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North West dance news, reviews and personal views

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    Coming to The Lowry as part of their first ever UK tour - Danish Dance Theatre.

    With their promise of contemporary movement with classical technique they sound like just my kind of company.

    Danish Dance Theatre
    The Lowry
    8-9 February 2010

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    Carlos Acosta, the world’s favourite dancer, returns to The Lowry with Premières, his most personal work to date.

    Now enhanced from the sold out 2010 production, Premières Plus builds on Carlos’ astonishing dance vision and features collaborations with major UK and international dance stars.

    I've actually never seen Carlos Acosta for some reason but he's supposed to be very good...

    Sun 24 July - Mon 25 July

    Event Detail - Carlos Acosta

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  • 12/06/10--04:39: Favourite Dancers
  • A new series - especially now the major theatres have switched into Christmas panto mode and I have nothing else scheduled to go and see before the new year.

    Favourite dancers

    Now that I've been watching dance regularly since 2008, I will feature a fairly random and arbitrary selection of dancers who have moved or excited me; dancers who I have seen more than once and would consider myself as looking forward to seeing perform; dancers who I would describe myself as a fan of.

    Not serious, not definitive, just a bit of fun.

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    I have managed to miss at least two performances by Gary Clarke either on his own or in a small ensemble but I have managed to see him twice with balletLORENT in Designer Body and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

    A member of Lea Anderson's The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs, he has also worked with Adventures in Motion Pictures, Retina Dance Company, Javier De Frutos, Bock and Vincenzi, Phoenix Dance Company, Maresa Von Stocket and Tilted Co, Nigel Charnock and The Felix Ruckert Company.

    An openly gay man, Gary Clarke has a very distinctive physical presence and masculine demeanor that is very appealing and he has engaged with a wide variety of dance projects from classic contemporary dance to experimental and political expression.

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    I have received an email from the Library Theatre Company which contains a little more detail about their new home which, despite some people's misgivings (including my own), now seems to be confirmed.

    Our new home has been confirmed and we are delighted to announce our brilliant and exciting new opportunity - from 2014 a brand new building situated at the top of First Street, will be The Library Theatre Company’s permanent base.
    And it won’t just be a theatre. We are joining forces with Cornerhouse to work in partnership in what will be a new world-class arts facility. The building will boast a 450 - 500 seat-theatre, up to five cinemas, 600 sq m of contemporary gallery space, education rooms and informal and outdoor performance spaces as well as an impressive café and state-of-the-art back of house facilities

    I just hope the building is worthy of such a significant move for two iconic Manchester institutions and that sufficient urban regeneration and landscaping is in place to make this new location a worthwhile addition to the city centre - and not another half-baked regeneration wasteland that diminishes both venues.

    My other observation is that, having spent some time in Liverpool recently, Manchester is woefully short of contemporary art space (sorry Whitworth) so I would personally like to see a much increased contemporary gallery space.

    Or indeed a nice Manchester contemporary art museum/gallery.

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    Paul Zivkovich is an Australian dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and teacher. He originally trained as a gymnast and you can see the legacy of this background in his dance technique, which combines the strength and flexibility of contemporary dance with a thrilling gymnastic edge.

    Paul Zivkovich is currently a member of the Bonachela Dance Company, a company with strong Australian links as Rafael Bonachela is currently Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Company. Zivkovich has performed in two Bonachela productions to date, the second of which The Land of Yes and the Land of No, which toured in 2009-10, I was lucky enough to see at The Lowry. Although I completely loved this entire piece I was especially blown away by Paul Zivkovich, and remember thinking as I watched him dance that he was possibly the best (contemporary) dancer I had ever seen.

    BDC is also lucky enough to have founding member Amy Hollingsworth, who is widely regarded as one of the UK's finest contemporay dancers. Her performance was also quite incredible.

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    Dance, sound, sculpture and more come together in a boundary-crossing performance and series of commissions presented by Siobhan Davies Dance. Artists include Angela de la Cruz, Sam Collins and sculptor Clare Twomey.

    28 January - 6 February 2011

    Join Artistic Director and Choreographer Siobhan Davies as she discusses her most recent work ROTOR and her experience of collaborating with celebrated artists from across the visual and performing arts at The Lowry - Wednesday, 11 January 2011.

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    Hofesh Shechter Company has announced its 2011 performances of  Political Mother: The Choreographer's Cut.

    This revamped version of Shechter's highly acclaimed work has been reworked for over 30 performers including a live band of over 20 musicians, and can be seen at Sadler's Wells for five nights from 12 - 16 July.

    Shechter reworked his signature double bill Uprising / In Your Rooms into an unforgettable dance gig at the Roundhouse in 2009. For Sadler's Wells, Political Mother gets the same treatment; bringing the atmosphere of a rock concert and brimming with the edgy emotional complexity that characterises Shechter's work.

    Political Mother: The Choreographer's Cut is not to be missed....

    Book now here

    Hofesh Shechter Company on Facebook

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  • 12/14/10--04:45: BRB on BBC Christmas Day
  • Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cinderella

    Saturday, 25 Dec 2010 

    The world premiere of Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Prokofiev's Cinderella, created by the company's director and choreographer David Bintley and designer John Macfarlane.

    With stunning costumes and dazzling sets, Cinderella is a sumptuous and sparkling family entertainment for Christmas.

    Cinderella - Elisha Willis
    The Prince - Iain Mackay
    Skinny - Gayle Cummerfield
    Dumpy - Carol-Anne Millar
    Cinderella's Stepmother - Marion Tait
    Fairy Godmother - Victoria Marr
    Spring - Momoko Hirata
    Summer - Lei Zhao
    Autumn - Angela Paul
    Winter - Delia Mathews

    Left: Marion Tait as the Stepmother. Photo: Roy Smiljanic / BRB © Right: Carol-Anne Millar as Dumpy. Photo: Bill Cooper / BRB ©
    Personally, I will be waiting to see it at The Lowry in January.

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    A display of rarely seen photographs of key ballet dancers from the start of the 20th century goes on display at the National Portrait Gallery. The gallery holds the largest surviving archive of the once-fashionable Bassano Studio, London, including portraits of Anna Pavlova and the great classical dancers Adeline Genée, Phyllis Bedells and Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet.

    These images are shown alongside a newly acquired portfolio from 1913 by E O Hoppé and Bert of Diaghilev's star performers from the Ballets Russes. With nearly 40 portraits, the exhibition will focus on the gap between the Romantic ballet of the 19th century and the arrival of Diaghilev's avant-garde Russian company, whose appearance in London in 1911 caused a sensation. The display will bring into focus an overlooked but important period of British dance and theatre history.

    National Portrait Gallery - Ballet In Focus until 24 July 2011
    The Arts Desk: Ballet In Focus photo gallery

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    It is an as-yet unfulfilled ambition of mine to see a production of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.

    The Rite of Spring
    - and the story of the creation and performance of the original Ballet Russes production in particular - is one of the defining moments in my interest in dance being awakened as a teenager, despite the lack of inspiration or encouragement from family or school.

    I have always wanted to see the Joffrey Ballet's faithful recreation of the original 1912 choreography, staging and costumes. Now I've found another I would love to see - Pina Bausch's Wuppertal Dance Theater production - Frühlingsopfer. Created in 1975 but it still looks amazing on this clip.

    I must admit to being largely unaware of Pina Bausch's work until her death last year. My loss.

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  • 12/22/10--06:43: 2010 - the year in dance
  • Bahok - akram khan company - The Lowry - February ***
    It was pretty good ... but somehow I expected more. Review
    Scattered - Motionhouse - The Lowry - February *****
    I loved it so much I bought the CD. A technical tour de force - a thrilling, energetic, highly physical piece of dance theatre delivered with quiet strength, skill and flair by an appealling group of performers.
    Still Breathing - 2Faced Dance Company - Contact Theatre - February *****
    Dark, physical, sexy blend of street and contemporary proving without a doubt that men dancing can be completely masculine. Review

    2Faced Dance Company  - Still Breathing
    Swan Lake - Matthew Bourne's New Adventures - The Lowry - March *****
    It's a bona fide dance juggernaut with good reason. Beautiful, stylish and groundbreaking with a powerful emotional hit. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Review

    The Dreadful Hours - Tmesis Theatre - Royal Exchange Studio - March *****
    Imaginative, funny and dark piece of physical theatre mixed with drama from two talented and appealling performers. Another winner from Tmesis Theatre's Elinor Randle and Yorgos Karamalegos.
    Ballet Boyz present... The Talent - The Lowry - March ****
    Two pieces out of three worked for me, making The Talent a promising new start for the original Balletboyz as they seemingly wind up their own performing careers. Review
    The Life and Times of Girl A / NQR (Not Quite Right) - Scottish Dance Theatre - The Lowry - March ****
    Possibly not entirely to my personal taste however these two pieces by SDT managed to be full of interesting sound and movement. The Life and Times of Girl A was especially powerful with its fractured narrative and interesting use of multimedia making a real emotional connection. NQR was more challenging, confronting different perceptions of difference from the social to the highly physical with some really creative choreographed movement and the intergration of disabled - genuinely differently-abled - dancers (and a cellist). SDT negotiated that fine line between physical theatre and contemporary dance with skill.

    Los Vivancos - 7 Hermanos - The Lowry - March */***
    Seven mostly talented dancers trapped in a frankly dreadful production - but maybe that's flamenco... Oddly entertaining for the most part whilst still sitting there wanting to change everything about the show from the largely awful music, the hideous lighting, the awful costumes, to the excessive posturing, the uncomfortable comedic interludes... shall I go on? They were at their best when doing ballet, street and other styles and when their rather wonderful singer took centre stage and they went off... Could have been fantastic. Wasn't. Oddly unsexy too, despite seven toned, mostly handsome, shirtless Spanish men dancing. Still got a standing ovation mind.
    The Sleeping Beauty - Birmingham Royal Ballet - The Lowry - March *****
    Traditional full-length narrative ballet doesn't come much better than this. BRB's The Sleeping Beauty was splendidly lavish, extravagant, sumptuous and as magical as you could wish. Featuring a massive cast, this ballet sparkled with some beautiful performances and, even draped with so much gold brocade, this stunning production still managed to be fresh and lively. Completely lovely.
    KINESTECH - Dancing across Media - The Dancehouse - April **
    Supposedly technically ambitious, Bridget Fiske's Red Rain  - the interactive video element was decidedly unimpressive - and Melanie Clarke's Both of View were largely uninteresting.
    Dance 3 [a triple bill] - feat. Freddie Opoku-Addaie + Ben Wright/BGROUP + Tanja Råman & DBINI Industries - greenroom - April *****
    Three different and effective dance pieces - Dance 3 is a welcome touring concept. I only wish the other two  programmes had come to Manchester. Hope we see its return next year. Review
    Cinderella - English National Ballet - Palace Theatre - April ****
    Would have been five stars had it not been for an unfortunate technical howler at the start of Act III and a rather lacklustre Prince. Otherwise a thoroughly entertaining production. Elena Glurdjidze was a charming, elegant and vulnerable Cinderella; Adela Ramirez and Sarah McIlroy were superbly expressive stepsisters and Kerry Birkett made an enchanting Fairy Godmother. And the orchestra sounded superb from where I was sitting.
    Extra-Ordinary - David Toole & Lucy Hind - The Lowry - April ***
    More comedy than dance - and my first review for the The Public Reviews. Read my review at The Public Reviews 
    A Chorus Line - The Lowry - May ****
    A very effective production of one of the great masterpieces of musical theatre. The sound started a little tinny but this is a show without a bad song and a consistently strong ensemble carried it through to a warm and emotional end.
    Rojo Tango - Faena Hotel & Universe, Buenos Aires - May *****
    Beautiful and glamorous tango cabaret telling the story of tango through the years in a heady blur of equisite costumes, five talented tango couples, two singers, a superb live tango orchestra, with dinner and champagne included - in a stunning Philippe Starck-designed five-star hotel in Buenos Aires' newly developing Puerta Madera docklands area. Tango heaven in a heavenly city.
    Entity - Wayne McGregor | Random Dance - Liverpool Playhouse - May ***** 
     An unforgettable performance that completely satisfied everything that I love about watching dance. Compelling, innovative, connective, emotional, genius. Review
    Jaleo Flamenco - The Lowry - June ****
    Flamenco can be formulaic but this company make such good use of the key elements – storytelling, drama and improvisation – and do it with such skill, passion, charisma and conviction that they draw you in to their world, make you understand it and tell you tales that hold your interest and feed your soul. Read my review at The Public Reviews
    Romeo and Juliet - Birmingham Royal Ballet - The Lowry - June *****
    This production of Romeo and Juliet is as good a narrative ballet as you are likely to see. The production is lavish, the company excellent and the familiar story still retains drama and tension and the power to move. Read my review at The Public Reviews
    Love and War - Mark Bruce Company - Royal Exchange Studio -  July ****
    Glad I didn't have to write a proper review of this show as I'm not sure how much I actually understood of it. Very different and varied show using classically-based moves distorted into something quite different, set to a mixed bag of American alternative rock, alt-country and modern classical. Parts of this show were fantastically thrilling - notably the Nirvana-set cheerleader/dogs of war section and the spider sequence. A talented and varied cast in character made for a distinctive 70 minutes.
    Meter - Ad Hoc Dance - The Lowry Studio - July **
    Urban Moves Festival 2010 - 23-25 July - Methods of Dance 2010 the review
    Hugely varied selection of different international dance companies (and Manchester's own Company Chameleon) performing in several open spaces within the city centre in indifferent weather. Saw some splendid work.

    Declarations  - Phoenix Dance Theatre  - Liverpool Playhouse - September *****

    I was reminded in all good ways of my long-lamented New English Contemporary Dance Company. Phoenix presented a completely contemporary set of four works rooted in fantastic classical technique to a mix of classical and contemporary music - much as NECB did - and it was completely the kind of dance I love. Read my review here

    Phoenix Dance Theatre: Azzura Ardovini, Phil Sanger and Josh Wille in Locked in Vertical
    Awakenings + Hush + RainForest - Rambert Dance Company - The Lowry - September ***
    Once again I was hugely disappointed by the Rambert, although it was great to see some Merce Cunningham presented with its original staging. Even Aletta Collins marvellous choreograhic skills couldn't rescue Awakenings from the Rambert 'problem' - either do narrative ballet in a contemporary style or do contemporary dance. The Rambert do neither, and it's very frustrating! Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    This Is Now - New Art Club - Royal Exchange Studio - September ****
    I'm not fan of stand-up so the prospect of comedy dance was an intriguing one. New Art Club have a good reputation and from this showing it's well deserved. Very funny and hugely likeable, this was an hour well-spent. Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    Blaze - The Lowry - October ****
    It's good street dance with state of the art visuals and production values, but it's still street dance. Read my review at The Public Reviews here
    Political Mother  - Hofesh Shechter Company - Sheffield Lyceum - October *****
    Five stars is not enough. Read my review (reaction more like) here. My highlight of the year.

    Hofesh Shechter Company - Political Mother
    Tango Pasión - Último Tango - Bridgewater Hall - October ****
    The Bridgewater Hall is about as far from the kind of venue that would suit this show best - Buenos Aires it is not - but the quality of this show and the performances are strong enough that this was a good night's entertainment with some stunning tango moves.
    Edits - The Featherstonehaughs - greenroom - October **
    Overlong, sometimes appealing but generally repetitive and eventually grindingly dull performance by the all-male Featherstonehaughs in a selection of frocks and wigs, completely killed by a soundtrack largely free of any music. Technically quite impressive but so lacking in any kind of narrative or coherent structure that it is an endless loop of sameness that stretches quite an interesting idea beyond breaking point. Would have been an enjoyable twenty minute piece.
    Pleasure's Progress - ROH2 - The Lowry - October *****
    Stunning show created by the Royal Ballet's Will Tuckett, based on the drawings of William Hogarth depicting London life in the 1730s, and drawing from musical theatre, drama, opera and ballet. The cast and musicians were superb, the staging lavish and highly effective. The Lowry Studio has never looked better. Funny, atmospheric and moving, I loved it.
    BOH - Sanpapié - The Lowry - November ***
    Performed with great style, wit, conviction and versatility, BOH manages to be varied, interesting, funny, touching and thought provoking. The only thing this show seriously lacked was an audience. The Lowry Studio was tragically empty. Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    Blood, Sweat & Tears - ballet LORENT - The Lowry - November **
    I found Blood, Sweat & Tears hard to enjoy. Sometimes very literal, at other times almost baffling, the production seems sentimental and over-reliant on props to express things that dance should be able to without piles of dolls and bed clothes and pillows and furniture ... Although I admire the company’s dancers – the choreography is often light and fluid and especially full of beautiful lifts, and I enjoyed the interplay of mixed and same sex groups and duets – they did not seem especially physically stretched in this production.  Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    The Nutcracker - Northern Ballet - Palace Theatre - November *****
    All in all, this production of The Nutcracker is a Christmas treat. The wafer-thin story doesn’t matter as the show is bright with the spirit of Christmas; the music is fabulous; and the soloists and ensemble cast of the Northern Ballet are full of skill and charm and personality. It may be a Christmas cliché but the Northern Ballet’s Nutcracker is a real Christmas treat full of warmth and wit and genuine sentiment. Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    Cinderella - Matthew Bourne's New Adventures - The Lowry - November *****
    Absolutely stunning show with state of the art production values and a fantastic World War 2 London Blitz setting, however the story somehow strays too far away from Cinderella. Cinderella is slightly geeky and ovewhelmed by her large stepfamily; the prince is a crashed RAF pilot in limbo between this world and the next. The ball is a night at the Cafe de Paris (on the night it was bombed) and may all have been a dream anyway. The most effective moments for me (apart from the general spectacle, special effects and superb sound) were the low-key gay subplot featuring a romance between Cinderella's stepbrother and an US airman. The dancing was more plentiful and balletic than some of Bourne's shows but for all their appeal and acting skill New Adventure's dancers never seem to be technically quite first class. I loved this Cinderella as a show but I didn't love it - it was fantastic entertainment but the central romance failed to move. She even made up with the ugly sisters.
    A Super Modern Dance And Other Romances - Pavlos Kountouriotis - greenroom November */***
    Quite one of the oddest shows I have ever seen. It was either genius or shambolic rubbish but Pav Kountouriotis is a man so overabundant with charm and likeability that the greenroom audience (including myself) bought it. I even sang along and waved my (supplied) glowstick at the appropriate moment. The singing was variable, the climbing rig completely failed (he used a ladder instead), the nudity was gratuitous but fun, there was little actual dancing and I didn't really get the idea, but I was entertained. (Since writing this review I have considered my knowledge and expectations as an audience member and thsi I may have misread much of this show. My problem.)

    2010 Highlights: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, 2Faced Dance Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Hofesh Shechter Company, ROH2's Pleasure's Progress, North Ballet's The Nutcracker, Tango (generally), becoming a reviewer for The Public Reviews

    2010 Disappointments: Rambert Dance Company (again), balletLORENT, The Featherstonehaughs, missing the English National Ballet's production of Romeo & Juliet

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  • 12/23/10--03:49: 2011 - looking ahead
  • Twenty dance-related (and other arts-based) wishes for 2011...

    1. That I see as much ballet, dance & physical theatre as I did in 2009 and '10.
    2. That no dance company goes under because of the destructive slashing of arts budgets by national or local government.
    3. That at least one of the people I have taken to see dance goes to see some more - either with me or because they liked it enough to want to see more and have bought tickets.
    4. That the following companies (and many more) visit Manchester / Salford: DV8 Physical Theatre, Jasmin Vardimon Company, Henri Oguike Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela Company, Chunky Move (Australia), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (US), Stephen Petronio Company (US), Toronto Dance Theatre (Cananda) - basically that a combination of arts cuts, financial downturn, absurd visa restrictions on artists and performers don't result in an end to national and international touring.
    5. That Contact Theatre starts booking more dance and is less focused on its own narrow arts agenda.
    6. That greenroom books more dance.
    7. That the Royal Exchange Studio continues to book small-scale touring dance - in fact, more of it.
    8. That some fantastic redevelopment plan is announced for The Dancehouse - one that brings the theatre into more use, improves the public spaces and facilitites, improves the standing of the attached dance school and Manchester City Ballet and increases the amount of dance actually programmed to appear in the theatre (i.e. some). This is pure fantasy.
    9. That the BBC site on Oxford Road is earmarked for a landmark urban regeneration project and not a mixed use hotel/offices/apartments/retail units yawnfest.
    10. That the Liverpool Playhouse continues to programme really great dance and that their investment plans don't fall through.
    11. That the Manchester Internatonal Festival thrives in 2011 and isn't scaled down by arts funding cuts.
    12. That Urban Moves returns in 2012 and is promoted more effectively - perhaps tying the free public performances in with some theatrical events...?
    13. That some theatrical  use is found for the Theatre Royal (Peter Street) if it's not going to be the new home of the Library Theatre.
    14. That Queer Up North returns - but with a less narrow artistic agenda.
    15. That there is some positive movement on the former Odeon on Oxford Street (although imagining that it will be restored to its former Paramount glory or returned to any kind of theatrical use is pure, pointless fantasy).
    16. That Birmingham Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet and Northern Ballet bring some more fabulous fully-staged narrative ballet (not just Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet - much as we love them). Actually, I'm about ready for another Swan Lake.
    17. That I see some amazing contemporary company that I've never seen before who really excite me.
    18. That I go and see something in London that I never get the chance to see in Manchester.
    19. That I will finish writing my ballet synopsis and send it to someone.
    20. That my reviews for The Public Reviews get better and get read.

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    I recently saw a performance influenced in part by Yvonne Rainer - and if I'd been aware of her work and her artistic ethos - her 'no manifesto' - I would have got a lot more from it.

    Sometimes it pays to just sit and watch and enjoy - and sometimes it pays to know stuff...

    Step-by-step guide to dance: Yvonne Rainer - The Guardian

    Yvonne Rainer performing her 'signature work' Trio A

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    I'm currently reading A Queer History of the Ballet (Is there any other, as one friend wryly observed) by Peter Stoneley, which I got (on request) as a Christmas gift.

    I feel like I'm learning a lot but at the same time it is making me feel as if I knew very little before. My interest in dance is lifeling but my serious interest in watching and knowing dance is a relatively recent addition and now central strand to my life.

    I'm hoping that improving my knowledge about the history of dance and learning how to understand its layers and meaning and codifications will give me a better appreciation when I see dance, give me some historical and cultural background to better understand what I see, and hopefully inform my reviews.

    Alternatively, maybe I should just sit and watch and drink it in. I hope I never lose the ability and the desire to do that and that alone.

    I'm choosing to develop my 'academic' knowledge of dance by following the two (admittedly very interlinked) threads that interest me most - homosexuality within the world of dance and the role of the male dancer.

    The next book I have lined up is The Male Dancer: bodies, spectacle, sexualities by Ramsay Burt.

    Then it may be time to tackle Richard Buckle's excellent and detailed biography of Diaghilev again.

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    Costume designer Sandy Powell, who picked up Oscars for Shakespeare In Love, The Aviator and The Young Victoria, is appointed an OBE. Sandy Powell regularly designs costumes for The Cholmondleys and The Featherstonehaughs.

    Sandy Powell with Cholmondleys and Featherstonehaughs founder and choreographer Lea Anderson.

    Wayne McGregor, internationally renowned award-winning Resident Choreographer of the Royal Ballet and founder and choreographer of his own company Wayne McGregor | Random Dance is made a CBE  for his services to dance.

    Tim Rushton - British choreographer and Artistic Director of Copenhagen-based Danish Dance Theatre, Denmark's largest contemporary dance company,  who are shortly to make their first visit to the UK - was awarded the MBE for his services to dance.

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    Gay For Today: Maurice Béjart: "Maurice Béjart born 1 January 1927 (d. 2007) Maurice Béjart was one of the most influential choreographers of the twentieth and early twent..."

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    Alastair Posthlethwaite is probably best known for being one of the finalists in the BBC's inaugural season of dance talent show So You Think You Can Dance? in early 2010, but when I saw him on that show it was as someone I recognised, not as someone I was discovering through the show.

    I first saw Alastair in 2008 with the New English Contemporary Ballet. One of three male dancers with this small company that had a growing repertoire of new work by a range of choreographers, mixing contemporary style with classical technique to a mixture of classical and electronic music pieces. Seeing them quite early on when I started going to see dance on a regular basis the company were a revelation to me, as they were one of the first who fully embodied the style of dance that I have come to consider as my favourite. I was especially struck with Alastair, although all the company's dancers were excellent. Alastair was tall, blond, handsome and solidly built. He was expressive and masculine and represented to me an ideal of a what a male dancer should be. I have seen many male dancers since but Alastair still holds a special place for me.

    By the time I saw NECB again in 2009 he had left. Before they toured again the company lost its ACE funding and swiftly folded. Something I fear we will see more of in 2011-12.

    I saw him next in the company of Rufus Norris's production of Cabaret. He was with the show for eighteen months and I eventually saw the production twice during its long tour of the UK.

    And then Alastair turned up on SYTYCD. Obviously, like several of the contestants he was not 'new' to dance but was a professional dancer clearly seeking to diversify and improve his profile. Alastair was the best male contemporary dancer on the show but this was not enough to get him through to the final. After the show he ended up back in the UK and international tour of Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake (now ended), which, ironically, is where he started his career.

    Alastair, who turns 30 this year, will next be seen at Sadlers Wells in March 2011 in the new full-length narrative ballet by the Pet Shop Boys and Matthew Dunster, choreographed by Javier de Frutos, based on Hans Christian Andersen's story The Most Incredible Thing.

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