Posted on June 24, 2021
As promised last month, this issue of Dancing Times includes live reviews from most of the UK’s leading dance companies, and not just those based in London. It has been wonderful to be able to see performances in theatres again after the partial lifting of lockdown on May 17, and I hope our readers, like our writers, have been taking full advantage of what is on offer on stage after such a long time. Live dance before audiences has also returned to Europe, and in her latest FRANCE/dance column, Laura Cappelle attends the Lyon Dance Biennale, which had to be postponed last autumn due to you know what.
This month, we pay tribute to two remarkable ballerinas – Violetta Elvin and Carla Fracci – who both died in Italy on the same day at the end of May. We also hear from choreographer Rob Ashford, who has been working on the forthcoming production of Disney’s Frozen that is scheduled to reopen the Theatre Royal Drury Lane at the end of August, and conclude Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp’s series on diversifying dance, which has been welcomed by a large number of people working in the dance industry. We would like to thank him for bravely tackling a subject that so urgently needs to be addressed by the whole dance community.
“Gerald Dowler: With the freedom to travel from the mid-1980s onwards, how was the experience of dancing with other companies?
Altynai Asylmuratova: I was very lucky because that was a special time for Russian artists. Before perestroika in 1986, it was very rare to be allowed to appear with foreign companies and to return to the Soviet Union, whereas now you just buy your plane ticket and go. Before, you had to take the decision either to stay or to leave the Soviet Union for good, and I was so lucky that I was among the first dancers who could both live in Russia and travel freely abroad. So really, one of my career highlights was not to have to decide between the two; I could work abroad and learn and still come back home. That way, I experienced different dance styles and choreography.
“GD: Part of that was dancing for three seasons at Covent Garden. How was that?
AA: Super! I was very nervous to begin with – a new company, different people to work with and I couldn’t speak any English; it was not easy. Once I was in the studio and working, it became a lot easier and I was excited to try new choreography, ballets by Kenneth MacMillan and Frederick Ashton which I loved, and I had some wonderful dance partners. My time in London was very special.”
“As a choreographer, how would Ashford define his style and strengths? ‘I’ve always hoped that if someone had to say something, it would be that I’m a good storyteller,’ he replies, ‘because I think that’s the most important part of choreography. Sometimes people feel choreography’s main job is to provide atmosphere, but I think audiences are too smart. I mean, seriously, four eights and you’ve got atmosphere; you go to the Kit Kat Club in Cabaret and it doesn’t take long for you to know exactly where you are, what kind of place. What you need to do, or what you hope to do, is move the story along and make the movement intrinsic to it. I’m also a firm believer that principals should lead the numbers, because it’s their story that we’re telling. I’m not one for having the two leading players step to the corners and just watch a bunch of people dance. They have to be a part of it. It has to move their story, their journey, somehow.’
“He cites his heroes as Jerome Robbins and Agnes de Mille. ‘I don’t say that just because it sounds safe. I mean, Jerome Robbins: economy. He was an incredible storyteller, but with economy of movement; if he could tell it in four eights, he would tell it in four eights. It’s amazing for someone from the ballet world, which is not economical usually… Then Agnes de Mille for the bravery of the ballets inside the musicals. It was just phenomenal what she did in Oklahoma! and Carousel; she was ahead of her time.’”
“Although Williams has worked at the venue for 23 years, it still has the ability to surprise him. Having made the decision to dispense with the amusement arcade, his team cautiously peeled away the 1970s wall panels to find full-length plaster curtains and mirrors from the 1930s décor beneath.
“‘It hadn’t been seen for 40 years,’ reveals Michael. ‘When the architect came in, I said, “I need to show you what we’ve uncovered.” She said, “Oh my word, we’ll have to rip up these plans because this is stunning.’”
“Since 2010, £14 million has been spent on the building with an extended programme of works that is likely to total another £15 million. In addition, a new £28 million conference centre has been added to the back of the building with a facility to allow it to link into the ballroom. There are also hopes that a hotel will be built on an adjacent site to provide luxury accommodation, which would be connected to the venue.”
Gerald Dowler expresses concern for classical ballet as we know it
Anna Mackey on Isadora Duncan’s 1921 mission to Moscow
Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp concludes his series on diversifying dance
Laura Nicholson introduces the U.Dance National Festival
Graham Watts interviews choreographer Vicki Igbokwe
James Whitehead looks at checking actions
Igor Stupnikov attends the XIX Dance Open International Festival in St Petersburg
Barbara Newman sees Amélie The Musical in London’s West End
Laura Cappelle pays a visit to the Lyon Dance Biennale
Jack Anderson enjoys online dance from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre
Pete Meager reviews the first virtual Pink Jukebox Trophy
Phil Meacham offers some advice on foot movement
Margaret Willis talks to Rambert’s Liam Francis, our Dancer of the Month
Simon Selmon concludes his memories of Lindy hop legend Frankie Manning
Debbie Malina looks at issues that can arise with the shoulder joint
Dance at UK summer festivals, Birmingham Royal Ballet announces 2021-22 season, Phoenix Dance Theatre set to return to the stage, National Dance Company Wales appoints new artistic director, Sadler’s Wells open call for National Youth Dance Company and Candoco summer residency, Beatriz Stix-Brunell to leave The Royal Ballet, Kevin Clifton to appear in Rock of Ages UK tour, Greenwich Dance’s From Greenwich with Love, David Nixon steps down as director of Northern Ballet, Breakin’ Convention 2021, Queen’s Birthday Honours; reviews of live performances in Dance Scene International from Aakash Odedra Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet, Rambert, Rosie Kay Dance Company and The Royal Ballet; Violetta Elvin, Carla Fracci and Simon Fildes remembered in Obituaries; New books and DVDs; Christopher Marney steps down as director of Central School of Ballet, Dance School of the Year, National Youth Ballet; calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; we look back to July 1981