Derek Deane

This month, we speak to Derek Deane, choreographer of the English National Ballet’s Strictly Gershwin spectacular, which starts its first ever national tour this October.

Derek Deane

Derek Deane

Strictly Gershwin enjoyed a sell out season in 2008. How does this production differ from its first outing?

It is almost the same as the original production although I have changed some choreography that I think is now more suitable to the music.

How would you describe the show to new group audiences?

Spectacular is the first word that comes to mind but also words like exciting, thrilling and captivating also roll off the tongue.

What are the biggest challenges you faced when choreographing Strictly Gershwin?

The biggest challenge was making sure that I varied the choreography as much as possible for all the different dancers as each episode has its own story.

What was it like choreographing dance routines for such a large number of dancers?

I love working with large groups as it really challenges me and pushes me to my limit as a choreographer.

How does the show differ from the productions you’ve previously choreographed for the English National Ballet?

It is completely different in the sense that it doesn’t have any ‘swans’ in it!!! It differs enormously in the style and shape of piece as I have not been restricted by just the “purel classical ballet style”.

Is it more difficult to choreograph a production in-the-round?

It is easier and more difficult at the same time actually. The biggest problem is making sure that the audience doesn’t get too much of the back of dancers and that the choreography is evenly spaced. Having said that, putting the ballet into ‘the-round’ hasn’t caused as many difficulties as I thought it would. Gershwin created some very memorable songs in his lifetime.

Was it easy to choreograph dance routines for such an acclaimed composer?

It was a joy. I listened to each piece of music over and over again until I really understood all the musical nuances which helped me so much during the choreographic process.

The production goes on tour in the autumn. Where does it tour to and how does the show differ from the one presented at the Royal Albert Hall?

The production will have all the same values and highlights as the Royal Albert Hall production and I am thrilled that people outside the London area will get to see and enjoy it. It is great that it will be seen in Oxford, Liverpool, Southhampton, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Cardiff and Manchester.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment that you can tell us about?

I am working on a project for television for next year as I feel it is very important to get classical ballet to as many people as possible. I am also choreographing a new production of The Nutcracker in Zagreb and will be overseeing several revivals of my ballets in Japan, Italy and China and, of course, English National Ballet – busy year!