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February 2017 issue

Posted on January 25, 2017

Slideshow Sept 1

This month’s magazine reflects the range of dancing experience – from taking dance to some of the world’s most deprived communities to how it feels to tackle a major role, or to challenge the different stereotypes of your chosen dance form. We also announce the winner of the Dance Today Dance Teacher of the Year, talk farewells and standards with Len Goodman and career-building with young choreographers…






Awakening Aurora

Three Royal Ballet Auroras – Lauren Cuthbertson, Francesca Hayward and Yasmine Naghdi – tell Zoë Anderson about the thrills and challenges of one of the major ballerina roles

“As Cuthbertson points out, this is a mental as well as a physical challenge. ‘I remember as if it was yesterday. Beauty’s a ballet I’ve always wanted to do, and I love doing – but during my first show, in the bourrée for Act II, I was thinking, ‘This isn’t at all what I thought it was going to be like. Maybe it’s not for me. This isn’t how I imagined it, how I dreamt it. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe tomorrow I need to resign. Yes. That’s it, tomorrow I’m going to speak to Monica [Mason, then director of The Royal Ballet] and I’m going to resign…’ – it was so funny! And that happened within a four-second bourrée, I thought all of those things. Then people watching the show said, ‘No, darling, what are you on about, it’s all in your head!’ It sort of is, but at the same time, you don’t want to feel like that, to be so anxious about a role.’

“Part of that anxiety surely comes from the ballet’s status, its huge reputation – particularly within The Royal Ballet. ‘Since watching the videos of Margot Fonteyn when I was very young, I have known that The Sleeping Beauty was The Royal Ballet’s showcase, signature work,’ Hayward recalls. Naghdi remembers the picture of Fonteyn in the ballet that hung in the museum at The Royal Ballet School: ‘As a young student, I often stared at her photo and her Aurora tutu in the glass case…’”

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Len’s grand finale

Nicola Rayner catches up with Len Goodman as he steps down as head judge of Strictly Come Dancing…

“How has the show changed over the years? ‘It’s got more razzle-dazzle. I used to kick off early on about props and things; well, now you’d have to kick off about every couple because there’s always something going on – a swing, or a door to come through, or a chair.

“‘The slickness of the whole thing, the production has got so much better. Television shows are a bit like a plant. A plant needs to be pruned a little bit to keep it healthy. Now, you can’t pull a plant up and chop off the roots, that would kill it, but a little pruning keeps it healthy, so I don’t mind those little changes. I think it’s a good thing.’

“One matter that irks viewers more than any other is the music. ‘The trouble is, if it were up to me every foxtrot would be by Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole or Tony Bennett and every Latin track would be by Edmundo Ros or authentic Latin music,’ muses Len. (In fact, his recent compilation CD, Crooners And Swooners, features just such favourites – see our competition here.) ‘But you’ve got 12 million people watching aged between six and 86, and you’ve got to find music to please everyone – and of course you can’t please everyone.’

“My problem with it, I say, is that it sometimes makes the dance harder to do for the celebrities. ‘Sometimes the music is in conflict with the dance,’ Len concedes. ‘A good example was Louise Redknapp doing a tango to “Glad All Over”. Even the title doesn’t communicate tango – one thing you’re not in a dance where you need passion and intensity is glad all over…’”

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Dance in a Brazilian favela

Dancer and choreographer Dane Hurst describes an inspiring project he joined in Recife

“I worked with more than 30 girls and young women, aged between six and 28; to say it was challenging is putting it mildly, and that’s without taking into consideration the language barrier. The challenges the girls faced every day were discipline, memorisation of the dance steps, communication, and mental and physical stamina, but gradually, as they started to understand the format and familiarise themselves with a new movement language, they developed trust in me and what I was offering.

“This emotional and cognitive leap usually occurs after the third day, so I patiently waited and absorbed the chaos. My experience of working with young people in Rwanda and South Africa also gave me the reassurance that it would take them a few days to process and adapt to what I was asking them to do. By the end of the week, we had created a 15-minute dance that was performed to approximately 600 people and streamed live on the internet. It was a milestone event, as some members of the favela had never seen their kids in this capacity, and having previously visited the homes of some of the parents, it was very clear this small project was filling them with a sense of hope for their children’s future…”

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Also in the February issue…

Luke Jennings argues that classical ballet must be more inclusive of black female dancers

Graham Watts meets Manuel Liñán, a dancer challenging flamenco’s gender stereotypes

Acting through dance: Elizabeth McGorian and Gary Avis tell Gerald Dowler about their work as character principals at The Royal Ballet

Margaret Willis interviews Marie Astrid Mence of Ballet Black, our Dancer of the Month

Alison Gallagher-Hughes catches up with ballroom stars Valerio Colantoni and Monica Nigro

Nicola Rayner considers the rituals of the social dance world – from etiquette to intimacy

We announce the winner of our Dance Today Dance Teacher of the Year

It’s one thing to be picked as a promising choreographer, but how do you turn that into an ongoing career? Paul Arrowsmith speaks to Andrew McNicol and Kenneth Tindall

We preview Move It 2017, the UK’s biggest dance event

Mavin Khoo, artistic director of ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, tells Zoë Anderson about the company’s UK tour

Laura Dodge looks at the training and versatility of Northern Ballet School

Tips on technique: James Whitehead explores shaping in ballroom

Our dance doctor, Phil Meacham, gets to grips with the feather finish in slow foxtrot

Simon Selmon looks at the social side of social dancing

Marianka Swain on dancewear design for same-sex dancers

Debbie Malina on dance for older people

Jack Reavely remembers some Hollywood dancing greats

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Plus reviews of Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes, English National Ballet in The Nutcracker and Mary Skeaping’s production of Giselle, The Royal Ballet in The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty, Boy Blue Entertainment in Blak Whyte Gray, Dreamgirls in London’s West End

International reviews of the Diaghilev PS Art Festival in St Petersburg, including Béjart Ballet Lausanne and the Ekaterinburg Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Lucinda Childs Dance Company, Richard Wherlock’s new Robin Hood for Ballett Basel, the Paris Opéra Ballet in Swan Lake, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Bavarian State Ballet in Yuri Grigorovich’s Spartacus, and Monaco Dance Forum, including Ballet National de Marseille, Wang Ramirez and Le Patin Libre

News of Botis Seva at Scottish Dance Theatre, Ballet Black’s new season, Stine Nilsen and Pedro Machado, Tulsa Ballet, Studio Wayne McGregor, fair pay and conditions in dance, spring at Dance City, new year honours for dance and more

Obituaries of Angela DeMello, Peter Farmer and Carlos Miranda

Media dance CDs and DVDs including celebrations of Len Goodman, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, the Gala des étoiles at La Scala, Milan and Dutch National Ballet’s Mata Hari

Education news of Northern Ballet School, Dance Forward, British Dance Council, Tring Park School, American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet School, The Royal Academy of Dance, Ballet Central and West London School of Dance


The February 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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