NEWS: Social Disdancing – The COVID-19 Pandemic, Spring 2020

 

Social Disdancing’ is just one of the many unusual expressions that have been added to our everyday vocabulary in recent weeks. Since efforts were intensified to curb the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have become familiar with countries being on lockdown, adhering to social distancing, and complying with requests to self-isolate or quarantine. The reality of a pandemic and the critical need for personal protective equipment (PPE) is receiving unparalleled attention during the unprecedented outbreak.

This is new terminology for an unnerving new world.

Life under lockdown is predominantly characterised by the suspension of our normal routines, enforced by government guidance to “stay at home and away from others” (also known as social or physical distancing). It is a time of immense uncertainty for everybody and the repercussions on physical health, mental health, incomes, education, careers — indeed, the socio-economic status of entire countries — are undeniable.

Under normal circumstances, dance is part of who I am. I teach ballet students. I write about dance performances. I take class, thriving in a studio with like-minded individuals and time to dedicate to myself.

Whenever any aspect of my life feels uncertain, dance becomes increasingly important to me.

Under the current abnormal circumstances, schools, studios, gyms, theatres and countless other venues and businesses are closed indefinitely. But dance is still part of who I am. And times are categorically uncertain. So, I’m dancing through this crisis. At home. And I’m not alone because the wonderful world of dance has earnestly embraced social disdancing.

 

Social Disdancing. An illustration of Georgina Butler doing ballet at home by illustrator Gaia Leandri.

 

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FEATURE: Happy International Dance Day, 29th April 2020

 

Today is International Dance Day 2020, an occasion for people all over the world to express their appreciation for dance. Dancing at home is proving to be an essential way for many of us to keep our spirits up during the current coronavirus lockdown so if ever there was a time to advocate being swept up in dance fever, this is it.

The global dance community unites on 29th April each year to spread the message that dance matters. The aim is to urge governments, institutions and individuals who have not yet recognised the value of dance to do so.

Celebrations take place on 29th April because this date commemorates the birthday of French dancer and ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810). He is famous for liberating ballet from the formality of the dancing in royal courts and developing it into the elegant, expressive and emotive spectacle we know and love today. This made him a dance innovator. In fact, his achievements marked the beginning of efforts to advocate for dance to be acknowledged as a significant art form.

International Dance Day honours all styles of dancing and should be promoted to inspire everyone to get involved in dance. Involvement might mean participating in activities, watching performances, discovering new things about dance, or simply taking a few minutes out of a busy day to enjoy moving your body to music.

For dance devotees, today is an opportunity to engage with others, reflect on our personal experiences of dancing and share our enthusiasm with the world!

 

International Dance Day 2020. Georgina Butler writing while sitting in the splits.

 

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REVIEW: ‘The King and I’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2020

 

Something wonderful is happening at Milton Keynes Theatre: audiences are getting to know The King and I thanks to a sumptuous revival by The Lincoln Center Theater.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s glorious golden age musical first opened on Broadway in 1951 and has been whistling its own happy tune ever since.

Many people have experienced this classic story of contrasting cultures through the 1956 film. Broadway star Yul Brynner played the wilful monarch and actress Deborah Kerr — assisted by ghost singer Marni Nixon — was Anna, a widowed English schoolteacher summoned to Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s to tutor his harem of wives and many children.

Even if you have never seen the film, you will recognise the songs. ‘I Whistle a Happy Tune’, ‘Getting to Know You’ and ‘Shall We Dance?’ are just a few of the toe-tapping tunes you can expect to find yourself humming after the show. Perfectly pitched for musical storytelling, their melodies and lyrics are thoroughly entertaining while delivering profound insights into the characters and events.

The Lincoln Center Theater production of The King and I has four Tony Awards to its name and is touring the UK following a sell-out season at the London Palladium. It is directed by Bartlett Sher, who sensitively handles the monumental clash of cultures at the heart of this period piece.

His revival stays faithful to the dated narrative of ancient royal protocol and imperial mentality. But it somehow feels timeless. And this is probably because it uses old-fashioned glamour, light humour and an operatic quality to emphasise the enduring themes of power, tolerance and progress.

 

The King and I. Bartlett Sher’s interpretation of Rodgers’ & Hammerstein’s classic

 

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REVIEW: ‘Once’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2020

 

Whatever your current relationship status is, winsome musical Once appealingly arranges all the right notes to remind you of everyday romance.

The show, currently engaged in its first major UK tour, is based on Irish writer-director John Carney’s critically acclaimed 2007 micro-budget indie film.

A folk-rock fairy tale, Carney’s super simple story focuses on the unlikely relationship between a heartbroken Dublin busker and a young Czech single mother. Their names are never revealed but these two unassuming characters are united by an overwhelming passion for music. They click personally and professionally, ultimately restoring each other’s faith in the power of love.

Years ago, an editor who knows her rock from her roll and was hooked on the Once soundtrack lent me the DVD. Shot in a casual, mock-documentary style, with all the heartfelt music played in situ, the film was truthful and tuneful. The cash-strapped but resolute characters, homespun quality and evocative soundtrack created a genuinely uplifting viewing experience.

It felt very real. Candid. I watched that DVD just the one time but Once seen, never forgotten. It left a lasting impression. So much so, I wondered whether this straightforward — albeit spellbinding — screenplay would adapt to the stage.

Short answer? It does.

 

Once the musical. Emma Lucia as Girl and Daniel Healy as Guy.

 

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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s production of ‘The Red Shoes’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, January 2020

 

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes is an irresistible dance theatre production that radiates vintage glamour and vivacious grace.

Think of classic British ballet film The Red Shoes and delightfully dated images of ballerinas, and surreal displays of the agony of artistic expression, come to mind.

Whether you have watched Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 cinematic masterpiece or not, you have probably encountered the movie’s meditation on being an artist versus living a life. Or heard of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, in which a vain peasant girl disobediently slips on a pair of scarlet slippers that force her to dance until having her feet amputated and dying is a relief. Failing that, perhaps you are just aware that the film was one of the first to be shot in glorious Technicolor.

Whatever your level of familiarity, it’s likely you associate The Red Shoes with the magical lure of the theatre, the sacrifices that artists make, and the fine line between passion and obsession. And there is the dancing too, of course. A dance to the death once the heroine jumps into those blood-red shoes.

Celebrated choreographer Matthew Bourne might be known for his idiosyncratic re-imaginings of traditional ballets and stories, but his heartfelt interpretation of The Red Shoes is a gratifyingly faithful retelling.

 

The Red Shoes. Cordelia Braithwaite as Victoria Page and Liam Mower as Ivan Boleslawsky.

 

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