Friday, 28 February 2014

February 2014 Round-up

Photo: Roy Beusker
This month I have written blogs on Gecko's Missing, the ROH Rhapsody triple bill and the different styles of street dance. I also explored the battement tendu in the latest installment of my ballet steps series.

Other writing:

A feature on Antoinette Sibley for Londondance
A write-up of Fernando Montano's Narcissus film launch for Londondance

A review of Ignis on Londonist
A review of Blaze on Londonist
A review of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre on Londonist

A feature on English National Ballet School (p.41) in Dancing Times, March issue and a feature on new dance styles for 2014 (p.60) in Dance Today, February issue

I also edited Dance UK's magazine (Issue 87 - Political Power) and as always, Dance UK's February e-news, including a feature on butoh dance

Locking, Popping, Tutting... What?!

Ballet Revolucion
Photo: Nilz Boehme
Ever seen street dance being performed and wondered whether it was locking, popping, breaking, vogue or another style? Here are some *very* basic definitions to help:

Street dance - an umbrella term for a variety of dance styles that evolved on the street and in other informal settings such as clubs and parties
Michael McNeish in ZooNation's
Groove on Down the Road. Photo: Ed Miller
Hip hop - a style of street dance performed to hip hop music

Locking - movements that freeze and 'lock' in a certain positions before resuming
Popping - quickly contracting and relaxing muscles to cause a jerk or 'pop' in the body, such that movements appear robotic

Voguing - model-like poses with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements

Breaking (or b-boying) - an acrobatic and mainly improvised style that typically includes a lot of floor-based movements

Tutting - a style where movements are based on the geometric angles of Ancient Egyptian drawings

If you have any suggestions for further definitions that should be added, let me know!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ballet Steps: Battement Tendu

The next instalment for my ballet steps series is the battement tendu. Tendu means 'stretch' or 'reach out' and the movement is a stroking of the foot against the floor from a closed, standing position to pointed and back again. 
Battement tendus are typically performed as the second exercise at the barre, after pliés. They have several important functions. They warm up the feet and strengthen the metatarsals (the muscles underneath the ball of the foot). They are also a preparation for numerous other steps - for example, a battement tendu is the beginning 'swish' of a grand jeté (split leap) jump.
The most important thing to remember when performing a battement tendu is that the toes need to stay in contact with and push against the floor. I encourage students to imagine their toes are 'licking' the ground so that each part of the foot only lifts up at the last possible moment as the leg extends. Other common corrections include ensuring the weight is centralised in between tendus, and maintaining posture, turnout and extension of the knee.
Battement tendus can be performed to the front, side and back, from 5th, 3rd and 1st positions and with varying arm lines. They are included in ballet classes both at the barre and in the centre on their own as well as in combination with other movements, such as pirouettes and grands battements.
In the video above you can see a young dancer demonstrating a Royal Academy of Dance exercise which includes battement tendus on croix, closing in both 1st and 5th positions, closing in plié and with straight legs. I chose this clip because the dancer has good use of the feet working through the floor.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

ROH Fugue Triple

Natalia Osipova and Edward Watson in Tetractys
Photo: ROH / Johan Persson
Rhapsody/ Tetractys - The Art of Fugue/ Gloria, Royal Ballet, ROH - reviewed on 7th February
In the latest work by Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor, dancing takes a back seat to sets and costumes by Tauba Auerbach. Tetractys – The Art of Fugue explores the notion of fugues (complex musical constructions), but the resulting choreography is neither engaging nor original. The work is a sad waste of company talents including Natalia Osipova, Marianela Nuñez and Edward Watson, but its bold and colourful designs are deserving of praise.

Kenneth MacMillan's World War One-themed Gloria is well-performed, but Frederick Ashton's joyous and virtuosic Rhapsody delights most, with Steven McRae excelling as the firework-leaping lead.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Gecko's Missing

Photo: Robert Golden
Missing, Gecko, Linbury Studio Theatre @ ROH - reviewed on 1st February
This show's title - Missing - could apply as much to how I felt watching as the action taking place onstage. Revolving around a central character, fragmented scenes and different languages left me utterly lost.

A cast of five form Lily, her parents, her husband and another mysterious street-performer-doctor figure. She is at first awkward and isolated as her younger puppet self sings in Spanish, but she soon becomes engrossed in arguments, a dinner party, looking at x-rays and other episodes.

Creator Amit Lahav wants the audience to decide Missing’s meaning, but I was left too perplexed to attempt an interpretation.