Archives for the month of: January, 2014

When I think of the phrase ‘theatre dance’ it conjures images of Lycra-clad dance exams as a child. The syllabus was designed to “reflect the choreography seen in musical theatre” but it was nothing like the art form I’ve come to know and love (it consisted mostly of ‘parallel arm swings’ and the odd drag run). Somehow, I don’t think that was the ‘theatre dance’ that Drew McOnie had envisioned when he talked about how he wants to see “just how far musical theatre choreography can go” in his press release for The McOnie Company last year. But, it got me thinking (he’s a clever one for provoking excessive thought that McOnie). Why is that a phrase that I haven’t seen outside childhood dance exams? Those two words should be able to marry together – they both seemingly rely on the other for their shared success – but you never see them combined.

In fact, after Drew brought it to my attention, I realised that most theatres/arts venues direct you to search separate ‘theatre’ and ‘dance’ productions. No wonder there is a gap that needs to be bridged – before you even know what you want to see you’re encouraged to choose one or the other. If we exclude the wide variety of styles for a moment and just think about ‘musical theatre’ compared with ‘contemporary’, it’s apparent that there is a gap between the audiences and dancers alike. Intrigued by this, I did a bit of research on some perceptions of contemporary and musical theatre dance. This post’s title was inspired by the number of stereotypical responses I received regarding musical theatre – and is also fitting as Drew McOnie recently choreographed ‘Chicago’ at Leicester Curve.  I asked (I shall deem them) ‘normal’ people who don’t dance, and are potential audience members, as well as dancers from both disciplines. Here’s a selection of responses:

WARNING: If you’re a proud musical theatre/contemporary dancer and are easily offended don’t read the next bit.

On contemporary:

“Choreographed movement that explores contemporary behaviours and situations, often in great depth”

“Rolling on the floor, weird music and basically becoming a contortionist”

“Like pop music dancing? There’s a type of dancing I like that might be contemporary – it’s kinda arty, like tells a story”

“Where Musical Theatre is music led, contemporary dance is movement led…”

“A fine art”

“Rejection, inversion, collaboration, innovation, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch”

“A bit like energetic mime”

On musical theatre: 

“Jazz hands, step ball changes and kicks”

“Musical Theatre dance has always appeared to me to be two dimensional and too happy, just not real. But having said that I roll around the floor for a living!”

“Jazz hands and kick lines”

“Musical theatre dance may differ drastically from one show and even number within it because it’s bound to the music it is set to”

“A bit jazz hands…but I don’t always think that’s a bad thing”

“Cheap and cheesy”

Untitled

Please don’t get offended by this either.

Both forms (of art – need I remind you?) took a pretty impressive bashing there. However, I also had some glorious responses which are exactly what I was hoping to hear: How the bridge is getting smaller, “styles are changing and more contemporary and commercial influences are coming in [to musical theatre]”, and how the difference is only due to “theatre economics [as] musical theatre is largely conservative”. One summarised my thoughts entirely though, saying that “[musical theatre] shouldn’t be a term, because it isn’t one genre…it should be any dance that tells the story”, because of course all theatre, at its core, exists to tell a story. Plays tell a story, musicals tell a story, ballets tell a story, operas tell a story and contemporary dances tell a story! There shouldn’t be a gap to be bridged as all these art forms share this common goal whilst trying to entertain (by showing off their jazz hands or technique of rolling on the floor). I don’t know about you, but I am comforted by these responses and some even warmed my heart. One in particular said: “I don’t think there is any difference in anything we all do. It’s just different interpretations, we are all entertainers and slaves to our dream”. As Elaine Stritch likes to say: I’ll drink to that!

Which brings me nicely back round to the work of The McOnie Company. Their latest production ‘Drunk’ is aiming to “sit directly in the middle between musical theatre and pure dance”¹ and bring together the two ends of the dance world and their respective audiences. You’ll have to go and see the piece for yourself to decide if the two can marry together. I most certainly think they can and if anyone is going make it happen, it’ll be Drew McOnie. So get down to the Bridewell Theatre between the 5th of February and the 1st of March to see what all the fuss is about. I look forward to checking back with my ‘normal’ people and dancers to see what they think of this new ‘theatre dance’ happy medium. And as The McOnie Company say: “get ready; it’s going to be “theatre dance under the influence”.

– Happy Drinking! (aka attending ‘Drunk’)

1380047_529845890432289_466563510_n

“Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it and the reaction will be passionate”

– Rebecca Ridout

¹Taken from the Evening Standard article by Lyndsey Winship – Read HERE

Advertisements

“…let the good times roll!” Thanks for that Steve, I will indeed let the good times roll.

It’s been 2014 for a while now and I’m only just getting ‘back in business’ as it were, having told my unproductive backside that I am my own ‘business’ and the industry (or, rather, my conscience) demands an improved work ethic. With actors everywhere returning from panto or other seasonal theatrics in the past few weeks I’ve had my social feed full of people’s toasts to productivity and their ‘bring on 2014’ attitudes. I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good public declaration of productivity but I will also dutifully confess that it’s often to guilt trip myself into actually achieving something rather that procrastinating in the stagiest corners of Youtube (I am currently ‘OBSESSED’ with this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or7mrEGAGXE and I spend a large amount of my time practicing it).

After the buzz of New Year died down, I felt I had to actually start some resolutions (“Well, I’ll properly start on Monday…”) so I did a few clichéd ‘New Year, New You’ things. I got myself a new little-black-book diary, bought the latest Rhonda Byrne book (which I then dropped in the bath –  I’m nailing life at the moment), stocked up on soup, cut my hair off, started learning the guitar and, best of all, I quit my job. Whilst it felt amazing to leave a job, dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on my hair care and be able to accompany myself in some rather soprano-ey pop song renditions, I realised that it’s really ‘New Year, Same You’  and there is nothing wrong with that.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr Seuss. There is always a Sondheim or Seuss quote to fit every situation. Fact.

Resolutions will, 9 times out of 10, leave you disappointed in the strength of your will-power, whether the ‘failure’ comes on day one, February 1st or even months down the line. I’m the kind of person that punishes themselves for days (or, in some cases, the rest of my days) for one slip up, so this year – even if it is a delayed reaction – I have resolved to do what makes me feel happy and not put unnecessary pressure on myself. To deny yourself a day on the sofa catching up on Sherlock, reading a book that (god forbid) isn’t about acting theory or even just catching up on some necessary beauty sleep is just no way to live! As addressed in a previous blog, you can’t always be leaping through the air on absolute form if you don’t have your down days to recoup.

However, last year I was given a piece of advice that has really helped me in feeling like I have made a step in my career (or at least not falling off the horse and staying there) on a daily basis. That advice was: Do three things a day that relate to the industry. Sounds simple doesn’t it? I’m pleased to tell you it genuinely is. Even if it’s the tiniest of tasks, you can tick off (mentally if you’re not a list person) your three things and feel better. It can be anything – googling the director of that TV show you loved last night, singing through some repertoire, updating a website, planning audition outfit combinations, looking up who wrote that song you loved and see what else they’ve written or even, my personal favourite, going to the theatre. The list is endless. The beauty of it is that you can be the judge of your productivity and soon it becomes second nature. I reach a stage in the day and think “better do my three things” and realise I already have surpassed that number and then I feel amazingly productive. You can always fit 3 little things around a gruelling work rota and you won’t feel yourself slipping away. This will soon be the case with me when I start my new job (yes, I have a new job, I’m not that exciting and impulsive after all) so I’m taking the next 9 days to cram in as many theatre visits as possible as my 3 things will have to reduce in size when I’m working a 40 hour week. And that’s okay!

As far as I’m concerned I’m back in business, merrily rolling along and I seem to have a pretty good thing going. (Can you tell I saw the transfer of Putting It Together yesterday? Nothing like a bit of Sondheim to put everything right in the world.) So I just wanted to put this out there to say Happy New Year to you all and if you’re falling into a mid-January slump, like me, that there’s no need to be hard on yourself. Roll with the punches and keep taking three little steps to get back on top. Happy seizing 2014.

My view on New Years Eve. Let the good times roll.

My view on New Years Eve. Let the good times roll.

“Now is the time to seize the day. Stare down the odds and seize the day. Minute by minute that’s how you win it, we will find a way. But let us seize the day”*

*With thanks to Sinead Wall for inspiring this lyric.

– Rebecca Ridout