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October 2019 issue

Posted on September 26, 2019

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This month, we explore gay men in ballet, a subject often swept under the carpet by those inside the dance world, as well as look at how dance can best be preserved for the future with the help of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, répétiteur Julie Lincoln, and the Swiss Archive of the Performing Arts. We also embark on the latest season of Strictly Come Dancing, and meet West End choreographer Stephen Mear.

There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s gay

Matthew Paluch thinks ballet should stop being in denial over gay men

“Dancers have the right to a private life like anybody else, but as far as gay rights activism is concerned, there isn’t much around. James Whiteside of American Ballet Theatre (ABT) is a somewhat lone voice. His life is his own, and his sexuality is part of that, for all to see. ABT’s repertoire is pretty generic, so every so often Whiteside makes a public statement concerning identity. A recent one is a video that sees him dancing on pointe to a rap of his own. The message is clear: ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.’

“Whiteside has shared the opinion some conservative peers have of him: ‘I am distasteful to them.’ To challenge this, the ballet world needs gay men to be out and proud in the public domain. If there were voices being heard from all levels – students, professional dancers, choreographers, management – it would empower those being victimised to act, and in the long term eradicate the issue altogether. A pride flag alone won’t do the job; it needs to be fortified in practical terms.

“Actual words are even more powerful. Christopher Hampson, the CEO and artistic director of Scottish Ballet, released a statement in August in relation to Glasgow Pride. He said many sensible things, but the overall message was abundantly clear: acceptance. ‘It is essential to us that everyone who we interact with feels comfortable to express and explore their identity. There will always be more we can do to ensure discrimination is called out, to allow people, young and old, to be whoever they want to be.’”

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Following in their footsteps

For parents who dedicate their lives and their finances to “making it happen” for their aspiring children, lives are a constant whirl of travel and outgoings. Is it all worth it? Alison Gallagher-Hughes finds out more

“So what is the reality behind the sparkle and glitz? For Caroline and Gianni Andriani supporting their daughter’s dance dream means going the extra mile – 2,500 of them in one case. That was the round trip covered by Gianni earlier this year in order to convey daughter Alessia, 15, to a dance camp in Scalea, Calabria, Italy, at the culmination of a school skiing trip near Milan.

“Gianni explains: ‘The school trip had been booked for some time when we found out about the training camp. Fortunately, it was due to start as the holiday with the school ended.’ He travelled from their home near Scunthorpe, picked up a flight from Stanstead, collected Alessia from her holiday resort near Milan, before taking a further flight to the south of Italy.

“‘It took some arranging I can tell you. The school was initially reluctant as Alessia was in its care for the duration of the holiday and I had to make arrangements for them to hand over her passport. After the training camp, we flew back to the UK, drove home and I had an hour’s sleep in my car before starting my shift for my engineering company,’ he reveals.”

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Speaking of the Bolshoi

Margaret Willis meets Katerina Novikova, head of press for the Bolshoi Ballet

“During her time at the Bolshoi, she [Katerina Novikova] has had two general directors – Anatoly Iksanov and, from 2013, Vladimir Urin – and five Bolshoi Ballet directors – Boris Akimov, Alexei Ratmansky, Yuri Burlaka, Sergei Filin and Makhar Vaziev. Being loyal, she wouldn’t make any comment on any of the men she worked alongside. ‘One thing I soon learned in the theatre was that I never think of myself as working for a particular person. My profession is my life – it is the centre of my heart.’

“Katya is PR for the whole theatre, but ‘the ballet travels more,’ so she gets to see a lot of the world in her job. There have been many challenges other than the acid attack [on Sergei Filin] she has had to face that has brought the Bolshoi name into worldwide headlines. ‘There was Anastasia Volochkova, accused of being fat and then sacked, though I know her destiny was the result of her own choice.’ There was Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s outspokenness and lack of public compassion for Filin when he was attacked; unsavoury photographs of Gennady Yanin sent anonymously to unsuspecting electronic addresses around the world; and the accusations about the exorbitant cost of the theatre’s renovation. ‘Yes, there have been some tricky times, but artistic life is a priority for the Bolshoi PR. Fortunately, outside my theatre life, I am happily married, though,’ she added laughing: ‘My husband often has to come to the theatre to see me and whenever possible we go to concerts and drama theatres.’”

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Also in the October issue…

Graham Watts talks to Joaquín De Luz

Nicola Rayner interviews choreographer Stephen Mear

Vikki Jane Vile gets the inside track from Strictly Come Dancing’s celebrities

Paul Arrowsmith explores the Swiss Archive of Performing Arts

Gail Monahan talks to répétiteur Julie Lincoln

The British Dance Council celebrates 90 years

Fátima Nollén discovers the old and the new in Cuba

James Whitehead on the cha cha cha

Christopher Wheeldon on Benesh Movement Notation

Jack Reavely goes “Somewhere in time”

Laura Cappelle attends Parade

Igor Stupnikov hears from the Maryinsky Ballet’s Ekaterina Kondaurova

Jack Anderson sees dancers of The Royal Ballet in New York

Margaret Willis catches up with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Yaoqian Shang

The Royal Academy of Dance’s Genée International Ballet Competition

Debbie Malina concludes her look into bodywork

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English National Ballet moves into its new home, Phoenix Dance Theatre announces a new show for spring 2020, Portobello Dance celebrates 25 years, Cork City Ballet, Pitch Up: Dance! at The Place, win copies of Swan Lake: Reimagining a Classic from Oberon Books, Sadler’s Wells 2020, Leonardo da Vinci at Windsor Castle, ACE funding for hip hop, Dance International Glasgow

Reviews include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in London, Astana Ballet, Ballet de Santiago, Bavarian State Ballet, Cullberg, Dane Hurst’s Falling Man, Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals, Guangzhou Ballet of China, Hong Kong Ballet, New Adventures, Northern Ballet and Stuart Waters in ROCKBOTTOM

The October 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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