INTERVIEW with James Leece, The Snowman, December 2017

 

Dancer James Leece plays the title role in the stage show version of classic Christmas cartoon The Snowman.

Between performances and festive family fun, he found time for a chat about choreography, costumes and childhood nostalgia with Georgina Butler.

 

James Leece was born in Aberdeen and trained at The Royal Ballet School and London Studio Centre. He began his professional performing career dancing for Matthew Bourne’s company in the early days when it was called Adventures in Motion Pictures and continued when it became Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. James has performed roles in Bourne’s Swan Lake, Nutcracker!, Highland Fling, Edward Scissorhands and The Car Man. Further theatre credits include being Robbie and first cover Johnny in the West End production of Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre, and starring as the leading man, Don Lockwood, in the 2013/2014 UK tour of Singin’ In The Rain.

Currently, James Leece is one of two performers alternating the title role in the Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of The Snowman at The Peacock Theatre, London dance house Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue. This enchanting show is based on the 1982 animated film, which was inspired by Raymond Briggs’ 1978 children’s book. The narrative sees a young boy and his snowman share a magical night of friendship, fun and flying.

Directed by Bill Alexander, the stage show tells the story entirely through music and dance. It features a musical score and lyrics by the film’s composer Howard Blake – including the classic theme song Walking in the Air – and choreography by Robert North.

The Snowman is now an annual seasonal staple in the capital. The five-week Christmas 2017 run marks the production’s 20th year at The Peacock Theatre, making it the longest-running Christmas show in English theatre history. In November 2017 the cast toured the show to Manchester and Glasgow. The tour will resume throughout January 2018, with performances in Southampton, Milton Keynes and Brighton.

Without a doubt, The Snowman has become a much-loved festive tradition for audiences and cast members alike. Indeed, James is presently donning the fluffy white Snowman suit for his sixth year in the title role. A father to two young children, and an experienced performer, he is full of admiration for this timeless show…

 

Dancer James Leece chats about his role in The Snowman stage show with Georgina Butler

 

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REVIEW: ‘An American In Paris’ – Dominion Theatre, London, December 2017

 

Dazzling dance musical An American in Paris is a breathtakingly beautiful show.

The acclaimed stage adaptation of the classic 1951 Hollywood film, which starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, is directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. Widely admired on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks to his work with The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet, Wheeldon is a seasoned master who skilfully uses the power of dance to drive the whole musical.

An American In Paris features an impressive array of dance styles and really seems to be the epitome of the maxim “why walk when you can dance?”. Everything moves with a spring in its step – from the radiant lead performers to the stunning sets – and there is a remarkable fluidity as the cast dance their way through the sensuous tale of art, friendship and love.

This lavish production certainly made me fall in love with dance all over again, and I thought I was already as besotted as it is possible to be!

 

An American In Paris at the Dominion Theatre, London. View Post

NEWS: World Ballet Day – Thursday 5th October 2017

 

Happy World Ballet Day 2017!

 

Today, Thursday 5th October 2017, is World Ballet Day 2017.

As someone who has never known life without ballet, I would be lost without it. Ballet class has always been my favourite place to be. Moreover, my professional life revolves around watching ballet, learning about ballet, writing about ballet and teaching ballet. Essentially, most of my days are ballet days!

Still, today is an extra special day. It is all about celebrating what makes ballet important to us, sharing our love of ballet with those who have the same passion and encouraging everyone else to discover ballet for themselves.

World Ballet Day 2017 is the fourth edition of the annual celebration and the format of the international online event remains the same. Five of the world’s top ballet companies are live-streaming footage from their studios today to give us an insight into the day-to-day athleticism and dedication that life as a professional ballet dancer requires. Throughout an incredible 22 hours of live filming, viewers will see some of the most talented dancers on the planet take their daily ballet class, rehearse for upcoming performances and work with esteemed choreographers. We will also be treated to interviews with company directors, dancers and teachers – and be urged to get involved in discussions ourselves by joining the ballet buzz on social media.

 

Georgina Butler. World Ballet Day 2017.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: ‘With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario’, a memoir by Eva Maze – June 2017

 

With Ballet in My Soul…

Dance is what inspires me in everything I do. Blissful serendipity meant I was given the opportunity to start ballet classes as a tiny tot and I will forever be grateful to the universe for that. Ultimately, I have become the person I am today because of my desire to always have dance in my life. Participating in dance classes, watching dance, writing about dance and teaching dance – dancing gives me purpose and makes me feel alive!

In fact, you might say that there is “ballet in my soul”. This nifty sentiment comes from an amazing woman named Eva Maze, who has titled her memoir With Ballet in My Soul: Adventures of a Globetrotting Impresario. An engrossing and educational read, I devoured the book in one afternoon and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in dance, theatre, history, travel or the pioneering achievements of extraordinary individuals.

Eva Maze (nee Feldstein) was born in Bucharest, Romania, on a summer day in 1922. Both her parents spoke Russian (her father was from Kiev and her mother was from Bessarabia) so Eva was bilingual in Russian and Romanian at an early age. Jewish by birth, she attended a Catholic school where the nuns taught the students in German and French and she was also tutored privately in English. She believes this early immersion in languages made her interested in the world outside Romania and later learned two additional languages – Spanish and Portuguese – which aided her in her career as an impresario (a theatrical tour manager or promoter). Without a doubt, Eva’s vibrant and fulfilling life will be envied by anyone with even a sprinkling of wanderlust as her personal and professional passions and endeavours have taken her all over the globe.

 

With Ballet in My Soul - A Memoir by Eva Maze.

 

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REVIEW: Northern Ballet’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, June 2017

 

Northern Ballet’s dancers are in fine form this year. Following the success of the world première tour of Casanova, they are currently on the road with The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – a new full-length narrative ballet based on John Boyne’s 2006 Holocaust novel.

The Irish writer’s international bestseller tells the heart-wrenching tale of a friendship between two nine-year-old boys living a strange parallel existence during the Second World War. Bruno is a German boy; the son of a Nazi officer promoted to the position of Commandant at a fictionalised Auschwitz concentration camp. Cossetted by his family, Bruno is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been relocated from his familiar home in Berlin to a lonely house in the middle of nowhere in Poland. Here, there is nothing to do and no one to play with. At least, there isn’t until Bruno befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned at Auschwitz, through the barbed wire fence of the camp. As Bruno and Shmuel’s unlikely friendship flourishes, the full implications of Bruno’s father’s job as Commandant are exposed. Familial discord inevitably ensues before the harrowing conclusion reveals how, through misadventure, Bruno ends up dying with Shmuel in the gas chamber.

Although the premise of Boyne’s story is emotive and engaging, both the book and the subsequent 2008 film by Mark Herman received mixed reviews. This is due to the implausibility that any concentration camp prisoner could ever have engaged in a friendship with an outsider. Furthermore, the reality is that children below working age were typically murdered immediately upon their arrival at Auschwitz. Nonetheless, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an affecting account of wartime turmoil as seen through a child’s eyes. Significantly, Northern Ballet’s production, devised and choreographed by Artistic Associate Daniel de Andrade, stays true to the book, confidently using dance to capture the drama of forbidden friendship and family conflict.

 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Northern Ballet. Dancers Kevin Poeung as Bruno and Filippo Di Vilio as Shmuel. Photo by Guy Farrow.

 

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