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All Forsythe at Sadlers Wells

Long time readers will know I have a deep rooted love of dance, so I was delighted to be invited to Sadler’s Wells this past Thursday to view the Semperoper Ballet’s All Forsythe performance. William Forsythe has always been an inspiration of mine, since I studied him and his work at University. The American choreographer who’s lived in Germany for so many years has never shied away from pushing the rules of classical ballet to breaking point, then reassembling the pieces to create performances that fit his experimental and post-modern vision of ballet.

Formed in 2006 under the artistic direction of Aaron S. Watkin and based in Dresden Germany, The Semperoper Ballet are known for balancing classical and contemporary styles, a perfect philosophy for taking on Forsythe’s work. The night consisted of 3 Forsythe performances, the world renowned In the Middle, Somewhat ElevatedNeue Suite and Enemy in the Figure.

The opener was In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, a piece commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987 and first performed by Sylvie Guillem. The title refers to a pair of gold cherries that hung above the stage, immediately noticeable as the performance began with a bang. Composer Thom Willem’s beatless industrial rhythms wasted no time in creating an abrasive, chaotic atmosphere as the dancers graced the stage their movement demonstrating the Dresden dancers’ skill and flexibility, the latter a necessary trait for performing any Forsythe piece. After the dramatic opening that made myself and the audience member beside me jump slightly as music burst onto the speakers, there felt like an initial disconnect between the sound and the movement of the performers on the stage. However like much repetitive industrial music, before I know it we were 15 minutes in and the piece was gaining momentum. The dancers were transitioning with the rolling bassline that had crept into the music, with movement now matching the intensity of the soundtrack to create an exciting, dramatic crescendo that ended as abruptly as it began.

The second piece of the evening was Neue Suite, a piece that the Semperoper Ballet themselves premiered in Dresden in 2012. The most classical of the evening’s choreography, it explored the relationships between dancers through their physical interactions. Set to stripped back string arrangements from the likes of Handel, Berio and Bach, the dancers clad in simple pastel colours performed a series of pas de deux, with American dancer Houston Thomas catching my eye in particular with a truly impressive performance. The piece was a great example of Forsythe’s ballet philosophy, breaking the rules where he sees fit while still serving up a relatively classical ballet performance, although perhaps its contemporary edge was somewhat disguised by the other two post-modern performances either side of it.

The final piece of the evening was Enemy in the Figure, a complex and thrilling piece that’s been a favourite of Sadler’s Wells audiences over recent years, full of contrasts and bursts of energy. The set design was dark, with a large rustic grey wall reminiscent of a prison cell at the back, and a curved piece of wood in the centre of the stage. As the performance began a dancer lay illuminated by a flood light on wheels that was pushed around the floor, casting morphing shadows that altered the depth of space on the stage. More dancers gradually entered, dressed in either black or white leotards, giving a sense of good/evil, light/dark, chaos or serenity. These polarising colours and styles blurred as the performance progressed, with juxtaposed speeds and themes of movement facing one another at times creating aggressive standoffs as the repetitive music served to only build and release tension. It was a deep performance that left me thinking long into my journey home.




Interview Series: Alexander Campbell

I’m starting a new series where once a month I interview somebody of interest. This month I’ve teamed up with Australian born Alexander Campbell, an up coming star of the the Royal Ballet.
He trained at the Royal Ballet School, and went on to perform with the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) and the Australian Ballet where he still often makes guest appearances. He was promoted to principle just a few years ago in 2016 and has danced some of the most well loved leading roles ever since.  He dances with many partners but one of his main collaborations is with Francesca Hayward, and together they’re one of my favourite duos. I’ve seen the pair most recently perform Peter Wright’s classical yet festive Nutcracker, and Canadian choreographer Robert Binet’s The Dreamers Ever Leave You – a site specific hypnotic and immersive dance experience staged at London’s Printworks, both of which were stunning.
Now enough background, lets hear from the man himself. Enjoy!
1. How did you get into dancing?
I went to see a performance by a school that my grandmother was teaching at when I was about 5 years old. I don’t remember much about the show but apparently I went home and said ‘that’s what I want to do!’
2. In the past you played a lot of cricket but made the choice to pursue ballet instead. Is there anything you learned from cricket that has helped you in your dancing career?
Through my connection with cricket, I learnt a lot about the importance of training and how best to look after your body. I remember being told about Skins when they first came out and learning about the value of compression as a recovery tool. Little things like that were really helpful to go alongside my ballet training.
3. Your biggest influence in the world of dance is Mikhail Baryshnikov – have you ever met him and if so what was he like?
I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Mikhail Baryshnikov but I had the opportunity to see him perform in Sydney when his White Oak Project toured to Australia. It was so exciting to see the person who I had watched numerous times on video in real life!
The Dreamers Ever Leave You - Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell
4. Who is your biggest influence outside the world of dancing?
Probably the members of my family. It would be impossible to pick one of them out as they all have different things I can talk to them about. I look up to each of them in different ways and I’m the person I am today because of them.
5. As a dancer you have to watch what you eat, but which food is your guilty pleasure?
I love biscuits … it’s probably a good thing that I don’t live in Australia near the Tim Tams or the Mint Slices! I struggle to say no to a good burger too.
6. Dancers travel a lot – what’s your weirdest airport experience?
I remember sitting in Dubai airport as I waited for a flight and seeing someone in the gate next to ours doing a series of ballet exercises. I tried not to stare but it very quickly became apparent that this was a professional so I had a closer look and was surprised to find that it was Amber Scott, Principal of the Australian Ballet. I’m not sure we’d ever met before then but I had worked with her brother, Glyn, whilst in Birmingham Royal Ballet so I went over to say hello. We had a nice chat then we flew in opposite directions as she was returning to Australia whilst I was going back to London!
7. You’ve danced all over the world, but where’s one place you haven’t danced yet that you would like to?
The Palais Garnier in Paris – such a beautiful opera house.
8. You’ve had many partners over the years, is there one dancer living or dead who you like to dance with the most?
Having worked quite a lot recently with Francesca Hayward I feel like we could develop something really quite special. I love what she does onstage during performances and I’m intrigued to see how we would work together on meatier, more dramatic roles. It is my hope that we will have the opportunity to develop our onstage relationship. In saying that, I feel very fortunate to have worked with some really wonderful partners; Natasha Oughtred, Momoko Hirata, Yuhui Choe, Laura Morera and Akane Takada to name but a few!
9. How did presenting for the live insights come about?
I was asked if I’d ever be interested in presenting one of the insights and I remember thinking ‘why not?’. I saw it as an opportunity to try something new and I liked the idea of developing a different skill. If you’d have told me that within a couple of years I’d be co-presenting a live cinema relay opposite Darcey Bussell, going out to over 30 countries worldwide, I probably would have laughed and said you were crazy, but it was an incredible experience and I hope to do it again soon!
10. What do you like to do in London when you get a day off?
I’m quite a morning person so I like to get up and have breakfast somewhere on my day off. My current favourite is a café in Tooting called Mud. Good coffee, delicious food. After that, it could be anything! I enjoy going to the cinema and seeing a good film. I enjoy going to the Victoria and Albert Museum and walking around – even though I’ve lived here in London for 15 years I still get excited about the historical buildings and the wonderful things to see. All that said, I’m also a bit of a homebody, so I’m perfectly happy to put my feet up and watch some sport on the TV!
You can follow Alexander Campbell on Instagram on @acampbell_1  and on Twitter at @Acampbell_1.
Happy Dancing!


Festive Fun with The Nutcracker

Royal Ballet - The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker is one of the most exciting ballets to watch. For almost 2 hours this magical production sucks you in and the time goes by in a blink of an eye. It’s every ballet lovers favourite performance and it’s a show that most major companies in the world put on at this time of year. Some American companies are said to gain up to 40% of their income from this show every year!
If you’re looking to introduce a family member to ballet then this is a great performance to start with. It’s full of festive fun, glitter and sparkle, and amazing costumes. The lavish set design is always a treat – and the story really captures the spirit of Christmas with a beautiful tree, a toy maker with magical powers, a dream world full of sweets, mice, gingerbread men and toy dolls. At the heart of the story is some beautiful dancing that is simple in some areas and technically difficult in others, all set to some very familiar music from Tchaikovsky.
Set on Christmas eve, the Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and a magical present she receives from her godfather Drosselmeyer which takes her on a journey where she saves a handsome prince from the evil Mouse King. One of my favourite sections, and perhaps the most well known, is the dance of the Sugar Plum fairy. The way that she delicately introduces herself with developpes and pirouettes that circle the stage. It’s a challenging yet beautiful solo and a section that audience members look forward to each year. Some of the very best dancers of the world best have performed it too from Margot Fonteyn and Natalie Markova to Darcy Bussell and Lauren Cuthbertson.
Many people have choreographed their own versions of this story, from the original steps of Marius Petipa to the adaptations of Rudolf Nureyev and the contemporary reinterpretation of Matthew Bourne. All beautiful and well loved in their own right. My favourite production of the Nutcracker is by The Royal Ballet, and this year they will stream their live performance from the Royal Opera House to cinemas around the country. It’s happening on Tuesday 5th December so be sure to check that out!
Many feel that Christmas hasn’t really arrived until you’ve seen a production of the Nutcracker and this year you’re spoilt for choice. Productions of note in the London area are the English National Ballet, performing at The London Coliseum with a beautiful dancing and choreography, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall which is set to be spectacular with 100 dancers involved.
Are you watching the Nutcracker this year? Tweet me and let me know.
Happy dancing!

Beauty Fashion Lifestyle Music Performance

What I received for Christmas 2015!

IMG_3129 From my husband and one of my good friends I received these two shoulder bags, both from Toyshop. We’d been to a few Christmas parties over the festive period and I’d had to borrow a little bag as the ones I have are beautiful but quite big for going out to parties. The black bag is velvet with small gold studs. It’s really pretty and so on trend. The second brown one is a take on the Chloe Drew bag and it’s gorgeous. It’s slightly bigger than the other and is made from fake leather. So pretty! IMG_3134 I love music, all types as you can probably tell and from mum I recieved the Darcy Bussell Ballet Music Collection. Is filled with music from the greats, from Giselle to the Nutcracker. From my nan I recieved the Adele 25 Album. I love her new music and have been listening to it quite a bit in the last few weeks so I was chuffed to get this one. I loved that my nan kept calling her A-delle, it made me laugh for hours. These are great for the car, for long journeys when the radio just doesn’t cut it. IMG_3137 These are a few of the bigger pressies I received. The gorgeous Olivia Burton watch was my main pressie from my husband. He’d remembered that I loved it recently and had popped it on Instagram. It’s ultra pretty and I’ve warn it most days since I received it so far. He knows me too well. From my sister and my dad, I received a few Pandora charms to go on my bracelet. They gave me the red heart and E to me last Christmas, for this one I was given the silver heart with my Pandora style birthstone, and light pink crystal band and one that had to be exchanged which was a double sisters charm that isn’t pictured. All really pretty and meaningful pressie! Finally the bee earrings were a pressie from my aunt. You know I love Bees and so does my family. My aunt picked these up from the V and A museum when they had been down to London a few months previously. So cute!   IMG_3140 I received a few beauty products this Christmas too. The Real Technique brushes were from my husband. I kept mentioning the metals collection set that was in Boots. They’re so soft and work really well. The clutch bag is really pretty too. I also received these awesome Laura Mercier Cream Caviar Stick eye shadows. I’m completely addicted to using Amethyst and use it most days along with a few colours from the Naked Smoky palette. (colours and swatches are below).   IMG_3142 From left to right the colours are Aubergine, Ganache, Khaki, Amethyst, Rosegold and Sugar Frost.   IMG_3143 The last product I received was the Pupa Cat 4 palette. I don’t know very much about this company apart from that it’s an Italian. This product is so cute though. It has a mixture of products in it though including several eye shadow’s, a blush as well as a mirror and a make up brush.  It’s so pretty though I haven’t wanted to use it yet. Those little ears! IMG_3144 As well as all of these beautiful gifts. I also received tickets to Ellie Goulding for her tour in March. Needless to say I’m proper excited. What did you get for Christmas. Let me know in the comments below. Happy Shopping!

Performance Performance Reviews

Emily Hearts Rough Cuts, Marc Brew Company

  Rough Cuts performances are a rare opportunity for audiences to watch a piece in an intimate setting while it’s still a work in progress. Dance East allows resident choreographers the chance to use their facilities, showcase and test-drive work before its completion. The Rough Cuts format also includes a Q&A session at the end of the performance, allowing the choreographer to get direct feedback from the audience on their unpolished piece. The evening’s performance is choreographed by multiple award-winner Marc Brew, a classical and contemporary-trained dancer who has had his own established company since 2001. Fusional Fragments is the culmination of a year-long collaboration with renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and composer Phillip Sheppard. It is also a commission by Unlimited to celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. With the help of five dancers with incredible strength and skill, Marc Brew Company uses Fusional Fragments to explore whether ballet and contemporary dance should mould together or whether they should stay eternally fragmented. The distinct movement vocabulary of Marc Brew is hypnotizing. It drags the audience into the intricate yet quirky folding and unfolding balletic lines and movement. The partnerwork in the duets and trios demand to be watched. A highlight was the dynamic performance lighting of Andy Hamer throughout the piece. At the beginning of the performance, it seemed as though the live sounds of Dame Evelyn Glennie were being initiated by the movements of the dancer breaking the fragments of light projected on the stage. The finale was exceptionally beautiful, with three dancers onstage in a kaleidoscope of light, completely surrounding the audience and making them feel like they were part of the of the lyrical and coherent performance. After a year in the making, all of the elements for Fusional Fragments finally came together for this preview: it was like magic happening in front of my eyes. Fusional Fragments will be performed at the South Bank Centre August 31st. You will be missing out if you don’t go and see it.  

Performance Performance Reviews

Emily Hearts James Cousins Dance

Dance East often offers short residencies to talented emerging companies, allowing them to explore and work on new material. James Cousins Dance was recently offered such an opportunity. Choreographer James Cousins recently won the first New Adventures Choreographer Award, offering him valuable mentoring from Matthew Bourne who has described James as ‘one of the UK’s most promising choreographic talents’, and audiences around the country are inclined to agree. The dance series Rough Cuts at Dance East showcased his latest work in the early stages of the development process. A very small but very knowledgeable dance audience was in for a treat when James Cousins Dance performed an early draft of There We Have Been; the finished work will be performed at Sadler’s Wells in the autumn. There We Have Been is based on the Japanese novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, and explores the unconventional relationship between the two main characters, portrayed by Aaron Vickers and Lisa Welham, using beautiful contact work. There We Have Been also shows an amazing display of strength and balance as the two wrap and fold around each other, with Aaron keeping Lisa off the floor for the full 20 minutes of the performance – an incredible feat! It’s difficult to pick a highlight as the whole performance was filled with beautiful moments but the contrast between the smooth delicate movements, clear lines and the fast breathcatching moments as Lisa was caught just before touching the ground was a perfect juxtaposition of movement. The post-show Question and Answer session identified small areas which need further work, such as a costume malfunction experienced by Lisa. It also allowed the audience to reflect on the work, and many wanted to see the piece again straight away because it felt like history was being made. This performance has to be seen to be believed, so book your seats for the full performance of this work at Sadler’s Wells on September 7th while tickets are still available.