- A Major
by Donald Hutera
Imagine £5 tickets to see world-class artists in a top London dance venue.What a deal! This is what the Jerwood Proms offered Dance Umbrella punters in 2002. Happily, the same scheme will be up and running in autumn 2003.
‘I’m really keen to bring in new audiences,’ says Umbrella director Val Bourne. ‘With football, rock concerts and even ballet, you pretty much know what you’re going to get.We [in the dance industry] are in danger of alienating audiences by overpricing tickets for work which they may not know at all. It’s important for people not to be excluded because of money. Thanks to the Proms, for £5 each you can have a crack at dance from the UK, America and Japan. Even if you like only one of them, at fifteen quid you will still have done well.’
Jerwood Charitable Foundation director Roanne Dods is similarly enthusiastic. ‘The Jerwood Proms has been a completely new way for us to support dance. There was such a buzz after last year. The feedback was particularly exhilarating in that it came not only from members of the audience, but also from the dancers and artists. They were so flattered that people would pay to stand and watch them that they felt inspired to perform beyond themselves.
‘We’re thrilled to be working with Dance Umbrella again,’ adds Dods, ‘particularly as this is its 25 th anniversary. The opportunities for many people to see world-class dance at Sadler’s Wells is hugely exciting. And what artists!’ Umbrella’s 2003 Jerwood Proms roster encompasses Michael Clark Company (30 Sept – 4 Oct), Trisha Brown Dance Company (6–8 Oct) and Saburo Teshigawara’s company KARAS (11–12 Oct). Bargain-hunters take note: The Place also has at least twenty tickets available at £5 for each Umbrella performance when booked in advance.
The Proms are not the only time when the name Jerwood comes into play vis a vis Umbrella. For some years now the Jerwood Charitable Foundation has annually bestowed the Jerwood Choreography Awards, which are in turn administered by Umbrella. ‘All of the partners in this project – Arts Council England, Dance Umbrella and ourselves – have worked hard to make these awards celebrate choreography’’ says Dods. ‘Dance is one of the fastest-growing art forms.We need to make sure we provide opportunities for the best of our choreographers to fulfil their aspirations and, importantly, time to develop their skills and creativity. I like to think that these awards can play a significant part in that journey.
‘The ceremony last year at the Royal Opera House,’ Dods continues, ‘was a testament to the extremely talented choreographers we have been able to identify and support during the years of this prize.’ The winners of the 2002 Jerwood Choreography Awards were announced and presented by Adam Cooper in October at the Linbury Studio Theatre. Compered by Ralf Ralf, also known as the brothers Barnaby and Jonathan Stone, the event featured performances by past Jerwood winners Akram Khan, Charles Linehan and William Tuckett. Three awards were presented, one for £17.000 and two for £8,500. Maresa von Stockert and the team of Ben Wright and Rachel Krische, from a shortlist that included Hanna Gillgren and Mavin Khoo, won the latter pair.
Look out for interviews with these winners in the autumn edition of Dance Umbrella News. Pete Shenton and Tom Roden, aka New Art Club, and Robert Tannion were nominated for the larger prize won by Rosemary Butcher. After three decades of work Butcher has secured her status as one of the UK’s most consistently innovative and influential dance-makers. At Laban in April 2003 she showed an invited audience excerpts from her upcoming work White , a full-length piece that she says she simply wouldn’t have been able to do without the Jerwood Award. The complete White , a co-production supported by several European countries including Germany, is scheduled to premiere at Queen Elizabeth Hall in February 2004. Butcher pegs White as an abstract journey based as much around Arctic exploration as cloud formations, with a use of film (video and photography by Martin Otter) as a kind of visually echoing, silently archival commentary on the live action. The finished piece will feature three female dancers. At Laban we had to content ourselves with only one of them. Abetted by Charles Balfour’s sensitive lighting design and an evocative score by Cathy Lane, Tuscan dancer Elena Giannotti gave haunting, subtly epic solo performances in two extracts. This vibrantly clear and contemplative performer made the act of exploration something both arduous and exciting.
Butcher sings Giannotti’s praises as ‘a great interpreter with a huge intelligence for the work. That’s very rare. You’re lucky to find it once or twice in your life.’ The choreographer refers to the dancer as ‘a former self. It’s something to do with empathy between human beings. Although we’re thirty years apart [in age], we have a similar drive.’ White, Butcher reveals, has in fact been conceived as ‘a journey very much about youth and maturity.’ She is also delighted that her new muse Giannotti approached the project without preconceptions. Dancers, Butcher says, sometimes ‘think they know you and try to please you. People shouldn’t come into it thinking they know the answers. I wanted to find a new language. It’s good for me to break away from where I’d been before.’ Thanks in large part to the Jerwood Award, Butcher was able to do just that.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2003 edition of Dance Umbrella News
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