It's cold outside, it's raining, the holidays are over and the global economy is sinking into the mud. So it must be time for the National Dance Awards, held annually in London by the Critics Circle, a group of people who have nothing to do with the Magic Circle, which is a shame. (that joke is never going away is it? Ed!)

We won't bother taking you through the runners and riders. Safe to say that the people you think were nominated for these things and the people who won these things are exactly the people you would expect to be both nominated and to win these things.

Except for one! This particular award was presented to Protein Dance in the category of "Best Independent Company". Now, the question that most naturally springs to mind for you, our dear readers, and for us, here in TheLab™, is "what the hell is an independent dance company?"

So we asked the magic circle Critics Circle (CC) that very question. A spokesperson told us that classifying this particular award gave them much pause for thought. The CC don't think the name is very good and it might change but the name of the award has nothing to do with the size of the company, or how much funding they get.

The award is also not about the size of venues the company performs in or whether or not they have their own "home" venue.

We know this for certain because at least two of the nominees in the "Outstanding Company" category (English National Ballet and Richard Alston Dance Company) don't have their own venue.

You might argue that The Robin Howard Theatre, at ThePlace, is the home of RADC but that would be foolish because they almost certainly think of themselves as a mid to large scale venue kind of company and the Robin Howard is most definitely a small-scale venue.

The next question that springs to mind is why are there two awards for "best" company at all? Yes, one award uses the word "outstanding" but that's just a posh way of saying "best". Isn't a dance company just "a dance company"?

Once again the CC struggled to differentiate between the two categories. There was some discussion about the, now defunct, "foreign company" category but that didn't really make a lot of sense since Protein, and all the other nominees in the "best" category are UK based.

Not Making Sense

So what are we to make of this strange categorisation? We can only surmise that the CC considers the companies in the "best" category to be, somehow, less than the companies in the "outstanding" category. As far as they are concerned the "best independent company" is more than the scruffy lot at Resolution but not as good as the ENB or RADC, dancing in pyjamas lot (and we say that with love, honest!)

The thought of moving the four companies from the "best" category into the upper echelons of the "outstanding" category was simply too much to bear for the CC. You can't put the street urchins from Protein or Tilted up there with the tutus and tiara mob so we'll just invent a fictitious category of dance company to keep them happy.

Many dancing folk inside the wacky world of dance would find it completely hilarious that the work of Protein and Maresa Von Stockert could't compete with RADC never mind the cartoonish antics at ENB or the Mariinsky.

What is it For?

Another point of contention with this award category comes down to why it is awarded in the first place. Protein did not win for a particular piece of work. That award went to Akram Khan for 'Vertical Road'. Since Protein don't make cars or computer software then, presumably, the award is being given for the work they make.

Surely if the company is the "best" at something, independent or not, then they should also be nominated and win for "best modern choreography", no?

Bizarrely, Protein did get a nomination for 'LOL' in the "best modern choreography" category but Akram Khan was not nominated in the "best independent company" category.

Are we to believe that Protein won for the quality of their administration, their ability with get-ins or the post show talks perhaps? If not then give them their bloody award for best choreography and be done with it!

Perhaps the problem is that Akram Khan might be good at making work but he drops the ball completely when it comes to filing the paperwork.

We can only speculate.

Those Women

Finally, we note that women only won in categories that specifically stated the recipient had to be female. No female dance makers were nominated in either best modern or best classical categories. Make of that what you will but considering the above, is it really that much of a surprise to learn that the Critics Circle and its rusty old members are completely out of touch with reality?