Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'
Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.
June 2nd, 2016watch now
Right off the bat the headline is beyond cheesy but let's just live with it and move on shall we? Currently, in the murk and grime that is London, the Resolution festival is plodding its way through innumerable performances from many a new dance maker.
The format of Resolution hasn't changed since the festivals inception during the reign of Ashford of Johns in 1786. It's just triple bill after triple bill, ad-infinitum.
Here in TheLab™ we thought the tired format could do with an overhaul, so let's take a look at what we came up with.
The central problems with Resolution are; A) too many shows, so much so that The Place actually brags about how many show there are and B) the emphasis on the companies participation is too heavily weighted toward the performance of a piece of work.
Any artistic director or dance maker with a brain knows that the end performance is about 5% of the battle at best. The show lasts for about 30 minutes, the creative period to make that show lasts for weeks if not months.
Most Resolution participants struggle with no funding, no rehearsal space and no time to actually make their work fit for presentation to a paying audience.
So here's what we need to do. Restrict Resolution to 30 participating dance companies, provide £300,000 in funding for those 30 participants, persuade the National Dance Network to get their ducks in a row to provide rehearsal space and tech support (lighting design, et-al) and that's it.
The whole festival is done in 10 days because you keep the triple bill format.
The Progressive Festival
Creating a new format for Resolution would provide numerous advantages over the current all or nothing "benefits" allegedly provided by performing on a stage in London alongside several dozen other new dance companies.
As mentioned, the creative/rehearsal stage is almost certainly more important for new dance makers.
Choreography is a craft that needs, above all else, time to be learned and honed to a fine point. You need the time in the studio to create your movement, experiment with ideas, make mistakes, throw it all away and start again.
Providing funding of £10,000 per-participant will give them the luxury of the time they need to work with their dancers (who will be getting paid).
For their part the dance makers will have to keep their production to between 1 and 4 dancers but that shouldn't be a problem. This is about learning a craft after all, not an excercise in drafting patterns for the corps de ballet.
Many of the fledgling dance works on show at festivals like Resolution also suffer from chronic under-rehearsal and the lack of rehearsal direction.
Years ago on Article19 we suggested that all National Dance Agencies should have an in-house rehearsal director to provide support and guidance to dance makers on the work they are making.
Many established choreographers don't rehearse their own work and they don't rehearse their own work for a reason. They are just too close to it to see potential problems.
The outside eye brings in invaluable experience at cleaning up movement, editing out the unnecessary fluff from a piece and generally making the thing both leaner and meaner.
This type of production support should be integral to the "New Resolution" because it's a big part of teaching dance makers to be "good" dance makers.
The Money Question
Believe it or not coming up with £300,000 per year to pay for this idea is almost certainly the easiest part. For every good project funded by Arts Council England they fund several idiotic projects like the Ballet Boyz vanity documentary that we have already ripped to shreds in this very publication.
The £7Million of funding given to Rambert to pay for their new building in London would fund this project for a staggering 20 years.
ACE has the money, they just don't use it very well. There is also no reason why the arts funders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could not contribute to the annual running cost of the project.
Additionally, after the Olympics packs it bags in the summer there will be considerably more money available to ACE via the National Lottery, according to ACE that is, so paying for this should be easy.
Making the Cut
If you are going to pick and choose who gets £10,000 in funding then you will need people to do the picking and the choosing. We hesitate to nominate the National Dance Network for this task but they do have the benefit of being located in various parts of the country.
Bringing in the AD's of established companies would be a good way of balancing out the inherent administrative crazy though. It would also be a good idea to bring the bigger dance schools into this. NSCD, Laban, etc could all provide invaluable support and guidance.
Spreading the application process across the country would also be a good way of ensuring that the "New Resolution" does not become London centric.
Being accepted or not is also not too hard on the applicants. Since the project is annual. Fail the first time? Then you just try again the following year. If you are accepted you can be barred from applying again for a year or two just to keep things fair.
"New Resolution" should be about providing opportunities. Not selecting people because you think they are the next Wayne McGregor, because one Wayne McGregor is enough after all.
The mantra for "New Resolution" should be; "You Can't Learn If You Never Get To Try".
The All New Resolution
Shifting the focus from the performance to the creative side of dance making will be an invaluable learning experience for any new dance maker.
Providing proper rehearsal and creative support, through the National Dance Network and established companies, would be hugely more significant than the plethora of meaningless "associate artist" schemes currently running throughout dance right now.
Those new to the game need meaningful support so they can figure out if being a choreographer is something they actually want to do and to figure out if being a choreographer is something they are actually good at.
Not everybody is going to make it of course, but that should be based on talent and skill, not on having friends in the right places.
You don't guarantee better work at Resolution doing it this way but you do guarantee that the work will be better crafted, better rehearsed and better presented year on year and the really good stuff won't get lost in the noise of several weeks worth of triple bills.
Resolution is a starting point and what better way to make that start than by ensuring the participants have every possible chance of getting it right?