“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?”
– Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
On Wednesday 12th July 2017, I became a First Class Honours graduate of the Royal Academy of Dance.
The Royal Academy of Dance is one of the world’s most influential institutions for dance education and dance teacher training. Founded by an international group of dancers and dance teachers in 1920 to set standards for dance teaching in the United Kingdom, the organisation now operates in 85 countries. Its classical ballet syllabus is taught globally, with over 240,000 candidates taking Royal Academy of Dance ballet examinations each year. Beyond this, an ever-increasing programme of outreach work takes dance into diverse communities, while the Faculty of Education’s research develops knowledge which informs and inspires dance enthusiasts all over the world.
I have graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance’s BA (Hons) Dance Education programme. This varied programme not only equips graduates with the anatomical, musical and pedagogical knowledge and understanding to teach dance but also engages with philosophical, professional and practical issues in the fields of dance and dance education.
Incredible dancing. Intense storytelling. Totally immersive. English National Ballet’s new Giselle by Akram Khan is an epic dance experience. Everything about the production is so inspired that, after joining an elated audience in a lengthy standing ovation, I left Sadler’s Wells utterly convinced that no words will ever do this masterpiece justice.
The company, under the direction of Tamara Rojo, is intent on evolving the art of ballet. While still honouring the classical tradition (the dancers begin their Nutcracker season at Milton Keynes Theatre next week), English National Ballet is adding amazing diversity to its repertoire with fresh new works. Following the resounding success of Khan’s Dust for the Lest We Forget programme, anticipation has been sky-high for his Giselle.
In short, it is a triumphant re-imagining of the 1841 Romantic Era ballet. All the essential themes – love, betrayal, revenge, the opposing realms of life and death – remain but Khan’s vision teases out the dark undertones that have always been there. Dragged to the surface, these elements are expressed with visceral urgency, arresting intent and harrowing sensibility.
Invited to watch rehearsals, chat to members of the production team and learn some of the dancers’ latest choreography, Georgina Butler discovers the collaborative spirit behind New English Ballet Theatre…
I love ballet. Absolutely adore it. Given any choice – throwing a few drinks back at some trendy new bar or throwing a leg (front, side and back) at the ballet barre; “finding” myself at a festival or losing myself in a classical masterpiece – I go for the ballet option every time.
My devotion aside, I do sometimes fear for ballet’s future. There is always the very real possibility that classical ballet could become a museum art form. No balletomane wants to see the object of their affections stagnate (with little to offer beyond revivals of existing work) or, if we imagine the worst-case-scenario, become extinct. Although the world’s well-established leading companies have a starring role to play in shaping ballet’s future on the global stage, it is up to the emerging troupes of today to ensure it remains relevant to our lives. Ballet needs to keep evolving; inspire new ideas; attract new audiences.
New English Ballet Theatre is a vibrant modern ballet company determined to drive the art form forward in exactly this way! Founded in 2010 by Artistic Director Karen Pilkington-Miksa, the company is committed to the continual reinvention of classical ballet and aims to present exciting new works to the widest possible audience. The ambition does not stop there though. At the heart of New English Ballet Theatre’s mission is the desire to nurture the next generation of dancers, choreographers, musicians and designers. The company seeks out and hires talented graduates from a variety of disciplines on a seasonal basis, affording emerging artists the creative space and support to explore their full potential.
(noun) A thing with distinct and independent existence;
(mass noun) Existence, being.
Wayne McGregor‘s whole body of choreographic work could arguably be conceived of as an entity – a living catalogue of thrilling movement possibilities realised thanks to the multi award-winning dance-maker’s enduring fascination with art and science.
Entity epitomises McGregor’s experimental metascience: it is a creation examining how we create. First performed in 2008 by Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance (now Company Wayne McGregor), the piece engages nine performers in a danced investigation of movement exploring the intersection of creativity and cognitive neuroscience.
Bodies, lights, technology and film collide in this riveting voyage of discovery through a sensational soundscape created by Coldplay and Massive Attack collaborator Jon Hopkins and composer Joby Talbot. Quite simply, Entity is awesome experienced live.
Ornate arm gestures, opulent costumes and overwhelming intensity combine in Shanghai Ballet‘s contemporary ballet Echoes of Eternity. Currently engulfing audiences at the London Coliseum in the powerful mysticism of the Orient, this production is part of the venue’s Shanghai Season and was devised thanks to a collaboration between Shanghai Grand Theatre and Shanghai Ballet.
Inspired by an ancient Chinese poem called The Song of Everlasting Regret, Echoes of Eternity is choreographed by Patrick de Bana (whose previous creation for Shanghai Ballet, Jane Eyre, was performed by the Company for their UK debut in 2013). His approach in Echoes of Eternity is predominantly derived from contemporary dance technique, with evocative Eastern embellishment. Indeed, the physical depiction of the work’s dynamic mix of drama and history could not be more removed stylistically from the classical ballets that often grace the Coliseum’s stage. There are no pointe shoes, the dancers’ feet flex, their torsos twist and hunch and many of the shapes and lines they make are distorted and contracted for emotional impact.
Still, despite its decidedly contemporary feel, this romanticised interpretation of a traditional 8th century story ably demonstrates how one of China’s most popular legends has all the narrative components you would find in the most enduring of classical ballets. We see the characters onstage dance with fervour during a long and shadowy journey. Along the way, they encounter eternal love, conflict, community, the supernatural, heartbreak, sacrifice, loss and longing – all those very human emotions and experiences that story-based ballets draw upon.