End of Year Review 2007


The end of the year is always a jarring moment for us, here in TheLabâ„¢, because we realise that in spite of all the practical, financial and logistical data saying we shouldn’t still exist here we are, lurking around like a black hole looking for a galaxy to swallow. As we approach year nine of our existence, six in the form of Article19, we undertake, as usual, our end of year review which will involve, as always, going over the stories of the year and poking fun at Judith Mackrell.

It all got off to a very strange start when it was revealed in January that Simone Clarke, a principal dancer with the English National Ballet, was a member of the British National Party (BNP), a far right political group here in the UK. Not since the audience got their knickers in a twist over Nijinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ in 1913 have there been audience protests during a ballet performance. The Guardian, which broke the story, had a hissy fit, Ms Clarke had a lie down and the ENB’s press office had kittens.

To further compound the issue Ms Clarke recently announced that she is marrying one of the leaders of the BNP _____________ , (his name escapes us but feel free to add your own in the space provided). We would helpfully suggest that Ms Clarke watches her step (har har Ed!) the next time she goes into the ENB press office!

Barmy Ballet

February rolled into view with another ballet company getting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Scottish Ballet, being a bit strapped for cash, decided to auction off some dinner dates with their dancers to raise money. To further emphasise just how classy this operation was the auction was run on eBay alongside used house bricks and other bits of useless tat. Many in the ballet world thought this was ok, many in the contemporary world wondered why Scottish Ballet was acting like a high priced escort service. The operation raised very little actual money, so no PR damage there then!

Also in February Article19 opened, and then closed some months later, The Film Room. It’s was our attempt to have a place on the web for high quality, in technical terms, dance video. After receiving a tiny number of submissions (including two films which had nothing at all to do with dance) we decided to close it, sometimes things just don’t work out!

Hilarity made its way into the arts in March when Arts Council England (ACE) decided to start asking people about their sexual orientation on their application forms. Our own EvilImp conjured up images of the conservatives hauling swathes of artists in for questioning as soon as the “pink” map of the UK was complete.

April brought the first gut punch of the year when ACE announced that Grants for the Arts (GFA) were being cut by 35%, or £29Million in real money, thanks to the Olympics. GFA covers one off grants mostly to small companies and new artists. ACE offered a range of excuses, none of which was very convincing, and declined to admit they were in any way responsible.

ACE continued along a path of obstructive behaviour when they refused to release evaluation reports, following a Freedom of Information request made , on the National Dance Agency Network in England. What were they trying to hide? Maybe one day we’ll find out. If anybody at ACE has a grudge against their employer and access to a photocopier please feel free to get in touch.

The big boys in the subsidised arts sector were also getting in a muddle over money, this time it was the BBC and The Royal Opera House. In May the BBC ran a story mentioning a new £10Million donation from somebody with large sums of cash to give away. They decided to conveniently omit the reason they needed the money was because the previous donor, Alberto Vilar, is under indictment in the USA on charges of fraud. If convicted he faces over 100 years in prison (yikes, Ed!). We can’t imagine why the ROH wouldn’t wan that information in their press release. As for the BBC, it was just sloppy journalism.

Top Ten Videos of 2007
This list is approximate due to the technical limitations on measuring access to specific files on websites, but it is pretty close.

1. Verve “Bitter Ripple & The Self”
2. Jasmin Vardimon Company “Justitia”
3. Ultima Vez “Spiegel”
4. SSCD 2007
5. Scottish Dance Theatre “Sorry for the Missiles & Tenderhook”
6. Motionhouse “Driven”
7. Vincent Dance Theatre “Test Run”
8. Wired Aerial “Handmade Manmade”
9. Vincent Dance Theatre “Broken Chords”
10. All Play “It’s Rude To Point”

Data compiled

Sad Day for Dance

August brought the very sad news that Tanja Liedtke, the newly named artistic director of Sydney Dance Company, died following a traffic accident in the early hours of the morning whilst out walking in Sydney, Australia. Ms Leidtke would have started working for the company in October, she was 30 years old.

Christopher Wheeldon and his new company Morphoses showed up in September to either take over the world or begin a whole new era of ballet, whichever came first. The reviews were mixed but Mr Wheeldon covered his butt by saying that whole “revolutionary ballet” thing would take several years to accomplish so if we wouldn’t all mind backing off a little because he’s a bit busy. Most of the folks we spoke to in the contemporary world had never heard of him and said they “wouldn’t speak to him if they did”. Ok, we said that but you get the idea.

We would normally throw in a sarcastic comment about Judith Mackrell here but I think we used them all up, any ideas?

The year has come to an end with ACE spoiling everybody’s fun by announcing that 194 companies, count em’, will be losing their funding from next year despite ACE itself not having its government funding cut at all. They have adopted a new mantra of “thrive not survive” (stop giggling at the back) which basically means they want to give fewer companies more money, sort of! You can understand the sentiment but you have to wonder why it took them 60 years to figure out that arts organsisations need a lot more that just “tick over” money to get things done. Perhaps they were too busy counting the number of gay people making funding applications!

The Important Stuff

If we were going to give this year a rating out of ten we would give it a very firm five! There has been some fantastic work being made but………

The cuts to Grants for the Arts and the loss of funding to 194 organisations, 12 of them dance related, are without any doubt a body blow. Yes, 80 new companies will receive regular funding, 8 of them in dance, but these organisations are not interchangeable. Whatever your personal views of their work each company brings something unique to the mix and when they cease to exist, we’re all worse off.

Over the last twelve months we have seen some stunning work from Jasmin Vardimon, Hofesh Shechter, Phoenix, Scottish Dance Theatre, Vincent Dance Theatre and from the new comers like All Play, Wired Aerial and the dancers from Verve were outstanding. The community performance sector (if you can call it that) was given a loud wake up call by the dancers taking part in MK RAW 2007. They proved that with a little time, commitment and a lot skill you can put out a fantastic show that is in no way patronising.

In these modern times dance and the arts in general are still burdened with overbearing language and an infrastructure that is responding to new technology and the internet at too slow a pace. Here in TheLabâ„¢ we genuinely believe that dance has the skills, imagination and strength to make other art forms lay down and cry like a baby, if the message is delivered in an effective way.

The mantra for 2008 should be; This is who we are and this is what we do!

Keeping it simple and not taking it too seriously is the way to go. Have a nice holiday, then get back to work!