Whilst most people in early January are considering a new year of fresh starts and potential broken promises, at The Place we are gearing up to a New Year’s resolution of our own. Resolution Festivalis a fixture in the UK Dance calendar – it’s been running for 29 years and has featured over 2000 artists in that time. This year the festival will feature 81 artists in triple bills, five nights a week throughout January and February. It’s a fulfilling yet exhausting period for the team, as we watch each night the culmination of months of hard work from the choreographers that take part. It may be the first time that the audiences see what has been made on stage, but for us it has been a process since September when the programming team first read and watched through hundreds of applications, selected the final 81 and then supported the artists to bring the works into fruition.
I have been working on the festival since the first day I joined the programming team at The Place four years ago, which just so happened to coincide with the opening night that year. A baptism of fire, I walked into the auditorium to assist the technical rehearsals of three choreographers who I had not previously met, all of which were seeing their work come to life in the theatre for the first time. To be honest I don’t remember much of what happened that day – it’s been lost in a blur of adrenaline and mild panic. I do remember that we all survived, all pieces made it to the stage and the opening night was a success. It was an exhilarating experience, and one that confirmed my love of producing live theatre - supporting artists to make great work from first seed to curtain call with all the literal blood, sweat and tears in between. Resolution has since become my favourite season to return to, each year to see another batch of new ideas brought to life.
Primarily that is what Resolution is: a festival of new ideas. Most of the work shown in Resolution are premieres; pieces brought to life for the very first time. In that regard the programming team take a leap of faith based on the ideas of the applicants. An element of surprise and risk characterises Resolution as we don’t know how things will evolve from that first spark, so it’s wonderful to see the concepts come into creation. One critic summed it using the eponymous words of Forrest Gump: 'it’s like a box of chocolates – you quite never know what you are going to get'. Of course we can help to mitigate some of that risk. Over the intervening months between selection and performance, we offer specialist workshops led by industry professionals designed to complement the process. These can range from marketing and press, technical skills and lighting design, dramaturgical advice or project management. It’s a full-on programme, but one designed to offer the widest support we can throughout their journey with us.
For me, one of the most interesting elements of Resolution is the breadth of work shown during the festival. As the boundaries between arts forms grow increasingly blurred, we have made a conscious effort to reflect this shift. It makes for a diverse, interesting and eclectic series of programming that can range from what is considered more recognisable contemporary dance to other styles such as hip hop, performance art, contemporary circus and physical theatre. The brief is that the work is contemporary in ideas and content – no matter what style or form it might take. It allows for a snapshot of the range of making in the UK at the current time – overlapping themes and issues are portrayed in completely different and nuanced ways.
The performance in Resolution isn’t the end of the journey for the selected artists. Lots use it as springboard to get their work seen by other venues and programmers. Others use the video footage we provide free of charge to apply to other festivals both in the UK and abroad. Some we will see in the festival again, returning to test out a new idea. For a few we will continue on a journey with them, offering up support in a new way. Either with space for research and development, a contribution towards commissioning money or performance opportunities in our main theatre programme which takes place the rest of the year. In fact, next season we have two companies performing in our main programme who we first met through Resolution. Circus duo Nikki & JD first came to our attention through Jacksons Lane in Resolution 2015, and now are back with a full version of their piece Knot as part of CircusFest 2018 on 17 & 18 April. On 24 April, ex-Hofesh Shechter dancer James Finnemore will be presenting his first full length piece TERRA, a piece which we commissioned after seeing his work in Resolution 2013. I’m excited to have both companies back with us and when they return, I will be there to welcome them for their technical rehearsal once more.
As I write this, the tickets have gone on sale, the brochure is printed, and the marketing campaign is well under way. And then on Friday 12 January one of us will stand on stage to welcome the first audience of the season to the Festival. We will invite them to take a leap of faith just like we did all those months ago. We will invite them to celebrate what they see on stage, to acknowledge the months of hard work the artists have put in to make it to this point, and to keep an open mind for what they might see - because they might just find something they love.
So come and take a leap of faith with us. I can’t tell you which night to come to or pick a festival highlight, it just wouldn’t be fair. Each night is so different and diverse and exciting and unpredictable that you will have to come and take a look for yourselves. And if you still can’t decide, you can always take our handy quiz to help find the perfect night for you.
Jessica Greer is the Programme Manager at The Place and is also the Lead Producer of Resolution – the UK’s biggest festival of new dance and performance works by emerging artists.
Interview first published on Run Riot on 27/12/2017
Resolution 2018 runs from Fri 12 Jan – Fri 23rd Feb at The Place, WC1H 9PY