INTERVIEW with Dame Gillian Lynne, October 2016

 

Acclaimed choreographer and theatre/television director Dame Gillian Lynne is a legendary figure in the arts, with a career spanning more than 70 years.
Her achievements include being a ballerina with Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet), performing centre stage as the London Palladium’s lead dancer and choreographing some of the world’s most iconic musicals.
Georgina Butler made the most of an opportunity to converse with this multi award-winning dance superstar…

 

Gillian Lynne is a household name – a VIP in the world of dance and theatre. Her CV is packed with soloist roles as a ballerina; guest appearances as a dancer on the stage and on television; and countless productions on which she has worked her magic as an internationally sought-after director and choreographer.

Joining the Ballet Guild in 1942, aged 16, marked the beginning of Gillian’s career as a professional dancer. By chance, Ninette de Valois, the founder of Sadler’s Wells Ballet (which later became The Royal Ballet), saw Gillian dancing as Odette in Ballet Guild’s production of Swan Lake and immediately decided she wanted the talented young artist in her company. When Gillian accepted this invitation, she was the first dancer to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet who had not studied at its prestigious feeder school (now The Royal Ballet School). Possessing a gift for dancing; a desire to follow her dreams; and a tenacious work ethic, Gillian flourished as a ballerina and was later an instant success at the London Palladium and in subsequent roles in the West End.

Perhaps most famous for her ground-breaking choreography in Cats and The Phantom of the Opera (both with Andrew Lloyd Webber), Gillian has choreographed or directed over 60 productions in the West End and on Broadway. These productions have won numerous accolades and Gillian has been presented with multiple awards, including two Olivier Awards – one an Award for Outstanding Achievement for her choreography of Cats in 1981, the other a Lifetime Achievement ‘Special’ Olivier presented to her in 2013.

 

Dame Gillian Lynne. Photograph by Greg Heisler, April 2009.

 

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INTERVIEW with Nefeli Tsiouti, Project Breakalign, September 2016

 

Dancer, choreographer, educator and researcher Nefeli Tsiouti is dedicated to mastering all aspects of her craft and creating a better future for the next generation of artists.
She took a brief break from her current hectic schedule on a world tour with Project Breakalign – a dance science enterprise focused on preventing injuries in breakdancers – to share some of her experiences, thoughts, advice and ambitions with Georgina Butler

 

Nefeli Tsiouti was born in Sydney, Australia, and has double nationality: Australian and Cypriot (Greek-Cypriot). When she was 2 years old her family returned to Cyprus, where she lived until she turned 18. Aged 9, Nefeli began taking classical ballet classes. By the time she was 15, Nefeli was also learning contemporary and jazz dance technique and had experienced a year of hip-hop dancing. She simply loved to dance!

Between the ages of 18 and 23, Nefeli lived in Athens, Greece. Although disappointed to narrowly miss out on winning a place to train professionally at the Greek National School of Dance, she eagerly completed a Bachelors degree in French Language and Literature at university while also working as a dancer and dance teacher. During this time, Nefeli started ballroom dancing but just a year into forging a professional career she sustained an injury that prevented her progressing. Unfortunately, this was not to be the only time that an injury would curtail Nefeli’s desire to dance. Only a year after rehabilitation, she rediscovered the hip-hop culture and began training in breaking, adopting the name Bgirl sMash. Ten months later, in 2007, she suffered a severe shoulder injury. She was forced to stop dancing immediately and underwent surgery in 2008.

In 2009, aged 23, Nefeli moved to London to do a Masters degree in Choreography at Middlesex University, graduating in 2011. While studying, she formed hip-hop dance theatre company Scope Dance Theatre – enabling her to showcase her choreographic skills and perform alongside her dancers. Besides choreographing, Nefeli has been a lecturer in Dance in colleges and universities across London since 2011 and a freelance sports massage therapist for dancers since 2015. Currently completing a Masters degree in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (supported by no less than three scholarships), Nefeli has devoted many years of independent research to the sector. In 2013, she founded Project Breakalign – a venture comprising a team of dance and medical specialists who are on a mission to reduce injuries among dancers.

Project Breakalign aims to offer conditioning, strengthening and injury prevention education to dancers – specifically breakers – through the Breakalign Method. The rationale behind the project was the fact that breaking has no established way, or step-by-step sequence, of being taught so it can cause frequent and chronic injuries. As research around breaking and hip-hop dancers in general has been very limited, the team behind Project Breakalign combine and adapt dance science and sports science research. Their approach is based on breaking technique and aims to prepare the body physiologically, biomechanically and artistically for the moves the style requires.

Nefeli and her Project Breakalign team are traversing the globe at the moment giving workshops, partaking in panel discussions and spreading the word about safe dance practice to b-boys and b-girls everywhere. Happily, she managed to set aside some time to answer a few questions!

 

Nefeli Tsiouti (photo by Peter Muller).

Nefeli Tsiouti (photo by Peter Muller).

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REVIEW: Cloud Dance Festival: “Showtime” – Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London, Friday 15th November 2013

 

SHOWTIME: AN INSPIRING EVENING SHOWCASING EMERGING CHOREOGRAPHERS.

 

Fresh. New. Talented. Evolving. Emerging. Whatever buzzword you opt for, Cloud Dance Festival’s opening Showtime line-up encompassed the most innovative up-and-coming new works from the world of contemporary dance.

Cloud Dance Festival (CDF) was founded in 2007 by Chantal Guevara to provide a platform for the ground-breaking choreographers and dance companies of the future. Showtime, held at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, North London, is CDF’s first festival funded by Arts Council England.

Themes of the festival centred on striving to improve, finding your own path and being true to yourself. All while also developing as a young creative (whether a dancer, choreographer, dance writer, photographer or videographer).

 

Cloud Dance Festival: Showtime. Jo Meredith photographed by Mikah Smillie.

Choreographer Jo Meredith (publicity shot by Mikah Smillie).

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