Street Dance

Elegant, poised and seemingly still, a new member has joined the cast of street performers in London’s historic Covent Garden. While many made-up, foiled or glittering creations vie for your attention at eye-level, this performer commands an elevated view on the corner of Bow and Russell Street.
Globe Head Ballerina, 2012
I am of course referring to the celebrated artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE’s public art commission by the Royal Opera House earlier in the summer as part of the London 2012 FestivalGlobe Head Ballerina contributes to Shonibare’s growing repertoire of public art after the Fourth Plinth CommissionNelson’s Ship in a Bottle, installed in Trafalgar Square in 2010, as well as the artist’s conceptual aesthetic of past times. Inspired by a photograph of Margot Fonteyn, prima ballerina assoluta of The Royal Ballet, the sculpture sees a dancer suspended in pose and structure, scaling the façade of the Royal Opera House and encased in a large-scale snow globe. Almost cosmic in appearance, the sculpture's vertical installation draws your eye up to its untouchable vantage overlooking Covent Garden Market and its fellow resident performers.
Never one to disappoint on detail, Shonibare dresses the dancer in Dutch Wax fabrics - with its loaded perception of African identity via colonial supremacy - that are now synonymous with the artist’s range of work. Tailored by the Royal Opera House Costume Department, a tutu and shoes are fitted to a body cast from Soloist, Melissa Hamilton, and keeping with the artist’s tradition of headless mannequins, a replica Victorian world globe rests on the dancer’s shoulders and is a nod to the international work around dance, as art form, that the Royal Opera House has been dedicated to since the mid-eighteenth century. The dancer slowly rotates in her sphere and evokes a sense of wonder and spectacle amongst the buzz and pace of the streets below in the heart of Theatreland. Shonibare explains,
“… a very grown up piece of public sculpture than can be enjoyed by all. It’s like a life-size fairytale ballerina jewellery box that will spin”.
This is not the first time Shonibare has channelled dance into his art works as a medium to explore dialogues of culture and gender, politics and power, all packaged in a seductive scape of colour and sartorial elegance. Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004 featured in the artist’s nominated Turner Prize exhibition and Odile and Odette, 2005 in collaboration with ROH2 at the Royal Opera House that involved dancers from both The Royal Ballet and Ballet Black, affirm his interest of physical expression within the context of experimental contemporary art. Public, playful and possessing pulling power in London’s oldest piazza, Globe Head Ballerina is a magnificent partnership of art and art form between contemporary artist and performing arts institution.
Globe Head Ballerina will be installed on Bow and Russell Street until 2017 – visit the Royal Opera House for more details.

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Royal Opera House
Covent Garden


The Finish Line

The London Olympic Games delved into the dictionary of Britishness. The city's charismatic Mayor, Boris Johnson started proceedings with zoinking off the Geiger counter and yesterday evening's Closing Ceremony said farewell to twenty-six million viewers across the world with a reminiscent zig-a-zig-ah. London has undoubtedly presented one of the most memorable and spectacular Olympic Games in modern history with stunning backdrops for sporting events across the city as well as the humbling service provided by volunteers and the armed forces over the last sixteen days. Add athletic finesse and unexpected triumphs with an electricity in the air that tasered even the stiffest of upper lips, the die-hard cynics were converted - even I caught the bug and I am now a proud owner of a Team GB t-shirt. British identity had a confidence boost on the court, lake, ring, track, pit... (didn't we do well?) as well as in the mirror - it is OK to be proud in competition, particularly when one is winning. It felt like the national anthem was on a loop for two weeks!  London 2012's official slogan is Inspire A Generation. Much debate will now take place around legacy and the future of sport for young people. Ironically London 2012 may have also inspired the quintessentially British introverts who may no longer be young, but are still young at heart and who have rather enjoyed the patriotic fanfare that has decorated our streets and television screens. 

Under the artistic direction of Kim Gavin, the Closing Ceremony was to be the last plug of brand GB. The arts have played an important role since London won the Olympic Games with an extensive programme of events, performances and commissions organised by the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and it was time to shine on the global stage in a dramatic and soulful read-all-about-it finale of made in Britain culture. Boy bands, Girl Power and the late Freddie Mercury - our other Queen - celebrated decades of musical favourites around a London cityscape formed in the shape of the Union flag.
Hirst goes epic for London 2012 Closing Ceremony
Having visited Damien Hirst's retrospective at the Tate over the weekend (Money Maker, April 2012) and viewing his music video collaboration with U2 for the rerelease of their 1992 hit , Even Better Than The Real Thing, I was hoping Hirst would be involved in the ceremony and as the first shots of Sunday's stadium were being aired, my suspicions materialised. The stadium floor was covered in the artist's iconic spin painting in a red, white and blue colourway that spanned one hundred and thirty metres wide, providing a contemporary artwork as the backdrop for the bird's-eye shots throughout the evening. Art's ability to inspire was followed by a mobile fashion show with Moss, Campbell and Tennant joining a cast of British supermodels who showcased golden creations to the soundtrack of David Bowie's Fashion in global success stories such as Burberry, McQueen, Westwood and Paul Smith. From the billboard-sized lorries that looked if they had migrated the whole of Oxford Street to the Olympic Village and the iconic London black cabs, sold around the world, to the export go-to in luxury motors; a fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupés handmade in West Sussex circulated the stadium, travelling in time through Lennon's I am A Walrus from the Sixties and then to Fatboy Slim's appropriately named, Right Here Right Now of the Nineties. British business old, known an emerging had viewers spinning in sound and vision.
Imagine: Yoko Ono creates John Lennon sculpture 
Touching moments for reflection were encapsulated by a large scale piecemeal cast of John Lennon's face, designed by Yoko Ono, resulting in what must be the most unanticipated art intervention with that of Hirst to be ever staged in one venue. Competing with as many stars in the sky as those on stage, the mashup continued with super hits from Pink Floyd, the Bee Gees, Oasis and Julian Lloyd Weber alongside the Pet Shop Boys, the Band of the Coldstream Guards and George Michael. 

If the Opening Ceremony was a lesson in British social history (Opening Up, July 2012), yesterday evening was recess - a guilty pleasure playlist of Brit Rock, Pop and pride that catapulted brand GB, in Monty Python fashion, naturally, over the finish line to win Gold.

The verdict: congratulations to everyone who was involved in the London Olympic Games - it's been #highlife.


What A Difference 16 Days Make...

After counting down for the past four years, the closing of the London Olympic Games is nigh - what have been your #highlife & #lowlife moments over the last sixteen days?