Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

The way ahead for dance in Wales?

As Diversions settles in to the Blue Room at the Wales Millenium Centre, folks in second city Swansea have their own ideas about the way ahead for dan

It’s easy to lose track of how long dance has been a “priority” for the Arts Council. As the Cinderella of the performing arts, it has long been acknowledged that more needs to be done to develop the artform – to provide more opportunities for dancers & choreographers – and more opportunities for audiences. However nothing happens without investment and despite some highlights – such as the designation of Diversions as a Wales National performing arts company and the company’s fantastic new facilities in the Wales Millennium Centre, there has been precious little progress for the sector. The WAG policy document Creative Future – Cymru Creadigol – set out the broad outlines of what needs to happen including:

offer further support to current dance companies and organisations to enable consolidation and development;

assist independent artists to develop creatively and within their careers;

increase the range of in-coming professional dance on offer to audiences within Wales;

However those encouraging ambitions were published 3 years ago in January 2002 and we are still waiting for action. The good news is that WAG has recently announced a Dance Review under the leadership of Rosemary Butler AM – Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language & Sport Committee. Dance is yet again on the agenda and we all hope that the Review will result in some real progress before another 3 years go by…
…In the meantime, Taliesin Arts Centre is leading the way with a brand new dance initiative called “Swansea: A City that dances” kickstarted with the help of a “windfall” grant from the Millennium Commission.

Building on our commitment to showcase and celebrate contemporary dance, together with our commitment to international work & to develop audiences, we have planned a year long programme of performances and commissions supported by special marketing initiatives and education work.

This programme will inform an enhanced annual programme from 2006/7 onwards that we hope will be supported by additional funding from Welsh Assembly Government, as part of the Arts Outside Cardiff Regional Hub scheme.

The dance performance programme in the theatre will consist of an enhancement to our usual programme (i.e. it will be additional) and will focus on presenting high profile European dance companies which would otherwise not be affordable.

This begins on Friday 4th March with Alias Compagnie, based in Switzerland. Taliesin’s presentation of their piece L’Odeur du voisin (The Smell of the Neighbour!) will be their only UK performance outside the South East of England. Alias’ choreographers Guillaume Botelho and Caroline De Cornière produce funny, exhilarating and touching dance to present to audiences across the world. Bringing them to Wales for the first time is symbolic of a commitment to give Welsh audiences a taste of the very best in world class dance.

Over the next year we will hope to present at least another three companies from Barcelona, including work from Nats Nus choreographer Toni Mira and Orfeo by Lanonima Imperial, as well as our usual programme of UK dance companies.

Another core element of the project is the commissioning of new works by established and emerging choreographers. Swansea & West Wales has a very good track record of producing interesting and innovative dance artists and we are intent on providing work opportunities which demonstrates this strength. As part of Ciudades Que Danzan, an urban network including cities as diverse as Zurich, Heidelberg and Buenos Aires, Taliesin is commissioning a range of choreographers, including Charlotte Vincent and Diversions’ associates Marc Rees and Sean Tuan John, to create work to be performed free of charge at public locations across Swansea, including the new National Maritime Museum.

For younger members of the community, we have engaged an education officer to work with Performing Arts students from a local college to enable them to choreograph a piece of dance to be performed by Primary school pupils from across Swansea. The international programme will also include performances by Nats Nens, a company formed to produce contemporary dance specifically for people under twelve.

To bring all of these strands together we have developed a website, www.swanseadances.co.uk (launching towards the end of this month), to act as a portal to all things dance across Swansea. The site has been designed so that it can be used not only by potential audiences, but also as a resource for the dance community. Dance practitioners, schools and venues across the region will be able to access the site to publish details of their group or event.

All of this activity would not be possible without the extra funding, time and outright determination that has been devoted to it. Will it be worth it? If it raises the profile of contemporary dance in Wales and provides opportunities for people to create, participate in and watch great work – then of course it is worth it. And if the powers that be sit up and take notice – all the better.

author:Sybil Crouch & Stella Patrick of Taliesin Arts Centre

original source: The Western Mail
14 February 2005

 

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