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Introduction to The Place

by Katie Phillips

November, 2003

 


The Place is one of the world's leading centres of dance performance, teaching, information, advice, research and development in the world of contemporary dance. With over 60 full time members of staff, The Place is home to the Robin Howard Dance Theatre, Richard Alston Dance Company, London Contemporary Dance School, Artist Development, Videoworks, Evening classes, The Young Place and a Learning and Access department. It supports two Choreographers in Residence and five Associate Artists who are offered bursaries and the use of the Place’s facilities. More than 40 independent dance artists have been supported by the Associate Artists scheme in the last 15 years and residency at The Place has launched the careers of many dancers and choreographers.

The facilities include the 300-seat Robin Howard Dance Theatre, one of Britain's most important dance venues, which presents an international programme devised by the theatre director, John Ashford CBE. As well as the theatre, The Place has nine state of the art dance studios, a recording studio, video library and editing facilities and a café.

A number of activities take place throughout the year. ‘Resolution!’ in January and February each year, is a series of nearly 100 short pieces in which young companies display their work in the Robin Howard Dance Theatre. It is the UK's biggest event of this sort and features companies making their professional debuts together with some companies returning to ‘Resolution!’. Linked to ‘Resolution!’ is "Aerowaves" which shows new work from continental Europe. It provides an opportunity for dance companies in 10 European countries to perform outside their own borders.

‘Choreodrome’, which will in future be a biennial event, is one of Europe’s largest projects in choreography. Participants are given use of studio space, video facilities, the library and the Robin Howard Dance Theatre and have the chance to engage in research and development. The ‘Hothouse’ first took place in August 1998 and is a mentoring programme for experienced choreographers. Its aim, similar to that of Choreodrome, is to create an opportunity for research and development, without the pressure of performance. ‘The Dancers Project’ is designed to provide a challenging opportunity for professional dancers to improve their technique and to enhance their performance and audition skills.

As well as live performance, dance on film makes up an important part of the activities of The Place. There are facilities for recording, copying and editing and as well as a library of some 3,500 dance videos. ‘Dance on Screen’ is the largest dance film festival in the UK and enjoys an international reputation. During the Festival there is a Master Class for six professional choreographers interested in producing work for the screen.

The formation of the next generation of dancers is a central aim of The Place. The London Contemporary Dance School (the first contemporary dance school to be established in Europe) provides certificate and degree courses, undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as leading research in contemporary dance. It is renowned for the quality of its teaching. The School is, with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), an affiliate school of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, established in 2001.

Thirty “open to all” dance classes are run every week at The Place. It offers evenings and weekend classes, catering for people of all ages and of varied interests and abilities, from technically challenging, professional level courses to dance and movement classes for beginners. There are creative workshops, opportunities to perform and special short courses, each with a particular focus, at the New Year, at Easter and in the summer.

The Saturday programme offers a wide range of classes at all levels for young people aged 5 to 18. OffSpring is The Place's programme for introducing young people to dance, through performances and through examples of children's dance around the world. There is also a Junior Dance Company, for young people aged 8 to 11 from the King's Cross neighbourhood, which meets weekly to prepare, with different choreographers, pieces for public performance. ‘Youth!’ re-launched under the new name ‘Shift’, is a company for dancers a between 13 and 18 years which meets twice a week.

There are also community educational programmes. These range from before-school and after-school provision to workshops suited to examination pupils at GCSE level and above. Schools are supported through the Place Partners scheme, which gives access to advice, and information, publishes a regular newsletter and offers priority booking for Learning and Access events such as OffSpring performances and workshops. The Place runs the annual Camden Dance Festival, which involves around 16 schools in three summer term performances. It is also a partner with Camden in its LEAP programme of out-of-school arts activities.

The Place Artist Development offers a range of advice for professional dancers and choreographers including starting a dance company, help with career planning, guidance in choreographic research or dance film opportunities and information about training, funding and auditioning. This department also run a support scheme for self- managed artists which aims at helping a small number of choreographers to develop administrative and management skills by profiting from the experience of established dance managers. Artist Development also publishes fact-sheets, books and packs with advice and contacts for those in the dance profession and JUICE, the monthly auditions/opportunities magazine.

A belief that dance is for everyone is a corner stone of The Place. Dance is seen as a universal art form, communicating beyond language. It is open 364 days a year and welcomes people of all ages and abilities and attracts dancers and choreographers from many countries from students to professional. The Place, with its year-round activities, is a stimulating, challenging and vibrant national, and international, hub of contemporary dance, which has earned itself a unique place in the dance world and in the broader artistic life of the country.


OUR VISION (from The Place website)

The Place is about dance. Dance is about movement. And The Place is moving on.

In our first 30 years, we succeeded as a facilitator and presenter of dance, providing a resource of knowledge and experience as well as a venue.

Now, we are transforming ourselves into something much more dynamic. The Place is fast becoming a hub, an exemplar, a creative entrepreneur: The Place to discover dance.

This commitment to discovery puts our focus firmly on the future; producing the next generation of choreographers and dancers drawn from all over Britain - and beyond. Diverse, disciplined and challenging – yet always striving for accessibility and inclusion: The Place continues to serve artists and audiences alike.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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