Posted on January 28, 2021
In this latest issue of Dancing Times, we pay tribute to Robert Cohan, the dancer, choreographer, teacher and director who did so much to establish and promote contemporary dance in the UK. Cohan died last month at the age of 95, but continued to work almost to the end, and I think it fair to say that we simply wouldn’t have the rich and diverse contemporary dance repertoire we currently enjoy in the UK without him and his pioneering work. His biographer, Paul R W Jackson, provides a formal tribute to Cohan in Obituaries, and dancer and choreographer Yolande Yorke-Edgell offers her own personal view on the great man in Letters.
“Bolle is undoubtedly sunny and laughs often during our conversation. Professionally, isn’t it tricky being Mr Nice Guy? ‘In most public situations I have a team to help me, but I like to be nice to people. It’s in my nature so it doesn’t cost me much. Of course, there are times when you don’t feel like it, but it takes very little to make another person happy.’
“He makes his ballerinas happy, too, as he has an apparent talent for accompanying them for their farewell performances: Bussell’s gala in 2007, Zenaida Yanowsky in 2017, Ferri (the first time round), Julie Kent, Aurélie Dupont, Paloma Herrera… ‘I think I’m a reliable partner and I have a natural ability to create a connection with my ballerinas which is not only physical. When we are on stage we manage to create a special feeling and so I am delighted to be chosen for these occasions – it’s a great honour.’”
“The last time I spoke to former Strictly Come Dancing professional Robin Windsor, in 2018, he was packing his bags for the Caribbean. Following his Farewell Tour in the UK, he moved to the BodyHoliday, St Lucia, to lead the team that looks after entertainment at the resort, as well as dance and sports classes, personal training, fitness and wellbeing.
“Now he’s back in the UK and soon to start training for Here Come the Boys, where he’ll join fellow Strictly stars Aljaž Škorjanec, Pasha Kovalev, Graziano di Prima and host Karim Zeroual for a run at the West End’s Garrick Theatre, which is currently scheduled to open on March 3. After its West End run, the show will tour in June. ‘I’m doing a Cher,’ Robin says of coming out of retirement, ‘but I’m only doing it once. I’m ridiculously excited to get back on stage. It’s really like coming back home for me, and to be able to headline something in the West End again – I didn’t think it would ever happen. It fell into my lap and I couldn’t say no.’”
“What is it like, taking up such an important new position in the midst of a lockdown? ‘There’s a lot to get done,’ he replies. ‘Phoenix’s 40th anniversary takes place in November, and I’m putting a programme in place for that, but there are also other projects already commissioned that need to be completed. We will have to hit the ground running when we start again. We have a collaboration with Opera North, too, that has been postponed until autumn 2021, and at present the autumn tour is being finalised. Directors of theatres are still concerned about the virus and when they can open again to audiences – we just don’t know how long this latest lockdown will last.
“‘It does give me time to put things in place, though,’ he confesses, ‘and get the dancers back to full strength. There will be lots of work, which is very exciting, plus I have some work of my own to finish, but I think I need to focus on continuing to build on the strong relationship between the company and the local community in Leeds. This will take me a while, but Phoenix is already embedded in the local culture, as I well know from when I was a dancer there from 2007 to 2009.’”
Alison Gallagher-Hughes learns how Len Goodman became a household name
Karen Berry makes the case for more generalisation in dance training
Barbara Newman thinks people could read about dance as much as they watch it on screen
Simon Selmon remembers jazz dancer Pepsi Bethel
Fátima Nollén sees Ballet Nacional del Sodre in La Tregua
Deborah Weiss finds out about the Masters of Ballet Academy from director Elena Glurjidze
Margaret Willis interviews English National Ballet’s Ivana Bueno
Phil Meacham asks when does a competition become practice
Debbie Malina highlights dance classes for older people
Jack Reavely reminisces about his friend, Doreen Freeman
Laura Cappelle catches some live dance in Paris
James Whitehead advises on a smooth transition into promenade and fallaway positions
Igor Stupnikov reports on Russia’s The Grand Ballet competition on Culture TV
Jack Anderson sees two different Nutcrackers online
Marianka Swain reflects on Strictly Come Dancing’s first same-sex pairing
New Year Honours for dance, Scottish Ballet cancels spring tour of Swan Lake, Avatâra Ayuso launches AWA DANCE, five dancers take redundancy from The Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet’s 60th anniversary, National Dance Company Wales on screen, win Xanadu on DVD from Fabulous Films; The Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker and Breakin’ Convention reviewed in Dance Scene International; Robert Cohan and Ann Reinking remembered in Obituaries; new books, DVDs and dance products; Dance School of the Year Awards 2021, Royal Ballet School online courses, Urdang Academy, Remote learning and digital technology, Prix de Lausanne, ArtsEd School graduate Teige Bisnought; calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; we look back to February 1981