David Tett Photography has comprehensive galleries of all the schools and guests who performed. Excellent coverage.
Introduction to Dance Proms – featuring the 2013 show
I’ve never been to Dance Proms at the Royal Albert Hall before. Which is amazing given it has a cast of over 400 dancers, has been running since 2011 and, as I discovered, is such an uplifting and feel-good affair.
Dance Proms is actually a celebration of dance and dance training in all its rich diversity: from ballet to tap, to hip hop, to ethnic dance, to ballroom, to contemporary dance, to Bollywood and all stations and types between. The strap-line is “Behind every great dancer is an inspirational teacher” and underpinning the event is the troika of IDTA (International Dance Teachers’ Association, ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing) and the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) – together effectively responsible for codifying and applying dance examination standards for hundreds of thousands of students worldwide. They are actually a wonderful British success story. Playing its part too is The Royal Albert Hall who gift the venue – hard to think of a better place to show off so many young dancers. And last but not least to be thanked is Christopher Nourse, who has masterminded getting Dance Proms going these last 4 years and is now standing down. Bravo to him: it must have been a Herculean task to manage.
The night itself is made of short routines by schools and academies from across the UK and, this year as last, three from abroad. Also scattered through the evening were 5 guest acts, from Portugal’s foot-stamping Companhia de Dança do Algarve to Royal Ballet dancers Akane Takada and Alexander Campbell in the Don Quixote pas de deux. While the guests represented technical excellence the 24 school dances represented the wonderful breadth and levels of accomplishment reached by young people from 5-21 – from those running on huge amounts of exuberance, pure adrenaline, and not always so much else, to the seriously dance-able, some of whom will become professionals. The common bond was unbounded enthusiasm to let rip and do something different in young life. That and fighting like hell to be selected for the event in the first place.
I can’t possibly tell you about all who appeared but in a sea of excitement two schools caught my eye particularly for illustrating the breadth of dance these days:
The Bell Theatre & Dance Co. preparing for Dance Proms, London 2014
The Bell Theatre and Dance Co is a small school based in Tenerife. They teach ballet, tap, modern etc but none of us expected to see them do a full-on Tahitian hula routine in glorious grass skirts plus proper grass hand tassells – rather like pom poms but much more expressive. You can do whatever you want in dance, wherever you want it, was the message.
Aberdeen-based Danscentre unusually had 2 dances featured in the show – a hip hop number (Bad Education) for 30 boys of various ages (8 to 17) and mixed standards but all with attitude in abundance. 10-20 years ago there wouldn’t have been classes like this at all – how rapidly dance ecology is evolving. The other Danscentre piece was a polar opposite in temperament with probably the most accomplished mix of choreography (Karen Berry) and student dancing of the night. Auld Lang Syne is a tribute to Robbie Burns and reminded me of a cross between David Bintley’s Flowers of the Forest (whose Scottish airs Birmingham Royal Ballet have just been touring) and a piece by Christopher Bruce full of nostalgia, young love and friendship. The 15 contemporary dance students were well polished and I hope some will go on to further training and professional companies.
Auld Lang Syne by Aberdeen’s Danscentre
Of the guests, all admirable in different ways, I have to say to say that it was Latin Ballroom dancers Oliver Beardmore and Lydia Hall (aged 14 and 12 respectively) who especially stupefied us all with their slick, pint-sized, perfection. But the whole event was a buzz and I’m sure all of the 420 young performers went home energised to do even better, better for themselves, better than everybody else next year and better for their public.
Compèring the night was Strictly dancer Ian Waite (good job), who along with many Patrons, from Darcey Bussell to a loudly-cheering Wayne Sleep, take such great interest in supporting the next generation of dancers. Good do, well done I say. And hope for all our dance futures.
An audience view of the Dance Proms 2014 finale