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December 2017 issue

Posted on December 1, 2017

As the year closes, we report on dance from around the world. Ahmad Joudeh, who was born in a Syrian refugee camp and learned dance in the face of disapproval from society and his father, tells us about his journey; we catch up with tap genius Savion Glover, and hear about choreographer Kenrick Sandy’s work on a new all-black Guys and Dolls

 

A message for peace

Maggie Foyer meets the Palestinian dancer Ahmad Joudeh, now resident in Amsterdam

“…Ahmad believes that dance found him. His father was a musician and taught him to sing as a child. At the age of eight, he performed at a school festival and saw a group of little girls dancing ballet to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. ‘It was very basic, but I wanted to dance like them. I believe dance is for everyone – not just girls. Swan Lake is famous in Syria, like everywhere, so I found the music and tried to teach myself but I had to keep it secret from my father.’

“At 16, and self-taught, he auditioned for the Enana Dance Theatre in Damascus. ‘I think they liked me because I was tall,’ he said. The Russian ballet mistress, Albina Belova, recognised his potential and while performing with the company he received formal training in ballet. At 19 he was able to enrol at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts. All the while he faced his father’s disapproval and one beating was so severe his leg was nearly broken. ‘A man dancing ballet is the worst thing in the Arab world.’ When the family moved to the relative safety of Palmyra, he stayed on in Damascus living for two months in a tent on the roof of a damaged building to continue his studies. He was rewarded by graduating as the top dance student in his year…”

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Passing along the tap ball

Graham Watts meets tap dance legend Savion Glover

“Now aged 44, Glover sees his mission in life is to educate the public as next in line of a continuum that stretches all the way back to the great tap dancers of yesteryear; one of whom was there from the very beginning of his career, although he didn’t really appreciate it at the time. ‘It’s a funny thing, but although I knew who the Hines brothers were, I didn’t know them,’ Glover says of his dance studio’s co-owners. ‘Maurice would come to the studio more often than Gregory, but I have vague recollections of seeing this afro whenever Gregory would peek over the banister to look into class…’

 

“…Gregory enjoyed a very successful career on Broadway before starring in his own television series and also the sitcom Will and Grace. In 1990, visiting Sammy Davis Jr on his deathbed, Hines described his idol – dying of throat cancer and unable to speak – as gesturing the tossing of a ball to him. ‘It was as if he was asking me to carry on with tap from where he left off,’ Hines explained in a 1992 interview. Just 11 years later, he, too, was to die from cancer, aged 57. ‘My rapport with Gregory started when I was around 14,’ recalled Glover, ‘after I’d been in The Tap Dance Kid. I guess it was just before I did Black and Blue on Broadway.’ Glover described Gregory Hines as everything to him. ‘He was my teacher and mentor. He was my good friend. He was a father figure. He was a brother. He was just a wonderful man, a wonderful energy in my life…’ Metaphorically, at least, it seems that imaginary ball was passed to Glover, along with the responsibility for carrying on where Hines left off…”

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Energy, movement and life

Zoë Anderson meets Boy Blue Entertainment’s Kenrick “H2O” Sandy, choreographer of Talawa Theatre’s new Guys and Dolls

“‘ We shouldn’t be looking at art to be a particular colour. We should be letting art be art, let it do what it needs to do,’ Sandy says, discussing the UK’s first all-black production of the musical. ‘We can be diverse in our singing, in our dancing, in our acting, you don’t have to be any particular colour or creed to do this’…

“As with many musicals, the cast came to this project with different levels of dance experience. ‘They’re actors who can sing. With choreography, some are stronger than others, so for me it’s working out what to give them, how much I can challenge them.’ Sandy talks with huge warmth about the learning process. ‘I also teach dance, I’m a dance teacher, not just a choreographer,’ he explains. That’s not an unusual combination, but I’ve never seen a star choreographer put such proud, joyful emphasis on his teaching. ‘I look at how I’m going to work, at the level of the people I’m working with, how I’m going to teach the choreography to them. So even if someone is not as confident with the dance side of things, I know I’m able to empower them, to say, “We can do this.”’”

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Also in the December issue…

Laura Dodge visits the Royal Opera House Muscat in Oman

Nicola Rayner interviews former Strictly Come Dancing champion Camilla Sacre-Dallerup

Performance and people: dance photographs by Anthony Crickmay

From Tsar to Commissar: Gerald Dowler concludes his series on the impact the Revolution made on Russian ballet

Partnering up with Latin: Lee Knights finds nine key ways to improve your musicality

The Royal Ballet’s Anna Rose O’Sullivan is our Dancer of the Month

Talking point: Jane Ashby on how dance helped her son overcome addiction

Tips on technique: James Whitehead on the samba

Technique clinic: Phil Meacham on the inside and outside of turns

Debbie Malina looks at food and dance

In his guide to swing, Simon Selmon on dance as conversation

Same-sex dance: Marianka Swain reports on the Vienna Dance Contest and UK Fun competition

Somewhere in time: Jack Reavely continues his memories of celebrated dancer and teacher Henry Jacques

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Plus reviews of Kenneth MacMillan: A National Celebration, with Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet and York Dance Project, Dance Umbrella, including Rocio Molina, Lyon Opera Ballet, Rachid Ouramdane, Julie Cunningham, Vanessa Kisuule, Lisbeth Gruwez and Charles Linehan, Young Frankenstein, Hair, the National Ballet of Canada and The Royal Ballet in The Dreamers Ever Leave You, Shobana Jeyasingh’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life, Michael Clark Company, Igor and Moreno, Birmingham Royal Ballet in Arcadia and more, Ballet Cymru, The Royal Ballet in new works by Twyla Tharp and Arthur Pita, Vamos Cuba!

International reviews of Alexei Ratmansky’s new Songs of Bukovina, Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes in New York, Ballet West, Compagnie Maguy Marin, Andrés Marin’s D.Quixote at the Théâtre de Chaillot, French hip hop festival Kalypso, the Paris Opéra Ballet in Balanchine, Bausch and a new work by Saburo Teshigawara, recent promotions at the Maryinsky Ballet, the Estonian National Ballet in The Goblin, Christian Spuck’s new Nutcracker for Zürich Ballet, Ballet de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux

Obituaries of Alexander Morrow and David Vaughan

News of National Dance Award nominations, spring dance at the Barbican, Ben Duke’s new show for Lost Dog, dancing at the Southbank Centre and with Holiday and Dance

Education news of Rambert 2, Antwerp summer school, Barbara Sharples International Choreographic Award, Hammond School, Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship Fund, Samira Saidi joins The Royal Ballet School

 

The October 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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