|Excel Centre, London|
Having been billed as "The UK's Biggest Dance Event ...... with 22,000 dancers - three days - performances, classes, career advice, celebrities, interviews and shopping!" Team Terpsichore decided to find out what all the fuss was about. As it was taking place at the ExCel Centre at the base of the M11 and as we were in Essex on Saturday night for Chelmsford Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty anyway Move It 2016 was not too far out of our way.
We were not sure what to expect because the event website was not too easy to navigate and not particularly informative. We wondered whether we would see anything at all as two of the companies we know well, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Chantry Dance, had already visited the show. However, we rang the event marketing manager to find out whether there would be anything left by Sunday and were assured that it would be as busy as Friday or Saturday.
The first thing we found when we arrived at the ExCel Centre car park was that it would be expensive. "£15 flat rate pay and display" said a sign. As you would expect for a car containing two Yorkshire residents it rumbled and virtually levitated.
"By 'eck" said I "I'm not paying that."
"They're having a laugh" said my companion.
"I could get 3 ballet lessons for that from Karen or Ailsa at KNT or Fiona at Team Hud" I fumed.
"Aye or two from Jane Tucker at Northern Ballet with a pound to spare for the meter" added my friend.
We cruised around Plaistow looking for a quite residential street with no yellow lines or resident parking restrictions and eventually found one in Britannia Village on the other side of the Royal Victoria Dock. The ExCel is connected to the village by a footbridge with several flights of stairs and no lift at each end.
Having crossed that bridge we found ourselves walking almost as far in the giant ExCel Centre which resembles an airport terminal or railway station with tables and fast food outlets on each side. At the far end of the building we found a booth with a massive but orderly queue on one side and masses of people milling around on the other. We eventually attracted someone's attention who told us we had to pay £19 simply to get in
and anything from £4 to £8.50 for a class.
"Are people happy to pay all that", I wondered, and clearly the answer was "yes" for the place was heaving. "More brass than sense" thought I.
We studied the event catalogue and found we had missed Catalyst Dance's Entrance of the Swans by a few minutes. That was an open class and the only one I really wanted to do having taken Jane Tucker's Swan Lake workshop last summer. I scoured the catalogue for a light blue diamond indicating "Beginner" but other than Flamenco and belly dancing there were none.
There was a big stage at the far end of the exhibition hall and curtained off areas where the classes took place. Someone had managed to drive a double decker bus into the exhibition hall. There was also a VIP area next to the stage. The rest of the room was occupied by exhibitors which included the RAD and ISTD, a few companies, rather more schools and suppliers of clothing, footwear and sundry equipment such as travelling barres and flooring.
The only ballet company we could find among the exhibitors was Ballet Theatre UK. Its stand was staffed by Christopher Moore. He gave us flyers for Pinocchio which is about to start a gruelling nationwide tour from Coventry tomorrow.
"Will you give out cast lists?" I asked timidly as that had been something of a bug bear for me.
"Yes we will" assured Moore.
He then gave us leaflets for the School of Ballet Theatre UK and its Wizard of Oz Build a Ballet project for young people. I have been a bit of a fan of BTUK for some time and I wish its Pinnochio tour and School all the best.
Middlesex University, Trinity Laban, The Urdang Academy, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland were all there and we stopped to chat with all of them. We also picked up literature from most if not all of the other schools that were exhibiting at the show but did not have time to speak to all. Some of the schools had students on the stands and it was good to talk to them about their courses, why they had chosen them and their aspirations for the future.
We also chatted to the RAD and ISTD and watched some talented young students demonstrating tendus. classical and jazz pirouettes and other exercises. There was dance wear and footwear galore on display a well as Jon Applegate Photography which has uploaded some great photos of the show to its website. Of all the products on display two that caught my eye were Ballet Is Fun's Turnboard (maybe I could use one of those as I still struggle to pirouette) and Hoop Hop's hula hoops.
I had been looking forward to seeing Elena Glurdjidgze at the show as she is one of my all favourites (see Elena Glurdjidze - So Lovely, So Gracious 11 Feb 2014) but somehow managed to miss her. However, I did see Darcey Bussell on the main stage and also marvelled at Boadacea.
There are worse ways of spending a Sunday afternoon and I did pick up a free copy of The Stage and Dancing Times with a great article by Gavin McCaig in Talking Point which I read over an overpriced burrito but it was not a cheap afternoon out.