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North West dance news, reviews and personal views

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    Hugh Laing (6 June 1911 – 10 May 1988) was one of the most significant dramatic ballet dancers of the 20th-century.

    Wikipedia - Hugh Laing

    (I know posting a link to Wikipedia is a bit lame, but I actually created the Hugh Laing page on Wikipedia)

    Dancer Hugh Laing, 1940, photo by Carl Van Vechten

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  • 06/26/17--09:26: Service Interruption
  • Yet again, there may be an interruption in service here at Methods of Dance, not just because the summer period is generally quiet - although we are soon to hit the double bubble of MIF17 and Flare17 - but yours truly will be treading the boards again. For the second time this year I will be appearing (briefly) at the Royal Exchange - this time in ...

    Royal Exchange Theatre 
    Sat 1 – Sat 22 July 

    Co-created by Scott Graham for Frantic Assembly, Karl Hyde and Simon Stephens

    Songs and stories from a forgotten England

    World premiere

    Fatherland is a bold, ambitious show about contemporary fatherhood in all its complexities and contradictions. Created by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Karl Hyde from Underworld and playwright Simon Stephens (Punk Rock, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), this daring collage of words, music and movement will transform the Royal Exchange Theatre, animated by a 13-strong cast and a multitude of voices.

    Fatherland is a vivid, urgent and deeply personal portrait of 21st-century England at the crossroads of past, present and future. Inspired by conversations with fathers and sons from the trio’s home towns in the heart of the country, the show explores identity, nationality, masculinity – and what it means to belong in a world weighed down by the expectations of others.

    Tender and tough, honest and true, Fatherland is a vital and necessary show about what we were, who we are and what we’d like to become.


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    Photography: Manuel Vason
    This autumn UK audiences will have the first opportunity to witness the English language premiere of Jean René Lemoine's reimagining of the classic story of passion and revenge Medea

    Previewing at the Marlborough Pub & Theatre in Brighton on the 28th September, the performance will premiere at The Place London presented as part of And What? Queer. Arts. Festival before going on tour to Cambridge Junction, Norwich Arts Centre, Pavilion Dance Bournemouth, Hull Truck Theatre, Unity Theatre Liverpool as part of Homotopia Festival, Lancaster Arts Centre at University of Lancaster, and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. 

    This startling reimagining sees Medea cast as the ultimate outsider, a stranger in a foreign land, a being filled with rage. Her monologue is half witness-statement, half incantation, taking us from ancient Greece to modern Europe and back again in a provocative, blood-soaked collage of performance, opera, and sexual confession

    Lemoine’s version of Medea, already performed in France to great acclaim, reimagines this archetypal figure from classical drama as a genderless, stateless, and violently transgressive contemporary figure. The playwright, an artist of Afro-French origin born in Haiti, makes Medea a stranger in her own country, who seeks to flee from the asphyxiation of family bonds through carnal union with her brother and then in the physical bedazzlement of her encounter with Jason, the ravisher and the violator. The work speaks about marginalisation, isolation, and exile

    The performer, dancer and vocalist, François Testory fuses his extraordinary physicality, and androgynous and unique stage presence with a radical mixing of classical and contemporary vocal technique to bring the murderous figure of Medea to life in this evocative lament featuring live music by Phil Von. Testory has performed with some of Europe’s most innovative companies, including Lindsay Kemp, DV8, Rambert Dance Company, Punch Drunk, and Gecko. François Testory was last seen in Manchester at HOME in 2016 in Gecko's Institute.

    Following a hugely successful run at The Arcola with The Plague, Medea is the new work from one of the UK’s most celebrated directors and authors, Neil Bartlett. The piece is directed and translated by Bartlett who has drawn on his experience of both heightened classical drama at the largest scale and of the most intimate contemporary queer solo performance genre to create a powerful theatrical experience. Neil Bartlett was formerly Artistic Director the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith; his other recent work includes Stella (LIFT, Brighton Festival, Holland Festival 2016) and the Britten Canticles (Aldeburgh, Brighton, Royal Opera House, 2015).

    Medea has been possible thanks to the generous support of Arts Council England, The Place, the Institut Français of the United Kingdom, and SACD France (the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques). NFA International Arts & Culture is also grateful for the partnership support of The Marlborough Theatre (Brighton), And What? Queer Arts Festival, Folke, Theatre of Europe, and South East Dance.
    NFA International Arts & Culture

    In association with The Place, the Institut français du Royaume Uni, and SACD France

    Performance by François Testory
    Translation and direction by Neil Bartlett
    Corsetier, Mr Pearl
    Sound design and performance by Phillipe Fontez
    Lighting design by Chahine Yavroyan
    Stage, company and technical management by Jules Millard
    Production photography by Manuel Vason 
    Produced by Nelson Fernandez and Lia Prentaki for NFA International Arts & Culture

    2017 Tour Dates
    • Marlborough Pub & Theatre Brighton – 28-29 September
    • The Place London presented as part of And What? Queer. Arts. Festival – 5-6-7 October 
    • Cambridge Junction – 11 October
    • Norwich Arts Centre – 18 October
    • Pavilion Dance Bournemouth – 20 October
    • Hull Truck Theatre Hull – 24-25 October
    • Unity Theatre, Homotopia Festival, Liverpool – 1 November
    • Lancaster Arts, University of Lancaster – 2 November
    • Birmingham Repertory Theatre – 17-18 November

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    The Farm "Cockfight"

    Performing Lines & NORPA (Australia) and Dance Touring Partnership present
    Cockfight by The Farm
    Two blokes in an office. One older, one younger, each body pushed to its limits. A cross between The Office and an Australian style cage-fight, this game of comical one-upmanship builds to a moment of impact where everything is suspended. A flash of bared teeth, the desperation of needing to prove yourself versus the need to hold on to what you’ve got.
    Cockfight explores the power play between men, the frailty of the ageing body and questions culture’s desperate desire for achievement.
    Skilfully enacting a full-throttle mash-up of extreme physical risk-taking, graceful movement and slow-mo fight sequences, this darkly humorous and surprisingly tender piece of dance theatre by The Farm, sees long-time collaborators Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber reassess who is in charge.
    Without each other these two performers have nothing left to fight for.
    “It is sidesplittingly hilarious and beautifully athletic and graceful.” ABC Arts
    “[Cockfight] is physical theatre at its most extreme: bodies slam into walls and office furniture, and perilous interlocking rolls, tackles and lunges fling performers through space.” The Australian
    “Its physicality is masterful and its comedy biting” Dance Australia
    “At times broadly comedic, with a Buster Keaton-esque physicality on show, Cockfight switches effortlessly to moments of beauty and poignancy” ArtsHub
    “They’re terrific movers, speedy, strong and fearless…”
    Originally commissioned by NORPA and supported by DanceNorth, Townsville; the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Cairns (COCA); Arts Queensland and the Australia Council for the Arts, and toured by Performing Lines. The Farm is supported by the Gold Coast City Council. UK tour is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
    Running time 70 mins
    Age suitability 14+
    Photos by Kate Holmes (promo)/Darcy Grant (production shots)
    Directors Kate Harman, Julian Louis, Joshua Thomson & Gavin Webber for The Farm
    Performers Joshua Thomson and Gavin Webber
    Lighting Design Mark Howett
    Sound Design Luke Smiles
    Set Design Joey Ruigrok & Joshua Thomson
    Producers The Farm in association with NORPA and Performing Lines
    At The Farm, work is made in a collaborative process where everyone brings their expertise without being confined to it. All animals are equal.
    [Tour dates have yet to be confirmed so it is not definite that this show will be appearing at The Lowry.]

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    Support the Campaign here

    Why is this important?

    Greenwich Dance plays a vital role in the dance ecology of this country, and the decision of Arts Council England directly affects their capacity to continue operating in the future. This has a massive ramification for the professional freelance independent dance community based in London and beyond.
    This statement has been initiated by a body of freelance artists acting independently of Greenwich Dance as an organisation. We seek to strengthen Greenwich Dance’s case when applying for alternative funding streams and aim to lobby for their future support as the organisation which is best placed to provide much needed critical support for the independent dance sector in England.
    A large portion of Greenwich Dance’s focus is on creating quality dance engagements for the local community and for non-professional dancers; however this statement focuses on their artist development support and provision for the continued enabling of professional dance work.
    Greenwich Dance provide a range of tailored support and employment for a diverse body of artists, from recent graduates to established artists and dance companies including performers, teachers, producers, technicians, accompanists/musicians, mentors, facilitators, dance companies and choreographers.
    The shape of this support includes affordable professional classes (with live music), subsidised studio and office space, set and equipment storage, meeting rooms, teaching work, performance opportunities, associate artist relationships, work-in-progress sharings, feedback and post show discourse, assistance with applications, technical support, marketing advice and advocacy.
    Consequently, the artists they engage are enabled to realise a range of projects, training, practices, research and touring productions, in London, nationally and internationally.
    Greenwich Dance identify early potential and demonstrate a commitment to continued support, as a result they have kick-started the careers of many of our most celebrated dance artists and this work contributes significantly to the artistic and economic value of the arts sector.
    Greenwich Dance fundamentally understand that effective artist support is more than a set of easily quantifiable structures or visible schemes. Instead they give importance to working with artists in a responsive and bespoke way which enables a wealth of dynamic, long-lasting and often pioneering relationships. They have spent 25 years developing a culture within the organisation that understands the strength and value of attending to the ‘how’ of its many artist centric operations. It is the open door, the welcome, the listening, the quality of feedback and the personal human-scale nature of the place which has enabled incredible work to be fostered and makes many of us consider it a home for our respective practices.
    Greenwich Dance’s professional classes for contemporary dance artists encompass the broad range of current practices and approaches that are being engaged in across the dance scene at any given time. The breadth of those classes means that Greenwich Dance is the studio of choice for many of the contemporary dancers and teachers who are based in or visiting London.
    The ability of dance artists to live, train and work in London is already pushed to breaking point and the opportunities for surviving as an artist in the city are increasingly reduced to those with the ability to self-subsidise the work they do. Taking away the support that Greenwich Dance provide is like putting up yet another obstacle for people from low income backgrounds to succeed in our industry.
    The cut to Greenwich Dance’s funding to help independent artists in London and the recent Arts Council devolution of funds towards the regions, appears to be an encouragement for the workforce to leave the city. However this is unsustainable for dancers to manage without continued professional classes outside the capital and without any onus on dance organisations in these areas to provide them. London continues to provide the majority of employment, and unless better opportunities are created for the independent sector outside the city, dancers will be reluctant to move.
    While we appreciate that an increased level of financial support directly to dance companies will help sustain their practices, we are concerned that the needs and value of the independent sector have been overlooked. Furthermore, both dance companies and independent artists need an organisation like Greenwich Dance to co-ordinate, advise, advocate and partner on projects. Removing funding from Greenwich Dance leaves an unbalanced ecology.
    Greenwich Dance applied for an incredibly small amount of funding when viewed against the other NPO’s, yet the potential impact and breadth of their investment, through the hundreds of artists they engage cannot be overestimated.
    The funding cut you have made is a deep wound currently felt by the entire professional freelance independent dance community and evidence that you value their contribution to the dance industry is desperately sought. We hope this statement brings greater clarity to the essential role that Greenwich Dance plays in this equation and makes visible the number of people who are impacted by decisions about its future.

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  • 07/27/17--01:48: Sir Anton Dolin 1904-1983
  • Sir Anton Dolin, (1904 – 1983) 

    Anton Dolin joined Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1921, and was a principal from 1924.  He danced with the Vic-Wells Ballet in the 30s and went on to found the London Festival Ballet with Alicia Markova.

    His early career with Ballets Russes made him the first internationally-acclaimed male British ballet star.

    He joined Ballet Theater (now American Dance Theater) when it was formed in 1940 and remained there as a dancer and choreographer until 1946.

    Dolin was knighted in 1981.

    Dolin was born on 27 July, 1904, in Sussex, England. His real name was Sydney Francis Patrick Chippendall Healey- Kay. His friends called him Pat.

    Dolin had a long-term relationship with John Gilpin (1930 – 1983), principal dancer of the London Festival Ballet for over twenty years. Gilpin was also married twice, from 1960-70 to dancer and choreographer Sally Judd (one child, a daughter), and briefly, from July 1983 to his death in September of that year to Princess Antoinette, Baroness of Massy (Monaco).

    Sir Anton Dolin, (1904 – 1983) 1924 by Bassano © National Portrait Gallery, London

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    Well, just to keep things interesting - and because nothing has changed (arguably) - I am revisiting my Manchester? No, sorry news update for 2017.

    Find out what's the story with Manchester? No, sorry...

    Basically it is a list of companies that announce touring activity in 2017 but do not include any Manchester or Salford venues in the schedule.

    BalletBoyz - venturing out on tour again in the autumn on 2017 with the Fourteen Days tour. Not visiting Manchester, although they did in the spring with the Life tour. Maybe the second wave of touring in 2018 will revisit The Lowry, where they definitely have an audience.

    Dance Touring Partnership - supported Mark Murphy's V-TOL disappointing Out of the World in Spring 2017 including a visit to The Lowry. Their autumn 2017 endeavour is a smaller tour of The Farm's interesting-looking Cockfight, which is not visiting the city.

    National Dance Company Wales - not visited the Manchester area since 2011. Have been appearing fairly regularly at Huddersfield's Lawrence Batley Theatre, but their 2017 Spring Tour only visits venues in Wales - which is fair enough - plus Newcastle and Dundee. 

    Mark Bruce Company - who didn't tour their most recent production The Odyssey as widely as their award-winning Draculaare starting 2017 back in the studio working on a new full-length work which will première in early 2018.

    Ballet Central are embarking on a 20+ date national tour from March to July 2017 but not visiting Manchester for a second year.

    Lea Anderson, who was forced to mothball her ground-breaking twin companies The Cholmondeleys & The Featherstonehaughs a few year ago due to ACE funding issues, has announced a 9-date autumn 2017 tour for her new work Ladies & Gentlemen. Not visiting Manchester though. 

    Protein Dance - taking their Border Tales to the Edinburgh Fringe and for an autumn 2017 tour. Not coming to Manchester though. 

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    Stop Using Audience Vox Pops as Marketing!

    It's as simple as that. A plea to companies (and the large ones are the most guilty as they have the most resources for marketing and for making the damn things) and theatres - stop using audience vox pops as marketing.

    Sticking a camera in the audiences faces as they come blinking out of a show and asking them what they thought is lazy, uncritical and fake. Even when the show is good.

    Do some proper marketing.


    As a reviewer, it takes me a few hours, often overnight, to fully process what I have watched. When I have a very enthusiastic or emotional response to a show, it doesn't always survive those hours of consideration.  Sometimes, time gives a greater appreciation than the raw experience.  

    So, straight out of the theatre is the worst time to get either an honest or an accurate response to a piece of performance.

    Rant over. 

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    Akram Khan Company have just announced Akram’s 'most anticipated new solo', XENOS, which will mark his final performances as a dancer in a full-length piece.

    In this brand-new work commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, Akram explores the myth of Prometheus – the Titan who stole fire and gave it to mankind – through the experience of an Indian colonial soldier in the First World War.
    Was Prometheus’ gift the blessing or the curse of mankind? By revisiting the classical Greek myth in the context of the most violent century in human history, XENOS reveals the beauty and horror of the human condition.
     XENOS, meaning ‘stranger’ or ‘foreigner’, seeks to express tales of loss, hope and redemption, through a movement language that shifts between classical kathak and contemporary dance.
     Akram has brought together a stellar creative team. Along with dramaturg Ruth Little and acclaimed Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill, he teams up with German designer Mirella Weingarten, award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, costume designer Kimie Nakano, and composer Vincenzo Lamagna.
    Akram will be joined onstage by five international musicians: percussionist B C Manjunath, vocalist Aditya Prakash, bass player Nina Harries, violinist Andrew Maddick, and saxophonist Tamar Osborn.
    The production will premiere on 21 February 2018 at Onassis Cultural Centre – Athens, and will have its UK première at Sadler’s Wells, London from 29 May – 9 June, as part of their Spring 2018 Season. London tickets go on sale on Monday 6 November at 10am. More international tour dates will be announced later.
    Photos by Nicol Vizioli

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  • 10/22/17--03:51: The Rite of Spring
  • I know The Rite of Spring is something of an obsession of mine, but that’s already well-documented here. 

    YouTube is a wonderful thing. It is a fantastic resource for dance as you can generally find all manner of trailers, documentaries and complete performances from throughout the decades.

    Anyway, YouTube suggested a new 2017 work called Kreatur, which then prompted Waltz’s version of The Rite Of Spring, which, although not entirely un-Bausch (shall we say) is marvellous. A version I would very much like to see performed live. 

    This inevitably prompted other versions of The Rite and then this popped up: a 1989 BBC2 documentary about The Rite and it’s recreation by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer for the Joffrey Ballet - generally accepted to be an authentic if incomplete version thanks to its painstaking reasearch of all elements, although the original ballet was quickly lost except to memory and documentation (and costumes and accessories, fascinatingly). The documentary also includes the full version of the ballet in all its painted, heavy-costumed glory.

    I remember watching this documentary when it went out. I had long since read Nijinsky’s biography by Richard Buckle and become fascinated by the Ballet Russes and The Rite in particular. This programme brought it vividly to life for me. And it’s good to have the opportunity to see it again.

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    Holly Blakey is best known for her choreographic work in music videos for artists including Jessie Ware, Florence + the Machine and Coldplay. But that looks set to change with Blakey’s first full-length contemporary dance work Some Greater Class, which certainly makes no effort to deny her successful career in that genre, but takes it far beyond simply putting pop video dance moves on stage.

    With a desire to make her work accessible to a wider audience – not necessarily ‘a dance audience’ – Blakey is avoiding the traditional dance spaces (even within traditional dance venues) and aiming for galleries, festivals, places where perhaps people won't think ‘oh no: dance’ and scurry away.

    For Some Greater Class’s appearances at The Lowry, Blakey is staging her work in the more unconventional Compass Room, which is a essentially a function room at the top of the building – a space normally reserved for weddings and industry conferences, but one occasionally used for other dance artists aiming at working outside of the ‘box’ – Theo Clinkard, Fevered Sleep and Flexer & Sandiland have also used the flexibility of this large space to site their work.

    Some Greater Class sits well in this space although the setup is actually fairly conventional with seats in long rows in front of a dance area, and the atmosphere is chilly. Gwilym Gold and Darkstar sit to one side at the back behind a table piled with all the kit required for the live soundtrack. Banks of lights drench the space in blue and green. A tumble of foliage forms an odd backdrop, like an 80s nightclub.

    The piece starts moodily with the cast of seven sloping in as a group, coolly checking one another out: blankly confrontational. Dressed in red, their costumes are deconstructed, rebuilt: edgy, diverse, gender-fluid: tough girls, urban lads, femme boys. Blakey’s dancers look like club kids, like real people.

    Some Greater Class itself is a rollercoaster of thrilling group sections, usually with the dancers forming two advancing lines: vogue, street dance, martial arts and alternative cabaret influences are smoothly linked with a deft choreographic touches by Blakey and considerable individual charm and attitude from the dancers, from the smouldering beauty and fuck-you cool of Grace Jabbari and Naomi Weijand, to the gender-queer buffness of Ted Rogers and Chester Haynes, to the sexy streetboy cool of Waddah Sinada and Jonny Vieco, via the strange androgyne aloofness of Eve Stainton.

    The group sections are interpopulated with a series of smaller group and individual performances that explore connection, emptiness, identity, pleasure, sex, ennui, exhaustion, exhibitionism and uncertainty. Some Greater Class interrogates and dissects young relationships, identity, social life and (inter)dependence. It moves startlingly between narcissism, tenderness, exploitation, brutality and the simple human need – and sometimes incapacity - for emotional and physical contact. They gaze lovingly, blankly, emptily at one another: questioningly, passively confrontationally at the audience. They compete for love and acceptance: fight for the right to exist without compromise, without fear.

    Gwilym Gold and Darkstar’s soundtrack, which melds haunting vocals with relentless electronic beats and shimmering techno, underpins the choreography thrillingly. When the dancers line-up in the dark for the final section you actually feel like you've been taken on a brilliant night out with friends. There have been arguments, tears and hugs and laughter but Some Greater Class leaves you with a sense of hope, and a real sense that you've just seen the work of an ambitious choreographer who has the ability to shake up the world of contemporary dance.

    There is a lot of exciting, darkly-messy dance coming from Europe. Unless drawing on those influences a lot of British dance is starting to look safe and formulaic. Some Greater Class is pulling in a lot of different influences from urban and queer culture and it looks edgy and exciting. I want some more.

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    Michael Clark's ground-breaking 1985-6 'punk ballet'Hail the New Puritan is now available to view in its entirety.

    Hail the New Puritan, 1985-86, 84:47 min, color, sound

    Exhuberant and witty, Hail the New Puritan is a simulated day-in-the-life "docufantasy" starring the British dance celebrity Michael Clark. Atlas' fictive portrait of the charismatic choreographer serves as a vivid invocation of the studied decadence of the 1980s post-punk London subculture. Contriving a faux cinema-verite format in which to stage his stylized fiction, Atlas seamlessly integrates Clark's extraordinary dance performances into the docu-narrative flow. Focusing on Clark's flamboyantly postured eroticism and the artifice of his provocative balletic performances, Atlas posits the dance as a physical manifestation of Clark's psychology. From the surreal opening dream sequence to the final solo dance, Clark's milieu of fashion, clubs and music signifies for Atlas "a time capsule of a certain period and context in London that's now gone."

    Director/Editor: Charles Atlas. Choreography: Michael Clark. Dancers: Gaby Agis, Leslie Bryant, Michael Clark, Matthew Hawkins, Julie Hood, Ellen van Schuylenburch. Music: Glenn Branca, The Fall, Bruce Gilbert, Jeffrey Hinton. Camera: John Simmons. Producer: Jolyon Wimhurst. -- EAI 

    You can watch it here

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    The Rites of Spring

    Vaslav Nijinsky (1913)

    Léonide Massine (1920)
    Lester Horton (1937)
    Mary Wigman (1957)
    Maurice Béjart (1959)

    Kenneth MacMillan (1962)
    Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasiliev (1965)
    Glen Tetley (1974)
    Pina Bausch (1975)

    Martha Graham (1984)

    Marie Chouinard (1993)
    Angelin Prelocaj (2001)

    Sasha Waltz (2013)

    Michael Keegan-Dolan (Fabulous Beast) (2009)

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  • 11/16/17--11:00: Making Contact
    Contact will close the doors of its iconic Oxford Road building at the end of December 2017 ahead of a major £6.75 million capital redevelopment. During this time, the organisation’s staff will relocate to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side, with a year-long programme of performance and participation activities taking place in partner venues across Greater Manchester.

    Contact today announced the first part of its exciting year out programme, which will see it forge new creative partnerships with venues including the Palace Theatre Manchester, Manchester Academy, the Museum of Science and Industry and The Lowry, as well as various interesting and unexpected spaces, including a working sari shop on Manchester’s Curry Mile.

    The season will kick off in style in February with two high profile shows as part of the annual Queer Contact Festival, beginning with Dancing Bear at the Palace Theatre Manchester (Tue 6 – Wed 7 February). Produced by Jamie Fletcher & Company and Contact, Dancing Bear flips between dramatic storytelling and catchy pop songs to explore personal, social and mental health issues experienced by LGBT+ people. This will be followed by club culture meeting high art at the House of Suarez and Contact Vogue Ball at Manchester Academy 2 (Sat 10 Feb).

    Queer Contact Festival marks its 10th anniversary year with its biggest line-up of events yet. A packed programme of theatre, music, cabaret, film, clubbing, dance, spoken word and visual art examining gender, sexuality, health, religion, politics and more, will be hosted at venues across Greater Manchester (Sat 3 – Sat 24 Feb). Partner venues include: Palace Theatre Manchester, Manchester Academy, Manchester Central Library, People’s History Museum, Waterside, Texture and 53Two.

    The award-winning Contact Young Company will present Manchester’s rich social history in a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (1918). She Bangs the Drums will take place at the Museum of Science and Industry (Thu 8 – Sat 10 Mar) in a humorous and political reflection on votes for women and working-class men. Following this, Contact and Rasa co-production Handlooms by Rani Moorthy shifts the scene to a working sari shop, Alankar House of Saris on Wilmslow Road (Tue 13 – Sun 25 Mar). Handlooms explores the generational gap between a mother and son, who are both seeking solutions to a business crisis. Finally, as a teaser for what’s to come later in the year, Contact is delighted to announce a one-off gala performance of Sophie Willan’s smash-hit Contact commissioned show Branded at The Lowry (Thu 31 May).

    Contact is thrilled to be relocating to the Millennium Powerhouse in Moss Side for the duration of 2018. This will not only be home to staff, but will also be a venue for Contact’s regular programme of free participatory activities throughout the year. The building is operated by Manchester Young Lives, and houses a number of other young people focused organisations, services and activities. As a company, Contact will be working with these organisations to increase the numbers of young people using the building. Contact’s other arts and leadership projects such as Contact Young Company, Future Fires and The Agency will continue to engage and inspire young people whilst the building on Oxford Road undergoes its transformation.

    Contact will continue to regularly announce performances, projects and activities for the rest of 2018.  Contact’s young producers group Re:Con are currently working on a project in response to the anniversary of the anti-Section 28 protests in Manchester in 1988, and a brand new Christmas show written by the award-winning Jackie Hagan will be taking place at a partner venue during December.

    Working alongside a dedicated team of local young people, Con:Struct, and with architects Sheppard Robson, Contact will re-open in 2019. The refurbished building will feature a new performance space, a recording studio for young people, new offices and rehearsal spaces for artists and other cultural organisations, and a new café and bar. The project aims are to increase the number and range of creative opportunities for young people and to strengthen the organisation’s financial sustainability. Access throughout the building will also be upgraded as well as improving its environmental performance.

    The project will be funded by over £6million of investment from Arts Council England and Manchester City Council with generous grants and donations from local and national trusts and foundations. Corporate and individual supporters and a public fundraising campaign will raise the remaining £600,000.
    Matt Fenton, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Contact said:

    This is an incredibly exciting and important time for Contact. While our building is expanded and improved, 2018 will see us present a year-long programme at partner venues and found spaces across the city, taking Contact productions to new communities and letting new audiences experience our work. Contact productions will also be touring nationally, and a recent show will be broadcast on BBC TV and iPlayer. We’re also thrilled to be relocating our staff and all of our participatory projects to the Powerhouse in Moss Side. As a team we’re really looking forward to forming new relationships with the organisations there to provide new opportunities for young people in the area. We are extremely grateful to Arts Council England and all our other funders, trusts and foundations, and our partner venues for their support on this project which will enable Contact to offer even more life-changing opportunities for young people, sustainably and for many years to come.

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    The 18th National Dance Awards Announcement of Nominations

    The Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle is pleased to announce the nominations for the 18th National Dance Awards, which are as follows
    Miguel Altunaga (Rambert)
    Isaac Hernández (English National Ballet)
    Xander Parish (Mariinsky Ballet)
    Liam Riddick (Richard Alston Dance Company)
    Marcelino Sambé (The Royal Ballet)
    Francesca Hayward (The Royal Ballet)
    Sophie Martin (Scottish Ballet)
    Yasmine Naghdi (The Royal Ballet)
    Zenaida Yanowsky (The Royal Ballet)
    Eva Yerbabuena (Cĩa Eva Yerbabuena)
    42ND Street  
    Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater  
    English National Ballet   
    Northern Ballet 
    Scottish Ballet 
    Avant Garde Dance 
    Ballet Cymru 
    Rosie Kay Dance Company 
    Vincent Dance Theatre   
    [Sponsored by The Ballet Association]
    Akram Khan for ‘Akram Khan’s Giselle’ (English National Ballet)
    Crystal Pite for ‘Emergence’ (Scottish Ballet)
    Crystal Pite for ‘Flight Pattern’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Liam Scarlett for ‘Symphonic Dances’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Kenneth Tindall for ‘Casanova’ (Northern Ballet)
    [Sponsored by Northern Ballet]
    Michael Asante & Kenrick Sandy for ‘Blak Whyte Gray’ (Boy Blue Entertainment)
    Matthew Bourne for ‘The Red Shoes’ (New Adventures)
    Michael Clark for ‘To a simple, rock ‘n’ roll…song.’ (Michael Clark Company)
    Michael Keegan-Dolan for ‘Swan Lake/Loch na hEala’ (Teaċ Damsa)
    Arthur Pita for ‘Stepmother/Stepfather’ (Arthur Pita & HeadSpaceDance)
    [Sponsored by The L&M Trust]  
    Harry Alexander (Dancer, Michael Clark Company/ Julie Cunningham & Company)
    Vincenzo Lamagna (Composer, ‘Akram Khan’s Giselle’ – English National Ballet)
    Dickson Mbi (Dancer, Boy Blue Entertainment/ Russell Maliphant Company)
    Botis Seva (Choreography for Far From the Norm and Scottish Dance Theatre)
    Francesca Velicu  (First Artist, English National Ballet)
    [Sponsored by DWFM Beckman]
    Antonia Grove in ‘Virgin Territory’ (Vincent Dance Theatre)
    Shelley Eva Haden in ‘MK Ultra’ (Rosie Kay Dance Theatre)
    Ashley Shaw as Vicky Page in The Red Shoes’ (New Adventures)
    Clemmie Sveaas in ‘Stepmother/Stepfather’ (Arthur Pita & HeadSpaceDance)
    Francesca Velicu in ‘The Rite of Spring’ (English National Ballet)
    Mithkal Alzghair in ‘Displacement’ (Mithkal Alzghair)
    Christopher Akrill in ‘Stepmother/Stepfather’ (Arthur Pita & HeadSpaceDance)
    Karl Fagerlund Brekke in ‘Stepmother/Stepfather’ (Arthur Pita & HeadSpaceDance)
    Robert Fairchild as Jerry Mulligan in ‘An American in Paris’
    Dickson Mbi in ‘Blak Whyte Gray’ (Boy Blue Entertainment)
    [Sponsored by Lee McLernon]
    Alina Cojocaru as Giselle in ‘Akram Khan’s Giselle’ (English National Ballet)
    Bethany Kingsley-Garner in Emergence’ (Scottish Ballet)
    Kristen McNally in Flight Pattern’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Aditi Mangaldas in ‘Inter_rupted’ (Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company)
    Eva Yerbabuena in ‘Aperiencias’ (Cĩa Eva Yerbabuena)
    Israel Galván in ‘FLA.CO.MEN’ (Cĩa Israel Galván)
    Christopher Harrison in ‘MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps)’ (Scottish Ballet)
    Brandon Lawrence in ‘Wink’ (Birmingham Royal Ballet)
    Marcelino Sambé as Colas in ‘La Fille mal gardée’ (The Royal Ballet)
    James Streeter as Albrecht in ‘Akram Khan’s Giselle’ (English National Ballet)
    The winners will be announced at a lunchtime ceremony to be held in Central London on Monday, 19th February 2018.
    The event will also play host to the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement and the One Dance UK Industry Award, given in memory of Jane Attenborough, for both of which there are no prior nominations.

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  • 12/05/17--10:36: 2017 - Review of the Year
  • There was a point this year if I wondered if I was going to see anything truly amazing (in the north west, at any rate). Unexpectedly, the second half of the year didn't disappoint, with an especially-packed October-November.

    The world of dance in the UK seems to me to be in a transitional stage. The contemporary dance companies I once found so exciting are looking oddly-tired and under-nourished. The impact of years of under-funding a likely cause. Innovation is unexpectedly coming from the ballet companies waking from their slumbers. But there is still new (and usually European-looking work) coming through. Graduate dance companies have stopped visiting the city (more or less) and cirque appears to be tumbling further from dance towards circus: perhaps to resolve the marketing and programming uncertainties of being neither one thing nor the other. Time will tell.

    Ultimately, and oddly, a bumper year. 

    Best of 2017 

    (in no particular order)

    Pina Bausch / William Forsythe / Hans van Manen / English National Ballet - Sadler's Wells 

    So, I made the trip to Sadler's Wells to see the Pina Bausch version of The Rite of Spring, presented as part of a triple bill of twentieth century works. My love of The Rite of Spring is well-documented and the Pina Bausch choreography has been on my bucket list since I first became aware of it. ENB are only the second company (and the first British one) licensed to perform this version. And it truly didn't disappoint. 

    It is, quite simply a brilliantly-staged masterpiece: absolutely stunning and completely devastating. 

    The other two pieces in this triple bill - William Forsythe's In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Hans van Manen's Adagio Hammerklavier - also provided some glorious and educational dance moments and another opportunity to see the wonderful Tamara Rojo in her pointe shoes.

    10,000 Gestures - Boris Charmatz - Mayfield -  [part of: MIF17] 

    10,000 Gestures was (for me) everything that Lucinda Childs' Available Light - the other major MIF dance piece - wasn't. 

    Forward-looking, cutting-edge, fascinating, funny, ridiculously beautiful, extraordinarily-staged in the vast undercroft of the (mostly) disused Mayfield  Station. Twenty-five astonishing dancers committing fearlessly in an underworld battlefield of unexpected and thrilling movement.  A real event. 

    This Bright Field - Theo Clinkard - The Lowry [Quays Theatre]

    I have followed Theo Clinkard's career keenly since I first became aware of his work. With This Bright Field it felt like I was witness to a major talent hitting his stride. This Bright Field exceeded my hopes and expectations - and I was full of expectant hope. 

    A beautiful, distinctive and overwhelming work that playfully and excitingly explores theatrical space and the relationship between audience and performers. Full of wonderful sound and light and movement and colour. Expansive and yet deeply personal, as well as a big statement of bold creative intent from Theo Clinkard and his team. This Bright Field tore the theatre apart and reconstructed it as you watched, but remained deeply and touchingly human. I saw it twice. It was glorious.

    Andante - Igor and Moreno - The Lowry [Aldridge Studio] 

    There was an epic quality to Igor and Moreno's Andante, who somehow, thanks to support from The Lowry's 'Developed With' programme, managed to make the Aldridge Studio look and feel enormous to great effect. Playing with their characteristic deceptively-simply movement Andante was fascinating and oddly powerful to watch. Cool and alien and drenched in clouds of spicy aromatic smoke, Andante had a grace and simple elegance that was somehow deeply moving.

    8 Minutes - Alexander Whitley - The Lowry [Quays Theatre]

    Alexander Whitley's 8 Minutes was an unexpectedly thrilling and creative exploration of time and space with strong performances, well-sustained creative choreography and remarkably well-integrated digital imagery. It has the unusual feel of real quality from a company of this scale. 

    Some Greater Class - Holly Blakey - The Lowry [Compass Room]

    This was an astounding and thrilling piece of dance: sexy, brutal, transgressive, tender, intimate, gender queer and moving. Performed by seven beautiful human beings. If I could I would have gone both nights. Drawing from music videos and alternative club culture it blurred the usual lines of contemporary dance performance in exciting ways.

    Under Glass - Clod Ensemble - The Lowry [Quays Theatre]

    A promenade performance around a dusty museum of human curiosities, Under Glass was a beautifully-presented experiential examination of people living within their restrictions - self-imposed or otherwise - all under glass.

    Ghost Dances Plus Other Works - Rambert - The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] 

    This was the first time I have ever seen Rambert and liked the entire programme: a programme which fully addressed my usual issues with the company: the messy borderlands between narrative and contemporary dance

    Transfigured Night was lovely. Symbiosis was thrillingly dynamic and the orgy of man-on-man choreography queered the company in a way previously only dreamt of. Ghost Dances was heartbreakingly powerful - and political - without sentimentality: full of longing and ache with a haunting sense of eternity. 

    DẸP - Dam Van Huynh - Unity Theatre, Liverpool

    Combining my love of dance with my interest in nude performance, this was a stunning show: visceral, intense, beautiful. Really impressive, fearless performances. I couldn't say it was entirely original as it reminded me at times of Olivier Dubois's astonishing Tragédie, but it connected powerfully with me and acted as a strong reminder of my own journey through dance and performance.

    Swan Lake/Loch na hEala - Michael Keegan-Dolan / Teaċ Daṁsa —  - Sadler's Wells

    My second trip to Sadler's Wells in 2017 and only last in this list because it is the last dance show I will see this year. Having loved Michael Keegan-Dolan's The Rite of Spring I was keen to see what he did next - especially as he followed that show with a career hiatus that was by no means sure to end. Keegan-Dolan's Swan Lake, long in gestation, is an intelligent transformation of the tale that ditches all but the essence of the original. Set in mid-Ireland to an Irish score by Slow Moving Clouds, Swan Lake is a bleak exploration of abuse, addiction, post-Celtic Tiger rural economic slump, mental illness and the abuse of power. And yet it ends joyously, redemptively. Starkly-staged and told as much through drama as dance, this is a magnificent piece of modern narrative dance: disconcerting, powerful, moving and ultimately thrilling. And a remarkable cast. 

    Best of the rest...

    Akram Khan's Giselle - English National Ballet (Liverpool Empire): saw this twice in 2016 and again in 2017 with Tamara Rojo as Giselle and James Streeter as Albrecht. It has lost none of its amazing power. Still an outstanding piece of work - the music and staging are still astounding - and would have made the main list but for for 2016. 
    Danza Contemporanea de Cuba (The Lowry): stunning international class contemporary dance, not too Cuban. 
    Pinocchio - Jasmin Vardimon Company (The Lowry): occasionally hard to follow but very creative and entertaining. 
    Song of the Earth / La Syphide - English National Ballet (Palace Theatre): two very contrasting but equally outstanding pieces of ballet history.
    Charge - Motionhouse (HOME): complex and technical and yet human.


    Out of this World - Mark Murphy's VTOL (The Lowry): expensive-looking and highly technical but simply not entertaining - and almost no dance elements, just some clever aerial and digital work.
    Available Light - Lucinda Childs/John Adams/Frank Gehry: beautiful to look at but terribly dull and repetitive.

    In summary:

    Aerial: 1
    Ballet: 3
    Cirque: 1
    Compendium shows: 2
    Contemporary Dance: 22
    Flamenco: 1
    Physical Theatre: 2
    Street Dance: 1
    Total : 33

    Theo Clinkard: This Bright Field. Photo: Pari Nader

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  • 12/15/17--17:56: Rambert2
  • Rambert2

    Rambert2 brings together ten dancers with outstanding ability, creativity and individuality, to form a second Rambert ensemble.
    Rambert2 will perform work by top international choreographers Rafael BonachelaSharon EyalOhad Naharin and Benoit Swan Pouffer at venues around the UK in 2018/19, including at Sadler’s Wells in London.
    For the dancers, Rambert2 is an introduction to the top level of the dance profession, and a supported structure within which to develop their practice as creative, thinking dance artists. They will be based at Rambert’s home on London’s south bank, working alongside Rambert’s other dance artists.
    Rambert2 extends our reach, taking distinctive, world-class dance to more people in more places. In addition to theatre performances, Rambert2 will also create and deliver unique education and learning experiences for schools and other communities.
    Rambert2 is a partnership between Rambert and Rambert School. Rambert2 is supported by the Linbury Trust.

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  • 12/19/17--06:48: Manchester? No, sorry 2018
  • My annual list of companies that miss Manchester from their touring. Just for information.

    BalletBoyz - the 'Boyz brought their Life tour to The Lowry in 2017 but not their Fourteen Days tour - twice in one year would have been unlikely in any case. The Fourteen Days tour continues up to May 2018 but The Lowry - their 'regular' venue is not on the schedule.

    Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Les Trocks generally tour the UK every other year supported by Dance Consortium. They return in 2018 but, unusually, The Lowry is not on the schedule. This is likely due to scheduling availability, but leaves a major company hole in the city's dance offer.

    Phoenix Dance Theatre - Phoenix appear to be going through something of a transition. They seem to be shrinking in size and activity - or this has been the case for a couple of years. They are touring a mixed programme in 2018 but not visiting Manchester. Their visits have been sporadic in any case, often opting for the Liverpool Playhouse instead (who they are also not visiting).

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    Companies I would like to see in 2018:

    NB: this list is entirely speculative and wishful thinking - not based on announced dates or touring schedules (for the most part). Will update as the year progresses.

    • Hofesh Shechter Company (UK) (I already have tickets for Grand Finale at HOME)
    • L-E-V - (Israel) Sharon Eyal is choreographing a piece for Ballet BC, who are touring with Dance Consortium and visiting The Lowry - ticket already purchased.
    • Peeping Tom (Belgium)
    • Kidd Pivot (Canada) - Kidd Pivot's Crystal Pite is also creating a piece for Ballet BC. 
    • Theo Clinkard (UK)
    • Ballet National de Marseille (France)
    • Mark Bruce Company (UK)
    • James Wilton Company (UK)
    • Lucy Guerin Inc. (Australia)
    • Toronto Dance Theatre (Canada)
    • Ballet du Nord (France)
    • Riccardo Buscarini (UK/Italy)
    • Joss Carter (UK)
    • Gary Clarke Company (UK)
    • Teac Damsa (Eire)
    • Sasha Waltz & Guests (Germany) (seeing Korper at Sadler’s Wells in March)
    • Íslenski dansflokkurinn (Iceland)
    • Carte Blanche (Norway)

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    Nominations have been announced for the Manchester Theatre Awards to honour productions seen in Greater Manchester during 2017. The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on Friday 9 March, hosted by actor and comedian Justin Moorhouse.  

    The Lowry in Salford leads the way with 15 nominations across categories including dance, opera and drama, with HOME in Manchester city centre following with 13 nods. Oldham Coliseum, the Palace Theatre and Opera House, The Royal Exchange, Contact and Bolton Octagon are all also nominated, as is last summer’s Manchester International Festival. Fringe theatre is not forgotten with the critically-acclaimed Hope Mill Theatre winning six nominations for its programme and performers, and Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and newly established space 53Two also gaining nods.

    MTA Nominees 2017 (dance nominees only)

    Robert Robson Award for Dance

    Debut, Acosta Danza, The Lowry

    English National Ballet double bill, Palace Theatre

    Ghost Dances, Rambert Dance, The Lowry

    Leviathan, James Wilton Dance, Contact

    Special Entertainment

    The Toad Knew, The Lowry

    Under Glass, Clod Ensemble, The Lowry

    Manchester Theatre Awards

    My nominations would have been:

    10,000 Gestures - Boris Charmatz - Mayfield -  [part of: MIF17] 
    This Bright Field - Theo Clinkard - The Lowry [Quays Theatre]
    Andante - Igor and Moreno - The Lowry [Aldridge Studio] 
    8 Minutes - Alexander Whitley - The Lowry [Quays Theatre]
    Some Greater Class - Holly Blakey - The Lowry [Compass Room]
    Ghost Dances Plus Other Works - Rambert - The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] 

    (bearing in mind that I saw all the MTA nominees)

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