Dance students are ill informed we feel about the current crop of, so-called, top dance makers and let's face it, most dance books will probably kill you with tedium before you get half way through. So we bring you our pocket sized guide to dance makers in an irregular series that may or may not be in 138 parts over the next 27 years!
Article19 profiles 8 dance makers, keeping it short and sweet to begin with, telling you the facts that you absolutely must know to be better informed about the state of play in contemporary dance. They are presented in no particular order and please make sure you credit us when quoting these "facts" in your own writing because we really want to know if we were responsible for getting you thrown out of college!
photo by Hugo Glendinning
Biog: Currently the director of Richard Alston Dance Company and something else to do with The Place in London. Has been creating dance for about 234 years with major influences being Merce Cunningham and musicians nobody has ever heard of.
A founding member of London Contemporary Dance Theatre, sort of, back in the day when cell phones didn't exist and the horseless carriage was just coming into fashion. His signature look is of a rosy cheeked grand father, more softly spoken than a church mouse with a sore throat, think Stephen Fry with the ability to dance!
Looks Like: Professor Bubbly Squeek PhD
Potential Pet: Sausage Dog
What to Say: Your work is most lyrical Mr Alston!
What Not To Say: Do you think it's possible for dance to act as a sedative?
Javier De Frutos
Biog: Soon to be the new director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, Venezuelan born Mr De Frutos made a name for himself performing in the buff throughout an awful lot of his work, anybody who says otherwise is lying!
A surprise choice to lead Phoenix he said, upon his appointment, "I feel I've been given a gift and I can't wait to unwrap it." The dancers are hoping he does not mean that literally. He has of course created work with dancers who kept all of their clothes on, Royal Ballet for one, but this is the media so what makes you think we would focus on that?
Looks Like: Steven Berkoff with Botox
Potential Pet: Salamander
What to Say: Yes it does move rhythmically!
What Not To Say: Are these your pants?
Biog: Shiny headed AD of Random Dance Company. Emerged from the nondescript Bretton Hall at a time when contemporary dance was in dire need of some youthful energy, quick wit and exuberance on the creative side of things. They asked Wayne if he knew anybody with those qualities, he didn't!
His career has been punctuated with an unnatural interest in insectoid like movements, nobody had the heart to tell him caterpillars can't dance, despite what several children's books might say. Owns a small island of the coast of Africa, sort of, paid for with the proceeds from choreographing the crappest piece of dance in history for the last Harry Potter film (allegedly).
Looks Like: The bad guy from a James Bond movie
Potential Pet: Stick Insect
What To Say: Yes, I know exactly what you mean!
What Not To Say: Can I polish your noggin?
Biog: Former ballet dancer from Seattle - the home of Microsoft no less - and started his own company - named after himself - back in 1980. Also co-founded the White Oak Dance project with Baryschnikov in 1990 (no longer exists however). Famous for his big, lyrical dance works like The Hard Nut and other works with names we can't remember. The man himself is like a cartoon character given flesh and doesn't suffer fools lightly. He is a living embodiment of the word 'choreographer'.
If you were writing a cliche ridden movie about dance this is the guy you base your central character on because nobody would believe it was true. Has some game in the old dance making front mind you!
Looks Like: The Dread Pirate Roberts
Potential Pet: 14 cats named after the cast of Chicago
What to Say: Yes Mark, this piece needs a lot more flowers in it!
What Not To Say: Fancy a pint and a lobster curry after work?
Biog: Australian born dance maker who now makes his home in a lighthouse on the Cornish coast (that may not be true). Creator of DV8 Physical Theatre, a company obsessed with taking a close look at the foibles of modern life or some such psychoanalytical drivel. Relies heavily on exploiting/utilising (delete as applicable) the personal experiences of his dancers no matter the severity of the trauma.
Famously refuses to have his picture taken so he can 'blend into the background whilst studying the human animal'. When a work is finished touring he abandons it to the vagaries of history and steadfastly refuses to revive them, unless a TV company pays a lot of money to turn one of them into a film, but that's different, right?
Looks Like: Dilbert
Potential Pet: Chameleon (of course!)
What To Say: I threw my friend down the stairs whilst shooting heroin, can I have a job?
What Not To Say: glissade, glissade, petite jete, sissonne!
photo by Rachel Cherry
Biog: Like her contemporary, Richard Alston, she began her dancing career during the very beginnings of the London School of Contemporary Dance. Her own company, once again named after her, has been going for several centuries but only recently secured its own home somewhere in London. Her work is the antithesis of Mr Newson's, Siobhan practices 'pure dance' and will have none of this social commentary nonsense and more power to her sails we say. Here recent works have gone into site specific mode.
Married, rather conveniently, to lighting designer Peter Mumford, a stand out part of her dance making is always the intricate nature of the lighting, we imagine when it goes wrong the weekly trip to Tesco's becomes something of a nightmare however!
Looks Like: Sheila Hancock
Potential Pet: Budgie
What To Say: I like your buttresses!
What Not To Say: I like my dance like I like my women, pure and wearing pyjamas!!
Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker
Biog: Not content with having a quadruple barreled name this Belgian dance maker has a reputation for being a bit difficult with pretty much anybody, journalists especially however. Founder and current director of Rosas, this is a dance maker who takes her craft very, very seriously. We know this because there is not one single picture of her smiling (well, we did find one picture but the evidence was inconclusive so we rule in favour of the prosecution).
If Siobhan Davies is the antithesis of DV8 then Ms Keersmaeker is the antithesis of Mark Morris. Undoubtedly gifted in the craft of making dancers do her bidding to dramatic effect we can't help feeling she would do well to have a picture taken of herself in a large rabbit outfit munching on a comedy carrot!
Looks Like: Anne Frank
Potential Pet: Serberus
What To Say: ....................
What Not To Say: What's Up Doc?
Biog. American dance maker and inventor of the post modern movement, sort of, back in the 1970's. Famous for making people walk down the side of buildings, walk around the edge of buildings and just, well........ walk around buildings like people normally do and call it dance. Was one of the first to use electronic sampling - care of Laurie Anderson - for her piece 'Set and Reset' back in 1983 (you youngsters ask your parents about that one).
Championed the use of improvisation and none linear patterns in her work. Her influence on dance can still be seen to this very day in innumerable site specific works where dancers just randomly wander about yelling at people for no apparent reason.
The use of music in her pieces was often frowned upon much to the chagrin of the aforementioned Ms Anderson! Famously bored the pants of people with a work called 'M.O'. Set to harpsichord music the work apparently was never ending, or at least it felt that way, 'Set and Rest' was much more fun!
Looks Like: Your friends crazy grand mother
Potential Pet: Horse
What To Say: Eat my pigeon in a bucket of spittle my king!
What Not To Say: Can you tour 'M.O.' again?