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North West dance news, reviews and personal views
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  • 03/07/17--09:55: 2018 - The Year in Dance
  • It feels early to be creating the 2018 page, but the first date has been announced:




    • Matthew Bourne's Cinderella | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 13-17 March










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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












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    Choreographer Mark Morris, hailed as the “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical,” (New York Times) returns to the UK with Pepperland, a unique tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    Kicking off Liverpool’s season-long festivities in 2017, Pepperland features an original score by Ethan Iverson, interspersing arrangements of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, “A Day in the Life”, “When I’m Sixty-Four”, “Within You Without You”, and “Penny Lane” with six Pepper-inspired original pieces intended especially to complement Mark Morris’ profound understanding of classical forms: Allegro, Scherzo, Adagio, and the blues.

    An unprecedented chamber music ensemble of voice, theremin, soprano sax, trombone, two keyboards, and percussion teases out and elaborates on Sgt. Pepper’s non-rock and roll influences. This colourful new piece resounds with the ingenuity, musicality, wit, and humanity for which the company is known.

    The Lowry
    29-30 March 2019

    Mark Morris Dance Group - Pepperland tour dates

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    Sir Anton Dolin (27 July 1904 – 25 November 1983) was an English ballet dancer and choreographer.

    He trained at Serafina Astafieva's school at The Pheasantry in London's King's Road. 

    He joined Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1921, was a principal there from 1924, and was a principal with the Vic-Wells Ballet in the 1930s. There he danced with Alicia Markova, with whom he went on to found the Markova-Dolin Ballet and the London Festival Ballet.

    He joined Ballet Theatre when it was formed in 1940 and remained there as a dancer and choreographer until 1946.

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    Company Chameleon are delighted to present a trio of FREE pop-up dance performances in their home city of Manchester, and the UK premiere of 'magnetic' short dance piece, Amaranthine.

    Gripping and raw, Amaranthine is a highly physical and fast paced male and female duet, which tells the story of two people who are deeply in love, and in conflict.
    As the couple desperately try to reconnect and find resolution, the pushes and pulls of disagreement and heated argument are felt, as is the appreciation of space, understanding and eventually, acceptance.

    • Thu 13 Sep, 6:15pm 

    The Foundation Coffee House, Lever Street, Northern Quarter
    Arrive early and join us for complimentary drink before the performance.

    • Sat 15 Sep, 1pm 

    Tony Wilson Place, First Street (outside HOME)

    • Sat 15 Sep, 3pm 

    St Ann’s Square (outside Barclays Bank)

    Free, no need to book
    Performance duration: 15 mins 

    Amaranthine is choreographed & directed by Kevin Edward Turner and Navala ‘Niku’ Chaudhari | Performed by Theo Fapohunda and Juliana Javier | Music by Miguel Marin | The seed of the idea grew out of the research made under the direction of Marso ‘Mickael’ Riviere.

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    Paul Taylor 1930 -2018

    Paul Taylor -  one of last living members of the third generation of America's modern dance artists - has died at the age of 88.

    He began his career relatively late in 1953. In 1954 he assembled a small company of dancers and began making his own works. A commanding performer despite his late start, he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 for the first of seven seasons as soloist. All the while he was continuing to choreograph on his own small troupe. He also worked with the choreographers Merce Cunningham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Wideman, Jose Limon and Jerome Robbins. In 1959 he was invited by Balanchine to be a guest artist with New York City Ballet.

    The New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company exists to this day, with the addition of a dance school and a chamber-sized second company Taylor 2 founded in the 1990s.

    A 2015 documentary titled Paul Taylor: Creative Domain showcased his creative process. It was described as "a fly-on-the-wall depiction of the 2010 creation of Three Dubious Memories, his 133rd modern-dance piece for the eponymous company that he founded 61 years ago."

    "[Taylor] whose highly diverse style was born in radical experimentalism in the 1950s, created poignant and exuberant works that entered the repertoire of numerous dance companies. His own company, eloquent and athletic, has been one of the world’s superlative troupes." New York Times obituary, 30/08/2018

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    A specially filmed performance of Hofesh Shechter's Clowns - filmed at the Tivoli Ballroom in London and directed by Hofesh himself - has been shown on BBC2 as part of the Performance Live strand.

    This 30 minute piece was created for NDT2 and now forms part of SHOW, which is touring soon performed by Shechter 2, the new junior company.

    This film is a unique opportunity to see the piece in its entirety performed by Shechter's main company: led as ever by the charismatic and completely wonderful Erion Kruja.

    Clowns is very much a continuation of Grand Finale in many ways and it is a fantastic piece of work.

    It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for around a month. See it if you can.

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    Rome (Paris Fitzpatrick) & Juliet
    (Cordelia Braithwaite).
    Photo: Johan Persson
    New Adventures is delighted to announce the world premiere of Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet opening at Curve, Leicester on Monday 13 May 2019, as part of a UK tour to 13 venues including a four-week summer season at Sadler's Wells from Wednesday 7 August to Saturday 31 August 2019.

    Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is a passionate and contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic love story.

    Bursting with youth, vitality and Matthew Bourne’s trademark storytelling, Britain’s brightest young dance talent join the New Adventures company for this World Premiere production. Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, collaborating with his entire New Adventures Associate Artistic team; Etta Murfitt, Associate Artistic Director, set and costume design by Lez Brotherston; lighting by Paule Constable; sound by Paul Groothuis; and new orchestrations of the Prokofiev score by Terry Davies, played live by the New Adventures Orchestra and conducted by Brett Morris.

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    The Rite of Spring offers a new interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s iconic ballet, from China’s leading choreographer and dancer Yang Liping. Liping blends Chinese folk dance with contemporary choreography, and takes inspiration from Chinese symbols of nature. The piece uses Stravinsky’s original music and a specially created new score, inspired by traditional Chinese music.

    Yang Liping is a National First-class dancer and the vice chairman of China Dancers Association. A household name in China, she won nationwide fame for her performance of her first original dance piece Spirit of the Peacock in 1986. Since then, Liping’s performances have received huge acclaim, both in China and internationally. The Rite of Spring is her second contemporary dance piece following the success of her previous work Under Siege, which received widespread critical acclaim at its European premiere in London in 2016.

    The announcement was made during a visit to China by International Festival Managing Director Joanna Baker who met with officials from Yang Liping’s Peacock Dance Company and Shanghai International Arts Festival. The visit builds on previous commitments by the International Festival to collaborate with colleagues in China to bring leading Chinese artists and companies to Edinburgh.

    This meeting coincided with a wider visit by led by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promote the growing economic, cultural and educational links between Scotland and China. A short film introducing The Rite of Spring and its visit to Edinburgh also formed part of a Scotland Is Now reception in Shanghai, which celebrated contemporary Scotland as an innovative, creative and inclusive nation, and a vibrant place to live, work and visit.

    The production of The Rite of Spring will be staged on 22-24 August 2019 as part of the International Festival. Tickets will go on sale in March next year along with the full 2019 International Festival programme.

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  • 10/24/18--06:17: Manchester? No, Sorry 2019
  • My annual list of companies that miss Manchester (or Salford) from their touring. Just for information.

    Rambert 2

    Rambert 2 are the new Rambert 'junior'company and have a very interesting programme for their first appearances: a new work by Benoit Swan Pouffer; a revival of a 2004 Place Prize-winner by Rafael Bonachela and Sharon Eyal's Killer Pig (which I am desperate to see). Current tour dates do not include Manchester.

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  • 10/25/18--06:18: Dance Touring Partnership?
  • Dance Touring Partnership - after deciding to tour a MUSICAL this autumn - have now dropped the word 'dance' entirely from their name and 'About' description - they are now simply DTP.

    The poor grammar in the text below (my bold) may indicate the speed with which this has been done. They have yet to obtain a new web address however:

    DTP is a network of theatres working together to bring exciting and engaging productions and companies to audiences around the UK. The network aims to build and retain audiences by increasing the range and diversity of work available on the regional touring circuit and encourage attenders to try something new by presenting productions from across art form and by extending access to high quality UK and international artists and companies.
    From 27 April  2018

    While many of the 20 shows they have previously toured might have been classed as dance, they have all had a strong sense of theatricality and storytelling. In autumn 2018, DTP will take a step up to widen its reach by touring 2b theatre company’s music theatre production, OLD STOCK: A Refugee Love Story...
    So what seemed like a blip now appears to be a decisive step to diversify from dance. Clearly this does not rule them out from supporting dance productions in the future but this seems a dark indicator of the state of touring dance in the country and just disappointing, as DTP generally supported medium-sized work as a nice compliment to Dance Consortium, who generally support larger-scale companies: although DTP also pulled out the big guns occasionally.

    If Dance Consortium follow suit (and there is currently no suggestion that they will) you can pretty much say farewell to seeing much in the way of international dance outside London.

    DTP have previously toured companies as diverse a Jasmin Vardimon, Hofesh Shechter, Fabulous Beast, Danish Dance Theatre, Ultima Vez and Australian Dance Theatre.

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  • 10/31/18--06:52: Waiting for 2019
  • I am keeping an eye on a number of companies in the hope that Manchester (which often actually means Salford) will be included in their 2019 tour itineraries. This list will be updated as and when:

    Ballet Boyz | Them / Us | 2019 Tour Dates announced soon

    Phoenix Dance Theatre |  Double Bill 2019 (The Rite of Spring & Troy Game) | Phoenix have a very TBC relationship with Manchester (usually popping up in Liverpool or Huddersfield instead). Also, The Rite of Spring is appearing as part of an Opera North double bill with Gianni Scicchi at The Lowry in March 2019 so I'm not holding out much hope.

    James Wilton Dance | The Storm | Further tour dates for 2019 to be announced. James Wilton Dance have previously appeared at The Lowry and Contact.

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    Scottish Dance Theatre have announced the departure of Artistic Director and choreographer Fleur Darkin after six years to pursue new challenges.

    In her time at SDT the company has grown creatively and commercially, creating 23 new works with a wide range of creative collaborators and growing revenue by 20%

    Fleur Darkin

    Fleur Darkin to leave Scottish Dance Theatre after six years [Scottish Dance Theatre]

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  • 11/02/18--08:30: UK Theatre Awards 2018
  • I have rather missed the nominations for the 2018 UK Theatre Awards, let alone the announcement of the winners on Sunday, 14 October.

    These are the (rather odd, in my view) dance nominations:

    Achievement in Dance

     Ballet Black for Cathy Marston's THE SUIT, perfectly paired with Arthur Pita's A DREAM WITHIN A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

     National Dance Company Wales for Marcos Morau's exceptionally artful TUNDRA

     Northern Ballet for its bold and varied programming, particularly THE LITTLE MERMAID and its Kenneth MacMillan tribute

    Other nominations that included dance:

    The Renee Stepham Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre

    Northern Ballet

    Nuffield Southampton Theatres, English Touring Theatre & Theatr Clwyd

    Scottish Ballet

    Promotion of Diversity

    Birmingham Repertory Theatre

    National Theatre of Scotland

    Northern Ballet

    Achievement in Marketing/Audience Development

    Nuffield Southampton Theatres

    The Old Vic

    Phoenix Dance Theatre

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    Richard Alston Dance Company has announced today that its final tour will take place in 2019-2020. Richard Alston has been creating dance for over 50 years and his company has been resident at The Place for the past 24 years. In that time, Alston has played a major role in the world of contemporary dance, developing a unique and distinct dance language and shaping the art form in this country.
    The company’s current tour runs until spring 2019 including two nights at Sadler’s Wells. It will tour in autumn 2019 including a special ‘At Home’ programme at The Place in celebration of the company’s 25 years of work and its home’s 50th anniversary. The company will tour for the last time in spring 2020 including a final Sadler’s Wells season.
    Richard Alston's career is in many respects the history of contemporary dance in the UK. He was one of the very first students at the newly established London Contemporary Dance School in 1968.

    It was at this point that he started to choreograph, as he studied under the groundbreaking teaching of American dancer/choreographer Robert Cohan and the leadership of Robin Howard, who first brought contemporary dance to the UK from America in the late 1950s.

    He went on to choreograph for The Place's resident company London Contemporary Dance Theatre before forming the UK’s first independent dance company, Strider, in 1972. In 1975 he left for New York to study at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio and on his return two years later he worked throughout the UK and Europe as an independent choreographer and teacher.

    In 1980 he was appointed Resident Choreographer with Ballet Rambert, becoming the company's Artistic Director from 1986 - 1992. 

    In 1994 he became Artistic Director at The Place and formed his own company Richard Alston Dance Company.

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    When I query companies on whether they are touring to Manchester/Salford - this is usually via social media and usually after they have published a touring schedule that misses the city - the standard responses are either something along the lines of not being able to fit it into their schedule - which I kind of understand as The Lowry is fairly tightly scheduled and their planning with the more financially-secure companies is much more forward that many dance companies can manage.

    But what about HOME?

    Theatre 1 [pictured] is equivalent to The Lowry's Quays Theatre in scale and capacity (it would appear), and Theatre 2 - is a large flexible studio space arguably larger than The Lowry's Aldridge Studio.

    This may be controversial, but it has long-seemed to me that the HOME theatres are not exactly over-used. I am occasionally struck by the long periods during which there appears to be little or nothing on in Theatre 1. Fortunately the place has cinemas and a very-successful restaurant and bar to keep the tills ringing.

    HOME opened in 2015 so should have built up some momentum by now. Theatre 1 was built on the memory of the now long-closed Library Theatre, which it has never matched for programming (in the sense of putting on complete and coherent seasons, in the way the Royal Exchange still does, for example).

    Hofesh Shechter Company regularly performs at HOME now and his recent works are HOME co-productions (with other venues). Motionhouse, Gecko and Rosie Kay Dance Company are among other dance and physical theatre companies to play the venue. But the venue does not have appear to have any clear dance programming. In fact, apart from a series of welcome festivals - Orbit, Viva!, PUSH etc. and the presence of Manchester School of Theatre (MMU) as a resident company in Theatre 2, the venue doesn't appear to have much in the way of clear programming policy (although the venue does have a clear interest in experimental work, gender, LGBTQIetc., transgressivesness and multiculturalism). Although they (unusually) state their programming poilicy quite clearly on their website.

    On dance, their website states:

    Dance theatre, combining the raw emotion of dance with the narrative of theatre also has a new home in Manchester and we are working with international partners to commission and produce bold new work as well as host the best touring productions in this exciting medium.

     There has been relatively scant evidence of this since the venue opened.

    The other necessary conversation on dance in Manchester has to perhaps consider the weakness of the dance audience, lack of dance infrastructure and activism, but through the lens of a decade of arts funding cuts that appear to have hit dance hard and continuously.

    Thankfully, MIF now appear to have dance firmly on their agenda, so there is light amid the darkness.

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  • 11/15/18--01:56: 2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards
  • The nominations for the 2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards are out (and may have been for some time).

    I only actually became aware of the awards because Northern Ballet are actively promoting their nomination for The Little Mermaid in the category below (which appears to be the only dance related category).

    2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards - Outstanding Achievement in a New Dance Production

    David Nixon/Northern Ballet

    Liam Scarlett/Royal Ballet
    SWAN LAKE  (Royal Opera House)

    English National Ballet

    Akram Khan Company
    XENOS  (Sadler's Wells)

    Cathy Marston/Ballet Black

    Sharon Watson/Phoenix Dance Theatre

    Having not seen any of the productions above it is hard to comment but... 

    Ballets based on The Little Mermaid are a massive yawn that don't exactly suggest much in the way of creativity and innovation in the world of UK dance. I have also yet to see Northern Ballet produce anything that could reasonably be described as 'outstanding'. 

    Swan Lake. Groundbreaking. 

    Firstly, I am a huge fan of the English National Ballet. And they have hugely diversified their programming since Tamara Rojo took over as Artistic Director. I did see La Sylphide as part of a different ENB double-bill and it was genuinely fabulous. But... Le Jeune Homme Et La Mort dates from 1946 and La Sylphide from 1836. So again, outstanding achievement in a new dance production? Not exactly rewarding creativity or innovation here either. 

    Akram Khan's XENOS. Not seen it but seems like a fair nomination. 

    Ballet Black: I am seeing this double bill soon so will reserve judgement. 

    Windrush: Movement of the People: I have not seen this either and it looks to be completing touring without coming closer to Manchester than Huddersfield. But, this does seem like an important subject for a piece of dance theatre in the UK at this point and it is good to see a piece about immigration and Black British heritage and a dance company for Black and Asian dancers (Ballet Black) nominated. 

    According to the stats, which are visible on the voting page the likely winner looks to the Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid

    Which looks to me like a massive victory for blah and the dreariest of commercial dance. 

    Did I mention that only one and half of these productions have visited/are visiting Manchester or Salford?

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    The 19th National Dance Awards
    Announcement of Nominations

    The Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle is pleased to announce the nominations for the 19th National Dance Awards, which are as follows
    Miguel Altunaga (Rambert)
    Akram Khan (Akram Khan Company)
    Brandon Lawrence (Birmingham Royal Ballet)
    Vadim Muntagirov (The Royal Ballet)
    Javier Torres (Northern Ballet)
    Alina Cojocaru (English National Ballet)
    Jurgita Dronina (English National Ballet)
    Dana Fouras (Russell Maliphant Company)
    Rocío Molina (Cía Rocio Molina/Dance Umbrella)
    Marianela Nuñez (The Royal Ballet)
    Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan  
    Dresden Semperoper Ballett 
    Northern Ballet 
    The Royal Ballet 
    Scottish Ballet 
    [Sponsored by Dansez]
    Ballet Black 
    Lost Dog      
    Russell Maliphant Company 
    Yorke Dance Project    
    [Sponsored by The Ballet Association]
    William Forsythe for ‘Playlist (Track 1,2)’ (English National Ballet)
    Cathy Marston for ‘The Suit’ (Ballet Black)
    Wayne McGregor for ‘Yugen’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Liam Scarlett for ‘Swan Lake’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Christopher Wheeldon  for ‘Corybantic Games’ (The Royal Ballet)
    Ben Duke for ‘Goat’ (Rambert)
    Lin Hwai-min for ‘Formosa’ (Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan)
    Akram Khan for ‘Xenos’ (Akram Khan Company)
    Russell Maliphant for ‘maliphantworks 2’ (Russell Maliphant Company)
    Crystal Pite for ‘The Statement’ (Nederlands Dans Theater 1)
    [Sponsored by The L&M Trust]  
    Precious Adams (First Artist, English National Ballet)
    Maya Jilan Dong (Choreographer & Dancer /Portraits of Otherness, Akram Khan Company)
    Daniel McCormick (Artist, English National Ballet)
    Joseph Sissens (First Artist, The Royal Ballet)
    Vanessa Vince-Pang (Dancer, Phoenix Dance Theatre)
    [Sponsored by DWFM Beckman]
    Eleanor Duval as Lady Macbeth in ‘Macbeth’ (Mark Bruce Company)
    Rocío Molina  in ‘Caída del Cielo/Fallen from Heaven’ (Cía Rocio Molina/Dance Umbrella)
    Vidya Patel in ‘Usne kha tha/The Troth’ (Akādemi)
    Ashley Shaw in the title role as ‘Cinderella’ (New Adventures)
    Solène Weinachter as Juliet in ’Juliet and Romeo’ (Lost Dog)
    Miguel Altunaga in ‘Goat’ (Rambert)
    Jonathan Goddard in the title role as ‘Macbeth’ (Mark Bruce Company)
    Akram Khan in ‘Xenos’ (Akram Khan Company)
    Russell Maliphant in ‘maliphantworks 2’ (Russell Maliphant Company)
    Dickson Mbi in ‘maliphantworks 2’ (Russell Maliphant Company)
    [Sponsored by Lee McLernon]
    Precious Adams as Calliope in ‘Elite Syncopations’ (Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration/English National Ballet)
    Alina Cojocaru as Aurora in ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ (English National Ballet)
    Constance Devernay as The Fairy in Le Baiser de la fée’ (Scottish Ballet)
    La Chana in Gala Flamenca/La Chana’ (Flamenco Festival)
    Marianela Nuñez as Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’ (The Royal Ballet)
    [Sponsored by London Ballet Circle]
    José Alves in ‘The Suit’ (Ballet Black)
    Sergio Bernal in ‘The Swan’ in Russian Ballet Icons Gala (Ensemble Productions)
    Brandon Lawrence as Pan in ‘Arcadia’ (Birmingham Royal Ballet)
    Andrew Peasgood as The Young Man in Le Baiser de la fée’ (Scottish Ballet)
    Aaron Robinson in Playlist (Track 1, 2) (English National Ballet)
    Lucy Carter (Lighting Designer)
    Viviana Durante (Producer, Steps Back in Time)
    Philip Feeney (Composer/Music Arranger/Pianist)
    John Macfarlane (Designer)
    Gavin Sutherland (Conductor/Music Arranger/Musical Director)
    The winners will be announced at a lunchtime ceremony to be held in Central London on Monday, 18th February 2019.
    The event will also play host to the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement for which there are no prior nominations.
    The National Dance Awards have been organised by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle in each year of this Millennium to celebrate the vigour and variety of Britain’s thriving dance culture. They are presented by the Dance Section of the Critics’ Circle, which brings together over 60 dance writers and critics.   They are the only awards given by the body of professional dance critics in the UK.
    In announcing the awards, the chairman of the Dance Section, Graham Watts OBE, said:
    “This year, these short-listed nominees come from a long list of 396 dancers, choreographers, other creatives and companies nominated by professional dance critics, for work presented in the UK between 1st September 2017 and 31st August 2018.
    This year there is a new category – Outstanding Creative Contribution – which is to honour those who make creative contributions to dance, other than choreography, through, for example, music, design, dramaturgy or production.
    In total, 23 companies have nominees or are responsible for work nominated in the 2018 Awards, including five based overseas.  The remarkable diversity of dance in the United Kingdom is evidenced by the fact that considerably more than half the UK-based nominees hail from overseas, their places of birth being in at least 20 different countries.
    English National Ballet tops the list with nine nominations; closely followed by The Royal Ballet equalling last year’s total of eight.  Russell Maliphant Company has five nominations, followed by Akram Khan Company with four; and Rambert, Ballet Black and Scottish Ballet with three each; Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, Cía Rocío Molina/Dance Umbrella, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Mark Bruce Company and Lost Dog, each with 2 nominations.
    Russell Maliphant’s programme MaliphantWorks 2 garners the most production nominations with three, closely followed by Akram Khan’s Xenos, Cathy Marston’s The Suit, Liam Scarlett’s Swan Lake, Ben Duke’s The Goat, Mark Bruce’s Macbeth and Scottish Ballet’s revival of Le Baiser de la fée by Kenneth MacMillan, with two nominations each.
    The Awards Committee wishes to express grateful thanks to our sponsors, without whom the event would not be possible; to the body of dance critics across the UK for giving their time to ensure the best possible list of nominees; and, above all, the companies, choreographers and performers for giving us such a rich variety of choice”.  
    Sponsorship opportunities exist to support the Best Female Dancer, Best Modern Choreography, Outstanding Male Modern Performance and Outstanding Creative Contribution Awards and/or to become a Patron of the Awards.  To discuss these opportunities contact the Chairman, Graham Watts on or +44 (0) 7710 057252,
    Twitter: @NatDanceAwards
    Instagram: @national_dance_awards
    Facebook: NatDanceAwards

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    Looking at the nominations for the 19th National Dance Awards I am struck by a number of things.

    Firstly - and this is far from a new observation as regular readers will note - is how utterly irrelevant Manchester is in terms of the national dance picture.

    Obviously there are no nominations for Manchester artists and only a relatively short list of independents who would ever be in a position to be nominated.

    But I am also struck by how little of this work and how few of these companies have even shown in Manchester in the past year.

    Obviously nominations for dancers for English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Rambert  and Northern Ballet may have appeared in Manchester as all three have visited.

    But apart from Ballet Black - who have nominations for dancer José Alves and choreographer Cathy Marston for The Suit - and Lost Dog, who have a couple of nominations -  and Ashley Shaw for Matthew Bourne's Cinderella, I don't believe any of the other companies or productions have even visited the city.

    The other thing that strikes me is how much of the work I truly admire and have seen this year has been overlooked.

    Nothing for Hofesh Shechter Company and his incredible dancers for either Grand Finale or SHOW.

    Nothing for Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar of L-E-V, who have shown two pieces in the UK this year (OCD Love and Love Chapter 2, created a new work for the National Youth Dance Company, had a piece in the programme for Ballet BC - who presented a marvellous triple bill (including the remarkable Crystal Pite, who was nominated last year) and for Rambert 2 (Killer Pig).

    Nothing for Clod Ensemble. Or DeNada Dance Company.

    It might also be worth noting the persistent classical bias. The category for Best Male and Female dancer favours classical dancers over modern. Three out of five Emerging Artist nominations are classical. Outstanding Company is overwhelmingly classical. Independent is entirely modern. Which makes it clear where the power and money and financial stability lies.

    I just looked at the nominations for last year and it appears to be somewhat more diverse (so maybe this year is what it is) but a lot of the same names reappear: Ashley Shaw, Miguel Altunaga, Brandon Lawrence, Alina Cojocaru...

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    Jennie Lee, Baroness Lee of Asheridge
    The creative industries are a boon for the country – they deserve a culture minister who has a passion for them 

    Hannah Jane Parkinson in the Guardian on a decade of Tory contempt for arts and culture.

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  • 12/07/18--09:38: 2018 - Review of the Year
  • The Best of 2018 (in no particular order)

    • Grand Finale - Hofesh Shechter Company | HOME

    I make no secret of loving the work of Hofesh Shechter. I saw Grand Finale four times in 2018 and never tired of a single moment of it. His best, most complete work since Political Mother, Grand Finale is a dark history of the world that celebrates humanity's remarkable capacity for resilience and joy.  I look forward to seeing it again in 2019.

    • British Ballet Columbia aka Ballet BC | The Lowry (Lyric Theatre)

    This was Dance Consortium's first (and more interesting) tour of the year. A seemingly rare opportunity to see a different international company in the regions. An evening of all female-choreography with work by Ballet BC Artistic Director Emily Molnar and my first encounters with the remarkable Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite (the exquisite Solo Echo) and Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar (in the shape of Bill). The dancers were beautiful, the production was outstanding and the work was gorgeous. Ballet BC made The Lowry's Lyric Theatre feel like a very special place that night. 

    • Toro: Beauty and the Beast - DeNada Dance Theatre | The Lowry (Quays Theatre)

    TORO is a slightly-bizarre piece of dance theatre – but in a good way. It is culturally diverse, questioning and delivered with enormous style and imagination: it pushes boundaries (and probably a few people’s buttons) but is so gloriously unrepentant in its fabulous queerness and technical flair that it explains why DeNada are already punching above their weight.

    • Love Chapter 2 - L-E-V | Sadler's Wells 

    After seeing Sharon Eyal and Gai Bahar's marvellous Bill for Ballet BC in March, this was my first experience with their own company L-E-V, making a second visit to Sadler's Wells with the second part of their Love series. OCD Love appeared at Sadler's in 2017 and made a further appearance at the Edinburgh International festival in August 2018 (alternating with Love Chapter 2). I can report that Love Chapter 2 didn't disappoint and the six dancers were completely extraordinary to match the darkly obsessive choreography and live soundtrack by Ori Lichtik. Eyal is Sadler's Wells' newest Associate Artist and her work is a fresh and distinctive new voice in international choreography. I'm hooked.

    • OCD Love - L-E-V |  KIngs Theatre, Edinburgh

    The opportunity to see OCD Love prompted my first trip to the Edinburgh Festival: I saw OCD Love and Dam Van Huyhn's wonderful DEP for a second time. As I expected I loved OCD Love a little more than Love Chapter 2. The austere extravagance of their ascetic choreography is devastating. Their work is the very essence of pure choreography and music distilled and distorted into the most exquisite kinetic perfume. 

    • The Great Tamer - Dimitris Papaoiannou | Sadler's Wells

    I have been following Mr Papaioannou's work for some time and took the opportunity to catch his Sadler's Wells debut with The Great Tamer, performed by 10 beautiful (Greek) humans. Not dance as such, more a creative hybrid of visual art and physical theatre, this was an incredible experience. Dark, imaginative, painstaking, detailed and tremendous fun.

    • The Silk Road | Jose Agudo/Mavin Khoo | The Lowry (Compass Room)

    This looked interesting on paper but was unexpectedly enjoyable, combining and redefining  two genres I have an interest in but little passion for. 

    Silk Road is an emotional, spiritual – and educational – journey that showcases and contrasts Flamenco and Kathak in a quietly-spectacular way. Agudo and Khoo are masters of their craft but don’t perform for effect or for applause. This show is communicative, humble and welcoming, and exquisitely put together with all the texture, strength, beauty and skill of fine silk.

    SHOW - Shechter 2 | HOME

    Shechter II are in many ways as impressive as the main company. An extremely charismatic bunch, they have a different energy that fizzes and theatens and seduces differently to the impressive and seductive worldweariness of their seniors. SHOW revisits a section of Sun in more (and more extreme) detail but also has a suggestion of Grand Finale revisited. Witty, seductive, violent, joyous and unsettling, Hofesh Shechter continues to make work that shifts the lens on the world we live in. Shechter's own score (with some classical references) perfectly underpins and ignites and manipulates the action. Lee Curran and Richard Godin's lighting is gorgeous. These clowns are impossible not to love. Robinson Cassarino especially demands attention as he wheels vividly through every emotion; but all eight are standouts. SHOW did not diminish on second viewing. In face, if anything, the company's energy was even more focused. Thrilling stuff. 

    Despite award-nominations and good reviews I didn't have great expectations of Ballet Black, having found them technically-impressive but rather underwhelming on my only previous encounter. But this double bill entirely justified the hype. Cathy Marston's The Suit, based on a 1963 South African short story, was sharp and detailed with impressive central performances by Cira Robinson, José Alves and Mthuthuzeli November. Arthur Pita's distillation of Shakespeare's midsummer comedy - much like the Frederick Ashton version - was joyfully silly and celebratory but authentic, with appealing notes of queerness. Outstanding lighting designs and impeccable music choices created a vivid magical and nocturnal world on a bare stage with just seven dancers. 

    Having seen Aakash Odedra produce two Kathak-flavoured solo double bills on previous occasions I was somehow not expecting his collaboration with seven Turkish dancers on the theme of political outsiderness (which sounds very much my kind of thing) to be quite so devastatingly compelling and powerful. Odedra and his team have managed to produce a show that is original, politically significant, exciting, bold, technically audacious, Shechter-ish in tone but entirely distinctive in delivery. I would like to see this work reach a wider audience as it is important and tremendous. Every aspect of this production was viscerally and visually exiting. 

    The Best of the Rest...

    Zero: Humanhood | The Lowry (Aldridge Studio)
    Skin: 201 Dance Theatre | Waterside, Sale
    Knot: Nikki and JD | The Lowry (Aldridge Studio)
    Contagion: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance | Imperial War Museum North
    Swan Lake / Loch na hEala: Michael Keegan Dolan & Teaċ Daṁsa | The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) - this made the best of 2017 and was no less impressive on repeat viewing
    Swan Lake: New Adventures | The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) - it still has its flaws but it is still a game-changing triumph that packs a devastating emotional punch, And those swans...

    Disappointments of the Year...

    Life Is a Dream: Rambert | The Lowry (Lyric Theatre). All the signs were Rambert were having a major creative renaissance but this was just boring. 
    Jane Eyre: Northern Ballet (The Lowry (Lyric Theatre). Cathy Marston's work for Ballet Black was crystalline but even she couldn't save this mess from Northern Ballet's pedestrian touch.  

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    Photo: Camilla Greenwwell
    They brought him in as caretaker and now he's in charge. Benoit Swan Pouffer is confirmed as Artistic Director at Rambert and is making all the right noises. 

    I think Rambert have been stodgy and complacent for too long (although always capable of producing good work) and they have benefited for too long from an unquestioning, dedicated audience happy to be spoon fed a familiar, comforting diet.

    Rambert's new boss: 'It's like a big mansion and I'm going to renovate it' [The Guardian]

    Rambert's Official News Release

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    Bronislava Nijinska born 8 January 1891.

    Sister of Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska was a ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer.

    As influential and innovative as a dancer and choreographer as her famous brother, she assisted him with the creating of  L'Après-midi d'un faune (1912) and Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) and went on to become a pioneering and influential voice in the development of post-classical ballet, neoclassicism, minimalism and contemporary dance in her own right

    In 1923, with a score by Stravinsky she choreographed her iconic work Les Noces [The Wedding].

    Working with the Ballet Russes several times, she was forced to move between Russia and Paris and eventually the United States by the Russian Revolution and two world wars. She worked with several ballet companies in Europe and the Americas, as well as with her own companies. 

    In the 1960s for The Royal Ballet in London, she staged revivals of her Ballets Russes-era creations.

    Bronislava Nijinska by Man Ray (1922)

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    Methods of Dance has very mixed views on this appointment. My initial reaction was one of disappointment, largely because - although I never saw Carlos Acosta at the height of his career - I have seen his farewell tours and the first UK tour of his own company Acosta Danza.

    With his 'rags to riches Cuban background Acosta certainly brings an element of diversity to the role and he speaks of diversifying audiences, which is a good thing. He is also reportedly down-to-earth in person, although the performances I have seen had a distinct whiff of posturing and ego, which most of the audience encouraged, so fame-struck they appeared. 

    My main concerns are these: he has almost no track record as a choreographer. I was dismayed that his company went from zero to Arts Council NP status despite having created or achieved nothing. As far as I have witnessed there is little evidence of modernity or innovation either, especially when you look at what the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and especially European companies are doing to shake up their classical companies and their dusty and ageing repertoires. 

    In a recent interview with the New York Times Acosta said:

    ... he wanted to celebrate the British ballet heritage of choreographers like Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan that the two companies shared, but that he also hoped to “look for choreographers that the Royal Ballet isn’t looking at, people and ballets that might not be obvious.” He added, “I want to bring repertory from all sorts of areas, to celebrate the contribution of women in dance, to grow an audience who might not normally follow ballet, through different kinds of dance and traditions.

    Acosta's farewell tours - of which I have seen two - and the first UK tour of his own company Acosta Danza suggested a creative director with little ability to programme or edit. 

    He also has little or no experience of running a major organisation especially one facing the financial and commercial challenges of someone like the Birmingham Royal: which is worrying when I have little or no confidence in his ability to creatively invigorate the company.

    Again in the New York Times interview:

    He said he didn’t yet know exactly what kind of financial situation he would face. “There is talk about cuts, but I am looking forward to discussions with the arts council and the city, because I am there to deliver a vision that makes a difference, and for that I need support,” he said. “The state of the economy, Brexit, all this makes a difference, but I need to understand more in terms of delivering what I want.
    This suggests a man chronically short of experience and limited understanding of how arts funding works in the UK (although such things appear to fall into his lap).

    I should note that BRB's classical repertoire is excellent; their newer ballets are variable and their more modern programming tends to be kept close to their home theatre and London only. 

    Tamara Rojo seemed like a bold and innovative choice when appointed as Artistic Director of English National Ballet and has mostly proved to be exactly when the company needed.

    For me, this bold choice does not have the same air of excitement and anticipation: I am nervous for the future.

    But I could of course be being wrong and unfair. 

    I just feel like they could have announced someone exciting and amazing. 

    [Updated 17/01/19]