There is no escaping the celebrations for the centenary of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Dancing Times this month. It’s hard to imagine how the international dance world might have evolved without the impact made by this extraordinary company – there would certainly be no UK ballet or contemporary dance scene as we know it today – and it is entirely appropriate we should reflect on the astonishing legacy of the Ballets Russes in its centenary year.
MOVE IT, the dance exhibition held at London’s Olympia, this year attracted more than 19,000 visitors, and it was wonderful for the Dancing Times team to meet so many of our readers, both old and new, at our stand. It was an extremely busy weekend, with dance schools and colleges, dancewear and dance equipment manufacturers, and innumerable other stallholder’s battling to gain attention.
With spring rapidly approaching, many of our younger readers will be starting to think about a future career in dance. This month, we begin a new three-part series by Sheila Cross, examining the various dance options on offer at UK universities. For professional dancers, Amanda Gillespie offers advice on visa requirements for working in the US and Debbie Malina explains the health benefits of the Rolfing technique. We also celebrate Scottish Ballet’s 40th anniversary with a sneak preview of the company’s new home at Glasgow’s Tramway.
Sheila Cross’ Talking Point, which we published last month, examined the Friends organisations of UK dance companies and has certainly stimulated a response from readers. With letters still arriving at the Dancing Times office, it appears many of you concur with the conclusions Sheila arrived at. It was a brave piece for her to write, and I salute her courage in publicly expressing what many had voiced privately. You can read just a selection of the letters received in a specially expanded Letters to the Editor (pages 10-11). On page 12, Mindy Aloff writes a very different, but equally interesting Talking Point column.
2009 is going to be a significant year for dance in the UK. Not only will there be worldwide celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the first performances of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris (without which there would be no serious ballet scene to speak of today), this year will also see the 40th anniversaries of two of the UK’s leading regional ballet companies: Scottish Ballet and Northern Ballet Theatre. Dancing Times will be recording these occasions in full over the forthcoming months.
There is a distinct Russian feeling to Dancing Times this month. Gerald Dowler was able to talk to Tatiana Leskova, former dancer with the De Basil Ballets Russes, when she was in London recently to oversee The Australian Ballet’s revival of Léonide Massine’s Les Présages at Sadler’s Wells. You can read her fascinating interview on page 23. The Maryinsky Ballet also features strongly this month, with an interview with Igor Zelensky on page 14, and Margy Kinmonth gives a preview of her South Bank Show documentary on the company on page 37.
New creation is the life-blood of dance, and this month we look at innovations both past and present. The Australian Ballet’s recent performances at Sadler’s Wells of Léonide Massine’s 1933 ballet, Les Présages, revealed stimulating dance by a master choreographer whose work many dance lovers had resigned themselves never to see. You can read my review on the performances of the ballet in Dance Scene International. At the Royal Opera House, The Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer, Wayne McGregor, curated the first ever Deloitte Ignite Festival, which involved that august institution opening its doors to a wider public through a weekend of free performances, exhibitions and events. Zoë Anderson reports on the festival on page 19.
Sometimes the worlds of politics and dance collide, and in this month’s Dancing Times we bring you two fascinating features that explore this theme. Margaret Willis was in Edinburgh to interview Nina Ananiashvili, artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia, just as the great ballerina’s home country seemed to be sliding into full-scale conflict with Russia. You can read her interview on page 14. On page 47 Mona Mahmoud gives an extraordinary account of the life of a professional dance company in Iraq and the every-day difficulties faced by its dancers. Elsewhere, we give extensive coverage of dance occurring in Germany, Hong Kong and South America.