Monthly Archives: April 2018

Call for participation in first European Dansathon!

Initiated by BNP Paribas Foundation and Maison de la Danse Lyon, Dansathon is the first European dance hackathon. Sadler’s Wells, together with Théâtre de Liège, is one of the partners to produce this 3-city event from 28 to 30 September 2018. The UK chapter will take place at Plexal at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.

Dansathon invites dancers, technologists, designers, creatives and makers to imagine the future of dance. This playful, social event is an opportunity to explore ways to harness the power of dance and technology to connect worlds and cross boundaries. Teams will form on the first day to work together and create a prototype based on one of the challenges issued. A winning project will be selected on the third day in each city and awarded with €10,000 as seed fund to bring it to the next stage, with the support of each theatre.

More information on the event itself (including an FAQ) is on the Dansathon website www.dansathon.org.

In this post, we will give updates specific to the UK chapter of the event.

Call for participation is now open! (Deadline: 1 June)

We are looking for dancers and choreographers of all dance forms, technologists, designers, technicians, makers, communicators and facilitators from the dance and wider creative industries to apply as individuals for the event. Bring your passion for dance (you don’t have to be an expert!) and contribute your skills to the team Accommodation and food will be covered throughout the event with some provision for travel.

We encourage applications from those who identify themselves as underrepresented voice in dance and/or technology.

Apply on Dansathon If you choose London as your first preference, we would really appreciate if you could also fill in this Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form to help us evaluate and improve Sadler’s Wells as a place .where we hope to reflect the diversity of population in the UK.

Please email dansathon@gmail.com if you have any questions, or if you are interested to get involved without being a participant.

The Dansathon is a common idea by BNP Paribas Foundation and Maison de la Danse de Lyon. It is conceived and developed in partnership with Sadler’s Wells, London, and Théâtre de Liège.

Image: The company of NYDC in Tarantiseismic. Photo by Tony Nandi

Last updated: 20 April 2018

Sadler’s Wells partners with BBC Four on new DanceWorks series

DanceWorks, four 30-minute artist-led films for broadcast on BBC Four this May as part of their forthcoming dance season, was announced at a press conference at Sadler’s Wells this morning.

Co-produced with Islington-based production company ClearStory, each film in the DanceWorks series introduces the audience to a different artist: Zenaida Yanowsky, Dickson Mbi, Carlos Pons Guerra and Shobana Jeyasingh. Following them as they create new work and gaining behind-the-scenes access to the creative process, these films allow viewers a unique insight into the world of dance in Britain today.

The Dying Swan follows former principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky as she overcomes knee surgery and fights her body back to fitness to prepare for one of her final public performances following an acclaimed classical ballet career.

The artistic process behind Shobana Jeyasingh’s new work, Contagion, an evocation of the 1918 flu epidemic, is revealed in Choreographing History.

Dancer and choreographer Dickson Mbi is followed as he transitions from his street dance roots to the contemporary dance limelight under the guidance of his mentor, Akram Khan’s producer, Farooq Chaudhry, in Street to Stage.

Prejudice and Passion follows Carlos Pons Guerra as he begins choreographing a new children’s production, the true story of two male penguins raising a baby penguin.

Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive at Sadler’s Wells said: “At Sadler’s Wells, we’re always looking for ways to introduce the experience of high quality dance to the widest possible audience. Beyond the stage we also want people to be able to experience dance through different media. I’m delighted that our partnership with the BBC and ClearStory has enabled us to present these films on BBC Four, which will give viewers an opportunity to go behind the scenes with some of today’s most exciting artists and discover how they create dance.”

The BBC Four Dance Season launches on Sunday 6 May and lifts the curtain on today’s thriving dance scene, featuring some of today’s most exciting dance makers and the enduring legacy of others whilst shining a light on a broad range of dance styles from ballet and contemporary to tap and hip-hop.

Jonty Claypole, Director of BBC Arts said: “Dance has the power to bring together different communities and generations in a shared love of creative expression, and you only have to look at the extraordinary diversity of dance talent and audiences right across the UK to realise how successfully it fulfils this promise. As part of our forthcoming Dance Season we’re delighted to be partnering with Sadler’s Wells for the first time to present these four fascinating DanceWorks films, placing the spotlight on some of the UK’s most exciting dancers.”

The films will be broadcast on BBC Four from Monday 7 – Thursday 10 May.

Rashmi Becker on Dance and Disability

On 9 May, inclusive dance company Step Change Studios will present a dance showcase at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio. Founder Rashmi Becker shares her journey into inclusive dance and creating Fusion.

One of my earliest memories is holding my brother’s hands and swinging side to side to music. He has a huge smile of his face. What I didn’t appreciate then was the significance of this simple activity. We were connecting, communicating, being creative, escaping. My brother has autism and he is non-verbal.

As I became an adult, I increasingly began working with disabled people in a social care setting. My love of dance persisted. I was acutely aware of the sedentary lives of many of the people I came into contact with. When I became a Board Member of the English Federation of Disability Sport my observations became fact as I learned about the lack of opportunities for disabled people to be active. 1 in 5 people in the UK has a disability. Disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive than non-disabled people yet 7 out of 10 disabled people want to be more active. With the popularity of BBC’s Strictly and a host of other dance shows, I was increasingly being asked to perform and support disabled people, to dance at one-off events. After every event people would say they wanted to keep dancing and I promised to find opportunities. This proved more challenging than I thought so I decided to try to play a part in creating opportunities.

With a vote of confidence and seed funding from the Dance Enterprise Ideas Fund, which includes Sadler’s Wells among its partners, I established Step Change Studios. The single purpose was to enable people to dance. From grassroots to professional level, I was keen to support people who have never danced to have a go, and to promote talent and leadership that will support the growth and sustainability of a diverse dance sector. I thought things would start slow but the demand has been amazing and reflects the appetite for accessible dance. In the first 10 months over 900 children and adults had participated in dance with Step Change Studios – most for the first time.

Over the past year, I have been struck by the kindness and generosity of dance colleagues. When I was conceiving Step Change Studios I approached a number of artists who were open in sharing their experience and encouraging of my efforts. I have continued to be met with support and enthusiasm by colleagues in the sector. I am therefore thrilled to be collaborating with so many of these artists to present Fusion, the UK’s first inclusive Latin-Ballroom inspired showcase supported by Sadler’s Wells, Arts Council England and the Dance Enterprise Ideas Fund. This unique showcase brings together disabled and non-disabled artists to perform original dance pieces ranging from Tango to Rumba, but also drawing inspiration from genres such as Charleston and Swing. As well as UK talent, the showcase will feature an exclusive performance by the world wheelchair ballroom dance champion and his partner from Poland, who will also lead an open masterclass.

The aim of Fusion is to entertain, engage and inspire audiences and encourage experimentation and collaboration that will open up dance to more people at every level.

My parting wisdom: if you work with good people who share your values, good things will happen.

Step Change Studios present Fusion in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells on 9 May. Tickets are available now priced at £17 and concessions at £8.50, by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

Alistair Spalding: My Favourite William Forsythe Dance Pieces

“William Forsythe changed my view of what dance can be”, says Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding, who has closely followed the work of this ground-breaking choreographer throughout his career. Forsythe’s style, which questions and reimagines the norms of dance, continues to inspire artists across the world.

As a master of contemporary dance, his work features prominently in our programme this year, as we mark the 20th anniversary of our current theatre building. We present two of his pieces – including the world premiere of Playlist (Track 1, 2) – as part of a mixed programme by our Associate Company English National Ballet this month; a triple bill performed by Semperoper Ballett in June; and produce a new evening of work by him in October. In this blog, Alistair Spalding picks the William Forsythe pieces that, in different ways, changed the way he thought about dance.

1. Eidos: Telos

Ballett Frankfurt, Eidos:Telos

“Under Bill’s 20-year tenure, Ballett Frankfurt became an internationally renowned company. The first time I ever saw them was in Montreal, at a festival called FIND (Festival International de Nouvelle Danse). They performed a piece called Eidos: Telos. The promoters of the festival were allowed to go to the dress rehearsal, so we watched this piece being directed by Bill. We were in the circle and he was somewhere in the stalls. I heard his voice on a microphone and it was like the voice of God. This piece still remains my favourite. It’s extraordinary and operatic – a huge, epic, three-part evening. Former dancer Dana Caspersen, Forsythe’s wife, performed an extraordinary solo in it. There were wires across the stage and the dancers would pluck them to create a soundscape, and three trombonists would come on. Bill made the piece following the death of his second wife, Tracy-Kai Maier, and it was a kind of roar of mourning. Eventually we brought the piece to London, and it’s still number one in my view.”

2. Enemy in the Figure

Semperoper Ballett perform Enemy in the Figure

“I was working at the Southbank Centre in 1998 and came to Sadler’s Wells to see a triple bill, which included Enemy in the Figure. The choreographic material is fantastic, he invented new ways of dancing and making ballet. He took this centuries-old and fairly formal art form, ballet, and took it forward, made it current. He divided the stage in two parts with a curving screen and lit it with a mobile light moved by the dancers. These weren’t like other creatures; they were extraordinary human beings and he made them look so cool. He played with light and shadow, order and chaos, movement and stillness. I saw this work and thought “my god, you can do this with ballet”. Lots of people have followed in Bill’s footsteps pushing the boundaries of ballet, but at the time there weren’t many people doing that and it just felt like that was the sexiest thing. I got out of the performance and thought to myself: I have to be where this is happening! Nigel Hinds, who was Programming Director at Sadler’s Wells at the time, invited me on a tour of the theatre, as it had just reopened. A year later, he rang me up and told me he was leaving and encouraged me to apply for the job. I always say that, in a way, Bill Forsythe brought me to work here.”

3. Kammer/Kammer

Ballett Frankfurt, Kammer/Kammer

“Once I joined Sadler’s Wells in 2000, I managed our relationship with Bill and his company, and we gradually got to know each other. I would regularly travel to Frankfurt to see his works – including Kammer/Kammer, another of my favourite pieces, which blends dance, theatre and film. I saw it in an old railway depot that they had turned into a theatre. The dancers are often behind moving walls – so you can’t see the dancers from your seats, but there are cameras filming and screens on stage and around the auditorium showing the audiences what’s happening. It is a complex set up that I thought couldn’t be replicated in a lyric house like Sadler’s Wells. I said to him: “Bill, that’s a fantastic piece but it’s never going to work at Sadler’s Wells!” He told me that it would. One of the lessons I’ve learnt is that dance makers like him know. He knew the space at Sadler’s Wells and how he could make the production work in it and when Kammer/Kammer came here, it was fantastic. It also had two extraordinary performers in it: Dana Casperson, who played French actress Catherine Deneuve, and Tony Rizzi, who impersonated a young man in a relationship with a rock star.”

4. Three Atmospheric Studies

The Forsythe Company, Three Atmospheric Studies

“The first work made for his new company after leaving the Frankfurt Ballet, this three-part work was made as a response to the Iraq conflict. The last part is a kind of enactment of people in a war situation, so the choreography was about people being knocked down, hiding or running away from firing, explosions and devastation. His pieces always mix choreography and theatrical elements, and Dana Casperson played this American officer who approaches a woman who has just learned her son has died in the war, telling her ”This is not personal, Ma’am”. It was an incredibly powerful and moving work, which stuck in my mind. We brought it to our stage soon after it first premiered in Berlin in 2006.”

5. DUO2015

The Forsythe Company, DUO2015

“When Sylvie Guillem put together her final programme Life in Progress, which Sadler’s Wells produced, she asked for something from Bill, but not necessarily a piece made on her. He gave her this duo. I saw it many, many times because it came here twice and then it was on tour around the world for a year. Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts, the two former dancers of The Forsythe Company who perform it, are so incredible. Bill makes movement that’s captivating because the dancers inhabit it and are allowed to play with it. DUO2015 is comic, virtuosic and minimal – hence the title. It exemplifies the essence of dance and is all about movement, so everything else is stripped away. The piece will feature as part of A Quiet Evening of Dance, the new Forsythe programme we are producing and presenting later this year.”

6. You Made Me A Monster

The Forsythe Company, You Made Me A Monster

“In You Made Me a Monster, audiences were led on stage to tables set out with unfinished brown-paper skeleton models. The performance began with an assistant inviting people to continue to build these by adding pieces wherever they want, creating this kind of abstract sculptures. There was ticker tape text going across the stage on a screen and three dancers would come in and improvise around the models, contorting their bodies and faces, making inarticulate sounds or uttering words in distorted speech. Gradually, the words on the screen told the story of Tracy, Bill’s wife who died of cancer. It was about the moment when they found out and its aftermath. When she was really ill, someone thought it was a good idea to give her a kit for assembling a cardboard skeleton as a Christmas present. Years later, Bill started to play with it without following the instructions. He created this thing and it was like he created a monster, because it was a model of his own grief. On stage, you gradually realised the story and that you were helping to build this thing – it was really extraordinary.”

English National Ballet present a mixed programme of American-inspired choreography including the work of Forsythe in Voices of America from 12 – 21 April, followed later in the season by Semperoper Ballett with All Forsythe. Forsythe himself will present four works, including two new pieces, in A Quiet Evening of Dance, which has been shortlisted for the FEDORA Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet 2018.

Main image: William Forsythe; photo by Dominik Mentzos.

William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance shorlisted for FEDORA Prize

We are delighted to announce that our new commission, William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance, has been shortlisted for the FEDORA Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet 2018.

The FEDORA Platform is a collection of cultural institutions from across Europe. We have been members of FEDORA since 2015 and we are very excited to be one of four nominees for this prestigious prize. The prize, a grant of €100,000, will be given to the project the jury feel most closely articulates the Platform’s values of innovation and creativity.

Before the prize is awarded, we have the opportunity to launch a crowdfunding campaign for the project. We are aiming to raise €20,000, which would allow us to take this exciting production on tour to smaller venues throughout Europe.

Created by one of the world’s most renowned choreographers, William Forsythe, A Quiet Evening of Dance is one of our 20th anniversary commissions. The evening will be a combination of new and existing work, performed by seven of Forsythe’s most trusted collaborators, who promise to provide insight into the workings of ballet and the mind of the man who has dedicated his work to this task. Forsythe and his collaborators will explore new shapes and modes of movement, featuring emerging artist Rauf “RubberLegz” Yasit, known for contorting his body into seemingly impossible shapes.

#nikert

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To get involved, check out the video below and donate via the FEDORA website by June 1st 2018 to help us reach our target so we can tour this ambitious production.

Dance meets Virtual Reality in Celestial Motion

We are excited to announce Celestial Motion, a virtual reality dance experience, produced by The Guardian’s award-winning in-house VR team and made in association with Sadler’s Wells. The piece is the Guardian’s first arts-inspired VR experience and was directed by Shehani Fernando and produced by Anetta Jones.

Choreographed by Alexander Whitley, Celestial Motion was adapted from his original stage production 8 Minutes, a commission by Sadler’s Wells which premiered at the theatre in June 2017 and is now touring the UK. Whitley, who is a New Wave Associate of Sadler’s Wells, collaborated with physicists from STFC RAL Space to create 8 Minutes. The piece took inspiration from the images and data of solar science research to explore the spectacular forces at work in the universe.

Watch the trailer below:

In the interactive VR piece, users are transported to a cosmic landscape. Here, viewers are able to switch between watching the dancers in their human form and experiencing a parallel world where ethereal digital figures perform the same choreography.

The ground-breaking VR experience was created in two halves. The costumed dancers were filmed in YouTube Space’s 360 green screen studio while the ‘virtual’ world was created by recording the dancers wearing motion capture suits at Queen Mary University of London where Whitley is an Artist Fellow. The Guardian’s VR team worked with creative technologist and lead developer Luca Biada of production studio F E N Y C E to bring the project to life. Video graphics for the piece were designed by BAFTA award-winning artist Tal Rosner and the accompanying music was composed by electroacoustic music innovator Daniel Wohl. Stunning images of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory were also incorporated to create the dramatic climax of the piece.

Alistair Spalding CBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells said, “I’m delighted that Alexander’s fantastic work commissioned for our stage, can have another life and be experienced in a completely new way, reaching an even wider audience through The Guardian. At Sadler’s Wells we’re really interested in how dance and new technology can work together to create a different language, and add a new dimension to this art form which lends itself so well to these kinds of digital possibilities.”

Celestial Motion is available to view on the Guardian VR app for Daydream and will be coming soon to Google Cardboard, and HTC Vive. Download The Guardian VR app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.

OUR TOP 5 TAP DANCE SCENES FROM THE MOVIES

Australia’s finest tap-dancing troop, The Tap Pack, will be bringing a touch of old school cool to The Peacock this May with their toe-tapping show combining songs, sharp wit and slick suits for an evening of pure entertainment. In the countdown to their arrival, we’ve been inspired to look back at the some of our favourite tap dance routines from the big screen. 

1. SINGING IN THE RAIN (1952)
This musical number is probably one of the most iconic dance scenes in cinema, but it’s that couch-tipping moment which impresses us the most. Apparently the scene took 40 takes to capture but from the finished result, you’d never guess that Debbie Reynolds has no previous dance experience!

2. STORMY WEATHER (1943)
The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, give an outstanding performance in the finale to Stormy Weather. It’s no wonder Fred Astaire named the pair as his own tap heroes! The film also showcased the talents of its African-American cast which was rare to see in a Hollywood movie of that time.

3. SWING TIME (1936)
It’s only right that one of the most famous dance duos of the silver screen are featured in our top 10. This clip of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire from the movie Swing Time is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Working titles for the film, included I Won’t Dance and Never Gonna Dance.

4. TAP (1989)
Gregory Hines plays the ex-convict son of a famous tap dancer, taking over his father’s Harlem tap studio and features the final film performance from Sammy Davis Jr. Aside from the obvious title, this move made our top 5 for its spectacular finale scene. Viewers should also look out for the singing talents of the great Etta James in the Times Square club scene!

5. CHICAGO (2002)
Richard Gere won a Golden Globe for his role in the 2002 movie remake of this Kander and Ebb classic, and it’s no wonder given he trained for months to deliver this impressive tap routine! It is rumoured that both Hugh Jackman and John Travolta turned down the role of Lawyer Billy Flynn before it was eventually offered to Gere.

The Tap Pack runs at The Peacock from 1 to 19 May. Tickets are available now priced from £15 by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8222 or book online.