Looking back on dance

Kevin Berry
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A scene from Royal Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo: Tristram Kenton
A scene from Royal Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Olympic year gave dance tremendous showcase opportunities with the opening and closing ceremonies – and, oh how it delivered, especially with the aerial feats. Linked events included National Dance Company Wales, Scottish Ballet and English National Ballet with their triple bill Dance GB – NDCW’s contribution notable for Christopher Bruce’s Dream, a 1940s sports day turned into a quest for triumph. It was considered his best work in years.

The much anticipated fusion piece Against Time, from ENB dancers and the street dancers of Diversity, did not quite wow the critics but let’s hope they continue to work together. Audiences at Move It/Perform – The Stage sponsored event at Olympia – enjoyed a short preview and we loved it.

Significant movement of personnel saw Kevin O’Hare installed at the Royal Ballet, Tamara Rojo at English National Ballet and Chris-topher Hampson taking over at Scottish Ballet. Rojo has had to deal with funding cuts, attendance dips and spending her first six months without a chief executive but she is not called feisty for nothing. She will get that company sorted. Almost unnoticed, Janet Smith left Scottish Dance Theatre in rude health thanks to her outstanding leadership, to join the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, in Leeds, as principal. Also without fuss, Assis Carreiro left Dance East after 13 years of lasting innovation – including setting up the National Centre for Choreography, to join the Royal Ballet of Flanders.

In April, Dance UK held a nutrition and disordered eating conference at which anorexia nervosa was brought out into the open – and about time too. The most perceptive comment coming from Dame Monica Mason: “Any director of a company who said they have never had an anorexic dancer would have to have been lying.” Excellent words, but now it’s time for action and for company managers to understand that anorexics are most at risk when they are together, creating a sisterhood in which anorexia seems acceptable.

At that same conference, Dance UK launched the long planned National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, a joint initiative with the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Trinity Laban and the Universities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Also launched was the NHS’s first specialist dancers’ injury clinic, located at the aforementioned hospital. It is planned to be the first of many and, since 80 per cent of professional dancers are injured each year, it will be well used.

Anniversaries in 2012 included: 125 years of Capezio dance shoes, 30 years of Yorkshire Dance (a great party, folks) and a quarter century from Shobana Jeyasingh’s company. It’s also 20 years of Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance – and he could still pass for a student – and a surprising ten years since Hofesh Shechter arrived in England. Looking forward, 2012 also marked the appointment of Liam Scarlett as the Royal Ballet’s first ever artist in residence.

In the run up to Christmas, the ZooNation company held a tenth anniversary celebration at Sadler’s Wells – easily the year’s hottest of hot tickets. It was closely followed by the premiere of Matthew Bourne’s hugely anticipated gothic reworking of Sleeping Beauty – dance dynamite. There followed more Nutcrackers than ever, but at least there is the UK premiere of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Aladdin to look forward to, in February. Having seen BalletLORANT’S thrilling Rapunzel one hopes that too can become a Christmas alternative.

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