• Phoenix at 30!

    I was at the new Northern Ballet Theatre/ Phoenix Dance building in Leeds today and it was such a joy to see the original Phoenix boys gathered in rehearsal for a celebratory performance this evening - how time has flown!

    It seems like only yesterday that the original Phoenix were shaking up the world of contemporary dance and it got me thinking about how far we have come as a field. In 1984 when The Glory of the Garden was published by the Arts Council, Phoenix were one of the major beneficiaries of the new funding to be devoted to dance as it became an art form treat in its own right rather than as an adjunct to music.

    Over the period that followed our dance scene has changed so much. From a predominantly educational base the form has grown and developed at an exponential rate and this has brought so many challenges,

    My career in dance started at the same time as Phoenix launched and I now marvel at the resilience of this company which in some ways seems to reflect the resilience of dance.

    As a dance educator in the late 70's and early 80's, I count myself privileged to have had the opportunity and fortune to learn my craft from some amazing people - Nadine Senior, Margaret Dunn, Peter Kyle and Chris Bannerman to name only three. Many of my closest colleagues, friends and peers have a similar background and have gone on to do many different things in dance and the arts. The dance field has so many stories to tell and we need to get better at telling them ...... we need an oral history, we need to capture our stories .... seeing Pete Huggins today also reminded me that there is also an incredible visual history of the development of the field. I go to bed pondering how we might capture all of this history so that it is not lost to future generations .....

    Happy birthday, Phoenix .... under your new leadership you are looking great!

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  • Entrepreneurial Artists

    For more than 17 years I have been privileged to teach young artists how to manage themselves.

    Yesterday I taught at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where I met the most wonderful group of young people who are training in Musical Theatre and Music Direction .... what a joy it was to work with them and impart some knowledge and hopefully, provoke some thought about their future careers in this industry! Understanding how the business works and how to make a lifelong sustainable career in it is critical to young artists and yet, there are still relatively few courses that take this seriously.

    I was so lucky to work at LIPA when it first opened in 1996 - such an amazing group of talented students and some incredibly inspiring colleagues from whom I learned so much. I count myself as privileged to have met them all and to still have contact with them ... but, it worries me that what was so great about the LIPA experience is still not the norm in higher education. Young artists in training need to be aware of the industry realities, they need to be encouraged to be proactive and to take control of their careers. They need to be multi skilled and versatile.

    I think of many of my ex students who have come so far in working beyond their initial discipline ... dancers who are now fine managers, managers who are now incredible artists actors who are great filmmakers and those who have gone on to do very different things and are doing them well .... that is the joy of teaching. This post is for all of you ..... stay proactive and take every opportunity that comes along ....

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  • Applied Research

    For some time, I have pondered the difference between the applied research we carry out within the cultural sector and the academic research carried out within Higher Education. As a practitioner/ consultant researcher I have always sought to ensure my research is as robust and rigorous as it possibly can be and have experienced much cynicism about this when working with academics. At international conferences my work has sometimes been presented as case studies rather than 'real research' and this has constantly frustrated me. Recently, I have had the opportunity to reflect on these experiences when undertaking my professional doctorate at Middlesex University, and a meeting I attended today triggered some thoughts relating to this.

    Kurt Lewin wrote in 1946 "Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice." My belief has always been that research is of the greatest value if it makes a difference, if it produces something, changes something ....my interest lies in research that will make a difference. Applied research is designed to solve practical problems not to develop knowledge for knowledge's sake; it is immediate and direct in its impact and is often time sensitive. It is commissioned and therefore designed to meet a client's objectives and needs. But perhaps most importantly, it has consequences and will generate action. The responsibility of the consultant researcher is therefore to ensure that the research is valid and reliable and that conclusions are sound.

    Today I realised that the times are a-changing ..... recent developments within the research councils mean that the old approach to knowledge transfer has now been replaced with knowledge exchange .... 'pathways to impact' require funded research to prove social, cultural or economic impact and so we now find ourselves as practitioners being courted. Partnership working is being encouraged and academic researchers are under significant pressure to generate funding. Is a hybrid model beginning to emerge? Will we see more partnerships and collaborative research programmes that are genuinely working to overturn some of the preconceptions about the relative value of different forms of research? Will we see more effective and equal partnerships between the sector and HE which will bring mutual benefit and will assist the cultural sector in generating stronger and more robust data and evidence?

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  • Canada Dance Mapping Research

    When Sue Harrison and myself carried out the Dance Mapping research for Arts Council England we didn't imagine that the work mnight translate into other contexts. It is wonderful that Canada Council for the Arts have led a project that will map dance in Canada over the coming year. For more information check this link: http://www.canadacouncil.ca/publications_e/zs129584997191553015.htm

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