Posted on September 29, 2021
I have some sad news to impart to you this month. Jack Anderson, who has been contributing to Dancing Times for 50 years as our regular New York correspondent, has decided to retire from writing about dance, and on page 57 of this issue he offers us his final “Notes from New York” column. It feels like the end of an era, one in which Jack has reported for us on all the exciting events taking place in one of the world’s great dance capitals. I’m very sad to see him go, but Jack has promised that, should he feel inspired, he may write the occasional article for us again in the future. Let’s hope so.
This doesn’t, of course, mean the end of our coverage of performances from New York, and I’m happy to say that from next month onwards Leigh Witchel, who has already contributed to the magazine for a number of years, has agreed to take up the baton and continue the column. I’m sure you will all join me in wishing Jack a very happy retirement, and the best of luck to Leigh – he will, after all, have some big shoes to fill.
Elsewhere in the magazine, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ballet Black, discover the results of the delayed 2021 Blackpool Dance Festival, offer you a listing of where to learn to dance in the UK, and include an extract from Leanne Benjamin’s forthcoming autobiography.
“Touring the UK presented further obstacles. Pancho tells how in the past Ballet Black dancers have turned up at a stage door and been refused entry into the building, even after explaining they were performing in the theatre that night. ‘We are a tiny team and we are up against it,’ she says, ‘so when you come across that kind of response at a theatre, it really sets the mood. The chair of our board found the situation eye-opening.
“‘Before the murder of George Floyd last year, we put up with that kind of behaviour, but now I feel massively empowered to call it out. We’ve not been on tour since 2019, so we will see if things really are any different due to Black Lives Matter. I’m optimistic, but I wouldn’t be shocked if nothing has changed.’”
“I’ve been attending Blackpool Dance Festival since 1966 – first as a Junior competitor and later as an adult. On retirement from competing, I was immediately asked to provide commentary for Peter Pember of Quasar Video and then for DSI TV, with just a one-year gap when it was recorded by Japanese television. I can honestly say each and every year has been incredible, with spine-tingling, magical moments. I start with this preamble because 2021 was going to be different: everyone thought so and every signal pointed that way. What no one expected was the unbelievable passion that was generated by everyone at the Winter Gardens.
“If you weren’t there, you missed an experience that will probably never be repeated. The atmosphere was something else and, without exception, we had a tear-jerking moment or two on a daily basis. It was an Empress Ballroom like never before. The audience danced every step with every competitor in every round. There were standing ovations and rapturous applause for almost every dance, highlighting the emotion and gratitude that we were BACK.”
“It’s easier to be yourself these days. The companies I have recently been around have become better at accommodating different types of dancers and giving them space to blossom. As society has changed, ballet has responded. It was a great surprise and pleasure to me when my friend from Sadler’s Wells [Royal Ballet] days, Kevin O’Hare, was appointed to run The Royal Ballet. Quietly but firmly, he is making the company in a new image. It is a much more open place than it used to be, and dancers are happier as a result. I see the changes in a lot of ways. Dancers are allowed to make a much more rapid ascension through the ranks; there isn’t the old sense of serving your time in the corps de ballet. You’re promoted when you’re ready, not according to some preordained idea.
“At one time, The Royal Ballet was structured around long runs of the classics and if you didn’t fit the image of Aurora [in The Sleeping Beauty] or Odette [in Swan Lake], then you were unlikely to be made a principal. That repertory is still there but there are more performances and much more new work, so you can fulfil your potential much more quickly and you may become a principal even if you don’t fit the traditional mould. I’ve always hoped that talent will rise, like cream, yet it hasn’t always been true. This wide repertory gives dancers more of an opportunity to show the director what they are capable of, and the result has been the promotion of an extraordinary array of young talent, dancers who will blaze across the stage for the next generation. This is true in the companies I see and work with; the mood is shifting in many places.”
Alice McArthur is the winner of the RAD’s inaugural “Fonteyn” competition
Jann Parry celebrates the creativity and ingenuity of digital dance creators during lockdown
Marianka Swain hears from Arlene Phillips
Laura Milner writes about the ISTD’s Talking Dance series
Simon Selmon shares an invitation to start swing dancing again
Gerald Dowler talks to artist Tacita Dean about The Dante Project
Jack Reavely shares some titbits from his ballroom dancing scrapbooks
Michael Crabb finds out about an innovative career path for young dancers
Jonathan Gray catches up with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dominic Antonucci
Marianka Swain casts her eye over the Strictly Come Dancing launch show
Barbara Newman sees Cinderella and Operation Mincemeat
Debbie Malina looks at good dental health
Igor Stupnikov meets the Maryinsky Ballet’s Yuri Fateyev
Jack Anderson offers us his final column from New York
Phil Meacham explores the importance of good feet in ballroom and Latin American
Graham Spicer attends the Nervi Festival
James Whitehead focuses on flicks and kicks in the jive
Laura Cappelle casts her eye over the dance performances of Le Temps d’Aimer at Biarritz
Margaret Willis interviews English National Ballet’s Emily Suzuki
Pete Meager reviews EuroGames Copenhagen 2021, and the ESSDA World Championships
Martha Graham at the Barbican, DeNada Dance Theatre’s Mariposa, Dance Umbrella’s digital programme announced, the return of Dance International Glasgow, win a Royal Ballet DVD boxset, Blackpool Dance Festival remembers departed friends, World Ballet Day 2021, Dance Passion 2022 on the BBC; reviews of live performances in Dance Scene International from Capital Ballet, KVN Dance Company, Ivan Putrov’s Ukrainian Ballet Gala, Rosie Kay Dance Company, Hofesh Shechter Company; Avril Bergen and Sherrill Wexler remembered in Obituaries; new books and DVDs; new things to try in Products; the RAD’s inaugural “Fonteyn” competition; calendar dates for performances in the UK and abroad; where to learn to dance in the UK; we look back to October 1981