Sunday, 9 March 2014

Public Contemporary Dance + Celebrating Women = Love

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and I was thrilled when I realised as part of the celebrations, Manchester Town Hall was hosting a free dance performance.

Ubidanza, an Italian dance company presented Principesse which is choreographed entirely on a stairway.  The dancers used the ornate staircase in the beautiful building to perform the unique work.  The images look so much more powerful thanks to the architecture of the performance space.

The enchanting performance was well received by the audience, many of which were just intrigued passers-by from Albert Square or in the Town Hall for other reasons on a Saturday afternoon.  Femininity was portrayed with playful sounds and movements, gold stilettos and a long sequence of air kisses.

I really enjoyed the live dance performance, but most of all I enjoyed that it was free.  Events like this are the key to getting more members of the public enjoying the delights of contemporary dance.  And of course, I absolutely loved the Women's Day theme and the fact that Manchester City Council have a wealth of events celebrating women across March. 

There was another great celebration of women on display at Manchester Town Hall - a statue exhibition.  It was shocking to learn that out of the 640 listed statues in the UK, only 15% are women; and most of these are monarchs or mythical creatures.  This misrepresentation is highlighted in the Town Hall, where crafty women have hijacked the numerous bustiers of men.  Using crochet masks, they have transformed the successful men into amazing women from the Greater Manchester area who made profound achievements and often haven't received the recognition they deserve.

The collection of women through history include the first woman to be allowed to study at Manchester University, a novelist who had her books burnt, suffragettes, a boffin who figured out the answer to the Rubik's cube and one of the first women to swim the English Channel.  Here are a few snippets:

Thank you Manchester City Council - more free dance in public spaces please!

Click here for more information on events throughout Manchester celebrating International Women's Day.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Travelling Dancer: Photos from Melbourne Laneways

Today I'm going to share some photos taken by my wonderful friend who I met studying dance at uni, when our paths crossed in Melbourne.  She's only just emailed them to me and it's brought memories of my trip flooding back.

Then I thought I need to write a post about what it's like being a dancer on the road, taking time out or a gap year to explore the world.  Because it's really tough; being constantly on the move it's sometimes difficult to find time for any sort of exercise, never mind searching an unknown place for a good dance class.  But that didn't stop me dancing on my travels...

Of course, the internet always helps! But it also depends which part of the world you're travelling in - I was lucky to be living and working in a Westernized country where everyone spoke my native language, which is a great start.  Even if you know you're going to be sticking around in one place for a few months, few backpackers can afford a gym membership or regular classes at a studio (especially at Aussie prices).
Nevertheless, I think I did rather well sticking to my passion whilst I was travelling, and managed to do a wide range of physical activities.  I also tried out a few new classes too! 

For those people who followed my journey from the very start, you'll know I took part in yoga classes right from the beginning of my trip in Thailand.  Most days we were lazing around on the beach or enduring long coach or train journeys, so I was desperate to stay fit and lots of resorts on the islands offered cheap yoga classes. Winner!

When we arrived in Australia, we were broke and had to start work straight away, and I certainly didn't have cash to be spending on anything fun in our first month living in Brisbane.  But as soon as I did, I found myself a yoga studio in the city and bought an unlimited pass - as I worked mostly night shifts, I loved going to yoga class during the day. It's not a substitute for a professional dance class, but at least I was attempting to keep up my flexibility (which is pathetic for a dancer at the best of times!)

I also couldn't leave Brisbane without hunting down Jasmin Meakin's Mega Jam Hip Hop class.  Her choreography is famous all over the world, so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to learn from the master herself.  I managed to make it to her class twice, and it was absolutely incredible; in the flesh she's even more inspirational. Although I was slightly intimidated by her hardcore hip hop regulars, I cracked the routine and think I did really well - it's just a shame she didn't do a class video the days I was there!

From here we travelled for a month or so, and I have to admit I was having far too much fun to even think about my fitness levels.  But a few dips in the pool and the sea every day count, right? Maybe not, but once we were settled again in Melbourne I found an offer on some Body Barre classes.  I'd never heard of Barre Body before, but their classes are a fusion of yoga, pilates and ballet barre conditioning which sounded perfect.  They offer a range of different class styles with a certain emphasis on toning with weights or more ballet moves, and even I found it tough! I really enjoyed the sessions, and most of the teachers were professional ballet or contemporary dancers themselves which gave me confidence in the class technique.

But I was desperate for some real dancing in my life! Melbourne is such a vibrant, creative city so I thought there must be some artistic schools offering quality dance lessons somewhere in the creative hub.  I found a dance studio close to my flat in the Chapel Street area which was one of my favourite places in Melbourne.  I finally got to a contemporary class - which was good, but very lyrical and Americanized - and tried out some other dance styles too.  The studio had a great variety, from jazz and tap to strength and stretch, and one day I even had a go at Reggaeton.  Which I love from my Zumba training, but full on Reggaeton was very different!

Not only did I long for the physical form of dance to move my body, I also craved theatre trips where I could admire professionals and be emotionally connected with live dance theatre.  So I splashed out on a ticket to The Australian Ballet and had one of my most memorable nights immersed in Melbourne's renowned culture, all on my lonesome.  Check out my review of the performance here

As the time to leave Melbourne drew closer, it dawned on me that I was wasting the city's amazing art landscapes.  Not in the way that I hadn't appreciated them; I'd took plenty of photographs to cherish forever, take a look at some of my favourites.  But I wasn't making the most of the cityscapes because I hadn't danced in front of them.  I hadn't chosen an amazing piece of graffiti, danced in front of it in public and photographed the process. So I decided to do just that.   

And that's the end of my story about what it's like to be a travelling dancer.  No, it wasn't part of my life every single day, and consequently I probably lost technique, flexibility, strength and many other skills.  But I'd much rather be a travelling dancer than an ordinary traveller, or a normal dancer who doesn't travel. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Review: West Side Story

West Side Story
02/01/14 – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Joey McKneely’s vibrant adaptation of Jerome Robbins’ fresh take on Romeo and Juliet is a joyful pastime.  The two New York gangs, the Jets and the Sharks take the deep resentment and bitterness to a new level as they glide, spin and jump around the stage in their designated groups.  The enlightening ensemble pieces were the best parts for me, with the separate unison from the boys and the girls almost faultless.  The stage also comes alive when it is bursting with dancing couples, once again in competition to be better than their rivals.

The highlight by far was America, where the Puerto Rican ladies showed off their fine dancing ability and personalities.  The thrilling choreography is successful throughout in telling the classic story without being literal; graceful fights, elegant rumbles and charming gang challenges somehow still deliver the raw rage and brutality needed to convey the plot.  Simple gestures such as a stomp of the foot or a sharp snap of the fingers go hand in hand with the spectacular score to enhance Robbins’ narrative.

One of the much-loved numbers in West Side Story, Somewhere was unfortunately disappointing.  A brave new approach resulted in the whole cast coming onstage in clichéd white costumes to create this perfect world for the main characters.  The partner work and lifts for the booming notes of ‘Somewhere…Someday…Somehow’ were beautiful, but the rest felt naïve and dated – one is left wondering why this celebrated scene wasn’t left in the capable hands and voices of Maria and Tony.

A failed utopia cast aside, the overall production was a show-stopping affair taking the audience on an emotional journey.  The drama of young love, the family feuds, the highlighted American social problems, the testosterone fuelled fights, the heartbreak of loss – it is all purely experienced.  Complimented with the impressive choreography, this is probably the best dance musical I’ve seen in years.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year!!

I'd just like to say a very HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of my followers and readers.  May this year bring exciting things for us all!  If you really want something, then go out and make it happen because you never know if this year may be your last. Life is too short to not do what makes you happy.

I'd also like to give you a sneak preview into what I have in store on ReviewCentral this year.

Yes, my travelling adventure may be over (for now) but the blog will live on, and there will be lots of new posts on a variety of topics, including....

  • Reviews: I will be reviewing anything and everything around the Manchester area, starting with West Side Story tonight at The Palace Theatre.
  • A Day in The Life of...: I'm starting a new guest post series, as although I love interviewing people it can get a bit dull for both parties.  A Day in the Life of a specific person is much more intimate and interesting, and allows the guest to have more control over the article.  The first life to be invaded will be professional dancer Luke Jessop, who is currently part of Wim Vandeykeybus' Ultima Vez company.
  • Wanderlust: I can't seem to leave the travelling adventurer behind me.  As much as Rik and I would love to set off on the road again, we have a wedding to save for now! However, that doesn't stop me writing about my travel wishlist and reminiscing about our adventures.
See you soon! x