Which is how the Guardian described our 2014 pilot of Wilton's Strike! Dance Festival. The Guardian also characterised the Festival as 'making a space for risk and play' and these are just two of the aims of our Second Wilton's Strike! Dance Festival in May.
'Helping dancers stand on their own two feet'
You may have spotted the blog post a few weeks ago inviting submissions from budding choreographers. Since then, we've had 103 submissions and the air has been thick with anticipation here this afternoon because the judges were shortlisting the six who will be commissioned to develop their work to performance standard ready for premier in front of a live audience here in the hall on 3-5 May as well as live-streamed worldwide by ArtStreaming TV.
Our judges squirrelled themselves away in a corner of the Mahogany Bar and were looking very unassuming but don't be fooled....
... because illustrious is the only way to describe our panel! Sitting with our very own Producer, Becky Ruffell, (left), you see Jonathan Goddard (centre) and Lee Smikle (right).
Jonathan will be familiar to many as Mark Bruce Company's Dracula and he would have taken the role of Immortal Man in The Odyssey had he not suffered a cruelly-timed and painful injury during the first preview. Those are his crutches you can see leaning against the wall behind him. Jonathan has worked with major British dance companies such as Rambert, Richard Alston and Scottish Dance Theatre. In 2007 He was the first contemporary dancer to be nominated in the dance category of the South Bank Show /Times Newspaper Breakthrough Award, in 2008 he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance and went on to become the first contemporary dancer to win the Critics Circle National Dance Award for Best Male Dancer. Jonathan also founded the Dancespinner education project - a tool which is now being used by over 200 UK schools to explore and create choreography.
Lee is a teacher, choreographer, mentor and artistic director who trained with Rambert and Swindon Dance. As a performer he was a core member of Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures & New Adventures companies and for many years toured internationally as dancer, teacher and rehearsal assistant with shows like Swan Lake, The Car Man and Nutcracker. He later helped set up and devise workshops and teacher training for the educational arm of the company, Re:Bourne where he is currently Resident Artist. In 2010 Lee founded Shoreditch Youth Dance to provide innovative and creative learning opportunities young people.
The person you can't see in the photo is Viviana Durante, who was unable to be here in person today but was very much a presence as a virtual judge, making her contribution remotely. Viviana became an overnight sensation when she was famously plucked from the corps de ballet by director Anthony Dowell to replace an injured Odette in mid-performance of Swan Lake, aged 20 and never having been coached in the role. At 21 she became the Royal Ballet’s youngest Principal Dancer. She has performed every classical role and danced as Principal and Guest Artist with leading companies the world over. She has won numerous awards and been the subject, along with fellow Principal Darcey Bussell, of a South Bank Show documentary.
How's that for a judging panel, folks?
Submissions were of a very high standard and represented more genres than 2014. Narrowing down the first shortlist of 15 to just six was not easy (we wish we could have taken every one of them through to performance) but our judges were pretty unanimous in their final choices. All we can reveal for now is that our chosen works include hip hop, pure contemporary and contemporary with a cabaret twist. And, of course, that we're EXCITED and CAN'T WAIT for everyone to see the final shows!
Becky has just finished calling the six shortlisted choreographers with the good news and the next seven weeks will see them and their dancers busy developing their work with mentoring from Jonathan and fellow members of New Movement Collective Joe Walkling and Malgorzata Dzierzon, plus rehearsal time and space here at Wilton's.
We have extended this second festival to include Youth Strike! for which a group of East London secondary school pupils will choreograph and perform their own work, led by Jo Meredith and Sean Bruno who created one of the pieces for 2014. This will be on the same theme as the main performances - memory - and will be the curtain raiser for the first night of this year’s festival.
We have also teamed up with Eastside Educational Trust, to enable another school group to film the development phase and rehearsals to create videos that will be used to introduce each work at the live performances. They will also work with ArtStreaming TV on the live streams, to give them live broadcast as well as film making experience.
Almost forgot to mention: to cap it all, tickets to see the live performances in May are free - what more could you ask? If last year is anything to go by, demand will be high, though, so do be sure to reserve your place when booking opens on 4th April.
We'll keep you posted in the run up to the big event. In the meantime, we'll leave you with some lovely images from the 2014 Strike! Festival...