Shobana Jeyasingh: TooMortal

Euston Road is bustling with high-speed and heavy traffic on this dreary summer’s afternoon. Londoners – residents and tourists alike – take shelter from the rain where they can, shop windows, bus stops, even the entrance of a local church. Of the latter, a small crowd gather but they’re waiting for more than just the rain to stop. In fact, they’re waiting for something to begin.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today at St Pancras' Church to witness the holy matrimony of movement and sound, design and concept: the latest creation from Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company, TooMortal. Commissioned by Dance Umbrella as part of an impressive lineup of cultural events happening across the capital for the London 2012 Festival, TooMortal is already destined for great things. Jeyasingh has taken inspiration from Venetian churches, following a recent visit to Italy, and location certainly forms the basis for the work.

A haze of pale blue and green light filters down through the aisle and we, the congregation, are led to the nave of the church where we reside for the duration of the piece. Silence falls, the beaming light fades, four female bodies arise from the pews before dramatically draping themselves along them. These women are eerily in time with each other, and eerie, too, is the deep stare that they hold which is both intense and vacant. Two more appear, almost ghostlike, resuming similar limb-strewn positions along the pews. A fascinating juxtaposition presents itself, for there is warmth in this cold, cold place. These, now six, female bodies are sensual, sultry, fiery-red in their looks (wearing loose-fitting costumes which reveal bare legs, neck and arms) and their manner as they lean, slide, grab their way along the wooden seats, elongating their arms, extending their legs, rolling their head. They move together, as one, but also alone, as one; that is to say there is both attachment and detachment from each other. Spooky.

The plot thickens as the very thing that gives these women strength, power, freedom also binds them – in fact they do not leave their designated pew, not even for a moment – it is indeed a blessing and a curse. Incessant tossing and turning of the head, frantic shaking of the torso, frenetic niggling and writhing of the limbs; try as they might, they cannot divorce themselves from this place. These are disturbed minds and bodies seeking solemn and, although in a place of worship, religion takes a back seat for this piece. Nevertheless, the dancers embark upon an act of devotion to the movement, almost sacrificing the body for us, themselves, their art.

By having her dancers performing in the would-be audience, Jeyasingh challenges performance conventions and, subsequently, the conventions and traditions that the location requires.  It’s a case of who’s watching who, but with the fourth wall well and truly gone, it’s a refreshing take on the spectator expectations. For the dance buffs, TooMortal gives a gentle nod towards Lea Anderson’s Flesh and Blood but if it does, then it is a passing detail for this is a standalone work, an artist responding to her inspiration.


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New Movement Collective: Casting Traces




Never have I seen the stage/audience barrier so cleverly eradicated as in New Movement Collective’s new work Casting Traces. Inventive, ambitious and cleverly articulated, the collective’s new work, performed as part of Big Dance 2012, has combined architecture, film, music, and dance to provide an immersive experience challenging the traditionally wired audience member.
Founded in 2009, New Movement Collective are a collaborative set of dancers/choreographers who aim to develop work that is a direct response to different and unusual theatre settings, transforming and evolving the notion of contemporary dance theatre by playing with the boundaries of dance and architecture.
From the moment of ticket collection, with intricately-folded programs and the adorning of white paper coats, the experience had begun. Entering a small space dominated by two dancing shadows and a solo violin, the anticipation rose. The telephone kept ringing, and then… the paper barrier broke. The 650sq metre old dairy had become (via a paper labyrinth) a train station… New York’s back streets… an apartment. Dancers meet, depart, hurdle and lift, sometimes obscured by paper, at other times in full spotlight.
Inspired by the non-linear aspects of Paul Auster’s novel “The New York Trilogy”, a clamoring of scenes, ideas and evocative moments spin a tantalizing portrait of potential stories. The audience members are invited to explore every crevice of the work, drawn through the space with pinpointed lighting and sound design. Encapsulating different areas of the space, dancers appear and disappear in the network of paper to engage with one another. The dancers are confident in their stride and focus, audience members turn in surprise or dash out of the way as a performer hurtles past to begin a compelling and intimate duet only steps away.
In such a voyeuristic setting, and with ample opportunity for experiencing and aiding the transformation of the work, New Movement Collective has developed a complete sensory experience. Illusion, mystery and shadow play dominate with as much unseen as seen. It is not only the dancers that create this performance, the audience is an integral part of it too, shaping the work and heightening the anticipation of finding the next part of the performance occurring. The dancers blend into the crowd when they wish, or they stand out and perform; either way the movement became palpable. Each part of the dance that was revealed offered a precious and unique moment which propagated the feeling of wanting more.
The dancing itself was articulate and dynamic, the performers never escaping the intensity of their movement. Characters were hinted at, but never entirely revealed; relationships were many and often changed. This work offered no solid answers to the events that were unfolding; confusing at times, it heightened the uncertainty of the space and revealed a new platform for integrated work.
I left this performance feeling like I’d missed something, worried about the phrases I hadn’t caught, the dancing I’d desired to see and not. Over time this bred into a settled certainty that I had been more involved, more up close and personal than I’d ever been able to be as an audience member. Primarily fleeting, the setting created by these dance artists ensures you will feel compelled to come back. Casting Traces is a work you could see over and over again, arriving at a different point and conclusion each time. Transformative and experimental, New Movement Collective have used the ephemeral nature of dance to their advantage, enabling an immersive experience that is not to be missed.
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Weekly Roundup: 9 July

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Between Big Dance and everything else, this week is absolutely jampacked full of dance, and you may well have a hard time squeezing everything in. To make it easier for you, we're listing events per day, as it's the best way to keep track of them all! We heartily recommend New Movement Collective - and for the rest, see below....

(Disclaimer: this roundup has been written under the influence of a migraine and lots of painkillers).


Pina Bausch: Wiesenland - 9 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (last-minute returns only):

Unthinkable even a few short weeks ago, but the festival of Pina Bausch's works has finally come to an end, with Wiesenland, a somewhat unHungarian exploration of Hungary but with an amazing enormous hedge covering the back wall. As ever, expect whimsy, theatre and beautiful dancing in varying quantities - but be warned that several of her dancers are absent for this final piece.

Dance In Focus: 9 July
City Hall
Tickets & details:

This evening is something special, offering a chance to view dance photography by aspiring photographers working with acclaimed dance photographer Chris Nash, who will then lead a panel discussion exploring the special relationship between dancer and photographer and how to achieve the perfect image.

There will also be a performance by English National Ballet of a new work choreographed by Hubert Essakow, using the photography exhibition as his inspiration. Essakow's works are always worth watching, and as an added bonus, tickets are only £5.

It's also the final week of Chris Nash's exhaustive exhibition at Artsdepot, so make sure you set aside time to trek up there before it's over.

Big Dance: The Big Dance Big Top Tent: 9 July
Grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich SE10 9LW

There are two events at the Big Tent on Monday, the Family Cabaret from 5pm till 7pm, and then the Cabaret (ages 14 upwards) from 8pm onwards. Both events will be compered by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt of BalletBoyz, with circus acts and live music in addition to the dance performances.

The family cabaret show features several youth dance companies including Quicksilver, Rambert's youth dance company (our reviewer Rachel Vogel is one of the dancers) as well as a performance by English National Ballet.

The evening show will include an extract of Protein Dance's LOL (Lots of Love) and performances by AD Dance Company, Levantes Dance Theatre and English National Ballet.

Grad Show: London Contemporary Dance School - 9 - 13 July
The Place
Tickets & details:

London Contemporary Dance School's graduate shows continue, offering a mixture of student choreography, commissioned works and Richard Alston's repertoire, eliciting works and performances of a high standard. Saturday's show - kindly broadcast live by The Place on YouTube - presented the two best student works from LC3 (2pm by Tom Peacock and Andrea Dorelli; Opsimath by Michael Kelland) and a fantastic work for the students by Sasha Roubicek. We don't know what the remaining programmes will offer, but we know that most of it will be very good indeed.


New Movement Collective: Casting Traces - 10 - 13 July
Testbed1, Parkgate Road, Battersea, London SW11 4NP

"Dance, architecture, film and specially commissioned music meet to create a world of illusion, mystery and shadow play, where nothing is what it seems. Touching on the popular themes of detective novels and the modern issues of ever-present surveillance, the audience explore a giant paper maze, becoming directly involved with the performance space and influencing the transformation of their surroundings. Projection and live camera feeds enable participants to meet themselves around every corner as they explore the hidden spaces of Testbed 1 – a 650sq metre former dairy in the heart of Battersea."

New Movement Collective is more than a typical dance company: it's a collective of established dancers, many of them current or past dancers with Rambert Dance Company, seeking to challenge the boundaries of dance and performance, working with architects to create new performance spaces for their work. But don't let that put you off or make you think of the stereotypes of experimental dance - New Movement Collective presents brilliant choreography and dancers in an intriguing and refreshing way.


C-12 Dance Theatre: The Van Man - 12 July, 1pm & 6.30pm
National Theatre

C-12 Dance Theatre is an impressive company founded by Middlesex University graduates fusing physical theatre and contemporary dance to create a wide range of striking indoor and outdoor works, notching up acclaim and awards over the years. Having performed Trolleys last weekend at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, they now bring their work about a man, a van and a blowup doll to National Theatre's Watch This Space festival. You may have to fight for space, but it's definitely worth watching.

Matthew Bourne's Play Without Words: 12 July - 5 August
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details:

Definitely one of Bourne's best works, 'Play Without Words' is a sexy, '60s-set, upstairs/downstairs dance drama, based on Robin Maugham's story 'The Servant' (and the Joseph Losey film of the book). You'll see super-stylish, precision choreography, setting out the complex social mores and sexual desires of a Chelsea couple and their domestic help. Bourne's trademark wit is in evidence, but none of the pantomime mugging seen in some of his other works. Terry Davies's jazzy score sets the scene perfectly and sets come courtesy of Bourne's longtime collaborator Lez Brotherston. (from Time Out).

Play Without Words won the 2003 Olivier Awards for Best Entertainment and Best Theatre Choreographer.

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company: TooMortal - 12 - 14 July
St Pancras Parish Church, Euston Rd, NW1 2BA
Tickets & details:

Shobana Jeyasingh's latest work has been created especially to be performed in churches. 'TooMortal' is inspired by the idea of church as a place of enquiry and a place of solace, and responds to the architecture and history of these sacred buildings. Set to a soundscore by Nick Rothwell, aka Cassiel, the six female dancers perform Jeyasingh's trademark movement language - contemporary dance shot through with Indian bharata natyam. (Description from Time Out).


Royal Ballet: Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 - 14 - 20 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

Dame Monica Mason's final year of directorship finally draws to a close with this specially-commissioned triple bill, which will say a sad farewell to both her and Tamara Rojo on 20 July. Metamorphosis: Titian is a collaboration between the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, commissioning three renowned artists to create works inspired by Titian paintings, depicting scenes from Ovid's Metamorphosis, in collaboration with a total of seven choreographers: Christopher Wheeldon, Will Tuckett, Liam Scarlett, Jonathan Watkins, Kim Brandstrup, Wayne McGregor and Alastair Marriott.

There will be a free screening in Trafalgar Square on 16 July: let's hope this rain can hold off for one whole evening!

Big Dance: Big Dance Trafalgar Square: 14 July, 12pm (tbc)
Trafalgar Square

Wayne McGregor has spent the last few months creating a new work to be performed at Trafalgar Square as the culmination of this year's Big Dance, to be performed by 1000 dancers from 40 groups from across London. Commissioned films will be shown of Big Dance Beijing and Big Dance Rio as part of the UK’s Big Street Dance Day.

Gwyn Emberton: 14 July (6pm) & 15 July (2pm)
Regent's Canal Festival, Mile End Park, Grove Road/ Burdett Road, London E3

We were very impressed by Gwyn Emberton's performance in Resolution! at The Place earlier this year, so we're welcoming another chance to see him perform - if the rain holds off!

Cloud Dance Festival Corner

Milo Miles Presents: Elysium at Prism - 11 July
Prism Brasserie, Harvey Nichols
Tickets & details:

This July Prism Brasserie will be hosting Elysium, a sensational floorshow, mixing cabaret, burlesque, circus and illusion.

Created and choreographed by Milo Miles, this sophisticated evening looks back to the heyday of cabaret and blends it with contemporary supper club chic in a relaxed and glamorous environment.

With entertainment running uninterruptedly throughout the night you can spend the evening, from cocktail hour to post dinner drinks, enjoying performances from dancers, singers and guest acts.

Ijad Dance Company: In-Finite - 14 July
Rich Mix
Tickets & details:

In-Finite celebrates cultural identity, exploring collages of untold secrets. Creating harmony between dance, music and visual imagery, IJAD Dance Company will explore the state of flux between knowing and not knowing.

Audiences will witness a work in progress performance of In-Finite, which will be developed into a full work and performed at Rich Mix in Autumn 2012.

Audiences (both in the venue and online) will be encouraged to interact with the performers through social media platforms and this communication will become a part of the piece. The work is an interpretation of the secrets that IJAD has received during an investigation into the relationship between a person, their secrets and the intensity this creates.

The Arts Dance - 15 July
The Arts Theatre
Tickets & details:

Charlie Dixon Dance Company will be performing Wise Man again, in a one-off evening of contemporary dance alongside other emerging companies including Tom Bowes Dance (Jordan Massarella Dance (his work was recently performed by Verve) will no longer be performing). The Arts Theatre is a very atmospheric venue, rarely used for dance, so this promises to be an interesting evening for all.

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Preview: New Movement Collective

There was a recent discussion on Twitter about which dance companies we find exciting, and although our list is very short, New Movement Collective is very firmly on it, even though they're a long way from a typical dance company.

Founded in 2009, New Movement was founded in 2009 as a collective to enable a group of established dancers to challenge the scope of choreography and performance, and increasingly, to explore the meeting of dance and architecture. If you're looking for a "normal" dance performance in a theatre, then this won't be for you, but if you're open to some great dance in an unusual setting with creative use of film, architectural sets and space to create a memorable experience indeed, then book your ticket now.

Casting Traces is their latest work, inspired by Paul Auster’s seminal novel ‘The New York Trilogy’, set in an architect-designed paper labyrinth in a former dairy. Lasting 45 minutes, this will be a promenade performance, inviting the audience to explore the venue at length, with the help of film and live camera feeds. Their most ambitious project yet, New Movement Collective have received their first ever Arts Council funding to assist with the development of this work and of TestBed1 as a suitable venue.

New Movement Collective have performed a number of works in London, Madrid and Cologne, and last September, they performed 'Exquisite Corpse' at the Architectural Association in Bloomsbury. The first part of the performance took place in a long room with an improvised catwalk at one end, with beaded curtains at the other end. Outside, white cloths had been draped between buildings; a brief performance on the catwalk was followed by shadowy figures dancing behind screens and dance films projected onto the beaded curtains then onto the cloths, creating a very dramatic effect.

The main appeal of New Movement Collective will undoubtedly be the dancers who form it, making it something of a contemporary dance supergroup - all the more so since Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon recently left Rambert Dance Company in order to focus on their own futures as choreographers.

Jonathan Goddard is likely the best-known of New Movement's dancers, having been nominated for a South Bank Show / Times Newspaper Breakthrough Award, an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and twice nominated in the Critics' Circle Awards for Best Male Dancer, winning in 2008. Since 2009, he has been choreographing with Gemma Nixon as the Goddard | Nixon Project, now Goddard Nixon, with their works performed at The Place in Resolution! and Spring Loaded, at the Linbury Studio in the Royal Opera House and at Cloud Dance Festival.

Kevin Turner and Anthony Missen are known to many as the two halves of Company Chameleon, currently touring an outstanding duet, Push, around the summer outdoor festivals, including a recent performance at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. Joe Walkling was a member of Matthew Bourne's New Adventures for several years, and last autumn, he performed in Arthur Pita's Metamorphosis at the Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House. The other members of New Movement Collective are current or past Rambert Dance Company dancers, and have also worked at many of the major contemporary dance and ballet companies.

Battersea might be off the beaten path for many of us, but you can trust that New Movement Collective will make it worth your while!


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Weekly Roundup: 2 July

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As the Pina Bausch around-the-world-in-ten-shows season draws to an end, the phenomenon that is Big Dance 2012 finally kicks off, with almost everyone who's involved in dance somehow participating. And there are a few more graduate shows, for those with an eye to the future...

Royal Ballet: Birthday Offering, Month In The Country & Les Noces - to 7 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

Bronislava Nijinska's Les Noces is widely acclaimed to be one of the finest works of ballet of the 20th century, and it's entirely worth missing the rest of the triple bill to watch this piece alone. Les Noces retains much of the primitivism and raw energy of her brother Nijinsky's Rite of Spring and consequently has far more impact in its depiction of a Russian bride and groom preparing for their wedding.

Often imitated and referred to throughout the years, from Pina Bausch to Javier De Frutos's The Most Incredible Thing, consider Les Noces to be part of your essential dance watching. The other two works on the programme are Ashton's Birthday Offering and Month In The Country, best suited to those who like their ballet defiantly classical. Pretty, but not even in the same league as Les Noces

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Wiesenland - 8 & 9 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (returns only; keep watching the website):
Duration: 2 hours 40 minutes (1 interval)

It seems hard to believe, but there's only one work left in the current Pina Bausch programme, although if you're one of the many who completely missed out on a ticket, there's hope in store with Sadler's Wells's recent announcement that Tanztheater Wuppertal will be returning on an annual basis.

Back to the present, Wiesenland is Pina Bausch's 2000 Hungarian work, "taking inspiration from Hungary’s folklore, churches, museums, the suburbs of Budapest and the horizons of Transylvania."

Big Dance: 7 - 15 July
Across the entire country

There will be hundreds if not thousands of events taking place over the week of Big Dance, involving almost everybody who currently works in dance. When we've figured out what the highlights are, we'll update this with their details.

Graduate Shows

Rambert School: Home Grown - 4 & 5 July
Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells
Details & tickets:

Details are still unavailable, however expect a mixture of student choreography and repertoire from wellknown choreographers. Past graduate shows have been of a high standard, so we expect this will be much the same.

Ballet Central & Central School of Ballet: 6 & 7 July
Bloomsbury Theatre
Tickets & details:

Ballet Central is Central School of Ballet's touring company of final year students, wowing audiences around the country, and for these final performances, they will be reuniting with the rest of their year for two days of performances.

Ballet Central's 2012 tour features new works from Mikaela Polley (Rambert Dance Company), Sharon Watson (Phoenix Dance Theatre) and Sara Matthews, as well as revivals by Matthew Hart, the late David Fielding, and Ballet Central's founder, the late Christopher Gable. This exciting programme of ballet, contemporary, jazz and narrative dance will also feature live accompaniment by Musical Director Philip Feeney.

London Contemporary Dance School: 6 - 13 July
The Place
Tickets & details:

It's hard to go far without noticing past graduates of London Contemporary Dance School - for example, Dancing Times's current Dancer of the Month is LCDS graduate Liam Riddick - and so it's pretty definite that more than a few of this year's graduates will be making their names known in the next few years. With seven performances over the next week and a half, the programmes will probably consist of a mix of student choreographies, collaborations with Wimbledon School of Art graduating students (bungee ropes, wall-to-wall elastic and rung-heavy sets will likely feature in one or more pieces) and recent LC3 works.

Make a note of the dancers and choreographers who catch your eye, and check back in a year or so... you'll be pleasantly surprised!

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Tilted Productions: Seesaw

The bright sunlight and whipping breeze were the perfect setting for Tilted Productions' staging of Seasaw at the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival this weekend.

In this 80-minute promenade performance, Maresa Von Stockert's company of seven performers lead their audience from place to place around Canary Wharf, where at each point we come across bodies - sometimes still, sometimes moving - all referencing the sea, its inhabitants or the traditions of the seaside.

We first of all see a couple meeting for a picnic. Set to an epic, Hollywoodesque score, the meeting seems fraught and urgent, an interesting contradiction to the idealistic picnic hamper and thermos, the contents of which are consumed hungrily.The piece goes on to lead its audience to a number of large, open spaces which are inhabited by the dancers, and the water of the wharf provides a wonderfully appropriate thematic setting for this work.

We see deepsea creatures, with plastic bottle spines and extended arms, performing slow-motion, underwater, almost cartoonlike duels in and around dustbins. There is a mournful and eerie duet between a man and a mermaid, with the female dancer's legs bound in water-soaked netting, to great effect.

There are moments when the piece is notably sinister, and highlights man's destructive influence on nature. This is particularly clear at our third stop, where we see three dancers as sea birds, covered in oil and moving in a distressed, fragmented way, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but never still. The epic sound score, along with the sound of bird cries and oil slipping on skin, and the ending of this section, where two 'humans' cover and suffocate the struggling birds with plastic sheeting, make this one of the more memorable moments of the work.

Billed as performance and installation, I was hoping for more to be able to interact with. We only had this opportunity once, when, signalled to do so by a sunbathing body on the pavement with the words written in sun cream on his back, we 'Listen(ed) To Shells'. The shells hanging on fencing emitted not the sound of waves crashing (as we all know they usually do), but the sound of a man reciting 'Not Waving but Drowning' by Stevie Smith, a further layer to the mournful tone of Stockert’s current work.

A more colourful part of Seasaw comes in the form of a man duetting with a striped deck chair. The quintessential symbol of British holiday-making is folded, climbed on, walked like a dog, struggled against and befriended, until finally, resolutely being sat in. The playfulness and almost slapstick elements here make for enjoyable, easy watching.

Our final stop is at another open, sweeping space along the wharf. Six dancers 'float' in life rings (not waving, but drowning?) in movement which sometimes feels contrived, but continues with a strong image of the dancers hurling earth from the immaculate lawn, and head-standing in the holes which they create. They remain there, and we move through them to a single female dancer, a rock and a water tank. She moves over, around and in the water, continuously ducking her head, birdlike, and whipping her head out, soaking the braver, closer audience members.

The image we are left with is her curled up, contortioned in the tank - a striking final image that I wanted to last longer.

Tilted Productions put on a great show, there is no doubt about that. The familiar images and bite-sized sections make the work very audience-friendly, although I felt that some sense of intimacy or connection was lost in the albeit beautiful, large open spaces in which the work was staged. But oh, I do like to be beside the seaside, and, along with some food for moral thought, Tilted do a great job of reminding me why.

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London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate company, EDge, offered a rather volatile night of dance watching. These little sticks of dynamite (aka dancers) can move with precision and speed, showcasing works by Sasha Waltz, James Wilton, Matthias Sperling, Rachel Lopez de Nieta and Tony Adigun. While the array of material in this dance programme was intriguing, there were small amounts of dislocation, yet the overall coherency of the night made for an enjoyable evening.

The first work was a restaging of Sasha Waltz’s earlier work String Quartet Nr. 1, originally created as part of a dance installation for the Neues Museum in Berlin. It was a very formal piece to begin the night with, and those used to current contemporary dance might be taken aback a little as a string quartet led this sextet of dancers on a lively but fragmented chase around the stage. In simple and colourful costumes, the dancers began the work with incremental broken movements, snapping back into position like a wooden children’s toy. The dancers possessed a surreal quality, lacking the fluidity that makes them human; their movements shifted them closer to the sharper sounds of the string instruments.

A curious development occurred when the dancers positioned themselves around the musicians and slowly relocated them (whilst they played) into the centre of the room. This visual shift was also a conceptual one, the focus of the piece turning toward the music itself. Albeit interesting, this seemed to be too much of a focus shift which left the dancers lying on the ground twitching intermittently with little visual interest.

The second piece, Through Shards by James Wilton, was much more steely than the first, beginning with a duet of dancers bounding out of the smoke. Reactive and volatile, this duet set the tone of what was to come: a strong, grounded work bringing a magnetic and forceful quality to the dancers. Duets and trios peppered the work, leaning, collapsing and creating a vivid cause and effect. The patterns created were simple, yet harboured a complexity which made this piece very visually interesting.

The interval shook up the audience to excite them for the unexpected nature of Matthias Sperling’s Dances With Purpose. The mention of “folk dance” in the programme notes implied something unerringly traditional and usurping the cultural ideology of the dance. This, I’m pleased to say, was not the case. The dancers were clearly enjoying themselves, wearing traditional costumes (universal black curly wigs included), bells, and waving a plethora of objects, from musical instruments to swords. Sperling’s work focused on the effect of cultural dance on an audience, and to that end he offered the joviality and inclusive nature of such a dance in all its glory. It may have been a little difficult to keep up the energy of this piece, but the concept and realization could inspire a love/hate reaction in the audience. Teetering on the edge of playful and monotonous, this work injected something just a little different into the night.

The two final works, Rite for Richard and Unleashed were both tributes to Richard Alston’s Wildlife, originally commissioned for last year's Dance Umbrella. Performed consecutively, they conveyed a contrasting interpretation of this 1986 work, one theatrical, another physically stirring.

Rite for Richard, choreographed by Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, began with a lone “bird” sitting bound on a chair in the corner of the room, dolled up in a sequinned dress, earrings and heavy makeup. This dancer created the pivot point for the other four who observed, reacted to and danced with this creature. De la Nieta’s observations and personal reactions to this documentary were astute, and there was plenty of artistic merit in the work, albeit lacking in the dance department. With a soundscape mixed by Jules Maxwell to include voiceovers and music from this film, there was an eclectic mix of stimuli which created a strong layer to the work.

Tony Adigun’s Unleashed was radically different to its predecessor. This work, at times, felt like a martial arts ground: the dancers whipped around, moved and interacted with an astute sense of one another and the space they occupied. Mimicking some of the textures in the earlier Wilton piece, invariably the strength of these dancers was shown off to great effect, even if their smiles weren’t. The costumes created an intriguing severity which was reflected in the movement style, and these whirlwinds of movement were certainly captivating to watch.

All in all, this was a stylistically absorbing night. Flipped through different physical textures, various facets of these dancers were dually explored, and the works, though quick, offered a glimpse into the technical capacity of these talented graduates.

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If you have any doubts about London Contemporary Dance School's influence on the contemporary dance industry, all you have to do is attend a LC3 performance and wait a year or two: past choreographers in recent years have included James Wilton and James Cousins. LC3 is a touring company of third-year students presenting a mixture of student choreography, commissioned works and repertoire - and only the very best of each. The current programme featured three works by students alongside a work by Rick Nodine and Richard Alston's most recent work, 'A Ceremony of Carols'.

Each of the student works were shockingly brief; the opening work, The Fallen by Chris Scott, seemed to end before it had decided on its direction. No sooner had the piece started than the five dancers started throwing each other around and manipulating each other physically. The choice of dim lighting and gladiatorial costumes did make the piece seem less original, while the dynamic physical style of choreography was too evocative of that of Joss Arnott and Charlie Dixon; it would be better for Scott to discover and explore his own voice.

2pm by Tom Peacock and Andrea Dorelli was the most surprising student work I've seen for a long time, a simple playful piece about two marionnette-like characters with jerky jiglike movements which were all the more effective due to their utterly deadpan faces. 2pm was very inventive and creative with plenty of hilarity and dramatic flair, not only showing Peacock and Dorelli as promising choreographers, but also as very vivid performers too.

The third student work was a solo by Michael Kelland called Opsimath, a piece which could have easily been significantly longer and still not long enough. Kelland performed a very fluid and sinuous solo, seamlessly fusing martial arts and acrobatics with contemporary dance, and slightly reminiscent of Russell Maliphant's award-winning Afterlight with Kelland turning and spinning on a darkened stage. Opsimath was very beautiful and also very unique; let's hope this is the start of a fruitful career for Kelland.

The final piece before the interval was Richard Alston's A Ceremony of Carols which was premiered last autumn. While it's undeniably rewarding for the students to learn a company's current repertoire rather than something from the archives, A Ceremony of Carols was perhaps not the most effective work to have chosen, considering the size of Rich Mix's stage and the large number of group sections in the work. Between Richard Alston Dance Company's tours and the recent retrospective of his works in last year's Dance Umbrella, there have been ample opportunities to see his works, and in particular his most impressive dancers Andres de Blust-Mommaerts, Liam Riddick, Nathan Johnson, Pierre Tappon and Nancy Nerantzi; it takes a graduate performance to make us realise how effortlessly Alston's dancers perform his works, and how easy they make it seem.

A Ceremony of Carols is a good piece for challenging dancers' technique, and while there were a number of challenging group sections, there were quite a few sections for fewer dancers, offering each of the dancers several opportunities to stand out. The standout performances were by the dancers who managed to achieve the necessary lightness and precision of movement, while it was easy to spot other dancers who wanted to dance with more vigour or passion. While Alston's style was clearly not suited to all, each of the twelve dancers gave heartfelt performances nonetheless.

Rick Nodine's Inner Orbit was the only piece in the second half of the evening, and easily the most successful work of the night. It started with fifteen dancers walking around the stage in a circle, with three darting into the centre to briefly strike some poses before rejoining the circle. As the circle progressed, differing numbers of dancers would move into the centre for different interactions: partnerwork, standoffs, confrontations. Each of these sections was very shortlived, never having the chance to develop too far, using very simple choreography such as dancers throwing themselves at each other.

Inner Orbit was a lighthearted and joyful piece, not as technically challenging as Alston, which perhaps added to its appeal and freshness. Even with lots of activity taking place onstage, it never overwhelmed the space in the same way that its predecessor did. And, hey, you've got to love a work which uses the theme music from Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray!

There was an impromptu postshow Q&A, and it was very impressive to see how maturely and eloquently the students answered the audience's questions, including fielding one question which assumed that the students all aspire to end up on Strictly Come Dancing! It was very reassuring to hear the students realistically discuss their future plans and how they perceive the arts funding crisis as a challenge and opportunity, and not the insurmountable obstacle it is to so many others. Let's hope for bright futures for all of them.

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Hofesh Shechter Dance Company: In Good Company

Considering his near-legendary status, we've actually seen very few works by Hofesh Shechter over the past ten years, so In Good Company, a showcase of works by several of his dancers, could have been seen as an opportunity for Hofesh's diehard fans to explore more of his style, as interpreted by his dancers. Certainly it would have been unrealistic to expect the dancers to not have been influenced by Hofesh's distinctive style - Philip Hulford and guest artist Christopher Evans both joined the company in 2006, Sita Ostheimer in 2008, Yeji Kim in 2010 and both James Finnemore and Sam Coren in 2011 - and while the highlights of the night were the choreographers finding their own unique voices, the show was nevertheless filled with powerful and impressive dancing.

The most distinctive work of the evening was Sam Coren's 'No Way But Down', which saw him reunite with his 2009 collaborative partner Kasper Hansen, now an international set and costume designer. Their first joint work, back in 2009, was part of London Contemporary Dance School's collaboration with Wimbledon School of Art, resulting in the hilarious and very theatrical Intrepid Exploring (video), which earned them a comparison with New Art Club. 'No Way But Down' offered the audience to see how the pair had evolved and matured over the past three years, and certainly it's a very assured and confident work, not compromising to provide more (any) dance content.

No Way But Down was about a solitary homeless man, portrayed by Igor Urzelai (one of The Place's Work Place artists), and his loneliness and isolation, alleviated in part by various props. Humour was provided when Urzelai, eating from a can of baked beans, found his spoon attacking him, followed by his hand throwing the contents of the can in his face. The most touching moments of the piece were in Urzelai's interactions with a pair of hoodies, looking longingly at the first one and pulling its sleeve around him in an embrace, then laying another one beside it on the ground so that one appeared to be spooning the other.

While an interesting and certainly the most creative work of the evening, No Way But Down engaged the audience the least, and sat somewhat uncomfortably with the rest of the programme.

The other individual voice of the evening was James Finnemore, a far more experimental work than last year's solo 'Patriot', but still using a similar movement style. 'The Age' was created in three sections, with the first section by far the most enjoyable of the three. The opening section used very stilting and controlled movements, with dancers Victoria Hoyland and Philip Hulford resembling music box dolls. Although dim lighting and electronic music with pronounced drumbeats were used throughout the evening, in The Age, it had the effect of making the piece more compelling to watch, forcing the audience to watch more closely in case they should miss any of the slight movements. When the dancers made the transition to non-mechanical movement, it was in short bursts, but using a very free and loose movement style, far more reminiscent of Patriot than of Shechter's style. As with Patriot, this style is captivating, and it's to be hoped that Finnemore has ample opportunities to develop his choreographic voice further, as he's definitely one to watch.

The rest of the works were less successful choreographically. The closing work was Accompany by Sita Ostheimer and Christopher Evans; "Sita and Chris are a couple" were the sole programme notes for this work, a very improvised and playful piece about creating the piece itself: in lieu of music, the soundtrack was of Christopher and Sita themselves discussing and discarding choreographic ideas. In the opening scene, Sita's movement style was aggressive and confrontational, drawing on martial arts, and her dancing retained an element of aggression throughout the piece, alternating with a frenzied improvised style while Evans - dancing alone, sometimes joining her, sometimes dancing alongside her - was almost simian in his movements. There was plenty of humour to engage the audience, as well as the threat of being dragged on stage, and despite the slightness of the work, it was clear that this was the audience favourite of the evening.

Yeji Kim's 'Last of his act' had the most copious programme notes of all five works, and indicated that the piece would be an exploration of Woman, and it developed slowly, initially with Yeji Kim and Sita Ostheimer gradually shifting between embraces, then tango-infused duets, finally culminating in Hofesh-style frenzied movement. Kim managed to blend Earth Goddess with animalistic movements in her choreography, although it was weakened by the false ending and staggered final section.

Philip Hulford, in 'lukewarm and loving it', managed to develop the most interesting relationships between his three dancers - Frederic Despierre, Karima El Amrani and Hannah Shepherd - with one of the women, dressed in a purple sweatshirt, cast as the nominal outsider, rebuffing the others' attempts to include her, yet occasionally approaching them of her own volition. Over the course of the work, Hulford explored the shifting relationships between the three dancers using very vigorous and physical choreography, while the most haunting moment was of the woman in purple dancing a solo, lit by an old-fashioned floor lamp, watched by the other two dancers. The only thing letting down this piece was its vivid echoes of Shechter's Political Mother; the structure and ideas more than prove Hulford's choreographic abilities, it just remains for him to find a voice of his own.

Thanks should be given to Hofesh Shechter for providing his dancers with this opportunity to develop themselves further as artists, and to South East Dance, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Brighton Dome and Jacksons Lane for providing the dancers with the resources to create these works. Let's see what the future holds for them.


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StopGAP Dance: SPUN Productions

High energy with smiles for all, StopGAP’s SPUN Productions leaves us just that – spinning. With a quirky, mobile set and fast-moving crew, this performance is a whirlwind of colour, sound and movement in a style which will appeal to all age groups.
Part dance, part theatre, SPUN Productions follows the rise and fall of celebrity Dave, offering frantic glimpses into a startled and hyped-up world of fame. The central character is pushed and pulled, most often unwittingly, into snapshots of situations, being torn apart and thrown together in a mish-mash of the world Dave knows and of his celebrity double. With bright costumes, larger-than-life characters, these dancers injected a sense of frivolity with some noteworthy one-liners, enough to tease and educate their audience.

StopGAP are a UK company with a strong philosophy regarding integration and participation, encouraging performers with and without disabilities. To this end, the strong characterizations seamlessly blended varying attributes of the dancers, and performers strengths were shown off to great effect. Movement styles ranged from the pedestrian, to the commercial, touching on the contemporary. Dancers would jump and tumble onto and over one another, characters colliding, physically mimicking the “fading sequences” from television.

But alongside this flurry of movement, there was an emotional depth that pervaded the work, demonstrated most freely in the final duet between David Willdridge and Lucy Bennett. The conceptual flipside of the rise is ultimately the fall, and StopGAP worked with the sensitivity required of that situation, navigating toward artistic sentimentality rather than distaste.

Performed outdoors, SPUN Productions coerced the delight from a pop-up performance, promoting The Cultural Olympiad, and used the setting to their advantage. With an up close and personal view of the performers, there was no strict boundary to the “stage” and children in particular found this mesmerizing.

For a commentary on a commercial world, StopGAP offer a sensitive and playful platform to be understood by children and adults alike. If you’re looking for a fun-filled injection of dance and theatre, look no further.

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Weekly Roundup: 25 June

While there are two more exciting offerings from Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal this week, the wonderful Sydney Dance Company are back in town, GDIF presents C-12 Dance Theatre, Tilted Productions and Company Chameleon - and there's a new triple bill by the Royal Ballet.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: World Cities 2012

Nefes (Istanbul) - 25 June
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns):
Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (1 interval)

Eagerly anticipated, but considered by some to be a disappointment, Pina Bausch's reflection on Istanbul offers some lovely dancing and another creative set, but little insight into Turkish life beyond hammam references and a wealth of Turkish music.

Agua (Rio de Janeiro) - 28 & 29 June
Barbican Centre
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns):
Running time: unknown

"The fascinating contrasts and complexities of Brazil form the inspiration for Água; a joyous homage to a paradise of swaying palm trees, sultry jungles and stalking leopards. Água journeys from beach to rainforest and back again in a playful work brimming with joie de vivre. Dancers are illuminated by fairy lights and men and women splash playfully like children on the beach; Água exemplifies all that is best in Pina Bausch's profound and playful brand of dance theatre." (from the Barbican Centre's website)

Palermo, Palermo (Sicily) - 1 & 2 July
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (keep an eye out for occasional returns):
Running time: 2 hours 55 minutes (1 interval)

Despite the wealth of Pina Bausch works on offer in this season, Palermo Palermo is the one work acknowledged as an absolute must-see. Try to get tickets so that you can find out why!

Greenwich + Docklands International Festival - 30 June

The annual open air festival of theatre, dance and more returns to the Greenwich & Docklands area with three great works of dance for you to enjoy.

C-12 Dance Theatre: Trolleys - 1.30pm & 3.05pm
Canary Riverside, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14

If you haven't watched C-12 Dance Theatre yet, this is your chance! Performing their award-winning street ballet Trolleys, choreographed by Shaun Parker about five trolleys which attempt to find love and friendship at Canary Riverside. Part street dance, part ballet, part acrobatic spectacle, Trolleys is a high-octane, intensely physical and humorous outdoor performance – on wheels!

Company Chameleon: Push - 2.40pm & 4.05pm
Wren Landing, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14

Physically challenging yet sensitive, Push continues a conversation that began in childhood between dance artists Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward Turner. This powerful and engaging duet looks at the stances we take as we relate to one another, how at times we push and at others we yield.

Maresa von Stockert's Tilted Productions: Seasaw - 1pm & 3.40pm
Cabot Square to Canary Riverside, Canary Wharf, Tower Hamlets, E14

A coastal trail of dance, performance art and physical theatre vignettes and installations, SEASAW is inspired by the great diversity of what the sea and its shores mean to people and what draws us to the coast. Whether evoking a glimmer of the glorious bygone days of Victorian seaside attractions or provoking thoughts on current issues such as coastal erosion and water pollution, this is an unusual, contemporary take on the seaside fair.

Sydney Dance Company: Outsiders - 27 - 29 June
Various locations

A new duet created by Rafael Bonachela especially for the Festival’s 50 Golden Street Pianos is presented by Sydney Dance Company. The pianos are dotted across the open spaces and landmarks of central London for the public to play for three weeks of the Festival. Two dancers emerge, rendezvous and disappear against a dramatic and ever-changing London backdrop, set to solo piano composed and played by Mercury prize-nominated Gwilym Simcock. A magical open-air performance by one of Australia’s most exciting companies.

If you're on Twitter, you can find updates, timings and locations at @CoLFestival

Royal Ballet: Birthday Offering / A Month in the Country / Les Noces - 30 June - 7 July
Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

While the Royal Ballet's triple bills normally focus on more modern repertoire, this one casts its eyes backwards in time, with two works by Frederick Ashton and Nijinsky's sister Bronislava Nijinska's iconic Les Noces. While Birthday Offering is an abstract series of solos, duets and group sections, A Month in the Country tells the story of a housewife's passion for a visiting tutor, and as for Les Noces... you'll just have to see!

Graduate Shows (and beyond!)

London Contemporary Dance School

Postgraduate Choreography Alumni: 26 & 27 June
The Place
Tickets & details:

An evening of dance that draws together the work of London Contemporary Dance School’s Postgraduate Choreography alumni, featuring works by Simonetta Alessandri, Marguerite Caruana Galizia and Eva Recacha, performed by members of London Contemporary Dance School’s alumni.

EDge: 28 - 30 June
The Place
Tickets & details:

EDge is London Contemporary Dance School's postgraduate performance company, and they will be performing works by Matthias Sperling, James Wilton and Sasha Waltz, as well as works inspired by Richard Alston's Wildlife created by Tony Adigun and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta, last performed at last year's Dance Umbrella.

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Shadowball & The Brown Bomber

Students from Hackney Musical Development Trust's (HMDT) I Can Sing! Performing Arts School performed a specially-adapted dance version of Julian Joseph's jazz opera 'Shadowball' and the follow-on production of 'The Brown Bomber Dance suite' as part of the London 2012 celebrations. Both projects involved the school students learning about the history of racial integration in baseball (Shadowball) and the historic 1936 and 1938 boxing matches between German Max Schmeling and African-American Joe Louis (The Brown Bomber).

Shadowball playfully mixed iconic baseball action: pitching, batting and sliding into jazz style dance phrases which were performed with panache to the accompanying swinging music played by the Julian Joseph Sextet. The dancers (who were from four years 5 & 6 classes from two neighbouring schools) displayed an excellent sense of musicality and phrasing in their dancing which united the complexity of the narrative, the sport and the dancing around its underlying theme of its historical context and the popular jazz music of the time.

Poignantly, the death of Josh Gibson ("the black Babe Ruth") was alluded to: a dancer held his body stiffly in a cross shape and was lifted above the others' heads. Behind the pallbearers carrying his body across the stage was a funeral procession who turned 360 degrees on every second step. Performed solemnly and with full conviction, it was a very moving 'dance funeral' sequence.

The piece ended in an upbeat mode with both teams returning with overtones of West Side Story's Jets and Sharks as they played at psyching each other out dance-style before a big finale which wouldn't have looked out of place in an MGM musical.

This dance suite version of 'Shadowball' was fun, poignant and joyful to watch, and the fact that it stemmed from a great educational project made it even more satisfying. I'd definitely like to see the full opera version revival please.

The Brown Bomber dance suite was a superb piece of dance theatre. The dancers embodied a multitude of characters epitomising the time of the second boxing match between Schmeling and Louis. The boxers' training camps with their attendant fans and young pretenders, the managers and coaches were all brought exquisitely to life through well-developed characterisation and well-chosen dance styling. Adding another layer of vivacity to the piece were the no-expense-spared costumes; it was like watching a dance version of the Bugsy Malone film.

Professional dancers Jason Poullard and Bless Klepcharek performed the roles of the two main boxers, bringing a balletic grace to the boxing; their fluidity and agility brought more of a Muhammad Ali style to the boxers which was slightly incongruous considering that they were playing heavyweight champions, but their considerable technique, precision and turning ability worked very well to portray the skill of the boxers presented through dance.

Sheron Wray's choreography created a complex, layered piece with simultaneous events happening on the stage that worked pictorially overall and rewarded you wherever you chose to focus. The clever set added to the piece by dividing the stage with rope barriers to create two boxing rings then one, which added a further sense of design to the stage without robbing the space for the dance action. The performers coped admirably with a set malfunction, showing skills in improvisation well in keeping with the accompanying jazz sextet.

Memories of this work will stay with me for a long time and having never participated in a standing ovation previously, I am so glad that I put down my notebook and stood up for this fantastic dance work. Congratulations to all.

The Brown Bomber will next be performed at the South Bank Centre on 15 July as part of the Cultural Olympiad; further details and tickets are available via this link:


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James Cousins Dance: There We Have Been

Dance East often offers short residencies to talented emerging companies, allowing them to explore and work on new material. James Cousins Dance was recently offered such an opportunity.

Choreographer James Cousins recently won the first New Adventures Choreographer Award, offering him valuable mentoring from Matthew Bourne who has described James as ‘one of the UK’s most promising choreographic talents’, and audiences around the country are inclined to agree.

The dance series Rough Cuts at Dance East showcased his latest work in the early stages of the development process. A very small but very knowledgeable dance audience was in for a treat when James Cousins Dance performed an early draft of There We Have Been; the finished work will be performed at Sadler's Wells in the autumn.

There We Have Been is based on the Japanese novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and explores the unconventional relationship between the two main characters, portrayed by Aaron Vickers and Lisa Welham, using beautiful contact work. There We Have Been also shows an amazing display of strength and balance as the two wrap and fold around each other, with Aaron keeping Lisa off the floor for the full 20 minutes of the performance - an incredible feat!

It's difficult to pick a highlight as the whole performance was filled with beautiful moments but the contrast between the smooth delicate movements, clear lines and the fast breathcatching moments as Lisa was caught just before touching the ground was a perfect juxtaposition of movement.

The post-show Question and Answer session identified small areas which need further work, such as a costume malfunction experienced by Lisa. It also allowed the audience to reflect on the work, and many wanted to see the piece again straight away because it felt like history was being made.

This performance has to be seen to be believed, so book your seats for the full performance of this work at Sadler's Wells on September 7th while tickets are still available.


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Weekly Roundup: 18 June

It's another week dominated by Pina Bausch and by student and graduate shows, but don't let that distract you from StopGap Dance Company's outdoor performance on Sunday as part of GDIF, and a showcase of works by Hofesh Shechter's dancers on Saturday at The Place.


Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: World Cities 2012

'Der Fensterputzer' ('The Window Washer'; Hong Kong) - 18 & 29 June
Tickets & details:
Duration: 2 hours 50 minutes (1 interval)

Bamboo Blues (Kolkata) - 21 & 22 June
Tickets & details:
Duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (1 interval)

We're now into week three of this retrospective season of Pina Bausch's commissions to create works inspired by residencies in various global cities, with the results being highly theatrical, interspersed by some beautiful dance sequences. Those expecting an evening of dance will be disappointed, but there's much to enjoy in Bausch's insights and wry humour.

In Good Company - 23 June
The Place
Tickets & details:

Five of Hofesh Shechter's dancers are stepping out from under Shechter's shadow and exploring their own choreographic talents in this showcase, While they're likely to be influenced at least slightly by Shechter's recognisable style, we're looking forward to seeing James Finnemore's and Sam Coren's new works. Other works will be created by Philip Hulford, Sita Ostheimer and Yeji Kim.

StopGAP Dance Company: Spun Productions - 24 June at 1pm & 4.15pm
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival - Monument Gardens, Greenwich, SE10

StopGAP, one of the UK’s leading integrated dance companies, returns with the audience favourite Spun Productions, a humourous and highly entertaining piece following the rise and fall of a celebrity wannabe. It's free, so bring some sunshine along and enjoy!

Graduate Shows

INTOTO Dance: 19 & 20 June
The Place
Tickets & details:

London Studio Centre has several graduate companies, highlighting the diversity of their training, and INTOTO is their contemporary dance company, performing an exciting line-up of leading contemporary choreographers - Nuno Campos, former dancer and Rehearsal Director with Henri Oquike Dance Company; Darren Ellis, a former member of AMP and Richard Alston Dance Company; Cameron McMillan, Associate Artist of DanceEast who has created work for companies ranging from Rambert Dance Company to Royal New Zealand Ballet; and award-winning choreographer and Artistic Director of bgroup, Ben Wright.

Ballet Central: 20 June
Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

The graduating students of Central School of Ballet present a programme which features new works from Mikaela Polley (Rambert Dance Company), Sharon Watson (Phoenix Dance Theatre) and Sara Matthews, as well as revivals by Matthew Hart, the late David Fielding, and Ballet Central’s founder, the late Christopher Gable. This exciting programme of ballet, contemporary, jazz and narrative dance will also feature live accompaniment by Musical Director Philip Feeney.

LC3: 22 June
Rich Mix
Tickets & details:

LC3 is the touring company of a handpicked selection of graduating students from London Contemporary Dance School, with many of its performers quickly becoming successes in their own right in the next few years. This programme features repertoire by internationally renowned artists including Richard Alston, Rick Nodine and Janice Garrett alongside student choreography.

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2Faced Dance Company: In The Dust

Off of London's beaten track, The Albany is an unlikely arts centre located in Deptford. Walk inside, and it has that community centre feeling, but when you go further, the auditorium screams circus with its two-storey in-the-round seating, jewelled with bright lights. It seems that first impressions were deceiving.

In The Dust is a triple-bill from all-male urban contemporary dance company 2Faced Dance Company, featuring seven hurly-burly artists with training in ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and everything in between. They hit the ground running in Tom Dale’s Subterrania, a piece which explores the pulsating rhythms and heavy basslines of electro DJ Shackleton. The full company are enlisted to bang about, as loud as they can, causing a creative riot on stage. Together, they are dynamic, athletic, powerful: the essence of man? But it's true that you can have too much of a good thing: in this case, virile bodies in an enclosed space for an extended period of time; there’s simply not enough room for all of them and their bustling energy. In fact, they nearly knock down The Albany's walls with their power! As a result, some of the movement, and the abundance of energy that comes with it is lost, at times.

Politicking Oath, a creation by Place Prize finalist Freddie Opoku-Addaie, gives a courteous nod to the London 2012 Olympic Games and, with barely weeks to go, it’s certainly a topical work. Three men enter, each clutching what appear to be random objects (a pig mask, an alarm clock and a pair of running shoes), and lie down on the floor. They’re sleeping. But then comes the dreaded alarm, not just once but several times, like a series of false starts on the running track. National pride and identity arise and Alerto Bernal’s tightly-mixed score, mixed with sports commentary and speeches from national figures, begins to sound like a broken record. Against that backdrop, a simple game of piggy in the middle starts to relay a hidden message of politics or Politicking of human nature on a global scale. It may be the most athletic of the three works, but it's also the least engaging, failing to connect with the audience as successfully as the rest of the programme.

7.0 is the most successful of the three pieces due to its composition, content and climax. Choreographed by 2Faced Dance Company's Artistic Director Tamsin Fitzgerald, this piece centres around the devastating earthquake which hit Haiti in 2010. The piece is named in order to highlight the severity of this natural disaster, a huge 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale and the dancers match that, in dance terms at least, with a violent surge of virtuosity which leaves you in disbelief. Somersaults, backflips, turning jumps that explode, mid-air, with an extra, quite unexpected manoeuvre thrown in at the very last moment. These guys are on fire! But more than that, there is power in their acting, their ability to tell a story or, more specifically, retell the stories of the many millions of civilians who suffered, all through the art of performance. It’s the realisation in the eyes of the dancers, that these people’s lives are in tatters. Goosebumps, a lump in the throat – this is powerful stuff.

They may be two-faced but, in this case, that’s only a good thing.

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Improvise. Do whatever you like…

Forty-five minutes into my first class with Chisato Ohno, I remember thinking to myself, ‘why are we still doing the warm up…?’. That was a good few years ago, and now Chisato’s Gaga–based class is one of my favourite and most valued to go to. This improvisational technique is a movement language, developed by Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director of the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company in Israel.

The language used within a Gaga class encourages flow and complete fluidity in the body, with form and set exercises often as a secondary concern. And when a set exercise is subtly introduced, the ease of movement and release in the body as a result of the improvisational exploration is incredible.

Recently I attended class with Winifred Burnett-Smith, a dancer with Hofesh Shechter Company. Expecting hardcore floorwork and thighs of steel by the end of class, I was pleasantly surprised and refreshed to find the effortlessness with which my body performed the set phrases of Hofesh repertory, following a similar Gagaesque opening to the class (as of course, Hofesh’s origins are also with Batsheva).

I’ve known for many years throughout my experience of teaching integrated dance that improvisational exercises are a much more successful way of introducing movement and dance, an understandably alien thing to many people! To offer up an image, shape, idea or piece of music to explore at one’s own will presents much less pressure than ‘learn this dance and do it in front of everyone else’.

The wonderful young people that make up the StopGAP Youth Company have come to define improvisation as ‘make it up’, or ‘do whatever you like’, ideas which I’m happy for them to stick with as they investigate new ways of moving and responding to images and tasks. It allows freedom and individuality, minimalises embarrassment, and removes any concern of getting things wrong.

On my way to an audition recently I received a text from a friend: ‘Just shake it’, it said. As it turned out, this was great advice, as in addition to a well–executed phrase of strong choreography, what the panel really wanted to see was improvisation to a chosen piece of music. So, I ‘made it up’, I ‘did whatever I liked’, I ‘shook it’. And I got the job.

I wonder, though, about the role of improvisation in performance. I think this must prove to be a much tougher task than improvisation within a class setting. Is it fair to one’s audience to demonstrate what is essentially one’s own personal exploration? Or is this what makes such a performance more interesting? Of course improvisational performances still have to be rehearsed, and so presents itself the challenge of the material being fresh each time: each time must be as the first time, as with performing scripted text.

I think, when watching an improvised performance work, I enjoy the knowledge that the performer may not know what will happen next; in a way it perhaps makes me feel more part of the performance than when watching a carefully choreographed work. I think we get more of an insight into the individual when watching someone improvise. Performance in general either leads the performer to become something completely other than themselves, or to expose something quite personal. And perhaps through improvisation they are more inclined to reveal something of themselves; the spontaneity does not provide such a mask.

Certainly when teaching I use these improvisational tasks to get to know a new group, to suss out how each dancer responds, and what they’re comfortable doing. And I observe self-confidence grow, and see delight in movement. There’s a lot to be said for ‘making it up’.

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Zoi Dimitriou: You May!

Observing Zoi Dimitriou’s work You May! seemed like a surreal dream. Haunting and evocative, taunting the dichotomies of possibility and impossibility, Dimitriou uses dance, theatre, photography, sound, and video to create a multidisciplinary piece which asks more questions than it answers.

A philosophical and artistic venture, Dimitriou presents her own reflection of contemporary society. In a world with countless opportunities, the desire to take ownership of one’s own destiny can mean that unhappiness in life can lead to a sense of guilt. Questioning this, Dimitriou has inverted the paradigm “You Can, Because You Must” to become “You Must, Because You Can”. We must be happy, because we can be happy, right?

The stage was set with white cloud-like objects, abstract in nature and representing “the space between”. With time being the impetus to create space (and thus movement), the dancers would count out loud, causing the body to move within space simultaneously defining it

Highly articulated movement conveys the fast-forward-rewind repetition within the work. Movements are robotic and controlled, methodical and calculated. Phrases are episodic, framed between spoken dialogues, and over time build into a fragmented overload of possibilities. These episodes seemed to collide with one another, with no phrase reaching its own conclusion.

You May! is a work which turns you inside out. In creating possibility, I think Dimitriou deliberately courted confusion. Indecisiveness rather than possibility drove me from step to step, and by the end I felt wrung out instead of challenged. I craved for the bodies on stage to reach some physical end point, stretching themselves and arriving somewhere.

However, in consequence, Dimitrou’s work seemed to accurately achieve its intention. Physically bound, unfinished, the movements and the structures of the work created layers which remained with you long after the applause has finished. Not only is there resonance regarding the concept of endless possibilities, this work challenges the means of dance to convey such philosophically conceptual ideas.

Not for the lighthearted, this work has a strong soul to it. Deeply considered and meticulously realised, the highlights of this work drift into your consciousness long after you’ve experienced it.

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Pina Bausch: Como el musguito...

Very occasionally, you see a show which is so extraordinarily good, it's exhilarating and has an utterly powerful effect on you. Pina Bausch's '...Como el musguito en la piedra, ay si, si, si...' is such a show - made all the more poignant as it was the final work she created before her untimely death in 2009.

The current Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: World Cities 2012 season is showcasing ten of Bausch's works, created between 1986 and 2009, and it's an oddity of the programming which saw Sadler's Wells present 'Como el musguito' right after the earliest work, 'Viktor' (1986), which makes it almost impossible not to compare the two works, and appreciate 'Como el musguito' for its differences.

Unlike most of the works in the current season, 'Como el musguito' used a completely stark set, with only a black backdrop and a white stage, suggestive of the Atacama desert or of ice, which regularly fractured as though it was breaking ice or tectonic plates. Even the props were minimal, with a chair brought out from time to time, and ubiquitous water bottles, but certainly nothing on the scale of Viktor's or Nur Du's excesses.

In most of these works which were commissioned by specific cities around the world, the structure is comprised of many little vignettes and tableaux, in which theatre is foremost and dance only happens when a story isn't being told. The beauty of 'Como el musguito' is that the stories were told through dance - and such exquisite dancing it was, too! - as though Bausch had reconciled herself to using dance as a form of expression without needing to rely so heavily on theatrics.

Bausch's works normally explore the range of human experience, often somewhat sardonically, but 'Como el musguito' appeared to have been created in an unusually positive and optimistic frame of mind, focussing solely on relationships, our quirks and the obstacles we often encounter - even if a three-way relationship with a sapling isn't usually one of them. We saw a man kiss Anna Wehsarg only to be slapped by her; he rehearsed the slap then called her back - this time, she kissed him, and he slapped himself in the face. Another woman prepared to dance with a man, stripped off his shirt, grabbed another man, stripped off his shirt too and pushed both to the ground. Wait for it... she laid herself across their ankles and counted out loud while both men did pushups and situps.

The solos were the emotional core of this piece, and they're some of the most beautiful and mesmerising dance you'll see. In fact, if you've watched the trailer at Sadler's Wells, two of the three dance sequences are from this piece: of solo dancers hurtling themselves around with free abandon, and a distinctive amount of hair - and the beauty of this work reinforces the tragedy of Bausch's premature death.

One of the women talks about how she's enjoying the moment, not dwelling on the past or the future, only living for now: and you can't help but wonder if these are Pina Bausch's own words.

'Como el musguito''s final performance may be sold out, but do what you can to get a ticket - or forever regret missing it.


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Weekly Roundup: 11 June

This week is again dominated by Pina Bausch, but you shouldn't let that distract you from 2Faced Dance's final London performance of their acclaimed triple bill In The Dust. There are also a few more student shows this week...


2Faced Dance: In The Dust - 14 June
The Albany, Deptford
Tickets & details:

As 2Faced Dance prepare for their Glow Dance Festival, this will be their last London performance of this triple bill which they have been touring since last autumn.

2Faced Dance Company is one of the leading all-male contemporary dance companies, fusing contemporary dance with breakdancing to create powerful and daring performances. In The Dust is a triple bill featuring works by Tom Dale, Freddie Opoku-Addaie and 2Faced Artistic Director Tamsin Fitzgerald - if you haven't seen them yet, this is your chance to make up for it.

Pina Bausch: ...como el musguito en la piedra, ay si si si... - 12 & 13 June
Sadler's Wells
Tickets & details (returns only):
Running time: 2 hrs 40 mins (1 interval)

There is added poignancy for this work, inspired by a residency in Chile, which was Pina Bausch's final work before her premature death in 2009. As with Viktor and Nur Du so far, expect a collection of surreal vignettes which say more about Bausch's recurring themes than they will about Chile itself. But with Bausch as the ultimate creator of tanztheater, who's complaining?

Pina Bausch: Ten Chi - 15 & 16 June
Barbican Centre
Tickets & details (limited availability & returns):
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (1 interval)

As with all of the works in this global collection of Pina Bausch, Ten Chi will likely be a collection of seemingly random and surreal vignettes, identifying idionsyncracies and eccentricities of Japanese life, with a dramatic accompanying set. Sit back and enjoy.

Graduate & postgraduate shows

Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance: 13 June
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

The RSB&CD website has not been updated to include this performance, but like all graduate shows, it will feature a mixture of student choreography with works by well-known choreographers. The standard is surprisingly good.

Verve: 12 June
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House
Tickets & details:

Fresh from their performance at The Place, Verve, the postgraduate performance company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, performs in the more auspicious and less intimate setting of Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio. It's often difficult for lesser-known choreographers to share the programme with well-known choreographers, and the highlight of this programme is definitely the works by Akram Khan, Lea Anderson and James Cousins.

Other highlights

A Flash of Light: The Dance Photography of Chris Nash - until 18 July

One of the most distinguished and outstanding dance photographers, Chris Nash's work work has seen him photograph some of this country's best-known and best-loved dancers and companies. This exhibit, far more extensive than the V&A exhibit of last year, explores Nash's innovative and dynamic approach to photography and presents a glimpse of the contemporary dance scene. On display will be photographs that show how Nash experiments with photography, drawing on his fine art background and using lighting, composition and collage to capture the atmosphere and movement of live performance.

Alongside Nash’s original prints will be advertising posters featuring his photography, two abstract video dance pieces created by Nash himself, and a specially commissioned film of the photographer at work. The exhibition will also be accompanied by quotations from choreographers and dancers talking about Nash’s powerful photographs and the inspiration for the images on display.

Royal Opera House: Friends' Booking Day (ballet) - 12 June

It's time for the seasonal feeding frenzy that is the ROH's Friends' Booking Day, followed by the opera booking day on 13 June - with the added excitement of being the first time the new website will be subjected to such heavy demand. Will we all get the tickets we want?

This will be the final opportunity to book advance tickets for Kevin O'Hare's first season as the Royal Ballet's Artistic Director, with an exciting emphasis on "new"; hot tickets include a triple bill of Macmillan's works, Liam Scarlett's Viscera (originally created for Miami City Ballet) and Phoenix Dance Theatre. If you're not a friend yet and want to join, here's the page you need:

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Transitions Dance Company

Transitions Dance Company, the original postgraduate dance company for Trinity Laban Conservatoire, is a long-standing opportunity for young professionals to gain company experience and bridge the stressful gap between formal training and entry into the professional world.

This cohort lacks nothing in enthusiasm and commitment to the pieces, and offered a triple bill which reflected upon their technical capacity as dancers and touched on dramatic interpretations. Presenting three works by diverse choreographers - Shang Chi Sun, Hubert Essakow and Martin Nachbar - each piece presented facets of this company’s strengths, yet still retained a particular sameness.

The opening piece, under trot, began in low lighting, the stage a raw, industrial-looking space. There was an eerie quality when David Tudor’s “Pulsers” began to thrum and the lone central dancer started to move from her crouch, sliding and contorting to the ground. Her disjointed movements seemed somewhat mechanical, and it was this flavour that permeated the rest of the piece.

Stoic and emotionally absent, this sextet of dancers moved around the space, surrendering to compelling duets and trios, but ultimately sending one another off alone. This work was technically beautiful and meditative, but without any connection really developing between the dancers, I found it somewhat lacking.

The second piece, Essakow’s Sharing Haring, was a colourful work inspired by the work of American artist Keith Haring. Using the musical works of Mike MacLennan, Jon Opstad, Pachelbel and Scarlatti, this piece opened with the promise of more “contemporary” style absence, but quickly became an example of hyperactive colour. The jelly baby-esque costumes created an exciting, moveable commentary which isolated the artist, performed by Chris Goodwin, within the piece; his observations, and occasional rendezvous with his “artworks” articulated the relationship between artist and work.

Ballet technique, systematic lines and patterns emerged within this work reminiscent of a ballet piece. Once again, duets which were created then scampered off, obviously a snapshot of existing Haring works. Most beautiful was the duet between Chris Goodwin and his purple figure friend, a human essence inherent in the interaction. Visually dynamic, this piece was musically attentive and technically sound, and interesting overall to watch.

To finish the trio of works, The Drawing Room, choreographed by Martin Nachbar, was a playful take on the domestic environment of the British family. Filled with humour and plenty of characterisation, this piece created enough drama and entertainment to complete the evening.

Demanding a different quality from the dancers, this work offered something extra to draw upon. The “family portrait”, a whimsical snapshot into the essence of this work, was well timed, with much of the hype surrounding the Queen’s Jubilee.

Conceptually diverse, this evening was an entertaining trio of works. From contemporary starkness to bold dramatisations, there was a platter of energies to immerse yourself in. Transition’s dancers are very technically promising, with the capacity to develop further depth over time. While lacking in the richness and boldness of more experienced practitioners, the prowess of these dancers is something well worth seeing.

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