Matthew Austin, 14 January 2017

“There's not enough dance in your dance piece”


I called this session because I noticed that no one had proposed a session about

dance. I am not a dancer. Or an expert on dance. I programme a festival that

sometimes has dance in it. I like dance. Sometimes I don't understand dance.

Sometimes I dance makes me really bored. Or angry. And sometimes it's electric. I

like this about dance.

The session was attended by by Helga (from Pavilion Dance South West), Anthony

from Leeds, Suzie, Laila, Rosamund, Amanda, Tanuja, another Amanda, Rosemary (a

critic), Jack, and a few other people whose names I didn't catch.

We started by asking ourselves the question: What is dance?

We talked about skill and movement and training. What defines dancing.

We talked a lot about definitions and categories. About when something is physical

theatre and when it's dance. There were no obvious conclusions about this.

We talked about aesthetics, about how dance makes us feel. About how some dance

has a more readily accessible emotional language. We talked about Pina Bausch.

We discussed whether we should replace artform categories with the ‘flavours’, so that

everything could have a bit of everything in it. Like a good spice mix.

I talked about how we have always resisted easy labels on our show names in the

Mayfest brochure, as we felt that people might not stray from what they already know.

We talked about genre and labels. I shared a venn diagram of “classic, contemporary,

mainstream” and how some marketers and fundraisers are using these to mix up

artforms and audiences.

We talked about context, and this became one of the most salient points. About how a

piece of dance performed on an open stage at a free outdoor festival might get a very

different response to if it was placed in a dance venue for a paying audience.

How can we make a Tate Modern Turbine Hall for dance? In other words, a place

where people come with curiosity and openness rather than fear.

How can we tell audiences that it's okay not to like something.

There was a discussion about theme based programming (like the Southbank Centre)

that includes a variety of artforms.

We talked about Europe, where labels are being discarded - where things are just

PERFORMANCE or MUSIC and not theatre/dance/live art.


Let's do away with labels. Let's adopt that European model. We don't need to define

so closely.


Dance, dance