Archives for posts with tag: The McOnie Company

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”

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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’)

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“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

Yet again, please don’t be misled by the title of this week’s blog post. It is not going to be a gushing post about how much I love dancing (or ‘Wicked’), it was merely inspired by it. I do hope that by the end of the post you’ll agree with me that it was an inspired choice of lyric (thank you Schwartz). Just a short one this week…

On Monday I went to a class at The Place as it was being taught by Drew McOnie. 

ASIDE: I have to do a bit more than the usual ‘*’ here because it has been an exciting week for Mr McOnie and I think you should all know about it. He has launched ‘The McOnie Company’ and you should definitely keep an eye on it/them (aka FOLLOW or LIKE). As ‘The Stage’ reported, they are exploring “just how far musical theatre choreography can go” and Mambo McOnie is definitely one to watch. I’ll be at the Bridewell in February. See you there. 

Back to class…

This week’s post is not to profess about how important it is to go to class or how much I love dancing – both of which are very true. It is about an idea that Drew put into my head on Monday evening. It struck me then as brilliant and has since struck me as rather profound (whilst staring out of a train window at the pouring rain – I swear my life is one big cliché at the moment). Drew, in all his wisdom, spoke about how dancing these days is just seen as photographs – the images you see on the front of the ‘Dancing Times’ or on advertisements. When you think of dance you conjure images of incredible still moments (eg. the classic ’tilt’ that makes your hamstrings want to cry) and that, quite simply, isn’t dance. Dance is the beautiful way in which you get between one image and the next – that is dance. You don’t have to be the penché pro you imagine, you just have to give it some on the ‘in between’, to dance beautifully. Snap back to class and I then tried to ooze every last ounce of passion out of a pas de bourrée. Man, did it feel good. 

Two days later it struck me that Drew’s idea could be applied to my life (or, indeed, anyone’s). Your life can be measured in a series of still images and in this profession, more specifically, production stills! Your career to the outside world is seen and can be measured through a picture of you in a production and the next one that follows, and the next etc etc… (“Etcetera. Etcetera. That’s a very pretty name…Etcetera” Sorry. I couldn’t resist.) Getting a job is all that is focused upon and it’s all we feel we have to show for ourselves. No one gets to see the beautiful way that you got (or are still trying to get) between the two. Ultimately, the ‘in between’ stage in this industry is how you will spend the majority of your working life and you have nothing to show for the hard work that goes on. Sometimes, like a pas de bourrée or a combination of dance steps, the ‘in between’ can be messy but if you give it everything you have then it should be incredible to watch. Passion is what separates good dancing from great dancing – so why not apply it to every aspect of our day-to-day lives? 

Blimey, she’s gone a bit deep this week. What can I say? I think it’s the change in the weather. All I want to do is sit inside, wrap up in a blanket and pensively watch the rain. It’s just a little food for thought. Even if you’ve got a load of auditions, no auditions, drama school applications, classes on top of coursework or juggled commitments, and consequently straying priorities, do not worry. Just use your plié and get everything possible out of what you’re currently focusing on – that is dance and that is life. The still images, which are just captured highlights, will be breathtaking as a direct result of what goes on ‘in between’ (much like the shots of The McOnie Company). 

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Dancer: Jaslyn Reader
Photo: Pawel Piotr Niemczyk
Styling: Imogen Loveday-Brown

 

I think Jaslyn (pictured above) wouldn’t mind me saying* that in her downtime she likes to wear tracksuit bottoms with one leg pulled up to the top of her thigh and one down as normal – she also teaches an incredible dance class and makes a mean coffee. What I’m trying to say (at Jaslyn’s expense via the internet) is that she is human and doesn’t fly through the air looking fierce 24/7. Jaslyn gives passion to her ‘in between’ and she was beautiful in whatever she was doing before that photograph was taken and will be beautiful in whatever she does before the next. Give the ‘in between’ your everything and make it something to behold – even if it’s for your eyes only. 

*I hereby give Jaslyn Reader permission to humiliate me on the internet if this is not okay. 

Happy chewing over that!

“And the strange thing: your life could end up changing while you’re dancing through”

– Rebecca Ridout