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2020 - The Year In Dance

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January

February


March

  • Swan Lake | Birmingham Royal Ballet | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 4-7 March
The first fruits for The Lowry of BRB's 'dazzling' new Acosta directorship is their Swan Lake. Again. But it is a marvellous production. 


April


May

June


July


August


September


October


November


December


Manchester? No, sorry 2020

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My annual list of companies that miss Manchester (or Salford) from their touring. Just for information. Will be updated if there is news.

BalletBoyz

An 18-venue spring tour has been announced for their new show Deluxe in 2020 with more dates to be announced. But not Manchester or Salford, and the company consistently now miss the city entirely. 

Mark Bruce Company 

Spring dates for 2020 announced for new production Return to Heaven but the company has not visited Manchester since the Dracula tour in 2014 (missing the last two shows, The Odyssey and Macbeth)

Choreographer Liam Scarlett suspended over sexual misconduct allegations

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The Royal Ballet’s top choreographer has been suspended over allegations of sexual misconduct involving his students.

Liam Scarlett, 33, has been banned from the ballet company while an inquiry is carried out by independent investigators. The Royal Opera House, home to the Royal Ballet, said it was made aware of the allegations in August last year and had suspended Scarlett.

The independent disciplinary investigation was opened immediately, and is continuing.

No findings have been made against Scarlett, the Times [has] reported, but it is thought that the claims may span a decade, and involve current and former dancers under Scarlett’s instruction at the time of the alleged misconduct.

2020 - The Year in Dance - The Rolling Review

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January

  • Aisha and Abhaya | Rambert | Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH, London | 24 January *****
I was never going to be able resist booking a new work in London choreographed by Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar with music by Ori Lichtik - and in collaboration with the newly-on fire Rambert: and I wasn't disappointed. The film elements by Kibwe Tavares were striking and well-made but generally less essential (for me) than the movement delivered by six of Rambert's most striking dancers with the welcome addition of guest artist Maëva Berthelot. All the reviews criticise a significant disconnect between the narrative film content and Eyal's choreography but the programme notes (in an interview with Tavares) indicate that this was a clear artistic choice and the show was so exciting and physically on the money that I don't really care about whether there was an 'issue' with the narrative.
  • Child (Kind) | Peeping Tom | Barbican | 26 January *****
While down south for Aisha and Abhaya I was lucky (and sensible) enough to catch Peeping Tom's Child at the Barbican. The third part of a trilogy (with Mother (Moeder) and Father (Vader)), Child was a strikingly odd and eccentric show about childhood imagination and trauma set in a creepy Americana-inflected forest at the edge of some cliffs with an appealingly bizarre cast of misfits and oddballs, a tree-baby and some aliens. Dark, funny and technically audacious, Peeping Tom are like no one else in the arena of dance theatre. 

Siobhan Davies stepping down as Artistic Director of Siobhan Davies Dance

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Siobhan Davies Studios is looking for an experienced Artistic Director/s to lead the organisation, bringing the wealth of independent dance practice to the widest and most diverse community of audiences.

UK based Siobhan Davies Dance was founded in 1988 by pioneering choreographer Siobhan Davies CBE. Under her auspices Siobhan Davies Dance evolved from being a national and international touring dance company into Siobhan Davies Studios: an investigative contemporary art organisation, widely regarded as the UK leader of investigative and interdisciplinary work in dance and choreography. The organisation is especially respected for evolving relationships between dance and visual arts through the UK and internationally.

Photo by Felix Clay

While she will continue to work artistically, Siobhan Davies will step down as Artistic Director of SDS this year. Among other projects for 2020 and 2021, she is producing a film with long time collaborator David Hinton to celebrate her seventieth birthday and the seventy works she has made so far. Based on her Transparencies practice, this film looks at a collection of images significant to her thinking and doing throughout her career. The premiere is planned for 2021.

In the current political and economic context of increasing challenge and rapid change a clear approach is essential.  Siobhan Davies Studios believes that the resources of choreography are invaluable in navigating this moment.  Siobhan Davies Studios is rooted in a community of creators and audiences who experiment and collaborate to investigate and create: in order to meet the demands of their community both now and in the future, Siobhan Davies Studios is currently working to reimagine the way in which they work in order to give artists the freedom and autonomy that they need. Most specifically Siobhan Davies Studios is considering a shift in their producing and programming processes to allow for a more flexible approach.

https://www.siobhandavies.com/whats-on/vacancies/artistic-director/

This is a fantastic opportunity for somebody. Even I have done workshops at Siobhan Davies Studios in my capacity as a volunteer performer. 

As Siobhan Davies is stepping back as a director and Richard Alston retires his company and departs The Place, 2020 perhaps marks the year that British contemporary dance reaches full maturity, as both are pioneers and original founders.

Sharon Watson in move from Phoenix to NSCD

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Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) is delighted to announce Sharon Watson as its new Chief Executive and Principal.

Watson, who is currently the longest standing Artistic Director of Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre, will begin her tenure as CEO and Principal of NSCD in May 2020.

She becomes NSCD’s fourth Principal in the institution’s 35-year history, following in the footsteps of Janet Smith MBE, Gurmit Hukam and founding Principal Nadine Senior MBE. Janet Smith announced in September 2019 that she would be stepping away from the role in 2020.

Sharon Watson said: “I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to be appointed CEO and Principal of Northern School of Contemporary Dance. My relationship with the school has spanned 35 years and to be able to continue the legacy of Nadine Senior MBE is incredibly rewarding. I cannot wait to join the team and to work with the exceptional teaching staff who understand the importance of creativity and talent development. Students of NSCD are renowned worldwide, this is certainly something to be proud of and to continue to build on.”

Watson grew up in Leeds and was one of Nadine Senior’s pupils at Harehills Middle School before going on to study at London Contemporary Dance School in 1983. On leaving the school she was one of the first female dancers to join all-male Phoenix Dance Theatre, and in 1996 she attended NSCD to complete a Bachelor of Performing Arts (Dance) degree. Watson returned to Phoenix Dance Theatre in 2009 to take up the role of Artistic Director.

Categories of Dance

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Categories of Dance

This is a highly personal categorisation system for (and from) someone that has been watching dance for more than a decade, has a reasonable idea of what's 'good', what they like, what's exciting and what they are barely able to tolerate any longer; with an eye on who is worthy of note and who has been getting away with it and needs to step their pussy up. 

1. Essential Modern: the kind of dance I want to be watching now and at this time: edgy contemporary in theme and style, cutting edge, progressive, exciting. Likely to be choreographer or artist driven rather than company-led. 

Examples: L-E-V (Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar), Hofesh Shechter

2. Quality Contemporary: companies and choreographers that are producing/continuing to produce high quality contemporary dance that reflects the best the genre has to offer.

Examples: Wayne McGregor; Rambert; Russell Maliphant Dance Company, Michael Clark Company

3. The Mainstream: companies that are still producing the kind of work that UK dance companies produce but without consistently achieving transcendent quality, innovation or excitement. Sometimes great, sometimes blah. 

Examples: Phoenix Dance Theatre, Ballet Black, National Dance Company Wales; Scottish Dance Theatre, BalletBoyz; CanDoCo

4. Mavericks, Upstarts and Innovators: companies that are punching above their weight, hard to categorise, interesting. Will either remain as mavericks or progress to another category over time. 

Examples: DeNada Dance Theatre, Humanhood, Igor + Moreno, Clod Ensemble, Holly Blakey; Teac Damsa; Lost Dog Dance, Gary Clarke Company

5. International Modern: Companies that combine the qualities of Essential Modern and Quality Contemporary but in an international context. Rarely seen in the UK outside London (next best options: Edinburgh International Festival, Birmingham International Dance Festival)

Examples: NDT, NDT2, Carte Blanche, Göteborgs­ Operans Dans­kompani, Danish Dance Theatre, Iceland Dance Company, Ballet National de Marseille

6. The Midstream: companies that are managing to produce and tour work that is neither especially interesting or remarkable or progressive. 

7. Solo Operators: individual dance artists (or duos) pursuing their own 'lonely' furrow, sometimes older. Can be amazing. 

Examples: Claire Cunningham, Wendy Houstoun, Liz Aggiss, Jo Fong

8. Family favourites: companies that are hugely commercially successful (sometimes but not always deservedly) and those that are happy (or wise enough) to just make work that has a broad family appeal, accessible (or specifically) for kids. 

Examples: New Adventures (Matthew Bourne), BalletLorent, Arthur Pita





Wayne McGregor brings Margaret Atwood's work to the stage

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A brand new ballet based on a trilogy of Margaret Atwood's novels will come to London.

Acclaimed choreographer Wayne McGregor will be staging the show in a collaboration with the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada.

It will be based on Atwood’s collection of three dystopian novels: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.

The three-act ballet, titled MaddAddam, will reach London in 2022, after having its world premiere in Canada this November. 

Atwood’s trilogy is set in a near post-apocalyptic future, beset with plague, pandemic and the threat of extinction for humanity.

Featuring a specially composed score by Max Richter, the ballet will reunite the creative team from McGregor’s Olivier Award-winning ballet Woolf Works, which united three of Virginia Woolf’s masterworks.

Director of the Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare said: “Wayne’s genius in bringing together some of the most exciting creative forces in art today reveals itself again with this latest venture. Collaborating with Margaret Atwood, author of some of the most haunting and potent writing in contemporary literature, is a wonderful prospect for our next co-production with The National Ballet of Canada.”

National Dance Awards 2020 - The Winners

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The London National Dance Awards, run by the dance branch of the Critics’ Circle, celebrate their 20th anniversary this year.

The awards were held on February 19 in London.

The winners in full

Best male dancer
Marcelino Sambé, Royal Ballet

Best female dancer
Francesca Hayward, Royal Ballet

Outstanding company
San Francisco Ballet

Best independent company
Shobana Jeyasingh Dance

Best classical choreography
Alexei Ratmansky for Shostakovich Trilogy, San Francisco Ballet

Best modern choreography
William Forsythe for A Quiet Evening of Dance, Sadler’s Wells

Emerging talent
Stina Quagebeur, choreographer, English National Ballet

Outstanding female performance (classical)
Katja Khaniukova as Frida in Broken Wings, English National Ballet

Outstanding male performance (classical)
Gary Avis as Kulygin in Winter Dreams, Royal Ballet

Outstanding female performance (modern)
Solène Weinachter as Juliet in Juliet and Romeo, Lost Dog

Outstanding male performance (modern)
Jonathan Goddard for The Mother, Alexandra Markvo/Bird and Carrot

Outstanding creative contribution
Gavin Sutherland, conductor and music director, English National Ballet

De Valois award for outstanding achievement
Marion Tait

Obviously these awards have a massive London focus with much of the work rewarded never having been shown outside of the capital. However it is good to see the marvellous Marion Tait recognised, and Gavin Sutherland continues to do sterling work for the English National Ballet.

2021 - The Year in Dance

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January


February


March 


  • Cinderella | Birmingham Royal Ballet | The Lowry [Lyric Theatre] | 3-6 March
David Bintley's Cinderella is a marvellous production but it feels depressing that a year in advance, even with a change of artistic leadership (which I don't have much confidence in, to be frank) BRB and The Lowry know there is no point in risking innovative programming for this major company. 

April


May


June


July


August


September


October


November


December



Richard Alston: Dark times ahead for dance – the survivors may be the tough not the talented

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As he retires his company the 'father' of British contemporary dance gives a brief history of the past and future: and it's as bleak as one fears. 
"When I first started out in 1967, the dance scene in the UK was very different. Many vocational training schools were able to offer places supported by local authority grants, and scholarships were often given to the most talented students.
I trained at the London Contemporary Dance School and in three years of study was never asked to pay. When I left, I was given one of the first Gulbenkian Dance awards of £1,000 allowing me to start Strider, a small independent dance group, the first of its kind in the UK.
Back then, small-scale venues were given a catalogue of Arts Council-funded clients. As we were the only small modern-dance company in it, we had plentiful offers of work. It was a time when experiment was welcomed and Strider flourished.
In 1975, I and Strider dancer Eva Karczag chose to go to New York to extend our knowledge. I studied at the Merce Cunningham Studio, and Eva with Trisha Brown. It was a formative time for both of us, seeing a plethora of different dance performances from New York City Ballet to avant-garde improv group Grand Union. All in all, it was a heady two years.
When I returned to Britain, I found the dance scene very different from when I had left. Many dancemakers now had funding to tour to small-scale venues, with educational workshops a part of the deal. The independent dance scene was well and truly born.
The number of practising dance artists rapidly burgeoned and then just as rapidly started to dwindle away again. The Arts Council began to tighten up and demand more in return for its money. Venues began to realise that something nicknamed the ‘dance boom’ was already over. Now they looked for artists who were likely to command a sizeable audience. The range of activity narrowed but the quality increased in general – no bad thing in itself.
Unfortunately, several changes of government forced the Arts Council to accept a prolonged period of standstill funding and this inevitably affected its clients. ACE nowadays actively demands an ever-smaller percentage of funds supporting each client. It puts 07, because to find matching funding, everyone is scrabbling after the same limited range of affluent arts supporters, and with the extreme effects predicted with Brexit, things look likely to get worse. Dark times for us all, where the survivors could well be the tough rather than the talented.
My own career has been all importantly involved with national and international touring, firstly with Strider, then Rambert, and with my own company for the last 25 years. Touring now seems to be seen as too expensive for funders. The major companies are increasingly handing over regional dates to secondary companies such as Rambert2. I cannot deny that I find this sad. I know I owe so much to loyal and fervent audiences all over the country; their support has been truly terrific and whatever I do next, I will miss those really rather marvellous people."
[from: The Stage (March 2020)]


Olivier Awards 2020

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The nominations for this year's Olivier Awards have been announced, with musical theatre productions leading the charge (obviously).

The nominations for dance are below:

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

La Fiesta by Israel Galvan at Sadler’s Wells
Ingoma by Mthuthezeli November for Ballet Black at the Royal Opera House - Linbury Theatre
Mám by Michael Keegan-Dolan
Vessel by Damien Jalet & Kohei Nawa at Sadler's Wells

The only one of these I have seen is Michael Keegan-Dolan's Mám for his own company Teaċ Daṁsa: and it was magnificent. I've yet to see any of Michael's work and not feel exhilarated, moved and inspired.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Sara Baras for her choreography and performance in Ballet Flamenco - Sombras at Sadler’s Wells
Anne Teres de Keersmaeker for her performance in Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten at Sadler's Wells
Gisele Vienne for her choreography of Crowd, presented by Dance Umbrella at Sadler's Wells

I wanted to see Crowd. It was one of those shows with a trailer that looked like it could be amazing - or terrible. Reviews and this nomination suggest it was the former.

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Fabian Aloise for Evita at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear for Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
Jerome Robbins and Matt Cole for Fiddler on the Roof at Playhouse Theatre​
Jennifer Weber for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre

I include this category only because there is a nomination for Matthew Bourne - who is undoubtedly a fantastic theatre choreographer; and because there is a nomination for Jerome Robbins, who died more than 20 years ago but is seemingly still producing outstanding work.


COVID19

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How quickly the world changed.

Now - as we face the global pandemic that always seemed more like science fiction until it actually happened - the world has completely changed and it's hard to see how some of these changes will not permanently alter the world we live in.

I don't doubt that in time the theatres and galleries and museums and arts centre - not to mention schools and colleges and universities and shops and cinemas - will reopen and life will resume. But there is little doubt that things will be lost - hopefully not people, but some venues may not survive; some shows may never now be seen; some companies will not recover; the global nature of the world that we took for granted and had to fight for so hard in the face of Brexit may look very different.

There is little to be gained by complaining or speculating but I am heartbroken and I mourn the loss of my normal life, of my cultural life and feel desperately sad and fearful for my theatres and dance companies and performers.

Dance and other kinds performance have given me such incredible joy and pleasure and meaning since I fully embraced their importance within my life, something that started around fifteen years ago when my own life changed forever, and that has grown in impetus and importance as I approach the later years of my own life, aware of what I have missed, hungrily trying not to miss more in the years that are left.

I will maintain this blog, in the hope that things will start to improve in a very few months - although the damage now is taking out events that would have happened in the late-spring and summer and later and eradicated the possibility of creating the work that would have taken us into 2021 and beyond.

But for now, I mourn.

I have no idea who reads this blog but much love to the dance venues, the dance companies - large and small, regional, national and international - the dance makers and performers and my fellow audience makers. Let us stay strong, hold on to what we have and have had and help wherever we can - financially if possible.

Don't claim refunds on those missed shows if you can afford not to!

Choreographer Liam Scarlett to leave Royal Ballet [BBC]

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Liam Scarlett, one of the UK's leading choreographers, will no longer be working with London's Royal Ballet, the company has announced.

The move follows a disciplinary investigation over alleged incidents of sexual misconduct with students.

However the ballet said the inquiry had found "no matters to pursue" in regard to claims involving its students.

The choreographer, a former dancer with the Royal Ballet, has not commented on the allegations.

He had been artist-in-residence at the company since 2012 but was suspended from his post last August.

Scarlett was responsible for creating some of the Royal Baller's major recent shows, including a new production of Swan Lake in 2018.

This coming summer, the ballet was due to stage Scarlett's Symphonic Dances but the production has now been cancelled, the company confirmed.

A statement from the Royal Opera House, ballet's parent company, said: "Liam Scarlett's position with The Royal Ballet ended on 23 March, 2020.

"We can confirm that the independent investigation has concluded and found there were no matters to pursue in relation to alleged contact with students of The Royal Ballet School."

The Royal Opera House in central London, where the ballet company is based, is currently closed until at least 19 April following the government's directive that all theatres should close during the coronavirus outbreak.

Do Not Send in the Clowns - Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe fall victim to COVID-19

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The cancellation of the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, due to take place this August, has been announced.

The Festival has run continuously since 1947, emphasising how dark these days are for the arts and performance.

This announcement comes two or three weeks after the announcement of the cancellation of the Brighton Festival and Fringe, which happens earlier in May/June annually.

Both main Festivals are supporters of dance but the Edinburgh Festival Fringe especially is a hotbed of development and audience-honing for all manner of shows that would normally be picked up for - or gain enough momentum for - touring in the following year or two. Where buzz is created, talent spotted and careers are started.

Heartbreaking on every level, these cancellations will impoverish and imperil for many months after life has been restored.

But that is where we are now and what we must face.

Do not send in the clowns.






Covid-19 - Venues

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In the face of the ongoing situation with Covid-19 I am going to attempt to keep on top of what is happening with local venues in the north west (focusing on the ones that regularly or occasionally programme dance and feature in this blog).

The different dates and statuses below are a reflection of the lack of certainty at this time but also (I think) the programming robustness of the venues to an extent.

Ultimately, when venues reopen will be down to a combination of two things: most importantly, when the government lifts restrictions allowing venues to open at all; and secondly when venues are able to restart and reschedule their programmes.

Let us not forget that with dance (and theatre more widely) many of the shows due to appear later in the year were not fully made. Casts and creative teams may no longer be available. And sadly, some companies will simply not have the resources to resume their previously planned activities.

These are some dark, dark times for a fragile industry where even the biggest and best funded are facing a catastrophic loss of income. Blackpool Grand, for example, although supported by ACE and Blackpool Council (not I imagine a very cash-rich council) earns 93% of its income through ticket sales. Sadler's Wells is a charity and makes more than 80% of its income from ticket sales and customer spend.

North West:
  • Blackpool Grand: closed until further notice
  • CONTACT were due to take repossession of their building in March following their closure for rebuilding. They have obviously been unable to do this and are 'reviewing this on 14 April'. I don't know what their planned opening date or programme was before this additional delay. 
  • HOME closed until the end of June
  • Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield: closed until further notice. 
  • Liverpool Playhouse (& Everyman): closed until further notice.
  • The Lowry: closed until at least the end of May
  • The Palace Theatre and Opera House: all performances suspended until 31 May. (This is the case for all Ambassador Theatre Group theatres so also applies to the Liverpool Empire, Leeds Grand, etc.)
  • Unity Theatre, Liverpool: closed until 31 May
  • Riley Theatre, Leeds: all future shows on hold until further notice. 
  • Royal Exchange Theatre: closed until the autumn.
  • Storyhouse, Chester: closed until further notice
  • Waterside, Sale: closed until further notice
  • Z-Arts: all performance cancelled until 30 June


London:

  • Barbican: closed until 30 June
  • Royal Opera House: closed until further notice 
  • Sadler's Wells: all shows cancelled until 9 June
  • Southbank Centre (Queen Elizabeth Hall); closed until 30 June

L-E-V for Dior - Spring-Summer 2019 Ready-to-Wear Show - The Show Video

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This collaboration between Sharon Eyal and Gai Behair and Ori Lichtik and Dior gives a rather marvellous opportunity to see movement that seems to be drawn from OCD Love - the musical score certainly is drawn from the soundtrack for that show. 

The dancers remain true to the company's movement aesthetic with the addition of some delightful playfulness with the scores of models that steadily pour into the space wearing the rather gorgeous Dior Spring-Summer 2019 ready to wear collection. The staging and lighting is pleasingly theatrical. 

It's a beautiful show and a lavish combination of contemporary dance and fashion. The dancers wear Dior bodysuits designed by creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, who has in return designed the costumes for L-E-V's most recent show Love Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart

Methods of Dance on Facebook

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I have been posting links to the wealth of dance performance becoming available online during the present crisis on the Methods of Dance Facebook page.

English National Ballet, Royal Opera House / Royal Ballet, New Adventures, Russell Maliphant Dance Company, Northern Ballet, The Place and Sadler's Wells are among the companies and venues live streaming and making work available via Facebook, YouTube and their own websites.

You can follow Methods of Dance on Facebook here.

One or two companies are making work available pay-per-view or by donation and others are limiting availability (usually to two weeks but sometimes less).

BBC Arts also have some dance content available on the iPlayer as part of their Culture in Quarantine series including Hofesh Shechter, Michael Clark and Wayne McGregor.

Watching Dance Online

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A lot of companies and venues have made full-length work from their archives available online, sometimes for a limited time, sometimes pay per view. Sometimes you just stumble across full-length works on Vimeo and YouTube. It's a good to time to use those search functions. Being on the mailing lists for venues and companies brings viewing opportunities straight to your inbox also. 

I am not normally a big fan of live streaming and the like but now - as I face up to the very real possibility that I will be lucky if I see any more live dance this year - this seems like a good time to avail myself of the opportunity.

Part of me doesn't want to spoil work that I would have hoped to see by watching it online but it is good to see work that I have enjoyed live in the past again and to see work that is no longer in repertoire or from companies I am unlikely to see under the most normal of circumstances, such as foreign companies that rarely visit and the Royal Ballet.

Being the kind of person that likes to catalogue things: the more self-indulgent and pointless the better...


  • Acis & Galatea (G. F. Handel / Wayne McGregor) | Royal Opera/ Royal Ballet | Royal Opera House (This was delightful)
  • Broken Wings (Annabelle Lopez Ochoa) | English National Ballet (I saw this at Sadler's last year and enjoyed the opportunity to see it gain)
  • Clowns | Hofesh Shechter | BBC iPlayer (I have watched this many times)
  • Deluxe | BalletBoyz | Sadler's Wells' Digital Stage
  • Meyerling | Royal Ballet | BBC iPlayer
  • The Art of Not Looking Back (Hofesh Shechter) | Paris Opera Ballet | YouTube
  • The Rite of Spring (Maurice Bejart) (1971) | Ballet of the 20th Century | YouTube (I am obseessed with versions of The Rite and I would love to see this 1959 version that looks equally extraordinary and daft). 
  • The Metamorphosis (Arthur Pita)  | Royal Ballet | Royal Opera House
  • To a simple rock'n'roll... song | Michael Clark Company | BBC iPlayer (A good opprtunity to revit something I enjoyed very much on stage)
  • Untitled Black (Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar) | Göteborgs­­Operans Dans­kompani | https://gofilm.se/ (This was tremendous but I am biased)
  • Valley (Marina Mascarell) | Göteborgs­­Operans Dans­kompani | https://gofilm.se/ (This was something I would very much enjoy seeing live)






Things I have learned from watching dance online during lockdown...

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….unless it is really well-filmed stage work can look really flat on screen;

… unless conceived for the screen, watching dance online is no replacement for the visceral pleasure and excitement of watching dance live;

… sweeping generalisation but I really don't like American dance;

… I really like European dance: European dance seems to know it's the 21st century;

…. Sharon Eyal really is everything;

… if international travel to see performance ever becomes possible again I really need to see Göteborg Opera Dance Company; their film channel is exceptional and I have not seen anything online I didn't enjoy

Watching Dance - the 'early years'

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Of no interest except to myself, while i am not able to watch dance - except via  live streaming, iPlayer and YouTube - I am logging dance. I have found my old diaries and am trying to piece together what I saw and when before I got much more serious about listing my experiences with dance. 

I must say, when I started I went in hard - and maintained the momentum until March 2020...

2008

  • Nutcracker! | Matthew Bourne's New Adventures | The Lowry | 27 February
  • Swan Lake | Birmingham Royal Ballet | The Lowry | 2 April
  • Kirov Ballet | The Lowry | 15 May
  • Beauty & the Brut / A Girl In the World / Bloom | Stephen Petronio Company | The Lowry | 25 May (Queer Up North 2008) 
  • S(c)ent / .com together / Turret /In C Sharp Minor | New English Contemporary Ballet | The Dancehouse | 20 June
  • To Be Straight With You | DV8 Physical Theatre | The Lowry | 27 June
  • Eternal Light Tour (Eternal Light / Swansong / Anatomica 3) | Rambert Dance Company | The Lowry | 26 September
  • Play Ball | Srishti | Contact Theatre | 9 October
  • Uprising / In Your Rooms | Hofesh Shechter Company | The Lowry | 10 October
  • Greatest Hits | BalletBoyz | The Lowry | 16 October 
  • Yesterday | Jasmin Vardimon Company | The Lowry | 27 October 
  • Manon | English National Ballet | Palace Theatre | 14 November
  • Edward Scissorhands | Matthew Bourne's New Adventures | The Lowry | 20 November
  • Anima | Momentum (now Tmesis Theatre) | Royal Exchange Studio | 26 November





'At last a glimpse of hope': UK arts leaders on the rescue package

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Responses to the government’s promise of £1.57bn for the arts and heritage sectors

The Guardian

The news looked so bleak on Friday I found myself in tears at the prospect of our theatres closing like a collapsing house of cards. 

I have donated the cost of tickets I had bought for events that were cancelled. I have made donations to various organisations - venues and dance companies. I tweeted Oliver Dowden MP and Rishi Sunak MP, hovering between passionate activism and desperate rage at the sheer stupidity of allowing our entire culture to approach the precipice. I wrote to my MP. I listened to Boris Johnson promise some dates for the much-derided road map - a short list of destinations with no directions for how to get there - to be announced 'this week'.

I did not expect a rescue package of this scale to be announced at 10:30pm on Sunday.

I hope it makes a real difference. I hope it is fairly distributed. I hope it is enough. I hope it isn't another false promise made by a government it is almost impossible to trust. 

But it is a huge relief. 

However, I don't expect to find myself in a theatre again this year - and I know there will be casualties. 

Michael Clark Exhibition at the Barbican.

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Michael Clark
Exhibition
Wed 7 Oct 2020—Sun 3 Jan 2021

The first major exhibition of dancer and choreographer Michael Clark. This exploration of Clark’s work establishes his radical presence in British cultural history.

Looking back to his meteoric rise as a young choreographer in the 1980s, the exhibition presents a comprehensive vision of Clark’s career to date. It will showcase his unique multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates a wide range of subcultural influences. Film, photography, and material from Clark’s practice will be presented alongside his legendary collaborations across visual arts, music, fashion and film.

New works include Charles Atlas revisiting the acclaimed Hail the New Puritan (1986), which featured Leigh Bowery and The Fall, as an immersive film installation, along with work by Sarah Lucas, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cerith Wyn Evans, Peter Doig, Silke Otto-Knapp, Duncan Campbell and more.

Tickets and more information

SADLER’S WELLS ENTERS CONSULTATION PROCESS WITH PERMANENT AND FIXED TERM STAFF

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It is with deep sadness that Sadler’s Wells has entered a consultation process with our permanent and fixed term staff, following the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on our operations, the continued closure of our theatres and ongoing uncertainty about when we may be able to reopen fully.  

During this period, Sadler’s Wells will consult with all permanent and fixed term staff on proposed organisational change and efficiency measures. These proposals could put 51 permanent or fixed term roles at risk of redundancy or layoff, which represents 26% of our permanent and fixed term workforce. This is in addition to other measures we have and are taking to reduce cost in this time. 

This process will be very difficult for all members of the Sadler’s Wells community. The decision to enter a consultation process has been incredibly hard to make, and one which the organisation has done all it can to avoid. 

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There has been a string of similar announcements in recent weeks - Northampton's leading venue Royal & Derngate put out a similar announcement yesterday. Our theatres are in a desperate dance to save themselves from collapsing entirely, sacrificing jobs and the resilience and talent that will enable the creative and commercial recovery that still seems out of sight beyond the horizon. 

But Sadler's Wells  is personal. 

I have no connection with Sadler's Wells beyond an emotional one as someone who loves dance and who never feels more alive than when travelling to London to go to Sadler's Wells to see some amazing dance - and I go there for the things I must see, that I am unlikely to get the opportunity to see otherwise.  I have wasted far too many years thinking that going to see shows in London isn't practical but recently have become all too aware that time was running out . I didn't realise there was less time than I thought as I now helplessly witness my entire cultural existence faced with the threat of being wiped out entirely. But I am also fearful for my friends - and those I do not know but admire beyond words - who work in dance: dancers, choreographers, designers, musicians, all the 'invisible' army (and sometimes it's a tiny army) of people who make dance and every other kind of theatre happen. 

I'm sure Sadler's Wells will survive - just as I am sure that some theatres will not - but the cost is terrible and painful to endure. 



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There May Be Trouble Ahead

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These are very uncertain times for dance, with companies not able to perform to audiences in theatres for the foreseeable future. By the time the government announced the possibility of outdoor performances most companies were left with insufficient time to do anything about it, especially if they didn't already have plans to perform in this way. Companies have responded in different ways to the possibilities of digital performance by either making recorded live work available, creating filmed dance - often socially isolated and from dancers' homes - or through live online activities. But making money through digital is problematic and reliant on generosity from audiences used to paying for live performance but not for watching on the TV, computer, tablet or phone screen. 

One can only imagine the parlous financial state companies are now finding themselves in, with no income from performing and limited opportunities to even work together to keep technical skills at their peak  or to make work that is more than improvised or choreographed via Zoom. Although some companies seem to be back in their studios now. But to what end? 

There are virtually no tours in the calendar. 2020 looks to have been entirely wiped out. 2021 looks either provisional or an optimistic leap of faith. There is now the added difficulty that theatres are starting to totter on the edge of financial collapse and starting the painful process of letting staff go and restructuring in order to keep the business afloat and the building able to eventually reopen. There are many venues from small to medium to large that regularly programme dance that are looking in peril. One or two have already gone or are threatening that they cannot continue without further financial support.

There is perhaps the next inevitable question of what theatres are going to do when they are able to reopen and start to re-programme. Their reserves are gone. Their business plans and financial stability are in ruins. Their expertise and resilience may be diminished through redundancy. It seems obvious that theatres are going to be ... risk averse in the first months, even years. Especially if audience capacities are reduced in the short to medium to long-term. The need to break even and do better than break even will be crucial. Will theatres need to be ruthless? To prioritise shows that are guaranteed - or at least more likely - to put bums on socially-distanced seats. 

Is this the next threat to dance? Weakened and diminished dance companies trying to sell work to wakened and diminished theatres that need to sell tickets. I have every confidence in the creativity of the dance community and this feels like an opportunity to be bold and innovative. But the larger dance audience is not necessarily so receptive to that (which always surprises me). Dance audiences have been unmistakably shrinking in recent years in any case, especially outside of London. If theatres are looking wobbly there are opportunities to create sited work in libraries, galleries, museums and public spaces etc. but the generatable income for these are much less or non-existence (beyond commission funding).

 Are we facing a watershed moment for British dance?  

By way of 'evidence': two of the UK's best-established medium-sized dance companies. Phoenix Dance Theatre and National Dance Company Wales. Both have been. let's say, creatively inconsistent in recent years.  They are both companies I have watched numerous times and both impressed me on my first encounters and both now appear to be a bit hit and miss. Neither appear regularly in Manchester so going to see them takes some effort and additional expense for me. Both are presently without Artistic Directors (which usually also means a resident choreographer, in addition to any guest choreographers invited in). 

Phoenix's Sharon Watson left to take up a new post heading NSCD, and NDCWales's Fearghus Ó Conchúir departed after a short two-year tenure during which his focus appeared to be more on community projects than the stage. NDCWales's website now lists only five dancers - several fewr than the last time I saw the company. Phoenix appear to have five plus a guest and two apprentices. Now I confess there is a generous helping of assumption and supposition. But I don't think either looks in a strong position at the moment considering the challenges ahead. 

And then there's Brexit.