Arts go interactive during coronavirus lockdown


the RAD's Silver SwansImage copyright
Royal Academy of Dance

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The Royal Academy of Dance’s Silver Swans, pictured before the recent restrictions

As Britain begins its second week under strict conditions restricting movements and gatherings, arts organisations are getting creative in their attempts to interact with patrons.

The Getty Museum in the US, for example, has found a novel way for art lovers to engage with its collection.

Later this week the Royal Academy of Dance is launching a weekly series of online ballet classes, specifically tailored for the over-55s.

Theatres are now closed all across the country. But that doesn’t mean theatre lovers are being denied the joys of the communal experience.

Choirmaster Gareth Malone, meanwhile, is assembling a Great British Home Chorus to get us singing together even while we are apart.

Art imitating life

Based in Los Angeles, the J Paul Getty Museum is home to works by Rembrandt, Cezanne and hundreds of other world-renowned artists.

When the museum closed to the public on 14 March, its social media team started looking for ways to keep its audience entertained.

The answer lay in a Dutch Instagram account featuring elaborate recreations of works by Frida Kahlo, Rene Magritte and others.

The Getty put its own spin on the idea, inviting its followers to recreate artworks using three things lying around their houses.

Art fans jumped at the challenge, deploying everyday items, relatives and even pets to emulate works by Monet, Warhol and others.

One participant used coffee filters to make a mock-up of a ruff worn by one of El Greco’s subjects.

Another employed a shower cap and her own baby bump to replicate Raphael’s La donna gravida.

Bread, jam and a biscuit, meanwhile, were used to fashion an edible version of The Scream that certainly puts the munch into Edvard Munch.

“We are loving all your creative recreations,” the museum tweeted, exhorting its followers to “keep sharing”.

Keep dancing

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Royal Academy of Dance

Millions know Angela Rippon for the glamorous dance routine she performed with Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in 1976.

Forty-four years on, the former newsreader is still championing the terpsichorean arts in her role as Royal Academy of Dance ambassador.

Since 2017, the HealthCheck UK presenter has been raising awareness for the RAD’s Silver Swans project, branded ballet classes aimed at the over-55s.

This week the RAD is putting those classes online in the hope they will encourage older audiences to “unleash their inner dancer”.

“It’s a series of exercises that anyone can do at any level, that you can do at home in a small personal space,” Rippon told BBC News.

“You’re not going to be flying across the room like Carlos Acosta – you can do most of them holding on to something solid.”

According to Rippon, though, it’s not just the body that gets a workout.

“You’re having to use your brain as well so it’s a mental as well as a physical exercise,” she explained.

“It makes you feel good physically, but it makes you feel good psychologically too.”

The first online tutorial goes online on Wednesday, with new classes released weekly over the next nine weeks.

All the world’s a stage

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The closure of the UK’s theatres and performing arts venues has left the industry mired in turmoil and uncertainty.

With its base shuttered indefinitely, though, the National Theatre has decided to make some of its older productions accessible to a wider audience.

From 2 April, some productions previously screened in cinemas will be put on YouTube for theatre lovers to watch free of charge.

They include the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden; adaptations of the novels Jane Eyre and Treasure Island; and a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night starring Tamsin Greig.

The Hampstead Theatre in north London is also putting some of its plays online, starting this week with its 2016 staging of Mike Bartlett’s Wild.

If recent TV dramas Belgravia and The English Game haven’t sated your Julian Fellowes cravings, meanwhile, a 2017 recording of his musical version of The Wind in the Willows can also be streamed for free.

Lisa Burger, the National’s executive director, said its “varied” programme meant there would be “something for everyone to enjoy from their own homes”.

“We will be streaming each production at the same time each week in order to recreate, where possible, the communal viewing experience,” she added.

Roxana Silbert, the Hampstead’s artistic director, said its own offerings over the next three weeks would give audiences “entertainment, connection and nourishment in a time of uncertainty and isolation”.

The show, they say, must go on – something that producer Robert Myles has taken to heart.

He and a group of actors are gathering every Thursday to live stream performed readings of Shakespeare’s Complete Works.

So far they have tackled The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew, with the first part of Henry VI to follow later this week.

Sing for your supper

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Self-isolation is proving no hindrance to Gareth Malone’s new project, an online response to the nationwide closure of communal rehearsal places.

More than 160,000 people took part in the first rehearsal last week on YouTube.

“It is amazing how many people have signed up,” said Malone, promising to create something “really wonderful and inspiring”.

Those who have got involved have extolled the virtues of being part of what is now a globe-spanning venture.

“Amazing how a bit of singing lifts my spirits,” wrote one participant, while another said they were “absolutely loving the choir”.

“This is a wonderful idea,” wrote another choir member. “Thank you so much Gareth and everyone who is making this possible.”

For Angela Rippon, organisations and initiatives like the ones above are in an ideal position to appeal to a largely housebound populace.

“This is a great opportunity to reach a wider audience than they ever have before,” she said.

“Millions of us are in lockdown in our own homes and have the chance to do things we never felt we could.”



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