Sunday, December 13, 2009

Preserving modern dance

A few weeks ago on Twitter, Martha Graham Dance Company asked how modern dance could be preserved. And a simple thought came to my mind: by being performed more! It feels obvious to me that if you want to create modern dance classics, you need to give people the chance to see them and enjoy them. I think Sadler's Wells in London has got it right, regularly bringing back real favourites like Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra or Matthew Bourne productions.

Modern dance is a pretty young artform, and it feels like companies are always focused on presenting new works every year. They're always selling us premieres of new works with new choreographers, new music, the whole lot. But when do the previous works get restaged? And therefore, when do people get to see them and really know and understand them? I am sure there are some contemporary dance pieces that have the importance of Petipa's Swan Lake, but what are they, and how easy is it to see them?

Obviously now there is video and some companies and choreographers, like Siobhan Davies, are creating really useful digital archives. But others are more protective (see the whole palava about Balanchine ballets on youtube) - let's hope they embrace it soon or get their pieces performed more.