Are you lacking passion in your life? If so, the Flamenco Festival at Sadler’s Wells starts next week, so if you haven’t got your tickets yet, get cracking!
I was lucky enough to do a Q&A with Sara Baras for the Sadler’s Wells blog Londondance.com. Sara, renowned for bringing a vibrant, contemporary, style-conscious edge to the passion and drama of traditional flamenco, will be opening the festival this Saturday. It’s sure to be an incredible treat.
So to get your taste buds going here’s the Q&A and a few flamenco inspired fashion pics…
Sara, what do you love about flamenco?
I love the freedom of flamenco dance. It has a wide language without having to forget your roots.
..and how do you think your style of dancing has changed over the years?
I haven’t stopped learning in all that time – and I still do, of course! It’s thanks to the characters, choreographers, theatres, shows and projects that keep the experience alive.
Flamenco is different to other forms of dancing in that maturity is celebrated and revered. That must be a wonderful feeling?
Yes, you feel like you’re growing. Your dance becomes more mature, with more sense of purpose and with more artistic weight. You have a lot more fun!
Do you ever feel that performing in such large venues rather than tableos affects the intimacy of the performance?
No, I don’t think so. I think flamenco can be adapted to any space.
And what about spontaneity and innovation, which are considered so essential to flamenco? Do you feel that it’s difficult to convey such attributes in a well-rehearsed production?
With flamenco there’s a place for everything. Improvisation comes into play when you let yourself go, not only with your dancing but also when you’re singing or playing the guitar.
How do you put together a production? There are so many threads – costumes, storyline, music and choreography – how do you tie it all in together?
The first thing is to research – to read, to travel and to dream about it. The next step is to create a script illustrating the storyline, the message, style and the texture etc. Once you’ve put together a good team it comes down to just hours of hard work and rehearsing!
In previous productions you’ve drawn inspiration from historic Spanish females. Does La Pepa draw on the same influences?
Flamenco is a very rich art form. It gives you the freedom to perform any type of character. In La Pepa the opinions of the citizens are represented by the main female character.
So what is La Pepa about?
It’s about Cadiz, which is my hometown. The name refers to the Spanish Constitution of Cadiz, regarded as Spain’s first constitution. It was signed on 19 March, which in Spain is Saint Joseph’s Day or La Pepa (a nickname for Josephine).
The show recreates scenes from the 1800s until the present day, using the constitutional monument in the Plaza de España as the focal point. It commemorates the horror of the war, the importance of a historical constitution – hope, happiness, life and freedom.
I know your a great lover of fashion, how important are costumes in the flamenco experience and at what stage do you start thinking about what form they should take?
Each person has a specific order in which they like to work. Sometimes a feeling can come right at the start of a new piece of work. In my case, the first costume ideas come from the choreography, then the music, the scenography and the lighting. For me it is very important to tie these together, it helps you to dream, and to make the audience dream!!
Thank you Sara
The Showgirl Magazine
So here she is. My major project. ‘The Showgirl’ magazine which I’ve been working on for the last month. Now you know why I’ve been so quiet.
If you click on the image it will take you to the magazine! I hope you like it.
Big thank you to Amanda, Annia, Linda, James, Kevin, Lee, Miranda and Sarah for the photoshoot. Boy do I need a drink! Cxx
Alberta’s Ballet Shoes
Words really aren’t necessary for this. Other than love..want…now…..
I’m sure I’m not alone!
For brightly coloured, embroidered versions have a look at Style.Com
Polesque at Push Studios
So here they are. The pole shots as promised.
…..and yes there is an element of the Sex & the City episode, where Samantha gets “those” photographs taken – a record of what I could do and where things were before they start going south!
But who knows maybe I’ll hit my forties and develop the abs to do one of those horizontal pole holds, here’s hoping!
The Pushettes Go Forever Crazy at Crazy Horse
Do you remember The PUSHETTES? The burlesque/cabaret troupe I dance with for Push Studios?
Well, for a little inspiration we thought we’d check out the créme de la créme of seduction at the exotic cabaret Forever Crazy, courtesy of the Crazy Horse Club in Paris.
I can’t tell you how excited I was about seeing this show. You might have read a bit about it in the Time’s Style magazine.
All the girls have to have certain measurements and I mean precise measurements – height of shoulders, height of buttocks, inside leg, position of nipple (sunny side up apparently) – the list goes on. Really, can you possibly find such a “cloned” dance troupe?
Oh yes you can!
And once the show started I began to realise why such measurements have to be so precise. Take a look below:
You really wouldn’t want to be the odd one out here, would you?
The show is a kind of saucy 80′s Flashdance, with a Salvador Dali-esque backdrop (note the Mae West sofa) and a very french electronic soundtrack. Totally hypnotic!
It wasn’t without humor either, at various points in the show, a blonde popped out tottering in the highest Louboutins I’ve ever seen, mouthing the words to Bisou Bisou, kissing cards and throwing them into the audience. So random you just had to laugh.
And that’s the beauty of it. It’s glossy and it’s highly sexy, the dancing is incredible – just what you would expect from an exotic Parisian cabaret. But the really clever thing is the surreal atmosphere created through the lighting, costumes and themes. It just has to be seen to be believed.
And see you can, you lucky people, because there is a great YouTube video, which features Dita Von Teese (showering, would you believe??).
I would have loved to have seen this live:
So if your looking for something completely different to lighten up your life, I highly recommend this one – just watch out for the hoover.
Not one of the acts you understand, just that the people in the foyer like to hoover while you’re entering the building, while you’re watching the performance, while you’re enjoying your drink at the bar and until the last person leaves. The reason we know this is because it was peeing it down all evening, so we were forced to stay at the venue until our cab came….in the company of the hoover! Irritating, just a tad.
I suppose I should also add that one of the purposes of the trip was to pick up a few tips for the next PUSHETTE performance (at Xmas…watch this space) but I’m not sure East Dulwich is quite ready for it, come to think of it, unless Kevin and Amanda are offering to run a bootcamp for the next couple of months, neither am I!
P.s. Don’t get drunk young men to take your only group photo!
Vintage Ballet Gets Edgy Part 2
Continuing on from Vintage Ballet Part 1, here are some more gorgeous images.
I don’t know about you but these seem much more West Side Story than Swan Lake. I love the first image – she looks such a cool cat.
Nothing left to say other than loving those zebra pants!
(All images by Serge Lido, last image by Baron)
Vintage Ballet by Serge Lido Part 1
At the weekend I was extremely fortunate to have been given these exquisite vintage ballet books from the 1950’s. Basically two of my greatest passions rolled into one – vintage and dance.
Serge Lido was born in Moscow and became one of the greatest photographers of dance in the twentieth century. Based in Paris he and his wife Irene Lidova travelled Europe creating a magnificent record of contemporary and classical ballet.
Since there are so many images to choose from I think it would be rather rude to do just one post. So watch out for more:
I don’t know about you but the dancers don’t seem to display the fragility that modern day dancers do. Now is that because of the way they’ve been photographed, or because the style at the time leant towards a fuller figure or just a different attitude in dance itself?
I’d be interested to know your thoughts?
Personally, I find it rather refreshing. My favourites are the feathered lady in the third picture and the last one. She looks like my mum in her youth.
Thank you for the books Miranda!
All photographs by Serge Lido 1951.
Rocking The Rivoli
Do you remember me talking about an “event” I was working on, but I was waiting for the pictures? Well finally I’m able to share them with you.
So, imagine the scene – the Rivoli Ballroom. Built in 1913 as a picture palace, it now stands as one of the last remaining ballrooms in London.
With original chinese lanterns, flock wallpaper, chandeliers and glitter balls, this is one cool venue.
So cool, in fact, that the line up of gigs goes something like this:
The Kings of Leon
Florence and the Machine
The Heinenken advert.
The White Stripes
and unarguably the most talented of all……
“Who?” – I hear you say – the very fabulous dance troupe from Push Studios, of course.
Yes, we actually got the chance to burlesque and cabaret the night away, at this incredible venue, in aid of Ahoy.
What can I tell you? Performing in a venue like the Rivoli is unbelievable. We got ready in “real” dressing up rooms, with light bulbs round the mirrors (last time it was a headmaster’s office – so you can imagine our delight!)
And walking out into that huge room, well, my mind went blank and my heart started thumping.
However, the Pushettes are never fazed, we started up-town, with Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and finished down-town, with a little help from Lady Marmalade.
It was amazing fun.
The actual performance is one thing, but without doubt the camaraderie that goes on, before and during, is always the best bit. So thank you Amanda, Linda, Annia and Ijy for another unforgettable evening!
Not sure we’ll be able to beat this venue next time?
Moulin Rouge perhaps?
(PUSH photographs by James Eppy)
I’ve been transfixed by Brigitte Bardot since I was 16.
I watched And God Created Woman, and that was it, I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
It’s a film I can go back to, time and time again, and never tire of it – perhaps because, since having read her biography, there seem to be more than just a few similarities between Brigitte and the character she plays, Juliette.
There’s no glitz in the film, no big dresses, just provincial life and raw Bardot. Brigitte spends most of the film sauntering around bare foot, side by side with her bicycle in figure hugging dresses or lounging around wrapped in a barely-there bed sheet.
The film depicts an orphan, clearly in touch with her womanly attributes, who puts two fingers up to social etiquette. Juliette wants to be loved, but love gets confused with passion and passion nearly destroys her.
Funny then, that Roger Vadim, often described as the man who invented Bardot, later remarked “Passion was a drug to her. And as with any drug, she would be enslaved with it all her life”.
The young Bardot met Vadim at the age of fifteen.
She was already a great beauty and had done several covers for Elle magazine:
They fell madly in love and at the tender age of 18 Brigitte married Vadim and entered a world way beyond her expectations:
“It’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Brigitte was living with her rabbit on a farm in the middle of nowhere, going to school every day, and suddenly she was swept up by a tornado and taken somewhere else.
She had no idea where she was going or what would happen. Except in her case it wasn’t a tornado, she was swept up by love”. (Vadim)
Brigitte made 40 films.
As Vanity Fair puts it “On the screen the world discovered a young woman with a swan’s neck, a luscious figure, and an ostentatious bouffant who combined youth, sex, flirtatiousness, insolence, and grace, all wrapped up in a bewildering nonchalance – a heady mix.”
To cut a very long story short, throughout this time Brigitte had a very complicated life. She had many lovers and many affairs and was viewed by some as a (revolutionary) woman driven by her own sexual appetite.
She also had a child and, feeling still very much the child herself and incapable of caring for a baby, allowed the father, Jacques Charrier to bring him up. Brigitte also made an attempt to commit suicide at the age of twenty-six.
Eventually Brigitte turned her back on the movie industry.
Brigitte never came to terms with her on-screen persona. “The other day I came across And God Created Woman on TV, which I haven’t seen in ages. I told myself that that girl wasn’t bad. But it was like it was someone other than me. I have better things to do than study myself on a screen.”
Perhaps her inability to recognize herself on screen came down to the fact that she never wanted to be an actress.
Vadim himself stated “She had only one real passion and that was dance. People sometimes confuse being a dancer and being an actress and think it’s the same thing. It’s not at all.
For her, dance was a real passion. She had a talent for it and she worked at it. Which she never did as an actress.
It was entirely due to sentimental reasons …. out of love – the most grotesque and, at the same time, beautiful love possible – that she gave up her career as a dancer, abandoned any hope of ever becoming a prima ballerina with an opera company, to follow the man she loved into the movies.”
“For me, the cinema is linked to such confusion in my life that I never wish to hear about it again.”
What her life is all about now, she says, is the love she sees in the eyes of her dogs and the purring of her cats and the soft muzzle of the mare she saved from the knackers yard. It is, she says, about having found a love that lasts.
It is perhaps surprising that Brigitte remained good friends with Vadim, her ultimate confidante, until much later in life. Perhaps as she found something real, a direction in life, she realised the extent of his influence at such a young age. She said of late:
“He taught me everything. He made me out to be free with my love. It’s part of the legend he built up around me. It’s what he has made the public think.” (Vanity Fair)
Unsurprisingly Vadim (who died in 2000) did not understand the new Bardot:
“She’s another person. She’s two completely different people. She’s not the woman-child I knew, who was drunk with life, a bit of an anarchist, who didn’t care about material things, who mocked anything and everything official and, above all, who walked around with that air of complete indifference.”
I suspect Vadim was not being entirely complimentary, but I say, at long last. Whilst I may not agree with some of Brigitte’s politics, I am glad that she had the opportunity to be the woman she wanted to be and put her passion into something proactive rather than destructive.
“Good thing I stopped, because what happened to Marilyn Monroe and Romy Schneider would have happened to me”. (Vanity Fair)
All images from Brigitte Bardot, Ghislain Dussart, Raymond Boyer, Isabelle Salmon.
All quotes (unless stated) from Bardot – Two Lives by Jeffrey Robinson
“Gonna rouge my knees and roll my stockings down……and all that jazz”.
Those words are ringing in my ears and probably will be for a few weeks!
Needless to say it was fabulous and fun and a little nerve-wracking.
Although I knew a little about Bob Fosse, the great choreographer and director of such shows as Chicago, Cabaret and All that Jazz, I certainly didn’t appreciate the work that went into creating such a precise manner of dancing.
Can I just say, I don’t think my thighs will be the same – keeping in that low plie position, with one leg slightly higher, is an absolute killer.
As you probably know, Fosse developed a type of jazz dance which was incredibly distinctive, – it was stylized with a kind of haughty sexiness.
Notable moves included the use of turned-in knees, sideways shuffling, rolled shoulders, and of course the obligatory jazz hands.
Fred Astaire was his inspiration and like him, used props such as bowler hats, canes and chairs.
Fosse used these to great effect in Cabaret with Liza Minelli:
Liza said, of her character, at the time:
“When I told Daddy (Vincente Minelli) I was doing Cabaret, he asked, “What are you going to look like?” I got a blank expression on my face and said “I don’t know. Sally looks like a kook, but a kook gets boring unless she’s specific. What should I look like? Daddy told me I had to look special, but also like me.
Three days later, I walked into Daddy’s room and on his bed were books and pictures. I had thought there was only that incredible sophisticated Dietrich look in the thirties , but then Daddy and I discussed Louise Brooks (the famous twenties actress who wore her hair like a pixie) and who, like Sally Bowles, was a curious enigma. He said “Yes, she will give you the effect you want”.
Fosse went on to produce the fantasy autobiographical film All That Jazz. The film was loosely based on a manic period where Fosse was editing his film, Lenny, whilst staging the broadway musical Chicago.
Again the black stylized look took over. (Is that really Roy Scheider of Jaw’s fame?)
Only this time he also wanted the dancer’s to wear leotards echoing the veins in the body.
Albert Wolsky, the costume designer said of Fosse:
” Fosse was a mystery and was intense. Not a lot of laughs on the set. But there was something about the material that told me what to do, and he was never that specific unless he had an image of something.
A director doesn’t have to tell me blue, pink, green dress. It’s the other things – I need to know why a director likes the material, what it means to him.”
Wolsky said of the costumes:
“Fosse decided that he wanted to see the veins on the dancers. I quickly had the veins painted on to the leotards, only to see the paint start bleeding once the dancer began to perspire. To solve the problem I decided to have all the veins appliqued on to the fabric. That was a much better way of solving it and it gave depth and texture to the effect. Learning from one’s mistake is part of moviemaking.”
When Fosse died Ann Reinking ( pictured above) carried on the Fosse style – choreographing Chicago as recently as last November.
Last but not least, Fosse will be remembered particularly by those not old enough to experience the original, through Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video. Beyonce watched Fosse’s choreography for the 1969 Mexican Breakfast and turned it into her own.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Beyonce admitted:
” I saw a video [Mexican Breakfast] on YouTube. [The dancers] had a plain background and it was shot on the crane; it was 360 degrees, they could move around. And I said, ‘This is genius.’ We kept a lot of the Fosse choreography and added the down-south thing — it’s called J-Setting, where one person does something and the next person follows. So it was a strange mixture … It’s like the most urban choreography, mixed with Fosse — very modern and very vintage.”
Plagerism some might say – personally if it ain’t broke why fix it?
Beyonce cleverly realised the magic, admitted her source and added her own little bit of sass.
Quite brilliant I would say!
All images and quotes (unless specified) taken from Dressed, A Century of of Hollywood Costume Design by Deborah Nadoolman Landis
A Touch of Tango
So we went to our Argentine Tango workshop at PUSH.
Wow, this dance is so much more complicated than I thought it was going to be. Watching it, you think it’s just going to be a bit of walking and flicking of the feet, but boy the intricacies and detail that goes into it, is way above and beyond any other kind of dancing I have done before.
To see it done at its absolute best (without a trip to Buenos Aires) take a look at the Sadler’s Wells production of Tanguera.
Click on the picture and it will take you to a great clip:
I was lucky enough to see it last year and it was incredible.
There is a scene at the end when all the ladies of the night dance in the Salon. They are all dressed in these corset/leotards with a flapper fringe around the cut of the leg – in murky greys, greens and blue, and obligatory fishnets.
The effect is stunning.
From the workshop, I’ve learnt a little bit about the “etiquette” of Tango, which is fascinating in itself.
Argentine Tango is a bit like a language and there is a whole heap of sexual politics going on. The lead (which in traditional settings would be the man) is the one who initiates the moves, not through his feet but through the incline of his torso.
The follower (woman) is at the mercy of the lead who dictates the pace, and the style of the dance. As demonstrated very nicely by Jessica Biel and Colin Firth in Easy Virtue:
Initially I found this very hard, because it does take considerable effort to let someone else take control. I also found myself thinking, hang on, isn’t this just slightly chauvinist?
But, actually it isn’t a subservient dance. It isn’t a dance designed for the man to control the woman, it’s actually a dance designed to exaggerate the beauty of the woman.
It’s almost the woman saying – you set the scene and I will show everyone how fantastic I am and how lucky you are to be dancing with me.
In Frida, you get double your money with Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd both leaving very little to the imagination!
The slower the tango, the more opportunity the man gives the woman to add her own decorations, i.e. those little flicks of the feet.
Now that sounds more like it!
So I’m completely hooked. If you’re a South Londoner, PUSH are doing a 6 week beginner’s course, which will of course be superb (and you don’t necessarily need to bring your man – as demonstrated by Salma).
So for the hot blooded latin-americans in us all – here are this week’s inspired buys – tango style!
Oribe Impermeable Anti-Humidity Spray £37, Space NK, Passion Nail Varnish £11, Leighton Denny, Tabitha Simmons Chandelier Shoes £1,415, Seamed Stockings £25, Agent Provocateur, La Revancha de Tango, Gotan Project £6.49, Amazon, One Vintage Dress £1,745, Netaporter.
The Lady is a Tramp
Or, for this post, more aptly worded: The Tramp is a Lady.
I have been rather preoccupied this week. My beginner’s pole course, at PUSH, started on Tuesday and I have been rehearsing routines and sourcing music to start teaching.
Did it take my mind away from my style and vintage inspiration – hell no – in fact I have spent a week on a dance-inspired adventure looking for a stylish sexiness, which I thought I would share with you.
I started this adventure looking for “music to pole dance to” on Google. Yes, not something I would advise and not for the faint-hearted. Songs suggested were ..I want to kill you like they do in the movies, and Vibrate.(I’ll leave it there!)…….not quite what I had in mind..and not my style at all.
What was I aiming for? Well, let me take you back to Marilyn Monroe, in Let’s Make Love. There’s sliding down the pole, lots of leg and lots of hip action but its beatnik, sexy and most of all stylish.
After all this is the girl that said “you have to walk like it makes you tingle”.
Or it can be crazy sexy. Like Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman, doing the cha-cha-cha like a woman possessed. You can’t beat barefoot Brigitte in a simple leotard and mid-length split skirt. Stylish, sexy and yes, very dangerous!
If we take it back even further we discover the Ziegfield Follie girls. The Ziegfield Follies was the Broadway equivalent of the Folies Bergeres. It provided New York with a high class vaudeville act between 1907 – 1931. The girls were dressed by top designers, like Erte, and many went on to be famous film stars like Barbara Stanwyck and Louise Brooks.
Diana Vreeland recollects the Folies in her memoirs, Allure: “I remember his girls so vividly. Dolores was the greatest of them – a totally Gothic English beauty. She was very highly paid just to walk across the stage..and the whole place would go to pieces. It was a good walk, I can tell you – it had such fluidity and grace.
Everything I know about walking comes from watching Ziegfield’s girls. I think I learned more from the Ziegfield Folies than from almost anything else I’ve seen…that and the coronation of George V. …Ah splendeur! It’s what we miss.”
Miss Vreeland, I agree, and perhaps that is why Burlesque has had such a revival. A return to glamour and what I call stylish sexiness. My only slight issue with Burlesque is the fire eating and acrobatics that sometimes accompanies it. Fascinating, yes, and certainly skillful but glamorous and sassy? I’m not sure?
Dita does it perfectly, of course. Whether that be swimming in a huge champagne glass, riding a rodeo horse or in these exquiste Cointreau adverts:
In fact, my fellow colleagues and I had this particular conundrum at PUSH. We were to perform a series of Burlesque routines for a birthday party and there was the “style” debate staring us in the face – how to do elegant, stylish sexiness? In particular, how to do stylish sexy for the over 35s, some of us mothers and, no doubt, in the presence of fellow schoolgate faces? (Although I have just found out that Dita Von Teese is 39, which makes me feel a lot better – boy doesn’t she look great?)
I suppose the answer, for us, was a sort of cheeky “Pushette” cabaret – which I believe we achieved (and if you were there and don’t agree, keep your opinion to yourself and leave me in denial!) We had great fun and if you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend it!
Ultimately my little research project left me in no doubt as to my soundtrack – retro and glamorous, here is a small selection:
So let’s inject a little vintage glamour and “splendeur” to pole dancing; rediscover “the lady”, and if your in any doubt that it can’t be done, take a look at Jenyne Butterfly and her Massive Attack routine – you can’t deny the elegance and the art in this display? Enjoy….
*Pictures of Follies Ziegfield courtesy of Retronaut