Access No Areas

by Neil Nisbet

Since being refused access to film any part of the British Dance Edition 2004 in Cambridge, organised by Dance East, means we are unable to bring you our planned extended feature on the event we are instead bringing you this editorial on why Article19 does what it does and why access to such events for filming is vitally important.

To begin with Article19 needs to clear up a bit of confusion amongst some of our readers about how Article19 provides coverage. When we cover a particular event, like BDE, we do not get paid for it and we are not asked to do it by anyone. Just like any other magazine or newspaper covering an event we make our intentions clear to the organisers and ask for their cooperation. Article19 brings all the equipment required, we ask for practically nothing from the theatre staff except for some space to place a self contained camera unit and that’s about it.

Why do we do this? For a very simple reason! Contemporary dance needs coverage. It needs publicity and it needs a platform from which to show itself to the world. Article19 acts as a starting point for those who are either already interested in the art form or those who need information about contemporary dance and want to watch a bit of it in the process. The more companies, dancers and choreographers that we film or talk to the more Article19 grows as a resource for anyone to access 24 hours a day 7 days a week and they have that access for free.

Arts Community Fails!

The failure of the arts community to provide coherent, comprehensive and appropriate coverage of the arts online makes the presence of Article19 all the more important. For Article19 to serve its purpose we need access, that much is certain.

Contemporary dance is not blessed with a plethora of media coverage on any platform. You would be forgiven for thinking that contemporary dance did not even exist after taking a quick browse through any major television, print or web based news medium.

When contemporary dance is featured on television, for example, it is usually in the guise of a contemptible 30 second segment on local news where the lack of depth or understanding of the art form serves only to further cement the notion of contemporary dance as something to be wary of rather than something to engage with. This notion is often fueled by lackluster reporting and journalism that borders on the patronising or spectacularly uninformed.

A quick glance at Article19 and the features, interviews, news, and editorials we publish would quickly tell you that this is not what we do however. Our methods of covering performances and events means that not once have we been denied access to film or conduct interviews. We do not film for the purposes of critiquing, we film for the purposes of informing those who cannot see the work live. Yes we are satirical and we make fun of people and this is not to everyone ‘s taste but that is only a small part of what we do here.

Article19’s unique style of coverage, in that we use video to relay information about these events, provides the perfect platform for dance to reach an audience that would otherwise have no access to a lot of contemporary dance for either geographic or economic reasons albeit in a 5 minute segment from the entire work. Words and images are all very well but dance is a movement based art-form and nothing does it more justice than a well shot moving image.

We are not suggesting that coverage on Article19 results in world wide recognition and an instant fortune, that would be silly, (you don’t say! Ed!). What we do provide is access to information, video features, interviews, editorial, news, etc, etc to any one that cares to look. Some 130,000 people last year visited Article19 and they watched an enormous amount of video material. That’s 130,000 people who are a little better informed about contemporary dance and what it’s all about. Whatever your point of view there really is no downside in allowing work to be featured on Article19.

Oh The Irony

It is particularly ironic that prior to the final performance of the British Dance Edition; Assis Carriero, Artistic Director of Dance East, encouraged all in attendance to “keep talking about British dance”. The very reason Article19 was present at this event was to do just that. With words to be sure but more importantly with images, moving images.

In defending her decision not to allow filming Ms Carriero stated that she did not want “any further disruption to the performances”. We have no idea what “disruption” the companies had suffered and when asked why she thought Article19 ‘s presence in the venues with a single camera unit would cause disruption Ms Carriero could provide no explanation.

Ms Carriero also stated that she only became aware of our request to film the performances the day before Article19 arrived in Cambridge. We had been discussing access with Dance East for at least 2 weeks prior to arriving. Even if Article19 had shown up 1 hour before any show started the technical equipment is so small and unobtrusive that the only disruption is giving up a seat or two for health and safety reasons. This would not have been an issue at any performance this correspondent attended, there were plenty of seats to be had.

These are all moot points now since BDE is over and the opportunity has been lost for good. In particular the opportunity has been lost for the new companies and choreographers who almost certainly could have done with the publicity to promote their up and coming works and their ideas to an ever growing online audience.

This editorial is not about BDE2004 it’s about why we think providing access for filming is particularly important in the case of contemporary dance. Article19 does not make any money, we don ‘t have advertising and never will and we do not make money from the visitors to the site no matter how many there are.

Article19 does not exist to promote itself nor does it exist to tell people how clever and hard working we are. It exists to talk about contemporary dance, to show contemporary dance, to discuss the issues surrounding contemporary dance and present the opinions and thoughts of those dancers and choreographers who may otherwise be overlooked by a national and local media system that has little or no appetite for the arts, contemporary dance in particular.

Providing access is easy and there really is no downside.