Dance: Interview – Eddie Nixon, The Place

Eddie Nixon. Photo: Benedict Johnson

Eddie Nixon is Theatre Director of The Place, a pioneering centre for contemporary dance for over 40 years and home to London Contemporary Dance School, Richard Alston Dance Company and the Robin Howard Dance Theatre. A former dancer with companies including New Adventures and The Featherstonehaughs, Eddie took over as Theatre Director in 2009.

The Place and Southbank Centre started the British Dance platform 20 years ago and so it feels really important to bring it back as British Dance Edition to London this year – we’re one of the organisations who pitched the idea to the National Dance Network. Geographically it made a lot of sense that The Place would become a hub for the delegates – they’ll all be staying around here, meeting here most mornings, and lots of the performances are happening here.

“As The Place is in Central London, it’s a focus for people from all over London to come to dance. There are lots of local people who live and work locally coming here to watch or join in, but people come from every postcode, every corner of the city. I think we’d also consider The Place as a home for a lot of dance artists and even audiences. People feel a real attachment to what we’re doing and the help that they can get here, and that’s how we like it to be.

The Place Prize is one of our big projects. Quite a few of the people performing in British Dance Edition are former finalists [Hofesh Shechter, Frauke Requardt, Tom Roden & Pete Shenton] and there’s a winner as part of the programme as well [Lost Dog’s It Needs Horses]. And so I think it contributes quite a lot to the dance scene and to BDE over the past few years in terms of programming artists – and we feel proud of it.

“Because dance is relatively well-supported here with training and infrastructure, a lot of dancers and choreographers gravitate towards London from all over the world. That means it’s a really rich and diverse community of artists. Because London is also a very diverse city the breadth of the kind of work that’s happening here is really wide and rich, and there’s always someone new turning up to come and say hello or to join in. So in that sense it’s one of the dance capitals of the world and especially of Europe, along with Paris and Brussels.

“For me what I love about London particularly is that it’s such a mishmash of history and modernity. Whilst it’s a really contemporary city and there’s loads of invention and originality, I also love the fact that you’re almost constantly surrounded by history and it surprises you at every turn as you’re moving around the city. I’m always stumbling across a pub, or a building, or a church, or a person that has this incredible history that you didn’t quite know about before. I love that about it as a city, it’s full of surprises. And everyone should take a boat down the river, it’s the view of London that lots of people miss out on!”

Originally posted at

Dance: Theatrical clap-trap

Lise Smith asks when did UK audiences start walking out?

In an email to choreographer Jonathan Burrows sent in 2009, maverick French dance artist Jerome Bel wrote: ‘The first seven minutes of a performance are for free, the audience can accept anything…you can try to attempt something else, to put the audience on a different track than the usual one for the rest of the performance. It’s after those seven minutes that they start to yell at you.’ Reading this (in Burrows’s excellent A Choreographer’s Handbook) I thought, how charmingly Gallic, and how very un-British, to express one’s disappointment with a performance while it is still taking place. But is that national paradigm still true?

Until recently theatres have been a place where people will – generally – politely accept whatever is put in front of them. I recall attending a horrendous performance by a well-regarded touring dance company five years ago; at curtain call there was an agonising ten-second silence that must have felt like an eternity to the dancers, where I genuinely thought that nobody was going to applaud. But then a polite and respectful clapping rippled across the audience and the dancers took their relieved bows. That was as close as I thought British audiences got to expressing censure.

But in recent months I have noticed an increase in the number of walkouts taking place during performances. The critic Luke Jennings blogged last summer about his displeasure at being spat at by one of Dave St Pierre’s company during Un Peu de Tendresse, Bordel de Merde!, noting that the performance had been met with ‘more walk-outs than I’ve ever seen at Sadler’s Wells’. For what it’s worth I greatly enjoyed St Pierre’s piece, but more to the point I am sure I spotted at least as many walkouts from Anna Teresa De Keersmaker’s Rosas Danst Rosas at the same venue a few weeks earlier.  I sometimes find myself wondering what those leaving had actually expected from the performance – maybe naked Canadians are too much for some patrons, but who on earth buys a ticket for Rosas not knowing that austerity and extended silence are De Keersmaeker’s watchwords?

Perhaps as a nation we are developing a little more assertiveness, like our continental cousins. Or perhaps we now feel too busy and time-poor to stick out a performance that doesn’t entirely please us. Whatever the reason, something has definitely shifted in the way UK audiences receive work. We have a little way to go before we start yelling at the performers, as Bel’s colourful scenario has it. But spectators no longer wait for a friendly break in the programme before upping and leaving to express their discontent.

While audience empowerment may on one hand be a good thing, a growing epidemic of walkouts may also indicate a lack of patience with artistic experiment – a willingness to go, as the other half of Bel’s statement suggests, on a track different from the usual. We might have stopped damning with faint applause, but I hope we haven’t also given up the possibility of participating in an alternative journey.

Lise Smith is a dance writer, manager and teacher, and regularly contributes to

Originally published at ArtsProfessional

Review: Gandini Jugglers – Smashed – London International Mime Festival

Gandini Juggling 'Smashed'. Photo: Ryoko Uyama

Picture in your mind a work by Pina Bausch and what do you see? Pedestrian gestures in perfect unison; dancers parading across the stage; chairs; high heels; flashes of cruelty and embodied humiliation; moments of wit and wry humour. These and other elements of the Pina repertoire have been freely borrowed by director Sean Gandini and his troupe to create a new hybrid of juggling and Tanztheater – Tanzjonglage , if you will. A hundred apples adorn the Linbury stage in a carefully-formed grid at the start of the show; these will be used throughout as both set and juggling balls.

The results are spectacular. In common with much of Bausch’s oeuvre, the work is built from little juggled vignettes based on simple precise stepping patterns and minute gestures repeated with mesmerising precision. Smashed opens with a very Bauschian parade to a suitably crackly recording of the music hall standard “I’ve Always Wanted to Dance in Berlin” ; the nine performers strut across the stage with simple crossing steps, casually spinning apples through the air in flawless synchrony. The performers are dressed formally, in suits and frocks with perfectly coiffed hair, knowing looks fixed on the audience. The women, of course, are in heels.

Like Kontakthof , the Bausch work from which it most apparently draws, Smashed moves effortlessly between scenes in which the whole cast act as one undivided entity engaged in the same action, and scenes where the desire to pair off and make contact rises to the surface. Threading arms around one another’s arms they juggle en couple, the apples seeming to stand for a connection between performers as they toss and catch together. Simple, shared actions and meaningful glances build up into little narratives of desire, union and rejection; as all the while apples keep on spinning through the air.

Two scenes play homage to Bausch’s theatre of cruelty: in one, each of the two female performers in turn is physically manipulated into juggling against her will. Men surround each of the women in turn, tilting and rolling arms, head and torso in a series of carefully-choreographed forced manoeuvres that keep the apples moving through the air without either woman tossing them. It’s a moment with a direct analogue in Kontakthof’s groping sequence: absurd and slightly comical at first, but increasingly uncomfortable as the humiliation continues.

In the second such sequence, both women crawl on hands and knees before a seated line of men juggling apples on their backs; with the fruits also planted firmly in their mouths the women look rather like walking hog roasts, abased at the feet of the men. This scene reads more as an affectionate homage to Pina than as an earnest commentary on male-female relationships, the benign mood heightened by the use of Tammy Wynette’s country standard “Stand By Your Man” as the soundtrack. More harmonious is a beautiful gestural sequence, led by Niels Seidel , with effortless-looking tosses around and over the shoulder that I imagine are anything but.

Where the majority of the performance is characterised by order – careful mathematical compositions performed in meticulous unison and with split-second timing – the final section brings all that precision crashing gloriously down. Given the title of the work I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, but I won’t reveal more than that there’s an infernal burst of Vivaldi, a great stirring of chaos, and one heck of a job for the stagehands after the show.

Funny, beautiful, clever and affecting, this inventive and characterful work has much more in common with dance theatre than anything found in a Big Top. Not a fan of contemporary juggling yet? This might be the work to change your mind.

Smashed continues at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House until Sat 21 Jan

Part of London International Mime Festival

Originally posted at

Dance Review: Romeo and Juliet @ the Royal Opera House

Set against a troubled backdrop of warring families and taking place over just three days, Romeo and Juliet is really the tale of a youthful infatuation blown out of all proportion by social circumstances. Had Romeo and Juliet survived, their whirlwind romance could have been more suited to a passing soap opera storyline than a grand narrative of doomed romance; and therein, of course, lies the tragedy.

Kenneth MacMillan’s celebrated 1965 production for the Royal Ballet makes no attempt to disguise the youthful impetuosity of his protagonists; Act I’s Romeo moons melodramatically over the fair Rosaline, sports with a ringletted harlot and then plunges into a street brawl all in one scene. We first encounter Juliet playing hide and seek with her beloved Nurse; bashful in front of suitor Paris, she seems more interested in her doll than in adult romance. The challenge for any performer, in either dramatic or dance theatre, is to make the teenage crush that springs up between Romeo and Juliet seem something credibly worth dying for.

Here MacMillan’s choreography, with its unmannered pas de deux that seem to spring straight from the loins and speak eloquently of teenage passion, is in excellent hands. This season’s opening night was danced by Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, an experienced pairing noted for their dramatic presence as much as their fine techniques. Acosta gives us youthful bravado in the first act, noble (but imprudent) loyalty to his murdered friend in the second, and crazed anguish in the third on hearing his love is dead. Rojo begins the performance as a blushing innocent, too shy to meet Paris’s amorous gaze; we witness Juliet’s dawning realisation of her own womanhood as she blossoms in Romeo’s arms, thrilling with the excitement of first passion.

MacMillan’s choreography eschews the mannered gestures and commedia of earlier productions, favouring a less-is-more approach that still looks astoundingly modern today. Rojo’s supple frame makes light work of the demanding pas de deux which find her sprouting from Romeo’s pelvis and whirling passionately around his torso; at the same time her face and body language are engagingly naturalistic. Acosta is a more than capable support and his variations are as sharp and energetic as ever, but this is Rojo’s performance. Nobody with a soul can have witnessed her dance of utter dejection at finding herself (bigamously) betrothed to Paris without feeling a stab to the heart and a lump in the throat.

The Royal Ballet is justly proud of this production, MacMillan’s first full-length ballet for the company, and judging by the packed house on Tuesday is bound to sell out the run. If you’re lucky enough to get a ticket, Romeo and Juliet makes for a fantastic night at the Opera House.

Romeo and Juliet is at the Royal Opera House until 31 March. Visit to find out more.

Originally published at