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Dance Base and The Place
[Space] Dance Base and The Place
Writer : Youngsun LEE_ Artist, 1 Pound Chocolate Art Collective 2013.01.15 Europe > United Kingdom

Dance Base and The Place: Two British Dance Organizations
[Venues] Korea–UK Connection Project_Organization Research Review 2

On November 11, I visited several cities in the United Kingdom for three weeks as part of the Korea–UK Connection Program. In the first week I had the chance to visit some pertinent performance organizations in London and Bristol with two other colleagues taking part in the program. Next, I visited Dance Base in Edinburgh for one week and The Place in London the following week. The most noticeable aspects of the two organizations were the fact that Prince Charles and Robin Howard, grandson of former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, were the founding sponsors and that their programs are carried out taking into full consideration the influence and impact that dance can have on the individual and on society.

The Closest to Basic Dance, Dance Base

Corridor of Dance Base Interior of Dance Base

With the royal patronage of Prince Charles, Dance Base was founded in September 2001 as Scotland’’s National Center for Dance and is located in Grassmarket, with Edinburgh Castle as its backdrop. Classes in the four beautiful dance studios designed by renowned architect Malcolm Fraser with different themes such as earth or sky are conducted according to these designs. For example, the floor of the studio with the earth theme is made of wood, and accordingly, dances that use the floor, like hip-hop, are carried out there. There is another studio where the dance floor is all black; this is used by the resident creators and is where they undertake creative works. Contemporary dance classes are also held there. The big studio, where the ceiling is made of glass, is used as a performance hall during the Edinburgh Festival. It is also rented out for outside performances. The shower facilities are also equipped with baths so that dancers can relax after a hard day of training and practice. This really shows the amount of care and consideration shown for dancers.

The main roles of the organization are to (1) promote continued advancement through performance program development and planning as well as residency programs and connections with artists and dancers at the regional, domestic, and international levels; (2) provide a variety of classes, ranging from the traditional to those of diverse global cultures, to the public as well as experts; and (3) render a variety of social welfare programs, including education, entertaining, and healing programs for underprivileged youth, elderly people with Alzheimer’’s or dementia, children with autism or other special needs, mentally ill people, homeless people that need care. In addition, Dance Base manages an independent dance management program called Catalyst. Catalyst does not have independent administrative or production manpower but provides a platform for new artists to get discovered and fosters potential for growth, connects creative partners, and provides contracts, administrative service, manpower management, and project management. It also provides advice on financial matters and plays a role in securing the audience for different performances.

Class in one of the studios in Dance Base
Because of the different functions and roles Dance Base plays, one can see all kinds of people in the different studios, deeply involved in their practice and creative work, as well as a variety of other things: the long line of baby strollers in front of the studio; hip-hop dancers scattered here and there, practicing and also taking part in residence programs; amateur classes rehearsing for their annual presentations and performances; expert artists and dancers also practicing for the professional stage; a group of elderly people wearing the same pink t-shirts. They all seem to be having a lot of fun. The catalog of the programs and an introduction to the facilities and organization catches the eye, as it shows an array of programs, with matching names and images, that seem so approachable and friendly. There is also the image of Morag Deyes, the artistic director who is smiling with such uniqueness and friendliness. These pictures seem to represent what Dance Base envisions dance to be. (www.dancebase.co.uk)

The Place, Bringing Down Barriers with the Language of Dance

The Place is located in London near the Euston and King’’s Cross St Pancras tube stations, where trains linking different areas in London, the UK, and other cities in Europe pass through. The Place connects two buildings through an underground café, and it is composed of theaters, offices, eleven studios, and other spaces, including a library. It is as if there were many rooms, many spaces, under one roof at The Place. Likewise, there are many independent bodies within The Space that are interrelated and play different functions

Entrance of The Place
London Contemporary Dance School is a dance conservatoire that offers a three-year undergraduate program (BA) and a one-year postgraduate program (MA) with specialized areas in dance education and advanced field research. EDge, which is composed of students in the postgraduate program, is the intermediate stage between student and professional and has a separate artistic director and manager. Students in the EDge program have the opportunity to train as dancers in the performances of professional artists and participate in a three-month global tour. It is a very unique opportunity. The students pay the tuition or training fee but the school bears the cost of the production and the tour for the students.

Richard Alston Dance Company has been residing at The Place since 1994. It is one of England’’s most renowned dance companies and tours around the UK and the world. The company also performed at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.

Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) is a program for youth between the ages of 10 and 18. They are provided with creative activities as well as technical training for ballet and various contemporary styles like Cunningham, Limon, release-based techniques, etc. The long-term objective of this program is to foster and nurture talented dancers and artists. In addition to the regular program, there is also a vocational training program; thus, students can advance into higher programs depending on their unique needs and potential.

The Robin Howard Dance Theater is an exclusive dance theater where a variety of programs for artists and the audience take place throughout the year, including performances like Resolution!, Spring Loaded, The Place Prize, Touch Wood, Dance Umbrella, and Fresh. The theater has actively supported new projects and high-quality productions that are creative and experimental, even if an audience has not been developed for it yet.

Artist development through programs like Choreodrome, Resolution, Work Place and others —The Place supports and promotes exchanges between artists within Europe, projects and performances by new artists, and creative works by professional and experienced artists. The Work Place is a residence support program for the continued development of professional as well as new dancers.

Dance classes for professionals as well as non-professionals, including jazz, ballet, contemporary, and Pilates. The morning classes are for professionals and are provided at half the tuition of ordinary classes with the support of public organizations so that professional dancers can maintain their physical training.

Welfare programs are also conducted for children and the needy. There are also special programs conducted for prison inmates and the homeless.

The most remarkable aspect of The Place’’s 40-year history is the vision, passion, and pioneer spirit of its founder, Robin Howard. Robin Howard was the grandson of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. After losing his two legs during World War II, he returned to his law studies, but instead of practicing law, he entered the hotel and restaurant business. He also created the Hungarian Department of the UN Association in England to assist refugees and served as its director of international relations.

It was in 1954 that Robin Howard first saw the Martha Graham Company performing in London, and he fell in love with their work. Thereafter, he not only provided support for the Edinburgh Festival but also, aware that there was lack of support for the arts in the UK, became the patron of Contemporary Ballet Trust Ltd., which would be The Place’’s parent company. The Place was created to "form a dance company based on love…. to use the universal language of dance to break down social, political, linguistic, and other barriers." Since then, he devoted his entire life, including all his wealth, to the establishment and advancement of The Place. Even after his death, a total of 400 thousand pounds were donated to The Place by the Robin Howard Foundation. In a letter to the Financial Times he said, "A short-term solution to our problem is to play it safe. If we do so, we shall die," well representing his defiant and pioneer spirit. (www.theplace.org.uk)

Richard Alston Dance Company Studio
There is something that I realized as I researched and visited the two organizations. Dance definitely promotes and furthers creativity, a defiant spirit, love, joy, and happiness for the people in society through the artistic advancement of the individual. It also makes possible communication and connection between diverse generations. It calls attention to the deprivations and needs of the needy and the weak. And it contributes to the spiritual, mental, and physical health of people. I wish that we also had patrons like the ones that supported and had the vision for these two organizations. They expanded the horizons for dance as an art form. I wish that we also had the right legal mechanism that was flexible enough to integrate the different functions of art. This would help create places where dance groups will be able to develop their art and conduct classes where they will be able to use their physical talents, as well as classes where men and women of all ages can enjoy themselves. There would be studios that can be used for performances and spaces that could be rented out to independent dancers. Unfortunately, due to our current laws, this is not possible since it is not possible for these different functions to take place under one organization and roof.


Youngsun LEE_ Artist, 1 Pound Chocolate Art Collective
Youngsun LEE is the artistic director and a performing artist at 1 Pound Chocolate Art Collective, an international performing arts group. In Korea she presented her work through the Seoul Dance Collection and Hanguk Performing Arts Center (or Hanpac Future Performing Artists Series). She has performed in international stages such as the Kennedy Center, the Ford Open Air Theater, and Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. She is currently laying the groundwork for activities around the world through a network of domestic and international artists and the different projects and works she has undertook until now.

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