The Lowry CAT… Through The Eyes Of A Tutor

Beth Bracegirdle has been teaching contemporary dance technique on The Lowry’s Centre for Advanced Training Scheme (CAT) in Dance since 2011, as well as coordinating the outreach & recruitment of young people aged 11-16 for the scheme. Initially engaging with dance through gymnastics, she went on to train at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance at 18. Beth reflects on her work with the cohorts of students aged 11-18 that have been a part of The Lowry CAT as well as the benefits this specialist training holds for passionate young people, who are both experienced dancers as well as beginning their dance journey.

Being a CAT Tutor is one of my favourite roles as a Freelance Dance Artist. There’s something very special about the Centre for Advanced Training Scheme for young people across the country and I only wish it had been around whilst I had been training!

To work every week with young people that share a passion, drive and enthusiasm for dance is a real treat. Each week, the dancers come together on a week night and Saturdays for dance training that includes Contemporary Dance Technique, Ballet, Creative work, Pilates, Contextual Studies and much more.

To arrive into the studio and find our dancers warming up together before class; stretching and cooling down together after class; sharing choreographic ideas and movement during our break times; rehearsing work for the end of year show over lunch, is such a pleasure! It not only demonstrates the dedication our dancers have, but also the collaborative and supportive nature of the way they work. They see each other as part of their CAT Family. Not only is the training unique in that the dancers train with Professional Artists every week at a pre-vocational level, working towards their careers in dance, but they are also building their own dance networks that will support them throughout their dance careers.

Being based at The Lowry offers countless opportunities to watch performances by some of the top National and International Dance companies. Some of our dancers have even been invited to perform in professional productions with companies such as BalletLORENT and Akram Khan Dance Company, incredible experiences to have at such a young age! Often, the dancers will take part in workshops with visiting companies. Earlier this year, they worked with dancers from the Russell Maliphant Company. We are also very lucky to dance in such beautiful, inspiring studio spaces over looking The Quays. We’ve witnessed plenty of stunning sunsets during class!

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The Lowry CAT in ‘everyBODY Dance’ Film created for Selfridges in partnership with The Lowry

Every year, the dancers work towards an end of year performance. The work is different each year and has grown from strength to strength. This year, the dancers have been working with company dancers from Phoenix Dance Theatre on a new work ‘Axon’. For the first time, they will be performing on The Lyric Stage at The Lowry, as part of the National Youth Dance Festival U.Dance 2016, a theatre that hosts over 1,700 audience members!

The CAT Scheme is a great opportunity for those who have very little dance experience but want desperately to dance. To see some of our dancers, who had never danced previously to joining CAT, graduating from the scheme with offers of professional training at the top conservatoire schools in the country is an absolute joy. What’s even more exciting is that we are now starting to see ex-students graduating from that professional training who are starting to make their own work and perform professionally. Some are even making work together! Very Exciting!

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The Lowry CAT – L&E Showcase, The Quays Theatre

What’s truly wonderful is that, as tutors, we know that we are working with the next generation of dancers, dance makers and artists. The aim is that we can support and guide these exceptionally talented young people towards achieving their individual goals in dance, whatever they may be!

My advice for any young person who is considering whether or not the CAT Scheme is for them, is to come along to an Open Day. Hopefully you will see that our training offers something different, something exciting that can propel your dance skills to another level.

If you would like to find out more about The Lowry’s Centre for Advanced Training in Dance visit:

Alternatively, you can contact a member of the team:

To attend a NorthWestDance Open Day in Manchester, Merseyside or Cheshire visit:
To book your place contact The Lowry Box Office: 0843 208 6000

Auditions for 2016/17 cohort will take place Sunday 12th June (note: all students wishing to Audition are advised to attend an Open Day in their region)

Application Forms are now available to download.


The Three Dancers

Dance Ambassador Alex Speake continues her story of her visit to Rambert and uncovers more about Rambert’s new piece The Three Dancers – coming to The Lowry soon!

At first, being lead into the Marie Rambert studio to view a rehearsal of ‘The Three Dancers’ was extremely intimidating. Not only due to the acclaim that Rambert have as a dance company, but also the excitement I had built up as I researched the details and explanation of the piece.

The 3 Dancers: Daniel Davidson, Brenda Lee Grech, Miguel Altunaga (c) Stephen Wright

The 3 Dancers: Daniel Davidson, Brenda Lee Grech, Miguel Altunaga (c) Stephen Wright

‘The Three Dancers’ is a Picasso painting that choreographer Didy Veldman studied in great detail in order for her composition to represent the true story behind the canvas. When it was first painted in 1925, Picasso was seemingly overwhelmed with thoughts of sex and violence after his friends death lead to the attempted murder of the widow he left with whom, interestingly Picasso had had an affair with 25 years previously. These unfortunate events lead to the demise of the attempted murderer as, after failing to kill the woman caught between the men, he turned the knife on himself.

Fortunately, the feeling of intimidation as I walked into the dance studio didn’t last long. The atmosphere that the dancers and choreographer were creating were not that of a stressed team, preparing copiously for their performances, but in fact of a group of performers working together to express their characters in the best way possible within Veldman’s excellent choreographic ideas.

The 3 Dancers, Daniel Davidson, Brenda Lee Grech, Miguel Altunaga 2 (c) Stephen Wright

For me, this is the main difference between what I saw in the studio and what I, and many others will see when the piece is performed on stage. Although the setting, costumes and lighting were all missing, it was fascinating to see the development of motifs and movements from the choreographer herself, which were then worked practically in the space and then fit in with the music and other performers.

The exercise of watching this type of rehearsal is also a remarkable way of seeing how the choreographer works on a primary, studio level – which was very different to what I expected. We’ve all seen low budget, American dance films where the passive aggressive, scarf clad choreographer disgraces a dancer for not performing their movements exactly how they dreamed them. However, Veldman has a very different method of creating than just teaching the performers her steps.

In a conversation we had with her after the rehearsal we mentioned how her dancers had such a large input on the steps they were performing on stage as for them, this seemed to be the foundation on which the performance was created. She explaining to us how it is important for her that the dancers are a part of the development of the choreography as then they should understand and know the work as well as she does, therefore being able to establish a connection and perform as their characters completely.


Didy Veldman

Within this thought process it is also enticing to see how Veldman has been able to draw upon Picasso’s own development of cubism in her piece. She uses this technique to show the emotions of its characters in their simplest form yet stay far away from getting stuck in a narrative structure.

With this foundation in place, Veldman has allowed the development of the piece to amaze the future audience with an almost tangible connection between the performers and the characters they portray, as well as retaining an effortless excellence within the movement itself. The cast for this production have clearly not been chosen so that it satisfies people’s expectations of what each dancer should look like, but rather to discard thoughts on ideal body image for dancers whose performance fits best with Veldman’s choreographic techniques. Within the up-close and personal space of the studio the six dancers still worked to perform with graceful ease which only excites me for seeing them dance again at The Lowry, with the added value of lighting and costume.

As in every dance piece, the backbone of the production is the music. For ‘The Three Dancers’ this was by Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin. Commissioned jointly by many organizations including the Wimbledon International Music festival, The Australian Festival of Chamber Music and Sitka Summer Music Festival to name a few; it was originally written as music to be performed alone, without any accompanying art form. However, Veldman’s choreography and the company’s performance make it hard to believe they weren’t both crafted together. The strong, tango like rhythm gives an insight into the dancers and allows them to demonstrate their formulated emotions in an incredibly strong and passionate way, allowing the audience to see them without the need for a narrative background.

Veldman’s plans for costume and set are another surprise to what an audience would expect. Not choosing to use the bright colours often associated with Picasso, instead, stripping back any layers that could cloud the audience from the dance, opting for a minimalist monochrome aesthetic.

It premieres on the 28th of September at Theatre Royal Plymouth and is being performed as part of ‘Dark Arteries’ at The Lowry from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October. ‘The Three Dancers’ is set to be a piece that you will want to go home and investigate, to create your own opinion on the true story not only behind the movement but behind the canvas as well.


The Rambert Archives

Dance Ambassador Alex Speake recently went down to visit Rambert in their home on London’s South Bank – here is what she discovered about the vast archive Rambert house there…

The Rambert archive is entirely unique. A vast collection of artifacts that show the evolution of British dance with resources dating all the way back to 1926. It shows the evolution of British dance, through the eyes of the dance company and not its audience – giving a ‘behind the scenes’ feel to the story it tells, as well as allowing the personal characteristics of key people in its history to flourish.

The collections contain a multitude of different items that are used to document their own development in thorough detail. It contains thousands of images dating back to the mid-twenties, posters and leaflets from dance performances by the company, choreographic notes, music scores, set and lighting designs and the odd artifact that you would never expect. One of the most obscure items we viewed was a box containing Marie Rambert’s own hair, with a message from her noting how well it had kept over the years.

One of the most striking things to me was how accessible the archive was. Arike Oke, the archivist who was showing us the artifacts, explained that the archive and its contents were able to be viewed by anyone for free, whether it be for educational or enjoyment purpose.

Australian Tour 1948

Australian Tour 1948

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Marie Rambert’s comment on her own hair. “24.4.79 Just had a look at it – how well preserved these 60 years.”

U.Dance NorthWest 2015

U.Dance 2015 logosAt the end of last month (21st & 22nd March) The Lowry welcomed 300 young dancers to it’s building for the annual U.Dance NorthWest festival. It was a jam-packed weekend filled with workshops, icebreakers, challenges and of course the final performances where all 22 youth dance companies presented the choreographies they had been working on for over 3 months to friends, families, schools, dance professionals and the National selection panel.

For the Youth Dance Ambassadors it was a 9am Saturday morning start to set up for the long and exciting weekend ahead! There was already a buzz of anticipation for the young dancers to arrive as the #udanceanywhere challenges were placed around The Lowry, the schedules distributed between the volunteers and the badges/ leaflets laid out for the participants.


Each day kicked off with the U.Dance Festival Opening and Welcome talk in the auditorium hosted by YDA’s Emma Liu and Jade Aitchison. After a round of rubber chicken to wake everyone up and a quick talk through all the housekeeping, three students from The Lowry CAT (Centre For Advanced Training in Dance) gave a personal insight in to their prevocational dance training and gave a small performance for the U.Dance particpants. A moment that stood out was when CAT student Olivia spoke about her first knowledge of The Lowry CAT being when she came as a participant to U.Dance NW festival and sat right where all the young dancers were sat in the auditorium. She had been amazed by the CAT students in her opening talk, which then encouraged her to go to an Open Day and she then continued to audition and gain a place on the CAT scheme. A big Thank you! to Olivia, Alegra and Jake for coming to the festival.

After a slightly hectic filming of the curtain call which looked amazing on film at the end of the show, the entire auditorium took part in a ‘Getting to Know You Session’. The auditorium erupted in to a roar of creative chant choreography and it resulted in some incredible chants which included split jumps, sassy arm movements and company lettering.

Capoeira Group Photo

Theo Fapohunda, NEW Dance, Swati Youth Dance & YDAs

A quick lunch break and then on to the workshops/ teching. There was a range of workshop styles to take part in from Bollywood to Mind & Movement, Capoeira/ Breaking to Pilates. In every studio there was an environment of enjoyment and motivation to learn new ways of moving.

On Saturday Sheetal Maru and Dr Swati Raut taught a Bharatanatyam workshop introducing the dancers to the grounded movement and classical Bharatanatyam rhythms implemented by Swati Dance Company. It was beautiful to see the young dancers travel across the space as a collective with a newly found stylistic quality. In another studio Bridget Fiske gave the students an insight in to The Lowry CATs recent project led by Random Dance using the ‘Mind and Movement’ resource by Wayne McGregor to teach the participants new creative tools and new ways of finding movement vocabulary through exploring your own body. The dancers were engaged in searching out the places to take the body in order to create unique and


Swati Dance Company Workshop

Over both days the young dancers had the opportunity to learn Capoeira/ Breaking, on Saturday with Malachi Simmons, on Sunday with Theo Fapohunda. These workshops introduced the dancers to the idea of fusing styles together to find universal connections in movement and explore new physical possibilities within themselves as individuals. They learnt how to face the fear of tipping upside down, how to easily incorporate capoeira styles fuidly in to their movement and how to have fun moving whilst exploring new styles.


Capoeira/ Breakdance Workshop

In studio 2 on Sunday the energy was brought back down with a health enriching Pilates class taught by Alexandra Lamb a teacher at The Lowry CAT. The students were encourage to engage with their mind-body connection and Alex reminded them that looking after their health as a dancer was vital to their performance. This workshop may not have been as energetic as the others but it was definitely engaging!


Alexndra Lamb Pilates Workshop

Lastly but by far not the least was Rohan Shah & Anupam Hinge with the Bollywood workshop from Shiamak Dance Education. The sound of pumping music could be heard eachoing down the corridors, the heat of dancers being worked hard radiating out of the walls and the most impressive grins on every single students face shined through the room. Rohan and Anupam made learning this new and energetic style a fun and exhilirating experience for all of the dancers.


Shiamak Dance Education Bollywood Workshop

This year the festival saw the return of YDA’s #udanceanywhere. Throughout the weekend the youth dance companies were challenged to find the U.Dance 2015 logo hidden around The Lowry and complete the photo challenges that were hidden with each logo with a chance to win tickets to see ‘Opus’ at The Lowry in May. Every company threw themselves in to the challenges and got creative with their photos for each challenge. Below are just a few of the NorthWest Dance and Youth Dance Ambassador Team photos for #udanceanywhere. To check out all the photos from over the weekend follow us on Twitter @lowryyouthdance or visit our UDanceAnywhere Storify>>>


Alongside the workshops the groups continuously tech’d their pieces and then all of a sudden it was 7:45pm SHOWTIME!

The excitement backstage combined with the anticipation in the auditorium created a buzz through The Lowry from the Quays Theatre. The lights went down and the auditorium fell silent and U.Dance NW 2015 presented two nights of innovative, diverse and talented performances by youth dance groups from the North West of England.

Well done to everyone who performed and took part in the weekend and a massive thank you to all the Youth Dance Ambassadors who volunteered at the event.

Congratulations to Ludus Youth Dance Company and Commotions Girls Youth Dance Company who will be performing at the national event U.Dance 2015 in Plymouth. We wish you the best of luck!

For information about the National U.Dance 2015 Plymouth Festival visit the Youth Dance England website >>>

You can also check out our U.Dance NW 2015 Promo Video below:


A Night at the Lowry with Jasmin Vardimon’s ‘Park’

A review by Miriam Bowyer


On Tuesday night the 3rd of March at The Lowry, Quays theatre, the Jasmin Vardimon Company welcomed us to an evening of the production ‘Park’.

The company was first was founded in 1997 where it made its first stamp on the British dance theatre scene. Renowned for its theatrical and direct style it incorporates physical theatre, characterisation, the body and text and observing human behaviour.

The scene is set on a European street where the homeless live. Simple but yet effective the set holds an environment where these different types of people live, eat and breathe.

The opening holds a lot of characterisation as we are greeted by 8 different characters. The first character that took me by surprise was the bag lady performed by Nevena Jovanovic hiding on the bench she is made up of bags and you can’t quite work out where her body is. She slowly emerges and performs a repetitive motif swinging her arms around her head, isolating her hips and slowly walking on the insides of her feet. We as an audience can sympathise with the characters as they are all stereotyped.


The production runs on individuality each dancer as his or her own moment to show their personalities. It is extremely humorous and will have you laughing off your seat but also holds a strong political message. There are moments where you question society and our beliefs with the patriotic flag flying dancer Uros Petronijevic screeches at the top of his voice ‘ I believe in…..’ The stage at times can become hysterical with short, fast, upbeat motifs performed as a whole following different shapely patterns making it visually pleasing to the eye.

The music compliments the piece as a whole using modern day songs and incorporating old classics such as “singin’ in the rain”. Silks Muys is not only a dancer but uses her voice to create humor and compose the scene. Her girly like charm and childish voice distinguishes the characteristics of a lady of the night. She also at the very end surprises us but I won’t tell you why!


Photo Credit: Danilo Moroni

The costumes and props yet again are key items to help highlight the characters. Uros Petronijevic is highly energetic and fast on his feet using a basketball to balance on his middle finger he uses it as an intimidation game to threaten and ward off the others. Jumping off the walls and performing street dance steps we know as an audience he is edgy and dangerous.

Jasmin Vardimon’s Park is thought provoking and highly intelligent. Playing on societies values you end up questioning what would I do in that situation, how would I react? Within this park there are no limits or ideal promises everyone is to fend for themselves. With creative pathways and energetic footwork the piece becomes edgy and enticing.


I would recommend seeing this again! Truly imaginative and incredible choreography!
I throughly enjoyed the show and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys the theatre. It holds all elements of singing, dancing and acting it’s almost like a musical production!!!

For more information about the Jasmin Vardimon Company and their production of ‘Park’ check out their website >>>

OR take a look at their Vimeo ‘Park/ In The Studio’ >>>

Birmigham Royal Ballet’s ‘Coppélia’

A Review by Alex Speake As the only dancer in a large group of friends, when I say I am going to watch a Ballet I am often made the laughing point of their jokes – and this time was no different. On top of the jokes about the stereotypical attendees of such a performance and the ‘old fashioned’ dance moves it will consist of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of ‘Coppélia’ was also met with quizzical looks in terms of its storyline. This is why I chose one of them to accompany me to the performance, for what I chose to call ‘An education in classical dance’.

Photo Credit: Andrew Ross

Photo Credit: Andrew Ross

Arriving at The Lowry, we received our tickets and headed to our seats, programmes in hand, and were met by the immense purple curtain, hiding the stage from prying eyes. As we took our seats, my accomplice made her first confession of the night; ‘‘So many different people are here, I thought it would just be little girls and elderly couples’’. In fact, she couldn’t be more wrong, within the audience was a vast mix of people of all ages, genders and – I can only assume – experiences with dance. The music started up, and the ballet began, the audience shushed into silence by the captivating orchestra. The first of a trilogy acts begins by telling the setting to the story, the engaged couple Franz and Swanhilda are humorously pushed apart by what –unknown to them- is a very beautiful doll, Coppélia. Which ends up has caused quite a stir in their quiet little village, resulting in both Franz and Swanhilda breaking into Dr Coppelius’ workshop to visit the ‘beautiful girl’ that is located within…

20 Years on: Posters from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia  in March 1995, and the current performances, March 2015.

20 Years on: Poster from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia
in March 1995.

20 Years on: Posters from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s first performance of Coppélia  in March 1995, and the current performances, March 2015.

20 Years on: Poster from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s current performances, March 2015.

Upon interviewing my friend after act two (which is my personal favourite section of the piece), I asked her if the performance was as she expected; ‘‘ To be honest I didn’t expect to understand any of it, but just watching it now I can tell exactly what is going on onstage, without the need to read up on the story afterwards’’. As someone who has seen many dance pieces in the past (and plan to see many more in the future!) I understand that people can sometimes think they will struggle understanding the dancers without words, but with Birmingham Royal Ballet this is never an issue. This company in particular go out of their way to ensure their audience understand the story, and aren’t left behind during this performance – they even go to the lengths of offering a child-friendly shorter and fully explanatory version of this ballet, allowing children from the ages of 3-7 full access to a beautiful art form they can fully enjoy. ‘Coppélia’ is a must-see classical ballet that, entering its 20th year with the company, will never get old, it’s dazzlingly beautiful costumes, extremely detailed set and perfect comedic timing have the whole audience giggling in their seats. When the curtains close, the whole audience want more.

‘Coppélia’ is at the Lowry for two more performances, to book your ticket for this afternoon or this evening >>> click here

Backstage with Birmingham Royal Ballet

By Jade Aitchison

The sound of costume steamers and an air of preparation fills the production corridors of the Birmingham Hippodrome as fellow dance ambassadors Joanna and Kelly and I, are taken on a tour by Kasia Kraus (Community and Schools Engagement Officer), round the newly-refurbished home of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Coppélia may not be a new production for the company but this year marks the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet making their move to the Hippodrome. The building seemed filled with celebration of their journey and the refurbishment breathes new life in to the centre of Birmingham.


Upon arrival we were surprised to find out that we would be involved in a walk around the stage and interview with Diana Childs, filmed by an Arts Reporter from BBC Midlands Today. (Click here to see the Youth Dance Ambassadors having a backstage tour on BBC Midlands Today >>>) Naturally all our thoughts immediately jumped to assessing our appearances after having sat on a train for an hour and a half, but having the chance to meet Diana was one of the highlights of my day. Diana Childs, Senior Stage Manager of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, has been with the company since before their move from Sadler’s Wells in 1990 and her passion regarding the company is inspiring so we were all excited at the opportunity to be personally shown around backstage.


Photo Credit: BBC Midlands Today 24.02.2015

As Diana walked us across the stage through the hand painted wooden door of Swanilda’s house, we came across a steep set of steps up to the balcony of the house. Diana explained to us, so as not to miss her entrance through the front door the lead ballerina did not have enough time to run down the stairs safely, so would jump from the top steps in to the arms of a male dancer and then appear as if by magic through the door on to the stage ready for her solo. This backstage insight in to the production had me anticipating a small section in Coppélia that I had never considered much before and as we sat and watched Swanilda disappear from the top balcony in the orchestral rehearsal, the thrill of whether she would appear through the door in time was ignited and left me in awe of the ballerinas unnerved agility as she reappeared two seconds later on to the stage.


This wasn’t the only hidden secret backstage! After having a look through all the props and stage pieces for the Second Act, that created Dr Coppélius’ spooky toyshop, we came across a black cat! No… unfortunately not a living cat but a stuffed bear perched within all the scenery. Diana explained to us that the cat had just appeared backstage when they first moved to the Hippodrome and so now they hide it within set pieces of each show as a tradition. A prime example that not all the fun happens on the stage. I must admit I did try to see if I could spot it in the afternoon rehearsal from the first circle, however the cat is hidden very well and you find yourself distracted by the captivating performance of the dancers and the beauty of the set transformations. This black cat crossing their path definitely has not lived up to the bad superstition and has provided Birmingham Royal Ballet with years of good luck as they continue to expand and grow as a company.


The orchestral rehearsal shed new light on the ballet Coppélia. Seeing the performers in their rehearsal/ warm up clothes made them appear more real but did not make the ballet any less magical. Instead of escaping in to the story of Coppélia, as you usually would when watching a production, I found a new appreciation for the dancers dedication, interpretation and exploration of their characters. They weren’t just characters in a story they were highly skilled performers exploring the stage, reacting to the live orchestra and mentally/ physically preparing for the opening show. Having the chance to see them change the set between acts exposed the hard work and commitment of the backstage crew in creating a flawless production. The changing of the backdrop, rigged set and prop pieces was an agile choreography in itself and highlighted the preperation that goes on behind the scenes, to result in such an outstanding ballet production.

Birmingham Royal Ballet have reignited my love for a traditional, childhood favourite. Coppélia with it’s beautiful score, intricate set design, flawless performance and comic nature grasps your attention from the very first note played to the final bows. I would recommend any budding ballerinas, families, or even just anyone wanting to escape the regularities of everyday life to go watch Coppélia and have a night off to experience the beauty and talent of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Coppélia is at The Lowry this week! (Wed 4th – Sat 7th March) For more information and to book your tickets, click here >>>