Posted on April 28, 2022
As the horrifying events of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue, in this month’s issue of Dancing Times we discover how the world of dance has been reacting to the war with two articles covering both ballet and ballroom. Matthew Paluch and Nicola Rayner hear from dancers who have been directly affected by the situation, and we also find out ways in which we might be able to help.
Elsewhere in the magazine, we talk to former Royal Ballet principal Federico Bonelli, who has just become the new director of Northern Ballet; celebrate the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track programme that has introduced thousands of young children to dance; and interview Argentinian tango dancer and director German Cornejo on the eve of the London premiere of his new show, Wild Tango, at the Peacock Theatre.
Finally, I would like to pass on to our readers the news of the death of ballroom photographer Ron Self, whose pictures graced the pages of this magazine for many, many years. We send our sincere condolences to his wife, Sheila – we shall pay tribute to Ron in next month’s issue of Dancing Times.
“World politics shifted on February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine. Within a week the television news looked like Syria in 2011. Towns and cities were being bombarded and flattened as we all watched on. Horrific and harrowing scenes at train stations showed human desperation at its most potent, with civilians fleeing to safety. Men had to stay behind to fight as required. The impact was global – both financially and politically.
“Within the first 24 hours people started to call out Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Ukrainian flags filled the feeds of social media, and many people found images incorporating the colours of Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag – a subtle, artistic way of showing solidarity. Buildings were lit up in the same two colours, from Wembley stadium to the Royal Opera House (ROH). The ROH also played the Ukrainian national anthem before each performance for a limited period after the start of the invasion, but elsewhere – in other theatres – not everyone was performing. Some very powerful, influential Russian artists were part of the political negotiating tactics.”
“Postponed from 2020, then from 2021, the Dance Reflections festival finally arrived in March 2022 with a packed fortnight of some 17 live works (one postponed to a month later), spread across Sadler’s Wells, the Royal Opera House and Tate Modern, plus four films streamed online. Programmed by Serge Laurent, former director of performance at the Pompidou Centre, and presented by the French luxury jewellery brand Van Cleef and Arpels, it came branded with class and quality – unusually, for the UK at least, linked to contemporary and experimental dance, quite a bit of it pretty challenging (I can’t imagine upmarket brands in the UK venturing so boldly into such territory). With so many works on show, some of the festival’s richest rewards came in being able to track connections between different artists, styles and times.
“The centrepiece of the opening night was Lyon Opéra Ballet in Lucinda Childs’ now classic Dance (1979) – a point of departure for a particular trail that you could follow through the festival: minimalism. Dressed in celestial white, the dancers use a limited lexicon throughout – little more than step, hop, skip and jump – balletically styled, and performed without affect or affectation. In section one, they skim from side to side, then add diagonals. In section two, a soloist travels either in a straight line or in a circle. In section three, there are lines, circles, diagonals and squares. Around, in front and above them, a reshot version of Sol LeWitt’s original film of the work multiplies the dancing figures as well as their angle and scale. It’s all of a piece with Philip Glass’ music: steps, images, bodies and sounds refracted into cosmic harmonics that echo in the mind long after the performance is over. Simple, and sublime.”
“When I last spoke to world Argentine tango champion German Cornejo in 2018, he was excited about bringing Tango After Dark to London’s Peacock Theatre. Another hit show followed in 2019, Tango Fire, and then he began developing his latest production, expecting to return to the capital for a 2020 season, “but because of COVID-19, everything stopped,” he sighs.
“The pandemic was devastating to tango dancers, since, perhaps most of all the performing art forms, it requires such intimate connection between two people. That created problems when his company, which Cornejo has run with Gisela Galeassi for 12 years, got back into rehearsal. ‘We were working so hard, and wearing masks all the time makes it really difficult to breathe. Tango has lots of quick steps, it’s a very powerful dance, so that was a big adjustment – and it felt strange having to be careful of being close to people. With restrictions, tango, as we know and love it, was almost impossible.’”
Gerald Dowler interviews Royal Ballet principal Federico Bonelli about his appointment as director of Northern Ballet
Paul Arrowsmith wonders if Birmingham Royal Ballet audiences have become too insular?
Laura Cappelle attends the Paris Opéra Ballet’s La Bayadère
James Whitehead looks at fundamentals in paso doble
Howard Ibach reveals an improvised incident in Stanley Holden’s performance of Widow Simone in La Fille mal gardée
Margaret Willis interviews The Royal Ballet’s Calvin Richardson
Jack Reavely explains what makes Blackpool Dance Festival so special
Graham Spicer watches Touché in Rome and Jewels in Milan
Pete Meager talks to Ansell Chezan, the newly appointed chair of the UK Equality Dance Council
Barbara Newman sees The Royal Opera’s Peter Grimes and Blanca Li’s Le Bal de Paris
Simon Selmon introduces bandleader George Gee
Leigh Witchel catches up with a number of dance companies across New York
Phil Meacham explores misconceptions and corrections in the Viennese waltz
Debbie Malina concludes her article on first aid treatments
Roz Laws celebrates the 25th anniversary of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track programme
Teresa Guerreiro previews the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble
New season announcements from New York City Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet and The Royal Ballet, Saburo Teshigawara’s Tristan and Isolde, Shobana Jeyasingh at the Grange Festival, Edinburgh International Festival programme announced, Blackpool Dance Festival, National Dance Awards, John Neumeier celebration season by Hamburg Ballet, Mark Skipper to retire from Northern Ballet, Crystal Pite extends contract with Nederlands Dans Theater; Reviews of live performances from Akram Khan Company, Ballet Black, Bavarian State Ballet, Birmingham 2022 Festival, Dutch National Ballet, English National Ballet, Christopher Gurusamy, James Wilton Dance, National Ballet of Canada, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Johannes Radebe, Richard Chappell Dance, The Royal Ballet, Sarasota Ballet and Scottish Ballet; Yuriko Kikuchi, Margaret McGowan, Menaka Thakkar, and Valerie West remembered in Obituaries; New things to try in Products; CAT open days in the north west, BTUK2, Immerse by Elmhurst Ballet Company, performances by English National Ballet School and Verve; Calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; Where to learn to dance in the UK; We look back to May1982