Cloud Dance Festival: Kristen McNally and Tommy Franzén in Rehearsal

The Royal Ballet’s Kristen McNally continues to prove that semi-narrative ballet can evolve by cross communicating with dance forms like hip hop. Having showcased some of her “ballet fusion” works earlier this year in special events at the “Move It Show” and at Covent Garden’s Apple Store, Kristen is now getting ready to present her best-known piece, Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game (2010), at Cloud Dance Festival, one of London’s most popular independent platforms for contemporary dance and now in its twelfth edition: Firefly.

For that, Kristen has been working with über cool hip-hop dancer Tommy Franzén (finalist of So You Think You Can Dance & choreographer of Cher Lloyd’s recent Swagger Jagger). Ballet audiences familiar with the works of Kim Brandstrup will also remember Tommy from the award-winning Goldberg project. He will now be stepping into the role created by the Royal Ballet’s Thomas Whitehead. Dropping in on Tommy and Kristen during day 2 of rehearsals, we had the chance to see how intense their 2-hour sessions have been: “It’s going great” Tommy told us “We have just finished all the material, we now need to paste it together but everything is there. I’m having a lot of fun. We have done short sessions but they have been fun and productive.”

Kristen also explained that “when a piece has been done quite a lot with just one person [as is the case with Don’t Hate the Player], it’s hard to see it any other way and obviously Thom [Whitehead] and Tommy are completely different. But today we’ve come back to the studio and he’s made the piece his own already! We haven’t had to change any steps at all, there’s only a ‘crazy jump’ that we’ve inserted because it really shows off Tommy’s own abilities.”

Here’s looking forward to Don’t Hate the Player at Cloud Dance Festival and hoping for more team Kristen & Tommy in the future:

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge & see as slideshow)

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All photos by The Ballet Bag ©

Cloud Dance Festival – Firefly – 22 to 24 July, 2011 at Pleasance Theatre, Islington. To book tickets visit Cloud Dance Festival’s website.

See also: this week’s dance listings from the Guardian

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We started The Ballet Bag in April 2009 with the mission to prove that ballet is not stuffy, old fashioned and inaccessible; that it is quite the opposite: relevant, fresh and topical. With the aim to Give Ballet a New Spin we try to show it under a different light. When writing our capsule biographies, ballet fact cards, review roundups and commentary on social media, we cross it over with other art forms and cultural references (pop culture, cinema, rock music – ie. other things we love!).