News: British Dance ‘too safe’.

Monday 1 June 2009

John Ashford leaves The Place this month after 23 years programming one of the UK’s liveliest dance venues. True to form, his final season, The Turning World, features a line up of radical works by international artists who are not well-known to British dance audiences – yet. Many artists who made their UK debuts as part of The Turning World, which Ashford has been presenting since 1990, are now household names(in dance savvy homes) like Alain Platel, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Wim Vandekeybus, Meryl Tankard, Rui Horta and Sasha Waltz.

Ashford is off to Europe to take on a new role as Director of the European dance network Aerowaves with barely a backward glance. In fact he confesses to finding British dance a bit, well, ‘boring’. “I must have seen close to 10,000 performances in my time at The Place. I wouldn’t have enjoyed this job for so long if I wasn’t frequently enthralled and inspired by the work. But I do think that often the works I watch in Britain play it just a bit too safe. And that which is timorous is boring.”

“If I have one regret, it’s that I don’t yet see in Britain choreography as consistently distinctive and uncompromising as I do in many other European countries. My programme for The Turning World is not a selection of favourite pieces, but a provocation: examples of what truly emboldened dance artists can produce.”

Maybe its the anticipation of exciting new European horizons that has caused him to overlook the wealth of British dance talent which The Place has also nurtured under his tenure. Wayne McGregor, Javier de Frutos, Mark Baldwin, Rafael Bonachela, Hofesh Shechter, Kate Prince and Luca Silvestrini, to name but a few, all have The Place to thank for helping them in the early stages of their careers.

The Turning World (2 – 24 June 09) includes peformances from The Symptoms, Liquid Loft/Chris Haring, Cie Philippe Saire, Erna Omarsdottir, Simona Bertozzi and Yasmeen Godder. More details.

On Tuesday 2 June at 7pm, John Ashford will be in conversation with Donald Hutera, answering questions from some of the artists he has worked with at the Place – and the audience. Entry free to ticket holders for that night’s performance.

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