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English National Ballet to be Sadler's Wells Associates


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Sadler's Wells staged their annual Press Conference this morning, with lots of live Tweeting from Bruce Marriott and Graham Watts.  By far the most significant announcement is that ENB will become the theatre's first Associate Company.

 

ENB have released the following:

 

http://blog.ballet.org.uk/sadlerswells-englishnationalballet-newrelationshipandwork/

 

And the Standard's Lyndsey Winship has been quick off the mark:

 

http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/theatre/dances-new-double-act-sadlers-wells-and-english-national-ballet-form-new-partnership-9837741.html

 

 

Not yet the end of performing at the Coliseum for ENB, it seems, but an interesting development in light of earlier discussions here about that relationship and its longer term viability.  And the prospect of a new Giselle for the Company from Akram Khan is tantalising.

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In the Q&A the Coliseum position came up. ENB and the Coliseum have just signed a 3 year agreement to do Christmas seasons there. Nothing else was said directly but I'd be surprised if they performed there at any other time of the year.

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Does the Christmas season comprise just The Nutcracker or The Nutcracker plus whatever the company has been touring in the Autumn? Does this mean that there won't be a summer programme in London in the future unless the company is performing at the RAH, which I can't imagine will be every year? If so, what will the company do in the summer? Tour abroad?

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Aileen:  I don't know to what degree his helps answer your many questions, but this is one of Bruce M's Tweets during the Conference:

 

"@DanceTabs: Rojo ducks question on reduction in UK touring but underlines international touring + that London has always featured much for ENB over years."

 

I may be quite wrong, but it may well be that it's the rest of the UK that sees less of ENB, not London.

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I very much suspect you are correct Ian.  We already know that the company is giving up one touring week from April 2015 when the new funding agreements come into place.

 

I suspect that the company will give up the Coli summer season because of both ENO's already stated intention to show big musicals and the fact that the Coli is apparently a very expensive venue to use.  I think the company is more likely to make more from a successful winter season.

 

Of course it is not unprecedented for ENB to appear at the Wells, for example a programme including the premiere of Swan Song was put on there plus the company premier of Cruel Garden and that was in the late 1980s  in the Peter Schauffus days when Christopher Bruce was commissioned to make several works for the company.

 

It will be interesting to see what else the company plans for London because a couple of weeks of mixed programmes is less than they do now in the Capital.

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I may be quite wrong, but it may well be that it's the rest of the UK that sees less of ENB, not London.

 

I suspect you're right. That would be very sad news, though. ENB are the only top ballet company (leaving aside New Adventures) who tour to Bristol. I would hate for us to lose them. 

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Yes, last season (excluding the Christmas period) the company had a 12 performance mixed bill at the Barbican, a ten day run at the RAH and five or six performances at the Coliseum. This season there will only be the programme at Sadler's Wells, although there will be an additional programme in London in the autumn. I think that TR is adopting a rather risky strategy in reducing UK touring. After all, touring was (as I understand it) the original raison d'être of the company and received ACE funding for that purpose.

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Well, if regional touring isn't profitable, and with all this business about austerity and cutbacks and the fact that London is disproportionately wealthy compared with much of the rest of the country, it makes economic sense (at least in the short term) for the company to concentrate on performing in London even if it doesn't make cultural sense and even if regional touring is part of its reason for existence. Back when the Arts Council was set up, there was more of a feeling that encouraging the arts nationwide was part of the remit of the government. These days, that isn't so much the case; it all seems to be a case of whether companies can find corporate sponsors and what sort of productions the sponsors prefer to pay for.

 

New York can support two major ballet companies that don't tend to tour much; maybe there's a feeling that London can do so as well. The sad thing is that many of the smaller cities in the UK don't have local ballet companies of any size or scope, which is going to leave a real gap, especially in the south west and East Midlands.

Edited by Melody
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 Back when the Arts Council was set up, there was more of a feeling that encouraging the arts nationwide was part of the remit of the government. These days, that isn't so much the case; it all seems to be a case of whether companies can find corporate sponsors and what sort of productions the sponsors prefer to pay for.

 

Funnily enough, the 'Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital' report has been published today. The Beeb has an article on it here, and the report is online. I haven't had a chance to read it properly, but the word 'ballet' doesn't actually show up on a search of the document.

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For many years Sadler's Wells have had associate artists - many are individuals, Guillem say, and some effectively companies - BalletBoyz, Bourne/New Adventures.

The following page gives a list of Associates to date (but not yet ENB - UPDATE - they are on a separate page) and also say a little about what being an associate of the Wells means:
http://www.sadlerswells.com/about-us/people/associate-artists/

It's a long list and not all the people on the list are active with them all they time. Its clearly a flexible setup.

The key to all this was Sadler's well turning itself into a producing house and having the wherewithal to bring shows together, tour them, and take risk in doing so. This is significant because increasingly they tour shows internationally and there is expertise in that again + brand trust will be building up also.

But being an associate does not mean they do it all - you might want to just use their stage and sales and marketing expertise to help put on your show. Being an Associate gives you inside track to having them help you.

For ENB its significant because the Khan Giselle is being co-produced with the Wells, who I assume will share in the risk of it being a success or otherwise. It's not stated yet if the Giselle will tour across the UK, but I'd strongly suspect that Sadler's would push for international touring of it to the dance loving (capital) cities they know. Certainly ENB seem to be keen to tour more internationally. Which is a little sad given they told the Arts Council they wanted to tour less in the UK.

Edited by Bruce
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I believe this is a non-story.

 

Sadler's  Wells and ENB will to do  what theatres and touring companies have always done. And always will.

 

A lot of luvvie talk.

 

For publicity? There was a 2-page article on this in the Evening Standard - good exposure for both parties.

 

The article also gives a reason why the ENB might be more keen on touring internationally than in the UK. Touring loses the company £100,000 per week. But "the company has started to receive much more lucrative invites to tour internationally."

Edited by FrankH
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For publicity? There was a 2-page article on this in the Evening Standard - good exposure for both parties.

 

The article also gives a reason why the ENB might be more keen on touring internationally than in the UK. Touring loses the company £100,000 per week. But "the company has started to receive much more lucrative invites to tour internationally."

 

ENB currently get an Arts Council grant of £6.2M to provide big ballet to the nation. All the UK touring companies loose money when they tour and also when they are back at base - if less back at base.

 

Re international touring its usually cash neutral - ie does not consume public subsidy but you are unlikely to make big bucks out of it. You might make more if you are not taking the whole company and large elaborate sets etc.

 

Obviously if ENB feel they can do better as an institution operating in an international free market they can go there and the £6.2m used by others to take big ballet, modern ballet, chamber ballet, challenging ballet and whatever out across England and Wales. To a degree that is happening already - BRB and NB want to tour more and better and are each getting approx £500k extra per year to support that. ENB said they want to tour the UK less (by that I mean tour outside of London less) and are on standstill funding - effectively a cut.

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The Evening Standard article provided some inexpensive publicity for Rojo and ENB  as well as clearly stating the financial cost of the company's regional tours. I can see that moving to Sadler's Wells is likely to be a wise economic move for the company as it must be considerably cheaper as a venue than the Coliseum.The fact that it is known as a centre for dance is likely to lead to improved ticket sales.

 

It is said that Giselle does not sell well on ENB tours or at least not as well as Swan Lake does. The Skeaping production of Giselle is an exceptionally fine one. Will a modern reworking of Giselle improve ticket sales or will audiences complain because they had not realised that it was not the traditional version? Rojo appears to be interested in the works of choreographers like Matz Ek .It is very tempting to think that there is a vast untapped audience for modern works but is there? If it exists at all is it big enough to replace the audience that may be put off by the modernisation of the classics? Will it provide the income that the company needs?

 

 It will be interesting to see how all the proposed changes effect ENB's financial viability.The Akram Khan  Giselle is a considerable gamble. Even if it is an artistic success it is unclear what sort of audience there is here for radical reworkings of the nineteenth century classics. The situation may be better abroad but the company can hardly have two different repertories one for regional consumption and the other for London and international tours. If the venture is an artistic failure does not bear thinking about.

 

Only time will tell whether Rojo's plans will improve the company's viability or put it at greater financial risk. Let us hope that the gamble pays off because a Culture Select Subcommittee which says that too much arts money is spent in London and not enough in the regions is unlikely to be impressed by a company that switches from touring outside London to touring abroad particularly if its programming policy proves unsuccessful.

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It is said that Giselle does not sell well on ENB tours or at least not as well as Swan Lake does. The Skeaping production of Giselle is an exceptionally fine one. Will a modern reworking of Giselle improve ticket sales or will audiences complain because they had not realised that it was not the traditional version? Rojo appears to be interested in the works of choreographers like Matz Ek .It is very tempting to think that there is a vast untapped audience for modern works but is there? If it exists at all is it big enough to replace the audience that may be put off by the modernisation of the classics? Will it provide the income that the company needs?

 

 It will be interesting to see how all the proposed changes effect ENB's financial viability.The Akram Khan  Giselle is a considerable gamble. Even if it is an artistic success it is unclear what sort of audience there is here for radical reworkings of the nineteenth century classics. The situation may be better abroad but the company can hardly have two different repertories one for regional consumption and the other for London and international tours. If the venture is an artistic failure does not bear thinking about.

 

This made me wonder how well Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty did whilst touring - could a comparison be made? Not choreographically of course, but I am a but curious about how well touring a "new spin on old classic" tends to do and whether it might tempt people to see it (at least once). Also, even if touring internationally is financially neutral, surely increased international recognition must translate into less tangible benefits for the company?

 

Didn't Akram Khan danced at the London Olympics? I'm sure I've seen some of his other work on tv, so he may retain some familiarity amongst those who may not have or have ever had any interest in traditional ballet classics. I'm very excited about this collaboration, though I do hope the Skeaping Giselle is retained alongside it.

Edited by Sunrise
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. It can come as great shock to discover how short a memory the general public,as opposed to the dance enthusiast, has of dancer's names and of the details of new productions.It is one of the reasons why, when, on the rare occasions that the general press write about them, every new male dancer is the next Nureyev and every new female dancer is the next  Darcey Bussell . By the time that this version of Giselle is on tour , even after all the publicity surrounding its premier, most members of the general public will need to be to reminded about its existence in order to sell tickets. After all Le Corsaire did not do as well on tour as might have been anticipated as a new production with big name dancers.

 

.It would be interesting to know how much "brand recognition" Rojo or Akram Khan have among the general public. I suspect not great enough to guarantee good ticket sales.on their own.

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It's not that shocking, I think, that the general public are not aware or do not care about dancers or new productions - I doubt I could convince any of my friends to see a 19th C ballet about pirates, no matter how exciting the dancers (my partner thought the Bolshoi's Bayadere production was terrible and offensive). But I think "something different" is often enough to pique the interest of people who like to go out and see new things. For a highly accomplished Bangladeshi choreographer trained in South Asian dance to take on a traditional ballet, well it sounds modern, accessible and exciting to me, and is something I could "sell" to friends, and something you can continue to promote at a local level.

 

And I imagine some component of inviting the best choreographers like Akram Khan is to attract the best dancers to the company as well, Cojocaru and the inclusion of Neumeier's work next season being an example. Maybe touring internationally would also given ENB more recognition and help compete for the best dancers.

Edited by Sunrise
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This is not a criticism but the developments at ENB do give one cause to wonder about the effect on the generality of the Company's dancers. After all, most of the more modern works, such as those in the March 2015 Modern Masters programme in particular and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Lest We Forget (September 2015) do not utilise as many corps and soloist dancers as productions from the more classical repertoire do.

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It would be interesting to know how much "brand recognition" Rojo or Akram Khan have among the general public. I suspect not great enough to guarantee good ticket sales.on their own.

 

Well, Khan's performance at the Olympics certainly seemed to have a very positive effect on ticket sales for DESH.  I think the question, though, may be how long people will retain that memory for.  It could be that two years on quite a few of them have forgotten his name and would have to be reminded about "that bloke who performed at the Olympics".

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Only time will tell whether Rojo's plans will improve the company's viability or put it at greater financial risk. Let us hope that the gamble pays off because a Culture Select Subcommittee which says that too much arts money is spent in London and not enough in the regions is unlikely to be impressed by a company that switches from touring outside London to touring abroad particularly if its programming policy proves unsuccessful.

 

Well, it's all very well for a Culture Select Subcommittee to say that too much money is spent in London and not enough in the regions but the real issue is whether the government is prepared to put its money where its mouth is. If London can accommodate more dance, theatre, music, and art because of all the wealth and tourism while it costs government money to subsidise the arts in the regions, fine talk about bringing arts to the rest of the country is all very well but it needs to be backed up with appropriate action. These days the government seems to be falling over itself, like many other governments, to cut spending and turn as much over to the private sector as it can. And the private sector isn't going to be nearly as interested in taking ENB to Salford and Torquay as to New York and San Francisco.

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Well, it's all very well for a Culture Select Subcommittee to say that too much money is spent in London and not enough in the regions but the real issue is whether the government is prepared to put its money where its mouth is

 

I'm sorry - I don't buy this.

 

Extra money would always be nice but is seldom available. The issue is is that there is an existing cake and people are pointing out that London has a hugely disproportionate share of that cake. The cake - or Arts Council money - comes from tax payers across England and Wales and they all need to see benefit. We all appreciate that London is a capital city and as such represents the nation in some respects and that means London will always get more as a city but the balance seems wrong.

 

The 2013 report that kicked off this round of London vs the rest was pithily summarised in this BBC News page:

"Central government spending on arts and culture in the capital amounted to £69 per resident in 2012-13, compared with £4.60 per person elsewhere in England."

 

Also:

"The report found that Arts Council England distributed £163m of taxpayers' money to cultural organisations in London in 2012-13 - or £20 per person in the capital.

 

Some 85% of the English population live outside London, where the £159m Arts Council grants equated to £3.60 per head."

 

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24742529

 

 

The Commons culture, media and sport select committee decided to investigate and yesterday released their report. I've not seen it but here is Guardian news page:

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/nov/05/arts-spending-london-bias

 

An extract from the Guardian:

"The report says ACE must do more to redress the balance and supports the conclusions of recent reports on the subject written by Peter Stark, Christopher Gordon and David Powell. They have published figures which show that combined Department for Culture, Media and Sport and ACE spending amounts to £68.99 per head of population in London and £4.58 in the rest of England. In terms of lottery spending on the arts between 1995 and 2013 the figure was £165 per head in London and £46.77 in London."

 

 

Against this developing backdrop I'm not sure it was a good move for ENB to say they wanted to tour less in the UK and do more in London. The pressure is all the other way. Ultimately that pressure translates into money and who gets what from Arts Council England. With money tight and getting tighter I don't see anybody taking money away from BRB or NB, they are part of the 'get arts benefits away from London' solution, but I would see a questioning before long of how much public money should be going into a second company that seems so wedded to life in London - when its not jetting around the world that is. That's a cruel way to put it and pushing points to the maximum - but it does show the concerns clearly.

Edited by Bruce
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I don't think we're disagreeing, Bruce. I'm just not sure if this report is going to result in anything. Can the committee actually compel ACE to distribute the money more evenly around the country, or is this just a matter of their pointing out that the current situation is very unfair to the vast majority of the country and hoping ACE will respond? Because I assume the current imbalance isn't accidental, which suggests that ACE might not be interested in changing things unless it can be forced to, and Ms Rojo's recent decision seems to suggest that she's gambling on the status quo being maintained.

 

In the meantime, I think it might be time for ENB to consider another name change. There's precious few English dancers or artistic staff, and now the AD is announcing that she wants less to do with England as a whole and more to do with London and things international. Maybe London International Ballet would suit the new direction of the company, because if Ms Rojo gets her way, "English National Ballet" is going to be a bit of a sick joke of a name.

Edited by Melody
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