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April 2017 issue

Posted on March 29, 2017

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Our April issue sparkles, with a cover showing The Royal Ballet’s Marianela Nuñez and Thiago Soares in Balanchine’s Diamonds. This month we mark the 30th anniversary of the much-loved dance film Dirty Dancing, look behind the scenes at several ballet companies and examine a new tax ruling that could affect dance schools. We also celebrate this year’s Dance Today Dance Teacher of the Year, as chosen by our readers…

Dirty, flirty and thirty

Dirty Dancing celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer. Nicola Rayner explores its enduring appeal, on screen and as a stage musical

“Before producing the stage show, Karl Sydow admits, ‘My experience before that was of walking in, watching people watch it, and being told to leave the room.’ …At the time, Sydow’s daughter, Katerina, was 17 – the same age as Baby, the film’s heroine. ‘Most of the time I was very much an unwelcome presence as they were watching it,’ he smiles, ‘because male cynicism and comments are not appreciated by any fan of Dirty Dancing. It’s very much a group thing for women of all ages to get together and watch the movie, but they certainly don’t want their boyfriends – and certainly not their fathers – to come in and comment.

“He adds: ‘The only other person I knew who regularly said it was her favourite film, and that she and her daughter used to watch it on a grey Sunday, if they were feeling sad, was Judi Dench. I thought, ‘That’s a pretty wide demographic.’ So I was interested…’”

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Taxing Dance

Lee Knights explains how dance schools have been hit by a recent tax ruling – and what teachers can do to protect their businesses

“Three years ago, Fleur Estelle – a world-renowned belly dancer – moved centre stage in the dance world when she lost her case at a tax tribunal. Tax inspectors ruled the 28-year-old teacher and performer had to pay a £52,000 VAT bill on the grounds that belly dancing was recreation, not education. Talking to the Evening Standard afterwards, she said: ‘It was a shock. It’s been tough, but sometimes you learn the hard way. I hope others can learn from it because you don’t always realise what you’re liable for and what not, you just take the advice of your accountant.’

“Three years on, her words ring with prescience. Currently, two prestigious ballroom and Latin dance schools in the north of England are under investigation by HMRC [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs]. While one of the schools faces a VAT claim of £80,000, the other has been slapped with a bill of £200,000. These are not isolated cases…”

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Madam or Madam Wanda?

Anna Mackey investigates who really founded ballet in Ireland

“Ninette de Valois (1898–2001) is widely acknowledged as the founder of ballet in Ireland. In 1928, at the invitation of the poet and dramatist WB Yeats, she became the principal teacher and choreographer in the newly-established Abbey Theatre School of Ballet… Although there were children’s classes in ‘fancy dancing’, it is accepted that formal classical ballet training was introduced into Ireland by De Valois.

“Or was it? My great aunt Bunny Burke studied ballet in Dublin to an advanced level, doing daily classes, learning repertoire, performing in shows and dancing on pointe. She was so enraptured with the ballet that she kept her pointe shoes all her life. Who was her teacher? An English ballerina. ‘Was it Ninette de Valois?’ I enquired. ‘No,’ she replied, ‘our lessons were in Stephen’s Green.’ Disappointment. My great aunt had not been taught by the founder of The Royal Ballet. Fast forward about two decades to 2003. Volunteering in a home for the elderly, I was paired off with a charming lady, a Miss Dowse, as we shared a love of ballet. She too learnt ballet in Dublin, and also kept her pointe shoes all her life. Who was her teacher? An English ballerina who taught in a dancing school in St Stephen’s Green… The cold case detective in me was set alight, and so I made it my business to discover who was this mysterious ballet teacher in the late 1910s to early 1920s Dublin…”

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Also in the April issue…

Positioning ballet: Maggie Foyer attends an Amsterdam conference on the future of ballet, hosted by Dutch National Ballet

Graham Watts reports from ballet’s Grand Audition, an international event held near Barcelona

Ashton rediscovered: Jonathan Gray on a series of masterclasses focussing on the choreography of Frederick Ashton

Dance Today Dance Teacher of the Year Zoë Anderson speaks to our winner, Maryam Pourian of Hartley House Dance Club in Plymouth

MOVE IT 2017: Vikki Jane Vile visits the UK’s biggest dance event

English National Ballet’s Madison Keesler is our April Dancer of the Month

Tips on technique: James Whitehead on timing in the slow foxtrot

Our Dance Doctor, Phil Meacham, answers a reader’s question about posture in ballroom

Jenny Veldhuis admires a collaboration between Cannes Jeune Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet and Houston Ballet II

Same-sex dance: Marianka Swain reports from the Pink Jukebox Trophy

Talking point: Northern Ballet’s Gavin McCaig on finding a balance between life and vocation

Simon Selmon finds out why lindy hop is so popular today, 90 years after the dance was invented

Debbie Malina looks at burnout among dancers

Fevered Sleep’s David Harradine and Sam Butler tell Zoë Anderson about their show Men and Girls Dance

Jack Reavely celebrates David Roberts of the UK Alliance of Dance Teachers

Dance floor reports from Afro Cuban Fiesta and the Essex Super League Championships

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The Royal Ballet in Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern, David Dawson’s The Human Seasons, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain and The Sleeping Beauty; Northern Ballet’s Casanova; Project Polunin; Resolution at The Place;Flamenco Festival London including Mercedes Ruiz, the Gala Flamenca and Manuel Liñán; DeNada Dance Theatre’s Ham and Passion; Birmingham Royal Ballet in Cinderella; Blanca Li Dance Company in Robot; Danza Contemporánea de Cuba; Stepmother, Stepfather by Arthur Pita and HeadSpaceDance; Ballet Black in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Red Riding Hood, Michael Corder’s House of Dreams and Martin Lawrance’s Captured; Julie Cunningham and Company in Returning and To Be Me; Drew McOnie’s production of The Wild Party and Twelfth Night at the National Theatre

International reviews

Ivan Vasiliev as dancer and choreographer; the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York; The Royal Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre Studio; CCN – Ballet de Lorraine’s Unknown Pleasures, Cannes Jeune Ballet; Pacific Northwest Ballet in Cendrillon; La Scala Ballet in Petrushka and Le Sacre de printemps and Boston Ballet in William Forsythe’s Artifact 2017


English National Ballet, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s new show Tango Moderno, the Edinburgh International Festival, Let’s Dance International Frontiers, Rocío Molina and more at the Barbican, The Royal Ballet in Hull, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new season, Charlie Stemp, The Legat Foundation


Giannandrea Poesio and Mary Willis

Education news

IDS Dance Teacher Conference, new headquarters for the Royal Academy of Dance, London Boys Ballet School, Ginny Brown at the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing


The April issue is now in shops – including branches of WHSmith – or you can buy your print copy here or buy your digital copy from all good app stores


Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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