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North West dance news, reviews and personal views

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    Arts Council England (ACE) is having its budget cut by almost 30% in the government's Spending Review.

    The Arts Council - which distributes money to hundreds of arts venues, theatre groups and galleries - said the cut would have "a significant impact on the cultural life of the country".

    The 29.6% cut will see ACE's current government grant of £449m drop to £349m by 2014.

    The Arts Council is also being asked to make a 50% cut in its administrative costs.

    In addition, funding will end for Creative Partnerships (a school arts programme) and funding will be cut for the British Film Institute by 15%.

    Alan Davey, ACE's chief executive, said: "This cut will inevitably have a significant impact on the cultural life of the country.

    "The Secretary of State has asked us to try to ensure that funding for arts organisations is not cut by more than 15% over the next four years - the tipping point that we identified to the Chancellor some months ago."

    He said the Arts Council would now meet to consider the overall position on 25 October.

    "We will now be analysing the details of the settlement and the consequences for the arts in this country as a whole," Mr Davey said.

    The BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz describes Arts Council England as "a big loser" in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) cuts.

    He said: "They have to fulfil two specific requirements - to reduce administrative costs by 50% and only pass on 15% cuts to their regularly funded organisations.

    "This is likely to mean the closure of some regional arts offices and a significant reduction in the Arts Council projects fund which enables them to support major events such as the Manchester International Festival."

    Michael Boyd, artistic director at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: "This will be a big blow to theatres - especially those who will also be losing local authority funding - and audiences will be the poorer. We are concerned that the settlement for the Arts Council doesn't allow it sufficient room to manoeuvre."

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey told the BBC: "I think that the Arts Council will still be an effective organisation. It will have to be a leaner organisation and I think it will be difficult, but I'm very confident that the chief executive Alan Davey is capable of delivering those savings."
    BBC News

    In other words, theatres will close, arts organisations will fold, there will be less dance, theatre, opera, performance of all kinds and many companies will fold.

    The arguments for protecting arts funding were strong but have not been heard. This government will leave a bitter legacy of cultural death for relatively small savings. The arts make far more money than they cost.

    A victory for short-sightedness.

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    Phoenix Dance Theatre will be performing Switch as part of their Refelected tour at The Lowry on 22 March 2011.

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  • 10/23/10--12:09: Pleasure's Progress

  • Pleasure's Progress
    The Lowry Studio
    22 October

    Stunning show created by the Royal Ballet's Will Tuckett, based on the drawings of William Hogarth depicting London life and society in the mid-18th century and drawing from musical theatre, drama, opera and ballet. 

    The cast and musicians were superb, the staging lavish and highly effective. The Lowry Studio has never looked better. Funny, rude, atmospheric and moving, I loved it.

    Anna Dennis, Tom Solomon and  Clemmie Sveaas in Pleasure's Progress

    The Harlot's Progress - Plate 1 The Girl From the Country

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    On this week at Dance Umbrella this show is not something we're ever likely to get a chance to see outside London I suspect. But this is something I would love to see - being the perfect marriage of my two loves of contemporary dance and naked performance art.

    The Dance Umbrella performances will mark the work's UK debut although the piece has been performed 100 times since being created in 2001...

    Daniel Leveille Danse - Amour, acide et noix from Dance Umbrella on Vimeo.

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  • 10/26/10--06:12: From the BBC...
  • Manchester International Festival 'will survive' cuts

    MIF appears to have established a robust mixed funding base on which to ensure a secure future. Other than to support political campaigning to ensure a swift turnaround on these potentially devastating, short-sighted and low-return arts cuts what can we do, apart from doing our part in contributing to low-level personal contributary funding - voluntary donations on top of ticket prices etc. - and, of course, buying those tickets with a view to ensuring packed houses for every event?

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  • 10/27/10--05:54: Flesh Dance
  • From the Telegraph:

    A choreographer who describes himself as the "enfant terrible" of the dance world, and whose previous shows have featured scenes of simulated masturbation, is set to bring his work to Britain for the first time.

    Dave St Pierre will make his London debut at Sadler's Wells next year, the theatre's chief executive, Alistair Spalding, announced yesterday.

    Mr St Pierre's show, Un Peu de Tendresse Bordel de Merde, features 20 nude male and female dancers cavorting in blond wigs and will debut in June. First performed in Canada in May 2007, a polite translation of its title is: "A little tenderness for crying out loud." It is described as "leading the audience on a journey through their emotions as the performers leap with primal urgency, or lie crumpled and defeated on the ground, before climaxing in a moving finale".

    "It's very lighthearted, very funny, and takes performance to its limits," said Mr Spalding. "We are not interested in shocking people. [When I first saw the show] it was like a jet plane taking off. You need that fizz."

    Mr St Pierre rejects the accusation that his work seeks to shock. "My God, I've seen shows that I thought were extremely shocking but never enough to walk out," he said. "One [of my scenes] was a kind of suicide. That was reality. That was sadistic. I do theatre."

    In a 2008 interview, he said: "People need time to reflect on my proposal. If people bristle at it right from the start, they won't listen. Some people don't have enough tolerance to risk listening. They're not obliged to, of course, but how do these people react when problems arise in life? Do they just turn away?" One of the choreographer's previous shows, La Pornographie des âmes, which premiered in Montreal in 2004, also contained scenes of masturbation, and members of the audience did indeed walk out. It touched on subjects as wide-ranging as "fast food and 9/11", with music by Maria Callas, Rob Zombie and Björk.

    I wrote a few days ago about a show being performed this week at Dance Umbrella called Amour, Acide et Noix, which featured dancers performing entirely in the nude, and confessed an interest in naked performance (as anyone who has spotted one of my other blogs will doubtless have noted). Entirely coincidentally, Dave St Pierre, the creator of the show above was one of the original performers in Amour, Acide et Noix.

    I don't know if this marks a trend in naked performance. I saw balletLORENT's show Designer Body last year, during which the dancers removed elaborate costumes until they were naked. There are several choreographers and show makers who are pushing the boundaries - Javier de Frutos also springs to mind - but this kind of performance has appeared occasionally since the 1960s.

    Some of the comments below the Telegraph piece - which is essentially a reveal of the spring 2011 Sadler's Wells dance season - make it clear just how controversial naked performance still is for some people.

    As for me, I'm still kind of fascinated by it. I don't think it is possibe to watch a lot of dance - especially contemporary dance - without being fascinated by the way the body moves, especially the dancers' body. I love theatricality and staging and lighting and costume, but what better way to see dancers in motion than in the nude - bone and muscle and sinew beneath skin?

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    Royal Opera House North on hold | News | Manchester Confidential

    Both sides are still committed to the idea when the time is right The time is unlikely to be right for a while.

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    From the Guardian:

    It will be months, years even, before we know how severe the effect of the arts cuts will be, and yesterday's announcement of a soft start – a 6.9% first-year cut for most arts bodies – will be seen as good news. But expect some of the biggest losers to be any organisation overly reliant on local government funding. Councils in Manchester, for example, will meet on Friday to agree "a fundamental review" of the £3.7m in grants they give to everything from the Hallé to the Cornerhouse to the Bolton Octagon.
    Oh hell. I know The Lowry as a regigistered charity only receives 15% of its revenue from public funding - so for every £1 of public funding that they receive, they must raise a further £7 in order to support their work in their theatres, galleries and within the local community. The good thing about this means that we the public can directly support The Lowry  through additional giving (such as the voluntary ticket levy) and (presumably) simply paying for tickets, buying merchandise within the gift shop and by purchasing food and drink in the bars and restaurant.  The downside is if that 15% is reduced, leaving them with a greater burden of public goodwill to rely on.

    The Library Theatre is owned by Manchester City Council and is precariously now without a home and reliant upon major capital investment to deliver their future plans. As for other theatres and organisations in the area I don't know. The Royal Exchange? Contact Theatre? The Dancehouse? greenroom, etc. etc.

    I suppose we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, sign petitions, write to your MPs and local counsellors, campaign online, and above all, buy tickets and go and see stuff.

    National Campaign for the Arts
    I Value The Arts
    Facebook |  I value the arts

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  • 10/28/10--10:17: New Lowry Season
  • Some good news from the arts - The Lowry have announced their new 2011 season - just for My Lowry customers for now. If you're not signed up for My Lowry then it's easy to do so on their website.

    They have now named their first 'dance season' - Dance Moves 2011. I have previously identified the company appearances that comprise this season here but will list anything new and of interest below.

    Siobhan Davies in Conversation discussing her new work ROTOR and other experiences - Wednesday, 12 January
    U.Dance North West 2011 - 15-16 January
    Salford Dance Explosion - 26-27 January
    PanGottic Circus-Theatre Full Twist (mix of contemporray circus and physical theatre)- Saturday, 12 February
    Signatures presented by DIGM and The Lowry. Will include a performance by the Tom Dale Company - Sunday, 13 February

    There is lots more comedy, theatre, experimental theatre, circus, cabaret, burlesque opera, and much more so have a look!

    The other highlight I will mention is that Avenue Q is going on UK tour for the first time and visiting The Lowry 31 May-4 June.

    I saw Avenue Q in London a couple of years back and my other half loathed it - but I LOVED IT!

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    WinterVariations by Emmanuel Gat gets a proper pasting here, but I think it looks rather mesmerising from the clip below.

    Having said that, a contemporary dance piece with two dancers - even male dancers - that lasts an hour or more could be an attention challenge. I've never seen Emmanuel Gat's company or any of his choreography myself so can't really comment beyond that.

    Perhaps if it was set to a challenging electronic or world music soundtrack rather than classical songs...?

    The following day, the Guardian gave this show a 4-star review.

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    The way the arts are financed in England is to be transformed with the introduction of an applications system from the main public funding body.

    Arts Council England, which distributes cash to about 850 groups, wants to make recipients more accountable and open up the process to new organisations.

    More than 100 organisations are likely to lose their funding.

    The council's current annual grant of £449m is dropping to £349m by 2014 as a result of the Spending Review.

    Arts funding bodies in the rest of the UK are developing their own plans.

    Arts Council England hands out government funding to venues across the country from local companies to the Royal Opera House.

    Until now the body says there has been no process under which organisations could apply for funding.

    Under the plans, all existing organisations are able to apply and new organisations will also be eligible for funding.

    Decisions will be made over funding depending on the "context of a clear set of strategic priorities and the reduced resources available".

    The council's head, Dame Liz Forgan said, although funding cuts will have a "severe impact" on their budget, they will not "dent the shape of our ambitions for the arts and audiences in this country".

    She added: "Salami slicing our portfolio of organisations would never have been an appropriate long-term response, regardless of our settlement. That is why a vision for the future is so important to us.

    "We want to build a portfolio where organisations, large, medium and small, are able to prosper as well as survive."

    The applications will be renewed every few years.

    Some successful applicants will also be asked support smaller companies by providing facilities and expertise.

    The BBC's arts editor Will Gompertz says the council has given itself a "could do better report, especially when it comes to handing out taxpayers' money".

    But former Arts Council chairman Sir Gerry Robinson feels the changes are misjudged.

    He told the BBC: "You need to be brave enough to say 'here are the organisations we are going to fund and 'I'm sorry', here are the ones we are not'.

    "When you hear about this new process, it's like a cowardly way of not facing up to the difficult decisions that you're going to have to face if the money is not available."

    In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the devolved governments decide how much they will spend on the arts, out of the total money they are given by Westminster.

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    My first attempt at reviewing opera...

    The Turn of the Screw: Opera North – The Lowry, Salford

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    I'm reviewing this at The Lowry for The Public Reviews on Monday. The subject matter is rather alien to me but I have enjoyed Ballet Lorent before so I'm looking forward to it.

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    Balletboyz have announced a 2011 tour featuring a mixed bill performed by their new young male company The Talent. 2011 marks the company's 10th anniversary.

    There is no Manchester date as yet....

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    I liked parts of this production and like Lorent's dancers very much - it was especially good to see Gary Clarke again - but a subject which probably has great resonance for people who have or have had a baby really doesn't make any connection with me, alas. In parts boring, baffling and only occasionally truly entertaining.

    Blood, Sweat & Tears: Ballet Lorent – The Lowry Theatre, Salford

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  • 11/17/10--02:34: The dark side of Cinderella
  • Cinderella: you shall go to the bombing 

    Move over, Nutcracker. Cinderella is the big ballet this festive season. Judith Mackrell reports on four ambitious new productions – one of them set during the Blitz
    As Manchester prepares for the arrival of Matthew Bourne's Cinderella [above] next week and the Birmingham Royal Ballet's Cinderella [left] in January (both at The Lowry), the Guardian's Judith Mackrell gives a fascinating insight into the dark origins of the panto ballet favourite.

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    It would seem that the Library Theatre plan to move into the former Theatre Royal has been discounted on the grounds of redevelopment costs. Now the plan is for a new building to house the Library Theatre and The Cornerhouse cinema and gallery.

    This could be a fantastic development if the architecture is right and should bring life to a part of the city centre that has yet to be brought regenerated - particularly the white elephant of First Street.

    It does rather ruin my vision of a 'theatre mile' from the Opera House on Peter Street to the Contact Theatre down on Oxford Road though. And where does that leave the Theatre Royal? In nightclub hell presumably.

    My other concern would be that it takes The Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre out of major (foot) traffic areas (Oxford Street and St Peter's Square) in the city's social centre and dumps them together in what could potentially turn into a redevelopment wasteland off streets that frankly do not have much natural foot traffic (Whitworth Street West).

    The new building, near the former Hacienda club on Whitworth Street West, will also house the Library Theatre, which has needed a home since moving as part of the town hall redevelopment.

    Cornerhouse, which specialise in independent cinema, has faced funding problems but bosses say visitor numbers have shot up by 88 per cent over the past two years

    The venue says it needs more space and will increase the number of screens from three to five in its new home.

    The existing Cornerhouse building, on Oxford Road, is likely to become available for redevelopment, although firm plans have not been drawn up.

    The new venue could open as early as spring 2014, and will also host a new gallery and outdoor performance space.

    Cornerhouse boss Dave Moutrey said it would secure Manchester’s place as a leading culture destination.

    He said: "The new facility will give us space to grow, to increase our audience and widen access to contemporary visual art and cinema.

    "We’ll be able to create more opportunities for community involvement and to expand our role as a digitally connected producer."

    The Library Theatre Company has been seeking a new home since moving out of their historic venue in the basement of Central Library earlier this year.

    Artistic director Chris Horner said: "This is terrific news for Manchester audiences and the Library Theatre Company. It will enable the company to develop and expand its work and achieve its aspirations.

    "The artistic potential of the collaboration with Cornerhouse is immense."

    There had been plans to move the Library Theatre to the historic Theatre Royal, in Peter Street, but work revealed that it would cost too much to transform the listed building, which is currently used as a nightclub.

    The new proposals were due to be considered by council chiefs today.

    Coun Mike Amesbury said: "Manchester is committed to culture, something we see not as a luxury but as a necessity which creates jobs and other opportunities and is a fundamental part of attracting investors."

    And council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "This is exactly the sort of scheme we need to get people into work, get our economy moving even faster, and show the world that Manchester is still an ambitious city."

    The new venue will be on land at First Street, between Whitworth Street West and Mancunian Way. Funds for the theatre move are already in place and council papers say the remaining £3m will come from third parties and future town hall income.

    The council already has an agreement in place with developers, Ask, who have been working with them on the 20-acre First Street site.

    Council officers have also been working with the architects who designed the Bridgewater Hall, although the final look of the building will be decided after a contest.

    New home for Cornerhouse and Library Theatre in £19m arts centre plan - Manchester Evening News

    Manchester Confidential's vision of how the new building could look

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    The Royal Ballet is to perform a series of shows at London's O2 Arena in June, it has been announced.

    It is the first time the world famous ballet company has performed in a UK arena.

    Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg will dance the principal roles in the production of Romeo and Juliet.

    Up to 2,000 tickets for each performance will be available for £10 on a first-come-first-served basis.

    The rest of the tickets will sell for £60 and £95 and will be available from 5 December.

    A filmed introduction will be shown on giant screens in the venue at the beginning of each act.
    read the full story [BBC]

    My initial reaction to this is that it is a hideous idea and not something that would appeal to me - but that's the whole point. I go and watch ballet and dance on a regular basis.

    Aside from the fact that ballet is not really designed to be performed in such a huge arena - although I suppose it could be designed to be - this could potentially have two big benefits.

    Firstly, it would likely encourage the curious who would never book to see ballet in a 'conventional' theatre but who will watch a variety of events staged in arenas - ice shows, Cirque du Soleil, Riverdance, Strictly Come Dancing (not to mention music concerts full of dancing and dancers) - to come and see ballet. This must be a good thing. And Romeo and Juliet is a fantastic show, familiar to most and full of great crowd scenes and fights and strong characters. 

    Secondly, it will potentially generate the kind of cash income that the Royal Ballet can only dream of, surely? Perhaps if companies with the draw to ocasionally stage such events do so and bring in significant income - the dance world hardly maximises merchandise sales even to hardcore fans, for example - then  they might become less reliant on arts funding, leaving more in the pot for the mid- to small-scale to one-man band companies...?

    Dream on, eh?

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