Monthly Archives: November 2018

Breakin’ Convention takes over Denver for a weekend of hip hop dance theatre

Breakin’ Convention returned to Denver this month with a festival that celebrated hip-hop culture and showcased both world-class, international acts and local street dance companies.

The festival took over the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) for the second consecutive year on 2-4 November, in conjunction with #DenverArtsWeek. Around 5,000 people enjoyed performances and free activities over the weekend. The lineup featured Dutch b-boy crew The Ruggeds, UK’s BirdGang Dance Company with Vice, a piece on addiction, French dancer Antoinette Gomis, whose solo honoured the beauty of black culture, a comic duet by Sample Culture (also from The Netherlands), and Los Angeles-based popping trio Femme Fatale. All received standing ovations from the crowd.

Image by John Moore

The Ruggeds in Adrenaline The Show. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Femme Fatale performing at DCPA. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

The Bboy Factory at DCPA. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Antoinette Gomis in IMAGES. Image: John Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist and Breakin’ Convention’s Artistic Director Jonzi D curated and hosted the show, stressing the importance of creating an organic environment for hip-hop culture to flourish, a space where both local and international acts come together. Sharing his vision, General Manager of the DCPA’s Broadway division Alicia Bruce recognised that the festival “is not just about dance from around the world. It’s also about dance from around the corner”.


Jonzi D in conversation with DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

Local acts included Block 1750, Chase Evered, Whole Milk, Breaking Barriers, The Freak Show, Love Es Love, Side by Side and B-Boy Factory, who also performed at the student matinee on Friday, which attracted an audience of 2,500 pupils.

A highlight was the 303 Free Jam, which kick-started the festival with a rich programme of dance workshops, graffiti, MCs, DJs and impromptu dance sessions delivered by Breakin’ Convention in collaboration with the headline artists.

“Considering that we don’t always have the opportunity to move the way we want, we really wanted to take advantage of this,” said Abner Genece, who took his son Jaden to the 303 Free Jam. “It fills me with joy to see him out there expressing himself. It’s amazing really to have the exposure to artists from all over the world, not only visually but movement-wise, music, vocally. To be able to expose him to all these different kinds of influences is great, and show him there’s a whole world out there right here in Denver.”

Image by John Moore

Mastering the steps with Ivan the Urban Action Figure. Image: John Moore

Image by Emma Ponsford

Young attendees wearing Breakin’ Convention’s merch. Image: Emma Ponsford

Image by John Moore

Graffiti workshop. Image: John Moore

Image by John Moore

Antoinette Gomis’ free Sample Session workshop. Image: John Moore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on upcoming events and activities, visit www.breakinconvention.com/

Header image: John Moore

Life is a dream for over 60s joining Rambert on stage

Over-60 dancers took to our main stage for a workshop delivered by Rambert, to coincide with the company’s run of new production Two last week.

Group picture at Rambert’s workshop. Image: Emma Bellerby

Company dancer Joshua Barwick led the session, starting with a gentle contemporary dance warm-up. He then taught participants some steps from Rambert’s production Life is a Dream, the retelling of the 17th-Century play of the same name choreographed by two-time Olivier Award-winner Kim Brandstrup. At the end of the workshop, the group performed duets from the piece.

This event welcomed complete beginners and gave them the opportunity to explore performance techniques with professional dancers against the backdrop of our main auditorium.

Working in pairs to learn dance steps from Rambert. Image: Emma Bellerby

Participants warming up.  Image: Emma Bellerby

 

Participants felt enriched by the experience. “How wonderful this morning’s workshop was. I really loved it! Josh was a real inspiration and I appreciated his patience,” said Margot.

“I just want to say how much I enjoyed the Rambert workshop today,” added Norma. “It was so joyful and we had such a brilliant teacher.”

The workshop was supported by our Learning & Engagement team, as part of our ongoing work to connect our local communities with the work we present on our stages, and to bring dance to the widest possible audience.

A guide to the music of Bharatanatyam – Darbar Voices

Welcome to Darbar Voices, a four part blog series delving into the world of Indian classical dance in celebration of Darbar Festival, which returns to Sadler’s Wells in November with a dance programme curated by Akram Khan. Discover more about this discipline and hear directly from the artists and experts working in the field as our guest writers share insight into the traditions and ideas behind some of the oldest dance styles in the world.

In the first of this series, we hand over to Praveen Prathapan (AKA The Flute Guy), an Indian Classical musician and former NASA Scientist. Praveen left his academic career in pursuit of music and has now amassed almost 10 million views on Facebook and YouTube. Praveen has collaborated with Emeli Sande, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, and Cheryl Cole and, at 23 years old, is also a trained vocalist, percussionist, and composer.

Here Praveen offers insight into canartic music, and its relationship to bharatanaytam.

Carnatic music shares many traits with Western classical music, such as the employment of major and minor scales, which comprise just two of the thousands of ragas in Carnatic music. Unlike its Western counterpart however, Carnatic music distinctively does not utilise harmonies or chord progressions. Nevertheless, its largest component, manodharmam (improvisation), makes Carnatic music share remarkably similar characteristics with blues and jazz music (didn’t expect that, did you).

Carnatic music is also known for some of the most complex rhythmic patterns and talas (beat cycles) in the world. Seriously, it gets crazy.

An example of the carnatic music style. Bharat Sundar sings solo the Raga Thodi:

Carnatic music often accompanies the dance style of bharatanatyam, a subgenre of Indian classical dance renowned for its complex footwork, detailed array of mudras (gestures), and storytelling style.

Watch bharatanatyam duo Renjith and Vijna perform with live musicians:

Traditionally, bharatanatyam performances have been accompanied by the Vadya Trayam (Holy Trinity) of Carnatic instruments: Veena (a plucked stringed instrument), Venu (flute), and the Mridangam (drum). These three instruments have specific functions: the Mridangam complements the rhythmic foot movements of the dancer, the Veena enhances the texture with its array of tala strings and main strings, and the flute decorates the melodies with ornamentations.

Praveen performs an Indian classical version of the theme from Titanic on the Venu, accompanied by the Veena:

Since the colonisation of India by the British, the violin has been added to this repertoire, replacing the Veena which in turn is gradually disappearing from bharatanatyam performances. The most important instrument on stage, the Nattuvangam (hand cymbals), is tapped in conjunction with the dancer’s feet. More modern performances of bharatanatyam have seen new instruments being employed, such as the drum pad, for special effects like temple bells, the Sitar, for North Indian bhajan-style pieces, and even the piano, to introduce harmonies. Finally, the vocalist sings the melodic lines, which contain the all-important sahithya (lyrics), which the dancer portrays visually.

The confluence of carnatic music and bharatanatyam is a beautiful thing to behold, and has stood the test of time for centuries. However, like everything in life, art changes and evolves. What does the future look like? I predict three major things to happen.

The first is the likeliest: with globalisation transpiring at an unprecedented rate, I believe genres will merge more frequently; artists have already begun to incorporate elements of ballet into bharatanatyam, and harmonies into Carnatic music. Improvisation in bharatanatyam has not been explored to the extent that Carnatic music has, and so my second prediction is that we will see more of this experimental technique.

Finally, with the explosion of the digital world, well-known artists of the future will be those who have found a way to bring these age-old traditions to our screens and social media. All of these, some of these, or none of these, could happen. However, one thing is for certain: these ancient art forms are still being practised today, and I’m grateful to witness it in the 21st century.

See more videos from The Flute Guy and subscribe to his YouTube channel here, follow @therealfluteguy on Twitter, the_flute_guy on Instagram and The Flute Guy on Facebook.

Sadler’s Wells presents An Evening of Bharatanatyam as part of Darbar Festival 2018 on 24 Nov. Tickets are priced from £12. To book, call the ticket office on 020 7863 8000 or book online. See the full Darbar Festival programme here.

Photo credit: Jananie Baskaran of 3D Media

Maxine Meets… Peregrine the Pony

As Birmingham Royal Ballet brings La Fille mal gardée to the Sadler’s Wells stage, our Publications Officer Maxine fulfils her dream of meeting a very special star of the show… Peregrine the pony.

Before we get started, let me make this very clear: I am not obsessed with this pony. Definitely not. I may have chased him down the street once (more on that later), and even bought him a bouquet. Twice (more on that later too), but that doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. Sure, I like him. But obsessed? No. Never. Not me.

That’s not to say that there are other people who aren’t.

There is a small corner of the internet that is very jealous of me right now. A dedicated fandom, lurking within the larger ballet-loving community. A group of balletomanes (pun very much intended) who have been following the career of this pony with all the ardour of a teenage girl at a One Direction concert circa 2012.

Peregrine (like all the best ballet stars, he’s dropped his first name: Formakin) stormed onto the ballet scene nearly a decade ago in a performance of La Fille mal gardée, pulling the tiny trap that carries Lise (the Fille of the title) and her mother from their farmhouse out to greet the workers in the fields.

Along the way he is led by one of the more junior (two-legged) members of the company, while to his rear he is trailed by another dancer, carrying a trug that, under the cover of a cheerful looking cloth, contains a… well, let’s be blunt here, a not-so theatrical pooper-scooper, to be whipped out should any accidents occur.

And oh boy, do accidents occur, necessitating hasty clean-up and even hastier footwork as the ballerinas shift their pink satin pointe shoes away from the slippy patch.

Since then he has claimed the role as his own, touring it to stages all around the country with such regularity that his name is now pretty much synonymous with the ballet.

Caught on the hoof

I first saw Fille back in 2012. As a former devotee to the more histrionic storytelling of MacMillan, I was initially a little sneery at the thought of this schmaltzy Ashton ballet, where chickens dance, true love reigns supreme, and there’s no need for poison, swords or any weaponry beyond a few cheekily thrown cabbages (even the promising looking sickles are only used to fell wheat, which struck me as a waste).

Which is why it is somewhat surprising that, on a sunny evening in 2015, I found myself sprinting out of Pret, a half-eaten sandwich stuffed into my bag, and popcorn flying everywhere, in a scene that could only match Beatle-mania for sheer enthusiasm and adoration. Because there, trotting down St Martin’s Lane, his white coat gleaming in the evening sun as he headed towards the Royal Opera House for that night’s performance, was Peregrine.

A few second later, very red in the face and filled with regrets about my regular gym non-attendance, I caught up with him. I don’t exactly remember what happened next. It was all a bit of a blur. But I came away feeling like I could pull off even the grandest of jetés.

So, when I found out that Fille (and, more importantly, Peregrine) was heading to Sadler’s Wells with Birmingham Royal Ballet, I acted with both grace and decorum. I absolutely did not start my campaign to interview him the second it was announced.

I waited a full day. At least.

So how do you interview a pony? Enter Tom Davis, farm manager of Peregrine’s current London digs at Mudchute Park and Farm, who has known the equine star for more than eight years and was happy to act as intermediary.

I started with the basics: how old is he? “21.” Old for a pony. “He’s a more mature gentleman,” was Tom’s no-nonsense statement on the matter. “He’s not quite in his twilight years, but he’s doing alright.” But nearing retirement, surely? “What Peregrine does isn’t very taxing,” Tom assured me, noting the panic in my voice. “It’s not a very long stint. It would be entirely up to his owner when he retires, but he’s doing well. He’s still fit and healthy, and until anything shows to the contrary then he’ll carry on doing it, I imagine.”

His owner, George Gold, agrees. Peregrine’s predecessor kept on going until she was 30.

My little pony

Peregrine comes from a long line of hoofers stretching back to the 1920s. They’ve been performing in Fille for over 20 years (Superstar took over from the appropriately-named Lise in 1996). And matters, it seems, are in hand for the next trap-puller. “He’s been running with some mares, so hopefully there’ll be the pitter patter of tiny Peregrine hooves…” says Tom, ever so casually, as if he’s not giving me the journalistic scoop of a lifetime. “…in eleven or twelve months’ time.”

Oh. My. God.

It takes me a moment to recover from this bombshell. Have you ever seen a Shetland pony foal? I haven’t, but a quick Google image search tells me everything I need to know. I recommend you give it a go if you’re having a bad day. I really do.

One day a Peregrine Junior might end up pooping on the Sadler’s Wells stage. What a thought.

Tom hesitates. “If they are as good as he is,” he says. “Ponies, with the nature that Peregrine has, especially from an entire stallion, are very, very hard to come by.” Ah, yes. Shetlands have a bit of a… shall we say a ‘reputation’? “Shetland ponies are known worldwide to suffer from small man syndrome. But Peregrine is a chip off the old block, and I think they did break the mold when it came to him.”

“But, we can live in hope that he’s got a son and heir cooking, in Scotland, inside one of these mares he’s been running with. Hopefully he’s left her with more than just pleasant memories and he’s got a little baby in there that’s going to be as good as he is.”

Tom, as you can probably tell by now, has a way with words that leans towards the romantic.

I can see why though. Peregrine begs for poetry.

When I spot him inside his trailer, the sight of his familiar shape clamps down hard on my heart.

The stubby stockiness of his legs. The rotund fullness of his belly. His gentle eyes fringed with the palest of lashes.

And let’s not insult his colouring by calling him a ‘grey.’

He’s white. Very white. As white as snow. Or paper. Or the White Witch, Jadis herself. Looking at Peregrine, metaphors utterly fail me.

The fact of the matter is, he’s so white that there have even been rumours that he gets powdered down before going on stage. But they’re not true. Right? “Absolutely!” agrees Tom, sounding rather shocked. “No, no, no, goodness me. He might powder his nose but that’s about it.”

“He’s like the miniaturised version of the stallion in Shrek,” he continues, warming to the theme. “When the donkey gets turned into the horse, that’s him in miniature. He’s a poor man’s unicorn.”

Mane appeal

While we’re on the subject, we have another rumour to dispel: Pantene. He doesn’t really use that… does he?

“Well, he has done in the past. For that kind of hair, you use anything. He’s been known to use a bit of L’Oreal.

“Because he’s worth it,” Tom adds, deadpan.

Peregrine’s fulsome fringe is as soft and voluminous as it looks, falling in enviable Veronica Lake fashion over his eyes. As a Mane ‘n Tail girl myself, I’m taking notes.

A stable performer

Peregrine on the farm, image credit: Tom Davis

Apart from being a stunner, and a nice chap to boot, Peregrine is also annoyingly talented. A true triple-threat.

No one who has seen him in action can forget the pawing motion he does with his hoof when his convoy comes to a halt in front of the drop cloth. “Sometimes when Peregrine’s impatient, he’ll paw the ground, because he knows the cues, he knows how long he should be stood in a certain place. There are a few behaviours that he’s learnt to do over the years, and that is one of them. Usually that’s him wanting to hurry everyone along a little bit.”

I’ve always wondered about the cues. What is it that Peregrine is responding to? “The dancers,” says Tom. “The music. Where he’s standing. They all add up, to give him his cue of when he should be doing what he’s doing.”

And he remembers it all? Sometimes years pass before a ballet company revives Fille. “He’s like a seasoned West End performer. To be honest, he knows a lot of it. And remembers a lot of it. Because it’s something that he’s done for many years. He knows when the harness goes on, what he’s meant to be doing.”

He’s certainly well behaved when I’m left holding his lead rope. He stands obligingly as we pose for photos on Rosebery Avenue, with a patience born of the utmost professionalism.

But what I really want to know is, what happens before the harness goes on. What’s his process? Is he method?

“On the days when he’s not there, he’ll be out in the field. But we have to make sure that he’s got a rug on, because of his colour. Because one of the first things he’ll do when you turn him out into the field is to roll. When the ground’s quite damp, he will go from being a nice whiteish-grey pony to being a very dark brown, dirty pony. It’ll be brushing him, giving him a brush off, and making sure he looks well. You might put a bit of hoof oil on his hooves to shine them up a little bit.”

And on the days when there isn’t time? When he’s expected to strut his stuff for the matinee and evening show? “He’ll have an area. It’ll probably be in the lorry, which is the size of a large stable on wheels. He’ll have hay nets and water buckets and a bed to lay down in, or the floor if he wants to. So he’ll relax how all ponies do. Eat a bit of hay, have a little drop of water, and maybe lay down and have a snooze.”

Bliss.

Celebrity stallion

It’s probably for the best that neither Peregrine, nor his owner, indulges in social media. A quick glance through the #NaughtyPeregrine hashtag on Twitter will give you a glimpse into the collective love for this adorable pony. However, the #PeregrinesBouquet takes matters to an entirely different level.

In 2015, cinema goers around the world were treated to the sight of Darcey Bussell presenting an edible bouquet to Peregrine during the live stream of The Royal Ballet’s production of La Fille mal gardée. Paid for by the fans (Ahem…) the pink ribboned basket was put together and delivered by the ballet-bouquet specialists at Bloomsbury Flowers (only the best for this pony).

“It wasn’t until he’d done the last stint at the Royal Opera House and was presented with an edible bouquet, and his owner George came back to the farm with an entire bag of fan-mail, that I realised Peregrine had the following that he did. But then again, he’s a seasoned pro, very professional in what he does, and he’s quite an endearing pony. When people see him they do like him.”

“I have to admit, I did write one of those letters,” I say tentatively, wondering what sort of reaction I’ll get from Tom.

“Well, I imagine up in Scotland he’s got them over his stable wall or something like that,” he says sweetly.

So there. You see. Not obsessed at all.

I’m not the only one. “I was never a fan of Shetland ponies, and then I met Peregrine,” says Tom. “I think he’s a once in a lifetime pony, to be fair.”

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s La Fille mal gardée runs from 1 – 3 Nov. Tickets are available now priced from £12. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7862 8000 or book online.