key Characteristics of Ballet are by specific movements such as the arabesque (where the dancer is standing on one leg, and the other leg is extended behind in the air), the feet and arm positions (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th), and pirouettes (where the dancer performs multiple turns on one leg). Ballet dancers always stand with excellent posture, turn out their legs and feet, and point their toes.

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Often stereotyped into pretty pink frilly dresses where dancers leap and twirl around on a stage, when the truth is in fact far from it. Ballet dancers need to be as strong as athletes and as flexible as gymnasts. The professional ballet industry is notoriously difficult to become a part of – more so than any other style of dance – and requires years of intense training from as young as possible (usually serious training can commence at age eight, with full-time training by age eleven)
Common Costumes
The Classical Tutu is probably the most famous type of dress worn by a ballet dancer. It is made up of a bodice attached to multiple layers of tulle netting (all pleated and sewn together), which sticks out horizontally from the dancers body – and it is normally elaborately decorated with crystals and colourful fabrics. A slight variation on the Classical Tutu is the Romantic Tutu, but for this the layers of tulle are much longer and so it doesn’t stick out (an example of a Romantic Tutu can be seen in the Ballet Giselle – interestingly though, the Romantic Tutu was created long before the Classical Tutu!).

Another common costume for ballet is the leotard, as although tutus are very pretty on stage – they aren’t very practical for class. Tutus aren’t worn by students in normal everyday ballet classes – unless a pre-professional student at vocational dance school, or a professional ballerina, practicing in preparation for a stage performance where one will be worn.

Hair must always be in a traditional ‘ballet’ bun or a French roll for traditional ballet performances or ballet class.

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Specialist Footwear
Pointe shoes are worn by ballet dancers which allows them to stand on the ends of their toes. However dancers must be at least twelve years old (so that their bones have started maturing) and they have the strength and correct ‘ballet’ technique before starting pointe work, as it can be very dangerous causing permanent damage if undertaken before any of the above requirements are in place. Pointe shoes have ribbons that tie neatly around the ankle, and are made of many layers of canvas, hessian, paper and glue (not wood, as many people incorrectly believe!). Pointe shoes are made in a similar way to papier-mâché where the layers are gradually built up, and glued. Pointe shoes were invented to give the illusion of the ballerina floating! Another variation on the pointe shoe is the ‘soft block’ or ‘Demi Pointe’ shoe, which is made very similar to the pointe shoe, but it is not strong enough to stand on your toes in. Soft Blocks are used to make the transition into pointe shoes easier for a dancer, and make your feet very strong!

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Another style of footwear is commonly known as ‘flatties’ – these can be made in canvas, satin or leather, and can be made with a whole or split sole. Flatties can be worn by male or female dancers of any age.
Dancers you may know
Darcey Bussell, Carlos Acosta, Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Tamara Rojo.

The Spotters Guide To: Irish Dance

We will soon be welcoming Flash Mob; where a whole host of dance styles will burst onto the stage in a blaze of colour and light. To prepare we have compiled a guidebook of dance styles just for you! The Dance Ambassador Champions have taken it upon ourselves to wade through the undergrowth of dance genres, set up camp and speak only in hushed tones we mimicked from Bill Oddie. Armed with notebook, foldable desk and a paraffin lamp our champions observed dance styles in their natural habitat; origins, costumes and key members of the pack you may recognise. This is our Spotters Guide to Dance.

Today we bring you The Spotters Guide to Irish Dance by intrepid explorer Kelly McFarland.

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Origins

Irish dancing is a group of traditional dance forms which originated in Ireland.

The main forms are: Social and performance dance. Social is slightly more traditional and can be divided further into céilí (or ceilidh) and set dancing.

Notable Movement Motifs and Formations
Irish set dances danced by four couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by variations of two to sixteen people. In addition to their formation, there are significant stylistic differences between these two forms of social dance.

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Most competitive dances are solo dances, though many step dancers also perform and compete using céilí dances. The solo step dance is generally characterised by a controlled upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet.

FLEX-55 The solo dances can either be in “soft shoe” or “hard shoe”. Irish dancing became really popular due to the success of world-famous show Riverdance. Irish dancing is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary.”

Dancers You May Know

Arguably the most well known Irish Dancer Michael Flatley as danced in Riverdance many times.

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Look out for Irish fusion duo Brosena in next week’s performances of Flash Mob!

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