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Artists Open Doors: Japan/UK    
1. Dance for All? Panel:

John Ashford
Norikazu Sato
Yuko Ijichi
Ken Bartlett
Ghislaine Boddington

Ghislaine Boddington is a ResCen Research Associate Artist. She works as a director and presenter internationally. As Artistic Director of the sound/movement research unit shinkansen (1989-2004) and the Future Physical programme (2001-04) she focused on interauthorship processes and the interaction of the body in digital space. She co-founded the London-based design unit body>data>space in 2005, a design collective engaged in creating innovative connections between performance, architecture, new media and virtual worlds.

How do you and your organisation work to extend the engagement of participants and/or audiences in contemporary dance?

At body>data>space, we have always worked with the belief that contemporary audiences are more sophisticated and topically aware than they are seen, we believe, by the arts world. Much of our work has, for many years, involved digital technologies and interaction. As such, it has always been easier to present to a younger and more technically savvy public and who are more likely to be found in clubs and festivals, community settings and site specific environments. Taking innovative dance into these environments has been a positive and satisfying challenge.

Is your aim to reach ever-greater numbers of participants and/or audience members, or is there an ideal relationship between the aims of your work, the scale of the artistic work and the numbers involved?

We make and present the work according to the context of the invitation, be that for a huge festival environment, such as Glastonbury with 8000 people at a show, or for a more intimate environment with a small audience, or a one-to-one performance. We believe in creating with the audience in mind and also for a wide variety of showing formats – a one-to-one performance is as valuable as a crowd showing.

Is there a relationship between the diversity of participation in contemporary dance and the nature of the artistic work? If so, are the right people being introduced to, and trained in, contemporary dance?

Frankly, after nearly three decades of viewing, curating, commissioning and creating dance works, it feels to me that the contemporary dance world is stuck in a box: it does not seem to allow enough diversity, it seems to fear too much change; it is mainly made up of artists who mutate the traditional, rather than being true innovators.

From what I observe, one style seems to be picked by a few key producers as the way forward each year – and the other producers follow. This style is then immediately mirrored in the work of the practitioners involved. Good work is emerging, but it tends to reflect a middle view of the UK; a safe, somewhat conservative and self-reflective viewpoint. The contemporary dance world can then seem impenetrable and unsupportive of those doing different work, to those doing true research and innovation. Viewed from the outside, the contemporary dance world is in many ways a wonderful place; unfortunately, it seems to have particular codes, ways of being and behaving that make it hard for someone with a less straightforward background to enter.

Is the recent growth in contemporary dance activity sustainable and what would enhance the sustainability of it?

Yes, I believe that the recent growth in contemporary dance activity is sustainable as a natural evolution of contemporary into classical. The work being produced now is mainly modern classical work, the best of which will become the classics of our time. Yet, if the focus is on the neoclassic, little space, funding or creation support is left either for pioneering work by younger practitioners or for ground-breaking shifts by mature practitioners. With no room for failure, there is no room for risk.

We need to find space for the original voice of an artist to be allowed to emerge. We need to encourage a deeper critical debate about body motion, invention and the future. We need to make more concrete connections and skill transfers from contemporary dance into larger sectors, such as involvement in new physical gaming environments, motion capture for animation and film, movement modelling for virtual worlds and pop music. All these sectors could gain massively from the involvement of contemporary choreographers, with a larger public being exposed to new and unusual movement material beyond a controlled theatre space.

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