Monthly Archives: March 2019

“Sweat, hard work and heart-warming experiences”: NYDC members rehearse MADHEAD

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) is preparing for the premiere of its new work MADHEAD, choreographed by Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva, in April. Here, two young dancers share their thoughts on the company’s recent intensive periods of rehearsals.

Dancer Ewelina Kosinska, from Surrey, is 18.

“Going into our second residency in December, I was curious and excited to finally start proper work on our piece. Knowing how hard the previous, three-day residency was, I knew seven days would be overwhelming. I can honestly say it was the most exhausting week of my life when I look back, but in the moment it didn’t feel like it. I was so thrilled and motivated the whole time.

I had to be very focused as we learned so much choreography in those days, but it didn’t seem so much because I was loving every minute of it. At the end of each day, it really helped to have Sheela, who led meditation and relaxation techniques sessions with us; it helped me absorb daily information and gave me time to focus on my internal wellbeing.

Ahead of our third residency of nine days I am now even more determined,  as I now know how much focus and effort I need to put in for the piece to look amazing. I already feel like the show will be incredible and it’s the most exciting project I have ever gotten to be a part of so far.”

NYDC with Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva (left) and his creative team in rehearsals.

Dancer Kendra Chiagoro-Noel is 19 and from London.

“Arriving in Hull for our third residency in February, I was greeted by smiling faces and an eagerness to jump right back into the studio together, to pick up where we’d left off. I was buzzing, slightly nervous and full of excitement.

Getting back into the material and remembering steps and qualities with the premiere looming was definitely a challenge. A lot of personal reassurance and collective motivation helped us all overcome frustrations and energy levels to push through. 

The perseverance definitely paid off and the choreography was really getting into our bodies and beginning to take shape. It was so reassuring to see us adjusting to the physical demands and fully enjoying and embracing the movement through our rising confidence in the material. 

With the premiere so close and the vision of the piece becoming clearer to us, having the opportunity to see the costumes, talk to Botis and his company Far From The Norm, the lighting designers and production team as part of a Q&A session made it even more exciting.

The days flew by! It was a blur of sweat, hard work and heart-warming experiences. Coming home, I felt stronger, energized and ready to keep going – I even went for a run! I can’t wait to be back in April!”

MADHEAD premieres at DanceEast in Ipswich on 20 April. It then tours to Plymouth, Newcastle, Essex, Brighton and Birmingham, closing at Sadler’s Wells on 19 July.

Damien Jalet: “It can make people uncomfortable, but I think that’s where art should go sometimes.”

We talk to the Olivier Award-winning choreographer about trusting your intuition, dance as the language of witchcraft, and flooding the Sadler’s Wells stage for the UK premiere of Vessel.

“I’m very bored of gender distinction, male-female duet, all these things. I’m always interested in something that can transcend.”

Damien Jalet is speaking to us from Brussels about his creative collaboration with Japanese sculptor Kohei Nawa. Blurring the lines between the human form and its environment, Vessel is a visually arresting, hypnotic and ambitious work. Seven near-naked dancers perform strange rituals on a flooded stage, their figures transforming as they morph and merge with the organic structure that floats atop 7,500 litres of water. Their faces are hidden, their headless poses concealing gender and identity and hinting at the existence of some non-human entity.

Vessel is a live performance – it premiered in Japan in 2016 and receives its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April – but the artists took the fusion of their disciplines one step further and created 3D sculptures out of the dancers’ bodies, which were exhibited in Shanghai.

“The problem with dance is that it only exists in the memory of the people who experience it”, explains Damien. “It dissolves, it’s never really something concrete, it’s just a feeling that you transmit. Sculpture is the medium that’s most connected to eternity in a way. It’s the exact opposite. The fact that a performance can suddenly become a sculpture, for me it’s a way to break the spell.”

Vessel © Yoshikazu Inoue

Breaking the spell is key to much of the French-Belgian choreographer’s work. He’s an artist interested in pushing beyond the edges. Rituals and transformation are themes which occupy much of his highly-acclaimed output – from the manic compulsion to dance believed to be caused by tarantula bites which inspired Tarantiseismic, the work he created as Guest Artistic Director of National Youth Dance Company in 2017, to using dance as the language of witchcraft in the recent remake of cult horror film Suspiria, starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, which Damien choreographed – and where in one particularly brutal scene, contemporary dance literally kills.

“What’s interesting is that Suspiria and Vessel happened at the same time”, explains Damien. “I literally got a call in July 2016 from Luca [Guadagnino, director of Suspiria] while I was going back to Japan to finish Vessel, and while I was finishing it I was already looking for the dancers for Suspiria, talking with Luca on the phone about different ideas, reading the script. It was a pretty busy period. It’s interesting because Suspiria, the original from [Dario] Argento, was always a reference film to me. It’s a film I’ve seen many times.”

In fact, back in 2013 Damien suggested that his dancers watch the original 1977 film as research material for a performance installation he was creating at the Louvre: Les Médusés, a female trio inspired by the myth of Medusa, which Luca Guadagnino saw. “There was no way that they could know that we watched Suspiria, so they had amazing intuition”, he reflects.

Initially, however, he was a bit skeptical. “When they told me ‘we want to do Suspiria’ and I was like, what? How would you want to do Suspiria again? Because it’s such a specific film. But then I saw the crew that Luca was running with, and talking with him I understood that it was not going to be this traditional remake but much more like a passion project, something that he viscerally wants to do. He really convinced me when he said, in the original of Suspiria dance is very much in the background and I would like to put it at the centre. Dance is actually presented as a very offensive art. And I said this is so smart because especially if you’re going to bring the whole historical period of Germany, of choreographers working at this time, many of them were considered witches, like Marie Wigman, and I feel that it’s very challenging but also super exciting to re-write the whole story of Suspiria, connecting it with the political situation of the time but also to really use dance as the language of witchcraft.”


It’s rare to see contemporary dance play such an integral role in a film, and the fact that Suspiria has sparked a new interest in dance for some people is an idea that really excites Damien.

“I’m getting a lot of feedback from people, who say that they were never really in to the medium of dance, but they found themselves liking it and being attracted by it. When I hear that it makes me really happy because I think sometimes the big media don’t trust what dance can offer. Often it’s reduced to very academic or very technical reference, which is fine, but it’s a bit reductive, and it comes back to the sense of what is the first function of dance, and it was often a way to get in to an altered state of consciousness, to get in to a parallel world, to get in contact with gods – pretty intense.”

Damien is an expert collaborator. His previous projects include collaborations with fashion designer Hussein Chalayan on Gravity Fatigue (2015), and with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and sculptor Antony Gormley on Babel(words), which won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2010.

“I’ve learned so much from all my collaborators and I think collaboration is the only way for me to meet someone. Because it’s in the work that you meet, it’s in making things together, it’s in struggling together, it’s in all these highs and lows that a person really reveals themselves. I feel extremely lucky. I think dance has this incredible potential to be able to connect to any kind of medium. I’ve been working with theatre, with fashion, with cinema, with music and I feel that always there is a fascination from all of these mediums towards dance.”

So what does he think makes a good collaboration? “There’s one rule that I apply. Your intuition has to really feel it. It should never be something that works on paper, it should feel like something that you feel, it’s a vibration, it’s wanting to learn from the person, it’s having a deep respect for the person you’re working with, and you have to feel that the feeling is mutual. That’s what I would say is the key.”

Hussein Chalayan’s Gravity Fatigue, with choreography by Damien Jalet © Hugo Glendinning

It’s this intuition which led him to work with Kohei Nawa. Damien chanced upon the sculptor’s work at the Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, in 2013 – which he describes as a “sliding doors” moment.

“I was performing in the afternoon and I decided to go and see the exhibitions. 10 minutes before the doors were closing, I decided to go to the last floor. And I discovered an installation of Kohei’s called Foam.”

Something clicked for Damien. “I could feel there was something that Kohei was researching that I was researching too”, he explains. “First of all I was impressed by the fact that the way people were moving in this installation was somehow transforming them as performers, because as a visitor you would inhabit and become part of it. There was something done with a very strong scientific vigour and it was very precise and technical. At the same time, in an abstract way, it was somehow opening a door to a new world.”

“I really wanted to collaborate with him. I was really obsessed.” Damien eventually made contact with Kohei, and they started developing the early stages of Vessel together at a residency programme in Kyoto, where Kohei has his Sandwich art factory.

“I’m really fascinated by sculpture, and I’ve always been interested in exploring the sculptural potential of the body. When do we stop perceiving the human body as being completely human? I started experimenting with Aimilios [Arapoglou, a dancer and close artistic collaborator on Vessel] and we built up a series of figures – most of them were headless – in a way that was really challenging the perception of the body. When I sent those pictures to Kohei, that’s when I felt a really strong click.”

“I would say that we are both inspired equally by science and by mythology and I really believe that Vessel is a meeting point between those two worlds. People at the end of the show come to me and say that they will never see the human body the same way after, because it plays with anatomy, but it ultimately creates a mythology through it. I’m always keen to blur the lines. It can make people a bit uncomfortable, it can be disturbing for some, but I think that’s where art should go sometimes.”


Vessel receives its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 16 – 17 April. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

Lead photo: Aimilios Arapoglou in Vessel © Yoshikazu Inoue

Sadler’s Wells’ Voices: Diana Sam

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we talk to Diana Sam to find out about her experience working as our Technical Apprentice.

Since 2014, Sadler’s Wells and the Roundhouse have partnered to offer two full-time, paid apprenticeships in technical theatre (sound, light and stage) per year. Apprentices split their time between the two organisations to complete a Level 3 Creative Venue Technician apprenticeship standard, developing a variety of backstage skills and production knowledge.

Hello, Diana. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a huge music lover. I literally listen to any genre, from drum and bass  straight to drill, grime, classical and jazz. I generally love the arts and the variety of different art forms there are. I’m also a drummer and play a bit of keys .

How did you find out about the apprenticeship opportunity? Is there anything in particular about Sadler’s Wells and the Roundhouse that made you want to apply for it?

I found out about the apprenticeship through Art Jobs, as it is ‘The hub’ when it comes to looking for a job within the creative industries. What I really adore about the two organisations is that they are both very different, but quite similar in some aspects. They are both performance-based venues, but the Roundhouse focuses primarily on music, whereas Sadler’s Wells focuses on contemporary dance.

The radiant visuals in terms of light and staging that both venues are able to produce and show to the public are really what made me to want to apply for the apprenticeship.

What does your apprenticeship involve day-to-day?

It involves many things and each day is different. I’m always learning something new. If I’m doing a get in, then the day involves a lot of setting up and preparation for the show, while on show nights it’s more about observing and bringing in and out props that are needed for specific acts.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy the setting up of a production, being able to be involved in the making of a great show. Knowing that you were a part of it is an awesome feeling.

Have you encountered any challenges?

Getting used to the different terminology used on stage, as there were some terms I had never heard of before – that was a bit of a challenge!

How do you feel the apprenticeship opportunity is benefiting your professional development?

It is benefiting my professional development in so many ways. In particular, it’s been helping me to become more confident, and to improve my problem solving skills.

“Working backstage in theatre requires taught technical skills of course, but we also look for real hands-on experience, a proper understanding of how to work in a team, how to work under tight time pressures, and how to work with artists and performers,” says Emma Wilson, our Director of Technical & Production.

“Learning on the job as an apprentice is a fantastic route into professional theatre, giving the individual a real depth of knowledge and understanding, and proven practical skills. As an employer we value this route into professional work very highly, regard those who have completed their apprenticeship with great respect and are confident that they will be ready to work in one of the largest theatres in the UK.

We also benefit greatly from having an apprentice working alongside us. It gives us the opportunity to constantly examine our own processes and procedures, and to change and improve as we guide their learning. Our technicians also benefit personally, we find they are keen to share their skills and knowledge with someone new and eager to learn, the atmosphere is positive and forward-looking. It’s great to have someone new on the team asking questions, wanting to learn, excited about their future.”

Read more from technical theatre apprentice Sophie, currently working at the Roundhouse, here.

5 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT TAIKO DRUMMING

The art of Taiko drumming was first introduced into Japan in 6th Century CE and has remained an important part of the culture and tradition ever since. With the Yamato Drummers returning to the UK this March to entertain West End audiences at The Peacock theatre, here are a few facts you might not know about Taiko…

1. IT’S A LIFESTYLE

Taiko drummers must remain in peak physical condition to maintain the skill and the stamina required to deliver intense and high-energy performances. The Yamato drummers train ferociously, running ten kilometres every morning before rehearsals. Taiko is more closely related to dance than you might think, as the drummers follow choreographed routines and use their entire bodies.

2. IT FEATURED IN THE SOUNDTRACK TO ISLE OF DOGS

Atmospheric Taiko drumming underpins the score to Wes Anderson’s 2018 movie Isle of Dogs, composed by Brooklyn based composer and musician, Kaoru Watanabe, who specialises in Japanese percussion and shinobue flutes. The film was subsequently nominated for Best Original Score in the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. 

3. TAIKO DRUMMING IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

There are many studies linking a daily dose of drumming to positive health benefits and well-being. Evidence suggests that it can reduce blood pressure, improve cognitive function, reduce pain and prevent depression and emotional disorders. Some groups practise therapeutic drumming to achieve mindfulness and as a form of meditation.

4. IT HAS ORIGINS IN JAPANESE FOLKLORE

One of the oldest books in Japanese classical history, the Nihon Shoki, describes the origins of Taiko. The myth tells the story of Amaterasu, who had sealed herself inside a cave in anger and was beckoned out by an elder goddess Ame-no-Uzume when others had failed. Ame-no-Uzume accomplished this by emptying out a barrel of sake and dancing on top of it. Historians regard her performance as the mythological creation of Taiko music!

5. THE BIGGEST OKEDO-DAIKO DRUM WEIGHS 3.5 TONS

Found at Odaiko Hall in Kita-Akita, Akita, Japan, the world’s largest Taiko drum measures 3.8 metres long and only the most experienced drummers are allowed to play it. Originally, drums of this scale were created to mimic the sound of thunder in the hope that they would bring rain to reward villagers living off their land.

Yamato bring their latest show ‘Passion’ to The Peacock theatre from 12 – 31 March 2019. Tickets are priced £15 – £38. To book, contact the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.

FIVE SENSATIONAL SCORES COMPOSED BY VANGELIS

Vangelis is best known for composing some of the most iconic film scores of all time but most recently, he has turned his attention to contemporary dance, composing a compelling soundtrack to The Thread, the latest creation by choreographer Russell Maliphant and inspired by the changing forms of Greek dance.

In celebration of the world premiere of The Thread on our stage this March, we’re taking a look at five of the most sensational scores from this Academy Award-winner. And we promise not to give away any spoilers!

1. CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981)

It’s probably one of the most recognisable film soundtracks ever. We defy you to listen to it without conjuring images of slow-motion running along a beach. The opening instrumental title sequence has become synonymous with the Olympics, featuring in the BBC’s coverage of the 1984 Olympics and as the theme for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. It reached No. 1 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and won Vangelis the Academy Award for Best Original Music Score.

2. BLADE RUNNER (1982)

The cutting-edge composer also provided the soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cult classic, Blade Runner. It features his trademark of haunting electronic-orchestral pieces, including the main theme, and in a departure from his usual style, his commission of ragtime jazz number, One More Kiss. Despite huge demand from hungry fans, it was a full 12 years before the soundtrack was officially released. In 2008, Massive Attack and Heritage Orchestra collaborated on a live performance of the score at London’s Meltdown Festival.

3. MISSING (1982)

In a shift away from science fiction, Vangelis also worked on the 1982 film Missing, which earned him a BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and also picked up the Palme d’Or that year at Cannes. Based on a true story, this psychological drama was the first Hollywood film from Greek director Costa-Gavras. A recording was later released featuring Vangelis’ original music with lyrics by Tim Rice sung by Elaine Paige.

4. 1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE (1992)

Ridley Scott’s big budget blockbuster told a historical account of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, starring Gérard Depardieu and Sigourney Weaver. Originally Hans Zimmer was approached to write the score until Ridley Scott offered the job to Vangelis. And we were rewarded with this dramatic accompaniment to Columbus’s voyage…

5. ALEXANDER (2004)

This historical drama about Alexander the Great featured an all-star cast including Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell and is director Oliver Stone’s most expensive film to date. The sweeping, majestic score mixes synthesised and acoustic instruments. But there were a number of setbacks for the film… It was nearly banned in Vangelis’ home country of Greece for the depiction of Alexander’s bisexuality, but fortunately still got its Greek premiere. Colin Farrell also broke his ankle and his arm from falling down a flight of stairs during filming.

Hear Vangelis’s latest score in the world premiere of The Thread at Sadler’s Wells from 15 – 17 March. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.