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North West dance news, reviews and personal views

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    Dates for the new DV8 production have now been announced.

    Photo: Stephen Berkeley-White
    Can We Talk About This? will premiere in August 2011 at Sydney Opera House, followed by an international tour (see dates below). Lloyd Newson’s latest work deals with freedom of speech, censorship and Islam.

    From the book burnings of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, to the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and the controversy surrounding the ‘Muhammad cartoons’, DV8’s production will examine how these events have reflected and influenced multicultural policies, press freedom and artistic censorship.

    TOUR DATES 2011

    25-28 Aug 2011
    SpringDance Festival
    Sydney Opera House, Australia
    Book tickets now >

    2-4 Sep 2011
    Sha Tin Town Hall
    Hong Kong

    28 Sep–6 Oct 2011
    Festival d’Automne
    Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, France

    12-15 Oct 2011
    Romaeuropa Festival
    Teatro Argentina, Rome, Italy

    21-22 Oct 2011
    Tanzquartier Wien
    Halle E, Vienna, Austria

    27-29 Oct 2011
    Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin, Germany

    3-5 Nov 2011
    West Yorkshire Playhouse
    Leeds, UK

    10-12 Nov 2011
    Warwick Arts Centre
    Coventry, UK

    1-2 Dec 2011
    Cologne, Germany

    8-11 Dec 2011
    Onassis Cultural Center
    Athens, Greece

    The 2012 tour, which includes London and other international/UK venues, will be announced in Autumn 2011

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    In May I wrote about my fear that there would be little dance on in Manchester in the near future. I expected the usual summer dearth of performances, made worse by the biannual absence of Urban Moves.

    My worst fears have been realised with the announcement of the new September-December Lowry season.

    The return of the Rambert had already been long-announced, also the new show by the Lowry's resident Company Chameleon. I also knew about January's return of the Birmingham Royal Ballet with Beauty and the Beast. Dance Consortium had also recently announced an interesting-looking show called Happy as Larry by Australia's Shaun Parker & Company.

    What I didn't expect was that there would only be one other dance company announced for the autumn season - the return of Candoco with their twentieth anniversary show, Turning Twenty.

    I expected the new harder economic climate to result in less but that is pretty shocking. After The Lowry's spring dance season Dance Moves, which I greatly enjoyed while still criticising as lacking coherence and seeming much like 'business as usual' - I wasn't convinced their dance season contained any more dance than when they didn't have a dance season. Maybe I should have kept quiet. But then again...

    I wonder what the new Contact season will have in store. I have it on very good authority that they have a new commitment to dance programming after something of a falling away in recent years.

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    I went to see Carlos Acosta's new show Premieres Plus at the Lowry last night. I've never seen him before but obviously am well aware of his reputation as one of the leading male dancers of his generation.

    Well, the packed Lowry audience seemed to lap it up. 'Are you enjoying it? It's very powerful,' said the man next to me returning to his seat after the interval. Well, no, I wasn't. I thought it was samey, lazy and that his fellow dancer Zenaida Yanowsky completely outclassed him in a programme of nine pieces involving ten choreographers that with the exception of Russell Maliphant's Two looked almost the same. I thought Acosta himself was emotionally blank and musclebound. There were very occasional flashes of brilliance with his upper body and arms (mostly thanks to Maliphant) but there was little use of the stage and none of the speed or aerial grace or charisma on which he has built his reputation. In fact the show was about 40% good lighting.


    And what makes it worse is that I was there with my reviewers hat on. This is what I came up with.

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    Inventive and groundbreaking choreographer Javier De Frutos returns to Rambert to create a world première for Sadler’s Wells. Inspired by the life and work of Tennessee Williams and set to music from A Streetcar Named Desire.

    Elysian Fields will be premiered  at Sadler's Wells 15 Nov 2011 - 19 Nov 2011.

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    The all-female dance troupe The Cholmondeleys and its male counterpart The Featherstonehaughs are to disband after losing their funding.

    The two companies, pronounced Chumleys and Fanshaws, will come to an end in December following a 100% funding cut from Arts Council England (ACE).

    Choreographer Lea Anderson formed The Cholmondeleys in 1984, with the all-male group created four years later.

    The Featherstonehaughs will perform a final "celebratory" tour this autumn.

    The two groups have spent much of the last 10 years performing works together, most recently with the piece Dancing on Your Grave in 2009.

    However The Featherstonehaughs embarked on its first solo tour in a decade last year, with a piece called Edits.

    It will tour this again in October and November, following which both companies will be wound up. The Cholmondeleys will not have a farewell tour.

    Jo Stendall, the companies' general manager, told The Stage that the Arts Council had funded them since the mid-1990s.

    But after being jointly awarded more than £300,000 this year, it has not been made part of ACE's national portfolio from 2012.

    "We all felt it would be a really appropriate moment to stop, look back on what we have done - which is a hugely significant amount - and celebrate that," she said.

    "To continue did not seem the right way to end the story. It is sad, but we are thankful for what we have done and what we had - which is a complete blast over the last 27 years."

    Alumni of the troupes include Matthew Bourne and Sadler's Wells producer Emma Gladstone.

    An ACE spokesman said it was "with great regret" it was not able to continue funding the companies.

    "We will, however, continue to work with Lea Anderson and may be able to support her future work through other funding streams," he added.

    I only saw the company twice, although I remember seeing them on TV many years. Dancing On Your Grave was an entertaining show but was more cabaret and featured only three dancers performing on a small stage within a stage. It wasn't really a dance show in a conventional sense.  

    Edits [pictured above] was one of the most dreary, repetitive, interminable dance shows I have ever seen. A good idea stretched and repeated for 90 minutes without a break.

    Even so, I'd rather the company existed than were forced to disband. Then again, maybe Lea Anderson will move on and do something fabulous.

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    The winner of the first New Adventures Choreographer Award, set up by dancer and choreographer Matthew Bourne, has been named as James Cousins.

    The 22-year-old, who beat 14 other finalists, was praised by judges for his "refreshing desire to entertain".

    The London Contemporary Dance School graduate will receive a £15,000 grant to work on his choreographic skills.

    He will also be mentored by Bourne and will give a showcase performance of his new work next year.

    Cousins, from Newbury in Berkshire, graduated from LCDS in 2010 where he received an award for most promising dance artist. Read the full story

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    Candoco Dance Company - Turning 20 - The Lowry, Salford

    The first dance I've been to see since July - apart from the marvellous Platform 4 festival.

    I had great expectations for Candoco having heard many good things about them but found it a rather unsatisfying evening. Their final piece, a new version of the great Trisha Brown's seminal Set And Reset was marvellous.

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    Here are a few companies that are touring the UK but not visiting Manchester... the list isn't exhaustive but two things stand out - how few companies are on the road this season and how few of them are playing Manchester.

    The Lowry has no more than 4-5 dance shows this season. The Palace Theatre and Opera House have only the northern ballet's excellent but safe choice The Nutcracker (again) and the ENB's Strictly Gershswin - which in my view is a populist ballet show for people who don't have any interest in ballet i.e. a safe choice to fill a large theatre. Greenroom is of course no more. The Dancehouse is a joke - nothing but comedy and amateur dance shows. Contact Theatre - we need you to step up...

    • Ben Wright's bgroup - The Lessening of Difference
    • Tavaziva Dance
    • The Featherstonhaughs - edits + Egon Schiele
    • Earthfall - At Swim Two Boys - playing Liverpool and Huddersfield but not Manchester (more dates due in 2012) - will appear at The Lowry in 2012
    • 2Faced Dance Co - In The Dust - huge tour but not Manchester...
    • Darshan Singh Bhuller - Caravaggio: Exile and Death
    • Retina Dance Company - Layers of Skin - playing Leeds and Edgehill nr Liverpool but not Manchester 
    • Bare Bones / Bare Bones The Decade- very small tour but naturally, not Manchester

    Obviously it is not out of the question that companies will announce further tour dates, especially for 2012 but...

    As far as 2012 goes I can only confirm the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Beauty and the Beast and Matthew Bourne's revival of Nutcracker! Oh, and some terribly Russian Swan Lake at the Bridgewater Hall - ballet for people who like classical music... As of 1 November The Lowry have confirmed that they are running their Dance Moves 'season' for the second time in 2012. This is welcome news but I would still argue that it is more about marketing than an actual 'season' in any meaningful sense.

    Based on 2011, post-arts cuts, The Lowry didn't show more dance in their Dance Moves season so much as show less dance during the rest of the year. As for the other Manchester theatres, the presence of dance is chronically lacking, apart from the Northern Ballet and the English National Ballet - who both only seem to grace Manchester with their most populist and crowd-pleasing repertoire - and  a bare minimum of that. The loss of the greenroom is the main cause of this paucity of dance in the current climate but Manchester's lack of a significant dance venue or any companies of significance (Company Chameleon being the only real exception) is a cause of real concern to anyone with a reasonable interest in this type of theatre.

    • NDT2 - UK tour via Dance Consortium in March 2012. Not playing Manchester.

    Hopefully will book for 2012 -

    • DV8 - will appear at The Lowry in 2012
    • Wayne McGregor | Random Dance - will appear at The Lowry in 2012

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  • 10/14/11--11:32: Hofesh Shechter Company
  • After months of little news and few dance events to look forward to I found out today the wonderful news that Hofesh Shechter's modern masterpiece Political Mother will be appearing at The Lowry next April.

    Political Mother is probably the most exciting piece of modern dance I have ever witnessed. I found it unbelievably powerful and thrilling and I relish the opportunity to see it again.

    If you like contemporary dance - or just extraordinary theatrical events - don't miss it.

    Political Mother
    Hofesh Shechter Company
    The Lowry
    27-28 April 2012

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  • 10/17/11--05:41: Under the Floorboards
  • I notice that balletLORENT will be visiting the Lowry again in 2012 with their new show - aimed at the under-5s...

    I'm sure it's spirited and magical but please kill me now. As if their show about the impact on a young couple of having a baby wasn't dreary enough.

    I loved Designer Body though. Stylish and haughty with lashings of nudity.

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    More good news for 2012... Wayne McGregor | Random Dance will be performing Entity at The Lowry on 27 March 2012.

    I was lucky enough to see Entity in Liverpool in 2010. The Liverpool Playhouse is fantastic little theatre but the stage wasn't quite up to containing the full staging for this extravagantly ambitious piece, but it was still a magical evening. McGreogor's choreography is breathtakingly innovative and his dancers sublime.

    I'm assuming Entity will be performed on the massive stage of  The Lowry's Lyric Theatre, which should give it the space this beautiful piece of contemporary dance demands and deserves.

    This is what I said about Entity in my review of 2010:

    An unforgettable performance that completely satisfied everything that I love about watching dance. Compelling, innovative, connective, emotional, genius.

    As with Hofesh Shechter's Political Mother, Entity is one the great modern masterpieces of contemporary dance (in my opinion) and Manchester has waited far too long to see them performed. Again, if you love contemporary dance that is edgy, challenging, beautiful and cutting-edge, don't miss this show.

    Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
    The Lowry
    27 March 2012

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    Choreographer Matthew Bourne is to create a new version of ballet Sleeping Beauty with "vampiric influences", it has been announced.

    The work will be premiered next Christmas as part of a season at Sadler's Wells marking 25 years of Bourne's company, New Adventures.

    His earlier works, including Nutcracker and Play Without Words, will also be showcased at the London venue in 2012.

    Bourne is perhaps best known for staging Swan Lake with a male ensemble.

    His re-telling of Tchaikovksy's Sleeping Beauty will begin in 1890, echoing the year of the Russian ballet's original performance in St Petersburg.

    It was an era when "fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination", according to the 51-year-old choreographer.

    Its heroine Aurora then grows up into "the more rigid" Edwardian era.

    She wakes up in the modern age, which Bourne calls "a world more mysterious and wonderful than any fairy story".

    The new production will complete Bourne's reworking of all three Tchaikovsky ballets.

    Sadler's Wells retrospective of his work will begin this Christmas with a seven-week run of Nutcracker!, which originally premiered in 1992.

    The London performances will be followed by a nationwide tour of the ballet.

    The summer of 2012 will see performances of early Bourne works including Town and Country, Spitfire - first staged in 1988 - and The Infernal Galop.

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  • 10/31/11--01:52: 2012 - The Year in Dance
  • January

    * Swan Lake - Russian State Ballet and the Orchestra of Siberia - Bridgewater Hall 4-5 January
    * Beauty and the Beast - Birmingham Royal Ballet - The Lowry 24-28 January


    * Elektro Kif - Blanka Li  - The Lowry 15-16 February


    * The Tallent - BalletBoyz - The Lowry - 14 March
    * At Swim Two Boys - Earthfall - The Lowry - 20-21 March
    * Nutcracker! - Matthew Bourne's New Adventures - The Lowry, 20-24 March
    * Underneath the Floorboards - BalletLorent - The Lowry  25 March


    * Political Mother - Hofesh Shechter Company - The Lowry  27-28 April


    * TURN 2012 - Contact Theatre - 3-5 May
    * Can We Talk About This? - DV8 Physical Theatre - The Lowry 18-19 May


    * Danza Contemporánea de Cuba - The Lowry - 9 June

    The Lowry are once again gathering together all their Spring dance programming under the Dance Moves banner

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  • 11/02/11--01:20: 2011 - The Year in Dance
  • January - March


    * Richard Alston Dance Company - The Lowry - 12 April [Dance Moves] ****
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    Richard Alston's company are reliably watchable with their trademark extreme musicality and pure contemporary classical approach. Best of the 3 pieces on show was Martin Lawrance's Lie of the Land.
    * Midnight Tango - Vincent Simone & Flavia Cacace - The Lowry - 18-23 April [Dance Moves]
    Strictly's Vincent and Flavia manage to pull off an authentic tango experience with their first theatrical tour. Read my review for The Public Reviews here


    * Abandoned Things: A Static Change Project - Joseph Lau - greenroom - 6 May ***
    * Ballet Central 2011 - The Lowry - 23 May ***
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    * Khaos / Lay Me Down Safe - Scottish Dance Theatre - Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield - 24 May *****
    A wonderful first experience with SDT. Both pieces were wonderful.
    * Romance Inverse and By Singing Light  - National Dance Company Wales - The Lowry - 25 May *****

    Another great first experience with NDCW. Romance Inverse was good but Stephen Petronio's BY Singing Light was breathtaking. Really great company of dancers. Wonderful.
    * Verve 2011 - The Lowry - 31 May  ****
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here

    * Coppélia - Birmingham Royal Ballet - The Lowry - 8-11 June *****

    Read my review for The Public Reviews here


    * Carlos Acosta - The Lowry - Sun 24 July - Mon 25 July ***

    Read my review for The Public Reviews here


    * Turning Twenty
    - Candoco - The Lowry - 14 September ***
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here
    * Chapter One - Paul Bayes Kircher - The Lowry Studio - 27 September ****
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here


    * Happy as Larry - Shaun Parker & Company  - The Lowry - 18-19 October ****
    Read my review for The Public Reviews here


    * Cruising, Clubbing, Fucking - Joseph Mercier - Unity Theatre, Liverpool (Homotopia) - 2 November ****
    Bold, imaginative, sexy, multi-layered and witty, Joseph Mercier's Cruising, Clubbing Fucking was a refreshing, challenging and unashamed look at gay men's socio-sexual behaviour. Nice pants too.
    * Circa - 4-5 November (Cirque) 
    * At Swim Two Boys - Earthfall - Unity Theatre, Liverpool (Homotopia) - 8-9 November *****
    Powerful, beautiful, elegant, romantic, violent and sad. A beautifully water-staged performance by two outstanding young performers of Jamie O'Neills' wonderful bookl.
    * Gameshow - Company Chameleon - The Lowry - 16-17 November (Preview and World Premiere) ***
    Hugely ambitious step-up from Company Chameleon. Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner are as distinctive and appealing as ever but I personally found the game show construction over-conceived and the show has too much dialogue and not enough dance. Powerful moments but also capable of being annoying.
    * The Nutcracker - northern ballet - Palace Theatre - 22-26 November

    * This post makes no claim to show definitive listings for Liverpool or Sheffield. I will list events in Liverpool and Sheffield (or elsewhere) if the shows are (1) not available in Manchester or (2)  are an excellent opportunity to see something major again. Listings for Manchester venues are intended to be as complete as possible. Please let me know if I miss anything.

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  • 11/03/11--04:33: At Swim Two Boys - Earthfall

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    I'm collating some information on whether touring dance companies are struggling to find suitable performances spaces in Manchester - whether they are looking for large theatres, smaller venues, site-specific or studio spaces.

    I already have some anecdotal evidence that this is the case but really need to build up a stronger body of evidence.

    Manchester likes to think of itself as a leading creative hub within the UK but I believe that from a dance perspective - whether classical, contemporary or experimental - there is a real shortage of opportunity to perform (and thus see) dance and a corresponding lack of coordinated activity to drive Manchester as a centre for dance.

    This is not to underplay the role of the Lowry, which is the leading dance venue in the region with a wide range of associated activities. But the Lowry is a generalist theatre with competing theatrical imperatives, despite its three differently-sized venues, and significantly, is not in central Manchester.

    If you work for a touring dance company that has experienced difficulties in finding a venue in Manchester and then booked national tours missing Manchester out can you please let me know what your experiences have been.

    Any information about knockbacks, unanswered calls, scheduling difficulties or simply not knowing who to approach due the city's unfocused dance offering, would be most welcome.

    It is possible that the current economic situation and very different arts funding environment in the UK has a part to play in reducing touring activity and risk-taking both within company programming and venue booking priorities.

    Leave a message here, email me at petejacobs(at) or message me via Facebook.

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  • 12/06/11--08:26: Undance
  • Wayne McGregor, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mark Wallinger's Eadweard Muybridge-refrencing new work Undance.

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  • 04/06/16--05:38: Men & Girls Dance - Trailer
  • Men & Girls Dance - Trailer from Fevered Sleep on Vimeo.

    Fevered Sleep's Men & Girls Dance will be appearing:

    Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield
    Fri 3rd June 7.30pm | Sat 4th June 7.30pm

    The Lowry in Salford
    Thu 11th August | Fri 12th August

    [See website below for full tour details]

    Men & Girls Dance

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  • 04/25/16--04:38: Turn 2016 - keep turning
  • Turn– presented by Word of Warning, Contact and Dance Manchester – is the annual microfestival of new north west dance, celebrating five years at Contact in 2016.

    Performed across two evenings, Turn presents a diverse range of new work and work in progress from north west-based dance makers and artists.

    I've not attended Turn since 2013 - so can't comment on 2014 and 2015 - but Turn 2016 seemed like a very strong offering. Eighteen performances + three video installations across the two nights and there was some work I loved, a lot I really liked and a scant few I didn't really rate or enjoy, but overall, pretty impressive.

    Turn 2016: Night 1 – Contact, Manchester

    Turn 2016: Night 2 – Contact, Manchester

    Of course the slightly depressing thing - which I allude to in my reviews of the two nights for The Reviews Hub - is that Manchester and the north west is blessed with dancers and dance artists but appears to lack the dance infrastructure to support this vibrant ecology and give these talented and aspirational/inspirational individuals the security and career opportunities they deserve. That north west dance audiences deserve.

    I looked back at my review for Turn 2013 and some of the artists showing work in 2016 appeared then. Presumably several of them also presented in '14 and '15.

    But with a couple of notable exceptions, I haven't seen most of them anywhere in the interim.

    This doesn't mean to say that they aren't making work or performing. Despite my regular complaint that audiences silo themselves - by venue and by genre - I don't visit every venue in the region, even within Greater Manchester. I don't see every piece of dance produced in the north west, and nor would I want to.

    The impression I have may be mistaken. But I still believe that it is significant and troubling that:

    • Manchester has no new or established major dance company, either classical or contemporary;
    • Manchester has no major independent company of any size (i.e. bigger than individuals or pairs  running their own affairs) based in the city with the exception of Company Chameleon;
    • Manchester has no dance centre;
    • Manchester has no dedicated dance space or theatre - although The Lowry, Contact, Z-Arts, HOME etc. all support/programme dance to varying degrees;
    • Manchester has no effective city or regional dance organisation - all due respect to Dance Manchester but they have specific foci that angle them differently to 'similar' organisations like Dance East or  Liverpool's MDI. In the ever-tightening funding environment since 2008 Dance Manchester appear to be doing as much as they possibly can within the funding they have available under their charity status. (The Conservative Government seem bizarrely immune to the wealth of evidence that the arts generate far more income. employment and economic activity than they cost to fund.)
    • Manchester has no major dance festival - and Manchester International Festival has until recently proved unjustifiably resistant to commissioning or programming any significant dance content (with the eventual exception of MIF2015's Tree of Codes and now, Akram Khan's new version of Giselle (although this is a co-production with ENB and falls between MIF festivals)); 
    This is a conversation I have had often with people working or interested in dance. And, for the foreseeable future there is little prospect of much of it changing. I may even have an incorrectly skewed view of things. I can accept that. 

    Manchester and the north west does have several academic organisations teaching and supporting dance - Manchester Metropolitan University - although their dance programmes are based in Crewe, and their BA (Hons) Dance for example speaks of "Opportunities to show your work as part of dance festivals at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and the Regent Theatre in Hanley."; The University of Salford; Edgehill University and LIPA in Liverpool, to name a few. But what opportunities are there post-graduation? 

    But all the above explains why I think Turn is an important feature of the landscape. 

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