The Evil Imp

Whose Work Is It Anyway?

Long time followers of Article19 will know that one of the things that makes us unique are the video features we run as often as possible. Here in TheLab™ we don’t just use promo videos from dance companies and re-publish them. We go out and film the work ourselves, do the interviews, do the editing and then publish.

It is, as far as Article19 is concerned, vitally important that there is impartial, comprehensive coverage of publicly funded dance works, free from the constraints of company marketing departments.

In many ways Article19 acts as a public record, albeit of the works we have the resources to cover, that anybody can access at any time. Our archive is not subject to the whims of changing leadership at dance companies or the arbitrary imposition of restrictions that some dance makers wish to impose on the work they create.

Also, once we publish something it stays published.

If you take a look around the websites of many dance companies the visual, online record of their works, available to the public, free of charge, makes for a grim browsing experience.

Apart from a few promotional videos (our disdain for most of those is well known) there is not a great deal to see. A small minority of companies do better than others and some have far more resources than others but, whatever way you look at it, the ability of the general public to see what dance companies are doing and what they have done in the past is severely constrained.

The situation is made all the more strange because this is, after all, the performing arts. Work is made with the specific intention of showing it to other people, it’s kinda the whole point.

The Public Access Argument

We keep mentioning “the public” because, apart from the United States, most of the contemporary dance work created on planet earth is almost entirely funded by public money. Remember, governments don’t have any money, it’s the public’s money, governments are just the ones who spend it.

So what does this have to do with anything?

It has to do with the fact that we are encountering too many choreographers and dance companies trying to keep their work off the internet and they are doing so without any explanation or coherent rationale.

Take a look at the websites of Random, Akram Khan, Rambert, DV8 and others and see just how much of the work they have produced, paid for with millions of pounds of public money, that you can see. You will be lucky if you can find even the shortest of badly filmed clips.

We are aware that Rambert does have some work on TheSpace website but those pieces are so badly filmed it’s actually worse than not having them there at all. There is also no telling how much money has changed hands to actually put them there.

30 years from now, when most of these companies will be little more than a memory, what will exist for future generations should they wish to study the history of dance from this particular era? If things continue as they are then, for many companies and choreographers, there will be nothing to see.

Even if the videos exist we have little doubt that some administrative body or other will relish the task of keeping access to them as limited as possible.


From Article19’s perspective the majority of dance makers and choreographers are happy to be filmed and let us put out reasonable amounts of video of their work.

We like to think of them as the open-source dance makers! Article19 can only hope that the balance does not shift towards the “you shall not” group who are more akin to Apple and their over zealous walled garden approach.

Getting video of dance “out there” can only help the ongoing struggle to get this art form noticed a little more. One thing we know for sure, it’s not going to hurt the profession to get more work online.

It shouldn’t need to be stated that contemporary dance is not the most popular art form in the world and a self-serving, irrational, protectionist attitude towards dance works isn’t going to help change that.

What we would like to see is new rules for ACE funding (and public funding for dance across Europe) that requires dance works to be published, online, in full no more than 5 years after they have been made if they are no longer touring. 10 years if they are still touring.

This would also require that dance companies properly document their works so future generations are not left with little more than some shaky rehearsal footage or the terrors of the “promo” as illustrated by the video embedded below for Hofesh Shechter [Company]’s new work ‘Sun’.

Allow us to reiterate. These works belong to the general public (and no, we are not talking about copyright here) because they foot the bill for them to be made. Allowing general access to substantive clips is the very least that the dance profession can do to show their appreciation for that financial largesse.

If Article19 covers the work then, say it slowly and deliberately, it doesn’t even cost the companies any money.

Allowing unfettered access to “dead” works is simply the right thing to do for the sake of the historical record of dance and to shore up the arguments for continued public financial support of the profession to keep on making new works.

Dance can ill-afford the selfish preening of the few, especially in these difficult financial times and the seemingly never ending times of relative obscurity for dance.