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A New Year, New Theatre, New Work, and more…

10 January 2014
Author: Kenneth Tharp

Next week sees the start of a new year of activity in our theatre with the launch of the 25th edition of Resolution! the season that presents new dance by new dance makers, on Tuesday 14 January.

25 years is a long time to be doing the same thing, but it also signals the fact that when it comes to growing, nurturing and showcasing artistic talent we recognise that we are playing a long game. A glance back over the 25 years shows that some of the biggest names in dance now, first presented their work at The Place around 20 years ago, at the start of their choreographic careers, names such as Russell Maliphant, Mark Baldwin, Wayne McGregor, and later - Charlotte Vincent, Jasmin Vardimon, Liv Lorent and Hofesh Shechter, to name but a few. Resolution! was often the place where early potential was recognised, rather than being a showcase for ready-made choreographic geniuses. Lasting artistic success is rarely achieved overnight; it requires remarkable persistence and resilience on the part of the artist, and commitment from individuals and organisations that are there to support them along the way.  Watch the film of archive Resolution! footage that gives a taster of the dance talent in action.

The development of artists is something we are committed to supporting in a whole variety ways as they journey through their careers. In fact, we like to think of even the youngest person who comes through our doors as an artist-in-the-making and so our notion of 'artist development' embraces not only professional artists, but encompasses the whole gamut from the 5 year old to the mature and very established artist such as Richard Alston. Each individual will face their own particular needs and challenges and we work hard to recognise and support individual needs through things such as our Work Place programme that offers bespoke support to up to 12 artists at different career stages at any one time. This kind of support sits alongside other programmes that seek to meet the more generic and ongoing needs that exist for artists such as need for research time, the benefits of peer to peer exchange and learning, the ever present need for time and space in the studio to make and explore, to take risks, to fail gloriously, as well as the pure and simple need for commissioning support.

It should be said too, that behind the scenes Resolution! has evolved significantly over the course of its history in ways that are not necessarily visible to our audiences. In preparation for the season, participating artists are offered the chance to attend a series of workshops that include things such as Lighting Design, Marketing and Publicity, Project Management, Finding Your Collaborator, and more. These are designed to help artists to grow their knowledge and skill base, to help them make the most of the opportunity offered by Resolution! as well as encouraging them to have a more informed view about possible next steps, post Resolution!

Next week also gives our audiences the first chance to see our newly revamped theatre. Thanks to a capital grant from Arts Council England, without whom this work would have been beyond our reach, we hope that the Robin Howard Dance Theatre will offer our audiences a more comfortable experience, with new air handling, new seats, improved sightlines, added wheelchair access and for the first time, we are trialling numbered seats. Yes, I repeat, numbered seats! There’s no great innovation there, but this is something our audiences haven’t been used to. Gone then, for the next few weeks at least, are the days of returning to the auditorium after an interval break to find that someone else has nabbed your seat. But, you can guarantee, there’ll be some who genuinely mourn the loss of the first come first served approach. We want to get it right, so I’m sure we’ll be listening carefully to your feedback.

Again, as with Resolution! behind the scenes, the capital work we've done will improve the functioning of our theatre, with improved overhead access, a new scene-dock lift, and six new motorised flying bars, all of which will make the lives of our hardworking technical crew, easier, especially during a hugely busy season like Resolution! that will see over 70 new pieces have their world premiere on our stage in a number of weeks, three per night, five nights per week; or if you prefer - 15 world premieres per week. That’s a big job, and our trusty technical team are used to taking it in their stride, but these developments will surely make their job easier. One other really important feature of the work in our theatre is that the seating rake has been completely rebuilt to allow artists more flexibility in the way they may choose to present their work. Retracting our seats for example, will no longer require six hours of manual labour, and in February, Luca Silvestrini’s Protein will present their new work Border Tales in the round, with the audience on all four sides, something that our crew, as well as our audiences can now look forward to. Protein’s three-week run begins on 25 February.

Elsewhere in our building our capital grant has allowed us to replace old Crittall windows and to replace an ageing heating plant, and in doing so, we’ve relocated some of the boilers so that we’re no longer pumping hot water from one side of our building to the other. This should save us a good 25% on our energy costs, which is a big step in the right direction towards becoming more environmentally sustainable, though it’s possible that 50% of those savings will be eaten up again by rising energy prices.

So, as you can see, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes, a new year is bringing exciting new changes to The Place. I hope you’ll be joining us very soon. We look forward – if you’ll pardon the expression – to having your bums on our new theatre seats!

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