2006 The Year That Was


Article19 rolls into its sixth year online with our traditional end of year review. Unlike other publications we actually write ours after the year is over, not like the clowns in the national press who do theirs in July while on holiday in Tenerife! Why else do you think they never mention something that happens in November?

Our first major event of the year was the British Dance Edition held in Leeds and hosted by Yorkshire Dance. Usually these events are marked by chaotic organisation and fatigue quickly sets in as the performances roll out across the three day event. Thanks to some sharp work from the folks at YD though all was well and the festival passed off without too many hitches or chronic slow downs.

Article19 featured eight works from the gathering with Jasmin Vardimon ‘s ‘Park ‘ proving to be the highlight for us during a festival filled with some stunning dance making.

One piece we were truly sorry not to have filmed was Luca Silvestrini ‘s community work for folks young and old. If only obtaining permission to film kids and put the video online wasn ‘t slightly more complicated than building nuclear weapons!

The next BDE is in Liverpool (2008) and the press flacks are on their toes again, they ‘ve already started putting out feelers for press coverage. Is dance growing up in the communication stakes? Time will tell.

2007 was also the year that dance proved no idea was too stupid to repeat. Dance East continued with their nonsensical ‘Rural Retreats ‘ and The Place dusted off ‘The Place Prize ‘ for another round of dance on the cheap audience voting madness.

Dance East chose Switzerland for 2006 ‘s retreat which is not a problem other than it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world. Nina Rajarani won the Place Prize but told us it cost more money to produce her work ‘Quick ‘ than she actually won in the competition. So it was all worthwhile then!

Political Damage

On the political side of things the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, the UK government office that overseas the arts, announced the creation of the ‘Dance Forum ‘ that was supposed to cure the dance world of its woes with regular meetings of the gang of eleven. The Forum includes a representative from the National Health Service who isn ‘t a doctor or a nurse, in fact the individual has no medical training whatsoever!

Dance UK, along with its head ‘brain ‘ Alistair Spalding, let loose the Dancer ‘s Manifesto which we imagine was supposed to cure dance of all of its woes (isn ‘t that the Dance Forum ‘s job? Ed!) What should have been a blinding ray of light symbolising the aspirations of a profession on its knees turned out to be nothing more than a lot of pretty pictures and yet more half-hearted blustering about dance companies needing ‘adequate funding ‘.

When asked what ‘adequate funding ‘ meant Mr Spalding had no answer when being interviewed , he also had no clue where to get a hold of the manifesto itself, not too confidence inspiring when you think about it!

March also brought us the largest amount of crazy we have yet seen in dance with the revelation that long running dance magazine Dance Europe refused to run anything about Israeli dance makers or companies unless they signed a written statement denouncing their own government.

Emma Manning, the magazines editor, and Naresh Kaul, one of their flacks, decided to make matters worse by refusing to exercise common sense and admit the whole thing was completely unethical and a huge PR mistake. With statements floating around the media and the web apparently implying that Dance Europe was an advocate of suicide bombing (we ‘re not making this up) the magazine pulled its online list of dance links – devoid of Israeli dance companies – and kept very quiet for the rest of the year.

Arts Council England, the UK ‘s major funding body for the arts, failed to cover itself in glory by attempting to sidestep the Freedom of Information Act when we asked for details of their collaboration with Channel4 for the disastrous 4Dance television programme.

They refused to release detailed financial information and then made up lots of audience viewing figures for the various dance/film projects they had funded. We ‘re still not sure if the dance department in London is talking to us but since they have nothing to say anyway!

Strong Work

In performance terms it was a great year with some excellent stuff from the likes of Charles Linehan, Jasmin Vardimon, Phoenix, Diversions, Scottish Dance Theatre, Panta Rei Dansteater, Bare Bones, Motionhouse, EDge, Retina and many more.
The UK is starting to show a lot of diversity in the creative stakes and more and more of the best work is coming from dance makers outside of the nations capital and long may that continue.

For us it was a record breaking year since we brought you, our dear readers, 24 brand new video features with footage that cannot be found anywhere else online or offline. We ‘ve served out tens of thousands of videos over the last twelve months and they are still our biggest feature for many of you.

There were a few first for us. Mid-year we traveled to Oslo and Kristiansaand in Norway to cover Panta Rei Danseteater and hidden gem within a country not normally associated with high quality contemporary dance. The company delivers dance to both schools and professional venues and without compromise maintains production and performance quality whichever audience is in front of them, something for all dance makers to think about.

Ireland was also a first time visit for Article19 with coverage of Dance Theatre Ireland and two superb works by Charles Linehan and Loretta Yurick/Robert Connor and, without a doubt, some of the best dancers in Europe.

Both companies are a couple of bright stars that need some serious cash to widen their exposure to the general public.

Here in TheLabâ„¢ though Wired Aerial Theatre gave us the stand out show of the year with ‘Handmade/Manmade ‘ a twenty minute piece replete with original movement, excellent music (albeit a little loud) and bungy assisted flying around on the stage. The ‘dolphin dives ‘ have to be seen to be believed and of course you can see it right here on Article19 but check it out live if you can.

Once again 2006, like the year before, will be remembered for some great work but also the overwhelming silence of the dance profession as a whole about the issues that should be of tremendous concern but few seem to be willing to say anything about. The Dancer ‘s Manifesto had about as much venom as our pet cat and quickly faded from view. So where do we turn now for inspiration?

Overall the work is great and getting better from the profession as a whole but the fundamentals still remain broken; dancers pay, health care, job security, job creation, etc, and apart from this publication there is little being said or written. The national quality press is MIA on the issue so will 2007 be the year we ‘ll see some real change?

It’s January 5th and counting, get back to work.

[ The Awards For 2006 ]

photo by Steven McSweeney