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Arts council keeps dance on its toes

Sector on the up despite Scottish Ballet woes. Words: Kelly Apter

ance in Scotland is enjoying a period of change and D growth.‘ So says the Scottish Arts Council in a new five-

year dance strategy. revealed earlier this month. Hard to believe when the national press features almost daily tales of woe from the stables of Scottish Ballet.

But while the veritable slanging match between our national ballet company and the Scottish exeCUtive rages on. it is fair to say that dance in general is on the up. An inorease in the amount of venues showmg dance and the number of peeple turning up to watch it. combined With better training facilities for both professional dancers and the general public Suggest that dance in Scotland is as close to a boom time as it's ever likely to get.

Both ballet and contemporary dance have always had a loyal followmg, with viSiting companies such as Rambert. Nederlands Dans Theater and New York City Ballet pulling in impresswe crowds. albeit largely in the central belt. Where the SAC is hoping the strategy Will have real impact. however, is indigenous dance: helping choreographers based in Scotland create works and build up a solid audience in venues across the country.

In the past. those with career aspirations were forced to head s0uth both for training and any real prospect of joining a company. Now. with the new improved facilities at the Scottish School For

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Centemporary Dance in Dundee and the increased possibility of apprenticeships at Scottish Dance Theatre and Scottish Ballet. London won't necessarily be calling all young Scottish dancers.

Similarly, as only three Scottish companies receive cere funding from the SAC's dance budget (Scottish Ballet.

Scottish Dance Theatre and X-Factor), the strategy aims to suppOrt the large number of freelance dancers and choreographers working in relative isolation by continuing to fund the various dance centres dotted around the ceiintry and develop the

netw0rk of dance promoters.

As ever. money continues to be a problem. The SAC's dance allocation ($33.5m: 6.5% of its total income. compared with 24% for leSIC) is frozen for next year. So for the moment, much of the strategy

Now London won’t necessarily be calling all young Scottish dancers

will remain visionary. but the hopes and dreams of

SAC head of dance Cindy Sughrue. chair Joanna

Baker and the 70 other dance speCialists who contributed to the dOCument will slowly be phased in over the next five years. Whether the strategy can save Scottish Ballet from hanging itself and help Create a contempOrary dance audience large enough to keep the re- branded company afloat remains to be seen.

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