Preview: Girls will be boys - and vice versa

The Cholmondeleys And The Featherstonehaughs, Opera House, Buxton; then touring
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The Independent Culture

"Nobody asks you beforehand if you want to be on the A-level dance syllabus," says choreographer Lea Anderson, of the moment she found out that her work was to be taught in schools across Britain. "It has huge implications. The office was suddenly getting hundreds of phone calls and letters. We had to set up a website just to deal with educational matters. No financial assistance or help is offered when this happens."

"Nobody asks you beforehand if you want to be on the A-level dance syllabus," says choreographer Lea Anderson, of the moment she found out that her work was to be taught in schools across Britain. "It has huge implications. The office was suddenly getting hundreds of phone calls and letters. We had to set up a website just to deal with educational matters. No financial assistance or help is offered when this happens."

Back in the Eighties, Anderson's all-female dance group, The Cholmondeleys, and their male counterparts, The Featherstonehaughs, were seen as radical performers breaking down gender stereotypes. Now, both companies have been firmly embraced by the dance establishment and last year Anderson's work was also added to the GCSE syllabus.

Having choreographed more than a hundred shows for both groups, she has preferred to work with them separately. She says: "It is interesting to keep them divided, in order to maintain their differences." But for The Cholmondeleys 20th-anniversary celebrations last year, Anderson broke her rule and the groups performed Flesh and Blood and Double Take, the wrong way round. The gender swap was such a success it was soon to be repeated.

Flesh and Blood was originally performed by an all-female cast in 1989, and the new all-male cast wear gold dresses. After these theatrics, the female dancers arrive on stage, wearing suits, to perform Double Take - a series of dances based on popular entertainment.

"Strangers", with six female tap-dancers, is based on Audrey Hepburn's role as a blind woman in the film Wait Until Dark. "Elvis Legs" is based on the movements of Elvis Presley. And the last act is set to the dancers' own whistling of "Edelweiss".

Buxton, 22 April; Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, 26 April; Arts Theatre, Cambridge, 29 & 30 April, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1, 14 May ( www.thecholmondeleys.org)

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