Happy New Year to everyone, I hope the hangovers are subsiding and we are all ready to get back into the hard life that runs, work, train, dance, choreograph, invoice, sleep, dance, invoice, choreograph, audition, sleep... and so on!
With New Year come many resolutions and promises of fresh beginnings however we shall wait until February to review how successful these have all been. Personally, what is most important for me is that things continue to grow in the dance scene.
2010 already looks promising in Scotland as many new and exciting artists have taken up residency here and will be working at our national dance agencies this term such as Iona Kewney and Tom Pritchard. I am also looking forward to seeing new work by some regular favourites like Jack Webb, who will be creating solo work with Ben Wright, and Nux Company.
Dancebase has opened more opportunities to the professional sector with free studio space becoming available on Sundays (it's only a day per week but it's better than nothing in a building that's always jam packed!) For non professional Dancebase still offers many classes and now a course in writing about dance led by Gareth Vile and the wonderful Agnes Ness so hopefully there will be an abundance of dance literature popping up soon for us all to feast our eyes on!
Glasgow continues to buzz as Dancehouse, The Arches, The Workroom and the CCA all continue to welcome new work and allow room for experimentation.
City Moves in Aberdeen continues to offer opportunity but is still not being utilised to its full potential as fewer artists are willing to remain in the area and create as much of a dance community as in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Many smaller areas are also encouraging great dance viewing such as Howden Park Centre bringing us Motionhouse and the MacRobert in Stirling inviting Stan Won't Dance to show their latest work.
However, my great concern is that we are not going to truly develop as an art from until we expand our audiences and allow dance to evolve at a similar rate to that in London and more so Europe. We still appear to be very isolated up in the North and without international respect and hype may remain that way.
Theatre programmers are facing pressure to remove or at least reduce dance programmes in many areas as it simply does not draw the same audiences as theatre work as times of such financial strain is simply not viable when you could sell out for other work.
The dance scene still feels very closed as everyone pretty much still knows everyone and the same artists appear to be receiving the same opportunities yearly leaving no room for their personal expansion or healthy competition to produce great work. Even in the world of education people are reluctant to try something new; recently when a tutor was substituted at a national dance agency for one evening many of the class participants reacted in disdain as she had been replaced by one of the wonderful dancers from Scottish Dance Theatre.
I am not claiming that a great dancer makes a great teacher but at least be pleasantly surprised as you are graced by one of the members of our nation's largest contemporary dance companies and give it a good bash! I get increasingly frustrated at those who don't even want to try something new as if this is the dance community we are nurturing we may as well admit that we are content to go stale and be decades behind our European counterparts.
This does not summarise everyone and I have spent the year talking in depth with those who are eager to encourage development and, dare I say it, change! Why not? If it doesn't work we can always go back to what we know but something has to give as the scene is simply not growing rapidly enough!
Of course funding would assist but perhaps this is not the best way for great work to develop as the presence of money can encourage those less inspired who simply don't know what else to do with their lives to hang around and exploit their devoted audiences as they reproduce old work for the sake of a pay cheque. As difficult as it is new artists with something to say simply have to push on and create work to shake things up, perhaps?
As for funding... Creative Scotland requires analysis all of its own!
Sadly I don't have the answer but if anyone does I would be extremely grateful to hear it. I simply don't want to feel so upset every August as the Edinburgh Festival draws to a close and I have to struggle to find dance opportunities that fit in around a lifestyle sadly dictated by having to pay the rent. I want to be able to find a spare few hours and have no difficulty filling them with performances, auditions, workshops and the likes.