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alison

"Best dance of the 21st century"?

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Indeed.  Only performances within the M25 ever count for anything these days.  Especially where the critics are concerned.

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In all honesty I haven’t seen any of these and nor have I even heard of them. This is probably due to the fact that I only started following dance quite recently, and also only moved to London a few years ago. But I also think dance really doesn’t permeate the public in the same way that exhibitions and theatre does. Works are often not reviewed, and if they are you often have to seek out reviews rather than stumble across them. Also because a lot of dance runs are quite short (compared to a few months of theatre or even years for musicals) often by the time something has been reviewed, or got through by word of mouth, you’ve missed it. Dance is a bit of a risky bet in this sense. 

 

Agree it is rather London centric - not only neglecting regional but also more international pieces (ok this is a London/UK based newspaper but perhaps the text should have made a ‘works performed in London’ caveat clear). 

 

Whilst I can’t comment much on the choices themselves, it did make me wish for Woolf Works to be revived. And also sorry that I didn’t get a chance to see Akram Khan perform live. And sutra looks fantastic from the clip. 

 

Perhaps it’s because it’s in revival now but I’m surprised Khan’s Giselle isn’t on there - it’s reached huge audiences across the U.K., has reinvented the wheel a bit for ballet, revived a somewhat stagnant ENB (a U.K. company that performs outside London so reaches a more ‘diverse’ audience) and also is a fantastic production. Also slightly disappointed to see no Wheeldon (I’m no fan of Alice but it was well received, as was Winter’s Tale and his contemporary pieces). And I also loved 1984 by Northern Ballet, and though I’ve not seen it but I’ve heard good things about their Little Mermaid production. 

 

I guess my main gripes are not enough ballet (which I am willing to accept is a personal thing) but also not enough recognition to ENB/BRB/Northern Ballet considering the ‘UK’ focus. I’m not suggesting they should have got ‘pity’ entries but surely their output over the last 20 odd years has produced at least one work that is deserving of a place on here? Oh and I note that similar pieces the guardian has published (for theatre, comedians, video games have 50 slots, tv, albums, and films have 100 and even buildings and art gets 25). I guess there is a proportionality as there are more films being produced but still...

 

Fair enough these things are subjective and don’t really mean much in some ways, but it’s a shame that ballet seems to be neglected in this list, as does our regional companies who are investing in new works and reaching a wider audience outside London. But I will try and focus on the positive that dance generally is going nowhere and it seems to be growing in popularity which is a good thing. 

 

Edited by JNC
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I'm pretty sure quite a few of the works mentioned had been shown outside London.  How many people saw them may be another matter, of course.

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I agree with number 2 - Swan Lake/Loch Na heala which is thought-provoking and beautiful.  Did you know that the Swan Lake story has its origins in Ireland?  But Scottish Ballet's Rite of Spring (choreographed by Christopher Hampson) should be in the top five IMO.  It is powerful and haunting. I wasn't keen on Four Quartets and haven't seen any of the others.  Umwelt sounds particularly unappealing.

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I'm suspicious of lists that (as JNC says) ignore or downplay classical companies (which are after all largely the biggest companies with the most resources and some of the very best dancers) and include single works by a wide range of other (mainly contemporary) companies/choreographers. It makes me think that it's simply the reviewer trying to 'prove' the breadth and egalitarianism of their knowledge/appreciation.

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10 hours ago, alison said:

I'm pretty sure quite a few of the works mentioned had been shown outside London.  How many people saw them may be another matter, of course.

 

I saw Shostakovich Trilogy at Sadlers Wells. I don't think it was exceptional, but it wasn't dire. Sutra and Swan Lake were on in Birmingham, but I didn't go, and I am fairly sure that Bird Song was shown on Channel 4 as part of their long forgotten Summer Dance series.

 

I think it is was too soon to pick a best of the 21st century. I think we should reconvene in 2100 and see how many of these works are still being performed. That to me is the true test.

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the series of 'best of 21st century' that the Guardian has been running (for albums, films, etc etc, not just dance) have all been sub-labelled 'so far' I think. There are already nearly two decades of creative work to pour over, and memories do fade, so personally, I think it is a worthwhile and fun exercise. In music and films, the last decade is often poured over for best of lists, for example.

 

As for London bias - don't think so, as many were made abroad. They may have been first shown in the UK in London, as London is a well known world dance centre. And can pull in an audience to unfamiliar works. I know there are dance fans scattered throughout the country - but just look at how the likes of ENB struggle to sell tickets for something like Manon. Non UK companies are less likely to risk it outside of London, than in the well known dance theatres inside. 

 

The list was compiled by more than one reviewer

 

Personally, I've not seen that many on the list, but those I have, I couldn't disagree shouldn't be there. 'Woolf Works' is definitely amongst the best new works the RB has made; Betroffenheit was startling; loved 'Push'; 'Formosa' was fascinating; was wowed by the Shostakovich. Though sounds like i'd be a walkout for the Umwelt too!

 

For my own list, I would have had 'Dust' and Akram's Giselle in there, and Sylvie doing 'Solo' (that was jaw dropping!), as well as a couple of their short, abstract works from Liam Scarlett and Christopher Wheeldon.

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It might just be my interpretation, but I think that the point was about London vs Rest of the World rather than London vs Rest of the UK. How many significant works made in other countries and not shown in London (or indeed the UK) does the list omit?

 

(I know the Guardian is a primarily UK-based paper/website, but it sure likes to position itself as an international force in journalism.)

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Ah, perhaps you're right.  But even then, Sutra, Betroffenheit and the various Guillem pieces, to mention just a few, have been performed around the world, too.

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I think that it’s worthwhile too - even though it reminds me of how much dance I haven’t seen.

But that’s good in itself.

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What worried me about the list (apart from the lack of Wheeldon and any other ballet) was the one described as 'painful to watch'.  Really? Is that a criteria of something to be labelled as the best this century?

 

Linda

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I've seen 4 of them live - all at the Lowry.

 

Play Without Words

 

Desh

 

Sutra

 

Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)

 

I only saw Woolf Works at the cinema.

 

Of the four I would only consider Desh a true masterpiece (of any century) although I enjoyed the other 3.  Some of the works listed have toured the world let alone the UK.

 

What I don't like about this list is that there is nothing from the other three main English companies or Scottish Ballet and I am sure they have all got works that could be considered masterpieces.

 

I would have included David Bintley's Orpheus Suite, David Nixon's Ondine and Akram Khan's Giselle at the very least.

 

(I did have to stop and think about some of my other favourites and fortunately realised before I made.a fool of myself that they were created in the 20th Century).

 

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On 20/09/2019 at 08:29, bridiem said:

I'm suspicious of lists that (as JNC says) ignore or downplay classical companies (which are after all largely the biggest companies with the most resources and some of the very best dancers) and include single works by a wide range of other (mainly contemporary) companies/choreographers. It makes me think that it's simply the reviewer trying to 'prove' the breadth and egalitarianism of their knowledge/appreciation.

 

I know it's an obvious point to make, but I always think such lists shed a lot more light on the contributors themselves than the pieces covered or even the art form.

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On 20/09/2019 at 08:29, bridiem said:

I'm suspicious of lists that (as JNC says) ignore or downplay classical companies 

 

This tends to be the case with the ‘end of season’ lists in dance magazines and the UK National Dance Awards.

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On 20/09/2019 at 07:18, alison said:

I'm pretty sure quite a few of the works mentioned had been shown outside London.  How many people saw them may be another matter, of course.

 

Yes. 5 of the works have been performed live in Japan and I have seen all 5 of them. (And of course Woolf Works was shown at the cinema)

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On 19/09/2019 at 18:18, alison said:

I'm pretty sure quite a few of the works mentioned had been shown outside London.  How many people saw them may be another matter, of course.

 

The point being that unless they were ALSO seen in London, they didn't make the cut. So anything seen in North America, Australia, Europe etc. that wasn't also performed in London is not part of the list.

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For someone living in the US, it would be difficult to discuss the past 19 years of dance without referring to Justin Peck.  His pieces have been picked up by several US companies, as well as Paris, I believe. Now he is choreographing for Spielberg's West Side Story.  Hope his name will surface in London at some point.

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