Lady Gaga urged us to just dance and David Bowie advised that we put on our red shoes and dance the blues. Even Fall Out Boy told us to dance, not once but twice, and who are we to ignore the advice of such revered artists (and Fall Out Boy)?
Dubai is a hub of all-singing, all-dancing young stars in the making. With so many schools and classes available, it’s the perfect place to train up your budding Ginger Rogers or George Sampsons (remember him?).
In recent years, the competitive aspect of dance in Dubai has heated up, with school dance championships and annual dance showcases firmly marked on your young prancer’s calendar.
Last month, the cream of Dubai’s dancing crop were invited to open auditions at the Dubai Opera for the opportunity to bag themselves a role in the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber show, Evita.
The legendary musical will be arriving at Dubai Opera for a whopping 16-night stint in January and February next year, and will feature 16 young stars from performing arts schools in Dubai, in the Opera’s first-ever open-casted performance.
Originally released in 1976, the show is famous for a number of huge songs, including Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, which sold more than 10 million copies in the UK alone, and the film adaptation featuring Madonna and Antonio Banderas, which won an Oscar.
Dubai Opera CEO Jasper Hope, who was one of three judges at the auditions, hopes this will be the beginning of many opportunities for the residents of Dubai to
get involved in performances at the venue.
Hope says: “We’ve always said Dubai Opera must stand for quality, variety and community. Not every project we have at Dubai Opera has the possibility to include a community element but where we can include one, we always will."
“This is a perfect opportunity to be able to provide an incredible chance for the young local talent in Dubai to work as part of an incredible professional company in a fantastic production on the world-class stage of the Dubai Opera.
“We have a great many plans for educational aspects to many of the shows and productions Dubai Opera has planned in the coming months.
“Sometimes that will take the form of workshops, sometimes masterclasses, sometimes access to dress rehearsals and sometimes as school tours but also, as in the case of Evita, from time to time we will also want to include local talent on our stage.”
Hopefuls auditioned on November 1 and the show will kick off on January 22, running until February 3.
The phenomenal opportunity is testament to Dubai’s young talent and dedicated world-class dance professionals, so we thought we’d give a shout out to the best of the bunch. Get ready to take a bow…
What do you do about a problem like Evita? Hold a talent competition, of course. Students at Diverse Choreography took to the Dubai Opera stage last month to audition for a part in the world-famous show. Scott and Lisa Marshall have been putting teeny-boppers through their paces in Dubai for more than a decade, and provide all aspects of dance and theatre under one permanently-raised roof. More than 700 children aged three to 18 attend the singing, dance and drama classes here, and the students were more than ready to give the judges their best jazz hands.
Lisa says: “The opportunity that the children have been given to audition for a professional show such as Evita is fantastic because it gives them a chance to experience performing with a professional, international cast who are undoubtedly some of the best in the business.
“Aside from the huge confidence boost the students will gain from this, it is amazing to see each child putting all that they have learnt into practise to prepare for such an experience.
“The children spent hours preparing. There’s been lots of practising at home and at the studios with our teachers and we’ve had a few parents tell us that they now know all of the words to Santa Evita (the children’s audition song) because they have heard it so many times.”
Speaking before the audition, nine-year-old dancer Sriana Chandraseka, said: “I feel proud that I have been given this opportunity to audition, I also feel a little scared, but more excited.”
Her classmate Mackenzie Duncan, aged 10, added: “I feel happy that I am able to audition and it will be scary standing on the Opera stage but fun as well.”
Ten-year-old Faris Al Mutawaa also put in the hard work. He said: “I am so excited to be auditioning and at the prospect of performing in the show. I have practised over and over again and I am really looking forward to the audition.”
Diverse Studios, Entrance A, The Curve Building www.diversechoreography.com.
DUBAI PERFORMING ARTS ACADEMY
Next up we have another talented husband and wife team whose students wowed on the Opera stage. If anyone can bestow the wisdom and experience of performing under the spotlight, it’s DPA principles Lisa Scott-Lee, of ’90s pop group Steps, and her husband, West End star and former boyband singer Johnny Shentall-Lee. The couple offer dance, drama and singing lessons, and have first-hand experience of performing on a world stage. Lisa is currently on tour with Steps in arenas across the UK and is looking forward to sharing her experiences with her students.
Dubai British School Springs, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park and Dubai British Foundation, www.dubaiperformingarts.com.
GEMS Wellington Schools
GEMS is serious when it comes to throwing shapes. GEMS Wellington Silicon Oasis has an impressive dance department and its students are a firm fixture on the competition scene, both in Dubai and internationally. They were joined in the auditions by the talented youngsters at GEMS First Point and GEMS Jumeirah Primary. Although the classes are only open to GEMS Wellington students, their showcases are certainly not to be missed.
The Ballet Centre was established in 1985 and is the longest-running dance school in Dubai, offering top-class facilities in locations in Jumeirah and Motor City. The school offers yearly examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance and Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance. The focus of the school is ballet, modern and tap dancing, and the school also offers Irish dance, music lessons and even taekwondo, for those who float like a dancer but sting like a bee.
Jumeirah 1 and Business Park, Motor City www.balletcentredubai.com.
DANCE INFINITY PERFORMING ARTS
DIPA is an American dance curriculum programme offering classes in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap, contemporary, and musical theatre starting at ages three and up. Its goal is to encourage self-expression through dance, in a way that promotes friendship and social skills alongside discipline and passion. What better way to express yourself than through the medium of dance? Now, what is the movement for “I’m hungry?”
Al Attar Business Center, off Sheikh Zayed Road, www.danceinfinity.com.
This Media City musical theatre school is so good, it’s out of this world. Founded in 2012 by UK professional actress, singer and writer, Hayley Doyle, each class is still taken by the performer herself and Doyle invests personal attention in every young Shirley Temple that trots over the threshold. Classes in acting and musical theatre are also available for four to 18-year-olds. Get ready to point those twinkle toes, little stars.
James & Alex Dance Studios, Concord Tower, Media City, www.hayleyscomet.com.
This pair of centres teaches kids the foundations and techniques of dance, including disciplines of music, musical theatre and creative forms, while building their confidence. A weekly hip-hop class will let them channel the diva within, while the musical theatre will allow them to embrace their inner Lawrence Olivier. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
Motor City and DUCTAC www.impactcentres.com
JAMES & ALEX DANCE STUDIO
James & Alex teach ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and musical theatre to children as young as two, all the way up to their adult classes. The studios in Media City are bright and airy, and there is even a little dance shop in reception where you can pick up some jazzy dance outfits while you wait for class to finish.
Concord Tower, Media City www.jamesandalex.com.
KIDS' HIP-HOP CHOREOGRAPHY CLASSES WITH NADER MUSHARBASH
Got a budding Beyoncé on your hands? Nader Musharbash is the only choreographer in the Middle East to have worked with the likes of Queen Bey, Rita Ora and Pink, as well as strutting his stuff on X Factor, the Brit Awards and the MTV Awards. Young dancers at his commercial and hip-hop lessons will have the opportunity to learn the routines of the stars. If it’s good enough for pop royalty, then it will definitely do for us.
Fit 4 Life Gym, Green Community; BNF Dance Studio, Media City; Al Alreesh Club, Dubai Festival City, www.nmchoreography.com.
Sharmila Kamte began teaching dance in the UAE in 1999 and some seven years later, Sharmila Dance was born, training up the professional performers of the future. Styles include hip-hop, lyrical contemporary, funk, camp, street jazz, commercial jazz and ballet. The dance show extravaganzas that are put on by the students sell out year after year.
Mall of The Emirates, www.sharmiladance.com.
STEP UP ACADEMY
This school offers ballet, tap, jazz, modern, freestyle, disco, cheerleading and even rhythmic gymnastics at their many locations across Dubai. Students are given the opportunity to perform at events all over the city and in the show-stopping annual showcase. Classes start for children as young as 15 months old, while adult groovers are also welcome. Unlike the Hollywood movie by the same name, there is no body-popping Channing Tatum, but we can’t have it all.
Various locations including Motor City, Palm Jumeriah and Silicon Oasis, www.stepup.ae.
Calling all budding Billy Elliots! Turning Pointe dance school specialises in classical ballet, following the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus and gearing young dancers towards their RAD ballet examinations. The dance school was founded in 1996, and lessons are available for children aged three years and up, and classes in hip-hop, modern, street jazz, jazz2pop and glee club are also available.
International City, Dubai www.turningpointe.ae.
TURN UP THE MUSIC
As well as being a great way to exercise (and have a ton of fun), dance has many other developmental benefits for children. Nord Anglia International School Dubai have a collaboration with the world-famous Julliard School in New York, and every child in Years Two to Eight are involved in a Julliard Performing Arts Curriculum. Dance teacher Angela Minervini travelled to New York for specialist training, and the school runs after-school dance clubs for primary and secondary students, as well as a boys’ dance group. Here Angela gives us the lowdown on the benefits of dance for your kids:
1. Physical and emotional wellbeing
Not only does dance offer children a chance to be up and active outside of the classroom, it also puts them outside of their comfort zone, which gives them a sense of accomplishment.
2. To build confidence
In a world dominated by the picture of perfection on social media, getting students to step away from their screens and giving them a chance to develop their self-esteem is so important. Dance is the perfect platform for this. When performing to the class, students have the opportunity to challenge themselves and are boosted by positive feedback. The benefits to a child’s confidence are endless.
3. Developing communication skills
In dance there are ample opportunities for students to collaborate with others, in partners or in large groups. Students have to develop their communication skills, by listening to others, contributing ideas and all working together to reach a common goal.
4. Developing analytical skills
We encourage the students to look at all aspects of a performance, such as plot, character, lighting, staging and costumes in addition to actions, dynamics and space. We look at character traits, symbolism and staging, not unlike the way you would analyse a text in English. Then our work is out into action and movement rather than written down on paper.
5. Encouraging creativity
The chance for students to be creative is paramount. Not all students are going to be technically developed in dance, however every student has the opportunity to express themselves and create something new almost every lesson. This encourages them to think creatively across other subjects.