Monthly Archives: February 2018

TIMELINE OF THE GREAT TANGO COMPOSER: ASTOR PIAZZOLLA

With Tango After Dark set to open at The Peacock this week, we celebrate the life of the great tango composer Astor Piazzola, whose music features in the show alongside sensational choreography performed by tango superstar German Cornejo and 10 world-class Argentinean dancers.

1921 Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla was born on 11 March in Mar del Plata, Argentina

1925 The Piazzolla family immigrate to Greenwich Village, New York City

1929 Astor’s father, Vicente, buys a bandoneon that he found in a pawn shop and gives it to young Astor

1930 The family move to Little Italy, New York City

1932 11 year old Astor composes his first tango: La Catinga

1933 Astor starts taking music lessons with the classical pianist, Bella Wilda, a student of Rachmaninov

1934 Astor is cast in a film by the French-Argentinean singer and songwriter, Carlos Gardel, playing the role of a newspaper boy in El día que me quiera

1936 The family return to Mar del Plata

1938 At only 17 years old, Astor moves to Buenos Aires, Argentina

1939 Astor joins the orchestra of tango composer and bandoneon player, Anibal Troilo

1941 Astor starts taking lessons with the classical music composer, Alberto Ginaste 1942 He marries his first wife, the artist Dedé Wolff

1943 Astor begins studying with Raúl Spivak, the classical pianist. He composes his first classical works: Preludio No. 1 for Violin and Piano and Suite for Strings and Harps. Astor and Dedé have a daughter: Diana Irene

1944 After a falling out, Astor leaves Troilo, moving over to Francisco Fiorentino’s orchestra. Astor’s second child with Dedé is born: Daniel Hugo

1946 Astor forms his own orchestra and composes his first formal tango: El Desbande

1949 Astor disbands the orchestra, moving his focus away from tango and popular music, and towards classical

1953 Astor wins a grant from the French government at the Fabian Sevitzky Award with his Buenos Aires Symphony, despite a near riot breaking out in the audience provoked by the inclusion of multiple bandoneons in the orchestra

1954 Astor moves to Paris with his wife to study with the composer Nadia Boulanger at the Les Ecoles d’Art Américaines de Fontainebleau

1955 Astor returns to Argentina and forms Octeto Buenos Aires, a tango octet containing two bandoneons and an electric guitar amongst the instruments. With this new ensemble he introduces the world to his nuevo tango, incorporating elements of jazz and classical music into traditional tango

1958 Octeto Buenos Aires disbands and Astor returns to New York

1959 Following the death of his father, Astor composes Adiós Nonino

1960 Astor forms a quintet with Kicho Díaz, Simón Bajour, Jaime Gosis and Horacio Malvicino

1963 Premiere of Tres Tangos Sinfónicos, which wins the Hirsch Prize

1965 The quintet releases the album El Tango, made in collaboration with the writer Jorge Luis Borges

1967 On what would have been their silver wedding anniversary, Astor and Dedé legally separate (the divorce law was not passed in Argentina until 1987)

1968 María de Buenos Aires, an operetta Astor composed in collaboration with the poet Horacio Gerrer, makes its world premiere, with Amelita Baltar in the title role. Astor begins a romantic relationship with the singer

1969 Horacio and Astor team up again, this time on Balada para un loco, which premieres at the First Iberoamerican Music Festival

1971 El pueblo joven, another work from Horacio and Astor, makes its world premieres. Astor forms a new ensemble, Conjunto 9

1973 Astor has a heart attack

1974 The album Summit (Reunión Cumbre), recorded with the jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, is released

1975 Astor and Amelita separate

1978 Astor forms his second quintet. The Quinteto Tango Nuevo tours internationally and makes him famous all over the world

1982 Astor composes Le Grand Tango and dedicates it to the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich

1985 Astor premieres Concerto for Bandoneon and Guitar, and performs in London for the first time, at the Almeida Theatre in Islington

1986 Astor’s score for the film El exilio de Gardel wins the Cesar Award for best film music

1988 Astor composes a score for the film Sur. Astor and Dedé are finally able to divorce, and he marries the television presenter Laura Escalada. The album Carmorra is recorded with Quinteto Tango Nuevo and proves to be the last time he would record with them

1989 Astor forms his last ensemble: Sexteto Nuevo Tango. He records Five Tango Sensation with the world-renowed string quartet, the Kronos Quartet

1990 Astor suffers from a stroke which leaves him in a coma

1992 Astor passes away in Buenos Aires at the age of 71, without ever regaining consciousness Photo: Federico Paleo

Tango After Dark runs at The Peacock from 28 Feb – 17 Mar. Tickets are available now priced from just £15 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8222 or visit sadlerswells.com

Sadler’s Wells celebrates Design Business Association Award win

Sadler’s Wells’ visual identity and communications materials, created by design studio Red&White, won Silver in the Media category of the Design Business Association’s Design Effectiveness Awards 2018, held in London last week.

The brand refresh integrated Sadler’s Wells’ visual identity with the striking dance imagery of our productions and presentations, and have helped cement our reputation as a leading force in the world of contemporary dance.

The brief for the new identity was to embody the spirit of Sadler’s Wells’ bold and daring artistic programme. Since Alistair Spalding took over as Artistic Director and Chief Executive in 2004 and transformed Sadler’s Wells into a thriving producing house, we have helped bring over 150 works by cutting-edge international artists and companies to the stage.

Following the work by Red&White, Sadler’s Wells has seen a positive impact in how its brand is perceived by audiences, with 78% saying that it now feels more contemporary. This has also led to an improvement in our customer loyalty, and 39% of audiences choosing more adventurous shows.

We are delighted by the results of the project and to have been recognised alongside Red&White in these prestigious awards.

Image: (L to R) Alanna Clear, Strategy Director, Sebastian Cheswright Cater, Director of Marketing & Sales at Sadler’s Wells, Paul Franklin, Creative Director at Red&White, Ry Coleman, Design Director and Magdalen Fisher, Sadler’s Wells’ Executive Director, with our Media Silver award.

Interview: Emily Molnar talks Ballet and British Audiences

Canada’s cutting-edge company Ballet British Columbia are heading to the UK on tour this March, premiering three new works by leading choreographers including their own artistic director, Emily Molnar. In this interview, she shares her vision for the company and what British audiences can expect from this exciting triple bill…

Tell us about Ballet British Columbia.
Ballet British Columbia is a company that cares about the art of dance, that cares about where its coming from, where it’s going. We’re daring, creative, collaborative – committed to the
possibility of the expression of the body and what dance at its fullest can be – working with choreographers from around the world. The company’s name Ballet British Columbia conjures up traditional or classical ballet; yet the repertoire is contemporary or modern-style dance.

Tell us more about this?
We are called Ballet British Columbia because one of our missions is that all of our dancers are classically trained. With that training they’re able to articulate their bodies in a very sophisticated way. The Ballet British Columbia dancers are versatile in a variety of dance forms but a training in classical ballet is vital. We’re a bit like jazz musicians, in that we have this incredible training, but then you can throw it up in the air and really deconstruct and reconstruct it. You can only do that when you have that technique and rigour of attention to a technique. For us that happens to be classical ballet. So, we don’t take ballet out of Ballet British Columbia – we keep it there in order to allow an audience to understand and to be part of a conversation about where ballet is going. The dancers contribute ideas and dance moves during the choreographic process.

Dancers Livona Ellis and Darren Devaney perform in 16 + a room choreographed by Emily Molnar

Can you explain the role the dancers play in the making of these dances?
We are a company which is about collaboration, about soloists within a group, about everybody leading, about everybody taking initiative and owning this artwork that we do. In order to make the art the most important thing in the room, everyone works towards that, it requires a group of artists who come together as a collective.

What are your views on female dancers wearing pointe shoes in more contemporary style dances?
I love the fact that we are a company that can wear the pointe shoe – it’s a vehicle which can create speed and virtuosity which is unlike anything else. So, when you have a dancer who is not imprisoned, but is freed by the idea of what can be done on pointe, it’s enormous what the choreographer has to play with.

What will British audiences make of this programme of dance?
Following highly acclaimed tours throughout North America, we are honoured to be bringing UK audiences this distinct programme of ideas and expression by three visionary female voices in dance today. We display diversity and virtuosity in this triple bill. It’s accessible to an enormous range of audiences.

Ballet British Columbia come to Sadler’s Wells on 6 and 7 March. Tickets are available now priced from £12 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

BEST EVER STRICTLY TANGO MOMENTS

The best Tango performances can be breathtaking. The passion. The romance. The fast footwork. But few Tango couples can match the sensational German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi, who are masters of the Argentinean artform, having performed alongside Jennifer Lopez and all over the world. As we prepare for their return to the Peacock Theatre in Tango After Dark, we were inspired to look back at some of our favourite tango moments from Strictly Come Dancing. Here are our top five…

1. Joe McFaddon & Katya Jones

The pair won over the judges with their interpretation of Argentine tango set to Rag n’ Bone Man’s ‘Human’ in an explosive strictly semi-final! A spectacular lift at the end of their performance was a risk that clearly paid off and Joe went on to be crowned the winner of Strictly 2017.

2. Alexandra Burke & Gorka Marquez

X Factor winner Alexandra Burke stunned the judges with this sizzling tango. It was rumoured that she was feuding with partner Gorka Marquez at the time of the performance… perhaps that added to their chemistry on the dancefloor!

3. Jay McGuiness & Aliona Vilani

In the 2015 series of Strictly, member of boyband The Wanted, Jay McGuiness a knock-out tango with dance partner Aliona. However the couple scored a decent 34 as Jay was told by judges to improve his facial expressions!

4. Simon Webbe & Kristina Rihanoff

After finding himself in the dance-off a couple of times, the former singer of boyband Blue bounced back with his performance of El Tango De Roxanne from Moulin Rouge at Blackpool’s Tower ballroom. They were awarded a perfect 40 from the judges!

5. Louise Redknapp & Kevin Clifton

It was the performance that Bruno Tonioli described as “smoldering, sultry, stunning” and earned the couple a solid score of 39. Louise’s background in pop choreography and experience in judging BBC One’s So You Think You Can Dance must have been of benefit when rehearsing for Strictly!

Tango After Dark runs at the Peacock Theatre from 28 Feb – 17 Mar. Tickets are available now priced from just £15 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8222 or visit www.sadlerswells.com.

Image: German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi

Akram Khan and Micheal Keegan-Dolan win at National Dance Awards

The National Dance Awards were announced today and we were delighted that a number of Sadler’s Wells’ associate artists and companies were among the winners.

Our Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan’s moving Swan Lake/Loch na hEala for Teac Damsa was awarded Best modern choreography. Our Associate Artist Akram Khan’s wonderful Giselle for Associate Company English National Ballet won the Best classical choreography award, with Lead Principal Alina Cojocaru receiving the Outstanding classical performance (female) award for her performance in the title role.

Resident Company New Adventures’ Ashley Shaw took the Outstanding contemporary performance (female) award for her performance as Vicky Page in our Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. Lez Brotherston, Matthew’s long-time collaborator and creator of New Adventures’ spectacular set designs, was honoured with the Ninette de Valois award for outstanding contribution to dance.

Among other winners, Richard Alston Dance Company’s Liam Riddick received the award for best male dancer and former principal of The Royal Ballet Zenaida Yanowsky, who recently performed as part of Sadler’s Wells Sampled,  won best female dancer. The full list of winners is available here.

Many congratulations to all on their awards!

 

Image: Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Swan Lake/Loch na hEala. Photo: Marie-Laure Briane.

Our week with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Cecil Rowe was among three members of the Company of Elders cast as extras by our International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch for their recent performances of Viktor on the Sadler’s Wells stage. Here, he reflects on their extraordinary week with the renowned company.

There are not many shows that come along that are actively looking to cast older gentlemen as extras, so when that show happens to be a Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch production like Viktor and is being staged at Sadler’s Wells, then the Company of Elders is not a bad place to start looking for such gents.

When the  invitation arrived to audition on Sunday afternoon the 4 February for a coveted walk-on role in Viktor, three men from the Company of Elders took up the invitation and were absolutely delighted to make it through. What an amazing week we have had!

The audition was hardly out of the way before rehearsals began, just hours later! We had to work fast, Opening Night would take place on the Thursday evening, just four days later. The elder extras were divided into two groups: those ostensibly invalided by a disaster of some kind, who would be carried across the back of the stage by the younger extras in what is known as ‘the chaos scene’, and those who would be dressed in white doctor’s coats, pretending to make their way over shifting ground with two planks of wood, using them as stepping stones.

Each came with its pros and cons. Being carried across the stage at speed, slung over the shoulder of a young man, might sound a doddle, but if you were picked up and carried off without having established a comfortable posture, it was no fun having a hard shoulder digging into your ribs for the entire journey. Those of us in the doctor’s white coats, had to keep low and try and balance on the two tricky planks of wood we used as stepping stones.  It was murder on the knees! And woe betide you if you got caught up in the traffic jam that would sometimes develop as you headed for the wings and the music cue to exit caught up with you.

Our favourite scene by far was in the second act, when all the older gents gather around a table to quaff some wine and play cards while some of the women in the company grab hold of rings hanging from the flies and swing back and forth out into the auditorium, their heels not far from our heads as they swing back over the stage.  The wine was real and very drinkable and the card games totally fictitious but great fun.

We all, also, just before interval, had the opportunity to waltz briefly with a member of the company. That was pure magic! At the end of each performance, what a thrill too, to take a curtain call on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells, hand in hand with members of Tantztheater Wuppertal! For all three of us, I think, a huge honour to share the stage, if only for a few minutes, with them.

All in all, a week etched in our memories and one we will treasure and never forget.

“To work with the company was truly amazing, the work ethic of them all is awe-inspiring and they are all so friendly. And to stand on the Sadler’s Wells stage at the end and be part of the company receiving the audience’s appreciation was just wonderful. It is an experience I shall not forget, especially the chaos section!” Christopher Dunham

 

Image: (L to R) Company of Elders members Cecil Rowe, Christopher Dunham and Damien Murphy.

Interview: Luc Dunberry on Körper

Coming to Sadler’s Wells this March, Sasha Waltz & Guests present Körper – a unique study of the human body performed by an ensemble of 13 dancers. In this interview, Canadian-born ensemble member and co-creator of the piece, Luc Dunberry reveals how the functions the of the body became a starting point for its creation and how it has evolved during its 18 year life-span.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Valleyfield, Canada, studying music at the Collège de Sherbrooke, drama at the UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) and dance at LADMMI (Les Ateliers de Danse Moderne de Montréal Inc.). As a member of the Groupe de la Place Royale I have worked with various choreographers, among them Sasha Waltz who introduced me to dance for her company in 1996. I have been a member of her dance ensemble at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz Berlin as both dancer and choreographer. Alongside my work with Sasha Waltz & Guests, I have always been developing my own choreographies and dance films.

You performed in Körper during its world premiere, and created the piece with Sasha Waltz. What is it like to work with Sasha?
We have a long-lasting relationship and we understand each other well in the work. We start often from improvisation so we are really involved in the creative process, we are searching for something together.

What was the starting point for the subject matter of this piece? Where did you draw your inspiration?
We started with a very broad spectrum on the idea of the body, but it became rapidly clear that the subject was too vast for a single piece. So we concentrated for this first part of the trilogy, on the very basic matter that composes the body, the biology and physics of it. A lot of the research has developed from fundamental systems of the body, like the bones, the skin, body fluids, nervous system etc.

How would you describe the style of this piece to audiences?
It’s a very graphic piece that functions like a collage of images. The sound design from Hans-Peter Kuhn sets a very strong tone and ties in with the visual identity of the piece. There is no narrative per se but I believe the abstraction of the piece is balanced by some glimpses of humanity under the flesh and bones.

What was the process involved in creating this piece?
There were two preparatory projects with public showings in 1999, prior to developing the piece itself. One was shown in Sophiensaele, a theatre that Sasha and her husband Jochen had inaugurated in 1996, and the second one in the yet to be opened Jewish Museum in Berlin. As for the dance material itself, we did a lot of improvisations on specific functions of the body, from which a selection of elements were then researched and deepened into the finished choreography. We dialogued with the architectural features of the Daniel Liebeskind building which had a strong influence on the set design for the stage. There were as well image-based ideas that were used as starting points, like the Vitrine at the beginning of the piece or the Body Mountains where the bodies are piled, arranged or aligned in different ways.

How has the experience of performing in Körper changed since you were involved in its creation and premiere over 18 years ago?
It is, at the same time, exactly the same as before and every time different. We have played the piece over a hundred times, it has accompanied us, we evolved with it. There is an aspect of it that is so well-known and second nature-like, but on the other hand, there’s always the unique present moment of doing it, every time its own, even if for the 115th time.

What do you want audiences to take away from watching this piece?
I think there is space for every spectator to witness, interpret and question the piece in their own personal way. I believe some images have a potential for strong physical impact and identification. If I would wish for something, it would be that the viewers get physical sensations from their own bodies from watching.

What one word would you use to describe Körper?
Raw

Körper runs on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from Thurs 1 – Sat 3 March. Tickets are priced from £12 and are to book now via www.sadlerswells.com.

Header image: Sebastian Bolesch

15 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FLAMENCO

With our annual Flamenco Festival set to return this February celebrating its 15th anniversary, discover 15 things you may not already know about this unique art-form! In this landmark year for the festival, many incredible performances will take to the stage, showcasing a variety of styles from the most talented companies and artists.

1. It is widely believed that flamenco actually originates from India!

2. Flamenco dance is called baile, while a flamenco dancer is known as a bailaor (male) or bailaora (female).

3. The typical flamenco outfit is called the Traje de Flamenca. Dresses are said to have a guitar shaped body, to enhance a woman’s figure and hide flaws. Heels are an essential and range from 4 – 7cm in height. They can also have special nails in the soul to enhance their sound.

4. ‘Duende’ is a term in flamenco that is considered difficult to define. It is used to describe the ‘soul’ of flamenco and a heightened sense of emotion that overtakes you. The term is also known as an elf or goblin-like creature in Spanish mythology where it is derived from.

5. Palos, which also means stick or branch, refers to the different styles of Flamenco. There are more than 50 different styles or palos, from Alegrías to Bulerías!

6. Castanets are not part of traditional flamenco; they are an element that has been added to enhance the finger snapping. These wooden percussion instruments are more than 3,000 years old and over time have become an iconic symbol of Spanish Flamenco.

7. Flamenco is made up of four elements, Cante (Voice), Baile (Dance), Toque (Guitar), and the Jaleo, which roughly translated means ‘hell raising’ and involves the handclapping, foot stomping, and shouts of encouragement.

8. Silverio Franconetti Aguila, born in Seville in 1831, is considered a legendary singer of flamenco and opened the famous Café Silverios. It became known as the top ‘Café Cantante’ in Spain during a golden age of flamenco, where he invited only the most talented singers to perform and promoted only the purest forms of the art.

9. The Cajón is another popular percussion instrument, originating from Peru, sometimes used in Flamenco performances. Legendary Spanish Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía discovered the cajón during one of his tours in America in the late 1970s and described the sound as “restrained to flamenco.”

10. From 1920 to 1955, many flamenco shows took place in bullrings and theatres and became known as ‘Opera Flamenca.’ One reason why this name became popular was because opera paid much lower rates of tax than flamenco shows so was more economical.

11. One of Spain’s greatest writers, Federico Garcia Lorca, was a keen ambassador of the art-form. Two of his most important poetic works, Poema del Cante Jondo and Romancero Gitano, show Lorca’s fascination with flamenco and appreciation of Spanish folk culture.

12. Rhythmic hand-clapping, known as palmas, is an important part of flamenco. There are two types of palmas, known as Palmas Sordas and Palmas Abiertas, which use different parts of the hand to produce different sounds.


13.
Under the Franco regime, flamenco gained the status of a Spanish national symbol, while secret police simultaneously repressed any form of cultural dissent in lower-class neighbourhoods, illegalizing many flamenco concerts and gatherings.

14. In classical music theory, Compás is the word used to describe the rhythm or time signature in Flamenco. Flamenco uses three basic counts or measures: Binary, Ternary and the (unique to flamenco) twelve-beat cycle.

15. The fastest flamenco dancer ever recorded danced 1,274 taps in one minute.

Staff make Time to Talk about mental health

On 1 February, Sadler’s Wells took part in Time to Talk Day, a national initiative encouraging everyone to have a conversation about mental health.

It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health. But the more we talk about it openly, the more we can remove barriers, challenge stereotypes and have better lives.

Time to Talk Day aims to spread the word that anywhere can be the right place to talk about mental health – including at work.

To support the campaign and encourage our staff to discuss mental health, we ran a ‘Time for Tea’ break at Sadler’s Wells. Along with snacks and drinks, the event included a range of conversation starter materials to help get the flow of conversation going in a relaxed environment.

As in any busy organisation, it’s difficult to find a spare moment to prioritise yourself. Taking an hour out of your day to relieve yourself from daily stresses is helpful in the long run. Whether it is taking the time to talk about mental health or just catching up with a colleague you haven’t spoken to in a while, taking time out of the daily grind to clear the mind is important not just in terms of increasing our productivity, but also, and more importantly, for our general wellbeing.

Find out more about Time to Talk at https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day-2018.

Sadler’s Wells axes use of plastic straws

Creativity and sustainability are central to the future of arts and culture. Which is why, as part of our ongoing commitment to being as green as possible, we have stopped using plastic straws across our venues’ cafes, restaurants and bars. These have been replaced by biodegradable paper straws, which are less harmful to the environment and will now only be available on request. Previously, we were disposing of around 3,000 plastic straws every year at our venues.

“Removing plastic straws is one of many measures we are undertaking to make Sadler’s Wells as sustainable as possible. We are delighted to join the Evening Standard’s campaign to help reduce non-biodegradable waste and raise awareness of this important issue,” said Emma Wilson, Director of Technical and Production and Chair of Sadler’s Wells’ Green Team.

“Other initiatives for our café and bars include replacing plastic cutlery with biodegradable cutlery made from corn starch, and swapping polystyrene takeaway boxes with biodegradable kraft board ones. We are also investigating alternatives to the plastic cups that audiences use to take drinks into the auditorium. We get through an awful lot of those, so we are looking to replace them with something much more sustainable.”