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Can they dance like nobody else?

Alvin Ailey’s first company, established in 1958, consisted of seven black dancers and the intention of showcasing black culture. Over the years, as the troupe’s size and reputation continued to grow, it had an unmatched impact on dance in the US. Though predominantly African-American, the roster was integrated in 1964 and has included white and […]

Dance as window-dressing?

Dance maligned, dance misused, dance as window-dressing. You wouldn’t expect a live performance to inspire such thoughts, but in less than a week I’ve seen two that do, and the combination was quite unsettling. Let’s start with the worse offence, perpetrated by the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. A new version of an old story, Her […]

Talking dance

“Voices, of all sorts, became central to my life as a dancer.” This thought, held by Patricia Linton, founder of the oral history project Voices of British Ballet, contrasts with perceptions of ballet as an art form without words. It is however true, and it’s in this spirit I’ll be writing what I hope will […]

Strictly Speaking

Marianka Swain assesses the class of 2016 Ah, 2016: so bananas that the UK’s former shadow chancellor donning sequins is only the fourth most eye-popping political event of the week, let alone the year. Yet here we are, with Ed “Glitter” Balls actually taking to the floor – just one high-profile member of the strongest […]

Performing as professionals

In her fascinating book, But First A School, a history of New York’s School of American Ballet, Jennifer Dunning examines its annual Spring Workshop Performances, remarking that “the Workshop tradition… has given visibility to the School as a productive vocational institution.” The phrase “productive vocational institution” doesn’t quite suit the end-of-year performances here, which are […]

Barbara Newman sees Natalia Osipova in a new triple bill

In case you hadn’t noticed, branding works just as effectively in dance as in the supermarket. The Sadler’s Wells production titled simply Natalia Osipova is on its way to the Edinburgh International Festival in August, back to the Wells in September, and into the gaping cavern of the New York City Center in November. It […]

Strictly Speaking – the final

Never question the commitment of boyband voters. A final that zigzagged between possible winners (well, apart from Katie) ended up feeling somewhat redundant as Jay’s fans carried him over the finishing line regardless of his distinctly underwhelming performance. Aliona’s dubious choices – an unshowy showdance, not repeating their jive lest they sully a “perfect moment” […]

Strictly Speaking week 12

Ah, two dances. Either double the fun, or a gruelling reminder that these people have lives and jobs and adding a cha cha to a Viennese waltz at the end of a long series is just asking for a nervous breakdown on live TV. (That’s the producers asking. Preferably during the X Factor overlap.) Pretty […]

Strictly Speaking week 11

What’s worse than a limp theme show? A limp theme show at a crucial stage of the competition. We might arguably have had the same quarter-final elimination without it – paso was always going to expose Princess Helen’s lack of versatility – but at least it would have resulted from a fair test of ballroom […]

Strictly Speaking week 10

Ah, post-Blackpool Week – Strictly’s annual hangover show. Lower the lights, pass the Berocca, and for god’s sake don’t make too much noise. Not generally a vintage night, and so it proved, with several celebs stuck with styles that didn’t suit and the judges’ scoring closer to sober than usual – except for Bruno, who […]

Strictly Speaking – week 9

Welcome to Blackpool, where, according to Strictly, the beaches are positively balmy in November, time has stood still since Len’s 1950s heyday, and the local scoring exchange rate is approximately 1:1.5 – 9s and 10s for all the vaguely good boys and girls, and a six feels like a slap in the face with a […]

Strictly Speaking – week 8

We need to talk about music. Strictly precariously straddles the worlds of ballroom and entertainment, so it can’t – and shouldn’t – be wall-to-wall Victor Silvester, but we’ve reached a crisis point. Song and theme choices (as I understand it, some suggested by pros, but producers hold sway) are now actively handicapping couples, who can […]

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