Review: Dance Proms 2015 - Royal Albert Hall

Performance: 15 November 2015
Reviewed by Claire Cohen - Wednesday 18 November 2015

Dance Proms 2015 - Lukas McFarlane - 'Dance UnTitled'. Photo: David Tett

Dance Proms, an international dance celebration for children and young people, celebrated its fifth year with a glorious programme of genres performed by students from 22 schools. To apply to take part in the performance, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall last Sunday, hundreds of Schools had uploaded a video of their own original five minute dance piece for scrutiny by a panel of judges, who then selected the final participants.

The students, who were aged between five and 21, all belonged to dance schools whose teachers are members of the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, the International Dance Teachers’ Association or the Royal Academy of Dance. This year schools from Austria, Italy and Norway took part, well as many from all over the UK.

Performing to a packed auditorium, one might think that there might be a few signs of nerves, but no. As each group, ranging in number from eight to 60, performed their short piece, it was clear that both standards and confidence levels were extremely high throughout. All the performers were a credit to their teachers; it was clear they had all worked very hard to put in many hours of practice before the show.

Not only that, but with so many short performances following each other in quick succession one might expect the occasional hiccup, but everything followed on seamlessly. The group exits and entrances, from all over the arena or onto the stage, was a slick work of art in itself, complementing the clever choreography of the individual dance works.

The variety of dance styles ranged from classical ballet to jazz, tap, latin, street, musical theatre, kathak, and contemporary. A thoroughly enjoyable evening positively zipped along, hosted by the amiable Matt Flint, one of Dance Proms’ patrons.

On my programme I find I have scribbled a positive comment next to every single performance, but if I was going to have to give a few a special mentions they would be, in no particular order: ….

Over the Edge by Khronos (The Brit School). It is always interesting to see an all male dance group, the combination of powerful technique and precision timing can be a knockout but they still have to nail it and this group of 20 did it in style. Dressed in jeans and hoodies, the lads’ energetic moves did all the talking. An edgy, thoughtful piece danced with depth and belief.

Charming performances were plentiful but the young cast of The Jumblies (Susan Robinson School) stood out as engagingly whimsical and fleet of foot as they danced to Edward Lear’s famous nonsense poem.

In contrast, and with an edgy attitude maintained right through to the last step, was Juicy by Sugarfree (Goodman Dance Academy). This head flicking, attitude striking group of feisty young street dancers proved you don’t need a sugar hit to keep brilliant time and dance like you mean it.

Tap and musical theatre featured strongly on the stage, with every group in this genre displaying very strong skills showcased by slick choreography. The Julie Sianne Theatre Arts group’s highly polished I Got Rhythm tap routine showed off their impeccable timing, while Austrian Dancing World Tanzschule impressed with a faultless music hall hand clapping sequence.

Back in the arena, the Midlands Academy of Dance lived up to the name of their jazz performance – Joie de Vie – with a lively start which contrasted nicely with a lyrical second half, also sharply choreographed.

They were followed by LWHS – The Arts Garage, who performed La Danse Classique. The 39 performers in white and aqua tutus created beautiful formations in the arena worthy of any corps de ballet. Their wave like movements were exceptionally pleasing, and their arm movements were full of grace.

The guest acts taught us a thing or two about what it’s like to be a the top of your game, and probably inspired every young dancer present. The Royal Ballet’s Nehemiah Kish and Yuhui Choe performed the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker. Or for those who prefer contemporary dance, Lukas McFarlane’s haunting piece Falling was equally powerful.

Inspiration and fun through dance is what the whole event was about. The Finale – when every group danced together in the arena and on stage, filling the Royal Albert Hall’s enormous space with their colourful costumes, was another choreographic feat. Over 500 young people dancing in unison. Dance Proms 2015 was an absolute treat.

Claire Cohen is a freelance dance writer. After attending ballet classes for adult beginners at English National Ballet she took part in their Dance is the Word workshop, fusing her writing skills with an enthusiasm for ballet and dance. Find her on Twitter @balletbichon

See David Tett’s gallery below for photos of several of the groups mentioned

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