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North West dance news, reviews and personal views
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  • 04/09/18--05:30: 2019 - The Year in Dance
  • January


    • The Nutcracker | Russian State Ballet of Siberia | Bridgewater Hall | 2-3 January

    February


    March


    April


    May


    June


    July


    August


    September


    October


    November 


    December


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  • 01/25/19--03:27: 2020 - The Year In Dance
  • January

    February


    March

    • Swan Lake | Birmingham Royal Ballet | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 4-7 March
    The first fruits for The Lowry of BRB's 'dazzling' new Acosta directorship is their Swan Lake. Again. But it is a marvellous production. 


    April


    May

    June


    July


    August


    September


    October


    November


    December



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  • 08/19/19--07:08: Repertoire - Sharon Eyal
  • Not pretending this is about dance in Manchester or the north west (something that is virtually dead in any case, so far as one can tell). This is obsession. 
    • AUTODANCE (2017) (GOTEBORGS OPERANS DANSKOMPANI, SWEDEN)
    • BEDROOM FOLK (2015) (NDT1)
    • BILL (2010) (BATSHEVA DANCE COMPANY) (BALLET BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA)
    • CORPS DE WALK (2011) (CARTE BLANCHE, NORWAY)
    • FEELINGS (2016) (NDT2)
    • HALF LIFE (ROYAL SWEDISH BALLET) (STAATSBALLET BERLIN)
    • HOUSE (2011) (BATSHEVA DANCE COMPANY)
    • KILLER PIG (2009)(CARTE BLANCHE,NORWAY) (RAMBERT 2)
    • LOVE CHAPTER 2 (2016) (L-E-V)
    • LOVE CHAPTER 3: THE BRUTAL JOURNEY OF THE HEART(2019) (L-E-V)
    • OCD LOVE (2015) (L-E-V)
    • PLAFOMA (2012) (TANZCOMPAGNIE OLDENBURG, GERMANY)
    • PROCESS DAY (SCOTTISH DANCE THEATRE, UK)
    • R A K M D L G D (L-E-V) (2019)
    • SALT WOMB (2016) (NDT1)
    • SARA (2013) (NDT2)
    • THE LOOK (2019) (BATSHEVA DANCE COMPANY, ISRAEL)
    • TOO BEAUCOUP (2011) (HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO, USA)
    • UNTITLED BLACK (2012) (GOTEBORGS OPERANS DANSKOMPANI, SWEDEN)
    • USED TO BE BLONDE (NATIONAL YOUTH DANCE COMPANY, UK) (2018)
    Key: Title of work (Year created) (Company created for) (Production staged by a different company - this means I have seen this production).
    Anything in bold the author has seen performed. 

    Half Life | Berlin Staatsballett

    Killer Pig | Rambert2

    Parts of Love @ Bold Tendencies | L-E-V


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  • 10/15/19--05:39: Manchester? No, sorry 2020
  • My annual list of companies that miss Manchester (or Salford) from their touring. Just for information. Will be updated if there is news.

    BalletBoyz

    An 18-venue spring tour has been announced for their new show Deluxe in 2020 with more dates to be announced. But not Manchester or Salford, and the company consistently now miss the city entirely. 

    Mark Bruce Company 

    Spring dates for 2020 announced for new production Return to Heaven but the company has not visited Manchester since the Dracula tour in 2014 (missing the last two shows, The Odyssey and Macbeth)

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  • 11/01/19--05:40: 2019 BroadwayWorld UK Awards
  • The shortlist is announced for the 2019 BroadwayWorld UK Awards, celebrating the best long-running West End productions and best new productions from around the country.

    CLICK HERE TO VOTE

    Voting is open until Friday, 22 November, with the winners announced soon afterwards.

    The only significant dance category (apart from Best Choreography of a New Production of a Play or Musical) is:

    Outstanding Achievement in a New Dance Production


    • Four Quartets, Pam Tanowitz, Barbican
    • Matthew Bourne's Romeo + Juliet, Matthew Bourne/New Adventures, UK Tour
    • Pendulum/Click!/Ingoma, Ballet Black, UK Tour
    • She Persisted, English National Ballet, Sadler's Wells
    • The Mother, Arthur Pita, Queen Elizabeth Hall
    • Victoria, Northern Ballet, UK Tour

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    I have seen Hofesh Shechter Company more times than any other contemporary company since I first started watching dance so I am saddened to read of the departure of three of their longstanding dancers: the incredible Erion Kruja, Kim Kohlmann and Merel Lammers.

    Erion especially I think I have seen in every Shechter show (apart from Show (Shechter II)), sometimes more than once, and I have loved watching him dance: so distinctive and individual, a real touchstone within the company ranks.

    All three are moving on to new projects and I wish them well and will keep an eye out for them in the future.

    The five amazing dancers who I watched and loved three nights in a row at HOME in tHE bAD (and then twice more when that became the central section of Barbarians: a trilogy) have now all left the company...

    In other news, the company have announced new projects for 2020: Double Murder - a new double bill of Clowns and a new, 'gentler' work - will premiere at the Brighton Festival in May then appear at HOME and tour.

    Hopefully the BBC film of Clowns that was shown as part of their Performance Live season in 2018, will become available again.

    Some of the exciting Shechter II's first incarnation are moving to replace Erion, Kim and Merel in the main company and the new incarnation will be touring a new, reworked POLITICAL MOTHER UNPLUGGED. The original production of Political Mother is still probably the most remarkable, experiential dance show I have ever seen, so I look forward to seeing it i this new version.

    Grand Finale will continue to tour.

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  • 11/13/19--09:33: Week 53 will return
  • Fri 23 April - Sun 3 May 2020

    The festival returns. WEEK 53– the Lowry’s biennial festival for the compulsively curious – is back. 

    The Lowry will be announcing the full line-up over the coming months. Hopefully that line-up will include some dance again. 

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  • 11/29/19--09:44: 2019 - Review of the Year
  • The best of 2019 -


    • Distant Matter / Half Life | Staatsballett Berlin | Komische Oper Berlin, Berlin | June
    Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar's Half Life 
    Distant Matter by Chunky Move's Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk was very much my kind of dance: edgy, stylish, cool and witty with a great soundtrack by Jethro Woodward. 

    Unfortunately for van Dijk this was completely blown out of the water by Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar's Half Life, restaged for Staatsballet Berlin - in the process somewhat re-positioning the company within the European dance landscape (a new team of artistic directors including Sasha Waltz has pulled more contemporary work into this classical company's repertoire to stunning affect and acclaim). 

    I am already living for Eyals' work and Half Life is remarkable even within her already impressive canon: dark, sinister, sexy, thrilling and completely overwhelming, with another of Ori Lichtik's techno walls of sound powering it relentlessly on. Game-changing stuff. 



    • R A K M D L G D | L-E-V | Bold Tendencies, Peckham Rye, London | August [part of: Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and L-E-V residency at Bold Tendencies] 
    R A K M D L G 
    R A K M D L G D - the name is the initials of the eight L-E-V dancers - was the new work created by the company as the final part of their month-long residency at Peckham Rye's Bold Tendencies. The opportunity to see the eight company dancers up close was a real privilege and really hit home just how striking they are in their physicality, expressiveness and distinct individuality. Eyal said in a recent interview that her dancers 'must have  “individuality”, “pureness” ... and “very, very strong technique”'. She does not dissemble. 

    R A K M D L G D is presented in two halves supported by the sterling work by two DJs: first half by the company's regular music-maker Ori Lichtik, the second by residency collaborator Koreless from the Young Rascals stable (with whom they created a show in their third week at Bold). The show itself - the dancers clad in the same black bodysuits as for NYDC's Used To Be Blonde, with the addition of heavy individual makeup - was classic Eyal:  detailed, repetitive, accumulative, shifting from tiny movements to explosive, sometimes flamboyant use of the space. However, the nature of the experiment and the DJ soundtracks also gave the piece a looseness and sense of fun - if a kind of dark, pleasantly-creepy kind of fun. There was a sense of joyous playfulness and excitement that was completely enthralling.  

    Clearly some of the material had been re-purposed and re-digested into something new but Eyal's work - even at its most familiar (if one has been lucky enough to see her other work) - still aches with a sense of difference, creativity and immersion that is compelling and much-needed.



    • NÄSS (Les Gens) | Compagnie Massala | Riley Theatre, Leeds | Feb 
    Compagnie Massala: NÄSS
    I have never visited the Riley Theatre - home to the NSCD - in Leeds before, always deeming Leeds 'too far'. But I really wanted to see this show, the first UK appearance for Fouad Boussouf's Compagnie Massala (France). I was not disappointed. NÄSS was like a distillation of everything I enjoy in dance delivered with tremendous energy and passion by seven male dancers. A hybrid of urban, hip hop and contemporary dance (completely avoiding the pitfalls of the first two) NÄSS is a powerful, nuanced 55-minutes of pure joy with all elements - especially the booming percussive Moroccan-inflected soundtrack - working in perfect harmony. Did it remind me of Hofesh Shechter? Yes, a little. Was it distinctively different? Yes.  

    I saw this on the second day of February and knew it was going to be one of my favourite shows of the year. I keep hoping they will manage to come back to the UK for further dates as the show has been touring internationally throughout 2019.


    • Mixed Bill [Grey Matter | E2 7SD | Killer Pig | Rambert2 | Cast, Doncaster | March 
    Killer Pig
    Travelling to Doncaster to see Rambert2 seemed like an extreme act. I have had a tepid relationship with Rambert but Rambert2, their new 'junior' company seemed like an exciting proposition. But what really excited me from early on was the inclusion of Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar's Killer Pig in the programme. I have been watching clips of Killer Pig ever since I became aware of this remarkable choreographic team. I just needed to see it. 

    As Rambert2 had not yet been scheduled to visit the north west and it looked unlikely to be included in this tour Doncaster became the most feasible venue once I had missed the London dates. 

    The entire programme was strong: Benoit Swan Pouffer's Grey Matter was dynamic and exciting and Shechter-ish, Rafael Bonachela's 'vintage' Place Prize-winning E2 7SD was a revelation of quickfire choreography, beautifully performed by Conor Kerrigan and Aishwarya Raut, but oh, Killer Pig was truly amazing. Intensely strange, beautiful, edgy, distinctive and twisted it was the epitome of exciting cutting-edge dance: one of those pieces of dance that creates a permanent notch on your personal timeline; that resets your appreciation of what dance is capable of when unshackled from the past, and makes most other things you see seem feeble in comparison, in ambition, in intensity, in creative audacity.  Rambert2's young dancers are remarkable too. Much like Shechter 2, the young talent out there is amazing, if they get the opportunity to demonstrate it. 


    • Romeo + Juliet | Matthew Bourne's New Adventures | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | June 
    Romeo & Juliet is characterised by one (or two) personal Bourne bugbears - principally that he has large chunks of beautiful music specifically written for dance that he either chooses (or is incapable) of creating interesting or detailed choreography for. This largely affects the group sections as the more intimate choreography is actually rather well done. My only other issue is - as someone who knows R&J reasonably well - that it took me a while to locate the story within this setting: Romeo and Juliet are kind of switched in a lot of ways. The opening couple of sections were also slightly clunky in delivery and marbled with Bourne's 'dance walking with actions and props' to create movement and character (Edward Scissorhands is infuriatingly dominated by this). 

    However, his re-siting of the narrative in the near future within some kind of sinister secure young people's institution - the Verona Institute - and replacing rival gangs and the social impetus to marry and conform with sexual abuse, social control, mental health and the abusive, seemingly-inescapable friction between youth and authority is rather clever. And despite the twists to the narrative this R&J delivers the same unexpected gut punches as the 'classic' versions. Powerful, tender, touching, disturbing, relatable and heartbreaking. 


    The staging is expectedly strong, and the re-purposed but authentic use of the Prokofiev soundtrack is highly effective (I did wonder if I would prefer a Vincenzo Lamagna-style new-old mashup a la Akram Khan's Giselle but I checked myself during the performance and the music was working perfectly). In summary, Matthew Bourne has really delivered something special and even important. And this from someone who has major issues with his reworking of Cinderella and hated Sleeping Beauty



    • Triple Bill (Wayne McGregor | Marion Motin | Hofesh Shechter) | Rambert | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | October / November 
    Rambert's change of artistic direction is really starting to kick in by the second half of the year and they are already looking like a much more progressive and exciting company (doing vintage McGregor and Shechter plus a new work from Christine & the Queens choreographer Marion Motin). 

    I've not seen Wayne McGregor's PreSentient (2002) before but I remember what a game-changer seeing his work for the first time was for me. Now his then-startling dislocations and hyper-extensions look characteristic and familiar, but still distinctively McGregor. PreSentient is packed with enough fluidity and effortlessly-luscious snap and flow that it still looks great and especially so with Rambert's refreshed and re-energised company. 


    Marion Motin's Rouge
    Marion Motin's Rouge is a new game-changer for me: elegantly-wasted, clubby, dark and glamorous, this is exactly the kind of dance I want to be watching these days. I went to see the show a second time mostly to see Rouge again. 

    I did see Hofesh Shechter's In Your Rooms in 2008, in a blisteringly-exciting double bill with Uprising: my first encounter with the company I have now seen more than any other. Again, with the benefit of hindsight it isn't so alarmingly different but it is still a thrill-ride of dark passion and creative confidence shot through with uncertainty: and no one choreographs the horror of the world and people's redemptive power to endure it better than Hofesh. The live music and Lee Curran's gorgeous and complex lighting design amp it up significantly. 

    This triple bill was a bold and thrilling programme that mapped really closely to my personal journey with dance and a clarion call to be brave and striking and innovative and challenging. The Rambert renaissance endures.


    • Used To Be Blonde | National Youth Dance Company | Bold Tendencies, Peckham Rye, London | August [part of: Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and L-E-V residency at Bold Tendencies] 
    So I travelled to London to see 2018's NYDC production re-staged as part of Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and L-E-V's month-long residency at Bold Tendencies: the show didn't visit Manchester on its short 2018 tour. This was a brilliant opportunity to see Eyal's work performed by no fewer than 29 characterful black bodysuit-clad young dancers in a highly-professional 9th floor car park setting at a fantastic and distinctive arts venue: Bold Tendencies. Ori Lichtik's soundtrack was more of a DJ mix than his usual live score but was no less enjoyable. Completely worth the trip. Used To Be Blonde is trademark Eyal with some flashes of vogue and even a bit of flossing - it seems the choreography reflects the diverse dance backgrounds of the young NYDC cast. Because of the size of the company for this particular piece it's hard to say whether it will ever be shown again so much joy at seeing it done with such focused energy in such a distinctive setting. 


    • Invisible Cities | Rambert | Mayfield, Manchester | July  [part of: MIF19] 
    Invisible Cities at MIF19
    "Leo Warner, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Lolita Chakrabarti, 59 Productions and Rambert bring to life a series of fantastical places in this world-premiere production. Centred on the edgy relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, who must transcend a language barrier to describe it for him, this spellbinding mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping imagines a succession of alternative worlds – and reimagines what is possible in live performance." 

    That was the official blurb and Invisible Cities mostly delivered. An impressive mix of performance, genuinely-epic staging that transformed the remarkable space of Mayfield, and spectacle that genuinely felt distinctive, world-class and experiential. This was a great project for Rambert to be involved in and they are looking really different as a company, their ranks bolstered by the newly-promoted members of Rambert2. Invisible Cities is a show I would gladly watch again but feel no particular need to. This is not a show I felt an especial visceral or emotional connection with: but I'm certainly very glad I was able to see it and in that incredible space.


    • Awakening (Afterimage/Revellers' Mass/Tundra) | National Dance Company Wales | Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield | April 
    Last time I saw NDCWales was February 2018. All but one of their dancers had joined the company in 2017. The only 'veteran' was Ed Myhill, who had joined as an apprentice in 2015. That lack of experience and cohesion saturated the performance and they were the most disappointing I had seen them - that was my fifth encounter with the company. I am happy to report that the Awakening programme showed none of these issues. 

    As in 2018, they performed Marcos Morau's Tundra. Then they lacked the precision required to deliver a piece that is very focused and detailed in its choreography; drawing from Russian history Tundra is very stylised and dystopian with precise movements that ripple up, down and along the line of linked dancers. I loved the design and choreography but the flaws were glaring. Tonight it worked. It was atmospheric, chilling and beautiful. 



    Reveller's Mass
    Fernando Melo's Afterimage made astonishingly-effective use of mirror and was a remarkably beautiful, detailed and emotional piece of dance evoking memory and regret and loss. A truly distinctive piece of theatre that drew on the dancers' acting skills as much as movement. 
    Finally, Caroline Finn's Reveller's Mass. Last year I said: 'Caroline Finn's The Green House was intriguing but I wished they had pushed the strangeness and surreality further - the staging reminded me of the work of Peeping Tom, who take things to a greater extreme.'Reveller's Mass considers themes of ritual, decadence and excess through the lens of Renaissance paintings and Finn certainly pushed this piece to the extreme. Bizarre, demented, lavish and thrilling, this piece was almost Bausch-esque, and with its gorgeous costumes, dark lighting and more exciting acting from the cast: a fun, lively and visceral piece of disturbia with a glorious soundtrack. Generally, NDCWales looked back on form with some really distinctive individuals becoming apparent. 


    • BEAT | Igor + Moreno | The Lowry [Compass Room] | October
    Margherita Elliot: BEAT
    Unusually for Igor and Moreno BEAT was a solo performance and featured neither Igor nor Moreno. But Margherita Elliot did them proud. I&M describe BEAT as 'a celebration of the fatigue, pain and uncertainty of deciding day by day – moment by moment – who we are. One person. On the spot. Reinventing themselves over and over.' It's a work of two halves, the first whip-smart, witty, provocative, observational, gestural; the second is a play of colour and movement: stripped back, ominous and heavy with unreadable significance - all set to a foot-tappingly compelling DJ mix of beats. In a mini-Igor + Moreno season at The Lowry they also performed the time-shifting Andante again, which was just as enigmatically-tremendous as the first time I saw it. 

    The Best of the Rest -


    • Torus | Humanhood - Humanhood built on their impressive debut piece Zero by returning with five dancers and another cohesive piece of creative abstract dance. 
    • Them/Us | Balletboyz - Them was kind of Balletboyz by numbers, choreographed collaboratively by the company's dancers (as if this was an innovative idea), but the extended version of a previous duet, Us by Christopher Wheeldon, was something of a revelation: exquisitely-performed - especially the central duet by Bradley Waller and Harry Price - Us carried a genuine emotional kick. 
    • She Persisted | English National Ballet - another female-created triple bill from Tamaro Rojo's ENB featuring the marvellous Frida Kahlo-themed Broken Wings, a new, short ballet based on Ibsen's Ghosts, Nora by Stina Quagebeur, and - the main reason this show gets a mention here - ENB's version of Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring. Not the first time I have seen it but it lost none of its terrible beauty and devastating impact a second time. 
    • Autobiography | Wayne MgGregor - I have been struggling to retain the love for McGregor;s choreography inspired by my first encounter with Entity in 2012 but Autobiography contained more than enough flash and thrill to reconnect me with some of that excitement. 
    • Grand Finale | Hofesh Shechter Company - the fifth time I have seen this and it topped the 2018 review and it is still tremendous. Sorry about it. 


    Disappointments of the year...


    • Shut Down | Vincent Dance Theatre - a dance theatre show exploring masculinity should have ticked several boxes and once may have done but I have rarely felt more uncomfortable or less-understood watching dance. 
    • Pepperland | Mark Morris Dance Group - the legendary Mark Morris is an American great whose work I have wanted to see, someone I needed to have seen. But Pepperland - a bizarre primary-coloured celebration of The Beatles was a baffling appraisal of Sgt Peppers that seemed based on an American view of a Great Britain that has likely never existed and certainly doesn't now. Oddly stilted for all its energy and felt dated in its choreography. 


    The complete Methods of Dance show-by-show review of 2019 can be found here

    Shows seen in 2019: Ballet 3 | Dance 27 | Physical Theatre 4 | Cirque 1 | Total: 35

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    1 | Distant Matter / Half Life | Staatsballett Berlin | Komische Oper Berlin, Berlin | June

    2 | R A K M D L G D | L-E-V | Bold Tendencies, Peckham Rye, London | August [part of: Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and L-E-V residency at Bold Tendencies]

    3 | NÄSS (Les Gens) | Compagnie Massala | Riley Theatre, Leeds | February

    4 | Mixed Bill [Grey Matter | E2 7SD | Killer Pig] | Rambert2 | Cast, Doncaster | March

    5 | Romeo + Juliet | Matthew Bourne's New Adventures | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | June

    6 | Triple Bill (Wayne McGregor | Marion Motin | Hofesh Shechter) | Rambert | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | October/November

    7 | Used To Be Blonde | National Youth Dance Company | Bold Tendencies, Peckham Rye, London | August [part of: Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and L-E-V residency at Bold Tendencies]

    8 | Invisible Cities | Rambert | Mayfield, Manchester | July [part of: MIF19]

    9 | Awakening (Afterimage/Revellers' Mass/Tundra) | National Dance Company Wales | Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield | April

    10 | BEAT | Igor + Moreno | The Lowry [Compass Room] | October




    The dancers of L-E-V in Parts of Love at Bold Tendencies


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  • 12/05/19--05:32: Whats on Stage Awards 2020
  • About the WhatsOnStage Awards

    Each year thousands of theatregoers up and down the country nominate their favourite performers and shows in a number of categories. Nominations open on Tuesday 29 October and close on Wednesday 27 November 2019.

    When the nominations close the top five nominees in each of those categories are put forward for the final vote along with the short-listed nominees in the technical categories*.

    The full shortlist of nominees will be announced on Thursday 5 December 2019 when voting then opens and runs until Monday 27 January 2020.

    *The shortlist for the technical categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) will be decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed by WhatsOnStage. Their shortlist will then be voted on by the general public.

    There are only two dance nominations: Choreography for Matthew Bourne for Romeo & Juliet and Best Costume Design for Lez Brotherston for Romeo & Juliet. As deemed to be technical categories Joe Public doesn't get to vote on either of these.

    But if you like musicals there are lots of nominations you can vote for.

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    Manchester will never develop a stronger dance audience or community without a dedicated dance venue or centre and a robust regional dance development agency and a strong commitment, supported by funding obviously, to make a significant change.

    So far as I can tell, Manchester City Council has been very resistant to acknowledging this truth, relying on The Lowry to magically provide some kind of dance infrastructure in the city - sorry, the adjacent city.

    Dance Manchester lost its funding and passed its mantle on to the city's only dance company of anything resembling national significance, Company Chameleon, which is no solution, maybe actually a bad solution.

    Salford University offers dance training programmes but MMU have not only closed their Crewe campus but closed the dance training they provided there. They are building a new theatre in the heart of the city to replace the Capitol but dance will not have a home there. A robust dance culture works better with a community of dance, performance and movement students of all ages from GCE to postgraduate.

    The Dancehouse is a dancehouse in name only, home to a mediocre dance school providing dance training for whatever the opposite of the cream of dance students is, and bolstering the dance ranks of regional musical theatre touring and cruise ships entertainment.

    In the past ten years I have seen Manchester's once reasonably well-established but weirdly invisible and isolationist dance ecology become even more invisible or increasingly work away from the city. The face that CONTACT's closure has seen TURN - which was the annual opportunity to see what on earth these people you mostly never see at any other time - are doing and working on disappear for two years. The attempt to build and encourage dance in Manchester - Manchester Dance Consortium - starved in face of lack of oxygen or enthusiasm from more than a literal handful of individuals.

    Greenroom closed due to funding cuts; despite best efforts audiences seem unwilling or incapable of travelling to Z-Arts or other 'out-of-town'; venues; Waterside , Sale programmes dance but doesn't attract big audiences in  my experience, not helped by the occasionally poor quality of their programming; CONTACT left dance high and dry with its potentially risky capital infrastructure plan that has closed it for two years; HOME has largely failed as a self-programming theatre thus far -symptomatic of something of a crisis in creative, less-commercial theatre nationally - and has never supported dance as it promised to; commercial pressures and some incomprehensible programming - not to mention terrifyingly conservative audiences - have knocked much of the dance puff out of The Lowry's sails.

    I believe the picture is national to an extent, and I do believe that dance is in some serious trouble caused by a complex matrix of funding cuts, community engagement that only is of interest to the participants; educational strangulation and a failure to feed or stimulate a dance audience at a national level. Dance on TV only translates to support for ballroom styles, cabaret fluff and flashily empty street dance. And people are more interested in dancing in the aisles than watching dancing on the stage.

    The only bright spots are (in Manchester) the Factory - if MIF and the artistic and programming team that will run it continue to support dance - and the considerable talent and innovation in this country that continues to thrive in the face of all the forces that suck the life out of dance infrastructure - and the impact of Brexit on this is still hard to fully assess. Brexit could seriously compromise the internationalism and international creative collaboration that makes dance so richly and culturally vibrant.

    So, what is the answer? And what are the questions?

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    An interesting article in The Guardian on race, culture and context in classical ballet.

    'Dance is not a museum': how ballet is reimagining problematic classics [the Guardian]

    Historical ballets are rife with offensive colonial politics but choreographers and dancers are finding creative ways to change them for today’s audiences
    And in November 2019

     Blackface and Fu Manchu moustaches: does ballet have a race problem? [the Guardian]


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    Fearghus Ó Conchúir and National Dance Company Wales have announced that he will be moving on from his role as Artistic Director at the end of the Spring 2020 tour, after more than two years with the Company.

    Jane McCloskey, Chair of the NDCWales Board, said:

    “Fearghus is stepping down with regret to get a better work-life balance. He is deputy chair of Arts Council Ireland, while his family life is in London, and it’s proved really tough to balance all of this with the demands of being artistic director of a major company in a third capital city.

    “After two years of getting to know Fearghus and working with him as our Artistic Director, I know how hard this decision has been for him personally. However, the relationship between Fearghus and the Company remains very warm.  We’re very proud of the direction that the Company has set, and he’s been a key part of that. We’re sorry that this year will be his last as artistic director, but we all intend that he will return in future to work with us on various projects.”

    Fearghus’s work will continue with NDCWales, both in the Rygbi project that continues to grow and the 2020-22 programme he played such a significant part in developing.

    [Read more]

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    The Royal Ballet’s top choreographer has been suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct involving his students.

    Liam Scarlett, 33, has been banned from the ballet company while an inquiry is carried out by independent investigators. The Royal Opera House, home to the Royal Ballet, said it was made aware of the allegations in August last year and had suspended Scarlett.

    The independent disciplinary investigation was opened immediately, and is continuing.

    No findings have been made against Scarlett, the Times [has] reported, but it is thought that the claims may span a decade, and involve current and former dancers under Scarlett’s instruction at the time of the alleged misconduct.


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    January

    • Aisha and Abhaya | Rambert | Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH, London | 24 January *****
    I was never going to be able resist booking a new work in London choreographed by Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar with music by Ori Lichtik - and in collaboration with the newly-on fire Rambert: and I wasn't disappointed. The film elements by Kibwe Tavares were striking and well-made but generally less essential (for me) than the movement delivered by six of Rambert's most striking dancers with the welcome addition of guest artist Maëva Berthelot. All the reviews criticise a significant disconnect between the narrative film content and Eyal's choreography but the programme notes (in an interview with Tavares) indicate that this was a clear artistic choice and the show was so exciting and physically on the money that I don't really care about whether there was an 'issue' with the narrative.
    • Child (Kind) | Peeping Tom | Barbican | 26 January *****
    While down south for Aisha and Abhaya I was lucky (and sensible) enough to catch Peeping Tom's Child at the Barbican. The third part of a trilogy (with Mother (Moeder) and Father (Vader)), Child was a strikingly odd and eccentric show about childhood imagination and trauma set in a creepy Americana-inflected forest at the edge of some cliffs with an appealingly bizarre cast of misfits and oddballs, a tree-baby and some aliens. Dark, funny and technically audacious, Peeping Tom are like no one else in the arena of dance theatre. 

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    Siobhan Davies Studios is looking for an experienced Artistic Director/s to lead the organisation, bringing the wealth of independent dance practice to the widest and most diverse community of audiences.

    UK based Siobhan Davies Dance was founded in 1988 by pioneering choreographer Siobhan Davies CBE. Under her auspices Siobhan Davies Dance evolved from being a national and international touring dance company into Siobhan Davies Studios: an investigative contemporary art organisation, widely regarded as the UK leader of investigative and interdisciplinary work in dance and choreography. The organisation is especially respected for evolving relationships between dance and visual arts through the UK and internationally.

    Photo by Felix Clay

    While she will continue to work artistically, Siobhan Davies will step down as Artistic Director of SDS this year. Among other projects for 2020 and 2021, she is producing a film with long time collaborator David Hinton to celebrate her seventieth birthday and the seventy works she has made so far. Based on her Transparencies practice, this film looks at a collection of images significant to her thinking and doing throughout her career. The premiere is planned for 2021.

    In the current political and economic context of increasing challenge and rapid change a clear approach is essential.  Siobhan Davies Studios believes that the resources of choreography are invaluable in navigating this moment.  Siobhan Davies Studios is rooted in a community of creators and audiences who experiment and collaborate to investigate and create: in order to meet the demands of their community both now and in the future, Siobhan Davies Studios is currently working to reimagine the way in which they work in order to give artists the freedom and autonomy that they need. Most specifically Siobhan Davies Studios is considering a shift in their producing and programming processes to allow for a more flexible approach.

    https://www.siobhandavies.com/whats-on/vacancies/artistic-director/

    This is a fantastic opportunity for somebody. Even I have done workshops at Siobhan Davies Studios in my capacity as a volunteer performer. 

    As Siobhan Davies is stepping back as a director and Richard Alston retires his company and departs The Place, 2020 perhaps marks the year that British contemporary dance reaches full maturity, as both are pioneers and original founders.

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    Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) is delighted to announce Sharon Watson as its new Chief Executive and Principal.

    Watson, who is currently the longest standing Artistic Director of Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre, will begin her tenure as CEO and Principal of NSCD in May 2020.

    She becomes NSCD’s fourth Principal in the institution’s 35-year history, following in the footsteps of Janet Smith MBE, Gurmit Hukam and founding Principal Nadine Senior MBE. Janet Smith announced in September 2019 that she would be stepping away from the role in 2020.

    Sharon Watson said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be appointed CEO and Principal of Northern School of Contemporary Dance. My relationship with the school has spanned 35 years and to be able to continue the legacy of Nadine Senior MBE is incredibly rewarding. I cannot wait to join the team and to work with the exceptional teaching staff who understand the importance of creativity and talent development. Students of NSCD are renowned worldwide, this is certainly something to be proud of and to continue to build on.”

    Watson grew up in Leeds and was one of Nadine Senior’s pupils at Harehills Middle School before going on to study at London Contemporary Dance School in 1983. On leaving the school she was one of the first female dancers to join all-male Phoenix Dance Theatre, and in 1996 she attended NSCD to complete a Bachelor of Performing Arts (Dance) degree. Watson returned to Phoenix Dance Theatre in 2009 to take up the role of Artistic Director.


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  • 02/14/20--04:32: Categories of Dance
  • Categories of Dance

    This is a highly personal categorisation system for (and from) someone that has been watching dance for more than a decade, has a reasonable idea of what's 'good', what they like, what's exciting and what they are barely able to tolerate any longer; with an eye on who is worthy of note and who has been getting away with it and needs to step their pussy up. 

    1. Essential Modern: the kind of dance I want to be watching now and at this time: edgy contemporary in theme and style, cutting edge, progressive, exciting. Likely to be choreographer or artist driven rather than company-led. 

    Examples: L-E-V (Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar), Hofesh Shechter

    2. Quality Contemporary: companies and choreographers that are producing/continuing to produce high quality contemporary dance that reflects the best the genre has to offer.

    Examples: Wayne McGregor; Rambert; Russell Maliphant Dance Company, Michael Clark Company

    3. The Mainstream: companies that are still producing the kind of work that UK dance companies produce but without consistently achieving transcendent quality, innovation or excitement. Sometimes great, sometimes blah. 

    Examples: Phoenix Dance Theatre, Ballet Black, National Dance Company Wales; Scottish Dance Theatre, BalletBoyz; CanDoCo

    4. Mavericks, Upstarts and Innovators: companies that are punching above their weight, hard to categorise, interesting. Will either remain as mavericks or progress to another category over time. 

    Examples: DeNada Dance Theatre, Humanhood, Igor + Moreno, Clod Ensemble, Holly Blakey; Teac Damsa; Lost Dog Dance, Gary Clarke Company

    5. International Modern: Companies that combine the qualities of Essential Modern and Quality Contemporary but in an international context. Rarely seen in the UK outside London (next best options: Edinburgh International Festival, Birmingham International Dance Festival)

    Examples: NDT, NDT2, Carte Blanche, Göteborgs­ Operans Dans­kompani, Danish Dance Theatre, Iceland Dance Company, Ballet National de Marseille

    6. The Midstream: companies that are managing to produce and tour work that is neither especially interesting or remarkable or progressive. 

    7. Solo Operators: individual dance artists (or duos) pursuing their own 'lonely' furrow, sometimes older. Can be amazing. 

    Examples: Claire Cunningham, Wendy Houstoun, Liz Aggiss, Jo Fong

    8. Family favourites: companies that are hugely commercially successful (sometimes but not always deservedly) and those that are happy (or wise enough) to just make work that has a broad family appeal, accessible (or specifically) for kids. 

    Examples: New Adventures (Matthew Bourne), BalletLorent, Arthur Pita






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    A brand new ballet based on a trilogy of Margaret Atwood's novels will come to London.

    Acclaimed choreographer Wayne McGregor will be staging the show in a collaboration with the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.

    It will be based on Atwood’s collection of three dystopian novels: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.

    The three-act ballet, titled MaddAddam, will reach London in 2022, after having its world premiere in Canada this November. 

    Atwood’s trilogy is set in a near post-apocalyptic future, beset with plague, pandemic and the threat of extinction for humanity.

    Featuring a specially composed score by Max Richter, the ballet will reunite the creative team from McGregor’s Olivier Award-winning ballet Woolf Works, which united three of Virginia Woolf’s masterworks.

    Director of the Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare said: “Wayne’s genius in bringing together some of the most exciting creative forces in art today reveals itself again with this latest venture. Collaborating with Margaret Atwood, author of some of the most haunting and potent writing in contemporary literature, is a wonderful prospect for our next co-production with The National Ballet of Canada.”

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    The London National Dance Awards, run by the dance branch of the Critics’ Circle, celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

    The awards were held on February 19 in London.

    The winners in full

    Best male dancer
    Marcelino Sambé, Royal Ballet

    Best female dancer
    Francesca Hayward, Royal Ballet

    Outstanding company
    San Francisco Ballet

    Best independent company
    Shobana Jeyasingh Dance

    Best classical choreography
    Alexei Ratmansky for Shostakovich Trilogy, San Francisco Ballet

    Best modern choreography
    William Forsythe for A Quiet Evening of Dance, Sadler’s Wells

    Emerging talent
    Stina Quagebeur, choreographer, English National Ballet

    Outstanding female performance (classical)
    Katja Khaniukova as Frida in Broken Wings, English National Ballet

    Outstanding male performance (classical)
    Gary Avis as Kulygin in Winter Dreams, Royal Ballet

    Outstanding female performance (modern)
    Solène Weinachter as Juliet in Juliet and Romeo, Lost Dog

    Outstanding male performance (modern)
    Jonathan Goddard for The Mother, Alexandra Markvo/Bird and Carrot

    Outstanding creative contribution
    Gavin Sutherland, conductor and music director, English National Ballet

    De Valois award for outstanding achievement
    Marion Tait

    Obviously these awards have a massive London focus with much of the work rewarded never having been shown outside of the capital. However it is good to see the marvellous Marion Tait recognised, and Gavin Sutherland continues to do sterling work for the English National Ballet.

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  • 02/28/20--03:02: 2021 - The Year in Dance
  • January


    February


    March 


    • Cinderella | Birmingham Royal Ballet | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 3-6 March
    David Bintley's Cinderella is a marvellous production but it feels depressing that a year in advance, even with a change of artistic leadership (which I don't have much confidence in, to be frank) BRB and The Lowry know there is no point in risking innovative programming for this major company. 

    April


    May


    June


    July


    August


    September


    October


    November


    December




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    As he retires his company the 'father' of British contemporary dance gives a brief history of the past and future: and it's as bleak as one fears. 
    "When I first started out in 1967, the dance scene in the UK was very different. Many vocational training schools were able to offer places supported by local authority grants, and scholarships were often given to the most talented students.
    I trained at the London Contemporary Dance School and in three years of study was never asked to pay. When I left, I was given one of the first Gulbenkian Dance awards of £1,000 allowing me to start Strider, a small independent dance group, the first of its kind in the UK.
    Back then, small-scale venues were given a catalogue of Arts Council-funded clients. As we were the only small modern-dance company in it, we had plentiful offers of work. It was a time when experiment was welcomed and Strider flourished.
    In 1975, I and Strider dancer Eva Karczag chose to go to New York to extend our knowledge. I studied at the Merce Cunningham Studio, and Eva with Trisha Brown. It was a formative time for both of us, seeing a plethora of different dance performances from New York City Ballet to avant-garde improv group Grand Union. All in all, it was a heady two years.
    When I returned to Britain, I found the dance scene very different from when I had left. Many dancemakers now had funding to tour to small-scale venues, with educational workshops a part of the deal. The independent dance scene was well and truly born.
    The number of practising dance artists rapidly burgeoned and then just as rapidly started to dwindle away again. The Arts Council began to tighten up and demand more in return for its money. Venues began to realise that something nicknamed the ‘dance boom’ was already over. Now they looked for artists who were likely to command a sizeable audience. The range of activity narrowed but the quality increased in general – no bad thing in itself.
    Unfortunately, several changes of government forced the Arts Council to accept a prolonged period of standstill funding and this inevitably affected its clients. ACE nowadays actively demands an ever-smaller percentage of funds supporting each client. It puts 07, because to find matching funding, everyone is scrabbling after the same limited range of affluent arts supporters, and with the extreme effects predicted with Brexit, things look likely to get worse. Dark times for us all, where the survivors could well be the tough rather than the talented.
    My own career has been all importantly involved with national and international touring, firstly with Strider, then Rambert, and with my own company for the last 25 years. Touring now seems to be seen as too expensive for funders. The major companies are increasingly handing over regional dates to secondary companies such as Rambert2. I cannot deny that I find this sad. I know I owe so much to loyal and fervent audiences all over the country; their support has been truly terrific and whatever I do next, I will miss those really rather marvellous people."
    [from: The Stage (March 2020)]



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  • 03/04/20--02:54: Olivier Awards 2020
  • The nominations for this year's Olivier Awards have been announced, with musical theatre productions leading the charge (obviously).

    The nominations for dance are below:

    BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

    La Fiesta by Israel Galvan at Sadler’s Wells
    Ingoma by Mthuthezeli November for Ballet Black at the Royal Opera House - Linbury Theatre
    Mám by Michael Keegan-Dolan
    Vessel by Damien Jalet & Kohei Nawa at Sadler's Wells

    The only one of these I have seen is Michael Keegan-Dolan's Mám for his own company Teaċ Daṁsa: and it was magnificent. I've yet to see any of Michael's work and not feel exhilarated, moved and inspired.

    OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

    Sara Baras for her choreography and performance in Ballet Flamenco - Sombras at Sadler’s Wells
    Anne Teres de Keersmaeker for her performance in Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten at Sadler's Wells
    Gisele Vienne for her choreography of Crowd, presented by Dance Umbrella at Sadler's Wells

    I wanted to see Crowd. It was one of those shows with a trailer that looked like it could be amazing - or terrible. Reviews and this nomination suggest it was the former.

    BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

    Fabian Aloise for Evita at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
    Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear for Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
    Jerome Robbins and Matt Cole for Fiddler on the Roof at Playhouse Theatre​
    Jennifer Weber for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre

    I include this category only because there is a nomination for Matthew Bourne - who is undoubtedly a fantastic theatre choreographer; and because there is a nomination for Jerome Robbins, who died more than 20 years ago but is seemingly still producing outstanding work.



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  • 03/19/20--07:29: COVID19
  • How quickly the world changed.

    Now - as we face the global pandemic that always seemed more like science fiction until it actually happened - the world has completely changed and it's hard to see how some of these changes will not permanently alter the world we live in.

    I don't doubt that in time the theatres and galleries and museums and arts centre - not to mention schools and colleges and universities and shops and cinemas - will reopen and life will resume. But there is little doubt that things will be lost - hopefully not people, but some venues may not survive; some shows may never now be seen; some companies will not recover; the global nature of the world that we took for granted and had to fight for so hard in the face of Brexit may look very different.

    There is little to be gained by complaining or speculating but I am heartbroken and I mourn the loss of my normal life, of my cultural life and feel desperately sad and fearful for my theatres and dance companies and performers.

    Dance and other kinds performance have given me such incredible joy and pleasure and meaning since I fully embraced their importance within my life, something that started around fifteen years ago when my own life changed forever, and that has grown in impetus and importance as I approach the later years of my own life, aware of what I have missed, hungrily trying not to miss more in the years that are left.

    I will maintain this blog, in the hope that things will start to improve in a very few months - although the damage now is taking out events that would have happened in the late-spring and summer and later and eradicated the possibility of creating the work that would have taken us into 2021 and beyond.

    But for now, I mourn.

    I have no idea who reads this blog but much love to the dance venues, the dance companies - large and small, regional, national and international - the dance makers and performers and my fellow audience makers. Let us stay strong, hold on to what we have and have had and help wherever we can - financially if possible.

    Don't claim refunds on those missed shows if you can afford not to!

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    Liam Scarlett, one of the UK's leading choreographers, will no longer be working with London's Royal Ballet, the company has announced.

    The move follows a disciplinary investigation over alleged incidents of sexual misconduct with students.

    However the ballet said the inquiry had found "no matters to pursue" in regard to claims involving its students.

    The choreographer, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, has not commented on the allegations.

    He had been artist-in-residence at the company since 2012 but was suspended from his post last August.

    Scarlett was responsible for creating some of the Royal Baller's major recent shows, including a new production of Swan Lake in 2018.

    This coming summer, the ballet was due to stage Scarlett's Symphonic Dances but the production has now been cancelled, the company confirmed.

    A statement from the Royal Opera House, ballet's parent company, said: "Liam Scarlett's position with The Royal Ballet ended on 23 March, 2020.

    "We can confirm that the independent investigation has concluded and found there were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with students of The Royal Ballet School."

    The Royal Opera House in central London, where the ballet company is based, is currently closed until at least 19 April following the government's directive that all theatres should close during the coronavirus outbreak.

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