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North West dance news, reviews and personal views

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    A very nice review of the Ballet Boyz II: The Talent tour in The Telegraph. The boys are performing two of tha same pieces as on the first Talent tour in 2010 - along with a new piece to replace the one I was least keen on - but there have been a couple of line-up changes and I would still like the opportunity to see them again. I enjoyed Torsion and Alpha very much and new piece Void also sounds interesting.

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    This 30-second scrap of film showing Diaghilev's famed Ballets Russes in action represents one of dance's great discoveries.

    Read the full article here - The Guardian

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    I saw this show at greenroom late last year and managed to simultaneously enjoy it while not really understanding what was going on. Since then I have learnt some more about an area of dance that I was completely unaware of and about some of the people who have worked creatively to shake-up up contemporary dance performance -  Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton (a significant figure if one has an interest in male dancing, as I do), David Gordon, Trisha Brown - I suppose much in the way that someone like Samuel Beckett shook up the cosy world of drama with his desconstructivist approach to story, setting and dialogue.

    My own taste and experience has always tended towards the 'mainstream' although I go and see performances that range from classical ballet to experimental physical theatre. Pavlos has challenged me to open my eyes a bit further (and do a bit more research before making snap judgements).

    Anyway, Pavlos is back at work after a break and has posted a gallery of photos from that world premiere performance here.  

    A Super Modern Dance and Other Romances can be seen again at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre on 18 February 2011 at 8pm.

    Pavlos Kountouriotis 

    Photos by Tamsin Drury by kind permission of Pavlos Kountouriotis

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    The full list of nominations for this year's Olivier Awards can be found here

    The nominations in the dance categories are below:

    •  Mambo 3XX1 by Danza Contemporanea de Cuba at Sadler’s Wells, choreographed by George Cespedes
    • Babel (Words) by Eastman vzw and Theatre Royal de la Monnaie at Sadler’s Wells, choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet
    • Cinderella by New Adventures at Sadler’s Wells, choreographed by Matthew Bourne 

    • John MacFarlane for his designs for Asphodel Meadows by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House
    • Antony Gormley for his set design of Babel (Words) by Eastman vzw and Theatre Royal de la Monnaie at Sadler’s Wells
    • Yoshi Sunahata for her drumming in Gnosis by Akram Khan at Sadler’s Wells 
    There are also nominations for the legendary Bill T Jones for his choregraphy  for Fela! (Best Theatre Choregrapher) and regular Matthew Bourne designer Lez Brotherston has been nominated for the XL Video Award for Best Set Design for Design For Living at the Old Vic.

    I find it interesting that the nominations for Outstanding Achievement in Dance are for two designers and a drummer but not any dancer or choreographer...?

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    The Stage / News / Matthew Bourne launches choreographer award

    Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures is launching a choreography award for gifted performers to mark the artistic director’s 50th birthday.

    The money, which will be worth more than £15,000, will be granted to a recipient to work on their choreographic skills over a period of 12 months. The New Adventures Choreographer Award has been created by colleagues and friends of Bourne to mark his recent landmark last year.

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    Statement from greenroom

    Following the recent disappointing news that greenroom is not part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio for 2012/13 onwards, the Board has made a decision that greenroom, Manchester, will close to the public at the end of May this year.

    We would like to have continued but are unable to do this without confirmed funding or alternative income going forward.

    greenroom, since its inception, has been at the forefront of discovering and pioneering Manchester, national and international ‘firsts’. We have been consistently committed to developing and presenting new and experimental performance, and more recently supporting and enabling artists at the start of their careers to be innovative, take risks and experiment with new ideas.

    Our aim is to ensure that this important work continues through other organisations and individual artists/ artist companies, producers and promoters.

    We are working with the Arts Council to provide information for people interested in the future production of this work and this will be available shortly on request by emailing

    It is with regret that we find ourselves in this situation almost 25 years since the venue opened , and would like to extend our thanks to all of you who have recently sent us words of support. To view or add to these comments, please visit

    We would like to thank our long-standing funders: Arts Council England, AGMA and Manchester City Council, who have shown a significant commitment in supporting greenroom.

    The current Board and staff feel proud and privileged to have been part of greenroom; and we’d like to thank everyone – including artists, audiences and partners – who have contributed to its rich history, and particularly to those who have at some point called greenroom ‘home’.

    Further enquiries:
    0161 615 0500

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    Gay For Today: Merce Cunningham: "Merce Cunningham born 16 April in 1919 (d. 2009) Merce Cunningham was a ground-breaking 20th century American dancer and choreographer. Me..."

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    The Royal Ballet is at crossroads – its current artistic director, Monica Mason, is about to retire and the search is on for a successor who will guard the company's rich classical heritage and also, crucially, shake things up. Here, the Observer's dance critic looks at the contenders for the top job in British ballet.

    Interesting times in the world of ballet. Classical ballet is far from dead in the water, as many would have us think, and contemporary dance has never been more vibrant, exciting and varied.

    There has been much talk in Manchester about the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet's future role in Manchester, involving developing the Palace Theatre as a northern hub for the Royal Opera and The Lowry doing the same for dance, Apart from an exhibition at The Lowry and two shows - one a ballet gala (supposedly excellent but I missed it - and it was in the smaller Quays Theatre) and the other Will Tuckett's excellent Hogarth-based studio production Pleasure's Progress) this area of the Royal's work seems to have gone remarkable silent.

    According to the Royal Opera House website -

    The Royal Opera House regularly takes its work On the Road, encouraging people to engage with and participate in opera and dance. Our ambition is to connect with new and existing audiences across the UK.

    The On the Road programme is currently focusing work primarily in the North West and the East regions of the UK, building relationships with organisations based in those areas and developing new initiatives in partnership. On the Road currently works with key partners, The Lowry in Salford and DanceEast in Ipswich as well as a range of other local organisations. Activity largely takes place through spring and summer residencies, with some projects taking place throughout the year.


    Check this page for updates for future On the Road details.

    Needless to say there is no sign of any such activity, which seems odd for activities 'largely [taking] place through spring and summer...'

    Is this just the increasingly empty landscape in post-arts cuts Britain or was it all just empty promises?

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  • 04/25/11--11:19: Is that it?
  • I'm keeping my eyes open but there doesn't seem to be much more on over the summer. Is it always this quiet?

    I have tickets for Scottish Dance Theatre, Joseph Lau and National Dance Company Wales and will hopefully be going to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Company Chameleon, Verve 2011 and EDge 2011.

    I will also be reviewing Carlos Acosta at The Lowry - my first time of seeing 'the world's favourite dancer'.

    It sounds like a lot but it doesn't feel like a lot.

    Watch this space.

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  • 04/25/11--13:19: Ted Shawn
  • Ted Shawn is one of unique pioneers of men's dance and founder of Jacob's Pillow, a dance school, theatre and retreat in Massachusetts, and home to one of the dance world's leading festivals.

    Ted Shawn

    Originally intending to become a minister of religion, Ted Shawn attended the University of Denver. There he caught diphtheria, which led him to take up dance in 1910 to regain his muscle strength. Shawn's dancing was discouraged by the University, which still had a Methodist affiliation, and was the cause of his expulsion the following year.

    Shawn did not realise his true potential as an artist until marrying Ruth St Denis in 1914. St Denis served not only as partner but an extremely valuable creative outlet to Shawn. Soon after their marriage the couple opened the first Denishawn School in Los Angeles, California, where they were able to choreograph and stage many of their famous vaudeville pieces. The following year Shawn launched a cross-country tour with his dance partner, Norma Gould, and their Interpretive Dancers. Notable performances choreographed by him during Denishawn’s 17-year run include Julnar of the Sea, Xochitl and Les Mysteres Dionysiaques. The school and company went on to produce such influential dancers as Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

    Together, Shawn and Ruth St Denis established the principle of Music Visualisation in modern dance - a concept that called for movement equivalents to the timbres, dynamics, and structural shapes of music in addition to its rhythmic base. In 1916 and 1917 Shawn choreographed the first of these, Inventions and Fugues to Bach, as classroom exercises. Soon after, St Denis presented works using music visualisation techniques to the public.

    Although Denishawn came to an end in 1929 due to tough circumstances both in Shawn’s and St. Denis’ marriage as well as the economy, Shawn’s second dance group Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers were soon to follow in his dancing career. The new all male company was based out of Massachusetts near his then home of Lee. In creating this company Shawn was hoping to make America become more aware, and accept the importance and dedication of the male dancer along with his role in the arts. It was with this new company that Shawn produced some of his most controversial and highly skilled choreography to date. With works such as Ponca Indian Dance, Sinhalse Devil Dance, Maori War Haka, Hopi Indian Eagle Dance, and Dyak Spear Dances he was able to showcase performances that all stressed male body movement. His love for the relationships created by the men in his dances soon translated into love between himself and one of his company members Barton Mumaw which lasted from 1931-1948. He also had another partner following Mumaw, John Christian whom he was with from 1949 until his death in 1972.

    The ironic thing about Shawn's work is that despite his pioneering work in developing and promoting the notion of male dancing and the fact that he created an all-male company, the one thing he could not risk was the taint of homosexuality, hence the hyper-masculine and often martial aspect of his choreography. He could celebrate the joy of men dancing together and tour it successfully around the States as long as there was no suggestion of sensuality between men or give people the idea that things were anything less than fraternal and comradely between his dancers.

    Looking at some of the images through the lens of history it's a miracle they were able to pull that one off.

    Ted Shawn

    Ted Shawn's letters to Barton Mumaw (1940-71) are archived in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division in New York Public Library.

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    Gay For Today: Lincoln Kirstein: "Lincoln Kirstein born 4 May 1907 (d. 1996) Lincoln Edward Kirstein was an American writer, impresario, art connoisseur, and cultural figu..."

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  • 05/22/11--03:34: The Rite of Spring?
  • As previously discussed, The Rite of Spring - the original 1913 Ballet Russes-Nijinsky production - is the key balletic event that fired my interest in dance when I was a teenager - reading about it: needless to say I was not a teenager in 1913.

    Ever since, I have longed to see a production of this ballet, ideally Millicent Hodson's painstakingly researched recreation of that original production. More recently I have become interested in versions by Maurice Bejart and Pina Bausch.

    So I don't know what to make of this event at DIGITFEST 2011 (10-12 June) at The Lowry.

    The Rite of Spring

    By Igor Stravinsky

    Staging by Roger Bernat based on choreography by Pina Bausch.

    Members of the audience are given three-channel headphones and welcomed into the performance space to the sound of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, one of the leading ballets from the last century, of which Pina Bausch made a historic version in 1975. Several voices can be heard – different ones on each channel - voices in parallel that diverge and overlap. Spectators play the leading role in this immersive show that is both a game and choreography.

    I don't really understand whether there is any dancing - and if there is, who's doing it...

    DIGITFEST 2011

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    Why do I have the dreadful feeling that there will be very little dance on in Manchester for the foreseeable future?

    So far the autumn consists of the dreaded Rambert, about the least interesting possible show in the English National Ballet's repertoire (Strictly Gershwin), and the northern ballet's The Nutcracker (again), which is marvellous but they have a repertoire packed with new and interesting  story ballets - we have bafflingly been denied a visit of their new Cleopatra.

    There are companies touring nationally - but nothing is coming to Manchester.

    The greenroom is gone from the end of the month - resulting in the cancellation of the EDge 2011 visit in June. The ironically-named Dancehouse has yet to stage any credible dance this year. The Royal Exchange is not delivering any dance in their Studio space. I'm still optimistic about Contact Theatre's more varied programming. That leaves the big three theatres, only one of which has any credibility as a centre for dance performance - The Lowry.

    Watch this space.

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    National Dance Company Wales - The Lowry , Salford

    Not my review above as I opted to just go and see this for pure pleasure without the obligation to review it...

    National Dance Company Wales were magnificent. Itzik Galili's Romance Inverse was dramatic and ultimately exhilerating, and Stephen Petronio's By Singing Light was one the most beautiful pieces of dance I have ever seen. One of those pieces that makes you want to cry it is so emotionally connective. Son Lux's original soundtrack that blended the words of Dylan Thomas with traditional Welsh folk tunes and electronics and choral voice was gorgeous, and - typically for a Petronio work - the dancers were exquisitely costumed.

    NDCW's (mostly international) dancers are world-class and this was world-class work. Go Wales.


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    What's it like to dance naked on stage? 
    And how does it feel if the audience walk out?
    Seasoned nude performers talk to the Guardian's Judith Mackrell

    The naked truth about nude dancing – in pictures [the Guardian]

    As a nude French troupe challenges the attitudes of London audiences to the body, we look at uses of nakedness in contemporary dance – to unsettle, to probe and to enlighten.

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