Zoe Innes

NYDC TAKE TO THE SADLER’S WELLS STAGE

This Saturday, National Youth Dance Company is set to storm the Sadler’s Wells stage showcasing the next generation of dance talent with Quartier Paradis. 

NYDC, England’s flagship youth dance organisation run by Sadler’s Wells, creates and performs innovative and influential dance, drawing together some of the brightest young talent from across the country. This latest collaboration with internationally renowned choreographer Alesandra Seutin, sees 32 outstanding young dancers present a new contemporary work, exploring the relationship between movement, voice and music. 

Quartier Paradis, a show which dives into parallel universes where there is no clear endgame, has toured the UK with outstanding success and rave reviews. The national tour culminates here at Sadler’s Wells this weekend for one night only! This is the 10th cohort for NYDC, being led by Guest Artistic Director, Alesandra Seutin for the second year running due to covid disruptions.  

Alesandra said: “It is exciting to be Guest Artistic Director of NYDC for a second year, and to be a part of the company’s 10th cohort. Working with NYDC is always a wonderful experience, the young people are inspiring, they are full of potential, joy, life and struggle all at the same time. It has inspired me to be a better human and artist, and to inspire these young people with the work and my team is always a joy.”

Hannah Kirkpatrick, Head of NYDC, said: “We are really looking forward to our audiences seeing this incredible work by our 10th cohort of dancers and Alesandra Seutin. Following two disrupted years of Covid it feels brilliant to be doing a full tour to share the work with as many people as possible. We are so proud of this group, who have grown as individuals and artists over the year, and we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them. This is the second year that Alesandra has led NYDC and it has been inspiring to see how she and her team have challenged and supported the dancers to make this unique and powerful work.”  

London dancer and NYDC cohort 10 member, Roshaan Assare, has said that his time with the company has been ‘nothing short of life a changing experience’. When asked about his experience working with Alesandra, Roshaan said ‘Anyone that has the pleasure of working with Alesandra can attest to the great sense of sagacity she brings to the room. There’s a comfort level when working with Alesandra. I feel safe, even when I mess up…and boy have I made mistakes! Going into Sadler’s Wells, I’m certainly feeling ready. I’m extremely proud of what I’ve done thus far and will use that confidence to go out and live in the piece like it’s the last time I’ll ever get to do it.’ 

NYDC’s track record speaks for itself with over 80% of company members going onto further dance studies, in vocational training or working professionally. Cohort 10 member Tekitha Traniece, from West Yorkshire, began dancing at the age of 2 and talks of how the company has shown her a future in dance. She said ‘Being involved in NYDC and Quartier Paradis has really helped me decide on and see my future within dance. Before joining I was very unsure on which path I would like to take. Learning how people work in a company, especially with the style that the artistic team use, has really helped me become more sure in myself and know where I want to go. NYDC has given me so many opportunities that I greatly appreciate, including touring and performing at Sadler’s Wells. This has given me so much experience with travelling and adapting to new stages and environments quickly which I was not used to at this time last year.’ 

You can catch both Roshaan and Tekitha as they make their Sadler’s Wells debut in Quartier Paradis this weekend. 

Next year is set to be a bumper year for NYDC as they celebrate their 10th anniversary, led by 2022/23 Guest Artistic Director, Wayne McGregor CBE.  

Quartier Paradis is part of Well Seasoned, designed by Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding and Breakin’ Convention’s Artistic Director Jonzi D and Director Michelle Norton. This programme is bringing exceptional and relevant shows by Black artists to the stage, celebrating Black dance. 

Quartier Paradis is at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 3 September at 7:30pm 

For more information and tickets: 
https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/nydc-quartier-paradis/

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW: TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, OLI CLARK, ON SOUTH PACIFIC

This summer, we welcome Chichester Festival Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific to the Sadler’s Wells stage. This powerful love story, set on a South Pacific island during World War ll, features a sensational cast of over 30, led by Gina Beck and Bridgeton’s Julian Ovenden. Boasting a full orchestra playing one of Rogers and Hammerstein’s most memorable scores, this much-loved Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical is not to be missed this summer.

On opening night, the excitement was palpable as the theatre came alive with the buzz of exhilarated theatre goers. The actors were preparing, the orchestra poised, and the audience eagerly awaited the overture signalling the moment they had been waiting for…but what really happens behind the scenes?

Backstage there is an army of technicians and professionals working tirelessly to ensure that, as they say, ‘the show must go on.’ Join us as we take an exclusive look behind the scenes at the inner workings of hosting a large-scale touring musical. Sadler’s Wells Technical Director, Oli Clark has a wealth of experience, spanning over 20 years, including technical management roles at Royal Albert Hall and The Roundhouse. Here, he answers our burning questions and gives us a unique insight into life behind the curtain.

Picture the scene – It’s the opening night of South Pacific and you arrive at the theatre in the morning. What does this day typically look like?

The day generally starts with a strong coffee! I walk around, ensuring the in-house teams have all the information needed and check that all equipment is functioning and we are set. The visiting production team, stage managers are next to discuss any schedule clashes or safety concerns. The period from the load in, to opening night is usually very busy for all backstage staff. This means long days and everybody is getting to know each other’s way of working.

Technical rehearsal time is precious. There are usually anywhere between 8-10 large tables dotted around the auditorium with all sorts of technical control desks, computers and littered with cue sheets and schedules . Production managers, producers, in-house tech teams, sound & lighting teams, dancers and company managers all try to maximise the little time we have left to polish the key elements of the show. Within the last 2 hours, everything is cleared away and the teams get some well-earned rest and nourishment before the house opens to the audience. The backstage calls go out from the stage management teams, the actors and cast make their way to the stage, and it’s show time.

Tell us about your role as Technical Director at Sadler’s Wells. Are there any misconceptions around working as a theatre technician?

I have been Technical Director here since March 2020, two weeks before the first lockdown commenced and everything ground to a halt. It has been an unusual introduction to an organisation that is renowned for celebrating human creativity and welcomes over half a million people a year to its theatres. As Technical Director at Sadler’s Wells, I lead the technical teams ensuring the department, its resources and equipment are fully operational enabling the practical delivery of the technical elements of artistic visions and events programme. No two days are the same and it can take many months of planning and preparation to ensure the productions are met with technical precision, the highest safety standards and within budget.

A common misconception about technical teams is that they do not interact with each other and are separated by skill set (light, sound, stage, wardrobe etc). This is simply not the case here at Sadler’s Wells. The collaboration that occurs between the departments is key to executing the pre-production, planning and varied delivery of the productions and presentations. The production and technical teams across the organisation are some of the best in the business and well known in the industry. They are welcoming and dedicated experts in their fields, offering a knowledge and precision of theatre craft that is comforting to visiting companies.

How does welcoming a large-scale musical differ from working on dance productions which typically have shorter runs?

The larger musicals are usually in our buildings and on our stages for longer periods. This often means more set to construct, larger backstage teams, more equipment to hang over the stage, larger casts with more costumes, more dressers and longer hours needed to get the show up and running.

Longer running shows can also mean a bit of stability in working patterns for the technical teams. The teams have seasonal bursts of activity, which can see a higher turnover and volume of shows moving through the venues several times per week. The longer runs mean we can use the time for vital off show activity such as training, advancing the next season and maintenance tasks.

What are the main challenges of receiving large touring shows, such as South Pacific?

One of the challenges of receiving large touring shows is having enough space in our buildings and wings to fit all of the fantastic props, costumes and flight cases, let alone the teams, crew and cast. Somehow, we all fit in and get the job done with memorable results for the shows and audiences.

The wonderful set for South Pacific was designed by Peter McKintosh. Were there any challenges or surprises with this particular set?

The set has been well designed and constructed with touring and portability in mind. There is a lot of it, and it takes a masterpiece of collaboration between the technical departments to fit the set, scenery, lighting, and automation onto the stage. All credit to the designers and fantastically professional teams that have worked together calmly and in harmony to meet the schedules.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a stage technician on a show like South Pacific?

The most rewarding thing is being part of a huge team, sometimes around 30 people backstage that are unseen by the audience but are all vital to the running of the show. It is busy, and timings and deadlines are tight, but it often feels like our expertise is an unseen gift to the thousands of people who are here to enjoy the show.

Do you have a favourite song/moment from the show?

My favourite moment of all shows is the split second before the curtain goes up, that moment at the beginning where the house lights go down and the entire audience are in absolute silence. You know they have waited months or years to see the show and we have been planning, waiting, and working hard backstage to get to this point as well.  That moment of anticipation is finally here, the audience are in muted excitement and there are goose bumps in the room. You can really feel the electricity in the atmosphere for those few seconds. That bit…

South Pacific is at Sadler’s Wells until Sunday 28 August.

For more information and tickets: https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/south-pacific/

Audio Described Performances: Saturday 6 August at 2:30pm

Touch Tour Performances: Saturday 6 August at 2:30pm

Captioned Performances: Saturday 13 August at 2:30pm & 7:30pm

BSL interpreted Performances: Saturday 27 August at 2:30pm

Sadler’s Wells East Celebrates Topping Out

Today we held a topping out ceremony for Sadler’s Wells East, our fourth venue that’s due to open next year at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. And we invited local young people to be part of the first show to hit our new stage. 

At this morning’s ceremony to celebrate completion of the concrete structure, Justine Simons OBE,Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries announced that local young people are invited to be part of immersive dance show Our Mighty Groove

Directed and choreographed by Vicki Igbokwe, Our Mighty Groove tells of the transformative power of the club dancefloor where anything can happen. Inspired by the New York club scene, it’s about how people can feel empowered to be their authentic selves through dance. The production blends club styles house dance, waacking and vogue with African and contemporary dance.   

Young people living or studying in east London, who will be aged 16 – 21 on 31 August 2023, are invited to take part in workshops starting this summer, delivered by Vicki’s company Uchenna Dance. Some workshop participants will then be invited to join the professional dancers on stage. 

Find out more about the workshops for Our Mighty Groove

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “East Bank is the biggest investment in London’s cultural offering for a century and today’s ceremony at Sadler’s Wells East brings us another step closer to the completion of this exciting journey. Talented young Londoners will have the opportunity to take centre stage in the opening production at this fantastic venue, which will be rooted in the local community, helping to build a better London for everyone.”  

Justine Simons OBE,Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries said: Access to contemporary dance at school massively changed my life, it gave me the confidence to pursue a career in the creative industries. So I couldn’t be more excited to announce that young people in east London will get the chance to be part of Our Mighty Groove, the very first show at the brand new Sadler’s Wells East in November 2023. I can’t wait to see it!”   

Alistair Spalding, Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive said: “This is an amazing opportunity for us to get local people involved with Sadler’s Wells East, and I hope people living in east London will feel they are at the centre of our activities and connected to the work on our stages. This is a historic moment for Sadler’s Wells, and I am overjoyed that Sadler’s Wells East will provide such a fantastic resource for the local community as well as for dance in the UK.”  

  Vicki Igbokwe said: “Uchenna Dance and I are really looking forward to meeting the young people of East London. We are excited to share the Uchenna way of life as we empower, entertain and educate these incredible people who will also teach us a thing or two as well.”  

Sadler’s Wells East is part of the East Bank development alongside the BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, UCL and the V&A. Funding has been provided by the UK Government and GLA as part of the Olympic legacy strategy. Sadler’s Wells East will support artist development and training, and the creation of new work. It will provide a platform for UK dance companies, and productions created at Stratford will tour the UK. It will be home to Sadler’s Wells’ Hip Hop Theatre Academy, directed by Breakin’ Convention Artistic Director Jonzi D, and Choreographic School with modules led by world-class dance artists.  

The topping out ceremony featured a performance from east London-based hip hop crew EASTablishment, who are all aged 16 – 24.  

 Did you know, the volume of concreate used in the construction of Sadler’s Wells East would fill two Olympic sized swimming pools, at just over 5,000m3. The weight of steel reinforcement within the construction is the equivalent of more than 12,000 dancers, at 607 tonnes. 

Photo by Sian-Estelle Petty