Dance in the Age of Advertising

Image. He walks down the line of young men, martially, looks at us, one by one. “You think you know what fear is? You don’t know what fear is. I know what fear is”. The Choreographer. As we’d come in the room, he’d made a point of being sat at the piano, tinkling away at it. Like the opening to the Judy Garland show, perhaps, except slightly more contrived.

Image. The Great Choreographer. Sitting in a plush hotel room. Telling the reporter, after being the recipient of vast public funding in those times when the times were good, and after having premiered a show with a household Hollywood name, that Arts Council cuts are great, because they’ll force people to be more hungry and radical in their art. He thinks, his coconut water is tepid.

Image. She graduated five years ago. She hasn’t danced for the TOP TEN CUTTING EDGE GREAT DANCE CHOREOGRAPHERS OF THE UK. She is damn fucking talented, objectively so. Her talented isn’t shoe-hornable (I just made that word up). She has no value in image terms. She is a beautiful dancer. Her father dies the previous year in circumstances too tragic for most of us here to even begin to fathom – trust me. She makes work, consistently. Doesn’t get much funding for it. Other people help. She trained in the UK. She’ll make it.

“You don’t know what fear is”.

Image. Open Logic Pro X. Click on New. Choose software instrument. In the channel panel on the far left, click on Instrument. Click on Sculpture. In presets, choose a pad, any pad, click on a pad. Press any key, move up and down an octave using X and Z. You can now make what is called in musical terms: a drone. There are a thousand other ways you can do this too. In the next tutorial, we’ll approach making a drum loop (using loops, and/or recording your own loops using sample libraries, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, recording your own drums). That’s how easy it is. This process has a lot of value in the making of a dance score; it creates terrific atmosphere, doesn’t distract from the dance, and requires no more skill than, say, having played in a rock band at one point in your life (and haven’t we all); Beethoven it is not. Image: The Composer. The Choreographer Composer. Very Important Man. Success is a fickle creature, and the Choreographer Composer knows this.

Image. The great British Choreographer needs another dancer. The people at this audition must be fearless. He’ll shout at them several times without ever raising his voice, in a way only psychopathic individuals can ever truly achieve. This is because, we are told by others, we’ve heard through rumours, somehow, that he is a very intelligent man, and he needs to “get into your head”. He’s far more intelligent than any of us: he studied psychology, you see. Image: the physical theatre maker. The verbatim dance magician; the journalist of the soul.

Image. A desk, a panel of experts. We are all lined up at the other end of a room. I was about to say “like in front of a firing squad”, but I won’t. The Choreographer asks us to, one by one, come forward, say our name, and “do something that will make me remember you”. I’m not afraid, because I’m behind this desk. Empathy is a word. The Choreographer In The Audition Process.

Image: sixty men in a room, a dance studio. I’ve just arrived, a little late. I’m ready sweating a little. Nervous. Breathe out.

“I’m looking for professional dancers. Not everyone in this room is up to standard. You can’t be unable to do this stuff and call yourself a dancer. Some of you shouldn’t be in this profession. You can’t dance in an affected way, with mannerisms.”

I turn my head. The nasal sound is coming from the most mannered, affected thing in the room, which is standing about five meters away from me, bald as a sperm whale and sporting a beanie and a tracksuit, of the kind worn by people who never do any sport (North Face, if I remember correctly). Image. The all powerful Choreographer is in the room, and indeed standing behind me. He makes one young boy cry by the end of the session, by asking him to stop and leave the room, in front of the whole assembly.

In an age of images, the ones above are mine. I find it hard to say more, because many aspects of the dance scene today make me profoundly sad, not to say depressed.

Beyond that, I have questions:

Are we getting the leading choreographers we deserve in the UK? If so, why? Is this good or bad? If not – what can we do?

Are they challenging our notions of what dance is and can be?

Are they challenging our notions of what being human is and can be?

Are they challenging themselves? How so?

Are they taking an active part in dance training?

Are they taking an active interest in it (beyond the occasional press release)?

Are they supporting other choreographers than themselves, or other famous choreographers?

Are they passing on their experience and know-how to other choreographers?

Are these choreographers making significant advances in their art forms? What are they telling us? Do they know what they are telling us? Would they know it if they no longer had anything to say? Would we know it?

Are these choreographers interested in any sort of dialogue?

Do they know how lucky they are? Do they know it’s also OK to be successful?

Do dance schools affect the output of work out there on the professional dance scene? Or is it the other way round – do successful choreographers in fact influence the way dance training is made? Is the answer really that obvious, or is there more underlying that question?

Are our top choreographers getting lazy? (And wouldn’t YOU get lazy if you were in their shoes?)


  1. wow….

  2. Joliment écrit Dom

  3. crystal zillwood says:

    I didn’t Blink, I loved reading this, There are so many brilliant questions and images in here that will stick with me for a long time. Thank you Dom

  4. Charemaine Seet says:

    You nailed the trio perfectly. And this would make for a compelling dance theatre piece. Do more!

  5. Carolyn Deby says:

    Great stuff Dom! So glad to have found you again, and that you’re asking these hard questions in a public way. Being a thoughtful, unconventional, protagonist for change…wonderful!

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