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INHABIT: What is New Dance?

Liverpool Improvisation Collective (LIC) have had a shared Studio in Bluecoat since 2008 that has been used for research, rehearsal, workshop and performance purposes. This year, in partnership, Bluecoat and the LIC artists secured funding for a three year programme of new dance work, INHABIT.

Essentially, INHABIT is a project that constitutes three principal strands operating symbiotically with artist development at the core. As part of INHABIT, Bluecoat will be hosting a series of "New Dance" performances throughout 2016 and 2017. To help clarify the definition of this term, and the social and artistic motives behind the “New Dance” movement, the description below has been produced by Mary Prestidge.

The term ‘New Dance’ was coined in the mid 1970’s in the UK by X6 Dance Collective and others, this was initially to name a magazine that gave voice and new definitions of dance that was emerging in this period.  

New Dance was a title used to represent not only alternative dance styles but a term to frame a wider ‘movement’ coming from the need to reappraise and challenge methodology and aesthetic around training, production and presentation of dance.  The stronghold of classical ballet had contributed to the expected norms and stereotypes of dance and the dancers’ body. The institutions and production houses maintained the hierarchical structures and the deep divide between the choreographer and the dancer for example. Public funding for dance was exclusively in domain of established dance companies prior to mid 1970’s.  

Five dance artists: Maedee Dupres, Emilyn Claid, Fergus Early, Jacky Lansley and Mary Prestidge initially founded X6 in 1976, a 3000 sq ft floor in one of the disused warehouses of Butler’s Wharf in London docklands. 

This ‘independent’ space supported personal and collective inquiry with unfettered opportunity to break with convention and to think differently about the contexts and value of dance in society particularly informed by feminist politics. This was an innovative period of performance making and experimentation in new and cross-disciplinary forms alongside other dancers, visual artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers etc. 

It was a pivotal point historically where dance artists took the lead not only in art form development but also in the way that they worked together to develop informal and more formal structures to take dance to a wider and more diverse audience, to encourage greater breadth of engagement and participation in dance. 

Contact Improvisation was being developed, primarily as a duet dance form, at this time.  It had surfaced out of the research with improvisation and other new forms happening a decade early in USA, particularly NYC and the Judson Dance Theatre (1962-64).  Steve Paxton (who had been a member of the Judson group, and later in the early 1970’s along with other dancers) began sharing and developing what became known as Contact Improvisation initially in the context of art galleries and universities with the invitation, ‘You come and we’ll show you what we do!’ 

CI over the past 40 years has grown rapidly; expanding geographically and demographically; evolving and being practiced within a wide range of settings.

There is a sense in which the Independent Dance context has ‘come of age’ and subsequently this is a particularly poignant time to provide the full artistic potential of each member of Liverpool Improvisation Collective to maximise their INHABIT residency in terms of both the breadth and depth of what they have to offer and in a wide range of contexts.  ‘New Dance’ seems to be the best way to explain the nature of the container and the content of our work.


You can find out about INHABIT's event programme here.

(Image credit: Company Blu)


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