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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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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NEWS: Matthew Bourne’s production of ‘The Red Shoes’ is on its way – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2017

 

Blockbuster choreographer Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes will enthral audiences at Milton Keynes Theatre next week.

 

Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes is a contemporary ballet version of the classic dance film. The quintessential backstage melodrama tells an intoxicating story of obsession and possession, chronicling the tragedy of a ballerina whose intense desire to dance conflicts with her need for love.

Following a sold-out Christmas run at Sadler’s Wells, Bourne’s New Adventures company is bringing all the glamour of the 1948 British film to audiences beyond the capital on an extensive UK tour. Predictably, tickets have been selling exceptionally fast and extra dates for Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes have already been added.

Celebrated film-making duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger combined glorious Technicolor wizardry with emotive and dramatic performances to create their seminal motion picture. An all-consuming love for the arts generally — and dance especially — is at the heart of The Red Shoes. Significantly, Powell and Pressburger devoted plenty of screen time to dancers, ensuring their cinematic ode to the agony and ecstasy of dancing is largely told through the medium of dance itself. No wonder Bourne decided the film was the ideal source material for his latest production.

 

matthew-bournes-production-of-the-red-shoes

 

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REVIEW: English National Ballet in Akram Khan’s ‘Giselle’ – Sadler’s Wells, November 2016

 

Incredible dancing. Intense storytelling. Totally immersive. English National Ballet’s new Giselle by Akram Khan is an epic dance experience. Everything about Akram Khan’s Giselle 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 Dust, his piece for the Lest We Forget programme, anticipation has been sky-high for Akram Khan’s Giselle.

In short, Akram Khan’s Giselle 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.

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Akram Khan's Giselle publicity image of English National Ballet's artistic director and lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo.

 

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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, January 2016

 

Once upon a time, Matthew Bourne created a vamped-up adaptation of Sleeping Beauty for his innovative company, New Adventures, devised to wake audiences up to the charms of contemporary dance theatre. Premiered in 2012, Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty proved to be a gothic fairy tale that dance aficionados and newcomers alike could really get their teeth into. This week, having been roused from its slumber for a second nationwide tour, the enthralling interpretation of a much-loved classic is once again casting its spell over visitors to Milton Keynes Theatre.

As a choreographer, Matthew Bourne has always been one who dares to dream. This is, after all, the dazzlingly deviant dance-maker who gave us a deliciously different, Dickensian orphanage-set Nutcracker; not to mention a Swan Lake featuring a menacing male ensemble which initially ruffled a few feathers among ballet purists. It was certainly no mean feat to overhaul these iconic ballets in a totally new movement style!

Bourne’s re-imagining of Sleeping Beauty (which is perhaps the ultimate classical ballet thanks to its glorious score, tutu-clad fairies and abundance of virtuoso dancing) came about as a way of celebrating New Adventures’ 25th birthday. Its inclusion in the company’s repertoire made Bourne’s dream of completing Tchaikovsky’s trilogy of ballet masterworks – in his own inimitable manner – a reality.

 

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Ashley Shaw as Aurora. Photo by Johan Persson.

 

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