10 from 10
David Jays, Dance Gazette editor, selects some favourite feature articles – one from each year of the past decade.
At this strange, scary moment, it has been a bit of a haven, burrowing into back issues of Dance Gazette – even if selecting just one article from each of the past 10 years has been difficult. We’ve interviewed so many extraordinary individuals, reported from so many countries, explored such a range of subjects. At this time when so many of us are self-isolating, it’s especially sustaining to remind myself of the community of brilliant colleagues and collaborators we’ve developed over the years – Team Gazette, as I think of them. It’s a team that includes our readers too – a magazine doesn’t truly exist until it’s read, enjoyed and argued over. It has been a real pleasure to connect with our community through the pages of Dance Gazette – thank you for being with us.
When swans go bad
Natalie Portman’s crazed portrait glared from the cover as we launched a new design for Dance Gazette with a bang. Black Swan heading towards Oscar glory, and even if it wasn’t Swan Lake as we knew it, it’s always fun to see what happens when classical ballet hits the full glare of popular culture. I met Portman and her co-stars, while David Leventhal interviewed Benjamin Millepied, who co-choreographed the film, married Portman and has since become a major player in international ballet.
Few dancers become a Nureyev or Osipova, and we love to focus on the full range of dance careers. Vera Rule is our resident fashion expert, but here she slips behind the scenes for a sweetly evocative portrait of life in the corps de ballet and the chorus of a West End musical. Guess which ones were reading Fifty Shades of Grey? Vera is especially lovely on decorous ballet dressing rooms: ‘I’ve been in rowdier nunneries.’
10 myths about creativity
Audrey Niffenegger is the scintillating novelist best known for The Time Traveller’s Wife and Raven Girl. I’m still amazed she sat in my flat, eating apple cake and wittily debunking received ideas about imagination for our special issue on creativity. Does inspiration strike like lightning? Must you be a mad, drunk genius to create magic? Nah, mate. Imagination shone through Helen Musselwhite’s dazzling paper sculptures, which won the main prize in the prestigious V&A Illustration Award.
Oh, this was fun. Ballet is often derided as expensive and elitist – so we decided to compare it to other arts and entertainments. We matched it against events including pop concerts, football matches and a trip to the cinema to see how it fared for expense, value for money, glamour – and even the chance to find love. The artist Christian Tate and researcher Lucy Marshall produced an eye-catching infographic. And how did ballet do? Not badly at all…
The cover star for our ‘Gamechangers’ issue was Charles Riley, aka Lil Buck. The uncannily liquid dancer’s early talent was spotted by an RAD teacher, and he has since brought Memphis jookin’ to international attention. How did he get his name? ‘I was this little kid doing all these crazy explosive moves,’ he says, ‘so they called me Lil Buck.’ Zoobs, one of our favourite photographers, took him to Manhattan’s meat district and shot him bouncing and gliding on the rooftop.
Sally Howard’s moving investigation into the challenges faced by transgender dancers and ballet students uncovered upsetting stories of classes closed, doors slammed. But Sophie Rebecca told us about the RAD teacher whose classes helped her become the person she always dreamed of being. Her story was picked up by newspapers and broadcasters – and Sophie Rebecca has used her heightened profile to promote both trans dancers and adult ballet. I was so proud of this piece.
You must read this jaw-dropping story. Deirdre Kelly interviews an incredible RAD member: Barbara Land, an anthropologist and dance teacher who brings RAD ballet to the remote heart of the Amazon. She studies shamans and mounts The Nutcracker, while working to help some very challenged communities, ‘the poorest of the poor.’ And conditions in the rainforest are tricky. ‘You cannot be a wuss,’ she says. ‘There’s a lot of animals that would rip your throat out.’
24-hour dance city
Everywhere the Genée (now Fonteyn) International Ballet Competition goes, it interacts with its host city. It fitted happily into Hong Kong, a city that never sleeps. We sent the writer Holmes Chan and photographer Vivek Prakash to classes, theatres and street markets for their wonderfully rich picture of Hong Kong dancing from day into night. It’s especially poignant given the health and political crises that have since engulfed the city.
An especially elegant special issue celebrated the centenary of Margot Fonteyn, the RAD’s beloved president and perhaps the iconic ballerina of the 20th century. Anna Winter tenderly traced her impact on British and international ballet, and her extraordinary effect on audiences. My favourite fact? The young Margot (still known as Peggy Hookham) had a pet chipmunk.
Bodies don’t lie
We are marking the RAD’s centenary with a series of guest editors for Dance Gazette. First up was the actor and activist Noma Dumezweni, who threw herself into the world of dance with life-enhancing vim. She was fascinated to see the different ways in which actors and dancers work, and for this piece sits in on an Alvin Ailey company rehearsal, to see a new work take shape. It’s a truly lovely piece, reminding us of the power of the body in movement.