• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

The movers and shapers of British Dance Edition come to town

It's one of the most effective ways of having the dance world gather at your feet - and now, for the first time since its inception in 1998, the biennial British Dance Edition showcase is being staged in Scotland.

Over the next few days, some 400 delegates will arrive in Edinburgh with a shared aim: to watch, celebrate and promote the diversity of dance-making from across the UK. For the companies who have been selected to perform during the four-day programme, which starts on Thursday, this is an unrivalled opportunity to present their work to programmers, producers, support agencies and funders from across the globe. Indeed, over 100 international programmers are due to attend, with representatives from, among other countries, Austria, Hungary, Iceland, Malaysia and Zimbabwe.

For Janet Archer, Creative Scotland's chief executive, there's an added satisfaction in seeing the British Dance Edition (BDE) come north of the border.

Her own connection with BDE harks back to its beginnings. "I'm sitting here, in my office," she says, "and I'm actually looking at a framed poster of the 1998 BDE that I've hung on the wall. It was the first one and it was in Newcastle - which was my patch at the time."

Archer was chief executive/artistic director at Dance City, the national dance agency based in Newcastle and - despite her willingness to share the founding honours of BDE with others - she was instrumental in its creation as a portable feast that could thrive outwith London.

She points out that, prior to 1998, there did exist organised platforms - like Spring Collection at The Place, in London - where UK companies and choreographers could present work in the hope of it being taken up by European promoters.

"But we knew there was a lot happening elsewhere," she says. "Obviously I was rooting for Newcastle, so we decided to see if people would still make the journey if the event was held not in London but in another part of the UK. And people did come to Newcastle. Hundreds of them. It was a huge success, and we held it there again in 2000.

"Since then, it's gone to other UK cities and now it's in Scotland, being shared between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

"I do think it's a special opportunity for our home-grown dance companies - not just in Scotland, but from all across the country - to make the kind of international connections that can take their work, their careers, to a completely different level."

She continues: "When I moved, in 2007, to Arts Council England (Archer was director of dance there until joining Creative Scotland last year), I became aware of what BDE could mean from the other side, as it were. Because I saw how young choreographers who had taken part in BDE 1998 - talents like Wayne McGregor or Akram Khan - were, a decade later, generating a considerable amount of their income from foreign touring. Income that was helping to underpin new work that home audiences could look forward to seeing. It was such an affirmation of what we wanted BDE to achieve. I really do feel that here, in Scotland, we still need to sing better - and louder - about what we do across all the arts. But in terms of dance, where the quality of our work is really strong, I feel that hosting BDE will certainly help raise the art form's profile in a hugely dynamic way. And, from a very selfish point of view, I'm looking forward to seeing lots of dance and meeting up with old friends."

Creative Scotland has come on board with funding support, along with various other organisations - the Arts Councils of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the National Dance Network are in that mix.

But as Morag Deyes, who headed up the selection panel for BDE 2014, emphasises, the whole event is a buoyant salute to the power of collaborative partnership. Deyes's day job is as artistic director of Edinburgh's national dance agency, Dance Base, which means she has fingers in more pies than she actually has fingers. She reckons the whole slow-cooking process of hosting BDE harks back to 2009, or maybe even earlier.

"It's a bit like pitching for the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games," she says. "You have to present your case to the National Dance Network, and convince them that you do have the support - the venues, the facilities, the human resources - to stage a large-scale international event with a global reputation.

"The dance, at that point, doesn't come into it. Because it's all agreed so far in advance, you have to sit back and let the time pass before, with only months to go, you can start shaping a programme. The whole point, really, is to show the newest work possible - things that are so fresh, the paint is hardly dry on them. And then, of course, you want to show the emerging talent, so you have to wait for them to leave school and emerge onto the dance scene.

"I think, in all, we had over 200 submissions from all across the UK - and this is where I have to pay tribute to my curating compadres who helped make what were some very tough, very close calls. Amazingly, there were no hissy fits - maybe a few raised eyebrow moments - but what I remember most is the passion and commitment everyone brought to the table. I think I learned a lot about what our strengths are as a dance community in Scotland because of that process."

Those involved with Deyes in the programming selection were Ailsa-Mary Gold (artistic director/chief executive of Dance House), Laura Eaton-Lewis (director of The Work Room) and Roberto Casarotto (international projects manager, Opera Estate Festival, Veneto, Italy). The latter, according to Deyes, gave "an invaluable European perspective".

Deyes says: "Roberto could look at a piece of work, agree that it was good, but then he'd say that its chances of attracting European programmers were low to non-existent. Part of BDE is about those portals that can take UK companies onto international circuits, so his honesty was a tremendous asset.

"We were also determined that BDE 2014 should be an Edinburgh-Glasgow edition, but having Laura and Ailsa-Mary on board has benefits well beyond the event. BDE is also about networking, and for Dance Base to be forging these links with Glasgow-based organisations is a reflection of what we hope the dancers, promoters and funders will be doing for themselves between performances.

"It is very much a trade fair, but I'm so happy that the public do get to join in the party on occasions when performances at Edinburgh King's are on open sale."

Someone who knows, from past experience, just how valuable networking can be is Scottish dance-maker Christine Devaney, whose Curious Seed company will be performing Chalk About for BDE delegates. The research and development of Chalk About only happened because, as she explains, "Imaginate offered me a chance to be an associate artist with them, and then sent me to Utrecht as part of a European initiative called Fresh Tracks". There, in an environment specifically focused on making dance work for young audiences - something Imaginate has encouraged within its annual festival of performances for children - Devaney created Chalk About, a two-hander that actively involves onlookers in the personal anecdotes and opinions that bring text into the choreography.

"That Fresh Tracks experience opened all kinds of doors for me," says Devaney. "And now I'm thrilled - and proud - to be representing Scotland in BDE. It's a chance to show people that it's possible to do good quality work for young people, dance-theatre that doesn't patronise them, or ignore difficult life issues.

"The feedback we've had from other showings - in Edinburgh and Vienna so far - tell us that Chalk About actually reaches out to all ages, but that young people really respond because we're not talking down to them. I would love to think that, after BDE, we'd get the chance to take it to a wider audience across the UK and abroad. For me, that workshop - and the network it brought me into - led on to other things I might never have done without that connection. BDE brings that kind of possibility to our own doorstep. I'm back in the rehearsal rooms, getting ready."

The British Dance Edition 2014 runs from Thursday, January 30 to Sunday February 2 in Edinburgh and Glasgow. See www.britishdanceedition.com for details.

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

208170