fri 28/10/2016


Preview: International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016

Hanna Weibye

International Dance Festival Birmingham (IDFB) is one of the unsung heroes not just of dance in Britain, but of festivals. It treats anyone within striking distance of the West Midlands to an exciting range of performers and public dance events over three weeks, and is cleverly scheduled in May – when lengthening days and bank holidays make us want to go out and have a good time, but it's not quite warm enough for camping.


Best of 2015: Dance & Ballet

Hanna Weibye

It was business as usual in the British dance world in 2015. Looking back over the year, theartsdesk's dance critics see the industry's many talented, capable people continuing to do their jobs well, but we don't recall being shaken, stirred or surprised as often as in other years, or at least not by new works: our top moments of the year are concentrated in the farewells of great dancers Sylvie Guillem and Carlos Acosta, and in classic productions of classic ballets.


Yolanda Sonnabend: designer of MacMillan's 'neurotic' ballets

Ismene Brown

Ever since Diaghilev’s day the relationship of dance movement to its visual design has been a lively, sometimes combative affair. Sometimes people leave whistling the set, saying shame about the dance; other times they hate the set, love the dance. As with the relationship of dance to music, the fit of look to movement can be decisive in why a new ballet escapes the curse of ephemerality and becomes a firm memory that people wish to revisit. It directs the audience how to read it.


Ex Kirov ballet chief takes not-so-Bolshoi job

Ismene Brown

The great Bolshoi ballerina Ludmila Semenyaka once told me that you need the claws of a tiger and the hide of a rhinoceros to survive at Moscow's iconic theatre. Her bitter words came to mind yesterday morning when I saw the Twitter feed of the Bolshoi Theatre blithely congratulating the ballet artistic director Sergei Filin on his 45th birthday – along with a photo of him from before the acid attack that ruined his youthful looks, his eyesight and his career as a ballet director.


An Open Book: Michael Hulls

Ismene Brown

The occupation “lighting designer” is too workaday to describe Michael Hulls. The artistry with which he casts illumination or shadow on some of the great dancers of our time make the idea of switches and bulb wattage seem humdrum. Pellucid, occluded, darkling - this is Hulls’ palette of twilight effects. Too often, he says, people do not understand the difference between seeing the dancer and seeing the dance.


Bolshoi Ballet acid attack leader loses his job

Ismene Brown

Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet artistic director whose sight was maimed two years ago by an acid attack organized by a disgruntled dancer, will lose his job when his contract expires next spring. Bolshoi Theatre chief Vladimir Urin announced yesterday in Moscow that he is abolishing Filin’s position and replacing it with a more management-focused director, indicating that artistic decision-making is to be taken "jointly" with the theatre directorate.


theartsdesk Q&A: Composer Gavin Higgins

Graham Rickson

Composer Gavin Higgins and choreographer Mark Baldwin’s Dark Arteries is billed by Rambert as “the world’s first brass band dance work” and has its premiere this week at Sadler’s Wells. Higgins was born into a family of brass players in the Forest of Dean, later studying at Chetham’s School and the Royal Northern College. He spoke to theartsdesk in between rehearsals last week.


Maya Plisetskaya, 1925-2015

Ismene Brown

The great Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, renowned for her deathless Dying Swan and a performing career that lasted more than 60 years, died suddenly of a heart attack at home in Munich at the weekend, aged 89.

To the West she epitomised the Bolshoi ballerina in style, fierily expressive, virtuosic, larger than life, but she was also an unclassifiable individualist who challenged Soviet norms.


Best of 2014: Dance & Ballet

Hanna Weibye

You usually know a good piece or performance when you see one, but sometimes you only identify a great one as such significantly after the fact. What better way to test a work's durability, then, than by seeing what remains of it in the memory after six or 12 months? I admit this "best of" exercise is pretty subjective, but 2014 was such a rich year for dance that I've had to be ruthless: an item only makes my list if I still feel excited when I recall it.


Opinion: Too Strictly? Battle in the ballroom

Marianka Swain

Ballroom dancing, that most civilised of pastimes, may seem an unlikely target for controversy, but a proposed rule change by the British Dance Council (BDC) has thrust our nation’s waltzers into a heated debate. This weekend, the BDC will discuss whether or not to approve a suggested amendment declaring that a ballroom partnership be recognised as “one man and one lady in all adult amateur and professional competitions and championships unless otherwise stated”.



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