As viewers in the United Kingdom were settling down on Saturday evening to enjoy the annual BBC spectacle that is the final of Strictly Come Dancing, another dance competition of different nature was taking place too. The 15th Eurovision Young Dancers competition took place in the Czech capital city of Prague, the city that also hosted it in 2015.
This show is a highlight for me as a former dancer. I studied tap, ballet and modern as a child at the Lynton Stage School and then moved on to Hurley’s School of Dance to study Latin, Ballroom and modern jazz – I love to dance, I don’t really do it anymore, but of course, I can’t resist Eurovision Young Dancers as a showcase of modern dance performance from around the continent.
The rules are simple, all dancers must be between the ages of 16 and 21 and may compete as a solo performer or as a couple, no groups are allowed. None of the performers are allowed to be paid professional dancers, the contest is designed for amateurs.
Here Come The Dancers
This year’s contest actually saw the lowest number of participating countries with eight dancers taking to the stage, but this should not be seen as a cause of concern; numbers fluctuate, circumstances change and situations differ. In total 37 countries have participated over the years since the contest began in 1985 and as with all Eurovision events is open to any country who are member of the EBU.
On our first glimpse of the stage, if I’m being honest made me think of the pictures we’ve just seen of the stage in Lisbon for ESC 2018 and Junior Eurovision’s 2016 stage! We got an introduction to the performers (similar to the flag ceremony) they are introduced by name and country.
We then met our jury. Czech Daria Klimentová, having spent 18 years as a principal dancer with the English National Ballet, she retired in 2014 and is currently working at the Royal Ballet School in London. Itzik Galili, who wanted to be an astronaut but became one of Israel’s leading dancers and choreographers, what can I say the aeronautics industry’s loss is the arts industry’s gain! Ambra Succi a street dance and contemporary dance teacher from Italy, currently living and working in Sweden, Ambra choreographed Loreen to Eurovision victory in 2012 at the Eurovision Song Contest and has choreographed for a number of well known shows such as X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and other Eurovision Song Contest performances.
Each solo item was separated by a postcard in true Eurovision style. I’ve very much appreciated these as they’ve shown of a city that I love very much, not least because it’s where my brother lives! If you’ve never been, don’t wait for a Eurovision event, it’s a great place for a weekend getaway.
Here’s my run down of the competitive performances, as they happened…
Norway – Anna Louise Amundsen ‘These Days’
Anna is in a white lyrical style of dress, the arches on the stage are like cracked metal. Norways dance is an absolute hybrid of lyrical, contemporary and jazz. There’s a little hint of Mathew Bourne style ballet. Daria is impressed with the jumps and thinks this is a very strong show opener. In her backstage interview immediately after performing, Anna Louise is happy with her performance and was excited by the challenge of opening the show.
Germany – Danila Kapustin ‘Desde Otello’
Danila is brave in his costume choice, white dance trousers and bare top. The lighting is very clever in the opening shots, flooded in red lighting and lit from above highlighting the bone and muscle structure of his body. As a student at the famous State Ballet School in Berlin, I was expecting something extremely balletic in presentation and this did not disappoint. Beautifully presented, but Ambra wants him to use more of his back and lower shoulders more.
Malta – Denise Buttigieg ‘Q. W’
Denise starts this strong, it’s hard for me to type as I watch because I just can’t take my eyes off the screen! She is in a soft brown/gold skater-style dress. The music is rhythmic with only spoken word, no sung lyric at all. This is absolute contemporary modern dance style, not balletic at all, Denise is incredibly flexible but has great control of that flexibility. Ambra doesn’t agree, she thinks that Denise needs to work on her strength and control.
Portugal – Raquel Fidalgo ‘Esquiva’
Fashion-lover Raquel in in green halter top and olive green dance trousers, the lighting is green and it all melds very nicely together. Coming from the contemporary dance world it is easy to see this influence on the way that Raquel moves. I like that she’s using levels of dance, from the floor all the way to maximum stretch for her as well as leaps and jumps. The music is pure drum rhythm of quite a Brazilian flavour. Itzik likes the combination of movement and rhythm. In her post-dance interview Raquel speaks of the friendships made with the other performers.
Group Dance #1
The first four competitors now take to the stage in a group dance which has been choreographed by Czech Petr Zuska. The dance has been rehearsed in a short time since arriving in Prague and is part of the judging process. In the group dances the judges are looking at how the performers work together with each other and the movements, also how they interact during lift and connected movements.
Poland – Paulina Bidzińska ‘La Certa’
Paulina comes from the world of classical ballet and her operatic music immediately confirm that this is where she is most comfortable. Paulina is really using her entire body her, limb extensions are wonderful and her musicality is probably the best I’ve seen so far. Ambra is impressed with the use of her spine to create the shaping in the dance.
Slovenia – Patricija Crnkovič ‘Disintergration’
Patricija has been here before, she represented Slovenia in 2013 at EYD. This dance is a piece of modern dance. Patricija is very expressive with her face as well as her body, her confidence also comes through the dance, there was no holding back at any point, she put everything she had into this dance. Itzik agrees that her facial expression along with her movement were very good.
Sweden – Christoffer Collins ‘Solo – X’
Christoffer is another very expressive dancer, he is wearing casual dance clothes, a plaid red and black shirt and black trousers. The music is very contemporary and ‘Swedish’ and the dance itself is super contemporary, I wonder if it might be a bit too alienating for casual viewers of the show but his body shaping is very good. Daria says it’s interesting, but she remains a little unmoved by the dance.
Czech Republic – Mical Vach ‘Monologue’
Dressed in all balck but using the light and shadows of the stage to add to this impressive piece of contemporary modern/jazz fusion. The music is a solo Cello which Michal seems to be very in tune with. The performance was very strong, yet there is a softness to Mical’s movements which is very compelling. Mical’s dance used almost the entire dance space available. Itzik was impressed with Mical and thinks that he has a bright future ahead of him as a dancer.
Group Dance #2
The second of the group dances also part of the judging process, this is not an interval act, it all counts towards the final scores. This group feature the most classically trained dancer and the most contemporary style dancer in the same group, so the choreography is designed to reflect that. It could have been easy with two boy/girl parings to make this dance a couples dance but it’s not. The four are actually beautifully choreographed together as a dance ensemble. Whilst you can see the ballet/contemporary strengths in each dancer, I personally prefer this to the first group piece.
The Dance Off
The jury now select two finalist who will go into a final dance off to determine the winner. Itzik reveals that the two finalists are Paulina from Poland and Patricija from Slovenia. The final dance off sees the two finalists performing a duet dance, using the same music that has been used in the group dancers.
The jury have decided the winner, it falls again to Itzik to reveal the winner as Paulina Bidzińska from Poland, this is Poland’s third win at Eurovision Young Dancers. The most successful country at Eurovision Young Dancers is Spain who have five wins in their belt although they have not participated in the contest since 1999.
Congratulations to Poland and to Paulina, and to Česká televize and the EBU for another fantastic show. I am looking forward to 2019 when we will see the next edition of Eurovision Young Dancers. All eyes turn now from this contest to the next of Eurovision’s special events; the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 from Lisbon.
After hearing all 22 acts competing in the 56th edition of the Albanian music festival Festivali i Këngës, the question is what do they have to offer? The two semi-finals take place on the 21st and 22nd of December, and they include a lot of variety..
This Saturday, we will know who will represent Albania at the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest. Below, we review the rest of the 22 songs, following the first half from last week. After listening to all the songs, Albania has indeed, a lot to offer – from romantic and passionate ballads to the most unexpected rock songs.
Lorela Sejdini – Pritëm edhe pak
Lorela Sejdini is an Albanian law student who sings in her spare time. She is originally from Albania, but lives in Turin, Italy. She has performed at the Albanian version of ‘The Voice‘, and makes many covers. This year, Lorela enters the Festival i Këngës with her song: ‘Pritëm edhe pak’ (Wait for me some more). It is a lively, party like song, however very repetitive. It is very fresh and modern, something radio-friendly, and Lorela’s voice is very sweet.
Luiz Ejili & Rezarta Smaja – Ra një yll
Luiz Ejili and Rezarta Smaja are two Albanian singers. Both have won many awards in the music industry, and both have had experiences with the Eurovision Song Contest. Luiz Ejili represented Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, with the song ‘Zjarr e ftohtë’ but failed to go through the finals. Rezarta, however, did not represent her country in the contest, but she placed in the top 10 in the 53rd Edition of the Festival i Këngës, placing 7th, and then in the 54th edition, placing 4th. This year, the two form a duo, and enter their song ‘Ra një yll’ (A star has fallen) to the festival. The song is very harmonic, Rezarta is a very good singer, and Luiz fits in very well. It is a very dramatic entry, very passionate, and it seems like there is a lot of chemistry between them.
LYNX – Vonë
LYNX is an Albanian pop and rock group. It is a band composed of four members: Aurel Sesso, Endrik Beba, Eno John, and Renato Rexha, all coming from Tirana. They are quite noted in Albania. They first formed their group in 2007, and since then, they sang in different places from clubs to music festivals. One of these music festivals being the Kenga Magjike, which they have participated in three times, in 2012, 2014 and in 2016. This year, the band sings their song ‘Vonë’ (Late) at the 56th edition of the Festival i Këngës. It is a contemporary song, and very accessible to people, as it is a song with a style that is very much liked. It is a rock and electric song, it sounds like a hit, and we are sure it will be!
Manjola Nallbani – I njëti qiell
Manjola Nallbani is a fifty-one-year-old famous Albanian opera singer. She is noted for winning the Festival i Këngës three times, in 1989, 1992, and in 1993. In the 49th edition of the festival, she sat in the jury who appointed the winner and who would represent Albania at the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest. At the 56th edition of Festival i Këngës, Manjola Nallbani will perform her song ‘I njëti qiell’ (The Same Sky). It sounds like something that would be sent to Eurovision. It is fun, yet also ferocious.
Mariza Ikonomi – Unë
Mariza Ikonomi is an Albanian singer. Not a lot is known about the singer, but she will participate in the Festival i Këngës this year with her song ‘Unë’ (I). Her voice is powerful, and her piano solo is also. It is soft, it is loud, it is calm and it is crazy. This song has everything – it is a beautiful ballad and is very promising.
NA & Festina Mezini – Tjetër jetë
NA is a popular Albanian group. They have released many songs, of which are mostly covers, and are quite noted in their home country. Festina Mezini’s voice, on the other side, is said to be one of the most powerful voices of X-Factor Albania. She comes from a family of artists – her parents involved with music too. She was one of the favourites to win the X-Factor in Albania; however, after not winning, she joins NA and together they form a duo at this year’s Festival i Këngës, singing their song ‘Tjetër jetë’ (Another Life). The song is harmonic, and very heart-warming. The band and Festina fit in together well, and with a good performance, we are sure they could both impress us and the jury.
Orgesa Zaimi – Ngrije zërin
Orgesa Zaimi is a 32-year-old Albanian singer, who participated in many music fesitvals such as Kënga Magjike, in 2006. She was one of the background singers of Kejsi Tola, who represented Albania at the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. This year, Orgesa tries to get her own experience at the Eurovision Song Contest, and enters the Festival i Këngës with an energetic and fun song: ‘Ngrije zërin’ (Raise your voice). It is very promising as it is loose and the audience will feel good as they listen to the song.
Redon Makashi – Ekziston
46-year-old Albanian singer and composer Redon Makashi will participate in this year’s Festival i Këngës. He participated in the festival before, his first time being in 1989, where he finished second. In 2011, he was one of the judges at the 50th edition of the Festival i Këngës. This year, he sings at the festival for the third time with the song ‘Ekziston’ (It Exists). It is a mild rock song, strangely friendly, mature, the song accompanied by a guitar, however, repetitive.
Tiri – Orë e ndalur
Tiri, although not a lot is known about him, is an Albanian singer, who enters the 56th edition of the Festival i Këngës with a fun, country song .- Tiri seems to be a very fun person and a bit dreamy from his music video – which is slow, unlike to most country songs. It is very likeable.
Voltan Prodani – E pamundur
Voltan Prodani is a musical artist from Albania. He is not such a noted singer, however he will enter this year’s Festival i Këngës as a passionate pianist with his song ‘E pamundur’ (Impossible). He has a very nice voice, he seems to be very into his song during the music video and passionate as he plays the piano. With a good performance on stage, he’d be able to get through the finals.
Xhesika Polo – Përjetë
Xhesika Polo, an Albanian artist, participated at the Albanian X-Factor, and is very successful in general in her home country. She has many songs released, and this year she will participate at the Festival i Këngës, with her song ‘Përjetë’ (Forever). She has an amazingly strong voice, and the song is something that would do well in Eurovision. It is a song that would impress many people, and it certainly impressed us as her voice is very good. With a good performance, we might see her performing on the Eurovision stage soon!
This brings us to the end of our Fesitval i Këngës song reviews. We are very impressed by the high standards delivered from these artists, and we are sure they will do extremely well during the live show. You can listen to all the songs here:
In My Head are one of eight groups or duos, competing in Latvia’s 2018 Supernova competition. Do they have what it takes to represent Latvia in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, in Lisbon, with their song Sunset.
In My Head are a trio comprising of two men and a woman. The band was established in 2015, when, at age 23, popular Latvian singer Evija Smagare began a musical collaboration with Armands Varslavāns and Rugo Iļķēns.
Armands and Evija were born in Daugavpils, Latvia’s second biggest city, extremely close to Lithuania and Belarus. Rugo, real name Rudolfs Iļķēns, studied at the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston.
Evija has recorded English songs, like Upside Down and This Is Why We Fight.
The band’s preferred musical style is electronic dance music. However, they also like to experiment with new sounds and sample other genres of music. This helps them create their novel and original sound.
Rugo oversees the recording and production, while Armands is the main instrumentalist. Evija is responsible for all vocals and harmonies.
Sunset, the song is about breaking through and achieving one’s goals. This can be achieved by ignoring misleading obstacles. Sunset is used as a metaphor for the happiness you owe to yourself. Unlike in romantic films where the hero walks of into the sunset, In My Head goes beyond the Sunset because that is not the end of the cycle.
Enjoy the song below, and if you like it, make sure you show In My Head your support. The group will be releasing their first EP soon.
Less than a week away until the first National Selection show (Albania’s Festivali i Këngës) we have two more names from internal selections, many more names announced for other National Finals, and a little bit of Christmas cheer from Malta.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Do We Need Alcazar featuring John Lydon?
Ewan Spence brings you the latest news from the world of the Eurovision Song Contest, more singers selected, more songs submitted, and more budget allocated for Lisbon 2018. With music from Christina Magrin.
Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the winter for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
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Italian national broadcaster RAI has announced the participants in the Campioni category of the Sanremo Festival 2018. Among the twenty acts are four artists that took part in the Eurovision Song Contest before.
Nina Zilli is the artist who represented Italy most recently. She came eighth in 2012 with ‘L’amore è femmina’. Enrico Ruggeri, the lead singer of Decibel, came twelfth in 1993 with ‘Sole d’Europa’, Luca Barbarossa took part in 1988 and also came twelfth ‘Ti Scrivo’. Riccardo Fogli respresented Italy in 1983 with the song ‘Per Lucia’ and finished in eleventh place.
The twenty participants in the 2018 Campioni category are:
Roby Facchinetti e Riccardo Fogli – “Il segreto del tempo” (The secret of time)
Nina Zilli – “Senza appartenere” (Without belonging)
The Kolors – “Frida”
Diodato and Rosy Paci – “Adesso” (Now)
Mario Biondi – “Rivederti” (Seeing you again)
Luca Barbarossa – “Passame er sale” (Pass me the salt)
Lo stato sociale – “Una vita in vacanza” (A life on holiday)
Annalisa – “Il mondo prima di te” (The world before you)
Giovanni Caccamo – “Eterno” (Eternal)
Enzo Avitabile and P. Servillo – “Il coraggio di ogni giorno” (The courage of every day)
Ornalla Vanoni, Bungaro and Pacifico – “Imparare ad amarsi” (Learning to love oneself)
Renzo Rubino – “Custodire” (Cherish)
Noemi – “Non smettere mai di cercarmi” (Never stop looking for me)
Ermal Meta e Fabrizio Moro – “Non mi avete fatto niente” (You never did anything to me)
Le vibrazioni – “Così sbagliato” (So wrong)
Ron – Almeno pensami” (At least think of me)
Max Gazzè – “La leggenda di Cristalda e Pizzomunno” (The legend of Cristalda and Pizzomunno)
Decibel – “Fuori dal tempo” (Outside of time)
Red Canzian – “Ognuno ha il suo racconto” (Everyone has their story)
Elio e le storie tese – “Arrivederci” (Goodbye)
Sanremo takes place in early February
The 68th edition of the Sanremo Festival will take place from February 6 – 10 in the Ariston Theatre in Sanremo. The winner of the Campioni Category receives the right to represent Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest. However they are not obliged to take part in Eurovision, as seen in 2016 when Stadio declined to participate in the contest.
Should the winner decide not to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest, broadcaster RAI will decide out of the other 19 participating acts who will be the Italian entrant.
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ESC Insight and friends in the press room at Eurovision 2017 (image: ESC Insight)
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Ellie and Lisa-Jayne interview Francesco Gabanni
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