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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

Read more: How Canary Wharf Group has launched Wharf Connect, a network for early career professionals

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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 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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- 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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Canary Wharf: Why Joe Powell-Main is the act to look out for at Dancing City

Weekend dance spectacle returns to the estate as part of Greenwich+Docklands International Festival

Joe Powell-Main will perform with the Royal Ballet at Dancing City
Joe Powell-Main will perform with the Royal Ballet at Dancing City

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Dancing City is back.

One of the regular pillars of the sublime Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (GDIF) will once again take over Canary Wharf for a whole weekend, filling the estate with free shows for all to enjoy. 

Running from 1pm to 6pm on both September 10 and 11, 2022, this year’s outing will see 12 separate companies and artists put on some 22 performances in eight locations. 

Consequently, its 2022 iteration offers the familiar opportunity to both explore the estate on a Saturday and Sunday, while catching some very high quality dance in the process.

While it’s worth aiming to see all of the shows – GDIF has a well deserved reputation for giving a platform to artists of the highest quality – there’s a real buzz around one of this year’s pieces.

Sleepwalker is a collaboration between disabled dancer Joe Powell-Main and the Royal Ballet in a story that has almost as many twists and turns as the choreography.

Born in mid-Wales, Joe began dancing aged five, auditioning for the Royal Ballet School’s junior associate programme, travelling to Birmingham to train every Saturday and going on to perform with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

“From there, when I was about 10 years old, I auditioned for the Royal Ballet Lower School in Richmond and gained a place there,” said Joe.

“There were dancers competing for a place from all over the world and they only took a dozen girls and boys each year.

“I studied there for about three and a half years, and I was lucky to perform with the Royal Ballet in Nutcracker.”

But then disaster struck – a period of prolonged growth meant Joe developed problems in his left knee that led to surgery and further complications.

Then he was involved in a serious car accident that left him unable to use his left leg, meaning he had to leave the Royal Ballet School.

“That’s when I acquired my disability,” said Joe. “It was a very tough time. Since I was young, I’d poured my heart into dancing.

“My parents had supported me and taken me everywhere. I’d put all my eggs in one basket, and having the rug pulled from under me like that at 14 was not a nice thing.

“What was difficult for me as a child and as a teenager was that I had been very active.

“Then there I was, in a place where I was having difficulty with my physical mobility – it was difficult for me to see what I could do with my life.”

It took some time, but Joe found his way back to dance.

His mother spotted some classes for wheelchair users on a trip to see his ballet teacher sister perform and, although they were in Manchester, the family made things work. 

He spent a few years dancing Latin and ballroom, going on to win competitions before embarking on a performing arts course at college, initially in musical theatre before switching to dance with the encouragement of his teachers.

A degree in dance and performance at the Arden School Of Theatre in Manchester followed during which time he was making efforts to connect with ballet dancers with disabilities on social media.

These endeavours led him to connect with Ballet Cymru in Wales where he first attended a summer school, gained acceptance as an apprentice and joined the main company in 2020.

Joe and Isabel Lubach will perform Sleepwalker four times over two days
Joe and Isabel Lubach will perform Sleepwalker four times over two days

“Because of lockdown, it was a year of waiting, but in 2021 things started opening up and we did some performances of Giselle,” said Joe.

“Then someone reached out to me from the National Lottery to be a part of the ParalympicsGB Homecoming ceremony.

“They also made the decision that it would be cool to reach out to the Royal Ballet, given my connection with them previously and we did a performance last September at Wembley Arena.

“That’s how I became the first dancer in a wheelchair and on crutches to perform with the Royal Ballet and returned to that connection.

“I was asked if I would be interested in doing something for GDIF this year – another collaboration with a company – and luckily the Royal Ballet were really interested in keeping contact going between us and seeing what was possible.”

That has led to Sleepwalker, a piece directed by Royal Ballet principal dancer Alexander Campbell, which explores themes from George Balanchine’s ballet La Sonnambula.

“It’s something people haven’t seen before,” said Joe.

“We started the process of creating the 10-minute piece in March with some research and development. I think there’s a perception, especially with classical ballet that dancers make everything look easy but one of the beauties of this duet is that we’re not afraid of showing the work that’s going on

“I think the audience will have an expectation of what’s coming next, but they really won’t know. Also, because people will be all around us, everyone will view it slightly differently and that’s exciting as well.”

While he acknowledges that his childhood classical training prior to acquiring his disability puts him in an unusual position, Joe hopes his performances and career will serve to inspire companies to embrace greater diversity in the dancers they work with and the programmes they develop, not least so more people can enjoy the benefits of performance.

“While rehearsing, outside of performing, I would classify myself as quite shy,” he said.

“I don’t know what happens but when the music comes on and I’m on stage I gain confidence from somewhere.

“I’m not sure where that comes from, but it’s very enjoyable.

“What’s most important to me is the sound of the music I’m performing to. 

“You can explore the choreography, but when it all comes together, that’s the most exciting thing.

“In front of an audience I’m not the world’s most confident public speaker, but when I’m dancing I can express things through movement – you don’t need words.

“Even if it’s a piece you know well it feels new every time you perform.

“It might be finding something different in the venue or in the movements and I find that really interesting.

“I’ve not been to Canary Wharf before but I’ve seen pictures and I think performing the piece outside will be a big change with people all around us.

“I hope that our audiences for Sleepwalker will have their perceptions of what a classical ballet dancer might look like challenged.

“I also hope they seek out opportunities to see more dancers like me.

“I hope companies will also be more willing to bring disability and classical ballet together – if we can keep an open dialogue, we can tackle anything.” 

  • Sleepwalker will be presented at 1.35pm and 3.55pm on both days of Dancing City at Canary Wharf’s Columbus Courtyard.

DELIVERING THE FESTIVAL

GDIF artistic director Bradley Hemmings
GDIF artistic director Bradley Hemmings

“As always, for Dancing City, we like to make a virtue of the stunning outdoor spaces, piazzas and waterfronts which characterise Canary Wharf,” said GDIF artistic director Bradley Hemmings.

“We’ll be down at Jubilee Plaza, Westferry Circus and Wren Landing, but we’re also trying to explore more spaces on the estate than we have in the past so there will be events at Crossrail Place and at Harbour Quay Gardens at Wood Wharf. 

“It’s an event where you can imagine you’re in a European city with all the squares and open spaces – that’s the spirit of it.

“We all know Italy, Spain, Portugal and France, with their wonderful street cultures and that’s what this part of the festival does for east London.

“This year we have a range of fantastic shows on offer including Migrare by Cia Maduixa, which is presented entirely on stilts as four migrant women fight for a new place to call home.

“Then there’s Four Seasons at Westferry Circus by James Wilton Dance with capoeira, acrobatics, martial arts and classical dance all set to music by Vivaldi.

“There’s new work from the hip hop company AndroidX + MHz called Crowd_Ctrl.

“This integrates movement with a projection screen behind, which will be like watching a choreographed graphic novel at Jubilee Plaza.

“That’s a London premiere. And there are so many other things besides.

“We’re so pleased to be supported by Canary Wharf to fill the estate with companies from the UK and overseas again for 2022.”

Read more: Greenwich+Docklands International Festival is back for 2022

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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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