2003 Review

Yes dear readers it is that time of year again, the end of the year. Unlike other publications we choose to write our end of year review about as close to the end of the year as we can get. In our particular part of the world there is about 2 hours left until the end of 2003 so kick back, pour a cold beverage, preferably non-alcoholic; that stuff will kill you! (yes mum, Ed!) as we take a long hard look at 2003 and assess just what exactly happened in the wide world of dance.

One of the biggest changes in the arts was the “big switch” from lots of little Regional Arts Boards to one big Arts Council England (ACE). This transition took years, cost millions and on the outside seemed like nothing more than a cosmetic change to the way things were done.

Under the surface though there was a big refocusing to individuals and a funding boost to most of the above the line dance companies. Only time will tell if the new policies will be a big boost to grassroots contemporary dance and it still takes far too long for them to process an application, even a simple one.

Staying with ACE; late in the year a new chairman was appointed in the shape of Christopher Frayling. We have never heard of him either but there he is in any case. Article19 is not anticipating and great switch in funding policy, like privatising the big ballet and opera companies for example, and we suspect this mans primary function will be to attend a lot of meetings and Waffle® a great deal about just why we need to spend millions on the Royal National Theater so they can keep doing “Oklahoma”.

As we enter 2004 we think it is time for ACE to have a director, not a chairman, who does the job full-time and is accountable for the decisions made by the various panels or advisory boards or whatever they are called this week. So when things go pear shaped we can just sack the man/woman/idiot /crusty old relic (delete as applicable) and start again.

As far as dancers were concerned Random Dance Company made the announcement that the company members were being put on PAYE (Pay As You Earn) for the purposes of tax along with permanent contracts and health insurance. DanceUK said the move was “a real step forward in improving working conditions for dancers” as long as you work for Random of course. What we did not see was any dramatic increase in the amount dancers are paid for their work. The average, in our experience, would still appear to be around the £250-£300 per week mark irrespective of experience or time served.

A lot of dance companies prefer to employ their dancers as freelance artists which allows them to pay their own taxes. Technically they should pay the same tax as those on PAYE but “technically” and reality are often two very different animals. We are in no way suggesting that professional dancers should be less than forthcoming on their tax return just so they can pay the rent and have a life.

Most ridiculous comment of the year came from Adam Cooper, yes him, in an interview with The Times. When asked his thoughts on smoking and drinking he replied;

“Both are fine, so long as you are not drinking during the day. Anything done to excess is bad, but I have smoked throughout my career.”

So they ‘re both “fine” Adam? Ask the World Health Organisation and they may give a slightly more informed answer. We also bumped into Mr Cooper during a visit to Birmingham and it turns out he is only six and a half inches tall, so no truth in the rumour that smoking stunts your growth then? Nice to know the best-known names in the dance world are so well informed.

This was a good year for performance work from, among others, Motionhouse Dance Theatre “Volatile”, Erna Omarsdottir, Johann Johannsson “IBM401 a users manual”, DV8 “The Cost of Living”, Jasmin Vardimon “Lullaby”, TDI “Moznayium”, BareBones “Up Close and Personal”, Inbal Pinto “Boobies” and lots more.

2003 saw the 25th anniversary of DanceUmbrella the monolithic dance festival in London. Although the festival played host to what we refer to as “the usual suspects” some new companies were in evidence. DU also played host to the final performance by Frankfurt Ballet under the direction of William Forsythe who will be moving on to new things, in Brazil apparently, sometime in 2004.

Over the last twelve months our cumulative visitor statistics show 133,225 visitors from 00.00 Jan 1 to 00.00 December 31. The videos that were most popular over the year were

1) IBM401
2) Stormforce
3) Volatile
5) Invisible Kisses

The top five is not really that reliable since some videos have been online for much longer than others but at least we get to have a top five.

During the year Article19 travelled into Europe visiting both Denmark and Austria. What we encountered was a completely different attitude towards contemporary dance, some very gifted dancers and more than a few superb performers. During 2004 we hope venture even further a field to see what’s what! Article19 will also return to Vienna and Impulstanz where we hope to bring you even more extensive coverage than last year.

The national print press continue to puzzle the public with a never-ending line of interviews from ballet “stars” most of whom provided tremendous comic relief. Speaking in the Guardian in September Johan Kobborg gushed; “I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive or more complete on stage than in the third act of Mayerling,” particularly ironic since Kenneth MacMillan, the choreographer, died backstage during the ballets revival in 1992 and Mayerling is bloody awful. Harsh to be sure but necessary (probably, Ed!)

Article19 will be fighting back against this nonsense with some interviews with contemporary dancers and choreographers with character, talent and intelligence who don ‘t spend their down time knitting or posing for FHM.

We shall end our roundup of 2003 with a few thank you ‘s to those who have provided their help and support in keeping Article19 ticking by giving interviews, access for filming, tips, news, feedback, encouragement, criticism and all manner of other things during the year, big hugs (to the blokes as well) and bring on 04!

Big Hugs to;

Vanessa Cook, Rosie Kay, Charlotte Grant, Will Smith, Spooky, Tilly, Susan Cunningham, Zoë Boden (where are you? Ed!), Amanda Drago, Janet Archer, Judy Lipsey, Christa Spatt and all the boys and girls from Impulstanz, Charlotte Mors and everybody at Dansvaerket in Denmark, Mona McCarthy, Geoff Hopson, Michelle Silby, Rose Payne, Tin Productions (Selina, Martin, Tess, Angela, Emma and Imogen), Emma Goodwin, DanceXchange, Deborah Barnard, Alexandra Tomalonis, Motionhouse Dance Theatre, BareBones Dance Company (Ben, Vicki, Elisabetta, Delphine and Leon), Phoenix Dance Company, Darshan Bhuller, Lloyd Newson and DV8, Peter Royston, Erna Omarsdottir, Johann Johannsson, Val Bourne, Tony Shepherd, Catherine Bell, Allan McIntyre, David Watson, Lewis Wheeler, Allyson Clarke, Debbi Purtill, ACE (yes we do mean it, Ed!), The DAiR crew in Birmingham, Joanne Lesnierowska, DanceCity, Josie Lucas, Tertia Underhill, Imogen Bostock, Kellie Wilson and Sarah Morgan, Käte Lauridsen, The students and staff of the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, Apple Computer (can we have some free stuff now? Ed!), BalletLorent, Liv Lorent, Christine Grimwood, Jasmin Vardimon, The Place and Resolution, Charles Linehan, Random Dance Company for hours of amusement “€œ keep it coming, Garfield “€œ our favourite email attachment, Alm of Sweden, and anybody else who we may have forgotten at the time of writing but your contributions and effort are always appreciated.

The names above are listed in order of those who we like the most! ……. Just Kidding!