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North West dance news, reviews and personal views
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  • 03/07/17--09:55: 2018 - The Year in Dance
  • It feels early to be creating the 2018 page, but the first date has been announced:




    • Matthew Bourne's Cinderella | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 13-17 March










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  • 12/19/17--06:48: Manchester? No, sorry 2018
  • My annual list of companies that miss Manchester from their touring. Just for information.

    BalletBoyz - the 'Boyz brought their Life tour to The Lowry in 2017 but not their Fourteen Days tour - twice in one year would have been unlikely in any case. The Fourteen Days tour continues up to May 2018 but The Lowry - their 'regular' venue is not on the schedule.

    Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - Les Trocks generally tour the UK every other year supported by Dance Consortium. They return in 2018 but, unusually, The Lowry is not on the schedule. This is likely due to scheduling availability, but leaves a major company hole in the city's dance offer.

    Phoenix Dance Theatre - Phoenix appear to be going through something of a transition. They seem to be shrinking in size and activity - or this has been the case for a couple of years. They are touring a mixed programme in 2018 but not visiting Manchester. Their visits have been sporadic in any case, often opting for the Liverpool Playhouse instead (who they are also not visiting).

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    Companies I would like to see in 2018:

    NB: this list is entirely speculative and wishful thinking - not based on announced dates or touring schedules (for the most part). Will update as the year progresses.

    • Hofesh Shechter Company (UK) (I already have tickets for Grand Finale at HOME)
    • L-E-V - (Israel) Sharon Eyal is choreographing a piece for Ballet BC, who are touring with Dance Consortium and visiting The Lowry - ticket already purchased.
    • Peeping Tom (Belgium)
    • Kidd Pivot (Canada) - Kidd Pivot's Crystal Pite is also creating a piece for Ballet BC. 
    • Theo Clinkard (UK)
    • Ballet National de Marseille (France)
    • Mark Bruce Company (UK)
    • James Wilton Company (UK)
    • Lucy Guerin Inc. (Australia)
    • Toronto Dance Theatre (Canada)
    • Ballet du Nord (France)
    • Riccardo Buscarini (UK/Italy)
    • Joss Carter (UK)
    • Gary Clarke Company (UK)
    • Teac Damsa (Eire)
    • Sasha Waltz & Guests (Germany) (seeing Korper at Sadler’s Wells in March)
    • Íslenski dansflokkurinn (Iceland)
    • Carte Blanche (Norway)

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  • 03/13/18--10:15: The Return of DV8...?
  • This is massively jumping the gun but ... DV8 has opened up its archive and made new digital content available - for the first time all four iconic DV8 films (Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, Strange Fish, Enter Achilles and The Cost of Living) are available for streaming via the website.

    And a Professional Development Workshop is being planned for August 2018.

    Could Lloyd Newson be ending DV8's hiatus...?

    DV8 On Hold

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  • 04/09/18--05:30: 2019 - The Year in Dance
  • January

    • The Nutcracker | Russian State Ballet of Siberia | Bridgewater Hall | 2-3 January












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    See the broadcast premiere of Michael Clark’s to a simple, rock ’n’ roll . . . song., Sunday 6th May at 10pm on BBC Four.

    Recorded at the Barbican, London in 2017, this Olivier Award-nominated production features music by Patti Smith, Erik Satie and David Bowie, including the title track from Bowie’s final studio album, Blackstar.

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  • 05/10/18--04:56: BBC Four Dance Season
  • BBC Four lifts the curtain on ballet, tap, street dance and more

    Explore the thriving world of dance with a major season of programmes from Sunday 6 May.

    Highlights include a Michael Clark broadcast premiere, a film on famed choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan, dancer Zenaida Yanowsky's swansong and Clarke Peters on the history of tap.

    BBC Four Dance Season

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    Watch the Charge trailer

    This summer, Quays Culture will host a one-night only, exclusive outdoor performance, with the critically acclaimed, world-class dance circus production company, Motionhouse.

    Motionhouse will take centre stage at Quays Culture’s Summer Showcase, with a performance of its electrifying new dance-circus, inspired by the role of electricity in the human body, Charge.

    Charge is an exhilarating new multi-media show about energy, and for the first time it will be re-created as an outdoor spectacular, in partnership with the pioneers of outdoor arts and cultural events, Quays Culture.

    Charge will be performed at 21.30, on Saturday 9th June 2018, at the MediaCityUK Piazza – a one show only experience that is FREE for all to enjoy.

    Quays Culture brings this exciting fusion of art and science to the public realm, with an awe-inspiring 70-minute production, that has never before been seen at Salford Quays.

    From the electrical charge that sparks human life, to the beating of our hearts and the memories we make, Charge sees six performers use dance and acrobatics to delve deep into the human body, tracing the incredible story of energy in our lives, to breath-taking effect. Digital projections create a world on stage where dancers and images interact seamlessly, bringing to life stories of energy in our own bodies and humans as energy manipulators.

    Lucy Dusgate, Creative Producer at Quays Culture says: “It is fantastic to be working closely with Motionhouse again, to stage the first outdoor, large-scale production of Charge. Quays Culture introduces the public to world-class arts that utilise the latest digital technology, and this production is at the very pinnacle of this. We are delighted to be able to bring this monumental, spectacular show to a huge audience, and invite everyone to enjoy it at no cost. We have no doubt that this new outdoor commission of Charge will inspire the audience, even those who are not necessarily familiar with dance.”

    Louise Richards, Executive Director of Motionhouse, said: “We are thrilled to bring our theatre production Charge to Salford Quays for its first ever outdoor performance. Taking a production outside its normal performance environment of a theatre is an exciting opportunity and we are looking forward to it immensely - bringing work to new audiences outdoors is a key part of our approach. The digital projections and technical elements of the show are a perfect fit with Salford Quays, a destination for innovative cultural events and performances.”

    Quays Culture delivers outdoor arts and cultural events, combining the latest in digital and cutting edge technology with the vision of world-class artists throughout the year. Its work ranges from the intimate to the monumental, acting as a series of interventions and invitations to the public realm.

    Find out more by visiting:

    Twitter @QuaysCulture

    Instagram: QuayscultureUK

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    Updated: 5 June 2018

    London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans for a £1.1bn new cultural centre inside Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
    The scheme, which is receiving £385m from the mayor and a further £151m from the government, was formerly known as Olympicopolis but has been rebranded as East Bank.
    The cultural quarter will house a dance theatre for Sadler’s Wells, a campus for the University of the Arts London and a new venue for the Victoria and Albert museum.
    Architectural and landscape designs for the site appear to have been revised also.

    Not a new story but something I have recently been reminded of...

    In the coming years, a world class education and cultural district on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is being created that will bring together outstanding organisations to showcase exceptional art, dance, history, craft, science, technology and cutting edge design.

    The Cultural and Education District will be made up of two sites on the Park, clustered around the iconic Stadium, ArcelorMittal Orbit and London Aquatics Centre.

    A number of world-class institutions have already made plans to set up a permanent presence on these two sites. UCL East will be the site of a new university campus for University College London (UCL), while Stratford Waterfront features a new campus for the University of the Arts London, along with major new spaces for the Victoria and Albert Museum and Sadler's Wells.  Discussions are also underway between the Smithsonian and the Victoria and Albert Museum to work together to create a major new international collaboration.

    Sadler's Wells

    Sadler’s Wells aims to create a 7,000m2 venue with a 600-seat dance theatre to complement its existing venues cementing London’s position as one of the world’s greatest centres for dance.

    The new venue will provide flexible ‘making’ spaces for research and development and producing new work, facilities for a Choreographic School, and for a Hip Hop Academy.

    Current Proposed Design

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  • 06/27/18--09:47: Music and Movement
  • Two dance companies have now announced collaborative projects with opera companies to appear at The Lowry.

    National Dance Company Wales and Music Theatre Wales with  London Sinfonietta and EXAUDI in a new production of Pascal Dusapin's 2009 vocal work/opera Passion, which appears to have originally choreographed by Sasha Waltz (although Waltz is not mentioned in the credits for this new production. NDC Wales's Caroline Finn is billed as co-director but no one gets credit as choreographer...

    Meanwhile, Phoenix Dance Theatre have announced a production of The Rite of Spring for 2019 in collaboration with Opera North, their Leeds neighbours. Is it worth noting that The Rite of Spring is not an opera and Phoenix are now a relatively small company of eight dancers (plus two apprentices): although Scottish Ballet recently did The Rite with just three dancers.

    The big question is: is this some 'new' European-style genre-combining vogue drifting across the mainland (while we still have the option). Obviously the linkages between opera and ballet are historic.

    Or - in a climate in which it is starting to appear quite starkly that the dance market is going into crisis (outside London, possibly in London)  is it that dance companies are seeking actively to collaborate with their more successful operatic partners in search of stages and audiences?

    Interestingly, neither NDC Wales nor Phoenix Dance Theatre have managed to secure a regular home at The Lowry in recent years.

    Passion - by Pascal Dusapin & Sasaha Waltz

    Passion - by Pascal Dusapin & Sasha Waltz from Stephan Talneau on Vimeo.

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    Death of the dance dictators: ballet in the wake of #MeToo

    With its culture of discipline, control and pecking orders, the dance world has always been plagued by claims of bullying and sexual exploitation. But old hierarchies are being challenged.

    Judith Mackrell on the cultural shift happening within classical ballet. 

    The Royal Ballet

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    Choreographer Mark Morris, hailed as the “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical,” (New York Times) returns to the UK with Pepperland, a unique tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    Kicking off Liverpool’s season-long festivities in 2017, Pepperland features an original score by Ethan Iverson, interspersing arrangements of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, “A Day in the Life”, “When I’m Sixty-Four”, “Within You Without You”, and “Penny Lane” with six Pepper-inspired original pieces intended especially to complement Mark Morris’ profound understanding of classical forms: Allegro, Scherzo, Adagio, and the blues.

    An unprecedented chamber music ensemble of voice, theremin, soprano sax, trombone, two keyboards, and percussion teases out and elaborates on Sgt. Pepper’s non-rock and roll influences. This colourful new piece resounds with the ingenuity, musicality, wit, and humanity for which the company is known.

    The Lowry
    29-30 March 2019

    Mark Morris Dance Group - Pepperland tour dates

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    Sir Anton Dolin (27 July 1904 – 25 November 1983) was an English ballet dancer and choreographer.

    He trained at Serafina Astafieva's school at The Pheasantry in London's King's Road. 

    He joined Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1921, was a principal there from 1924, and was a principal with the Vic-Wells Ballet in the 1930s. There he danced with Alicia Markova, with whom he went on to found the Markova-Dolin Ballet and the London Festival Ballet.

    He joined Ballet Theatre when it was formed in 1940 and remained there as a dancer and choreographer until 1946.

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    Company Chameleon are delighted to present a trio of FREE pop-up dance performances in their home city of Manchester, and the UK premiere of 'magnetic' short dance piece, Amaranthine.

    Gripping and raw, Amaranthine is a highly physical and fast paced male and female duet, which tells the story of two people who are deeply in love, and in conflict.
    As the couple desperately try to reconnect and find resolution, the pushes and pulls of disagreement and heated argument are felt, as is the appreciation of space, understanding and eventually, acceptance.

    • Thu 13 Sep, 6:15pm 

    The Foundation Coffee House, Lever Street, Northern Quarter
    Arrive early and join us for complimentary drink before the performance.

    • Sat 15 Sep, 1pm 

    Tony Wilson Place, First Street (outside HOME)

    • Sat 15 Sep, 3pm 

    St Ann’s Square (outside Barclays Bank)

    Free, no need to book
    Performance duration: 15 mins 

    Amaranthine is choreographed & directed by Kevin Edward Turner and Navala ‘Niku’ Chaudhari | Performed by Theo Fapohunda and Juliana Javier | Music by Miguel Marin | The seed of the idea grew out of the research made under the direction of Marso ‘Mickael’ Riviere.

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    Paul Taylor 1930 -2018

    Paul Taylor -  one of last living members of the third generation of America's modern dance artists - has died at the age of 88.

    He began his career relatively late in 1953. In 1954 he assembled a small company of dancers and began making his own works. A commanding performer despite his late start, he joined the Martha Graham Dance Company in 1955 for the first of seven seasons as soloist. All the while he was continuing to choreograph on his own small troupe. He also worked with the choreographers Merce Cunningham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Wideman, Jose Limon and Jerome Robbins. In 1959 he was invited by Balanchine to be a guest artist with New York City Ballet.

    The New York-based Paul Taylor Dance Company exists to this day, with the addition of a dance school and a chamber-sized second company Taylor 2 founded in the 1990s.

    A 2015 documentary titled Paul Taylor: Creative Domain showcased his creative process. It was described as "a fly-on-the-wall depiction of the 2010 creation of Three Dubious Memories, his 133rd modern-dance piece for the eponymous company that he founded 61 years ago."

    "[Taylor] whose highly diverse style was born in radical experimentalism in the 1950s, created poignant and exuberant works that entered the repertoire of numerous dance companies. His own company, eloquent and athletic, has been one of the world’s superlative troupes." New York Times obituary, 30/08/2018

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    A specially filmed performance of Hofesh Shechter's Clowns - filmed at the Tivoli Ballroom in London and directed by Hofesh himself - has been shown on BBC2 as part of the Performance Live strand.

    This 30 minute piece was created for NDT2 and now forms part of SHOW, which is touring soon performed by Shechter 2, the new junior company.

    This film is a unique opportunity to see the piece in its entirety performed by Shechter's main company: led as ever by the charismatic and completely wonderful Erion Kruja.

    Clowns is very much a continuation of Grand Finale in many ways and it is a fantastic piece of work.

    It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for around a month. See it if you can.

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    Rome (Paris Fitzpatrick) & Juliet
    (Cordelia Braithwaite).
    Photo: Johan Persson
    New Adventures is delighted to announce the world premiere of Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet opening at Curve, Leicester on Monday 13 May 2019, as part of a UK tour to 13 venues including a four-week summer season at Sadler's Wells from Wednesday 7 August to Saturday 31 August 2019.

    Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is a passionate and contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic love story.

    Bursting with youth, vitality and Matthew Bourne’s trademark storytelling, Britain’s brightest young dance talent join the New Adventures company for this World Premiere production. Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, collaborating with his entire New Adventures Associate Artistic team; Etta Murfitt, Associate Artistic Director, set and costume design by Lez Brotherston; lighting by Paule Constable; sound by Paul Groothuis; and new orchestrations of the Prokofiev score by Terry Davies, played live by the New Adventures Orchestra and conducted by Brett Morris.

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    The Rite of Spring offers a new interpretation of Igor Stravinsky’s iconic ballet, from China’s leading choreographer and dancer Yang Liping. Liping blends Chinese folk dance with contemporary choreography, and takes inspiration from Chinese symbols of nature. The piece uses Stravinsky’s original music and a specially created new score, inspired by traditional Chinese music.

    Yang Liping is a National First-class dancer and the vice chairman of China Dancers Association. A household name in China, she won nationwide fame for her performance of her first original dance piece Spirit of the Peacock in 1986. Since then, Liping’s performances have received huge acclaim, both in China and internationally. The Rite of Spring is her second contemporary dance piece following the success of her previous work Under Siege, which received widespread critical acclaim at its European premiere in London in 2016.

    The announcement was made during a visit to China by International Festival Managing Director Joanna Baker who met with officials from Yang Liping’s Peacock Dance Company and Shanghai International Arts Festival. The visit builds on previous commitments by the International Festival to collaborate with colleagues in China to bring leading Chinese artists and companies to Edinburgh.

    This meeting coincided with a wider visit by led by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to promote the growing economic, cultural and educational links between Scotland and China. A short film introducing The Rite of Spring and its visit to Edinburgh also formed part of a Scotland Is Now reception in Shanghai, which celebrated contemporary Scotland as an innovative, creative and inclusive nation, and a vibrant place to live, work and visit.

    The production of The Rite of Spring will be staged on 22-24 August 2019 as part of the International Festival. Tickets will go on sale in March next year along with the full 2019 International Festival programme.

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  • 10/24/18--06:17: Manchester? No, Sorry 2019
  • My annual list of companies that miss Manchester (or Salford) from their touring. Just for information.

    Rambert 2

    Rambert 2 are the new Rambert 'junior'company and have a very interesting programme for their first appearances: a new work by Benoit Swan Pouffer; a revival of a 2004 Place Prize-winner by Rafael Bonachela and Sharon Eyal's Killer Pig (which I am desperate to see). Current tour dates do not include Manchester.

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  • 10/25/18--06:18: Dance Touring Partnership?
  • Dance Touring Partnership - after deciding to tour a MUSICAL this autumn - have now dropped the word 'dance' entirely from their name and 'About' description - they are now simply DTP.

    The poor grammar in the text below (my bold) may indicate the speed with which this has been done. They have yet to obtain a new web address however:

    DTP is a network of theatres working together to bring exciting and engaging productions and companies to audiences around the UK. The network aims to build and retain audiences by increasing the range and diversity of work available on the regional touring circuit and encourage attenders to try something new by presenting productions from across art form and by extending access to high quality UK and international artists and companies.
    From 27 April  2018

    While many of the 20 shows they have previously toured might have been classed as dance, they have all had a strong sense of theatricality and storytelling. In autumn 2018, DTP will take a step up to widen its reach by touring 2b theatre company’s music theatre production, OLD STOCK: A Refugee Love Story...
    So what seemed like a blip now appears to be a decisive step to diversify from dance. Clearly this does not rule them out from supporting dance productions in the future but this seems a dark indicator of the state of touring dance in the country and just disappointing, as DTP generally supported medium-sized work as a nice compliment to Dance Consortium, who generally support larger-scale companies: although DTP also pulled out the big guns occasionally.

    If Dance Consortium follow suit (and there is currently no suggestion that they will) you can pretty much say farewell to seeing much in the way of international dance outside London.

    DTP have previously toured companies as diverse a Jasmin Vardimon, Hofesh Shechter, Fabulous Beast, Danish Dance Theatre, Ultima Vez and Australian Dance Theatre.

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  • 10/31/18--06:52: Waiting for 2019
  • I am keeping an eye on a number of companies in the hope that Manchester (which often actually means Salford) will be included in their 2019 tour itineraries. This list will be updated as and when:

    Ballet Boyz | Them / Us | 2019 Tour Dates announced soon

    Phoenix Dance Theatre |  Double Bill 2019 (The Rite of Spring & Troy Game) | Phoenix have a very TBC relationship with Manchester (usually popping up in Liverpool or Huddersfield instead). Also, The Rite of Spring is appearing as part of an Opera North double bill with Gianni Scicchi at The Lowry in March 2019 so I'm not holding out much hope.

    James Wilton Dance | The Storm | Further tour dates for 2019 to be announced. James Wilton Dance have previously appeared at The Lowry and Contact.

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    Scottish Dance Theatre have announced the departure of Artistic Director and choreographer Fleur Darkin after six years to pursue new challenges.

    In her time at SDT the company has grown creatively and commercially, creating 23 new works with a wide range of creative collaborators and growing revenue by 20%

    Fleur Darkin

    Fleur Darkin to leave Scottish Dance Theatre after six years [Scottish Dance Theatre]

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  • 11/02/18--08:30: UK Theatre Awards 2018
  • I have rather missed the nominations for the 2018 UK Theatre Awards, let alone the announcement of the winners on Sunday, 14 October.

    These are the (rather odd, in my view) dance nominations:

    Achievement in Dance

     Ballet Black for Cathy Marston's THE SUIT, perfectly paired with Arthur Pita's A DREAM WITHIN A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

     National Dance Company Wales for Marcos Morau's exceptionally artful TUNDRA

     Northern Ballet for its bold and varied programming, particularly THE LITTLE MERMAID and its Kenneth MacMillan tribute

    Other nominations that included dance:

    The Renee Stepham Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre

    Northern Ballet

    Nuffield Southampton Theatres, English Touring Theatre & Theatr Clwyd

    Scottish Ballet

    Promotion of Diversity

    Birmingham Repertory Theatre

    National Theatre of Scotland

    Northern Ballet

    Achievement in Marketing/Audience Development

    Nuffield Southampton Theatres

    The Old Vic

    Phoenix Dance Theatre

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    Richard Alston Dance Company has announced today that its final tour will take place in 2019-2020. Richard Alston has been creating dance for over 50 years and his company has been resident at The Place for the past 24 years. In that time, Alston has played a major role in the world of contemporary dance, developing a unique and distinct dance language and shaping the art form in this country.
    The company’s current tour runs until spring 2019 including two nights at Sadler’s Wells. It will tour in autumn 2019 including a special ‘At Home’ programme at The Place in celebration of the company’s 25 years of work and its home’s 50th anniversary. The company will tour for the last time in spring 2020 including a final Sadler’s Wells season.
    Richard Alston's career is in many respects the history of contemporary dance in the UK. He was one of the very first students at the newly established London Contemporary Dance School in 1968.

    It was at this point that he started to choreograph, as he studied under the groundbreaking teaching of American dancer/choreographer Robert Cohan and the leadership of Robin Howard, who first brought contemporary dance to the UK from America in the late 1950s.

    He went on to choreograph for The Place's resident company London Contemporary Dance Theatre before forming the UK’s first independent dance company, Strider, in 1972. In 1975 he left for New York to study at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio and on his return two years later he worked throughout the UK and Europe as an independent choreographer and teacher.

    In 1980 he was appointed Resident Choreographer with Ballet Rambert, becoming the company's Artistic Director from 1986 - 1992. 

    In 1994 he became Artistic Director at The Place and formed his own company Richard Alston Dance Company.

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    When I query companies on whether they are touring to Manchester/Salford - this is usually via social media and usually after they have published a touring schedule that misses the city - the standard responses are either something along the lines of not being able to fit it into their schedule - which I kind of understand as The Lowry is fairly tightly scheduled and their planning with the more financially-secure companies is much more forward that many dance companies can manage.

    But what about HOME?

    Theatre 1 [pictured] is equivalent to The Lowry's Quays Theatre in scale and capacity (it would appear), and Theatre 2 - is a large flexible studio space arguably larger than The Lowry's Aldridge Studio.

    This may be controversial, but it has long-seemed to me that the HOME theatres are not exactly over-used. I am occasionally struck by the long periods during which there appears to be little or nothing on in Theatre 1. Fortunately the place has cinemas and a very-successful restaurant and bar to keep the tills ringing.

    HOME opened in 2015 so should have built up some momentum by now. Theatre 1 was built on the memory of the now long-closed Library Theatre, which it has never matched for programming (in the sense of putting on complete and coherent seasons, in the way the Royal Exchange still does, for example).

    Hofesh Shechter Company regularly performs at HOME now and his recent works are HOME co-productions (with other venues). Motionhouse, Gecko and Rosie Kay Dance Company are among other dance and physical theatre companies to play the venue. But the venue does not have appear to have any clear dance programming. In fact, apart from a series of welcome festivals - Orbit, Viva!, PUSH etc. and the presence of Manchester School of Theatre (MMU) as a resident company in Theatre 2, the venue doesn't appear to have much in the way of clear programming policy (although the venue does have a clear interest in experimental work, gender, LGBTQIetc., transgressivesness and multiculturalism). Although they (unusually) state their programming poilicy quite clearly on their website.

    On dance, their website states:

    Dance theatre, combining the raw emotion of dance with the narrative of theatre also has a new home in Manchester and we are working with international partners to commission and produce bold new work as well as host the best touring productions in this exciting medium.

     There has been relatively scant evidence of this since the venue opened.

    The other necessary conversation on dance in Manchester has to perhaps consider the weakness of the dance audience, lack of dance infrastructure and activism, but through the lens of a decade of arts funding cuts that appear to have hit dance hard and continuously.

    Thankfully, MIF now appear to have dance firmly on their agenda, so there is light amid the darkness.