Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Upcoming Events at Trafalgar Square


So if you entered the draw to go see the Scissor Sisters in Trafalgar Square, you should have received notification of the outcome by now.

If you didn't win any tickets... don't despair! Channel 4 will apparently be broadcasting the concert on the night.

In the meantime, there are festivals happening at the square this Friday and Saturday:

Friday - the 'London Caracas: Caracas Londres' festival is on. Celebrating London's growing ties with Caracas and Latin America. There will be music from Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. They have a website here.

Saturday - 'Liberty - London’s Disability Rights Festival' showcasing the talents of disabled artists, musicians, dancers and performers will be. There's some good info here on what it was like last year.

Reports from both festivals will appear here!

Friday, August 25, 2006


A cut above: Scissor Sisters are coming to Trafalgar Square


So the big news at the moment is that the Scissor Sisters are going to be performing a free gig at Trafalgar Square on 16th September.

In 2004, these New Yorkers came from near obscurity to conquer the UK charts with their catchy and camp disco-like tunes.

Much like the Live 8 concert, tickets to see this performance will be decided by a prize draw. All profits will go to The Global Fund, a charity that fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

For a chance to win tickets to see them, there are two options:

Good luck though, there are only 50 pairs of tickets up for grabs.

Their new album 'Ta-dah' is also coming out next month, the song 'I Don't Feel Like Dancin'' from it is already no.1 in the itunes chart at the time of writing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006




So after going to every day of the festival, here are my highlight performances in no specific order:
So that's it. Look forward to the festival next year. Of course, Trafalgar Square will continue to be the setting of many an exciting and crowd-pulling event... all will be reported here.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Last Day of the Entire Festival 2006


Alas, it had to end. On an overcast day, the crowds gathered at the Trafalagar Square Festival 2006 for one last time.

Up first was 'Luved Up!' by Upswing, dropping the beat for the final time after four days of performances. Congrats to them for a job well done (catch an interview with Jonzi D, one of the choreographers of it, here). What was a very sad day was actually made very cheery next by 'Roads to Freedom' by Kinetika Bloco. They made us all feel better, with their bright green outfits to go with their fine West and South African drumming and trumpet-playing.

And if that wasn't enough to make everyone feel cheerful, along came 'The Sweet Life' by Gandini Juggling Project afterwards. These cheeky Italians specialise in juggling and general clowning about. This act was apparently inspired by Frederico Fellini's 'La Dolce Vita', so they all ended up having a right ol' splash in one of the TS fountains.

Up to this point, I think most people there would've said the day's performances had been quite merry. Well, that was all to change with the next and final act, 'Duo Du Haut' by Catherine Leger and Ramon Kelvink. This was SCARY. They climbed poles that were about 40-metres high and started hanging off of them, doing handstands and other crazy things! At times, it didn't even look like they were harnessed!

The only happy moment for me here, was when the performance was OVER and they were safely back on terra firma. So I suppose you could say it all did end rather happily at least. This week, I'll put up some acts that were perhaps worthy of special mention from the three weeks of the festival.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Jonzi D is interviewed


The Trafalgar Square Festival this week will play host from Thursday - Sunday to ‘Luved Up!’ by Upswing.

Jonzi D, one of the directors involved in this much anticipated work, took some time out to talk to TrafalgarSquareBlog about things like: Upswing’s show this week, hip-hop’s past, present and future, and Robert Mugabe...

What do you have planned for the Trafalgar Square Festival?

Well, it’s changed drastically from the blurb that’s in the TSF brochure. We’re working now with six dancers/aerialists, exploring in 15 minutes some classic love scenarios like ‘will they, won’t they’, the scenario when you love someone so much that you end up fighting constantly, and also the flirtatious kind of love.

In short, it’s to do with ‘love’ and the kind of situations we end up in when we search for it.

How have the rehearsals been going and do you feel confident about this week?

Yes I do. It’s been a really great rehearsal process. Also very interesting as I have no experience whatsoever in aerial work and Vicki Amedume (fellow collaborator) has no experience whatsoever in hip-hop, so it was a wonderful collaboration.

We’ve got some great artists that we’re working with. Some who have experienced aerial work and some who have never done it at all, its kinda half and half. So we’re actually coming together as a company with varying skills and it’s been great just getting to know each other, a really fun process.

What are you specifically choreographing in this performance?

I’m choreographing some of the hip-hop sections... in fact, I wouldn’t even say ‘choreographing’... we’re fortunate enough to be working with some really great dancers who we are able to ‘search for movement’ with, it’s more of a directorial role as opposed to a choreographic role. So I would say I’m a director.

What are your influences?

Hip-hop culture - and in this particular piece, failed relationships.

Obviously hip-hop is a big part of your life, what is it about hip-hop that appeals to you so much?

The culture of hip-hop, b-boying aka break-dancing… I love the music, the beats, turn-tabling and rapping because I’m an mc myself.

I’m also excited about what the hip-hop disciplines can offer the world. I think at the moment we’re not seeing much of ‘real hip-hop’ through the media. We’re seeing a bastardised version of hip-hop: the bling, violence, ‘tits and arse’ s**t. What I’m interested in is bringing out the alternative side of hip-hop rather than the commercial side.

Hip-hop now is certainly more mainstream compared to where it was in the 1980s. For example, nowadays stars like 50 cent are being sponsored by Reebok, and Snoop Dogg is doing music videos with pop stars such as Justin Timberlake). Do you therefore regret the way hip-hop has evolved?

I would call this new era of hip-hop part of ‘pop’. And I’ve never liked ‘pop’, ‘pop’ as in what is being forced down the masses’ throats. Obviously I loved the hip-hop back in the day because it wasn’t ‘pop’, it was marginal and I think that a lot of what we see in popular culture now for me is an example of the ‘powers that be’ trying to establish a particular agenda. ‘Pop’ is really s**t, boring and formulaic.

What I like are artists ‘painting a picture’ of what they see rather than what the conglomerates would like us all to see.

What do you think of the accusation of misogyny in hip-hop? Is it justified?

I’m not into anything that looks at hip-hop in a vacuum. I’m interested in looking at hip-hop and its place within the world. Regarding the idea of ‘misogyny in hip-hop’, I’d rather look at misogyny in the world and how hip-hop can be a force that can help solve that problem. For example, the way women are treated in Hollywood, look at them and then look at someone like Queen Latifah: a strong, powerful female who is a product of the hip-hop generation. I think then it becomes a lot more complex to dish out such a sod-all statement like ‘oh, there is misogyny in hip-hop’. That’s too simple, look at what hip-hop culture is, I’d rather say ‘let’s look at the misogyny in the world’ rather than ‘let’s look at the misogyny in hip-hop’, because I don’t think misogyny has ever existed only in hip-hop.

So hip-hop has become an easy target for accusations of misogyny, just like it has become an easy target for blaming the gun culture on?

Exactly. And if we’re going to look at gun culture… let’s look at the amount of guns that are being sold by governments around the world, look at and you’ll see what I mean. When it comes to these sorts of issues, I’d examine these factors rather than hip-hop.

On your page, your heroes include Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and… Robert Mugabe, why do you think he is a hero?

I like to focus on what Mugabe achieved in the early period of his premiership- he is one of the few African leaders to actually address the land-reform issue. For example, the British government were very slow to address this, so he decided to grab the bull by its horns and speed it up. That was like ‘wow!’ I’ve been to Africa and I’ve spoken to people who really like what Mugabe has done and I’m interested in giving these marginal voices a chance to be heard, rather than just letting society tell us how we should shape our opinions. The same society, for example, that is telling us that Israel bombing Lebanon is OK.

Is your hip-hop quite political then?

I would say it is, but I’m also trying to educate people as to what hip-hop really is at the grassroots level… also its culture, its real culture. Not how the media portrays it to be.

So what do you think about the future of British Hip-hop, is it looking good?

There’s definitely a future there… because we haven’t been hijacked yet! I’m really feeling artists like Blak Twang, Skinnyman, Ty and Professor Green.

Thanks very much for the interview Jonzi D and good luck this week.


We will have reports from Week 3 at the Trafalgar Square Festival starting tomorrow.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Today, it seemed like the Festival was taking a little bit of a breather, in preparation for tomorrow's grand finale where four acts will be performing.

Today, after 'Luved Up!' by Upswing and Jonzi D, we were treated to 'Tiger Out East' by Kinetika performing in front of Nelson's Column. Their wish was to educate the people at the square about Bangladeshi Folk Music and they played some lovely stuff. Oh and there was this 'processional tiger structure' that was also present and wandered around the square for a bit with some drummers once the group had finished. They all did a good job and the Trafalgar crowd appreciated it.

So, the final day of the Festival is tomorrow and I'm sure it will be a day of performances to savour. Try to come along... this only happens once a year you know!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Well today, there was definitely a focus on aerial acts- and spectacular ones at that.

The evening started off with 'Luved Up!' by Upswing, a classic love story told in a combination of aerial and hip-hop dancing. Interview with one of the choreographers, Jonzi D, is here. The performance I felt took on a more pulsating attitude, being on Friday night with hundreds of people craning their necks, to catch glimpses of the show as disco-like lights beamed onto their platform.

Next and also in the same spot, came 'Rope' by Company FZ. No secret about what this piece involved... yeah, a rope in case you were still wondering. Two internationally acclaimed aerialists controlled it, manipulated it and abused it in a way that was simply quite stunning. Then, water was switched on at the top of the 'cage' and they were climbing the rope etc. while it was all wet. It was all very cool and the crowd loved it.

Finally came the night's pièce de résistance... an absolutely STUNNING performance 'K@osmos' by Grupo Puja. This Argentine/Spanish collaboration was unbelievable. As a band played on the TS steps, these guys got into a ball-shaped cage that was attached to a crane and were lifted up into the London skyline.

There they did some amazing dance displays. Of course, they were all securely harnessed, but I tell ya if you're reaching the heights of Nelson's Column you sure have to have a lot of faith in the crane that's holding you up there!

This one packed the square, very effective as no matter where you stood, you were guaranteed a good look at this performance. Well done to them!

Thursday, August 17, 2006


'Luved Up!' by Upswing kicked off the day. One of the choreographers, Jonzi D, did an interview with us that you can see above this entry. The show was a very high octane performance combining some hip-hop dancing with some aerial work. Look forward to seeing them again tomorrow, when it will be dark enough to see what effect their lighting has on the set.

Next came a interesting double bill 'La Divadivina/Paella Mixta' by Sol Picó. They weren't exaggerating in the Trafalgar Square Festival brochure when they described the Catalan dance company as 'highly contemporary'! To the layman's eye, the first performance made a bit more sense than the second (some plot about a diva who needs to get off a carriage, the second one they danced around a bit while a paella was being prepared on a stove!), but they were both outstanding when it came to choreographing. Very professional and polished performances.

There have been prognostications by weathermen of rain tomorrow and this weekend... if this is the case, I certainly hope is does not interfere too much with the performances that are lined up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


An Orange Order


Yes, I know, we were all wondering the same thing. It turns out that it is the dance setting for 'Miniatora' by CandoCo. It was a strange performance with all the dancers wearing a sort of mini-version of the huge inflatable structure on their backs. In the end, the ruddy great big thing comes down on them... and that's that.

Also, 'Awaz' by Akademi performed for the last time. Congratulations to them for putting on nice performances all week.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Saturday Afternoon Fever


The weather is now noticeably taking a turn for the worse. There was no sun today at the Festival, but still plenty to keep Trafalgar Square explorers' spirits up.

Two performances interspersed throughout the day were 'Return Journey' by Expressive Feat and 'Vem - Beyond Loneliness' by Gisele Edwards. Both were displays of aerial prowess located at the centre of the square. Expressive Feat using just her hands and the cord with Palestinian Jazz music; whilst Gisele Edwards showed off with some aerial hoop work, combined with some haunting fado lyrics.

Dance performances on the ground came from 'Awaz' by Akademi and interviewee of the Trafalgarsquareblog, Cathy Marston (read interview here).

Cathy's performers did a fantastic job dancing to some well-selected songs of Nina Simone. The ten minute performance just flew by and left the audience wanting more. The dancers were extremely good and if I was to sum up the performance in one word it would be... exquisite. Through their dancing, they were able to convey so much in what was a very short space of time. The rivalry of these two men to claim the girls' hearts can never be resolved, at least in a diplomatic fashion!

Well done to them and all the others for today's performances. Tomorrow there are only two performances, which is a bit stingy, maybe they'll last for longer than normal though. Keep reading this blog to find out... I know you can't wait.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The Cathy Marston Interview

a Trafalgarsquareblog exclusive

‘Sultry, sunny… and sexy’ is how Cathy Marston’s performance ‘Spell’ - which unfurls to the songs of Nina Simone - has been described for this coming Saturday at the Trafalgar Square Festival.

The Guardian
called her ‘one of the hottest young choreographers around’ and many in the media world following the festival can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

Trained at the Royal Ballet School; her company, The Cathy Marston Project, uses contemporary ballet to set the stage alight.

We caught up with Cathy who had just finished a very busy day of rehearsals for both the Festival and her company’s tour in autumn. She spoke about next Saturday’s performance, about facing the ghosts of Ibsen and on how height doesn’t matter if you want to be a ballet dancer…

A lot of your performances are structured around narratives, what are the stories going to be about for ‘Spell’?

They’ll be very simple, very direct and eventually they’ll all come together in a mixed story-finale. It’s a cycle: boy loves girl, but he’s with someone else and the girl likes someone else anyway... it’ll be a bit like a soap opera.

The four dancers performing are Charlotte Broom, Matthew Dibble (see picture on left), Martina Langmann and Dylan Elmore (see picture further down on right). The costumes are especially designed by award winning fashion designer, Bora Aksu.

Why are you using Nina Simone songs?

I’ve always wanted to choreograph some of Nina Simone’s songs because she is one of my favourite artists - and in the summer, it’s a lovely opportunity to use them in a place like Trafalgar Square.

A lot of my work has been quite serious, like 'Ghosts' (more on this later), so here’s an opportunity not to take ourselves too seriously and just have some fun with it.

What songs of Nina’s did you finally decide on?

Well, we’ve taken on quite a tricky compilation of her songs because the performance is only supposed to be 10 minutes. And when you get down to it, fitting a number of songs into 10 minutes is actually quite hard!

We came up with a cycle of four songs starting with ‘I Put A Spell On You’ which, if you listen to the lyrics, is obviously a very possessive song. It then goes on to ‘Take Care of Business’ - a quite naughty song, and then on to ‘Don’t Explain’ which is about a woman who, despite being wronged, says to her lover, ‘hush don’t talk about it, you’re mine I’m here, but I don’t want to hear anymore’. The last song is ‘Why Keep On Breaking My Heart’, which is a kind of upbeat finale that sums up the whole little medley - a summer-like rhythm that’s just fun!

What makes this performance different to any other performance you have created?

I’m aware that it won’t be for a ‘dance audience’, so there’ll be a lot of people watching who perhaps haven’t been to a dance performance before. So I want to do something that will not put people off dance, but instead will actually make them interested to see more.

How did your involvement in Trafalgar Square Festival come about?

I once did a choreographed piece on a beach at Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland.

I think that at first, the Trafalgar Square Festival organisers were really interested because that piece had been choreographed for the open air. Then they saw a couple of my DVDs and decided they would like me to be involved in the Festival.

How do you come up with your ideas?

They are very much inspired by the music I am using, whether it’s from music that I want to work with or from music that has been given to me through a commission.
I also try to have a handful of projects going on at once, so I never get bored with any one of them and I don’t risk getting repetitive either.

Who and what are your influences?

I suppose that, choreographically, coming from the Royal Ballet School, one would be Kenneth Macmillan. I also picked up a lot of different influences in the six years I was in Europe, from people like Jiri Kylian and Mats Ek.

Theatre and literature are a big influence as well. I try to absorb as much of these mediums as I can and that definitely affects the sorts of stories I want to tell.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my career? Oh my goodness! Well- I was very proud of the piece I did at the Royal Opera House, ‘Ghosts’, based on the play by Ibsen. It was a fantastic group of dancers and collaborators working on and off it for about a year and a half. And all of this happened at the same time that I was setting up my own company, which was very exciting as well.

Didn’t Ibsen’s great-great granddaughter come to see it?

Yes, Nora Ibsen came over to watch it and we were asked to put on a part of the piece for the opening performance at Oslo City Hall last January.

Ok, one final question…. is it true you have to be a certain height to be a ballet dancer?

No, not at all! OK, some companies have certain ‘tastes’. For example, Dutch companies tend to have quite tall dancers, but the ballet world in general is very mixed.

I just hear those stories about these little kids, who train and train to be ballet dancers and then when they grow up they become too tall and so they’re no good.

It depends where they’re trying to go. I mean, they might be too tall for one company or one school, but then they can try another place. I think it’s just that people get stuck on the Royal Ballet… and maybe for whatever reason, the Royal Ballet is not the place for them, but they can always try somewhere else.

Well I’m 6’1”, so I thought I would have had no chance…

Well, who knows… maybe you could have been quite good! But remember, being a ballet dancer is just as much about your mental attitude as well as your physical attitude. If you want to succeed in this business, you have to put in a lot of hard work.

It was a pleasure to talk to Cathy Marston and her enthusiasm for what she’s doing was inspiring. Other than the Trafalgar Square Festival performance on Saturday, Cathy is also getting ready for her first national tour with ‘The Cathy Marston Project’ in Autumn 2006.

'The Cathy Marston Project' is at the Royal Opera House on 27th September, you can buy tickets here.

Photographs by Adrian Weinbrecht.


The Festival rolls into week 2


The 1830 BBC London news programme naturally had a report on today's headline story of the police's claims that they had foiled a major bomb plot. The programme discussed the effect this would have on tourism in London. A news reporter stood in Trafalgar Square asking questions to Ken Kelling of Visit London. Apparently, the hotel industry, especially after last year's London attacks, were extremely pessimistic and said that it could lead to a decline in tourism.

Well today, judging by the crowds at TS there appeared to be no immediate impact at least. There were a lot of people here to watch 'Awaz' by Akademi kick off the second week of the festival. With people handing out leaflets and information on Akademi to the public, just prior to the performance (including one with a picture of them all at TS), they seem like a very professional outfit. Their aim is to promote South Asian music and they did a very interesting performance. They'll be performing until Sunday and more will be written about them then.

Afterwards came 'Mandela' by Tavaziva Dance. The title being quite self-explanatory, they had created a dance inspired by Nelson Mandela's autobiography 'The Long Walk to Freedom'. The dancing was very good and my only regret was that the narration seemed to be in an African dialect, therefore I had no way to understand what was happening story-wise.

Nelson Mandela has a very strong link to Trafalgar Square. 'Pax Pace Paz Paix Peace' by Helen Chadwick Group sang songs from poems and words by famous 'peace-fighters' such as Mandela. A very interesting idea and no better place in London than TS, where countless peace demonstrations have occurred.

One of their songs they sang was based on a poem by Pablo Neruda, where he stated that he wanted to live in a world of 'great common tenderness'.

Tavaziva Dance then returned to perform a little more of 'Mandela' before 'Road to Nowhere' by The Shout came on. Their performance was rather different from what we had seen earlier. They sang a song about the 1936 unemployed shipyard workers' long walk from Northumberland to TS. The singers had very powerful voices with a strong drum beat to assist. I can still hear the chant of 'goodbye to the shipyard' ringing in my head.

It was a very nice way to end Week 2 Day 1 of the festival. As I'm sure you already know, we have an interview with Cathy Marston, who is the choreographer of 'Spell' on Saturday. Be sure to check it out.

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