Modern moves

London Contemporary Dance Theatre attempts to live up to its name. J o Roe talks to Chief Executive Peter Sarah and local dancer Tom Ward.

It’s all change at the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. In the space of a few months there have been three important appointments and a further two are yet to be announced. Although the company is bound to feel unsettled, its timely overhaul should whip it into shape after a period of mild inertia followed by confusion. A sensible predicition would have real change taking effect by mid-1992, but events over the past year have been tumultuous enough to have stirred things up already.

Last year the company was poked in the ribs by American choreographer and Artistic Director Dan Wagoner. At about the same time that Wagoner made the difficult decision to return to the States to care for an ailing friend, the company was on the lookout for a new Chief Executive. Antipodean music lover Peter Sarah fitted the bill, fresh from an impressive stint as Director of Australia’s Bicentenary National Arts programme. The newly appointed Artistic Director, Nancy Duncan, takes up her post in a few weeks and American choreographer Mark Morris will be one of the three new associate choreographers.




David Hughes and Kate Coyne oi London Contemporary Dance Theatre

Sarah wants to give London Contemporary’s three institutions, the dance company, the school and the Place Theatre, a sense of direction for the 905. His first step has been to re-open a waning dialogue between the directors of each body. Heading straight to the heart ofthe matter, Sarah turns over problems that London Contemporary is hoping to solve. ‘We must ask ourselves what it means to be a contemporary dance institution in the he says. ‘Has the art form changed, has the audience changed and do we continue to offer only Graham-based technique at the school? We want to live up to the word contemporary again. Everyone recognises that we have been lacking in a modern feel.’

Ofcourse verbal dialogue can only set the mood for change, but there is a concrete tone to Sarah‘s vision. London Contemporary is the only school in Europe that offers a university degree in dance. It



combines practical elements with stage craft. music and anatomy studies. ‘We hope to introduce MA and PhD research for working dancers and choreographers and to re-introduce the

opportunity for members of the company to choreograph.’ An area under scrutiny is health. a problem currently given serious consideration in the USA where choreographers are working on achieving optimum technique with minimum strain.

A hopeful beneficiary of all this change is Tom Ward from East Kilbride. After three years at the dance school, he joined London Contemporary ' Dance Theatre in August 1990. Inspired to dance by Elvis films and the television serial Fame, Ward first studied dance in East Kilbride and with the Scottish Ballet Vocational Dance Education Scheme. ‘Thankfully as a child I was open-minded enough to go to dance classes,’ he explains. ‘My mum said, “Why don‘t you do dance at your sister’s dance school?” I was thirteen and towering above all these little girls in blue leotards and tap shoes. I thought, “This is alright, I can do this.“

Ward performs in two of the four pieces showcased in Glasgow, Cloven Kingdom choreographed by the estimable Paul Taylor. and White Heat by Dan Wagoner. Incorporated into LCDT’s repertoire last year, Cloven Kingdom is a parody of polite society set to music by Corelli. Wagoner’s piece, set to Bartok’s fourth String Quartet, is based on the idea of two groups of dancers attempting to invade each other’s territory. ‘Dan is very demanding,’ Tom Ward reveals. ‘Sometimes he gets frustrated ifyou can’t come up with exactly what he wants. He's volatile, but a brilliant character, really inspirational.‘ Completing the bill are Orfeo, choreographed by Kim Bandstrup, the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in 17th century opera style, and Beneath The Skin, choreographed by Jonathan Lunn to Benjamin Britten’s Suite for Cello N01.

London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 28 May—I Jun


Gold down the river

When Flloyd Kennedy llrst clapped eyes on the script oi The Golden Age,

Australian society tor over 60 years and had begun to evolve along diiierent

Director Flloyd Kennedy explains that the revelation of the bush community opened a political can at worms. “When the group was discovered a certain amount oi ln-breeding had been going on,’ she says, ‘and the Australian

Kennedy, ‘but it‘s very bizarre, very poetic-you could say it‘s crude. He uses archaic Victorian slang and Irish words and the language, as it has evolved, has become very condensed. It’s just comprehensible, but you have to work hard at understanding lt.‘ Inevitabiy, perhaps, Nowra has worked questions of culture and


she decided that It was irresistible, but totally unailordable. There are, alter all, 31 scenes which whisk the audience lrom a building site in the ralnlorest to the ruins ol post-war Berlin. Still, she appropriated It tor her theatre company. The Wicked Ladies, and waylald the potential expense with minimalist sets.


Nazi business: Wicked Ladies

There is, however, no skimping on the play's equally ambitious content. It is based on the discovery, in 1939, oi an isolated community, living in the Tasmanian bush. Descended lrom European settlers- possibly convicts - the group had had no contact with

government took lrlght, thinking that it the Nazis lound out about them they could use them as part at their theory oi genetic purity. So the government took them away and put them in an asylum.’ For the purposes of The Golden Years, playwright Louis Nowra has invented a llctlonal community and a language to go with it. ‘They use what are apparently English words,’ says


02 The List 17- 30 May 1991

civilisation into his script and there are hints at Australia‘s ill-treatment ol the aborigines. in ellect, ‘The Golden Years’ has a message lor modern societies and, indeed, a warning about the dangers of ‘splendid isolation’. (Miranda France)

The Golden Age, Cumbemauld Theatre, Thurs 23—8at 25 May.