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.

closer
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.

something
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.

Interview
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 it 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.

Sem Mim 2

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.

copy
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

FlashMob2014-BrochureImageA4

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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

 

Danielle Blog image 1
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!

Alleviate in blue Flash MobDSC_6693

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.

English National Ballet's Swan Lake
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.

iballep002p1

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.

156356.998whitenovikova2
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!

page28-295666_501373816586129_766438915_n

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.

irish-dancing

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.

irish_dance_group_jump_wallpaper_1920x1200
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.

michael flatley

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

BrosenaUntitled-1

Dance on the Silver Screen

I have often thought dance movies are like Jane Austen novels, controversial I know; same plots, characters so similar they blend into one another, both involve a bit of a dance, a huge argument and a happy ending!

Dirty Dancing

There are of course many films that involve dance, but here I refer to the very specific genre of ‘dance films’…and we all know the plot; our lead character is classically trained and as we are introduced to them they are often disillusioned, they will meet a hip hop dancer who teaches them to feel rhythm in a different way, working together they create a fusion dance style, often part of an audition or showcase and do so to great acclaim.

Save the last dance

Our love for a specific story can come from when in our own lives or dance careers we encounter these films. It was ‘Centre Stage’ that opened my eyes. Following this ‘dance movie’ structure our lead character, struggling to compete with her classmates, teams up with choreographer Cooper who is hell bent on premiering his contemporary/ballet fusion at the American Ballet Academy’s end of year showcase, much to the dismay of his superiors. The final scene sees contemporary ballet routines to Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai, a motorbike onstage and the most unrealistic costume change ever!

Before this film I believed all dance genres were rivals of one another, that the current could not merge with the classical and above all that you worked along the traditional trajectory from student to corpse de ballet, then maybe to soloist, then if you were very lucky to prima. I didn’t think I could create! Terrible to think of that now, and I don’t doubt I would have come to these conclusions through other means, however, this film will always have a special place in my heart as it definitely corresponded with beginning to find my own style as a dancer.

Flashdance

I’m sure you will have spotted there are films that buck the trend, there is a lesser used plot which involves a central character with little-to-no previous dance experience, who against the odds teach themselves to dance, or somehow make contact with a committed and dedicated teacher to once again perform to enraptured audiences at audition or on stage. Films that follow this plot, include Dirty Dancing, Billy Elliot and Flashdance, all of which quickly become dance film classics. Songs and dance routines are synonymous with the film, here I refer you to ‘the dirty dancing lift’ and ‘the flashdance dance’ and all have been adapted to the stage. It is debatable whether films conforming to this plot are in fact part of the ‘dance movie’ genre. Of course the dance is key however all are framed by a much bigger picture. They all highlight wider issues prevalent in society and while our focus is directed towards the dance, the writing and directing all display truly phenomenal social observations.

billy-elliot

For now I’m interested in the ‘b’ movies. Films like Centre Stage that enjoyed a short burst at the cinema or went straight to DVD. Films that are passed around dance schools, routines that are painstakingly copied and characters that motivate you. What film inspired you? What film blew your mind, opened your eyes and was your only topic of conversation for weeks on end?!
Over the next few weeks keep an eye on our twitter feed as we will be posting clips from these classic dance films. If there are any you think should be included tweet us or leave a comment!

From Book to Ballet: Chapter Two

You’ve read about books that have become ballets, now let’s turn the page and have a look at  other narrative influences …

Book to Ballet

Chapter 2

 Ballet, and other styles of dance too, have been inspired by many things over the years – Books, Poetry, Mythology, to name but a few.

 In Chapter 1 of ‘Book to Ballet’, we looked at quite a few examples of books that have been turned into Ballets, and in this blog, we will look at examples of other sources of inspiration for ballets.

Poems

 Giselle

Original choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, music by Adolphe Adam

 Giselle took inspiration from a poem about a girl who dies after an all-night ball in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo, and from a prose passage about the Wilis in Elementargeister by Heinrich Heine.

Rite of Spring

Choreography originally by Vaslav Nijinsky, music by Igor Stravinsky

 It is suggested that The Rite of Spring was inspired by Sergey Gorodetsky’s poetry collection Yar. Stravinsky had set music to works from this poetry set previously, and upon studying a poem called Yarila,’the likeness is too close to be coincidenta’, with its themes of sage elders, pagan rites, and the sacrifice of a young maiden. However, the storyline was also inspired by Pagan sacrificial rites.

 The music and dance was so ‘avant-garde’ that it caused ‘loud appeals for orde’ and’actual fighting broke out among some of the spectators’ at its world premiere!

Le Spectre de la Rose

Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, music by Carl Maria von Weber’s Aufforderung zum Tanz as L’Invitation à la Valse

The Ballet is based on a verse by Theophile Gautier about a girl who receives a souvenir rose, and dreams of dancing with its spirit.

Folk tales

Swan Lake

Choreography originally by Julius Reisinger, music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Based on Russian Folk Tales

Cinderella

Choreography (notably) by Lev Ivanov, music by Sergei Prokofiev

Based on a European Folk Tale

Firebird

Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, music by Igor Stravinsky

Based on a Russian Folk Tale

(You may recognise the music in this clip, as it was use at the opening ceremony of Sochi 2014 when the flame was being lit, and also there is an animation to it in Disney’s Fantasia 2000)

Greek Mythology

Spartacus

Choreography by Leonid Yakobson, music by Aram Khachaturian

Apollo

Choreography by George Balanchine, music by Igor Stravinsky

(a personal favourite of mine!)

Orpheus

Choreography by George Balanchine, music by Igor Stravinsky

Hindu Gods

Bhakti

Choreography by Maurice Bejart, music is traditional.