The EvilImp™ 'Crystal Clear'

As always with Article19 the controversy seems to come from the things that you would least expect it come from.

Step forward our four sentences on the New Adventures Choreography Award (NACA) pointing out that the main winner (and a runner up, although not mentioned in the piece) are both connected to New Adventures.

29 comments in and it didn't seem to be dying down so let's try and clarify here, shall we.

First of all; You cannot, under any circumstances, run a competition which has an open application process, allow former or current employees to enter that competition, have that competition be judged by, among others, current company members, and then award the winning prize to two people connected to the company.

You can't do all that and expect cynical old us, here in TheLab™, not to look at it and go "huh?"

Let's give you a couple of examples, both real and imagined.

If a newspaper runs a competition they have strict rules on employees, former employees, family members, pets, etc from taking part. The reason being is that if any of those excluded groups win it will look fishy. No matter how legitimately they may have won the prize, it just looks wrong.

Now let's imagine that this award didn't come from New Adventures but from Arts Council England (ACE). There are two grants up for grabs and 100 people apply for the grants.

Twelve weeks later ACE announces the names of the successful applicants for the grants and it turns out that both of them are children of senior members of Arts Council England. Would you, our dear readers, expect us to not mention that little snippet of information in our coverage? Yes or no?

Some are interpreting our piece in Quick Bits as an "attack" on the winners of this prize, which it isn't and the reason that you know that it isn't is because we just told you it isn't.

The people responsible for this nonsense are Matthew Bourne and New Adventures who apparently don't know their ass from their elbow when it comes to running a simple competition.

At the very least, all New Adventures staff should have recused themselves from having anything to do with the judging when it became clear that dance makers connected to New Adventures were applying.

But they didn't, so here we are! Life's a beach and then somebody kicks sand in your face, or something.

  • Jacob

    Katie raises a valid point. The Place has a stranglehold on much of what is happening on the dance scene at the moment. Just look at where all the new "talent" is coming from, and given serious choreography opportunities. When Hofesh Shechter, for example, was dancing for Jasmin Vardimon, the Place is where he started looking for dancers and connections. Same for people like Bonachela and Mcgregor, people of dubious competence in their dance-making, but nevertheless propelled to stardom by the Place. Same with apprentice schemes with several companies - the Place-trained dancers are always put forward.
    You could discuss for hours why all of this is, but I find it hard to deny the fact that the Place is like a little Cosa Nostra on the UK dance scene, and for any chance of success you're going to have to try hard to get into their little circle.

  • Katie

    I'd say that the problem with The Place's "stranglehold" is that while they had a solid reputation for producing high-quality graduates some years ago, the focus of their teaching seems to have shifted in the last few years, particularly away from conventional dance, and the quality of their graduates has dropped as a result. 

    When their Work Place was launched, it was described as "aims to sustain some of the most talented artists in the current generation of UK dance professionals", which would surely lead some people to think that they might consider more people who have trained elsewhere. And given that this was funded by Foyle Foundation, what conflicts of interest might this be raising? 

    Ex-LCDS friends have cheerfully agreed that once you graduate from The Place, you're "in their system for life", i.e. fast-tracked for Resolution, Choreodrome, The Place Prize etc. And while it's great that they know they can have that support, it makes it that much harder for non-LCDS grads to find that level of support. 

  • Kimmois


    Sadly I couldn't agree more with you regarding the quality of Place Graduates. LCDS once had this reputation of being brutal, relentless, the kind of place people went to suffer for their art, but cliches aside the quality of dancers they produced, when the training worked was pretty much unmatched - some beautiful beautiful dancers, dancers as athletes - the kind of place that stuck two fingers up to the notion of conventional ballet training as being the "only" way. In the past 10 or so years the direction and focus on the training has changed beyond all recognition of what the school once was and stood for, reflected in the quality of the dancers who are pretty poor right across the board. Jane Dudley would be turning in her grave.

  • Katie


    One of the graduates told me a few years ago that the student intake had increased dramatically over the previous few years, which not only meant that the standard of tuition has dropped (as the class sizes have increased - no reflection on the teachers themselves!) - but also the school has broadened its criteria, including people who will never make it as dancers but will at least be performance artists. 

    I know a few people who've complained that in the past they'd automatically hire any LCDS graduates who came their way, but now, they're more likely to turn them down. 

    I guess in an ideal world, this shift in quality would be recognised and opportunities such as Work Place would be opened up to graduates from all schools... and in that same world, maybe someone like Kristen McNally would have won the New Adventures Award!

  • We recommend the use of large tools, or heavy weapons (we call that one the Gears of War approach). We feel sure they can be broken.

  • Katie

    Okay, so the Work Place was a bad example - but no outcry over the nepotism of The Place Prize? (At least 2/3 of the NACA shortlist were non-New Adventures people). 

  • Kimmois


    This comes back to the central crux of the issue here. The Place Prize clearly states that the judges and panelists are NOT Place employees and are actively recruited to be unassociated with The Place as given the huge number of dance professionals who have trained at LCDS it's a fair bet that many of the shortlist will have strong ties to The Place.

    The Place Prize is run this way to precisely avoid the issue here, where five of the eight judges of New Adventures were New Adventures employees, AD & collaborators and chose to award New Adventures employees.

  • Katie


    My point is that nepotism is rife in the industry. Why the sudden shock and horror because what everyone expected to happen.... happened? Of course it's ethically wrong, but this is just yet another part of the dance industry which doesn't operate in the real world. 

  • here in TheLab™ we think the Place Prize is terrible for a whole host of other reasons but in 2006 at least John Ashford was very much involved with the judging panel. Not sure if that has changed though:

  • Katie

    With all this focus on the New Adventures Award, have we all forgotten about The Place Prize so quickly? And the fact that out of 170 applications, 6 of the resulting 7 finalists had all trained at The Place while the 7th had previously been an Associate Artist? 

    Or if you look at The Place's new Work Place scheme, have you noticed that only two of the recipients are not from The Place? 

    Surely we're all used to dance companies and organisations "keeping it in the family" by now?... 

  • true story, the minor difference is the Work Place scheme was not open to everybody, so it's probably worse!

  • Kimmois


    As Abasi rightly pointed out and in response to your curiously, double-think heavy defence, not only were the two lead panalists the AD of New Adventures, his chief designer and collaborator,  but also his assistant director, rehearsal director and lead performer.

    Imagine if the Man Booker was sponsored by Penguin and the panelists consisted of the CEO of Penguin, the Creative Director of Penguin, the head of acquistions, the chief editor and the current best-selling author of Penguin and they then proceeded to award the prize exclusively to authors signed to Penguin.

    Would you think it ridiculous then if questions were asked? Or ridiculous if demands were made for a non-Penguin board of panelists.

    What is ridiculous is your bizarre assertion that it's an "award" not a "competition". Actually it was an open call for applicants & choreographers for their work to be judged and deemed worthy of a cash prize. It was a competition with an award of money as the prize.

    And once again, because you and others can't quite grasp this concept. If it's an open call, an open competition, a level playing field then either New Adventures employees should have been excluded or all New Adventures employees recuse themselves from judging.

    And that's not "ridiculous" it's how the real world works.

  • The competition was run and funded by Matthew Bourne and New Adventures. Regardless of the outcome, it is their choice to pick whomever they feel will benefit the most from such an award. You have a point regarding the situations surrounding the winners in relation to similar types of award in other areas of work, however in an industry such as ours I'd of hoped we would want to remove ourselves from the laws and rules of the more mainstream and media-orientated world. This is dance, and in dance it is only fair that those who work the hardest and prove to have the most potential get the chance to progress, regardless of where they work, how long for and why. I hope that one day I am lucky enough to be awarded something of a similar importance and that where I come from, who I dance for and why doesn't come into account. There is obviously taste involved, but much like what was said here recently.. "Open audition? No such thing." Choreographers know what they want, and why would they pick someone whom they feel does not deserve an award just to appease the dance media? Contemporary dance has never been known for crowd pleasing, it's been known for breaking the norm.

    Mr. Bourne would have no doubt been aware that people would shout "scandal" in his direction, but to write off two incredibly talented dance artists because they have been on a specific payroll only shows our craft in a very unfortunate light. Open minds pave the way for the future and that requires us to not jump to our first conclusion.

    I respect and appreciate the point you have made, but also ask for you to see the effort put in by James Cousins and Tom Greaves. They have earned it.

    Andy Mac

  • Kimmois


    I understand that you and possibly Matthew are close friends of Cousins and Hargreaves and understandably feel protective and proprietorial of your friends and their talents and achievements, however, sadly this only serves to underline the fundamental flaw of the New Adventures Award, an award that increasingly looks to be a case of Bourne taking care of his close allies and friends.

    You're also right in bringing up the subjective and ephemeral nature of choreography and what makes it good, unlike empirical subjects the arts are open to interpretation, personal subjective opinion and debate - and in cases such as The Place Prize, The Turner Prize etc those winning choices have often left the majority dumbfounded that deeply mediocre products are considered the "best in show" BUT and this is vital, what sets those prizes apart from New Adventures is that the panel of judges is made up of several independent people recruited for their impartiality, breadth of expertise and non relationship with the prize and vitally the contestants.

    You ask us to appreciate the talents of Cousins & Hargreaves, fine, but that has nothing to do with a supposedly level playing field of an open competition. Like I said had Bourne decided through independent patronage to bank roll their choreographic endeavours I'd have been more than happy to do so.

    However, there is also a depressing form of double think in your and Matthew's arguments, given the parlous state of contemporary dance funding, opportunities and profile within the UK: you'd like, we'd all like for contemporary dance to receive the same respect as other forms of dance and arts, yet you're advocating that contemporary dance competitions not be held up to the same scrutiny, ethics and notion of fair play that is mandatory in open level competition - because it's rewarding people you insist are talented. The same kind of argument used by bankers  to justify sky high bonuses & insider trading.

    What is telling is that this issue was of absolutely no interest to the media who reported fleetingly on the competition and win,  the unethical nature was ignored in a way it never would have been in say The Turner, The Booker etc only reinforcing the notion that contemporary dance is so inconsequential and inoffensive that it's best left to its own devices, whatever improprieties that may take place are unimportant, because dance is unimportant.

    Without transparency there is no fairness, without impartiality beyond reproach in judgement there is no concept or ideal of merit in winning.

    Each argument in this conversation which returns to accusations of saying nasty things about Cousins & Hargreaves reduces the issue to infantile, playground tit for tat. That's not the issue, Cousins & Hargreaves have been caught in the crossfire of the only issue that really matters - the competition was fundamentally flawed, ethically unsound and the win tainted. And as Article 19 said the fact Bourne refuses to or has not yet seen fit to address this issue does nothing but exacerbate the notion that this was a case of "jobs for the boys."

  • Guest

    Saying it was not fair or the "competition" was flawed etc because an independent judging panel was not brought in is ridiculous; have you bothered to research who was actually on the judging panel?! Maybe you should do this and then rethink your comments... yes Bourne was on the panel but it was his award (award not competition!) so of course he would be. But he was joined by a team of industry experts, all of whom, with the exception of Lez Brotherston, where totally unrelated to New Adventures! 

  • Abasi123

    Judging panel 'Aided by NEW ADVENTURES leading artistes, Scott Ambler, Nina Goldman and Etta Murfitt'. Your statement, therefore inaccurate. 

  • There are many assertions in your comment that are, to be brutally honest, completely ridiculous.

    Simply because this is the arts does not mean you can push aside ethics or fair play. The winners work ethics are not under consideration here, we have no information as to their diligence and commitment to their chosen profession and nor do we need it because it is irrelevant.

    The points made in this piece are irrefutable and the points made by other commenters have also, accurately, highlighted the fact that New Adventures is responsible for casting doubt on the veracity of the capabilities of these two dance makers, not Article19 or anybody else.

    New Adventures have no working telephone contacts or press officers because if they did we would have been more than happy to ask Mr Bourne some detailed questions about this.

    You are right that the arts should not hold themselves to the standard of the "laws and rules" of other media types, they should hold themselves to a higher standard. A much higher standard.

  • Gr0t

    Nothing new to see here, ever heard of an 'open' audition? Ha! There is no such thing. 

  • Jay

    Yep, just a way of gaining maximum exposure with minimum effort. If you don't know exactly who you are going to take before hand you have a bloody good idea.

  • Matthew

    who ever is behind these posts is a complete and utter twat. no two ways about it! let me draw you to what matthew bourne says in his statement about the competition: "our aim was to find a winner that we feel will benefit most from what new adventures has to offer". regardless of the fact both james and tom have worked with matthew in the past, they have obviously been awarded this because they are the people that will benefit most from what the company has to offer! and you're snide comment, it would of ment something if he won it under a different panel??? what is wrong with you!! it does mean something, loud and clear. both these guys are bloody good at what they do, and if 15 grand, national press coverage and a homegrown artist doing well means nothing to you then i don't know what does and frankly you ought to be off this website. no one needs negativity, get on board and you ought to send a congratulations to the boys for winning if you are to redeem your respectability.

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