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Isle Of Dogs: How Ballet Nights is set to return for its first east London show in 2024

Gala platform for ballet and contemporary dance is set for February dates at Lanterns Studio Theatre

Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke of The Royal Ballet will perform

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“Our story continues” is the strapline for the latest evening of dance to come to Lanterns Studio Theatre on the Isle Of Dogs.

Building on three editions at the east London venue, which took place between September and November last year, Ballet Nights is set to return for a fourth iteration over two nights on February 23 and 24, 2024.

Having already set a predecent for drawing some of the best dancers in the world to the Island, the latest programme continues in similar vein with performers from the English National Ballet and Studio Wayne McGregor on the bill. 

But perhaps chief among the attractions will be Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke, both pincipal dancers at The Royal Ballet.

The pair will perform twice on each of the gala-style evenings, presenting Spring Waters Pas De Deux to cap off a packed first half and Balcony Pas De Deux from Romeo And Juliet to round off the evening. 

“It’s the format that makes the Ballet Nights concept special,” said Jamiel Devernay-Laurence, the shows’ artistic director and producer.

“For audiences who are unfamiliar with dance, it’s a really good way to get a taste of the very best things that are going on right now.

“For artists like Yasmine and Reece – who both dance together a lot at The Royal Ballet – to be coming to Docklands is a big deal.

“Audiences can expect many virtuosic lifts, throws and catches in their first performance before they take on the memorable and iconic choreography of Sir Kenneth MacMillan in the second.

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence will once again host the evening

“We listen to our audiences and with feedback that they wanted to see more of our headliners, I wanted to experiment with a snappy performance at the end of act one before the big piece at the end the night. 

“There is nothing more meaningful and romantic than the Balcony Pas De Deux – it’s exactly what people are ready for.”

Audiences will see a total of 12 performances, split into two halves over a period of two hours on each of the two forthcoming nights at Lanterns. 

These include two new works performed by resident pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel, who will also join Felicity Chadwick for 324a, set to music by JS Bach. 

“She was a new discovery in our September show,” said Jamiel.

“Here she returns for people to really experience what she can do, dancing the choreography of Joshua Junker from The Royal Ballet.”

The shows at Lanterns differ significantly from most other presentations of ballet.

Audiences sit on a level with the dancers and performances take place right in front of the spectators. 

Ballet Nights’ programmes feature classical styles alongside contemporary pieces offering ticket holders the chance to experience a wide range of movement and music on a single evening.

But the brand goes beyond the physical performances.

“For many startups in dance and other genres of the arts, there’s often a launch, but for things to continue in perpetuity is rarer,” said Jamiel.

“I want audiences to get used to the idea of Ballet Nights both as a series of performances, but also as a platform.

“We have various digital productions so people can see behind-the-scenes and get to know the artists via our podcasts. 

Felicity Chadwick is set to perform with pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel

“Ballet Nights doesn’t go away after the performances have taken place – it continues celebrating the artists.

“That happens before the show and also at our legendary after-party experiences where we meet the dancers and discuss what they do and how they do it.

“We also want to be launching new traditions as the premiere ballet event in this area. 

“One of those, which is on the next programme, will be the mystery act, dancing in a style unlike any of the other performers on the night.

“We are quite a versatile platform in that in a full show audiences will see world class stars, modern masterpieces, legacy classics, new voices and new discoveries.

“To meet the demand for longer versions of pieces from emerging voices, we will be launching our very first Spotlight Shows on April 26 and 27, which will feature duo Pett – Clausen-Knight. 

“They will be performing in the February show too, so that is a chance for audiences to see more of them.”

The fourth edition is also set to have a contemporary offering from choreographer and dancer Jordan James Bridge as well as a debut performance from new duo Cydney Watson and Liam Woodvine, brought together by Jamiel under his creative umbrella.

“That’s a brand new launch, birthed at Lanterns Studio Theatre through one of our professional development programmes,” he said. 

“They were identified individually and we’ve had some fantastic results putting them together, so they will be making their world debut as a duo here.

“Jordan is a real audience favourite, judging by the standing ovations and it’s really fantastic to have him back again.

“He’s so capable and talented and it’s a real honour to have him performing at Ballet Nights.

“Then we have Chloe Keneally, who hasn’t had far to come, from English National Ballet at London City Island.

“She’ll be our tutu ballerina, providing us with two pieces – Etoile Variation from Paquita and Aurora from act three of Sleeping Beauty.

Ballet Nights is starting to become a piece of the fabric of what Canary Wharf has as a dance offer. 

Duo Pett – Clausen-Knight are on the bill and will also feature in a forthcoming Spotlight Show

“With some of the world’s best dancers appearing, loyal audience members are now making the journey for the second or third time.

“But what I’m most keen on is that residents nearby come and give the show a go. 

“This is a one-of-a-kind format that doesn’t yet exist anywhere else in the world and it’s right here on the Island.”

  • Doors open for Ballet Nights at 6.15pm, with performances running from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Tickets start at £60.

Find out more about Ballet Nights here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How Ballet Nights is blazing a trail at Lanterns Studio Theatre

The finale of the gala performance-style series is set to feature Jordan James Bridge’s Heisei 9

Constance Devernay-Laurence performs Jordan James Bridge’s Heisei 9 at Ballet Nights

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There’s an irrepressible energy about Jordan James Bridge that typifies the atmosphere around Ballet Nights.

It’s an excitement, a genuine thrill at the prospect of the next performance, the work that will be showcased and the moves unveiled.  

For those who don’t know, Ballet Nights is a platform for professional dancers to present pieces in the intimate, eye-level setting of Lanterns Studio Theatre on the Isle Of Dogs near South Quay DLR.

Conceived and compared by Jamiel Devernay-Laurence – formerly of Scottish Ballet – it kicked off its run with two dates in September and another two in October.

Its 2023 season will conclude with performances of its third programme on November 24-25, 2023, and that’s where Jordan comes in.

Having danced himself in the first programme, his work as a choreographer featured in the second and is set for a repeat showing on the forthcoming dates.

“The piece I’ve created is called Heisei 9, which is 1997 in Japanese,” said Jordan.

“The roleplaying computer game Final Fantasy VII – which was released that year – was very much my childhood and it had music composed by Nobuo Uematsu.

Dancer and choreographer Jordan Jams Bridge

“There’s an amazing battle theme in the game called Those Who Fight, so we have pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel playing it live on stage and I created a solo for prima ballerina, Constance Devernay-Laurence, to perform. 

“It’s en pointe and is super agile, swift, athletic and exciting.

“There’s also an amazing, original costume by Stevie Stewart – Constance wears this beautiful catsuit.

“While I created this piece as a solo, I love the connection between musician and dancer on the stage, so in my mind it’s really a duet.

“It’s technically very difficult for Constance and Victor. It’s three minutes, but there’s a lot packed in there.

“There’s kind of a competitive element with them both in the space and the lighting divides the stage quite well.

“It’s also very playful and I wanted to bring that out, because it’s very nostalgic for me. I spent a lot of time playing the game.

“There are not many choreographers who would even touch gaming, but the music was written to be played live.

“People coming to Ballet Nights might be expecting to hear classical pieces, but I believe they will enjoy this just as much as the more familiar music on the programme.”

Having trained at the London Contemporary Dance School, Jordan went on to join Alexander Whitley Dance Company, then Michael Clark Company.

Today, his main gig is as a dancer for Company Wayne McGregor based at Here East in Stratford.

Constance will perform Jordan’s work for a second time at the November shows

It’s a career that all started with an excitable childhood.

“My mum always told me that, when I was with friends in the garden or on the street, everyone else would be doing roly-poly and I’d already be doing handstands,” said Jordan.

“When they were doing cartwheels, I’d be doing front flips. I found dance at secondary school through Keeley Slack, my dance teacher.

“All the boys had two lessons in dance, to see if they enjoyed it, and I did. I was in the studio because I wanted to be there – there was no Instagram.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to create and choreograph as well as dance.

“When I was 16 I had my own small dance company called Imperial Feet.

“I enjoyed the idea of a collective getting together, and I just wanted to make dance – that’s where my brain is going right now too. I’ve been doing this for years.

“I’ve created multiple dance films, some award-winning, and I really enjoy doing dance for the screen.

Jordan James Bridge performing at Ballet Nights earlier this year

“Time constraints mean it’s more difficult for the stage, but I definitely see myself going there more in the future.

“It’s so important to have Ballet Nights because this sort of gala event for dance doesn’t really happen in the UK.

“In Europe there are similar shows in the summer, but not here.  

“The best thing is that at Lanterns, the dancers are only two or three metres away from the audience.

“You can hear their breath and really feel the energy radiate from them – there’s no shying away from the physicality of dance or trying to hide it.

“You see that dance is really hard work, but the performers look exquisite.

“As a performer you can see the audience and that makes it really intimate. 

“There’s an element of nerves which comes from that, of course, but it’s also super exciting and challenging.”

Ballet Nights’ final shows of 2023 will also include duets from Sangeun Lee and Gareth Haw plus Katja Khaniukova and Aitor Arrieta – all of the English National Ballet.

Solo performers will include Ivana Bueno, also of the English National Ballet, Yasser D’Oquendo of Acosta Danza and Laurel Dalley Smith of the Martha Graham Dance Company. 

Doors open on November 24 and 25, 2023, at 6.15pm with the shows starting at 7.30pm.

Tickets start at £65. Programmes are expected to return on a monthly basis next year. 

Acosta Danza’s Yasser D’Oquendo is also on the bill

You can find our more or book tickets here  

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Isle Of Dogs: How Ballet Nights is set to draw top dancers to the Island

Lanterns Studio Theatre set to host artists from The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet and Northern Ballet

The Royal Ballet’s Steven McRae will perform – image Mich Rose

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Following a pilot last year, Ballet Nights is set to explode into east London with a trio of programmes featuring dancers from the likes of The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and even Britain’s Got Talent.

“The Lanterns Studio Theatre on the Isle Of Dogs is a very intimate and exciting environment,” said Jamiel Devernay-Laurence, founder and creative director of the platform.

Ballet Nights presents classical ballet and contemporary dance up close and without compromise, featuring some of the best performers in the world, in what I’m calling ‘theatrical widescreen’.

“We have a very large, 289sq m stage, with front row seats where audiences’ toes are touching the performance surface.

“There are no bad seats in the house and it brings the artists to eye level – it’s all about that connection.

“Having this space means we can present these big dance stars as you would see them on stages across the world.”

Ballet Nights will also feature rising star Musa Motha

Following his own dance career with Scottish Ballet, Jamiel has turned his talents and experience to creating new paths of development for artists and new models for programming and staging performances. 

With investment secured, the three Ballet Nights programmes in 2023 will all be performed for two nights on September 29-30, October 27-28 and November 24-25, respectively.

Each will be compered by Jamiel and feature 10 performances – five either side of an interval, with all six shows starting at 7.30pm. 

“Rather than presenting one production, this enables us to bring together world ballet stars alongside brand new emerging talents – a taster platform that’s never really been around for dance before,” said Jamiel.

“I’ve been asked how we can include so many different and diverse performers in each of the programmes?

“The answer is that this is led by artists, it’s for them, by them and celebrating them – that’s the key element.

“We’re not here to have Ballet Nights in capital letters – the artists are the most important thing.

“We’re more like a TV channel – putting the performers at the centre and giving audiences the opportunity to see their favourite artists and be introduced to new ones.

“The compère provides an introduction or reintroduction to each artist and that gives them a voice.”

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence will compere the event

The first programme alone features Steven McRae, Melissa Hamilton and Ryoichi Hirano of The Royal Ballet, rising contemporary dance star Jordan James Bridge and former Royal Opera House concertmaster and international violinist Vasko Vasilev as well as award-winning performer Constance Devernay-Laurence.

“When you want the best performers, you start with the best companies in the world and many are having a push towards professional development,” said Jamiel.

“The directors of these companies understand that this is a great opportunity for choreographers and dancers to have a chance to go out and experiment.

“Steven McRae, for example, who is a principal at The Royal Ballet is not doing what he’d do at the Royal Opera House, he’s presenting a tap number with music from Vasko.

“It’s a real opportunity for artists to blow off steam and to present themselves to audiences in different ways – to take risks and be celebrated. 

Constance Devernay-Laurence is also on the bill – image Sian Trenberth

“On stage, at the major venues, there’s quite a distance between performers and the audience. Here it’s like when a big comedian goes and tries out new material at a smaller, intimate stand-up club.

“Constance, who is also my wife, has left Scottish Ballet to pursue a career on screen, so this is a chance for her to appear on stage as an independent principal ballerina – Ballet Nights is a vital platform for artists like this in the heart of the Canary Wharf area.”

Future programmes will feature the likes of Katja Khaniukova, Aitor Arreita Coca and Ivana Bueno of London City Island-based English National Ballet (November) and Musa Motha of Rambert Dance Company (October). 

The latter, originally from South Africa, had his left leg amputated at the hip when he was 11 due to bone cancer, but forged a career as a dancer – appearing in Peaky Blinders: The Redemption Of Thomas Shelby on the West End stage. 

He then found wider fame on Britain’s Got Talent before going on to win the Emerging Artist category at the National Dance Awards earlier this year. 

At Ballet Nights, he will present Depth Of Healing, a piece he has choreographed himself.

Tickets for Ballet Nights at Lanterns Studio Theatre on the Isle Of Dogs start at £65.

Follow this link for full listings, more information and bookings

Ivana Bueno of the English National Ballet will be performing

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Isle Of Dogs: How The Ignition Platform hopes to set Lanterns Studio Theatre alight

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence has teamed up with Kennedy Junior Muntanga for his latest dance event

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence has created The Ignition Platform

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Tucked away behind glass and green steel just off Millharbour lies the Lanterns Studio Theatre.

The venue, which boasts a vast, 3,000sq ft plus, sprung dance floor, is generally used by major production companies as a rehearsal space – one of the few capacious enough to accommodate the really big shows.

These sessions are typically held behind closed doors away from the eyes of the public. Lanterns, however, is starting to open up to audiences, thanks to Jamiel Devernay-Laurence

Building on Ballet Nights, a show he hosted there in October 2021, The Ignition Platform is set for a public performance at the Isle Of Dogs venue on March 4, 2023.

Jamiel essentially grew up at Lanterns – run by his mother Janet Viola – and following a dance career with Scottish Ballet, it’s where he’s decided to base his newly minted venture, Jamiel Laurence Creation.

“I’ve worked all over the UK,” he said. “I’ve lived in Glasgow, London and spent the past year working in Cardiff, bringing quality dance performances to that city.

“When that came to an end and I was thinking about what to do next, I decided to put on a new intensive programme at the Lanterns Studio Theatre – which is no stranger to new and exciting things, although often there isn’t a performance output.

“We rehearse, without doubt, every major production company in the UK and now some in Europe as well – we’ve just had Theatre Du Chatelet, who were preparing for their production of 42nd Street.

“After spending a decade learning how to put on those shows and seeing the companies in action, I decided it was my go.

“The first thing I did in January was to launch an intensive programme for professional dancers and the response to that was hugely overwhelming – there’s a real gap right now in contemporary dance for professional development.

“I hadn’t realised how big the need was – it was exactly the right time – and off the back of that I reconnected with Kennedy Junior Muntanga who performed at Lanterns as part of Ballet Nights.

Kennedy Junior Muntanga is set to perform at Lanterns Studio Theatre

“Chatting with him about his ambitions was a powerful moment because it made me aware young choreographers are really feeling the pinch.

“There are lots of cuts to the arts right now and that means there are fewer opportunities out there.

“I’m a doer, so I decided to launch Ignition in response – a platform to put work by young choreographers up on stage.

“The first level of that is what audiences will see on March 4. Our budget might be minimal, but what matters is that the dancing will be anything but.

“It’s about showcasing a really big voice in dance that needs to be heard on the Isle Of Dogs – not an area that’s traditionally known for these things.

“I’m very confident there will be an appetite for this locally so that’s stage one – the plan in future will be then to come back with a bigger production the next time.

“Hopefully the third time will be an all-singing, all-dancing, hologram-showing extravaganza.

“The idea is that Ignition will allow choreographers themselves to make a case for why their work should be on stage – then we make it happen for them.”

Tickets for the event on March 4 – The Ignition Platform: An Evening With Kennedy Muntanga – cost £20. The performance is set to start at 7pm.

“The performance itself will consist of a 30-minute trio from A Death Has Occurred, which is a piece that Kennedy has written, taking inspiration from his faith to explore themes of destiny, identity, spirituality and truth. 

“It follows the story of Nebu, a young journalist obsessed with the idea of being his own helmsman, as he struggles to offer himself to God’s plan for his life. 

“Reporting as a war correspondent, Nebu is given a vision that prophesies a city abandoned and left to crumble to the wrath of war. 

“Nebu’s interpretation of the dream leads him to reject God in protest at what he sees. Kennedy uses fiction to bring to the forefront his learning and understanding of accepting a plan much greater than his own, even when suffering prevails.

“He plans one day to turn the piece into a full 90-minute show. 

The Ignition Platform will include a trio from Kennedy’s A Death Has Occurred

“After that, we’re going to have a solo dance by Kennedy himself, created exclusively for Ignition.

“There will also be a Q&A with the choreographer following the performances.

“It’s really exciting that I can take someone like him and give him a platform.

“His dancing is not any recognisable contemporary technique or format, his movement is really from a new place – it’s very contact-heavy.

“The word you see about him in every review is ‘visceral’, and that tells the tale – his work features very muscly, athletic men and women in contact with each other.

“He lives in Finsbury Park, but spends much of his time in Greenwich as the artistic director of Trinity Laban’s Youth Dance Company as well as Kennedy Muntanga Dance Theatre.

“What he does that’s really interesting is that he puts on classes for free every Tuesday night, and they are his practice in action – that’s how he’s refining his voice.”

Jamiel said the March 4 performance would also help to make the case for further events at Lanterns and beyond.

The Ignition Platform is really about support and what I want to do is build an audience who feel like they’re the home crowd for dance,” he said.

“My philosophy is that I don’t think dance on stage is broken as a model – that’s not where the problem is. Instead, it’s the pastime of going to see dance.

“For example, people on dates might go to the cinema or a show and have a meal first – they’d know how to navigate that. But with dance theatre it’s different. 

“Would it be a long show, a short show? Would there be time to eat? Is it expensive or affordable?

“I’d like to achieve for dance what stand-up has for comedy – to have artists practising their craft and audiences getting a raw, accessible version of the work.

“Right now there are too many dancers and not enough opportunity.

“Long term, the goal for Ignition would be to build our own touring circuit – we’d very much like events to be exportable.

“That might be to other venues in London, but we’d also like to connect with Scotland, Wales and other towns and cities in England as well.

“Further afield from this, I would love to have work that could tour internationally. That’s for the future.

“Right now I believe there’s a huge opportunity in Docklands – a place that’s become a growing residential community.

“Lanterns can provide something for people locally where they don’t have to travel to the West End to see high quality performances – it’s right here on their doorstep.”

Get tickets and more info on The Ignition Platform here

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