Whilst the crisis and social distancing measures pose very real challenges, we set up our remote working capabilities within a week and came up with innovative ways to work together. We collectively agreed on 5 short-term goals to support our students, artists, community and staff for the immediate future:
1.Protect and support the most vulnerable groups
We had to move very quickly to support our students at home and those who returned to their respective families across the world and ensure they can continue in their creative education. We set up a new structure for student support with increased access to councillors and the physical support team, engaging with our fantastic student reps who liaised and fed back, working with the entire student body. We re-imagined the course timetable to cater for our students in all different time zones and couriered laptops to students who needed them. We re-purposed the funding available to students with a new Student Emergency Fund to support those most affected by the crisis.
2. Support independent artists
The effect of halting all public programmes across the cultural sector has been devastating for artists creatively and financially. From the onset of this crisis, we have worked closely with all our partners to honour our commitments to the many artists and collaborators whose works and projects had to be interrupted. We continue to aim to re-arrange, rather than cancel, all the residencies, commissions, productions, and planned performances. At the same time, we are re-imagining our artist development programmes for this moment - gathering information from our community of artists and collaborators to tailor programmes and ensure the best possible support to our community in the short and long term.
We are in continued dialogue with our peers, colleagues and government bodies about the challenges facing our sector. These are ongoing conversations and we are providing evidence and case studies to help our national lobbying bodies reinforce the case for support now and as we choreograph our way forward.
3. Imagine new innovative content
Our efforts to stay connected to our audiences and participants over the next few months led to a new digital programme of full-length dance performances streaming every Thursday at 7pm via our website. Last week we started with the uplifting ‘Sokdo’ by Modern Table Dance Company from South Korea, first shown in our theatre in 2018. Tune in every Thursday here for online performances.
Our Creative Learning team created digital content in a record time to continue collaborating with our 14 Partner Schools and reach over 800 local children.
Next to this, we are working alongside artists to develop new ideas they have imagined and that we can help them to share online. Long-term, we all have to think about how and where dance will happen in the future, how it will be created in this new world and how we can serve our community of artists and makers in new and innovative ways.
4. Increase resources and experiences online
The Place is very fortunate to have a loyal community of participants in our evening classes and courses. Our first series of ‘pay what you can’ online classes was piloted last week and online classes have sold out for the next three weeks. The high demand and continuous engagement is encouraging and we will evaluate this programme and do what we can to serve our dance community and their needs.
The young people in our Centre for Advanced Training have been taking part in live Zoom classes 3 days a week and auditions were held online as well for future students. Our undergraduate and post-graduate students returned from their Easter break to officially begin the new term, with all learning fully adapted online via Google Classrooms. Despite the teaching being done virtually, students have remained highly engaged in technique classes, group choreography tasks, partner work and much more, from their homes across the world. Our teachers are adapting this programme constantly as we listen to the feedback form our students to make sure they are working in a safe but challenging way.
5. Develop New Opportunities to Enable Students & Participants to Have A Graduate Experience
With input from the student body, we are in live discussions with the artists originally commissioned for London Contemporary Dance School Graduation shows to develop an alternative programme. We are confirming an online programme to start from early June, including creative tasks, workshops, lectures and live and recorded sessions with students.
Our young people involved in our CAT training programme feeding into the Graduation development process have suggested creating a film covering their experiences right now as their legacy. We champion the student voice and are excited to make this happen. We are also in live conversations with a range of artists to curate a series of masterclasses for our graduating cohort.
We are still hoping there will be a graduation performance moment for both our LCDS and CAT graduates when permitted.
Securing the future
Like many organisations this crisis confronts us with enormous financial challenges. Some of our income is from subsidy but a great deal of it is earned through the programmes which have stopped. We have remained committed to serving our community whilst working with all the support opportunities available to secure our organisation, continue to pay our suppliers and staff and mitigate the damage of lost income. As a result we have furloughed two thirds of our permanent staff, teachers and casual employees.
None of us quite knows yet what our futures, personally, professionally, or creatively hold. Nothing can replace live theatre and dancing, creating, and collaborating physically with other people. But it’s probable that the world as we knew it has irrevocably changed. How will people want to learn, what will people want to make and how will people want to watch it? We don’t think we can imagine these answers on our own. We don’t know when we’ll be able to return to our studios or theatre and like the whole world, we don’t know what the world will look like. But whatever it is, the picture will be drawn by artists, audiences, producers, festivals and venues all listening carefully to each other.
There’s more uncertainty and more challenges ahead.
We’ll create, evolve, reassemble and dance. That’s what we do.