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December 2021 issue

Posted on November 25, 2021

01 Dancing Times December 2021 1

This month, Gavin McCaig pays tribute to David Nixon, his artistic director at Northern Ballet, who steps down from his role later this month – everyone at Dancing Times also wishes David the best for the future. In addition, we discover more about the role played by board members of the UK’s dance companies, hear from Sonya Tayeh, choreographer of Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which has just opened in London’s West End, find out how dance has been faring in Argentina since the start of the pandemic, and salute the wonderful partnership of John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, the first male same-sex couple to have competed on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. Which just leaves me, all being well, to wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers!

JONATHAN GRAY


Stepping Out

Marianka Swain reflects on Strictly Come Dancing’s first all-male pairing

69 Stepping Out2 December“The BBC ballroom bonanza was painfully slow to introduce same-sex dancing, only taking the plunge last year with Nicola Adams and professional dancer Katya Jones. Thankfully viewers immediately embraced the duo, who might well have lasted further into the season had Jones not tested positive for COVID-19, leading to their withdrawal Yet it proved, beyond doubt, that same-sex pairs belong on Strictly, and paved the way for our incredible debut all-male partnership: John Whaite and Johannes Radebe.

“While Adams only managed three routines – quickstep, Couple’s Choice (street) and jive – before her forced exit, we’ve seen a much wider range of styles from Whaite, all danced to an impressive standard. It might feel unfair that same-sex dancers have more to prove, or must be even stronger than the others to gain full acceptance, but it certainly helps the cause that Whaite is so spectacular: talented, hard-working, musical, expressive and a lovely presence off the floor as well as on. You couldn’t ask for better representation.” 

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Leading light

Gavin McCaig pays tribute to David Nixon, his director at Northern Ballet

13 15 David Nixon December 1“Back when David joined as artistic director, he inherited a company grieving the loss of its former director, Christopher Gable, and one that urgently required strong direction and bold vision. ‘My coming in as director followed a period of uncertainty for the company when interim leaders had stepped in,’ he explained to me. ‘During this period, many of the top dancers had moved on and standards had fallen. It wasn’t in its healthiest position, and it took a lot of work to bring it up to not only where it was under Christopher but also to where I wanted to take it – which was as a stronger, more classical-looking company.’

“‘It was a simpler time in some ways. The company focused solely on preparing ballets for the tour and doing some 200 performances a year,’ David continues. ‘We didn’t have to worry about working on several programmes at once, studio rentals, digital work – it was just about the main performances.’ He shrugs. ‘We were trying to rebuild the audiences we had lost, and bringing Madame Butterfly at the time did that. It brought huge audiences in.’”

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Nutcracker and the Snow Ballet

Caitlyn Lehmann discovers a “Snow Ballet” pre-dating The Nutcracker

25 27 Snow Ballets December“In 1875, almost two decades before The Nutcracker was first performed in Russia, Parisians were chatting animatedly about Jacques Offenbach’s latest operetta, Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). Overflowing with bright and cheerful tunes, this opéra-féerie unfurled the farcical adventures of Prince Caprice, who, catapulted to the moon by a gigantic cannon, stumbled through a series of escalating calamities, before escaping back to earth with the Moon King’s lovesick daughter, Princess Fantasia. Laced with witty allusions to the politics of the day, the operetta was relished for what it was: a bizarrely contrived patchwork full of elaborate scenic effects and spectacular transformations. Apart from the supersize cannon, there was the Moon King’s shining Palace of Glass and the novelty of an exploding volcano. Above all, audiences were transported by the scintillating ‘Snow Ballet’ that concluded the third act.

“‘Tout Paris crushes into the small theatre of La Gaîté every evening to see [the show],’ reported the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, ‘The ballet especially is one of the most beautiful and marvellous ever seen. It is the ballet of snowflakes!’ The dancing, presaged by children building a ‘snow figure’, commenced when the Snow Queen entered, dressed in white and silver. She paused to melt the children’s handiwork, and mustered her fairy court into a grand ballet cavalcade.”

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Also in the December issue…

Matthew Brookoff marks the 60th anniversary of George Balanchine’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Laura Cappelle reviews the dance selection at the Festival d’Automne à Paris

Sharia Johnson asks if we can have it all?

Marianka Swain asks how can you avoid dance injuries

Nicola Rayner speaks to choreographer Sonya Tayeh about
Moulin Rouge! The Musical 

Susan Crow concludes her article on how best to educate tomorrow’s ballet dancers

James Whitehead looks at a classic figure in cha cha cha

Graham Spicer attends the MilanOltre Festival in Milan

Phil Meacham advises on how to free your energy

Paul Arrowsmith explores the role of dance company boards

Fátima Nollén finds out how dance companies in Argentina have been returning to the stage

Barbara Newman sees new exhibitions of work by Isamu Noguchi and Laura Knight

Simon Selmon counts the ways he loves Lindy hop

Igor Stupnikov reviews a new production of
Swan Lake by the Mikhailovsky Ballet

Leigh Witchel on the return of American Ballet Theatre

Jack Reavely remembers Liverpool’s Grafton Rooms

Margaret Willis interviews Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Eilis Small 

Sarah Woodcock reviews the book Dance and Costumes

Debbie Malina looks at theatre superstitions, myths and rituals


Plus

01 Dancing Times December 2021A new documentary film on Alvin Ailey, South Pacific on tour, Liam Scarlett inquest, Sadler’s Wells’ Video on Demand, Northern Ballet leavers and joiners, Shall We Dance at the Royal Lancaster, Bethlehem Cultural Festival, MOVE IT returns for 2022; reviews of live performances from Alessandra Ferri and Carsten Jung, The Royal Ballet, Dance Umbrella, Ballet Theatre UK, Ballet Black, Fevered Sleep, Magdeburg Ballett, Hong Kong Ballet; Mirella Bartrip remembered in Obituaries; new things to try in Products; Iain Mackay steps down from Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, Christopher Marney joins Joffrey Academy, Edinburgh Festival Ballet School auditions; calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; where to learn to dance in the UK; we look back to December 1981

The December 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

Simon Oliver has been production editor of Dancing Times since 2010 and is highly experienced in design across print and online magazine production. Throughout his career, Simon has worked on a diverse range of subjects including music, family history, book collecting and poker.

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